Shorleyker’s Bat – the story continues

Where had I got to? Last time, I left my ‘Batty’ project with the trees in progress and most of the sky filled with seeding. The next step was to add some stars….
Batty WIP 6 - the stars are out
I went back to the DMC metallic thread for the stars, and made them with either two or three tiny stitches crossed. They were not neat little ‘x’ marks or asterisks – they would have looked wrong if they were too tidily stitched against the background of seeding stitches. While I was doing that seeding, I thought I’d left far too many spaces for the stars. I was expecting not to use them all. But once I’d got a rhythm going with the metallic thread, I found I needed more, not fewer, stars. As if by magic, usable gaps between the seeding stitches seemed to turn up naturally wherever I wanted to pop in an extra star. I was very pleased with this stage.

batfaceWhile adding twinkle-twinkles to the sky, I was thinking about the stitching I needed on the main bat. I wanted its face to look as much as possible like the face in Shorleyker’s woodcut. So the edge of my fabric soon sprouted a collection of eye tests and mouth samples.

Batty WIP 7 - eye test

I settled on bullion-knot loops for the eyes and finished them off with a single-turn French knot in black in the centres.

The mouth was less successful. I finally decided to use a backstitch outline and whip it. I was happy with the shape, but it looked wrong, somehow. I didn’t want a solid silver grin, but it was too ’empty’ with nothing in the centre. While I let that problem stew in the back of in my mind, I started on the black stitching for the body of my bat. The photo isn’t very clear – black on dark navy blue is a pain to photograph! The legs are single-feather stitch, like the ‘finger’ lines on the wings, but with the smooth edge facing inwards, not running along the inside of the silver line. The tail-bone was a row of chain stitch. Above this, I used short straight stitches to make the furry body and head, very similar to the seeding I used in the sky, but more dense and worked more-or-less in the direction of fur growth.

Batty WIP 8 - bodybuilding

The empty mouth was still bothering me. I picked up a scrap of in the variegated thread and held it in place to see how pearl cotton might look as a filling for the mouth. Much to my surprise, the light purplish-blue colour I had in my hand seemed to be just the right thing. (A blue mouth – who would have guessed that shade would work?) So I filled the mouth outline with close-packed straight stitches and the picture was finished.

This has been such a fun project to do and to share. I like to think that Richard Shorleyker would be pleased if he could see what use I have made of his 1632 design. (I have not yet mounted the fabric properly, I have not quite finalised what I want put around it, although I will be almost certainly be using the ivory-coloured mount you can see in the photo. I used the mount as a size guide when designing the piece, so they fit together.)

Shorleyker's Bat - stitching finished

I have had some really lovely comments on this piece, both here on the blog, on Stitching Fingers, on Flickr and in emails. I am glad that you have enjoyed seeing me ‘thinking out loud’ with it. I must also thank ‘Emma’ who blogs on the DMC company’s American website at  for a lovely write-up of the first part of this project. I am really flattered to have been selected. If you’ve found the blog through one of these links, then hello! You are very welcome. I hope you will find some interesting things to explore here. Don’t be afraid to add a comment, make suggestions or ask questions.

Now, before all my non-embroidery friends and readers give up on me altogether, I promise that the very next post on TLTB will be something other than embroidery. But stitching will be back here again soon, don’t worry!

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13 Responses to “Shorleyker’s Bat – the story continues”

  1. What a friendly little bat
    Shiny smile and visage fat
    Up above the world you fly
    Like a tea tray in the sky

  2. What a cute critter! I love your variations in the sky colors. Interesting to see your sample stitchings off to the side, I often have those too.

    • suetortoise Says:

      I should make more of a habit of trying things out, Louise – on edges or offcuts (or even on the main fabric if I have to, provided I can unpick the try-out afterwards without damage). Apart from seeing exactly how things will look, it gives me a chance to get into the rhythm of the stitch before I start it in earnest. Of course, all too often I rush straight in, without a try-out – and regret it!

  3. You must be so very very pleased – well, I can tell that you are!
    I love the partial fur on the bat’s body as a balance to the other textures.

    • suetortoise Says:

      The texture on the bat worked well – it avoided adding any clear outlines to spoil the simplicity of the original drawing, but it put in the shapes I wanted. Shorleyker’s book has another bat which does have a fat, furry tummy indicated, proper legs and some form to the ears – I wanted to get that extra information onto my bat without it being too obvious. (And yes, I am very pleased. But I am not pleased with the final photo – I must get a better one if I can and replace it.)

  4. jizee6687 Says:

    Beautiful work. Thanks for the helpful details. All the best!

    • suetortoise Says:

      I hope I will encourage other people to do some playful experiments with their stitchery. And risk doing some of the planning as they go along, sometimes, not all before they start. It’s not always the best option, certainly not if you can’t afford to make any mistakes, but it does make embroidery so much more interesting to work.

  5. Wow! This is amazing work, Sue, I love your cheerful little bat! I came over from the link you kindly left me on Flickr and just read both batty posts. Congratulations on the DMC feature 🙂

    It was amazing to follow your project from start to end and hear about all your stitchy decisions (I do test pieces too sometimes, they can be very helpful!) – it’s so interesting to see how other people tackle projects! I think that it’s just *awesome* that you managed to make your bat fly off the page of a 17th workbook to become a modern embroidery! I’ve never seen seed stitching used so intensively either and it makes for wonderful texture 🙂

    • suetortoise Says:

      Glad you’ve made it over from Flickr, Aurelia. I’d never really used seeding before, and I started off trying to make tiny, neat stitches. But it wanted to be larger and wilder, so I let it have its way. Pearl cotton doesn’t like making small stitches, so it refused to let me go all fiddly.

  6. Judy Wiebe Says:

    I love doing all sorts of needlework and would like to share with you that have found I can make the “eyes” in a piece sparkle and come alive with a single stitch or two of silver Glitter thread that I got from Superior Threads, many years ago. I stitch it just a little off-centre right on the iris and it brings the eyes to life. Enjoy your blog, very interesting. I was teaching my granddaughter to cross-stitch from a kit and the very first thing I told her was, “wash your hands”. Any body soil on a piece may not show up until years later. Also, do not lick the thread to thread the needle, as you have sugar in your saliva that WILL show years later, and you don’t want to ruin a piece.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Judy. It’s well said: many hands make light work, but dirty hands make light work grubby! My carry around stitchery pieces tend to be those that can stand a bit of a wash, if needed. Artists and cartoonists know well that a tiny speck of highlight will bring an eye to life. I hope that your granddaughter enjoys her cross stitch and will continue with embroidery – it’s a wonderful hobby.

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