Rosa Beddington’s mouse cartoon

038: Rosa Beddington’s mouse cartoon

Created by Patti Biggs

Rosa’s cartoon is a representation of the five animals used by developmental biologists as they draw on the similarities of development between diverse organisms. In the cartoon are a mouse, frog, fish, fruit fly (Drosophila) and nematode worm (Caenorhabditis elegans).
I started with an outline drawing provided by Suzanne Claxton. At first I wondered whether to be true to the cartoon and retain the black and white of the original drawing by using a Blackwork technique with a stitch pattern for each animal, but realised that this would not work as some of the areas were too small. Then I started to think about a free-style embroidery course I had done in sixth-form college, and an image started to form in my head. I went looking in my craft cupboard at home and in a bag of fabric pieces I’d been given by Yasmina Soneji (as I ran a craft club at my church for many years). At the end of the search I had a pile of materials, threads and embellishments such as beads.

In preparing the design I thought of the appearance of each animal and how I could represent them in fabric and stitches.

Frog – often green, moist shiny skins – green satin, golden-brown eye
Mouse – furry with beady eyes – unfelted wool and shiny black bead for an eye
Fly – black segmented body, large facetted red eyes, gossamer wings with veining pattern – black pom-poms (trimmed to size), red beads deliberately sewn on the side so that edges became facets, white net wings with veins of silver
Fish – a goldfish or a Zebrafish – gold chiffon or green polyester with silver squares. I settled on the silver and used a shimmering fabric for the tail
Nematode –nematodes are tiny (can only be seen using a microscope) and colourless, so how to bring them into the design? Looking at various pictures I realised that the mouse tail is the shape of a nematode, so decided to just outline the tail, leaving the centre deliberately clear.

In the end I used a mixture of techniques including applique, fabric collage, embroidery (stem and satin stitch and couching for outlines and details) and beadwork.

038-Rosa Beddington’s mouse cartoon