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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Dena Lenham, aka KreinikGirl, is Creative Director at Kreinik Manufacturing Company, a family-owned, USA-based business that manufactures high-quality yarns and threads made of metallics, silks and real metals from their West Virginia factory. Dena’s monthly column, Kreinik Calling, sheds light on the fascinating fibres that we all use and love.