The Making of Dragonfly & Thistle

After completing the Polar Bear in Fireweed hat for Carina, one of her friends presented me with a new challenge.

Melissa wanted a hat like her friend’s hat, but with a field of thistle instead of the fireweed, and a dragonfly in place of the bear. A big, blingy dragonfly, the more blingy the better. Challenge accepted!

Just like the Polar Bear in Fireweed, my first step was to find drawings to work from. I looked at several dragonflies, including Art Nouveau jewelry, in order to get a sense of the shape, veining and coloration of the wings. I also looked for thistles, and settled on this one as I had a mind to make those somewhat dimensional as well.

Then it was back to the shop to sort through all the boxes for all the blingy things…

For the body of the dragonfly, I used a piece of silver grey suede cloth which supported inverted heart-shaped studs. I couched silver cording between the studs to get the segmented body and the outline. I had silver heart-shaped links from a thrift store belt, so one of those links became the head, with black beads for eyes and a silver cord for the antenna. Because I intended the dragonfly to extend down over the fur cuff, it needed to be finished on all sides. By the time I had the body done, I briefly considered making it into a pin-back brooch instead…

Next up were the wings. I spent a day re-learning how to do shisha embroidery so I could add mirrors at the tips. The silver tissue had to be fused to a stouter cloth in order to hold the embroidery. I also started playing with pens I had on hand to color the silver tissue behind the embroidery. I discovered that the ‘permanent’ Sharpie pen washed off the silver tissue, but the ‘not permanent white board markers’ stained the cloth and stayed intact. Go figure!

At the same time, I started playing with the thistle, which you can see at the right edge of the first photo here:

I like to check in with the customer on projects like the Polar Bear and this one, since they are buying something I’ve never done, and they’ve never seen. “Too much bling?” I asked, and detailed the materials I was using. I also told Melissa that the thistle trial, looked like a bowl of lavender pipe cleaners and that I would rework that. Melissa loved the blingy bug and especially the inverted hearts, which I had purchased new for another project that had since fallen by the wayside. She agreed with me that the thistle needed to be reworked.

The bug progressed, but the end result was floppy and out of proportion. So I tore it apart, cut about an inch from the center, and ended up wiring the edges so they would keep their shape when attached to the crown of the hat.

The thistle remained elusive. I was trying to mimic the fireweed, but realized that embroidering a field of tiny thistles would take about 100 years, and ultimately would be out of proportion to the dragonfly. So I changed track.

This is the upscaled thistle – stylized, cut from fleece, and appliqued with embroidered detail, which would keep them dimensional as I insisted they needed to be. I knew the effect I wanted, but it took me numerous tries to find a stitch pattern that didn’t compact the thickness of the fleece. The receptacle (the green base of the bloom) is padded and augmented with French knots, the suede cloth leaves are held in place with couching. The fleece blossoms are also padded at the base and held in place with long stitch, which left the edges raw and therefore dimensional. There will be some natural fray to the edges, which is intentional.

The end result came out pretty well. I even had a thistle-themed silver button for the top. (this photo was taken before I stitched the blingy bug in place, which is why you can see the yellow heads of the pins.) With the exception of the heart studs, all materials in this hat were reclaimed from items that had taken other previous forms. Now reborn and living their best second life.

Wear it in good health Melissa! Let me know what it looks like 20 years from now : )

3 Comments on “The Making of Dragonfly & Thistle

  1. I love seeing the final hat, I was watching as you posted various bits while you worked. I know your client must be thrilled to have such a perfect work of art.

  2. I too, was following along, as you posted updates, and am certain my friend Melissa is all a-Squee about her Awesome Hat! I have a current project I will need to back up and tear apart. At first, I was really discouraged, but then I thought of you and how you sometimes have to back up or start over. I find you inspirational!

    • Never be afraid to tear something apart that isn’t working. Better to make a thing you are happy with than to try to meet it half-way. You are also an inspiration to those who know you – don’t sell yourself short on that!

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