This post is mainly a book review so I won’t be offended if you skip town now.
Jan Messent’s Embroidered Portraits arrived this morning, delivered in a grey plastic heat-sealed bag, Royal Mail approved for sending books, and there was no unnecessary extra packing inside unlike yesterday’s delivery. Once I’d taken the book out of the bag I sat down for a long read and there are indeed plenty of ideas, inspiration and techniques just as it says on the cover. The cover photograph shows a portrait that is pure embroidery with no appliqué or raised work of any kind and I thought that was slightly misleading. You wouldn’t know from the cover that there are no such projects in the book although there are additional photographs and approximately half a page of text explaining how it was embroidered.
Facial features for the rest of the portraits are either painted with watercolours, drawn with coloured pencils, or embroidered and the excellent close-up photographs throughout the book make it easy to see just what was done and how. Supplies required to make a portrait are cheap to buy and easy to source if you don’t have them already. The costumes can be made from scraps of fabric and lace or even worked partly or all in needlelace if you were so inclined although this book doesn’t show you how to do needlelace. The texts for the construction methods for three types of head (full frontal, profile and three-quarters) are easy to follow and there are plenty of accompanying photographs to refer to. There are lots of suggestions for making hair, wigs and costumes and Jan even has an alternative to the wrapped-wire hands generally found in stumpwork, using cord-padded fabric cut into a hand shape and outline stitched around the cord to indicate fingers. I can’t post a photograph from the book to explain this so you’ll have to wait until I make some myself. Or buy a copy of the book for yourself, I certainly recommend it if you think you’d like this kind of craft.
This afternoon I began to read the book in greater depth but I just couldn’t wait ’til I got to the end before ‘having a go’. This is where I got to after about an hour and a half. Still a long way to go and at the moment it reminds me of Boy George – no insult intended! I haven’t yet decided if it will be male or female or what the hairstyle or the costume might be but I’m sure I’ll have fun choosing. I got so involved in this that I forgot to go to my exercise class but as far as I’m concerned there’s no contest!