Embroidery Revisited

I'm not sure how old I was when my grandmother first taught me to sew, but it was not really my favorite thing. It was hard for me to understand how pieces fit together (I prefer jigsaw puzzles to legos) and my stitches were bunched up and uneven. That may be because I was about seven-years-old, but it soured sewing for me until she taught me something that I thought was a lot more fun -- embroidery! It was like drawing but with thread, which made so so much sense to me!

 Redwork piece made by my Great-Aunt Sandy! She used a running stitch for this piece.

Redwork piece made by my Great-Aunt Sandy! She used a running stitch for this piece.

The first stitch I learned was the blanket stitch which was so fun to learn because it's big! This made it really easy to understand how it worked and I would used it to appliqué shapes to other pieces of fabric. After learning that stitch she showed me the stem stitch (back stitch) and the lazy daisy stitch which would tide me over into adulthood. I never really found the need to add more stitches because I was only familiar with one type of embroidery style -- Redwork.

My grandmother and her sisters all did Redwork which was a style of embroidery that focused on outlines. While it's traditionally red, you can also use other colors for the embroidery. Reflecting on this I have realized that being taught this at a young age and enjoying it so much shows itself in my artwork. I'm a big fan of outlining things and it's pretty tough for me to see things three-dimensionally. Layering with large blocks of color and text are some tools I use to try to combat this. 

I've always enjoyed embroidery but it never occurred to me that it could be incorporated into my artwork until pretty recently. In college I just always felt that it needed to be kept separate from the rest of my studies, possibly because of the structure of the projects assigned? I'm really not sure. Thinking about this makes me really sad, and honestly, pretty disappointed in myself and in my professors. My freshman year I made an altered book and incorporated embroidery into it and then was pleasantly surprised (and very happy) to have been awarded a best in show award for it during our student exhibition. It was something that I was truly proud of.

That project was assigned by James Pierce and it was all about creating a mixed-media piece that incorporated a digital element. I really responded to that project and was so so excited about creating it!  I had found an old book without it's cover in the "free" bin at McKay's (I love McKay's!) and the front page was the dedication that you can see in the image above. I wanted to create a piece about childhood so I printed some photos I had taken of my sweet friend's daughter onto the empty pages found in the book. I was so happy with the results but was never sure of how to carry my excitement from this piece on to new ones. I just felt lost and then jealous of other students who seemed to have a natural knack for creating things that just seemed to flow out of them. I'm slowly, but surely, making things that I like to make. I'm not sure why it's so tough, but I'm getting there. It's still hard for me to get the courage to create, maybe because I'm too hard on myself? Or because I'm afraid of rejection? It's a little frustrating how slowly I seem to figure these things out... I have to remind myself that it just takes time.

But last fall I created a belt for my dear friend, Natalie's, wedding! It really got me excited about stitching again and in it I used techniques I had never used before including satin/fill stitches and beading! I loved making it so much that I've started stitching more and more! I'm getting really excited about these little pieces of art and am looking forward to sharing them with the world.

Until next time...