Some news: I taught myself to embroider over winter break! Also, Pat and I got engaged! We spent the holidays apart, with our respective families, and during that time I secretly taught myself to embroider and made this pillow here as a Christmas present for Pat. He proposed shortly before we exchanged gifts, but he says that if he hadn’t been planning to propose anyway, this pillow would probably have done the trick.
Even if you’re not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston, you’ve probably seen this frog-guy before, perhaps on Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt, or in Austin, TX. All the images here are from his artwork, and the words are lyrics from his song “Sweetheart.” I bought the pattern for the images from Sublime Stitching, though the arrangement of elements & colors are my own choices. Here’s a close-up of the frog:
I used split stitch on him, and satin stitch on the mouth. He was the first element I embroidered; later on I discovered vine stitch, which I used on the clouds, and I like it better than split stitch because it’s neater.
I got the idea for this whole project from knitting Totoro in December. I’d done incidental embroidery before in my knitting, but never considered myself very good at it until that project, where it was crucial that I make Totoro’s face look awesome or the whole thing would end up looking creepy. I was pleased with how well I did, and realized that embroidery is not actually very difficult — it’s basically just tracing plus patience. I’d already discovered Sublime Stitching through their french knot tutorial I used for my Zeldaphant, and in poking around again when I was working on Totoro I found the Daniel Johnston patterns, and that made the light bulb go off in my head since Pat is a big fan. Furthermore, I had a substantial collection of embroidery floss leftover from my summer-camp friendship-bracelet-making days. That’s right: with the exception of the dark green for the frog, 100% of this embroidery floss dates from the late ’80s and early ’90s.
One of the choices it turns out you have to make when you’re embroidering from a pattern is how to transfer that pattern to your work. I decided to buy an embroidery transfer pen (which washes out with cold water), and use my parents’ windows as a crude lightbox to trace my printed-out images onto the pillow cover (which is also from Sublime Stitching, by the way). Another choice I considered was iron-transfer pencils, but I don’t think that they wash out, which was a dealbreaker for me — I didn’t want to count on myself to make zero mistakes while tracing, not to mention zero mistakes while embroidering to cover over the lines I drew.
I now realize that I didn’t even necessarily need to buy a pattern, because a person could theoretically trace anything onto fabric and embroider it. That’s how I made the lettering at the bottom — I just found a font on my computer that I liked the look of, and printed out and traced the words I wanted to embroider. Here’s a shot of the whole design laid out flat, where it’s a little easier to see everything than when it’s on the pillow:
This little bit in the corner I drew freehand, which is cool because it’s recognizably in my handwriting: