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Jupiter Embroidery

Okay, well. I hadn’t intended for this blog to be about old pieces of work. But the whims of ‘The Internet’ intrigue me, and over the last couple of days, a piece of my work has been highlighted on MAKE craft zine, and has thence been bumped around on tumblr/twitter. I feel flattered by everyone’s kind words in emails and on tumblr, and have also received quite a few questions about the work, so I thought I’d write a little about it here.

The piece in question, my chain stitch Jupiter embroidery:

Jupiter in chain stitch
Jupiter in chain stitch

And a link to my (very brief) post on tumblr, with more pictures:


This is a small embroidery: about 9cm wide and 13cm tall. It’s stitched with a needle and thread onto ivory linen fabric. [Note that it’s not knitting or crochet, I can understand how some folk might be confused by that, as chain stitch ‘en mass’ can look a little like stocking stitch, the most common knitted fabric stitch.]

I used this sequence of images from NASA as the basis for the work, but I reinterpreted the sequence a little so that I could do the squiggliness I wanted.

Jupiter’s red spots via JPL

I sketched the bands and spots onto paper, and decided on colours. Next I used measurements from my sketch to draw this on the linen using a water soluble embroidery marker. Once I started stitching I worked from the top down. I attempted to stitch from left to right when I imagined the bands moving left to right, and vice versa. The top section is fairly linear, broken up by the occasional jovian spot in satin stitch. As I worked further down towards the turbulent areas I started to mix up the directionality more, working from the edges of each band into its centre, rippling out around the large spots.

Jupiter in progress
Jupiter in progress

I wanted my stitching to demonstrate that the jovian bands are fluid, moving around the planet and swirling it up a storm at region boundaries.

I chose to use almost entirely chain stitch for two reasons:

  1. I loved the way chain stitch could be used to create curves, as well as straight lines with directionality. Related to this, I also like the way as a chain stitch line curves, it lifts slightly on the outside edge. This gave such a subtle, graceful wave-like sense to the curve that I wanted for this fluid surface.
  2. And more pragmatically and slightly embarrassingly: I wanted to learn how to chain stitch.

I’ve played with lots of little experimental embroidery pieces in many different stitches in the past. I’ve also completed many charted cross stitch pieces. But I wanted to delve more deeply into embroidery, and so decided to concentrate on one technique and work towards mastery, and I started with chain stitch. Obviously I’m not expecting to attain mastery, but I’m a strong believer in striving for it. Anyway, I ramble.


Currently the piece is tucked away waiting to be framed. I’ve since completed another chain stitch piece, larger but simpler in many senses: a stitched Voronoi diagram with some organic globules pushed up against it. I might blog about that some other time.

The Jupiter piece isn’t for sale for a combination of reasons:

  • I made it for my own pleasure. It’s a subject that I love, that I made to hang in my own house. It’s for me.
  • I made it to learn and practice a technique, so I don’t feel it’s a piece that’s made as a saleable, quality piece.
  • I have no idea how long it took me to do, so I can’t honestly put a price to it. It took a long time, many, many hours, so I doubt anyone would be willing to pay what it’s worth. If you love embroidery, you know what I mean 🙂

I am honestly humbled by the interest this piece has attracted. But I’m also very inspired by knowing that I’m not the only one that loves to combine science and maths with art, craft and beauty.

And Jupiter really is a beautiful place.

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Balloon thoughts

I’m currently attempting to finish a large cross stitch. One that was begun (not by me) at least 5 years ago, but has since been in storage. The crosses in border were pretty much all done, then the crafter started on the leaves in the upper branches in the foreground when life intervened. After a couple of house moves it got kind of forgotten until I went on a ‘finish all unfinished things’ binge and it entered my sights.

The leaves ARE a slog. Thousands and thousands of crosses quarter stitches, all in blended threads, in groups of at MOST five stitches. But I’m slogging through it, determined not to start a new embroidery until this is done. I break it up a little, doing a bit of back stitching when the leaves get too much. Like this:

Peacock cross stitch detail
Peacock cross stitch detail

This is an older photo, I’ve actually progressed much further than this now. But still it’s been a long haul, and I’m hoping that once I’ve finished the leaves and go back onto the peacock, the background and the grasses underneath… that it will feel less like a chore.

And stitching shouldn’t feel like a chore. But although this is beautiful, the reason I’m not enjoying it is because it’s not my design. Now that I’ve a taste of making my own designs, I want to do more. My Jupiter embroidery was a labour of love, and I have so many more ideas ready to go…

The one I’m currently sitting on is the view out my window each morning: six or so hot air balloons over the yellow-blue skyline. Horizon of jumbled low buildings. A steeple.

I’ll get there.

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It begins (again)

It’s time to sink my teeth into blogging about my craft. I’ve blogged for years about my adventures in video games, but now that I’m not gaming as much, I’ve stopped blogging there. And I miss it.

But I’ve always *made* things. I’ve always had three projects on the go, and 400 more lined up in my mind. So I’m hoping to use this place as an informal documentation of my work, and my ideas: to keep track of it all.

I was diligent/regular in my last blog, posting two or three times a week. But as it got more popular I started to get bogged down in trying to make it perfect; investing hours in every post. The aim for this crafting blog is for it to be more of a sketch book: quick posts to record progress, to chart my ideas and inspiration, and take little snaps of finished objects.

Looking forward to filling this space with handmade 🙂