Mermaid (a handmade gift)

Be a Mermaid design

Taking UPPERCASE magazine’s advice to heart, I threw myself at some new projects on Monday: making Christmas presents for the people I work with (our informal Jacksons holiday party is in four days’ time).

Decided on a mermaid-themed present for the first project, because my manager collects mermaids (and doesn’t surf the internet, so I think this post is relatively safe to put up) and is pretty much a mermaid, herself.

I picked that ubiquitous craft and design saying:Β Always be yourself. Unless you can be a mermaid, etc… You’ll probably groan and argue that there are too many versions of this “Always be yourself” saying floating around, and that it’s shallow and twee. And I would agree with you. But I am pretty sure my recipient hasn’t heard it yet, and it fits her perfectly. So that’s what it’s going to be. I promised her a handmade gift; I never said it would be urbane.

The finished piece measures 36 x 46 cm (14″ x 18″). It took me nearly two days to make the whole thing, but I dawdled a lot, and did other things, besides. The drawing/painting took up the whole Monday, but all the embroidery was done before lunchtime the following day.

I used a pre-stretched and pre-primed canvas. Made the letters and doodles in acrylics using brushes and a mapping pen. The font I used (just as a guide…freehanding, and then painting the letters, has changed it a lot) isΒ Le bain au milieu de la fin d’apres-midi vers by T N 2. Used only yellow greens, turquoise, and blue paints and inks.

ink detail

All those greeny-blues and lime colors needed a little bit of red-violet for punch, so on a scrap of pink marbled fabric (our recent marbling show has left our home littered with bits of marbling everywhere) stretched in my smallest hoop, I painted in the dots and squiggles of a sea urchin.

painting urchin

While waiting for the paint to dry, I stitched a small starfish straight on the drawing’s canvas, just weaving back and forth between two laid threads that formed each arm.

stitching starfish

The urchin was ready to be embroidered. I used stranded cotton embroidery floss, working buttonhole circles, eyelet stitch (when I got tired of buttonholes), french knots, and backstitch.

stitching urchin

Not shown are the steps where I cut the urchin out and placed it over a thin circle of card with some pillow stuffing, gathering the edges of the urchin fabric at the back using running stitches and pulling tight (sort of the way I finished the back of this embroidery in a hoop…) I was too excited to see the thing made. I stitched a button to the center of the urchin…again, pulling tight to form a dimple in the puffy shape. I stitched the base of the urchin to the canvas.

And these are just close-ups of the embroidery on the finished piece:


starfish detail


42 thoughts on “Mermaid (a handmade gift)

  1. Ah so nice to see that spontaneous work of yours, It just grows and grows. Very Clever and beautiful. merry happy holidays, we celebrate with food and fun and call it Christmas but by any other name would smell as sweet…


    1. Hello, Shazz, found myself thinking about you not long ago, when the itch to make a postcard hit, I should ask you to send me your postal address again, I don’t know where I’ve put yours.
      Yes, I have been coming across the rather clunky and unpronounceable word “Christmahanukwanzaa” on the internet, lately. Sweet-smelling but would look like a disease when printed on a greeting card… πŸ˜‰
      Great to hear from you.


      1. Just read an article on Fb that all the covers of the 15th century poet Milton’s books were handcrafted masterpieces! Thought of you! Don’t know how to send the article…it was a post from Metropolitan Museum of New York. All the best and happy creating for this wonderful season!


        1. That’s not as unusual as it sounds…until a certain point, all books printed were sold without covers, for the buyer to take to his favorite binder and get a cover done. It is the same for all the books that Samuel Pepys owned. Ah, the glory days, when we was important and indispensable craftsmen… πŸ˜‰


    1. Sure, is that an application? Have you shovelled elephant shit at the circus before? LOL kidding πŸ™‚

      She’s not just my boss, though, she was a friend before I went to work for her. I’m sure your friends will have something fabulous for you, too.


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