My current (finished) embroidery project is an 18th century inspired black linen stomacher with bull thistles.
(The photo has a lot more contrast than the actual piece).
The first layer is finished, the second layer will help unite the colors & values, and there will be a lot more orange. The main colors were done with 3 strands of cotton embroidery thread. The top layer will be one or two strands, depending on the individual details. This should give it that high-detail look of 18th century embroidery. (Only using 1/2 of the thread made the stitches finer, and the thread go farther).
When I started this project I was very interested in the branching quality of 18th century stomachers, along with the central stalk (tree of life) design. Carnations were very popular and have that amazing structure, but I had just finished a carnation and didn't want to repeat it.
Thistles caught my eye; the violets, pinks and greens are striking against the black linen.
I drew the free-hand design on with a white watercolor pencil, which is a little more forgiving on linen than colored pencil, and stays better than chalk. I had to re-draw after several sessions as it fades. The stalk is perfectly centered and each of the main shapes falls along that axis. I wanted balance, without perfect symmetry... some elements still need tweaking, but can be corrected in the 2nd layer.
As with the first stomacher, I will eventually make a gown to go with this. I have enough fabric for a pet-en-l'aire, caraco or a small English gown. I think I will add tabs, but they will not be embroidered, and the shapes will depend on what type of gown I make.