In part 3 of my Opus Anglicanum Stitch-Along, we will be filling in the forehead and nose, creating the round of the cheek, and filling in the eyes.
Faces in Opus Anglicanum style embroidery are usually one of the most nuanced and detailed parts. The placement of the spirals and curves are meant to help provide shape and dimension, despite the fact that it’s all in a single color of floss (with the possible exception of the cheeks, which are sometimes a pink spiral). This also means that no two faces are stitched in exactly the same manner, because the shapes of the faces, and thus their contours, are different. In this and the next part or two, I will show you what I did on this particular face to create contour and depth, and do my best to explain why so you will be able to decide for yourself how to contour your next Opus Anglicanum face.
This particular face (about 1″ across) is about the smallest that it can be while still working in this style of embroidery. Some details, like the eyes in particular, would be much easier to do on a larger piece, and all of the details would have more depth if worked larger. About twice this size would be ideal (2″ across or larger).
We are going to make an oval on the forehead, so start your first stitch a bit to the side of the very center of the forehead. This is not the center of the forehead via measuring, but the visual center of the forehead. Since the face is at 3/4 view (not straight on), the center of the forehead is above the center of the bridge of the nose. Since part of the forehead is also covered by the crown, the stitch is closer to the crown than the bridge of the nose.
The center of the forehead is usually an oval spiral, to give the feeling of roundness and fullness at that location.
Stitch in a straight line across the forehead, using very small stitches.
Make small stitches in a straight line.
Continue with small stitches until the line is the right length to appear centered on the forehead. Plunge your last stitch through the material one thread of the fabric further than the previous stitch.
Start your next line of stitches just barely down and to the left of your last stitch. You want to end the prior line and start a new one because it is too sharp of a turn to look nice.
Place your stitches close enough that you are not leaving any visible fabric between the two rows.
As you reach the end of the first row of stitches, tuck your stitches closer in.
Shorten your stitches even more when you get to the turn, and pull in as close as possible to the prior line of stitches. You may even want to stitch over the very end of the line. By pulling in very close and tight you can make clean stitches going around the turn, and also create an oval shape, rather than a rectangle.
It is likely as you go around the turn, that it will be so tight you need to split your stitch above the surface of the fabric.
Continue making minuscule stitches as you go around the tip of the first row of stitches.
On the long side of the oval, widen out as much as possible without exposing the fabric underneath, and then tuck in close to go around the narrow side. This will emphasize the oval shape.
Continue in a spiral around the oval until the upper edge is touching the crown.
The next time your stitches reach the crown area, plunge the last stitch in along the line of the crown.
Resume the spiral pattern, starting the stitch at the line of the crown.
Continue the spiral pattern a few more passes, skipping the section that abuts the crown.
Continue the spiral pattern until it very nearly abuts the eyebrows.
In hindsight, I should have stopped the spiral at the stage in the above photo, so that I could more easily have the stitches from the nose extend up over the eyebrows. This would have helped to avoid the rather harsh browline that can be seen further down. If you choose to stop here, wait to fill in the rest of the forehead until after you have stitched the nose, and extended one or two lines of stitches up over the tops of the eyebrows.
I continued the spiral until it was touching the eyebrows.
Fill in the left side of the forehead, continuing the curve of the stitches, but straightening them out slightly the further you get from the oval.
Fill in the right side of the forehead, gently straightening out the lines so they are almost vertical by the time you reach the other side of the brow. This will allow for an easy transition to the side of the face.
To start the nose, begin the line of stitches just a bit up from the outer corner.
Make minuscule stitches, since the turn around the bottom of the nose is very tight. Get as close to the outline stitches as possible.
The stitches filling the nose area are usually vertical along the length of the nose, with a curve at the bottom. Sometimes the stitches form a “U” shape, with either side extending into the eyebrow area. This follows the natural form of the human nose, which stands out from the face and flows into the brow.
