The Five Labors of Finn and the sparkly thing I made

This year for our Tir Y Don Baronial Birthday and Baronial Investiture there was a little competition known as the “Five Labors of Finn”. Finn, our Baronial Mascot is a Red Dolphin. The competition ran with the premise that our mascot met a mermaid while swimming in the ocean and fell in love instantly. In order to woo her, he gathered up things he thought a mermaid would like and brought them to us to make something as he doesn’t have hands. Those things were divided up and sold in $5.00 baggies so that we could raise funds and have a fun competition.

It took me the better part of 2 months to work on this in little bits. All of it is hand sewn onto scrap upholstery fabric given to me by a friend who was cleaning out her garage.

I only needed to use 5 of the items provided, and create a document detailing which items were used and how, and the important part the historical inspiration for the item I created. This competition isn’t based in our usual Arts & Sciences category of needing historically accurate documentation, it is after all a dolphin falling in love with a mermaid. From start to finish I knew I wanted to make something that would have a practical use, but was as sparkly as a mermaids tail. So…A bag it was. Inside the baggie was different wool yards in bright colors, wood beads, Atlantian coins, and a few gold chains. I used it all, and added more of my own flotsam and jetsam. To read the full documentation of my journey to a lovely Bag you can download the PDF here. Raised Figure Embroidery for the Five Labors of Finn

setting the scenes with seaweed borders


Where to learn the Techniques

Raised Figures

Mastering the Art of Embroidery by Sophie Long

Sophie’s book contains a dozen techniques for the embellishment of textiles ranging from Crewel to Smocking. Each technique has samples in full-color glossy photographs and well-done drawings in step by step sequence to give you a good start. ┬áThe relevant section of the book for this documentation is the chapter on Stump-work. I found the usual needle lace, detached and raised surface stitches, but the really important part is the Figures primer. In the Figures primer, you find step by step instructions on how to do the raised figures that are the underpinnings of raised figure embroideries. She covers the body, face, hair, and hands.

Raised Embroidery: A practical guide to decorative stumpwork by Barbara and Roy Hirst

In this book, Barbara and Roy Hirst guide you along the path of stumpwork embroidery with some history of the craft, pictorial examples and step by step instructions on the various techniques that make stumpwork such an art-form.

The Complete Book of Stumpwork Embroidery by Jane Nicholas

Jane Nicholas is touted to be the best in her work and you can clearly see it in the examples she created to teach this technique. The title of her book is rather misleading, however as her book only covers the plants, animals, and insects but not the human figures that are often the central technique that people have come to know as stumpwork. The beautiful Elizabethan Figures that are central to her original piece are not covered in this book. It will, however, teach you the varied techniques needed to create the natural world in the background of your figures. She also helps you use those techniques in a variety of craft projects to beautify your home and needlework basket.

Stumpwork Seasons by Kay &Michael Dennis

Kay and Michael Dennis give you a really good start to finish guide to stumpwork through the seasons. They start you off with all tools, materials, and threads needed to do the lovely projects pictured in the pages. Besides the stitches and techniques for the surface embroidery, they guide you to staining or painting the backgrounds to give a more natural and realistic looks to your work. A good book for those that need color pictures to guide step by step.

Close up of the Mermaid Raised Figure. No Hair yet.

The Mermaid tacked down. Still no hair yet.

Tube Coral beginning the surround of the pearl beds.

Finn and his mermaid. Still no hair yet.

The Mermaid sitting pretty on her sandy mound..Yay! She has a full head of hair!

Pearl bed filled in with pearls, shells and lacy corals.

A closer look at the Mermaid.

The Finished Bag, Hoard Side View.

The Finished Bag Mermaid side View.

The Finished Bag Pearl Bed View.