Sunday, June 30, 2013

Marie Antonette Embroidered Picture

Doing two Altrusa trees this year has meant a lot of planning and starting early on the decorations and gifts.  So far I have volunteered for several decorations but I am not sure what gifts I could make.  The thing I like about our groups tree is that we don't throw money at them.  We make almost all of the stuff ourselves.  Some members do donate money for the supplies to make things, which is very generous.  We also get things from thrift stores and fix up.  One gift idea that I've had was a pair of crystal earrings.  I bought 2 large pink crystals that will be used to dangle large woven gold drops.  The crystals will made into cabochons sew in with gold or pearl beads, haven't made my mind up yet!  That is as far as I've gotten making gifts!

Last night I was looking at a friends pintrest page, , and came across a lovely picture of Marie Antoinette and decided to embroider the picture as a gift.  I could have turned the image into a cross-stitch or needlepoint.   But instead I printed the image on cotton canvas and started embroidering sections to bring out the image.

Original printed image of Marie Antoinette onto cotton canvas.

When starting this kind of project deciding what to do first can be daunting.  So I took one thread of gray DMC and started embroidering straight stitches to add detail to the feathers in her hat.  This gave me the courage to keep working.  Besides all of the thread and color challenges there is also the challenge of getting the needle through the fabric.  The fabric is a commercially processed sheet that can go through a printer.  The fabric is very thick and besides bending several needles I also bruised my fingers when the eye end went into my fingers because the point end would not go through the fabric.

  Feather enhanced by straight stitches in grey DMC thread
and variegated silk ribbon added to the hair.

This style of embroidery is completely different from the more standard embroidery forms.  Unlike embroidery patterns whether to leave something plain or stitching to enhance a section is entirely up to the embroiderer.  The most helpful thing is to have a wide variety of embroidery supplies.  In this piece I have used silk sewing threads and ribbon, DMC floss, silver passing, crewel and needlepoint fibers.  In the above picture the feathers are enhanced by straight stitches in grey DMC thread
and variegated silk ribbon added to the hair.  On the right hand side of her neck bullion knots in dark gray DMC were added.  The darker shaded hair and smaller stitches make her hair recede into the background.  The color of gray was similar to the artists choice of color.

Curls added to the left neck area using crewel acrylic yarn in pale gray
and seed pearls added to form the necklace.

After enhancing the feathers I had thought to leave the hair simple with a few silver stitches.  But the curls were so tempting!  So I used a white acrylic crewel yarn and a silver crewel yarn and formed them into loops.  Then the loops were tacked down on top of the hair.

How to Make the Loops.

The loops were very easy to make!

Step 1:  Thread a needle with a strong thread matching the color of the curls, I used silk sewing thread.  Hold the thread along a dowel and wrap the hair fiber around the dowel and thread.

Wrapping the hair fiber around a dowel and encasing a sewing thread.

Step 2:

Once the loops are as long as you want for one area, sew through the hair fiber with the encased sewing thread.    Make sure to pierce through the actual hair fiber as you sew.  Keep sewing through until all the loops are sewn loosely together.

Sewing through the hair fiber.

Step 3: 

Sew the fibers through again going in the opposite direction.  Tie a small knot at the end of the loop with the sewing thread.  Be careful not to pull to tight.

Sew back through the hair fibers, do not tighten to much.  The loops should be sewn close together.

Step 4: 

Slip the hair fiber loops off the skewer and sew in place using the same sewing thread.

Finished hair loops ready to be sewn into place.

Loops starting to form hair on left side of head.

Bullion knots form tighter curls on right side of head.

Hair added to left hand side of head is made with darker variegated crewel fibers and is formed by making bullion knots.  This forms tighter curls which gives the impression that right side of her face is turned away slightly.  This is a simple trick to form depth to the picture.

Silver passing is used to give detail to the lace edge.

The last thing that I did last night was to start enhancing the lace on her dress with silver passing thread.  This was a bit tricky because after so much work I was afraid that the silver thread wouldn't work and I would have ruined the embroidery.  But it came out fine!  I used short lengths of silver thread and straight stitches.  I worked the silver following the white edge in the lace.

View of dress after silver passing was added to the lace.

Some of the bullions knots on her right side are a bit dark and I may do them over again.  The bouquet in her hand has stems and leaves but I still need to figure out how to make the rose.  The next big step is embroidering the background.  The trick is to make the background interesting and at the same time not so detailed that it is to busy.  Now to try and not destroy the picture today by doing something stupid!


  1. Hi there! I realize this is an older post, but I just wanted to tell you that your Marie-Antoinette is absolutely gorgeous! I would love to cross stitch that with embellishments! Where did you get the printed canvas from, Fine Art America? Thanks for reading this note, hope to hear from you!

  2. This is very strange coincidence because I was just starting to finish Maria after all this time. This isn't a cross stitch, but I can see how it looks like one. I found the image on and printed it on a cotton canvas background. The even weave canvas makes it look cross stitched. So all the stitching I've actually done is surface embroidery. The image is from, I just tried the site and get the main server page now. So I pinned the image and it is under my pintrest site, Just look under Altrusa2016. The image is 6 x 8 inches so it would need to be larger to be comfortably stitched. Personally I would needle point rather than cross stitch her, I think that would be easier. Your best bet is to either graph out the image with a needle work program or print the image directly onto fabric. I've tried the ready to print fabrics available at stores but have yet to find one that is strong enough to work surface embroidery. The printable canvas I used for this project has a finish like gesso and I've actually had to apply glue in spots because it tore during stitching.

    I've not found a commercial print shop yet that would even try to print on fabric. Once I even tried the iron onto fabric products but they were too difficult to stitch through and I actually hurt my hands. There are several methods on how to prepare your own fabric to print on a ink jet printer. My attempts at this went very badly. My sister prints on fabric by using a iron on stabilizer on muslin. Unfortunately I have found the fabric difficult to stitch on. You may have stronger hands then I do so it would be worth a try! Just follow the instructions carefully for whatever method you decide to use. I would love to know what you decide to do and updates!