Stitching the time away

I’m not the only one – there are plenty of us (mainly women) who are whiling away some time in this period of isolation from COVID-19 and doing some art stitching under the guidance of The site is run by Sue Stone and her two sons, Sam and Joe, but they have rounded up some well known English textile artists to run a few exercises – so here is my round up of the exercises and my own outcomes. It has been a very enjoyable pursuit, and although I do some overstitching on my photographs, and occasionally on other work on paper, it is not something I normally do. I am convinced that threads have a mind of their own and will consistently twist themselves into knots.

Some exercises were more straightforward than others – to learn a new technique, or use a technique in a different way.

Sue Stone’s exercise was simple – do four squares using the same stitch, in my case a double running stitch which is what I usually use on my stitched photographs. It is also known by the fancier name of Holbien stitch. I kept mine simple so embroidered some typical crosshatching.

Holbein stitch

Richard McVetis encouraged us to do couching so I was quite pleased with my brick stitch, Jacobean stitch, a whirl of couching and a Bokhara stitch.

Stitching curved lines out of straight ones

Christine Chester convinced us that you can make a curved line out of straight stitches – backstitch in my case. A neat little exercise to get the point across. I was using a rough black cotton, which did have it’s charm, but was a super contortionist when it came to tangles. Fortunately I was also using a very nice linen that my sister-in-law had given me that counterbalanced the thread.

Remembering Marie. Mixed media on calico.

Cas Holmes asked us to find a sentimental object and base a mixed media work around it. My sister Marie had passed away a couple of years ago and as a result I inherited (some would say I stole) some of her teapot collection, so I chose one of her little teapots for my work – and a piece of her blue scarf. I enjoyed working on something relating to Marie – we didn’t see each other a lot, but I do I miss our long chats on the phone. I traced her image from a photo I had taken of her in her dressinggown as she waited for her brain tumour surgery – I wanted to keep the image very subtle, but it ended up a bit too subtle and she is hardly there. I’m sure she would be amused at my effort.

I and my eye. Machine cotton on raw silk.

I have Emily Tull to thank for the above. First off, I found out that both my eyes are different! Getting a photo of your own eye isn’t so easy either. Even getting my husband John to get a photo of my eye wasn’t easy. I tried mascara for a better lash definition as we needed to stitch the lashes using a tiny catch stitch that would give a curve to them. After a lot of mascara splashes I achieved my photograph of my eye plus lashes, splashes and lots of wrinkles! I’d always assumed embroidery was done with stranded cotton – but in this case machine cotton was used, and two different coloured threads in the same needle used for the iris.

Emily Jo Gibbs told us to find a stick, take a photo of it and it’s shadow, and then sketch it, make a template for stick and shadow shapes, cut out from fabric and then embroider it. Who else could have thought of that? She also suggested doing the shadow in organza, and this worked well.

Folk art with overstitching

Anne Kelly’s exercise was based on folk art. It was the most time consuming piece and mine was a bit of a disaster as I’d cut my flowers from tapestry as there was not a lot of flower patterned fabric around my place. It frayed terribly, and not even blanket stitch could keep that tapestry under control. I cheated and glued my butterflies on with a glue stick. Both sewing machine and handstitching were used for the oversewing. I was more at home with this as I do use the handstitch overstitching process in my photographic work. After that I got brave and risked some french knots for my flower centres – probably in the hope they would distract from my fraying flowers!

All the above was really designed to distract us from any isolation issues. It was good to see everyones work on Facebook on the Community Stitch Challenge page – there were stitchers from beginners to absolute experts – and of course all the ‘experts in their field’ who were tackling something new.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Narelle Jarvis says:

    A nice set of exercises Jennifer. What an effort with your eye! I remember french knots from schooldays…I remember of them, not how to do them.

    Liked by 1 person

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