For Project 2 the idea was to develop the drawing marks made and learnt in the first project into stitch and although I was originally going to use a combination of machine and hand embroidery I eventually decided to stick to the latter.
STAGE 1 – PREPARATION
I initially collected together a variety of threads, ribbons and yarns etc and divided them into colour bags which I preferred to themes – reds, yellows and oranges, blues and greens, pinks, lilacs/purples, natural (based on hessian fabric), creams and whites and also black. As my work progresses these bags will no doubt develop into themes as I continue collecting different yarns and threads and also find ones I enjoy working with or create the different effects or stitches that I want.
The reason I have decided to hold the machine exercises is that I do free motion quilting so am more aware of what to do but will come back and do them – the embroidery side I am used to doing for crazy quilting or in more traditional embroideries and to do this in a looser form with different yarns and threads is more challenging for me at present.
For the first sample I chose black linen (old linen trousers) and tried out the suggested stitches in a variety of threads including wool, tapestry wool, string, pearl yarn, embroidery threads, sashiko threads, ribbon and also a string of rayon like qualities in variegating colours which I absolutely loved.
The stitches used throughout the samples are satin, stem, chain, running, cretan, cross, blanket, couching, seeding and French knots.
Most of the stitches in this sample I had done before but I was very happily surprised by the different effects and textures produced by the different threads and yarns – as said I particularly liked the multi-coloured string. The following images are close up details of the various stitches in this sample:
Slight surprise to me was the initial realisation as just how different stitches can appear in different yarns and different directions – you expect it but it still is a surprise the colour and textural effects that different yarns can produce with the same stitches.
For the next sample I chose to use hessian as my base fabric as I have never worked with it before and this was my biggest surprise of all as found it the most wonderful material which produced wonderful effects with the different yarns – by this stage I had also found some raffia and other man-made strings in differing colours along with that favoured multi-coloured string and my previous yarns. The wools against the hessian I really loved the contrast in textures between the rough and the smooth and also felt the same with the ribbon too – the hessian allowed for much bolder stitches and less fine work and also almost counted work with a slight delightful unevenness due to the weaving. However the finer threads needed slightly more securing than on the linen but again contrasted with other bulkier threads really really liked the effects produced.
I worked in a square ’round’ for this sample as I tried out each stitch – my favoured stitches with hessian were the cretan and herringbone but also chain stitch purely because of the effects produced and I like the contrast between shiny/smooth and the rough fabric when the stitches are done in ribbon or man-made strings.
For this next part of this stage the initial sample I did according to instructions using a neutral coloured muslin fabric with a variety of green, blue and natural coloured threads and yarns in a combination of embroidery threads, sashiko, combined 2 colours of embroidery threads, man-made rayon style string, raffia, coloured string.
I decided to do a wheel style sample with trying different stitches in different threads and different combinations including whipping with other threads and this is one of my favourite samples as I really started to relax and enjoy the process in part because I really starting to ‘let go’ of my traditionally taught techniques happily. The first photo is of the main sample as before … I think the inspiration and idea came from something I have seen in a crazy quilting Facebook group as someone was just trying out various stitches.
The following photos are all close ups of the various sections and stitches:
I do really like the effects with the ochre and coloured string whipped with the embroidery thread done in chain stitch in the bottom right photography but also really loved the raffia again. The only thing I am having to watch is being very careful not to rip the muslin or finer fabric when using the larger needles that are used for the thicker threads as this is very easy to do as the needles themselves leave quite large holes.
I then took these stitches and tried using a striped fabric as a background – my surprise here was it felt more restricted because I kept more to using the lines of the stripes but also marked pencil lines going across the stripes.
My favoured stitches are the whipped chain stitch (yellow and blue in the photo directly above) or the geometry of the herringbone but it is that geometry and evenness of using the stripes that does appeal with this fabric and can definitely see how it could be of use in the future – it may not give the freedom for me as I felt confined at the moment but this may change as I get more experienced and I may feel more able to ignore the linear quality of the fabric and contrast it more with curves and spirals etc.
