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The Glitz and Glam of Embroidery

I love watching "period" films and TV programs like Downton Abbey or "Game of Thrones", partially, of course, for the glitz and glam of the intrigue and romance of the story, but mostly, for the glitz and glam of the costumes and the sets. When "Lady Mary Crawley" dresses for dinner, it's the lavish needlework on the gown that has my attention. In "Game of Thrones", London embroiderer Michele Carragher hand embroiders many of the intricate designs, that she has also created, onto the costumes. Her website is worth checking out (

Thinking of all of the detailed beadwork embellishment and intricate embroidery in these gowns, made me remember these "petites cigales" (hidden somewhere in my stash), that I started in 2006, the first full summer we spent in Montpellier. That summer, I did not have a sewing machine there, and I had not as yet taken up "Boutis". So armed only with my basic sewing kit, but with easy access to a marvellously seductive bead and yarn store in town, I began these cicadas, while the days were gloriously warm and sunny and "les cigales" were singing their song, from morning until night.

This project started out as a simple applique wall hanging using only regular quilting cottons. With the discovery of the "all things glitz and glam embellishment boutique", the cicadas soon developed a life of their own. (Quite beyond my control)!

So, the simply appliqued cicada got seriously "glammed up" with beads and baubles and all manner of embroidery fun.

Before appliquing the body of this little guy, organza wings were stitched onto the fabric. Outlining the wings with a gold metallic thread soon became a project of gold lace embroidery.

There are 9 cigales in total, all in various stages of completion. When doing this type of work, there's always a danger of going seriously overboard with the "glitz and glam", but oh my, what fun!

All of "les cigales" are hand appliqued, hand embroidered, (including the gold lace on the wings) and hand beaded. The background was done several years later, after I had purchased a sewing machine.

Before the cicada was appliqued onto the silk background, the branches were machine embroidered and the flowers were hand appliqued. I liked the crinkled effect that the machine embroidery created between the branches, so I left it in place.

Here, leaves and branches are machine embroidered with some hand embroidery used to add detail. I'm not quite happy with the way the leaves look, so "more" of "something" is needed here!

After I had completed the background, I decided that the trapunto branches needed to be extended. Although stitched, they still need to be corded. (Maybe some more beading somewhere as well?)

As you can see, before I decided to "enhance" these guys with "bling", I had already appliqued them onto a previous quilt block and added embroidery, like the legs and antennas.

The wings are made from some Edwardian lace that I found in an antique market at the Portobello market in London. I fussy cut around the different patterns in the lace and appliqued many little sections to the wing separately.

Always hopeful that one day, all (or at least some) of my almost finished projects will meet their destiny. Sigh!


  1. These embroideries are magnificent. I love the gold lace on the wings. I can't believe you did these long ago and had them hiding away!...Gorgeous work! Once are a true artist!

    1. Thank you very much for your comments. You are very kind, but I think you give me way too much credit. These little guys were born from a serious desire to stitch something, but with a serious lack of sewing supplies and tools at the time. I did have a lot of fun seeing what they would evolve into, and I let them take me where they wanted to go. It was truly playtime!

  2. Oh my goodness, once again I'm just blown away by the incredible beauty of your work. These cicadas are just amazing! What technique do you use to applique them once they're finished? xoxo

    1. Thank you so much. As I just mentioned above, these cicadas were an exercise in fun and creating without preset limits. (Something I could do only because there were not a dozen or so other projects nipping at my heels!)

      When I hand applique, I always use the needle turn method. I trim the excess fabric to a little more then 1/8", clip corners and curves where necessary, and then use an applique needle to tuck under the fabric. This was the first applique technique that I learned and it is still my favourite.

  3. I just love these! You are so creative with your use of antique lace and adding all the bling! I'm sure you will finish them some day, and they will look magnificent in a hanging. (I have a lot of those unfinished projects as well).

    1. Thanks Cynthia. It's always a little scary to cut into something that can never be replaced, like the antique lace I used here, but I have no regrets having done so. If I won`t use it, then it will just lie around in some cupboard, never serving any purpose. So I am determined to give new life to some of the antique laces and fabrics that I have acquired over time.

      Thanks also for your vote of confidence re: finishing these hangings some day. I wish us all luck (stitcher`s unite!) in seeing these types of projects to completion.

  4. Wow, these are gorgeous, and I absolutely love the delicate colours you have used. Almost white, but not quite. I hope you will find a way to finish them up! It will be a wonderful series.

    1. Thanks Monica. Sometimes we need to put these UFO's public to put a little pressure on ourselves to work on them again and possibly even finish a few.

      The original colour scheme of the cicadas were all to be neutrals, before the "bling" bug hit. I love neutrals and have just bought Yoko Saito's new book "Japanese Taupe Theory Color Guide", so the plan to make something in all neutrals still exists.

  5. LOVE these embroidery cicadas. Such lovely intricate work. So beautiful. Finishing them up would be a great accomplishment. BTW, I find all sorts of English period programs from BBC on YouTube. Just search for it. I like all the great costume stuff, too.

    1. Thanks K.Q.. Some of these little guys are very close to being finished, so I do hope to finish them and have them framed. I just need to set aside some time to devote to it. One of these days... .

      It sounds like you enjoy the same types of programs as well. I watch a lot of BBC productions, but I have not ever thought of using YouTube. Thanks for the idea.

  6. Che spettacolo, una vera meraviglia, tantissimi complimenti


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