I am currently sorting, organising and re-arranging my sewing room – trying to go through everything in order to make more room and decide what I really need to keep. I have too much fabric, thread, paper, beads – that’s without all the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of samples I have made over the years. Samples which clearly show I was learning something new, but also many, many ‘try outs’, pieces that may have been developed but then got discarded when another idea took over. Or maybe things that just didn’t work out in the way I hoped at all.
Most of these samples are in a large drawer and they are useful when I need a background surface or when I need to hastily make a postcard or greetings card and I find something I can adapt – which usually means chopping it up! Today though I found, in amongst a mountain of sketchbooks and folders, several samples that I have made over the years on the ‘take a stitch’ theme. Several stitches have been practised – raised chain band, fly stitch, buttonhole – but the majority are with basic straight stitch in all its forms. Below is a small, sampler style piece completed twenty years ago when I first started creative embroidery.
I remember doing the one below very shortly afterwards as I’d been practising using a twin needle on my sewing machine and used the mis-shapen squares to good effect with various seeding stitches, using differing thicknesses of thread. I recall being pleased with this piece as I had space-dyed the fabric and although the threads were all ordinary Anchor/DMC stranded cottons the colours all blended very well.
And then I found some pieces from fifteen years later! I’d completely forgotten about these samples, mounted in a book, so I was obviously thinking I was going to fill it with lots more examples. This piece was based on the textures and patterns on cacti, which I was using as my source material at the time. Stitched on blanket all with ecru perle thread it shows how effective the use of one stitch can be.
The piece below is also based on cacti, but the motifs are stitched on a patched ‘Indian’ background. It looks as though the base fabric was printed with transfer paints. Straight stitch has been used in different ways both to hold the pieces together but also as decoration.
Finally I have yet another ‘straight stitch’ sampler done as part of a workshop only last year with Maggi Rutterford. We were using stitches to ‘make a mark’ – good practise, but not so very different to my sample from twenty years ago!