Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Turquoise Serpent is finished!

Here's Xiuhcoatl, the Turquoise Serpent, in all his glory:

To form the final panel, the completed embroidery needed to be stretched onto a piece of board. Depending on the size of the final item I might use mount board for this, but I felt this was just too large for that, so I used a piece of hardboard, cut to size.

As I've mentioned before, this is quite a tactile piece, and the padded suede is actually quite hard, so for a contrast, I covered the board with a layer of polyester wadding.

I forgot to take a photo of this, but using tailor's chalk, I measured up and marked the size of the board on the back of the embroidery; this makes lining things up later a whole lot easier!

Using the chalk marks, I laid the covered board onto the fabric, folded this over the board, and pinned it into place on the edge of the board. If I'd been using mount board, I'd have used ordinary sewing pins for this, but the hardboard is too, well, hard for that, so I used drawing pins instead.

These are just to hold the fabric in place for the next stage, so it doesn't matter that the fabric isn't stretched tight yet.

Turning it over, I mitred the first corner and pinned it in place. (Instructions and clearer photos on how to do this are on my 'official' site.)

The thread sticking out of the top corner is crochet cotton, which I often use to lace up an embroidery as it's quite strong, though linen thread is probably better. I pulled this thread through before pinning the corner as it makes things a bit easier, though if you're carrful you can do it afterwards instead.

Using this thread, I ladder stitched the top and side edged together, forming the mitred corner.

Without finished it off, I then took the thread diagonally across the board to the opposite corner, and did the same again. The other two corners were secured in the same way, giving neat corners with no need for trimming, and an 'X' of thread across the board. Anchoring the corners first also means that the fabric is now held in place on the board even before the lacing has been done, so the drawing pins can be removed.

Using a ridiculously long length of the crochet cotton, I secured it at the centre of the long edge of the fabric, and laced it with herringbone stitch backwards and forwards between the top and bottom edges.

With such a long piece of thread, it's next to impossible to stop it tangling, so I don't even try to pull the lacing tight as I go. I get all the lacing in position first, then pull it tight a thread at a time, before fastening it off. Once the first centre-to-edge is done, I returned to the centre, and laced it to the second edge.

I then did the same again for the short edge.

It makes rather a nice pattern, doesn't it?

The embroidery is now nicely stretched onto its board, but I couldn't leave it with the back like that. I used black silk dupion for the backing, as it gives a good contrast in textures to the satin of the front. It was just some I had in my fabric cupboard, though, and was dress weight rather than upholstery weight, so I ironed on some fine black Vilene, to add a bit of strength.

I then pinned this to the back; I folded over the edges and pinned them in the centre first, before mitring the corners again, and pinning them into position, then adding more pins round the edges, to hold it fast.

I then ladder stitched round the edge, using a curved needle. They aren't the easiest things to use, and I always find them awkward to thread, but they do come into their own with jobs like this, as they avoid the tugging at the fabric you get when trying to get a straight needle at the right angle.

After the back was attached, all that needed doing was adding a label.



  1. And all of this because you watch a nature program on TV while chatting on the phone. Sometimes inspiration works in mysterious ways. The result is drop gorgeous, hope you are very proud of what you accomplished.

    Have a great christmas and happy 2010 filled with creative miracles.

  2. Hurrah! He's done! The cloud serpent looks great. Thanks for showing him off step-by-step. That was very educational.

    Jane, waving and shouting Merry Christmas from Chilly Hollow

  3. Elizabeth and Jane - thanks so much for your good wishes. I hope you both have a fantastic holiday and a wonderful New Year.