Iris Petals Two and Three

Iris Petals Two and Three

Stumpwork embroidery petal just started with completed petal in background

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written about the iris project – in our last post we had finished the first petal, and now petals two and three are nearing completion! One of the main reasons I haven’t written is that petals two and three look nearly identical to the first petal, and that would make for boring reading. I knew we would run into this problem going in, and an iris seemed like an ideal choice to minimize the tedium. Irises have six main ‘petals’ – three petals and three sepals, really – and embroidering two kinds of petals with three of each seemed much less tedious than stitching a rose with forty petals all the same. Even doing just three identical petals is a bit rough, as large as they are.

Closeup of stumpwork hand embroidery petal showing marking lines and shading

Practice may not make perfect, but it does make much better. It’s good to see how you improve over time, but with such a large project, tangible improvement can be frustrating. My shading has gotten finer between the first petal and the other two, and that’s both a good thing and a bit of a problem. I may have to do the first petal all over again so that it matches the others. It’s the last thing I want to do, but there is too much work involved for the petals not to match. Unfortunately, I can’t just work over the petal with more threads and blend it better, since the backside of the work will be clearly visible. It’s either use it as-is or start that one from scratch.

Closeup of embroidered iris petal showing shading from russet to dark peach

Even though it’s frustrating, I’m rather glad that I worked one petal first. The size and shading of this flower make it among the most technical pieces of stumpwork I’ve ever seen, and there are aspects of it that I’ve never seen handled quite the same way. In a lot of ways, this is a groundbreaking piece for me, and having a petal to experiment on is a good backup. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it if it’s not used in the final piece, but it was worth the hours to figure out exactly how to handle certain problems. If something irreversible had come up, it would be easier to write off one petal rather than all three.

Three hand embroidered iris petals; one completed and others in various stages

The bottom three petals won’t have this issue; I’ll work them all at the same time. Because most of the hurdles have been handled in the top petals, there’s less risk in doing them all together. The work seems to proceed more slowly, but at least I know they’ll all be as close as they can be. There is one part of the bottom petals that I’ll have to try out ahead of time, but it’s a fairly minor detail that can be worked out on a scrap piece of fabric.  Hopefully it will proceed as expected and make for some fantastic detail, and one that will be perfect for an iris flower. But no more on that for now! That part of the bottom petals is still a long way off.

Two hand embroidered petals in progress showing color progression towards center of petals

With petals two and three nearing the finish, the choice on whether or not to keep the first one is looming closer every day. It will have to come before work begins on the bottom three petals, or I run the risk of the new one looking that much better than petals two and three. I think it needs to be done. As much as I don’t want to repeat all that work again, this is too large of a project to take half-measures. With any luck, this will be the last setback and the rest of the project will go more smoothly. 

Three iris petals; one finished and two nearing completion. All in shades of rust and peach.

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