So, I know I want 3 elements: a pomegranate, a butterfly and a daisy (or bouquet with daisies). How did I go from this to a line drawing I could transfer to the fabric?
First, I went through my embroidery and crewel books to see if there were any pre-made floral clusters that I could use. I have drawing skills, but it's been years since I did crewel and very little at that, and I wanted some hand-holding with that technique. "Why the distinction," you say? Isn't crewel just embroidery with wool threads? And haven't I done scads of hand embroidery? Well, yes, that's all true. But crewel has a unique characteristic... color blending. The threads are wool and they fluff. Unlike glossy embroidery floss (cotton rayon or silk), if you want stitch definition to go away in crewel it is simply a matter of technique. The upshot of this is that you can get very painterly effects in crewel that would be nigh unto impossible in any other stitching medium. I want that painterly effect, but I'll need to dust off some serious cobwebs to do it. It would be easiest for me to start with a given pattern and palette on one section of the project and extrapolate from there for the rest of it once I've got my comfort level back.
I lucked out. I have a beautiful book of crewel embroidery that had exactly the project I was looking for that I can't scan in due to copyright issues. But anyway, here's the book information:
Crewel & Surface Embroidery: Inspirational Floral Designs
Milner Craft Series
by Trish Burr
Link to the book on Amazon.com
So, with that image in mind, I briefly sketched a few rough variations to determine placement (composition) of the elements. Once I settled on a tableau (that process took me about 5 minutes total, because really, there are only so many ways you can arrange the three items) I started out to do a pencil sketch. I placed the largest, boldest element first - the pomegranate. Then I drew in the butterfly (I used a photo that had a butterfly in the correct position as a rough reference.) After those elements were placed, I grabbed elements from the existing crewel pattern and laid them out so that they worked with the other two elements. I wound up with a roughly triangular composition with lots of diagonals, which is generally a pleasing formula.
I have drawing skills, as I mentioned above. So I didn't need to do tracings. However, if I had no skills that's what I would do... Find the elements I wanted in photographs or clip art and trace them off onto tracing paper. In that case, you don't worry about scale, just shape and position. You would then scan in your tracings and enlarge or reduce them as needed on the computer. You could even do the rest of the composition process on the computer.
Anyway, I tweaked my drawing a bit in pencil, and then I went for the tracing paper. I took a 1 mm micron pen and traced off a line drawing of my sketch. I took this tracing and scanned it in, saving it as a grayscale jpg. At this point, I could have resized the drawing, but it turns out that I sketched the drawing to the ideal size in the first place, so I didn't need to. The advantage of having my line drawing as a jpg is that now it is archived, and I can print it out as many times as I want.
If you look at the line drawing, you can see that I made a few adjustments on the fly. The most obvious is the straightening out of the sides of the pomegranate. In fact, I scanned in the drawing and after looking at it for a few days, I decided that the pomegranate had Peyronie's disease (don't look that up if you're faint of heart) and I used Photoshop to reorient the neck of the fruit. (I lopped it off, rotated it a touch and stuck it back on.) I generally don't like working in Photoshop because I am not as familiar with it as I need to be. I can usually redraw a drawing by hand faster than it takes me to figure out how to do something in pshop! But in this case it was a minor tweak and I liked everything else, so it was worth the trouble to sort out how to do it on the computer.
As drawn, the composition leans down to the left. When I lay this on the book I suspect I will slant the whole thing so that the bottom line of the composition is more parallel to the bottom of the book cover. There is text - the pre-embroidered name of my daughter in Hebrew - which will look better if there is even space above it.
Also, I am uncertain of the bud that is jutting up vertically out of the daisy. I may need to shorten that up or change the angle. But at this point it's not worth worrying about... I will know better when the composition is rendered on the cover. I think I may embroider that bit last anyway, just so I can make the most informed decision. It's time to move on!