I bought the pattern and filed it away for the future. I know what you're thinking. "It's not completely embroidery! Large sections of the fabric is...dyed?" You're absolutely right. I don't know how to do that! Plus, you know my love of satin stitches. So it stood to reason that the only color in my version would be from floss. If you're looking for a recreation of the above image, you've come to the wrong blog post.
So why did I have to embroider for my life? Why wasn't it regular, non-fatal embroidering? Well, I discovered my friend Lucy's birthday was coming up, and decided I wanted to make her something. But the days between that decision and her birthday left me with a little less than 2 weeks for completion. Lady With Flowers For Hair took me about 2 months. The logical thing to do would be to make a reasonably-sized version of the pattern for Lucy, say 6 or 7 inches in diameter. But I laugh in the face of logic--HA!
I stuck my fabric in a 14 inch hoop and drew a 12 inch pattern! Go big or go home, right? Of course, right! I have few areas of discipline in my life, as I'm a subscriber to the idea that the universe/God/Satan/coincidences/reality/other people will throw enough hardship and heartache at you, so be gentle to yourself. The one real exception: I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to crafts.*
I realize I didn't put anything in this photo that really gives you any scale, but the two wood blocks when together make up about the size of a lipstick case. And for all the frat boy jocks** out there who would never make it their business to know the size of a lipstick case, let's just say it's about the size of...a bottle of fingernail polish. ["Ha HA!" Maryann lamely laughed alone to herself. Bitterly.]
Lucy and her husband Kris have more of a neutrals/earthy palette to their beautiful home. When I originally bought floss for this pattern and the plan was to make it for myself, I'd picked out bright yellows, purples, and pinks for the mermaid tails. Less Peter Pan and more The Little Mermaid:
So I went back to the store and picked out the earthiest mermaid colors I could find. But because it was me, it still turned out pretty brightly colored. I split up hair and tail colors for each of the ladies, giving each mermaid a mystical name like Facing, Middle, or Away (just kidding--that's how I distinguished them in the pattern):
I would have taken in-progress photos, but good lord I was spending every waking moment stitching. On more than one occasion I stayed up until I heard birds chirping and saw the sun peaking through my windows. This isn't a huge surprise because I'm a night owl, but usually I'm not staying up THAT late. But my deadline and the stimulation of the project made me a bit manic. I now have callouses on my thumb and forefinger where I hold the needle (using a touch-screen phone with callouses feels WEIRD), and my thumb knuckle still hurts, even though I haven't stitched since Monday. I'm absurdly proud of myself for these crafts-associated 'battle wounds.' (See? Craft-Masochist.)
I'm less proud of how messy I let my place get whenever I'm working wholeheartedly on a project. A glimpse into the madness that is my living room floor right now (plus some gratuitous Norm tum-tums):
See all those little round bits of paper? That's what's holding the embroidery floss together when you buy it. Whenever I take them off I like to put them on top of the cats. The bits of paper are light enough that you can get like 7 on a Oz before he notices, since his fur is so long. Which means at the end of a project they've ended up scattered all over the floor until I finally go around with a recycling bag and pay for my Sins Against Catmanity.
But enough about my crafts-related mess, let's see the final product! Here it is, only seconds before the fabric was cut, and I put it in a nicer, smaller frame before whisking it off to Lucy:
As you can see I hand-traced scales onto each of the tails, which I am pretty happy with. I declined to give 'real' boobs to the blond mermaid because despite my previous claims, areolas are not for everyone. Or at least not everyone's home decor style. (This is no commentary on Lucy's preference for boob vs. boobless mermaids--I would have left than nippleless for anyone other than myself. Though Lucy, if you're reading this and decide you want some nipple-action, that can be easily arranged.)
My main regrets:
1) I wish I'd taken the time to do natural light photos of the finished product. You can see some of the underneath stitching in these photos thanks to the flash. I also wish I'd taken a photo of it in its smaller frame. The 'tightness' of the frame and stitches is cooler looking than the big gaps you see here.
2) SKIN COLOR. Bane of my existence. Lucy has two sisters (whom I love dearly) so I thought I'd give the mermaids the same skin color but different hair colors to match the sisters. But the skin color I picked is so fucking light! Unless you are up close to the fabric it looks like three floating tails and three floating hair blobs. Maybe if I'd given them shell bikini tops? Meh.
3) Faces. Faces, faces, faces. How to stitch a lady's face that doesn't look like a Kewpie doll. I'm not there yet. Fortunately I only had to do one face for this pattern.
Other than that, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I love the colors and arrangement of the mermaids. As I drove to Lucy's house I worried about the possibility of her not totally loving it. I can see how needlepoint can be overly kitschy or cheesy for some people's tastes. If you make someone a gift and they don't love it, that can be...awkward.
"Sorry you can't return it. I mean, you could return it, but you'd be returning it to ME, since it's not from a store. I suppose I'd rather you give it to me than leave it at goodwill, but maybe instead you could leave it in a closet and only bring it out when I come over...? But that's a lot of work and lying on your part. So just give it back! But then I'll have it in my house and be constantly reminded that I made it for you and you didn't like it. HOMEMADE GIFTS ARE POISON TO RELATIONSHIPS!"
You get the idea. Fortunately Lucy's reaction was even better than I could have hoped. Her excitement when she opened it sent me over the moon. I spent so much time thinking of her when I planned and made the piece (that word sounds so pretentious when referring to art) that her wild appreciation for it gave me the greatest feeling ever. I love you, Lucy!
*And hair dye.
**You'd be amazed how many frat boy jocks read my blog. So many. The jock traffic is particularly high on the mermaid embroidery posts.