Butterflies of the World

Butterflies of the World

Butterflies are common around the world - from the little fritillaries of the high Arctic to painted ladies crossing the Sahara. As remarkable as these delicate but resilient creatures are, it's no surprise that they've featured in a small but prominent way in many different cultures.

The drastic metamorphosis and dancing flight of the butterfly have symbolized many things - the soul and resurrection to ancient Christians, conjugal happiness and joy to the Chinese, joy and change to the Native Americans, and the souls of the departed in places as widespread as Ireland and Greece. Butterflies have shown up in Pyrenees cave paintings and Egyptian tombs, and their bright colors makes them a much-loved subject of embroidery. Because of their pervasiveness, beauty, and sentiment, they are a perfect subject for stitching. Every culture views butterflies a bit differently, and every culture stitches a bit differently, as well. 

satyr anglewing, butterfly, orange butterfly, anglewing butterfly

The Butterflies of the World project will be a large and long-running project that examines traditions of embroidery from across the world. The subject of each canvas will be a butterfly stitched according to the techniques and color palette of a certain region - and where representational art was common, a local butterfly species will be selected. Each canvas will be worked on oatmeal linen and each butterfly will have its wings spread like a model in a collection - this standard pose will lend cohesiveness to the whole as well as provide a large, clean slate to best show off the techniques and stitches most prevalent among the style of embroidery being explored.  

With this project I hope to shine a light on the embroidery styles of over a dozen cultures - the ingenuity, beauty, and vast differences in form and technique rival the variation seen in the natural world. As each canvas is complete I'll link it back to this post; eventually this page will serve as the index to (hopefully) dozens of butterflies. We'll begin with Hardanger, a counted thread technique from Norway.

Links to Butterfly Pages:

Hardanger Embroidery from Norway  

Kantha - Heirlooms from Humble Beginnings

Wallachian Butterfly is Finished! 

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1 comment

So very interesting and a cool project you are working on. I look forward to what you teach us next. So talented in so many different ways. Love your work as much as I love you.

Judy Baker

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