Embroidery Portrait: A Day At Chatsworth

Experimenting more with paint on fabric, and learning how to stretch it flat!

My partner and I have an wonderful weekend away in Derbyshire in 2021, including a fantastic day out at Chatsworth house and gardens. This was actually out first time away somewhere together, and we stayed in a cute little cottage for two with a hot tub and sauna. It was fabulous!

We got lots of nice photos, but in particular this one I thought would be nice to try to create an embroidery to commemorate a lovely day together. I was feeling ambitious again after creating the portrait of my parents!

My original idea was to try applique for the background, I even bought some coloured cotton squares to use but when it came to it I couldn’t quite work out how I would layer things so the fabric didn’t end up too thick to stitch through or that the depth on our faces wouldn’t end up looking odd. I think now (after studying a few tutorials in Love Embroidery magazine) I have a better idea of how I would do that, but then I was just eager to get on with something so I decided to use paint again. I’m not super happy with the background, it definitely could have gone better but it turned out OK. I wish I’d bothered to try to get some more depth into the grass, I can’t remember now why I didn’t!

I am reasonable happy with my painting for our faces, I managed to get a little bit of depth in there with shading. Definitely an area I need to practice, I haven’t done much with paint since GCSE art, but I’m quite happy with the result.

The main challenge with our faces was eyes and my hair. Eyes are always hard to draw, never mind draw and then try to stitch accurately but I think they’re alright, I’ve definitely drawn wonkier eyes in my time!1 I think the glasses came out pretty well. My teeth are insane but honestly IRL they’re not particularly even (there was only so much years of NHS orthodontics could do!).

Creating my partners hair and beard was pretty simple because its short, but my hair is long and a little wavy. This was my first go a trying to stich that semi-realistically and I think it came out passable. That is definitely an area I want to work on more.

I love the texture I got into my partners jumper. Chain stitch is one of my favourites and I really get a kick out of using to create knitted jumper textures. I should really just always create portraits with knitwear!

The big problem I had was that because I had decided to create this piece on regular cotton fabric, which is quite thin, I was struggling again to keep proper tension in my hoop. After I have finished the piece and washed it (to remove and grease etc) it dried warped and the stitches on our face especially were misshapen. Not good. This was the same problem I had when I used the same fabric on the Little Plant Girl.

I looked up online what to do and found many suggestions to wash it again and pin it flat to air dry. So that’s what I did, using an old corkboard and pins I aggressively worked at stretching it all flat. This took a while to get it all right in all the areas, but it worked really well! Excellent tip.

To finish it off I framed it behind a mount, but without the glass.

This took me so long to complete that by the time it was done we both had totally different new glasses, and I’d completely changed my hairstyle!

This was the last project in my pre-blog backlog, so now you’re all up to date!

  1. I actually kind of like pictures with wonky eyes, they crack me up – one day I’ll share my sketch book which has my favourite thing I’ve ever badly drawn in it! ↩︎
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