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How Chi Chi got a twin.

I’d like to share what I learned making Chi Chi, my cousin’s car. I hope my story will spare you some grief. Lesson 1 make what you like. Sounds simple but I saw a beautiful abstract pet portrait and thought, “Try that!” I appreciate abstract art, but it is not my favorite type of art. I gravitate towards realistic art. So, as I worked, I would pick a cool black and white print for part of Chi Chi’s face and then fussy cut great realistic fur from a wolf print I had. The two didn’t blend well. I tried different materials and approaches, but I had to admit to myself that abstract just wasn’t my thing. At one point my husband told me I had created demon eyes.

My second lesson was learning to use Photoshop. I’m still learning but without knowing the program I brought in the picture taken with my cell, cropped (took away) most of her body and zoomed in to focus on Chi Chi’s face and enough of her body so she didn’t look like a beheaded cat. I then printed this out on plain paper to make sure it was the size I wanted. I adjusted the size a little and reprinted it. I am emphasizing this because it is easy to say, “Yep, that’s right” and print your image on fabric paper and then regret your actions because something is off. A whole sheet of expensive fabric paper wasted.

Once on fabric paper, I followed the directions and tried to attach the picture to a piece of mid-weight muslin. I don’t know why the adhesive on the back of the photo paper didn’t stick. I’ve had the photo paper for at least a year, too old? I solved the problem by spraying some 505 Temporary Adhesive to the back and placing it on the muslin. I started thread painting without hooping the material. That was a mistake. Pucker, pucker, pucker. I then hooped it and life got better. Remember you want to hoop the opposite way you embroider. The material sits at the bottom and not the top (pictures below).

Now, the recommended method in portrait thread paint is to start with the eyes. I couldn’t. The eyes intimidated me. I started with the ears. The ears were a more confined area. I gained confidence with the ears and moved down to the face. I did the eyes last. I stitched the darker colors first and moved to the light threads. I’ve read advice that says to go from dark to light. Also, advice that says light to dark. I found dark to light better because the light threads sit on top and provides highlights However, there are times when I stopped and stepped back. I would notice that there were areas that needed something “more”. Some parts needed dark, light or even mid-range shades of thread. This leads to Lesson 3. Guidelines and suggestions for how to do a certain technique should not be treated as law. There isn’t a sewing police. No one is going to yell at you for doing things differently.

Let’s talk thread. I matched my bobbin thread with the top thread family. I picked a mid-range shade of brown to cover all my brown threads. I went with simple white for my white and very light beiges. This approach allowed me not to worry so much a

bout tension. I also didn’t worry about the weight of the thread. I focused on color. Some threads were 40 and some were 50. I think the variation gave some interest and depth to the portrait.

When Chi Chi was done staring at me from the muslin, I cut her out with a good ½ inch margin. I applied fusible web to the back, turned under the ½ inch margin and fused the project to the back of a denim shirt. I then applied wash-away stabilizer to the inside of the shirt to avoid any puckering. After doing all that thread painting, I was not taking chances with puckering ruining the whole effect. I was super excited to be done. After satin stitching around the perimeter, I was done. The journey had been a long, but I learned a lot which always makes me happy and can’t wait to immortalize my dog, Jackie in thread.

Here are some pictures of Chi Chi in progress.


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