Sewing: In which I work on my (fabricated) family crest

Fabricated! Because it’s on an old shirt! Do you see what I did? I made a pun! I used to do… stand-up… anyway. I am not sure if my embroidery is better or worse than my jokes. I haven’t really done any for a very long time, and the last lot I did was just a white outline of St Sebastian on the sleeve of a shirt which I think I still possess (the front of the shirt was printed with “LUCKY LIKE ST SEBASTIAN”, which the astute will know is a song by Momus, and the very long-memoried will know is the song which first alerted me to the existence of said saint. I was introduced to the work of the divine Momus by a woman named Catharine, who by not-entire-coincidence sent me a card and a minicomic of a very silly webcomic I was drawing 10 years ago, when I first knew her.

That was an unnecessarily lengthy preamble. I am not deliberately trying to live like it’s 1100-and-something at the moment because I like the internet and antibiotics and warm houses and a distinct lack of civil war in my country, but an over-indulgence in Cadfael and a break from heavy-duty writing means I’ve had to find occupations for my hands, which seems at present to involve “masochistic levels of needlework”.

Progress Shot 1.

I vaguely pencilled in this design by tracing a print-out of my crest, which I inexpertly sellotaped to a Lumie daylight lamp which is actually in my house to stop me from going bonkers of winter. The outline is in black sewing machine thread and was the first bit I did.

Progress 2

Threading the needle for the metallic gold floss was such a pain in the posterior that I abandoned my original plans to do the flourishes in gold and began them in matte silk bronze instead, with black shadows. The little red drop is a bead.


I spent an increasing amount of time unpicking tangles in the length of the thread until I realised that if I just kept the thread short I wouldn’t have to deal with that problem any more, and that the needles I was using for it weren’t exactly hard to thread. Also, I stabbed myself in the hands a lot. Not just in the finger pads, where a thimble might have helped, but everywhere, including in that painful stretch of skin between the thumb and forefinger.

Flourishes 2

The flourishes expanded, using up an entire twiddly skein thing of floss (technical term), and I made the idiot decision to fill in my angel’s banner with machine thread (in wine red) because I didn’t have any red floss. It’s possible to be much more precise this way, but it’s also more fiddly, the needle is harder to thread, and you spend much more time bleeding and swearing.

My grandmother’s level of patience and internalised rage must be phenomenal.

Revenge of the metallic thread

In addition to finishing off the shadows on the flourishes and the obvious installation of the gold thread, I’ve also tied up and tidied up her wing feathers and hair with machine-width thread in the appropriate colours, and begun blocking in her face in white machine thread because, I don’t know, it wasn’t already fiddly and annoying. And also because her skin was smudged.

A word on the metallic floss. It decoheres so immediately that there is little to no point attempting to thread a needle with it as with ordinary floss of the same gauge. What I did here – because I am an idiot – is to remove a single machine-width thread from the skein thing and use the same method I did for the angel’s red banner. This took forever and was incredibly irritating and I don’t advise it at all.


Bringing us up to date: I have begun blocking out the mirroring side, and am thinking about what to do with the helmet and the gaps which are visible. There was no way this was ever going to be symmetrical, but hopefully I can avoid turning it into a giant mess. Ms Angel’s legs have also been filled with machine thread, by way of a diversion from blocking.


3 thoughts on “Sewing: In which I work on my (fabricated) family crest

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