I’ve been hinting for a few weeks – here and on Instagram, where I’ve shown a few sneaky peeks – about a big crewel project I’ve started. This is why I’ve chosen now to focus on crewel in my sampler project, I figured I could use the practice before I really got stuck into this one. (Please excuse the rumpled look in these photos – this is a WIP, after all.)
And when I say ‘I’ve’ started this big project, I really mean ‘we’ – this is, in fact, a project by the Little Dorrit & Co. team (myself and my mother, Chris), our first big non-pattern embroidery as partners. This embroidery is an illustration of the Russian fairy tale, “Vasilisa the Beautiful”. Mom says she’s wanted to illustrate this tale for years; coming from a part-Russian family, she read it as a child, and then I did as well. So this how we decided to work on it: together! We love the illustrative aspect of Little Dorrit & Co. – the joy of getting the right tiny, funny detail in place and getting to stitch up our favorite characters is what we enjoy most and, I think, what we’re best at. But we wanted a project that we could really go to town on, not holding back at all, which isn’t something we’ve done together before now.
If you don’t know the story (and I imagine most don’t), you can read the whole thing here, but here’s a little synopsis:
Vasilisa is beautiful, lovely and sweet, but she has a horrible stepmother and stepsisters and a father who is away a lot of the time. Luckily, her mother left her a magical little doll before she died, and this doll comes to life when Vasilisa needs help, offering advice and doing chores for her. When her step-family move her out to the forest and send her to their nearest neighbor – the evil witch Baba Yaga, who has a house that stands on chicken legs and a fence made of human skulls (that part really captured my imagination as a child, I could picture it so vividly!) – to get candles, she is held prisoner and made to be Baba Yaga’s slave under the threat of being eaten up! With the help of her little doll, Vasilisa is finally allowed to leave with a glowing skull as the light her step-family needed. And in a wonderful ending twist, the skull’s light burns the stepmother and stepsisters, punishing them for their cruelty, until Vasilisa kindly buries it and returns to her father.
So back to the embroidery: this piece will show Vasilisa and her doll, and there will be a second piece, to hang next to this one, of Baba Yaga and her spooky, witchy house. Mom has already drawn them both and she’s really outdone herself on them – you can see the basic Vasilisa design (it’s about A4-size) above, though Vasilisa herself will involve some appliqué so I haven’t transferred that detail yet. This is generally how we work together – we discuss detail and design, then she goes away and draws something wonderful. I generally take on most of the embroidery, because it’s what I love most, and she guides me on colors and we tweak as we go.
I’ll be showing a lot of these embroideries as we work, which I expect will take many months, so I do hope you go read the full tale if you’re interested in seeing them come together as illustrations. It’s such an odd story with crazy details, my little bare-bones synopsis just doesn’t do it justice!
I have to say, I’ve never loved a project the way I love this – it’s simply the most fun I’ve ever had stitching, and that is not hyperbole. I’m loving crewel embroidery more than anything else I’ve worked with and I love having the chance to get lost in the stitching of it. And to have a design this beautiful to work with?! Sigh!
More about the actual stitching in my next Vasilisa update!