I love using heavy lace to represent feathers on my birds' heads and necks. But it's not always easy to find, so I decided to try making my own. Continue reading to learn how I did it.
March 14, 2019: If you look closely at this raven's head and neck, you'll see that it's covered with bits of feather-shaped lace. These are remnants of heavily embroidered "guipure" lace (sometimes called "Venise" lace) left over from my ballroom costume business. The best lace is made in Europe of natural fibers like cotton, rayon or silk, and is wonderful to work with because it can be dyed, painted, and molded to fit around curves.
The trouble is, this fine guipure currently costs at least $120 a yard, plus overseas shipping and customs fees. I haven't been able to find anything like it in the United States, except for some cheap polyester stuff from China that can't be painted or dyed.
So I decided to try making my own lace on my embroidery machine. It took several days and more than 5,000 yards of rayon thread so it wasn't exactly cheap, but I'm pretty happy with the results.
This is a closeup of some rayon guipure lace from Austria. The flower petals and leaves are the perfect shape to cut out and use for feathers. This lace costs $120 a meter plus international shipping and customs fees. So I will try to save money by making something similar on my embroidery machine.
Here's the lace that I made on my embroidery machine. Continue reading to learn how I did it.
I started with an embroidery design from urbanthreads.com for a 3D poinsettia. I really like the gothic swirls in the petals. I used Embird embroidery software to separate them.
Here's a screenshot of the petals, separated and duplicated until I had enough to fill my biggest embroidery hoop. The shapes are perfect for small feathers.
I then hooped a sheet of Ultra Solvy dissolvable plastic stabilizer, loaded the image file into the embroidery machine, threaded the needles, and then backed away while the machine stitched out the lace.
Here is a hoop full of completed feathers. It took four hours and about 750 yards of rayon thread to stitch this set. For five ravens, I will need to make seven of these sets. So that's how many hours and yards of thread? I'll let you do the math.
The next step will be to cut out the individual pieces, and then soak them in warm water for half an hour to dissolve the stabilizer.
Here are two hoopings of lace feathers spread out to dry after trimming and soaking away the stabilizer. They take about 24 hours to dry this time of year. (It's much faster in summer when I can dry them outside.) Meanwhile, I'll continue making more batches. When all of them are dry, I'll steam them flat, and then they'll be ready to attach to the raven.
Ravens, Part 1: Finding Inspiration
Ravens, Part 2: Feathers
Ravens, Part 3: Making lace for the head and neck
Ravens, Part 4: Starting on the legs
Ravens, Part 5: Claws
Ravens, Part 6: Legs
Ravens, Part 7: Building the body
Ravens, Part 8: Beaks
Ravens, Part 9: Attaching the legs
Ravens, Part 10: The exoskeleton
Ravens, Part 11: Feathers and Lace
Ravens, Part 12: Finally finished!
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Welcome to my fantasy world
I'm a textile artist in Camarillo, California, USA, specializing in three-dimensional fabric sculpture. I use this blog page to record my journey and to share some of my successes and failures, in hopes that it might help you with your own creative endeavors.