Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dragonfly on the Enchanted Shawl

"She spake, and loosed from her bosom the broidered zone, curiously-wrought, wherein are fashioned all manner of allurements; therein is love, therein desire, therein dalliance - beguilement that steals the wits even of the wise. "  
The Iliad, Book 14
trans. by A.T. Murray

I was reminded of this excerpt from the Iliad  as I typed the title for this post.  In the story, Hera borrows Aphrodite's enchanted 'zone' (a sash or girdle) which is beautifully embroidered, in order to distract Zeus from what is happening in the Trojan war.  We embroiderers can imagine how an article of embroidered clothing could serve to distract, even if it wasn't enchanted.

Enchantments being worked into clothing through the embroidery has always interested me.  As I embroider, my hands are busy, freeing my mind to think over current events in my life.  The soothing act of passing a thread through cloth in a repetitive motion serves to calm me as I possibly come to terms with issues, plan how to approach a difficulty,or delight in some pleasant happening.  Ever after, when I look upon the item I've embroidered, I recall the things I thought about as I worked it.  That's a sort of enchantment.

I'm either finished, or almost finished, with the dragonfly on my shawl.  I may decide to add further detail to his head, as it looks bare to me as is.

I love the trellis stitch on his body for both the raised effect and texture it gives.  I used Soie Perlee thread, which helped with both the texture & the depth.

 I had some difficulty choosing colors for him.

First, the colors had to be bright enough to show against the dark brown linen.

Furthermore, the rest of the shawl will be done in an autumnal palette.  A dragonfly seems to call for iridescent colors, but when I tried them they didn't look right with the rest of the shawl.   - Why is it that all these non-coordinating colors can exist side-by-side in nature and look fine?

In the end, I chose to use the pistachio-green - a good dragonfly color - that I'd already used elsewhere.  Next, I found a bright teal and a medium blue that coordinate with the rest of the colors, yet make for nice dragonfly colors.  The teal looks more blue in the photo, but it's really a vibrant teal.  Lastly, I pulled a yellow from my existing palette. 

I outlined the wings in pistachio so they would show up against the linen.  The stitch used is Reverse Chain.

The same pistachio is also used as the cord thread for the detached buttonhole stitches on the wings.  You can catch glimpses of it here, peeking out  between the buttonhole stitches.

The yellow "stripes" on the wings are worked in detached b-hole which run in a different direction from the rest of the wings,  I outlined the stripe areas and worked them before embroidering the main wing area.  I found butterflies on an Elizabethan piece worked in the same manner ( I'll reference it here as soon as I locate it again).

The spots on the wings are simply satin stitch, which was outlined in back stitch before adding the satin stitches.  The larger spots were padded as well.

The threads used are Au Ver a Soie Perle in colors 241 yellow, 054 teal, 528 blue, 199 pistachio green.  


  1. I think the dragonfly is lovely. Give him a beaded eye and his head will be perfect.

  2. He's gorgeous!
    And yes, you don't need magic for an embroidery to enchant...

  3. Dragonflies need eyes!

    He's beautiful! Beautifully stitched!

  4. Hola, Kimberly. Tienes unas labores preciosas, la libélula me ha encantado. Esos colores tan vivos, van a la perfección con el color de la tela.
    Hasta pronto.

  5. Okay - to those of you who feel he needs eyes, let me think about it. Chilly Hollow suggested beads and perhaps I'll give that a go. I tried stitching them as I stitched his head and I thought it made him look scary. Not the right look for this project!


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