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Topsell, finished

topsell_finished 003

topsell_finished 001

topsell_finished 002

As you can see, I’ve finished Topsell as a slip (on padded card),  attached the slip to a green background, added some long stitches under his feet as in the original etching and then attached that to a green/gold background. I’ve just finished stitching calico to the back of the green/gold background to hide the lacing. Finished!

I’ll do a post about lacing Topsell onto card separately.


Topsell, a stylish Gentleman

Topsell the 17th c Cat

Topsell the 17th c Cat


I’ve very pleased with my interpretation of the original woodprint :

topsell_originalI didn’t get his eyes right….I’m beginning to think that, never mind all the various techniques in embroidery, it’s faces that are the hardest thing to do!

I had made his thigh a little large (that area of light stitching).  I was really reluctant to frog it, since it’s 1 over tent stitch on 38 count. Lesley U, my mentor, suggested that I use Jo Sonya craft paint, lightly, to cover over the area. It worked rather well.  I used plain water (Jo Sonya paint is soluble in water) to blur the lines of paint over the several colours of stitching in that area.

The linen distorted pretty badly. I didn’t think blocking would help – Topsell is one solid piece of stitching! I’ve cut the edges straight – and the right edge is coming in really close to the shadow at the bottom there.  I’ve decided that I’m going to cut him out and do him as a slip on a background, re-stitching his whiskers and the shadows under him.  Now to decide what I want to use as a background…….


Tail-less Topsell

Almost done….



An image I’ve been familiar with and wanting to do for awhile (given my adoration of cats) is  from Edward Topsell’s “History of Four Legged Beasts and Serpents and Insects” (1657). Multiple eyebrows,  giant weird thing above his nose and all, it’s a very distinctive sort of cat.

topsell_originalI’ve found a German wood print (? I think) of this image. ( )


I’ve been stitching my version of Topsell’s cat for “easy” work. Tent stitch on 32 count linen using the AVAS D’Alger threads I won from the 12 Days of Christmas competition Tricia/Thistle Threads held last year. I call the piece (and hence the cat I’m creating) “Topsell” for short.

topsell 001

He’s 17cm (6.7″) high – a fair bit of stitching but in this winter cold, my Fibromyalgia plays up so I’m quite happy to curl up and do some straight forward stitching.

Funny to think that I was completely intimidated by tent stitch when I started it, but now it’s an ‘easy’ stitch for me. I’ve found that the far the best way to get each stitch looking plump (and if in flat silk, jewel like) is the “L” stitch approach. That is, to form an “L” on the back of the ground between each stitch. This approach does use a lot of thread. Jacqui Carey has a wonderful diagram of where to move for each new stitch, as if the needle were a pawn on a chess board, in her book “Elizabethan Stitches”. Tension is also all important – I find pulling firm at the end of each needle stab is working for me. It’s all about getting a rhythm, because inconsistent tensioning of the stitches really stands out because the stitch is so simple. I’ve also found that the completion of the first part of a stitch, pulling firm, cements the tension of stitch before.

I particularly how his legs have turned out

topsell 003And his face

topsell 002

He’s a startle-eye cat, rather than a sleepier looking one, like the original. And yes, that is a (real) cat hair sitting over his top of his nose. There is approximately half a cat stitched into this piece, due to the proximity of my cats in this cold weather.

I feel there is a disconnect between his chest colour and the rest of him at the moment, but it should all come together when I do his (circular) thigh and his tail. I’m using colour changes for the colour of his fur, his anatomy (such as to make his chin and cheeks stand out, and the difference between his chest and his body), and to reproduce the flavour of the original etching – all of which has been a bit of a balancing act. Getting his thigh looking right will be a bit tough – the lines I drew are not quite right and definitely far too numerous – but I’ll figure it out.

I’m saving doing his whiskers for last. I’m thinking a fine, highly twisted thread for those.