Continue your curved line of tiny stitches, making them as close to the nose outline stitches as possible.
Continue your tiny stitches. It is very likely that the curve will be sharp enough that you will need to split the silk above the surface of the embroidery.
Continue the line of stitches up to, and potentially over the eyebrow. I don’t like the way the area above the eyebrow looks, so when I resume work on this piece I plan to stitch the line all the way along the eyebrow. Start the next line of stitches just a bit above the first, so you can create another curved line.
Continue the second line of stitches up to the brow, or entirely over the eyebrow if you left room for it. Start the third line of stitches like the first two, leaving room for a tight turn.
You might notice that the eyes are filled in now, but I haven’t shown how to do that. I filled in the eyes when I ran out of peach thread and my needle was free. The eyes can be filled in at any time before the area around the eyes is filled. I will show filling in the eyes last on today’s stitch-along. Feel free to skip ahead when you finish a length of thread, or do it at the point it appears in today’s installment.
Continue the third line of stitches up and to the left. Try to blend it into the curve of the forehead as much as possible. Since the face is 3/4 turned, more of its vertical fill should go to the left than the right.
At this point the curve of the nose should be extremely narrow, so start your next line in the depth of that curve.
Stitch straight up the nose, but keep the small stitch length so it will match the lines you have already stitched.
If you have been making your lines of stitches about as close as I have, you should now be starting the next line of stitches in the same place as the last line of curved stitches. Even if you will still have a gap of fabric, start your next line there.
This line of stitches should continue up and over the top edge of the brow. I significantly regret stopping at the brow, and plan to stitch in the rest of the line over the brow.
If you have room for another line of stitches, fill it in. Otherwise, start as deep into the point of visible fabric as you can.
Fill in all visible fabric, starting each line as deep into the point of visible fabric as you can, and fanning out to either side of the spiral.
Start at the very center of the cheek area. Again, this is the center of the cheek as it would be looking at a three-dimensional figure, not by measure of the drawing.
If you want rosy cheeks on your piece, switch out for a pale pink floss and create the spiral as described here.
Start a spiral pattern by making the stitches as tiny as you can. Each stitch is two threads of my ground material, split at one thread.
It is very likely your turns will be too sharp for normal splitting, and will need to be split above the surface of the embroidery.
Turn in a very tight spiral, so you don’t end up with fabric peeking out between the stitches.
At this point I am barely able to start lengthening the stitches to three threads of the fabric.
I was still having to split the floss above the embroidery.
Still splitting above the embroidery.
At this point the curve was finally gentle enough to split the stitch on the surface of the embroidery.
Continue making a spiral pattern, barely lengthening the stitches.
If you are filling in the cheek with pink, you’ll likely want to stop your spiral when it is about this size, or maybe a half-circle larger. Then switch out to peach and continue the spiral.
Continue the spiral until it just shy of touching any of the other features of the face. Then plunge the stitch.
This eye is very small, so it will be difficult to place the details. With a larger eye, you would want to start with a small spiral of black for the pupil, but this eye is too small for that, so I recommend starting with the iris.
Make your stitches as small as possible, and follow the outer line of the iris.
There is barely enough room here for two lines of stitches.
Stitch in the iris on the other eye.
Again, there is probably just barely enough room for two lines of stitches.
There isn’t enough room to split stitch the pupil, so make a couple short stab stitches to fill in a little black for the pupils.
Fill in the whites with split stitch, starting at the side of the iris and completely filling in the remainder of the eye.
Fill in the whites of both eyes. This eye, being slightly smaller to represent being further away from the viewer, will likely take fewer stitches to fill completely.
I’m not terribly happy with how my eyes looked when I was finished, so hopefully yours will come out a little nicer.
And this is where we stop for Part 3 of the stitch-along. If you have followed along to this point doing the embroidery, you should have the eyes, forehead, and nose completely filled in, and the spiral placed on the left cheek. In Part 4 we will start with the right cheek spiral.