15 September 2022
Disco Dave, a sparkling chameleon created using goldwork and stumpwork techniques, is one of Stitch magazine's colourful cover stars. Loetitia Gibier chatted to us about how she brought him to life…
Talented Loetitia Gibier
What inspired you to create a chameleon in stitches?
In 2020, I was creating a scarab beetle for a workshop and then lockdown hit so the workshop was cancelled. I released the scarab beetle as a kit anyway and it became a strong favourite. A second animal on my list that year was an owl, again a workshop request. Both of those kits are my best-sellers, so I realised maybe I needed to create more animals and put up a survey on social media, asking my followers to tell me what they wanted to see in this mix of goldwork and stumpwork designs. Chameleon was the number one answer I got on that survey. When I started looking into design ideas, I realise the extend of the scope I could play with and I actually created two chameleon designs: Disco Dave and his little brother, designed as a stitch sampler and to be stitched in perle thread. Disco Dave was proposed to Stitch magazine and was accepted, his little brother still needs a name and will be released later this year. There is a long list of animals that were suggested, so I will be releasing more animals in this mix of techniques.
How much research did you have to do before deciding upon your design?
I am always on the go, with a day job and running the embroidery business so my designs tend to happen in one place: the hairdresser. I am stuck there having to stay still for a few hours so it is the perfect place for me to dig into design research and often drawing. So I started by looking at what had been done already in embroidery, discovering there was not much. Then started looking at photos of real-life chameleons to gauge the colour scheme. My drawing skills are fairly limited, so I tend to work with vector files created by other designers and under commercial licence. I then retrace the design using the iPad in order to make it workable in embroidery and have all the detached element patterns ready.
The Disco Dave design
When you’re creating a new piece, do you know which stitches you’d like to include in advance or do things change as the design progresses?
Yes, I design in my head for months until all aspects of the designs are resolved. I identify all the materials I want to use, I often put together all the materials I think of using in the chosen colour palette together weeks prior to starting. It is often a lot more than what the final piece will actually contain. I leave it to sit in plain view in my work room, then every day I look at it to see whether it works. The colour scheme gets refined that way.
By the time I am ready to start the sample, I create a coloured version of my line drawing to balance the colours. The materials get refined further during that stage. On that coloured drawing, I then start indicating the stitches/techniques and material I will use. It looks like a mess at that point. One messy sketch with arrows pointing in all directions, and the codes I use for both techniques and materials. I then write by hand in my sketchbook the order of work. When I start this process, I pretty much know the final list of materials and the exact order of work. I write the instructions line by line in my sketchbook. Only then I start stitching. I do not create samples or test ideas, I stitch directly the final piece. Rarely, I need to redirect, and change either material or techniques/stitches.
For Disco Dave for example, all the Or Nue was meant to be done straight on top of the padding and the final piece. When I did the legs, I realised very quickly that it was going to be hard, it is a lot of stitches close to each other and it compacts the felt in such a way that it is harder and harder to go through all the layers. So whilst I had to keep it that way for both legs, I re-thought the head, and decided to do a detached head instead. Instances like this are very rare. I have lived with many designs in my head for weeks, or months, so by the time I start, I know exactly how it will work.
How long did it take you to bring him to life?
In total, from line drawing to final instructions ready to deliver to Stitch magazine, 45 hours. But I have been designing him in my head for six months prior to the line drawing being created.
Disco Dave in progress
What’s your favourite thing about him now?
The cut work tail – it was the first thing that came into my head when I started thinking about him. I knew I wanted a cut work tail with quite a high padding. Putting the various wires and colours together was such a joy and it worked so well, it is a true pleasure to stitch. When I started stitching him, I kept on saying in my head “oh this looks good” which is always a good sign.
How much goldwork experience would a reader need to tackle him?
This is always a very difficult question to answer because whilst the techniques are by any means not beginners’ techniques, like the plate on the spine or the Or Nue, a beginner that really loves the design and wants to give it a go and can follow the instructions, will still create a lovely piece of work. So I never identify my kits between beginners or advanced stitchers, my answer is always, if you fall in love with the design, go for it, it is the main thing. I design the instructions to be very clear and I always answer emails with questions.
How did you decide on the colour scheme?
My original colour palette was a lot darker, with no pink and much darker purple overall, and a dark teal and lime green. After discussion with Stitch’s editor, she was worried it was too dark so I went back to the photos of real life chameleon I had collected and we settled on this purple/lilac/lime/blue/pink mix. Finding the purple and lilac goldwork wires was not easy and took me a while so up until four weeks before the deadline, the colour palette was uncertain.
Considering it was a lot of colours, I wanted a plain-ish background but not completely plain, and I am a bit obsessed with the Moda grunge range because it is textural. The white with areas of very pale green works perfectly with all the colours and was selected.
Disco Dave's colour palette
How does he differ from previous projects you’ve worked on?
I’d say it brings together a lot of things that my other designs have touched on. It uses the organza I introduced in the scarab beetle and the owl, the heavier padding of the rose from the Love in Bloom tutorial, the Or Nue of the Dragon but with the detached elements of stumpwork. It also introduces techniques I have not used so far in any of my designs like the plate or the wiggly chipping. In every design, I try to rely on techniques I have used before and also introduce something new every time, so people have something to discover with every new kit.
What do you think readers will find the most rewarding about stitching him?
The joyful riots of colours. The name Disco Dave comes from the fact I stitched the leaves first. Mixing and matching all the colours on the table without pre-conceived ideas resulted in me describing it to my best friend as “I just created a bunch of very disco leaves, they are so sparkly”. I tend to give stupid nicknames to my work as I am stitching it, often coming from the way I will describe things to others. Then when I started the cut work tail, my best friend said in one of our video calls, “He truly is Disco Dave, isn’t he?” and that name stuck. It is goldwork but with so many colours and so many different textures. A great way to try all sort of techniques and all sorts of materials.
You can find Loetitia’s full tutorial and template to stitch Disco Dave in issue 137 of Stitch, available to order as a print or digital issue: https://www.hobbies-and-crafts.co.uk/store/back-issues/stitch