Embroidery Re-awakening

When I was a kid, my mom got me started on embroidery a little. I learned basic back-stitch and made one embroidered tea-towel and did some of a motif with pine trees (that’s really all I remember about that piece) but never got overly interested. I did a little more embroidery again in highschool when she got me and a friend to do some crazy quilting, but it still didn’t stick. Then several more years later when I was in college I did this awesome course we called Philosophy Camp. The course involved living in southwest Minnesota with the other students and instructors for a month and as part of that we did a lot of sharing of interests. One of the other students decided to do an embroidery project for her final project in the class, which was inspired by a story one of the instructors told about his grandmother, and I went with her into town when she bought the supplies for the project. Looking at the embroidery floss just really inspired me so I got the stuff to do it and had no idea what to embroider! Then I got one of the other students to draw a simple line drawing for me which I traced onto a tea-towel and off I went.

And so began my rediscovery of embroidery. And this time I’ve gotten pretty well hooked. This bit of the story is best told with pictures.

This is the piece I had my friend draw for me. It’s also the first piece I had embroidered for a long time and I’m quite proud of it. You may notice there’s some dirt on it. That’s because I use the towels I embroider and I feel strongly that they should be used. I make some fiber art just to be art but I really like to make all of my stuff tough enough to be handled and interacted with. And if I make something that has a purpose I want it to be used.

At first I felt constrained to pre-made patterns like this one. They’re very pretty and can be quite fun. I made one that was a man with a turnip for a head playing a string bass made of an eggplant which was neat. I can’t seem to find that one at the moment so I will have to post a picture later if I find it.

Then I branched out a bit to more custom patterns. This is one of a series of pieces I did of cocker spaniels that some family friends own. I had my same friend who drew the flowers for me draw the outline of the dog based off a picture and I traced the outline onto the fabric to embroider. I wanted to do several different dogs so after she did the first outline for me I changed the coloring outlines myself for each dog. This one isn’t finished yet but I already gave the one (or was it two?) pieces that I have finished to a friend for her wedding. I will be asking her for pictures but, again, I’ll have to post those later if I get them.

This is another of the dog series but this is one that I traced off of the picture myself. I don’t consider myself much good at drawing so I was iffy about trying this but I like how it turned out. It’s based on the more adorable picture that I’ll post here too.

Aren’t they adorable? I love dogs 🙂

This is one of a pair of cuffs I am embroidering for another friend. He and I are members of a medieval recreation group and he took over as president for the local chapter of the group so I decided I wanted to embroider something for him. In the group the symbol for the president is a key and the symbol for our specific chapter is a white snowflake on a blue background, hence the colors and design. This design I made myself. I found the basic shaped I wanted for the key online and then used that to make the pattern of interconnected keys. I haven’t actually finished these yet cause I decided I wanted the keys to shine so I’m using nice shiny nylon thread which is quite difficult to work with and does not cooperate.

This is sort of the culmination of my progressively increasing confidence in embroidery. I feel comfortable now not using a drawn out patterns and just using fancy stitches to embellish the existing design on the fabric. I just love the little sheep on this fabric.

My embroidery work has followed a progression of sorts from using commercial patterns to creating my own to working free-hand. Of course I will still gladly use commercial patterns, but it’s nice to be able to make my own and be confident enough to just improvise. I have lots more pieces than I’ve posted here but this post ended up much longer and more in-depth than I expected, so those will wait for other times. I do plan to do a tutorial post of sorts about creating my own patterns both by modifying commercial patterns and copying photos. I have several tutorial posts I’m thinking about so I may do one of the others before I do the embroidery tutorial.


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