Decorate with stitchery
I enjoyed having the opportunity to try a variety of different hand and machine stitchery techniques in this chapter, and to indulge some of my stitchy inclinations with regard to methods and materials.
The sample in image 1 was stitched with a variety of threads in analogous colours on hand-dyed cotton shirting. The running stitch spirals produce an effect somewhat like Kantha embroidery. I like the textured surface which results.
The image 2 sample was inspired by one of my architectural photographs. It consists of three parallel lines of chain stitch in tints and shades of one hue, with seeding. I was trying to make it look sculptural.
The sample in image 3 was an absolute pain to stitch. It’s shadow embroidery in silk and rayon threads on random-dyed chiffon. The thing which made it problematic was the chiffon is so fine that I couldn’t see the threads. Once I hooped it, put it in a floor frame and began stitching two-handed under a maggy lamp, though, it all came together. I think it looks like invertebrate fossils.
I really had to make a spiral galaxy sample. I began the image 4 sample by Vliesofixing chopped chiffon to a dyed cotton shirting background. The stitching is random cross-stitch in strongly contrasting threads.
The image 5 sample really was an indulgence. The background was made by weaving strips of dyed and monoprinted silks together. I fixed the strips in place to a cotton background by tacking around the edges and also tacking the intersection points. It’s really a sampler rather than an integrated design, and I wanted to make it quite sparkly. The top left-hand spirals are damascene circles with some or nué couching for colour. The top right is an attempt at a stylised acanthus spiral, with couched gimp, detached chain and fly stitches. At the lower left is a spiral with seeding stitches in lime green silk and another with couched purls (silver and violet) and in the lower right corner is one of the wrought iron images in couched pink twist.
I think the image 6 sample is probably the most successful. It’s an attempt at representing a spiral staircase with the step treads suggested with bullion stitch in violet, the edges of the stair treads in lime stem stitch, and some lime running stitch in a matching but heavier silk thread for elements of the balustrades. The aspects of this that I like are the sense of movement (I think this comes from the eccentric composition and the choice of limited stitch and colour palettes) and the sense of being drawn into a vortex.
Machine stitching in spirals
I’m not new to free motion machine embroidery but have a new machine, so did need to get used to the settings, and particularly needed to work out how (and how much) to alter the bobbin case tension for cable stitch. I backed each of these samples with a tear-away stabiliser.
The sample in image 7 is a large and continuous spiral in cable stitch, beginning at the centre each time with a different colour and a different weight of thread. Most of the heavier threads are pearl cotton.
The image 8 sample consists of a lot of overlapping lines of spirals like the telephone curly cord, stitched on a monoprinted fabric with a similarly curly design. The lines of spirals are in cable stitch, worked in analogous colours, including some variegated threads, at varying angles to each other.
The next sample, image 9, consists of a variety of small overlapping spirals in a variety of threads, including a thick fluffy single-ply thread, a boucle and various variegated threads, in cable stitch and whip stitch. I particularly like the effect of the whip stitch in variegated pearl cotton.
Image 10 shows a technique I haven’t tried before. The inner part of the design is made of three spiralling shapes (out of the six which would have formed a circle) worked in thread painting using tints and shades of violet (the threads are a redder hue of violet in reality). The surrounding circle is in granite stitch, emphasising the tiny circles created by the stitch. The lightest tint of violet in the middle of the spiralling shapes is a metallic machine thread but the glitter doesn’t really show on the photograph.