For the next sample I had some fabric I had ice-dyed last summer and I tried to use this fabric to emphasize the stitches and vice versa – not entirely sure if I achieved my aim but it was my first attempt at this.
I used cretan stitch in a purple ribbon with pink string French knots down the centre – I initially wasn’t happy about this until I couched the ribbon which added further detail and then added French knots in an embroidery thread with added metallic thread (not sure will do again as the threads were difficult to work together but at the same time like the slight sparkle). More metallic thread was used for individual cross stitches and also some chain stitch along with embroidery threaded chain stitches and wool herringbone plus 2 strands of embroidery thread for some seeding stitches. I wanted to try to follow the lines of the different dyed colours whilst trying to follow the areas where the lilac and pink colours blend together and to add some texture too.
As said I am not entirely sure I achieved what I hoped to do but still do like it particularly with the bright pink French knots at the tips of the purple ribbon cretan stitch.
STAGE 2 – EXPLORING MARKS AND LINES THROUGH STITCH TECHNIQUES
For this stage it was about exploring previously made marks and lines that I had done in my sketchbooks through stitch techniques and I freely admit to thoroughly enjoying this!
I had already realised how the choice of my thread changed the appearance of the stitch and also how stitches can change their depth of colour depending on which direction they are stitched (in the very first sample I did some chain stitching close together in alternate directions and did notice this although it is subtle). The idea for this stage was to take those points along with how colour changes when stitches are done close together, using contrasting threads in the same stitches to create texture and also overlapping and other variations.
I decided to go back to the cream muslin and use a variety of green threads initially using running stitches to experiment with different looks and textures and tried to think of as many variations as I possibly could:
What I found interesting and a lot of fun was just how many variations and textures you could do with a simple running stitch – my favourite is this last one which I have just added since uploading these first photos:
The reason I like this is the textural quality created by simply alternative long and short running stitches – I tried it in a tapestry wool and green sashiko thread and like either effect.
However there is not one running stitch variation that I did not like and could see how all could be used and particularly liked to vary the type of thread to create the different textural qualities.
As can be seen in some of the above photos I also tried initial ideas in chain stitch too which I found gave more distinction in the differing textures – one where I alternated a shiny embroidery thread with matt tapestry wool with chain stitches is particularly effective and I did this likewise with a curving variation as it is really effective.
Going on from this sample I wanted to try using chain stitches and stem stitches in the final sample in this section for me. I again went back to a wheel idea as I could section off the stitches but started with a chain stitch spiral in different yarns/threads to see how that would work on a larger scale than in my try in green threads previously. I then tried a further circle in stem stitch in sashiko thread going opposing directions which gives a chain stitch quality. From this I played with chain stitch and stem stitch and trying to come up with differing ideas to use them before finally trying herringbone stitches in one section – the latter I love the geometric style patterns produced when done evenly and love the subtle variation in texture.
In addition to the previous types of yarns which I had in different colours I had also found a royal blue man-made type of string/yarn which is both smooth and shiny but also quite thick and as before with the thicker yarns had to be careful not to make large holes in the fabric (which I did on one stitch as I pulled slightly too hard).
For the very last section I decided to go ‘wild’ and just use any stitch in whichever yarn I picked up and in different directions going over each other …. my traditional embroidery side doesn’t want to like this but it reminds me of splatter paintings but using stitch and is wonderfully textures and colourful as used matt and metallic threads along with shiny, thick, fine and rough as well as smooth.
The only problem I had with this sample is that although on the hoop it was very stretched and tight when it came off it is puckered with the central spiral very dipped in the centre but I could also see how this could be used to great effect in the future.
As an extra sample I wanted to try using some of the stitches to emphasise a piece of over dyed fabric (using some pinky purple procion dye left over from another project on a scrap of floral fabric):
This was something very different to how I have worked before and although only a small section it was interesting to add my own slant to the fabric and emphasize the areas that I liked and could see how it could work on a much larger piece now… it was also the first time I had over dyed fabric so was also interesting to see how that had worked too and did really like how it changed the colours as well as the overall effect.
