Getting Started with Embroidery; Part 1

Working off of years of experience teaching embroidery, I’m currently in the process of developing an online workshop for creating your own designs in stitches.

With inspiring projects that will get you going, this workshop will encourage you to develop your own designs, while also offering patterns to follow along with to get the feel of the stitches. 

Want to start learning right now? Grab a copy of my free e-books, or shop the zines now!

In addition to providing the basic techniques, a detailed overview of material options, and a video encyclopedia of stitches, you’ll also be introduced to a more metaphysical approach to your creative process. Woven in through these lessons, you’ll find suggestions for slowing down, and methods for introducing creative rituals into your own life. 

I know there are about 10,000 resources online for how to make stitches, but I find that doesn’t really help so much for those who would like to get into developing their own designs (just like learning how to apply paint to a canvas doesn’t help you to express your ideas through a work of art) so I’m creating a series of exercises that walk you through the stitches as a way to learn the elements of design.

There will also be exercises working with the mind and body off the fabric to learn new ways of seeing and feeling.

In the interest of keeping the course from being too wordy, I’ll be sharing what was going to be the introduction (but ended up being a long winded essay on creativity and making) in this online journal to give you an idea of my style of education.

This will not be a workshop that will teach you how to perfect your stitches. You will not receive an A+ in the Royal School for Needlework.

This is a workshop for those who feel they are full of ideas but can’t seem to get the idea out on paper (or in this case, fabric). I’ll share some techniques I use to get out of my head, exploring design concepts, and finding new ways of expression.

DESIGNING FOR EMBROIDERY

Design for me is usually a long process. When I'm working on a new embroidery, I'll sometimes have the fabric or the garment hung up in my studio for days, weeks even, before committing to a design.

As a society, we tend towards one of two opposites of the same coin: rushing into a project wanting it done before it's even begun, or never beginning it for fear it could never be perfect enough. 

So let’s be sure that we begin, but where to start?

With a notebook: Even if you don't consider yourself an artist (if so: please, stop that) or you are just dabbling in embroidery, you'll want to have a sketchbook to work out ideas, write down inspiration when it strikes, and return to later for forgotten concepts to add to new work. 

I love unlined sketchbooks, or even books with a subtle dot-grid - this helps if you can’t draw a straight line but love geometric forms, like me, and also helps if you plan on scaling the sketches from this book into larger embroideries.

A big part of my decision to create resources for textile education was the need to re-instill people's faith in their abilities to design and / or make art for themselves, their environment, and their loves. This is not a workshop with a specific project in mind, and I'm not going to tell you exactly what to embroider (though I will offer patterns to get your wheels moving). However, I find it nice to have some factors to consider when narrowing down a design. 

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FINDING INSPIRATION

If you're totally clueless, take a slow stroll around your home, office, or favorite place in nature. Consider what you're naturally drawn to, and why. What shapes does it possess? How do its colors blend - or not? 

Allow yourself to take in these inspiring elements for a few minutes before returning to your sketchbook. 

Want more ideas? While its easy to pick up books on art and get inspired, I also urge you to look outside of the box… for example, in your fridge, or even your bathroom cabinet.

Can you find patterns and textures in your vegetable drawer that inspire you?

Is there a through line in the aesthetics of the products on your shelves?

Nailing what you’re naturally drawn to can help you distill your style, making you much more likely to enjoy the visuals that stares back at you in your own work. 

Another approach would be to consider popular archetypes.

What color and textures would help you to describe an emotion, or a time of year, or a tarot card? I LOVE the tarot as a visual library of feelings and emotions. 

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Not feeling any sort of literal interpretation? Consider expressive styles.

How would an abstract or gestural shape be interpreted with different stitches? 

One of my favorite creative activities is cutting shapes out of colored paper and arranging them on a solid colored surface. Seeing the way these shapes interact with each other, and the way the colors bounce off one another, is almost certain to  light some creative fires. 

Maybe you are simply using embroidery as a function of repairing a fabric.

How does the area of repair on a garment react with the body?

How can you make this action a representation of form?

Put the garment on.

Pin or draw the intended lines onto the fabric and see how it looks on the body. 

In the next journal entry on this workshop, I’ll share how I take these sketches and bring them into the real world. Stay tuned!

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