Whether you want to create an embroidered pet portrait just for yourself, or you want to sell them, these 6 tips are sure to help you with your final product.
I’ve been embroidering for years now and have found these tips help with not only pet portraits but also many areas of embroidery/thread painting and I’ll point them out within each tip so you know how to use that step with more than just embroidered pet portraits.
Let me first introduce you to Murphy, he was our beloved youngest Shetland Sheepdog, also known as a Sheltie. He was born with a very serious heart defect and we knew this when adopting him from the breeders. We also knew he may not live very long. He ended up living 5 years with us. He was loved well and spoiled sweetly and loved his older “brother”, Tucker, for those 5 years.
It was a tragic day when he passed away but he was with us all and I hope that helped him feel some level of peace. Because he was so well loved, and such a part of the family, I decided to do a pet portrait of him with embroidery threads and fabric. This is typically called needle painting or even crewel work embroidery but whatever you choose to call it, the end result is thread, fabric, and needle creating a lovely piece of art of a beloved pet.
After weeks of stitching I finally finished his portrait and it sits proudly and lovingly in our living room.
Let’s Talk All Things Embroidered Pet Portraits!
Eyes, the window to the soul – TIP #1 IN A BETTER PET PORTRAIT
In a pet portrait of any medium it’s all about the eyes. After all, the eyes are the window to the soul, right? And quite honestly, this is the hardest part for me. It’s going to take practice, trial and error, doing it over and over again, but the more you work on it, the better your eyes will become.
Study the eyes, notice the shape, how large or small the pupil, the highlights, the varying tones in the eyes.
My tips for stitching a realistic portrait:
Eyes: it’s all about the eyes. And for me, this has been the most challenging aspect of this portrait. Study the eyes of the pet you’re stitching and maybe look at other pet portraits to see how they stitched the eyes for ideas.
One Ply: i’ve been using one ply of the 6 ply floss to make it even more realistic. The thinner the thread, the more it seems to flow naturally, as a thread painting. However, if you’d like a thicker and chunkier look, use more of the floss. Maybe try 3 ply.
Get the sketch right: take as much time as needed to get the sketch right before transferring it to the fabric. Once it’s on the fabric, it’s there to stay, unless you use a washable marker, of course. Not great at sketching? That’s okay, you can get a piece of copy paper, hold it up to your computer screen, with the picture of your pet, and trace the important aspects of the pet. Then you can either use white fabric and place the paper under the white fabric to trace onto the fabric, or you can use carbon transfer paper, and transfer the design onto a darker colored fabric.
Start more simply: instead of trying to do a full pet body and head design, just do the head and chest area. This is what I chose to do.
Take your time: don’t feel that you need to rush through the process. Take your time with each element of the portrait. It may take you weeks or months but when you’re finished you’ll likely love the finished result more if you took your time.
BONUS TIP: use a variety of slightly differently colored threads for shading and highlighting. And look at the picture reference often to get the shading and highlights as close to natural as possible.