Needle-Painting a Beetle

Needle-painting is an embroidery technique that has its roots in the ancient silk shading techniques of China. It uses alternating long and short stitches to create the right shading variations that give an image dimension.

I love needle-painting because of the freedom it gives you. You can choose any image and recreate it in thread. Patience is, of course, a must for this technique, though that is also true of most embroidery stitches. I got started with needle-painting as many people these days do: following Trish Burr‘s instructions. She offers a wealth of information, from the threads you should use to the very basic nature of this kind of stitch work.

When thinking of the designs I wanted to work on, birds and small mammals came to mind. They are the common themes that many artists working with needle-painting choose. And I will do some birds because they are the loves of my life, but first I wanted to do something a bit different. I looked through all of my Pinterest boards, all of my books, and came across a Goliath beetle illustration. I’m not particularly fond of insects but it’s hard to ignore that so many of them are stunning. The green of the beetle caught my eye, so I decided on it. Choosing the fabric came next. I wanted it to offer contrast to the image, to bring some gentleness to the design, hence the lacy border. I searched through Etsy until I found the perfect vintage doily. I was lucky enough to find one with green accents to go with the design. For threads, I used a wide selection of DMC threads. I wish I could say accurately how many different colors I used, but I lost count rather quickly.

The design took me about two months to complete. I worked in the evenings for two to three hours (or until my eyes grew too tired) and I finished just a few days ago. Once it was done, I lowered it into a bowl of cold water to remove any dirt, and let it dry. That’s it. I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to frame it.

This is the first in a series I will be creating throughout the rest of the year, called The Delicate Grotesque. I’ve already chosen the next design and the threads are on their way!

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