Life Cycle of the Swallowtail Butterfly by Jane Nicholas
16th November 2018
We’re going to sum up the work of Jane Nicholas with just two words: Papilio machaon. That may not mean anything to you, but to the entomologists out there, they are twirling their magnifying glasses in delight. Yet if we asked the entomologists to get excited about stumpwork, they suddenly lose interest. They are not familiar with needlework nomenclature.
So, let’s keep everyone happy – Jane Nicholas is famous for stumpwork Papilio machaon.
And the crowd goes wild with magnifying glasses, needles and threads flying everywhere.
No idea what we’re talking about?
To fully appreciate a stitched piece by Jane Nicholas, you need an appreciation for science. Admiring her deft needlework skill is only half the picture. When you realise Jane has masterfully mimicked nature in such a precise manner that even an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) would think it real and not stitched, you know she’s good.
If there was ever a signature project by Jane that demonstrated her incredible skill of combining science and needlework, it is Life Cycle of the Swallowtail Butterfly from Inspirations #100. Otherwise known by its scientific name of Papilio machaon.
Life Cycle of the Swallowtail Butterfly depicts the wonder of metamorphosis showing the transformation from egg, to caterpillar, pupa and to butterfly nestled within the stems, buds and flowers of the preferred host, Milk Parsley.
Worked onto ivory satin with silk, viscose, metallic and cotton threads, beads and delicate wires, we asked Jane if she had some advice for those of us interested in creating our own version of her design:
‘Work slowly, one step at a time, paying careful attention to detail – the pleasure for me comes from the detail :-)’
There is so much we can glean about Jane from her one sentence:
Firstly, we like that although she knows she’s famous for being Matron Detail, Detail, Detail, you can tell by the smiley face she doesn’t take herself too seriously (Jane actually has a wicked sense of humour).
Secondly, this project is all about a journey of wonder as, when you follow the instructions and stitch each element, you get to appreciate that everything you are doing is anatomically and scientifically accurate. And if that’s all too much information for you – don’t worry, you can just admire the magnificent beauty of it as it all takes shape, one piece at a time. And because it’s just one little piece at a time, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the brilliance of it.
Jane first appeared in Inspirations Magazine way back in issue #14 with a classic Elizabethan roundel ‘In Prayse of the Needle’ and since then has had another 18 projects featured. We asked Jane what being part of the Inspirations family is like from her perspective:
Inspirations issue #34 – Safe Keeping
‘I can still remember the excitement of my first cover project when Safe Keeping was in Inspirations issue #34.
I am always amazed at the detail in the styling of a project - there seems to be no bounds to the stylist's imaginations and resources!
My favorite is the layout for the Elizabethan Dragonflies project from issue #32 – really clever and imaginative. But the sourcing of a wonderful Chinese Cricket Cage, for my stumpwork piece ‘Liberty’ from issue #31 also comes to mind – especially as I have a collection of cricket cages and covet the one used in those photographs.’
Inspirations issue #31 – Liberty
‘Congratulations to you all on a wonderful magazine – which continues to inspire!’
If you ask anyone at Inspirations what Jane Nicholas is like to work with, you’ll hear a range of accolades from highly professional, extremely organised, and nice as pie, to when speaking about her needlework: masterful, refined and beautifully resolved.
For those fortune enough to be present for her keynote speech at the Beating Around the Bush Gala Dinner in 2016, you were given a rare insight into the extraordinary way Jane approaches not just her needlework, but her other artistic endeavours including cabinets of curiosities and even making books my hand. Jane is true artisan of our time in every sense of the term, and it has been our great privilege to have her work appear in Inspirations Magazine over the years.
Make Your Own Life Cycle of the Swallowtail Butterfly
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Life Cycle of the Swallowtail Butterfly by Jane Nicholas is a beautiful stumpwork study depicting the fascinating life cycle of a butterfly.