One of the best things about being a thread maker is seeing what people make with the thread. People often stitch what they see around them, and apparently we are surrounded by bugs. There are a lot of needlework bugs out there. I think we are part fascinated by them, part grossed out by them, part anxious to control them, and part amazed by the intricate details of bugs, so we capture them in stitches (and sometimes in jars). In celebration of creativity, here are 7 ideas to help you stitch some really fabulous-looking bugs.
1. Add realism with metallic threads.
Metallic threads are often used to add realism to a design, since so many objects around us have shiny surfaces or flecks of shimmer. Bugs in particular are some of nature’s most prismatic creations, microcosms of iridescence, specimens of sparkle. Look closely at any bug and you will almost always see something glistening. So one quick, easy, and readily available way to make your stitched bugs more realistic is to use a metallic thread.
This needlepoint painted canvas design by Waterweave shows how the color and shimmer of metallic threads can make bugs almost pop off the fabric. This design, finished as a bolster pillow, is beautiful, bold, and perfect for contemporary home decor. Metallic threads by Kreinik.
Recreate the beautiful iridescence of butterflies with metallic threads. At right, needlepoint painted canvas design by Melissa Shirley Designs, stitched in Kreinik metallic threads. At left, cross stitch burnished butterfly pattern by Janelle Giese using Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid.
Even a light touch of metallic thread adds the realistic shimmer found in nature’s bug bodies. Kreinik Blending Filament is used in the bee’s wings, while Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid is used in the beetle bodies (beetle designs by Amy Law).
2. Add dimension with different stitches.
Bugs aren’t really flat, even when you squash them. So a stitched bug can benefit from some height. Padded stitches are perfect for making the body of a bug stand out. You can also use Lazy Daisy stitches for wings. Explore stitch books and stitch dictionaries available online to find some options other than basic cross stitch to make your bugs a little 3-dimensional.
Padded stitches create dimensional bodies in these two dragonfly designs. The pattern on the left is by Janelle Giese, while the pattern on the right is by Pat Winter. Both use Kreinik silk and metallic threads.
This canvaswork butterfly is a blend of different stitches—laid work, Or Nue, cutwork, long stitches and more—and threads, including real metal, synthetic metallic, and silk threads (all by Kreinik).
3. Add flight with applique.
Stitching the wings of bugs separately, then attaching them to the stitched body takes its cue from traditional stumpwork, and it is one way to make your bug as cool as possible. It is easier than you think. Here is one how-to article from a crazy quilt embroidery site, but the technique is applicable to cross stitch and needlepoint projects as well.
This bee is about to take flight. (Detail from needlepoint painted canvas by Melissa Shirley Designs.) The wings are created with wire and netting, then attached to the stitchery behind a metallic-thread covered bead.
Both dragonflies were created by designer Pat Winter using Kreinik Hot-Wire, a wired version of Kreinik Medium #16 Braid metallic thread. The thread is couched onto shear fabric, then sequins and beads are added for extra flair. The wings are stitched to the fabric before the beaded body is attached.
4. Add anatomy with veins.
The addition of backstitches on top of flatter cross stitches is a simple but effective way to make your bugs more life-like and interesting. Stitch your veins with backstitch or long stitches. Stitch them freeform, or scan your stitched wing, print a copy, and sketch your vein plan. Look online for close-up insect photos to get your inspiration.
Oh nature, you’re so vein. Use metallic threads to stitch on top of fabric or other stitches to create veins on bugs’ wings. Dragonfly at right is from a needlepoint design by Sharon Garmize (Sharon G Designs), while the stitched specimen on the left is from a crazy quilt by Pat Winter.
Stitched bug veins can be as beautiful, colorful and fascinating as real-life bug veins. The beautiful effect here is created by the very thin metallic Kreinik Cord in a copper shade. Design by Pat Winter.
5. Add more body with beads.
Have you ever wandered the bead aisle at a craft store, dangerously close to buying marble-like wonders without having a plan for them? Go ahead, pick out some beads and add them to your bugs for really bodacious bodies. If your bug is naturally segmented, pick beads of different sizes.
The most beautiful, non-threatening spiders are the ones you stitch. Bejewel them with beads for bodies. (Side note: the spider webs are artistically created with Kreinik metallic threads. Silk threads would be ideal for stitched spider webs too.)
Metallic threads, silk threads, cabochons and beads combine to make a stunningly gorgeous stitched butterfly. Needlepoint painted canvas by Labors of Love. Metallic threads by Kreinik.
6. Add special effects with unique threads.
Tell me the truth, which sounds more fun: a house fly or a firefly? No contest: a firefly—its butt glows in the dark! It’s easy to add this special effect to a stitched bug with glow-in-the-dark threads. When you are making your bugs, look outside your grandma’s thread box for other options. Make iridescent wings with Easter Grass, for instance (the fiber is so lightweight and prismatic, the wings look like they are in motion). Another idea: make fuzzy bodies with wool knitting yarns (long stitches, or couch them) or a fuzzy metallic thread (Kreinik Micro Ice Chenille).
Look for non-traditional fibers to add special effects in your stitched bugs. Easter grass for wings, wool for a fuzzy body, for instance…each creates unique texture that makes your bugs more interesting. Design on the right is a needlepoint painted canvas by Labors of Love.
Kreinik glow-in-the-dark threads are so much fun in cross stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, even fly fishing. I look for places to add them whenever I can. They are perfect for stitched fireflies, emitting a soft yellow glow when the lights go out—kind of magical, just like childhood and summer nights.
7. Add vintage feel by stitching on silk gauze.
I add this last tidbit because it is a fun way to make a stitched bug look like a real specimen: stitch it on silk gauze. If you don’t know what silk gauze is, check out this post from one of my earlier Kreinik Calling posts. It’s like stitching on a nearly invisible canvas. Collectors, photographers, biologists, entomologists, and amateur insect enthusiasts have been preserving bugs and mounting them behind glass forever. Silk gauze gives you the same look but in stitchery. The effect is pretty cool, and you will amaze your friends.
Basic butterfly pattern, stitched on Kreinik silk gauze. Simply convert any design into Half-Cross, Tent, or Continental stitches and your pattern can be worked on gauze (different sizes are available). The result makes your bug look like it’s floating, or look like a real insect that has been preserved and mounted.
Your stitched bugs can be single-dimensional, created with basic stitches in plain floss—but why be ordinary? In real life, bugs are colorful, vibrant, highly textured, with layers and shimmer and dimension. Use a variety of threads, stitches, beads and other needlework goodies to make your projects so much more interesting. Have fun stitching those bugs!