What has come across through doing these first two stages has been the variety of stitches and rich effects that you can achieve with just a minimal amount of actual stitches – the contrasts and colour changes are a revelation in many ways and I can definitely see how these techniques can be used in conjunction with a variety of threads. It will be interesting now to see how this can be further developed as I gain further experience.
For this sample I chose a sketch from my A3 sketchbook that had a huge variety of marks and contrasts – the colours in the photo cannot be seen clear but comprise of blues, greens and browns with the yellow of the shafts of sunlight and this for me conveys a calm glade with a gentle waterfall flowing over rocks.
I liked the variety of lines and had wanted to do a sample based on this sketch so had in mind the threads that would be suitable already but didn’t start stitching with specific stitches in mind.
For the background rocks and also those to the right hand side I used raffia in primarily satin stitch and also did the same for the water but in a variety of tapestry wools (some I used 2 together to give more variety of tone in the water). For the vegetation at the top of the piece I used stem stitch and long satin stitch used almost as long and short stitch in a variety of green embroidery floss and tapestry wools combined with some yellow for the shafts of sunlight (the yellow in places was woven through the satin stitch which is something I saw recently on a Facebook photo although done as a weaving technique). Also as a late edition I found some lightly wired turquoise ribbon that was very sparkly that I added in long stitches to some of the edges of the pool which gives the effect of light bouncing on the water – the photograph does not show it clearly – I cut the ribbon in two down its length as it was too wide but it still gives added depth.
For the vegetation at the base of the rocks this was done mainly in cretan stitch in different green embroidery yarns and in places overlapping each other – some of the yarns are matt and some shiny I also took up into some of the longer yarns ‘hanging’ down from the top.
The waterfall itself was a base of a white tapestry wool with a metallic embroidery yarn in places over the top and again in a satin stitch style which has bordered on long and short stitch again (not sure of the type as had it in my old collection but it has a wonderful two tone sheen with blues and greens when the light catches it).
For the rocks around the base I added dark brown embroidery yarn for cross stitch rocks plus some seed stitching using an old cut up stocking as a yarn (I had a single one as never wear them but now searching Pound Shops as this was a huge surprise at how I could use them in a textile piece like this to add further texture and tone). I also used both embroidery wool in the aforesaid dark brown and the stocking ‘yarn’ for a couple of French knot ‘rocks’ too.
Finally the beach area at the bottom right was kept simple again with using mainly satin/long-short stitch in the tapestry wools to give a softer effect than the raffia rocks behind.
Overall although this took longer than expected I have been really pleased with it but it is my fiance’s reaction that was the surprise – he has never seen me try this style before and reacted in a way I rarely see in that he loves the rawness of the piece that reminds him of a Native American style and is trying to hold me back from overworking it and he also has commented on the different textures and how the stitches work to create the look. If this has created the emotions in him that his reactions have shown then I fully admit to being more than chuffed – I wanted that calm glade with the cool pool where you could sit quite happily just listening to the sound of the waterfall or bath in the glistening waters and the emotion I wanted to portray and get across was one of peace and tranquility. We have both loved the hessian as the background and I have been happy where it shows through in places as well as framing the whole piece.
I guess here is where I say I understand what I am trying to achieve and finally ‘get’ how to portray an emotion through stitch because it is not portraying the emotion but whether the stitch provokes an emotion for me when used with the right yarn and in the right way so if you have a simple mark it can be used to show a variety of moods.
On looking at the sample through a photograph I realised I wasn’t happy about some green yarn to the left hand edge as it took some of the raw edge effect away from it and also wanted a small amount more of dark brown herringbone stitch to the left of the waterfall just to give an illusion of a rock crevice more (as if you could perhaps climb up a little). Lastly although it can’t be seen on the photograph I also added some of the white metallic style embroidery yarn to the lighter areas of the water but just using 2 strands as opposed to 6 – this when the light catches it adds to the sparkle I wanted to create that feeling of tranquility.