White on Black embroidery experiment – work in process

Today I’m sharing my working process of my experimental white on black stitched portrait of Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins).  I’d no idea if this would work out or not so I decided to map my progress on instagram, and log the hours worked. I’m bad at keeping track of time when I’m stitching and  subsequently I  underestimate just how long these embroidery portraits take. (Confession: I did lose track of this one in the end- but I guess I wrapped up at around the 25 hr mark after  some re-shading).

Billy - embroidery work in progress - b.gillespie

I made this animated gif of my progress (above) but you can visit the still images on flickr here.

Sometimes I get the urge to stitch on black, it’s a very different starting place for embroidery. I wanted to challenge myself by working white on black (using white as the solid stitched area).  White (on black) doesn’t work for shading, it has to be used as the highlight. So it’s like stitching a negative image to the way I would usually work. I used various shades of white, coupled with directional stitching to add dimension. Still, I’d never done this before and It was entirely possible this project wouldn’t work out as I’d hoped.

Billy Corgan- embroidery- portrait detailAnd you know you’re never sure but you’re sure you could be right, if you held yourself up to the light...

I’ll share the finished portrait (all framed up) in a follow-up soon, along with a bit more on why I wanted to make this piece. (It was quite personal).  In the mean time here’s a last look at the completed black and white embroidery portrait of  Corgan in the hoop – sunlight glittering through the needle holes.

Billy Corgan- portrait complete in hoop

Have you been following the progress of #billybeforebedtime on my flickr or instagram feeds? What do you think of how it turned out? Have you ever stitched white on black before? How did it work out for you?  Tell me about it in the comments.


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