Long ago (6 months is 6 years in lockdown time.) I made a foolish pledge to embroider something for my friend’s wedding, being overly ambitious, I decided to make an embroidered welsh love spoon because the Happy couple is Welsh and I was inspired by Jayne Davis’s novel “An Embroidered Spoon.”
A Welsh love spoon has several elements telling a story about the receiver(s) and since the happy couple is Welsh and Dragons are cool one of the elements will be Y Ddraig Goch (the red dragon from the Welsh flag,) in face on form, in goldwork.
there are many others but the Dragon is the largest and (possibly) the most complex.
As goldwork can be quite finicky, I have spent the last 3-4 months working intermittently on a prototype of this part codenamed “Y Ddraig Werdd” or Dragonface.
My original a face was… bad. Very bad. I had plenty of ideas about building the face out using carefully contoured layers of felt shapes but as soon as the leather go sewn onto it they squashed down into a lump. Partly because I decided last minute to make it in silver for no particular reason.
The result ended up looking a lot like a creepy cow skull.
Deciding to start again from the start I chopped this up and instead started from watching YouTube tutorials on how to actually draw a dragon faces to get a better idea of where I had gone wrong. Which I have linked here: serpent-like dragon, Chinese style dragon
The resulting face looked good, but translating it into leather was difficult, I ended up making large parts of it from twist as Purls were difficult to start and end nicely and I didn’t have any Green Jap. The final will be in red and I have both red Jap and twist and purl so I will have more options in materials but less in colours.
Making features three dimensional looking but not so much that the face looked “wrong” or had one feature standing out too much. A lot of the features were designed through trial and error especially the nose: Most of the dragon tutorials have smallish noses based on horses or lions. Y Ddraig Gogh is in a more heraldic and has a giant horn on his nose and barbed tongue. I decided to finally try outlining the nose in twist and that looked good, my husband suggested filling it with twist to make it stand out further and I think the effect works quite nicely. Better than my awful twisted purl horn.
I wanted to use these vintage size 24 beads for teeth just because I think they look awesome which also required new needles because they just won’t fit a normal size 10 beading needle. I ended up getting size 15 John james which introduce me to a whole new world of terror when trying to thread and sew them. But it was worth it for gleaming menacing teeth and it actually sewed through the silk with wonderful ease. I was however very glad I changed the lower jaw to be unpadded and without leather.
Now it is done I am excited to continue on the other elements of the spoon, I ironed out the Ivory ground for it and blanket stitched it onto a piece of osnaburg for backing. Usually tacking stich would do but the silk dupioni likes to fray and I decided blanket would hold it safer and since I will be stitching this for a while I think the extra stability is better done now. I have also sourced some beads and organza for the tamboured parts and rejigged the design so more on this to follow…