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Topic: the deceptive beauty of breast cancer (french knots galore!)  (Read 13223 times)
Tags for this thread: breast_cancer_awareness , pillow , embroidery , featured_project , good_cause_challenge  Add new tag
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« on: October 18, 2009 09:33:22 PM »

my original plan for this piece was an anatomical image of a breast with a lump, much like the pregnancy anatomical image i embroidered a few months ago. breasts are incredibly complex, and i love all the lines that make up the images.

i started googling for images, and ran across an entirely different anatomical image - the breast cancer cells themselves. though i continued searching for the breast images, i kept coming back to the cells. they were so BEAUTIFUL, and i was really challenged by the idea of a more 3-D needlework piece, since i usually work on flat surfaces of fabric.

i started thinking about how as a society we idealize beautiful breasts, regardless of what may be hidden inside them. a pair of slightly droopy mom of 3 breasts are seen as less beautiful and less valued than a pair of young perky 20 year old breasts, regardless of actual health. you usually can't tell from the surface if someone has breast cancer, which is why self exams are so important.

and this is what i came up with.

this ended up being smaller than i'd originally planned, because gathering up the bobbles took WAY more fabric than i'd anticipated! i bought half a metre of fabric, about 19", and the piece ended up being 5.5" tall and 10" or 11" wide. i used a stretch velvet because i wanted that slight sheen, the variance in tone dependent on light, that velvet has. i used sewing thread to hand stitch circles on the fabric, then pulled them up tight and stuffed them with fiberfill. i didn't have any fiberfill, but i did have a pillow form - this piece took almost all of a 12"x12" pillowform's stuffing! it took a really really long time, so much longer than i'd anticipated!

after i had all the cells complete, i hand basted the velvet onto a piece of cotton, basting between the cells to keep the surface consistent (the cells had a tendency to pop out everywhere!).

i used dmc tapestry wool, colour 7896, for the french knots. i printed out the image and took it with me when i went shopping, and this was the closest i could get between dmc and anchor. i looked at embroidery floss, and at the possibility of using beads instead of the french knots. the embroidery floss was too shiny, and would have made knots that were smaller in proportion to the cells than i wanted, and the same thing went for the beads.

because i was using wool, but working with a fabric that i would need to pierce, i used chenille needles that were thick enough to thread the wool onto, but sharp enough to pierce the fabric (unlike typical needlepoint needles).

i find french knots easy (don't throw stuff at me! i'm sorry!! Grin), so that part of it was fine, but getting the wool through the "cells" was a whole different story! after an evening that left me with severely bruised and callused fingers, i dug out my locking pliers and used them to get the needle through. in some areas it was going through countless layers of fabric and fiberfill, the gathering of the bubbles/cells created a lot of excess fabric around the bases of them!

with the flash, the colour is a little less accurate. it looks more blue here than green.

and the back, with the title stem stitched across.

i had bought all the skiens of tapestry wool that my local needlework shop had, and used the majority of them for the front. i decided to use a lighter shade for the words, so that i could do as many french knots on the front as possible!

i also did a little flower design, to tie the two purple shades together and to add detail to the upper and lower portions. i used french knots there as well, and back stitch for the curlicues.

i'd like to do more french knots on the sides, the areas that aren't visible from the front, once my local needlework shop gets in more wool of this colour.

after both sides were done, i machine stitched the two long sides of the pillow. i had to use my sister's industrial machine, mine refused to stitch it! i stuffed the pillow, and ended up hand stitching the short ends because it was impossible to get the sewing machine foot close enough to the bubbles/cells.

and this is the image that inspired it all -

Credit: Annie Cavanagh. Wellcome Images
A cluster of breast cancer cells showing visual evidence of programmed cell death (apoptosis).
Scanning electron micrograph

i hope you like it. comments and criticism are TOTALLY welcome! and if you'd like to see the needlework in more detail, click on the pics and they'll lead you to flickr.

check out my crafty blog!

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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2009 09:45:25 PM »

 Shocked Holy Cow!! You've knocked my socks off, this is amazing.  I love it.  (I won't throw things at you, truth be told, I think french knots are easy too!)  Very nice work!

"The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary". --Mary  Kurtz,  "The Needlework Times" April, 1978.

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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2009 09:47:56 PM »

This is scarier to me than any monster. I too am intrigued at how beautiful they look. you did a great job of rendering your subject.

« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2009 09:52:48 PM »

Where to begin on how fantastic this is?
The embroidery itself is beautiful, and I like that the pillow is functional art, but the fact that you embroidered the cells themselves makes me ridiculously happy, especially since I will more than likely be doing research on breast cancer this summer, and I am supposed to be reading research articles about it right now...

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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2009 09:58:15 PM »

On a cellular level, there is so much beauty in the beast that is cancer.
Your project is phenomenal, the detail and thought you put into this ...just WOW.

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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2009 11:34:30 PM »

i love the details, and the colours are so vibrant! you really captured the cancers ahem. aesthetics? (this sounds so stupid :-))
i would love something like that in big for my sofa
you said, there is a lot of stuffing inside, so are the bubbles hard?


« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2009 12:09:56 AM »

wow, Wow, WOW!!!

This is so beautiful... yet so scary... I keep swaying between the two.

The concept you have worked with amazes me and I love this different take on cancer: it's impact on people's lives cannot be underestimated and it can be such a destructive thing.  I bet if you didn't tell people what this was, they wouldn't be able to guess what had inspired you to make it. 

This totally rocks.


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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2009 12:19:35 AM »

thank you so much everyone! i finished this in september, and i've been SO IMPATIENT to post it, cause i love it so much. and then tonight i realized that i was remembering the entry dates wrong, and i almost missed posting it at all! (duh me)

it's really intriguing to me that something so awful can be so beautiful, like poisonous flowers, the "handsome quiet man" next door (can you tell that i watched a LOT of csi while doing this?!), the cells of diseases, etc.

erdbeerblau, not stupid at all!

i'd love a big one too, but i think i'd have to find a different way to construct it, because a bigger one would take FOREVER! this one will probably sit up on the back of my sofa, like the fancy pillows always did at my grandma's house.

the bubbles are fairly hard, maybe firm would be a better word. they're filled with polyfill, but they're packed pretty tight, so it's firm, and then the pillow itself is packed fairly full too. i'm not sure how you could get the same effect without the firmness to maintain the shape.... hmmm. it would be neat if it was softer, especially if it was a bigger pillow. this one isn't really something you'd want to cuddle with!

check out my crafty blog!

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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2009 03:31:11 AM »

Amazing, beautiful! What great research and attention to detail.  Love this.

I think my cat is sending me subliminal messages...
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2009 06:13:10 AM »

Its beautiful yet is very sinister.  Great job. You picked the fabric & thread so well.  I really like electron micrograph pictures, especially when they are coloured, they give us a new way of looking at things.


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