Falling into the rhythm of hand stitching, using the stitches that are most comfortable … automatic. The running stitch — my fallback.
That is how the meditations were begun. But, both pieces called for the addition of more, a fly stich and cross stitch emphasizing the beauty of the cloth.
Book chapter: “Industries: Silk-weaving.” A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Ed. William Page. London: Victoria County History, 1911. 132-137. British History Online.
Gwen Hedley is an embroiderer, teacher and author from the UK. She has written two books on stitch and embroidery. In her first book: Surfaces for Stitch: Plastics, Films and Fabrics, Gwen used unconventional materials such as plastics and foam, in combination with textiles to create new surfaces. These new surfaces were then used as a basis to embroider and embellish with stitches.
With Gwen’s second book: Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark-Making in Textile Art, she focused on one of the elements of design – line. By observing lines in the world around her and drawing from theses observations, Gwen begins making her artwork. Her first step is sketching, and recording notes on her thoughts and observations before she begins her pieces. “For me, stitching is drawing with thread – my mantra being ‘stitch is mark’.“
Gwen’s pieces were primarily machine stitched but there has slowly been a transition to hand work. She uses basic stitches, using them to make marks in her work. Roumanian/Bokhara couching is the stitch she uses most frequently. It allows her to her to blend colours and create texture as seen in the detail of Enfolded above.
“The enjoyment of my somewhat speedy and energetic free machining, with its relentless noise and repetitive sounds, began to wane, as did the comfort limitations of constantly sitting at a table. In contrast, I relished the relaxing rhythmic processes of hand stitching, sitting comfortably, and able to listen to radio or TV, and to have conversations – so much more sociable. It is also very portable, and can easily travel unobtrusively with me!”
Gwen uses different mediums such as paint, charcoal and dye on paper and textiles. Since each material absorbs the medium differently, there are subtle differences in the finished pieces. Ripping and weaving back together different materials also gives unique textures to the work. In her piece Restoring, she references antique Swedish braids that were traditionally cross stitched. By using the familiar blue and white colour combination on paper and cloth, using satin stitch and a change in scale she gives the piece a contemporary spin.
Contained Sticks and Stones uses the basic technique of wrapping found items. Gwen finds small items like rocks, shells, and sticks on her walks that she wraps with threads and fabrics. This piece is her most recent in this series and the smallest one.
Gwen doesn’t consider herself a full time artist, tending to work in spurts of activity rather than daily. She uses her sketchbook to draw, write down ideas, observations, and drawings. Her sketchbook is a place where she writes critiques of her work, has samples she has made and ideas she has tried. It’s important for her to analyze what has gone wrong in a piece as well as what was successful to avoid repeating mistakes. She lectures on her working processes and teaches a variety of workshops. She also enjoys her roles as Wife, Mother and Granny!
Gwen is a member of the Textile Study Group: artists and tutors sharing ideas imagination and skills. They are are “group of nationally and internationally recognized textile artists and tutors, well known for innovative and challenging approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching.” (website) Gwen is an active member and is involved in an exciting project with the group. Over the next year the members of the Textile Study Group are participating in a new book called Insights. It is aptly named as this book will give insights into the way each individual member works.
There is always something to improve in each piece and taking the time to analyze is invaluable when planning a new piece. Some things that give Gwen great personal satisfaction are:
developing pleasing designs using observational drawings
abstracting visual ideas
creating stitch trials
Creating stitch trials in particular, are spontaneous and freeing, giving Gwen immense joy!
Have you ever purchased an item before you knew what to do with it? I was drawn to some beautiful sari silk ribbon at the Creativ Festival a few years ago. The variety of colours were amazing and I went back to the booth a few times, drawn to the display, but being overwhelmed with deciding which colours to buy – I couldn’t bring them all home with me. I am using one of the colours below. So pretty!
The problem I had choosing silk sari ribbon is multiplied when it comes to Oakshott cotton. They have so many stunning colours to choose from! Luckily, I have been gifted some fat quarters and eighths and therefore did not have to make a decision. Oakshott cottons work well with my hand dyed fabrics and I’ve kept every little scrap from projects. This stitch meditation project is the perfect place to be using these.
Blog: What Makes Recycle Sari Silk Ribbon So Special? from Floating Pearl website
There are so many stitches available, yet I keep coming back to the running stitch. It is a versatile stitch.
Spacing the stitches and rows closer or farther apart changes the look of the finished piece. Using different size thread such as in the example above creates bold, or delicate lines. Colour too will make an impact. Choose one that blends into the background or one that is bright and colourful! So many options with just one simple stitch!
Tutorials: Hand embroidery tutorials by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching: Contemporary Studio for Hand Embroidery blog
Searching for: What is the 100 Day Challenge returned a hit list of : 1,500,000,000 results 0.60 seconds! This is a wildly popular search. So I imagine that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people wanting to know about and then participating in 100 day challenges.
Searching for: 100 Day Challenges returned a hit list of: 522,000,000 results in 0.30 seconds. The list of examples are endless. It seems that we love participating in setting goals for ourselves. Groups that have set challenges include those that are: losing weight, overcoming gambling addictions, being happy, ending youth homelessness, and creating code.
Reasons to participate:
achieve business goals faster
fast track a goal
build positive habits
achieve a personal goal
create positive reinforcement
achieve consistent progress
hone a skill
So many options in how you can participate in these challenges – listen to a podcast, post your progress on Facebook or Instagram, sign up and pay for a membership, download an app, join an online group, join an in person group! We have never had so many options to make a change in our lives.
Podcasts: Best 100 Day Challenge podcasts we could find (Updated March 2019)
Website: #The100DayProject is a *free*, global art project. The idea is simple: commit to 100 days of making and sharing your progress on Instagram.
Roberta Wagner is a mixed media artist who uses thread and fabrics in her art practice. I first saw Roberta’s work on Pinterest. Her artwork is calming, ethereal and beautiful. Not surprising since her work is inspired by gardens and a Japanese aesthetic.
Roberta originally began her art career in ceramics and paint. By 2012, tired of the chemicals and dust, Roberta turned to cloth, paint and stitch as her medium. Her blog post: Changing Mediums explains her decision to use textiles in her art practice.
Roberta is not a full time artist, preferring the freedom of not having to make money from her art. She says: “I have a right left brain thing and I have found over the years I like doing both.”
Not wanting to be a “technique junkie”, Roberta has a limited number of stitches she uses in her work. They are: French knot, simple stitch, occasionally seed stitch and a few that she has made up. She is going to learn to free motion stitch and incorporate that into her work. Roberta has also talked about making her own beads to use in her work. While she has made some colored porcelain beads, she doesn’t know if she will incorporate these.
Roberta works daily on her artwork, although that does not necessarily mean she is stitching. Roberta is painting more and will likely incorporate this into her stitched pieces. She is currently experimenting with painting on Washi paper. She loves texture and is “doing more intuitive, wild stitch lately”. I first linked to Roberta’s blog in my post: Stitch Meditation Day 7 and 8.
Rummaging through the container I prepared filled with scraps of my hand dyed fabrics, I pull out pieces I have forgotten about. These snippets of cloth are intriguing. Separate from the larger piece, where they once belonged. They tell a story unto themselves.
Layering stitches and ribbon to accentuate the beautiful colors and textures, small pictures develop.
Article: The Intimacy of Hand stitching by Amanda J. Clayton