Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sketching with embroidery

 Can you sketch with embroidery? This was the question that occupied my thoughts during last weeks train journeys.  I was badly organised at the weekend and instead of carefully preparing some hand sewing for the train I just shoved some scraps in my train sewing kit and thought I would figure something out on the journey. 

Well, on the first day I got out needle and thread and a fabric scrap and had NO ideas. When I draw and doodle I often feel the same, and to get going I just put paper to pencil and start sketching some lines and curves and see where it takes me. Usually without fail a creature or person starts to emerge from the lines and I'm off. Would the same process work with stitching? Well, I started to do a few stitches, started to curve them round and I thought...that looks a little like an about a cute dog? And this is what I ended up with.
I like his face and the cute 'woof'. When I sketch, I work very fast, but although hand sewing is very slow in comparison, I didn't loose patience, and the picture slowly unravelled in my head as I went and I was able to get it down on fabric. This really felt like a bit of a revelation to me. Did this mean I could throw scraps in my bag every week and bust out some neat little hand stitched pics to use in projects? Possibly!

The next day I tried again, and this attempt didn't go quite to plan. This time I flipped through my train sketch book looking for some inspiration, and another dog caught my eye. I've been doing a few sketches of a cute little dog called 'little brown dog' – the least imaginative of my names I know, but I thought he could work as a little simple feature I could use in developing some product ideas.
Buoyed by my success of the previous day I battered on with the project, not really thinking about what I was doing. I didn't like the result. Here's a photo.
The whole design is quite small, and it just doesn't work. I rushed the dog and the poor lettering and it really shows. I should have taken a few minutes to think before I started, then I might have used only three embroidery threads instead of the full six, which is too bulky for so small and intricate a design. What I've learned from this is free-form stitching with no reference might work better because you develop your idea from where you start, using the stitch size and thickness to dictate what the design becomes. However, if using references, a few minutes spent at the start deciding what stitch size and thread thickness best suits the design is time well spent.

The next day I again started to work from references, this time of birds I'd been sketching a few months before in designing appliqué for a dress for my daughter. Here are some of the sketches, I decided to use the bird in the bottom right corner.
So, this time I thought about it. I decided to make the design quite big, and to use the full six threads to give it a chunky look. I decided I would fill some of the design with stitches and that I'd use a few colours. I even selected the colours to put in my train kit the night before. Now that is perhaps getting a little too organised for me! Anyway, I worked on this for a few days on the train and here's what I ended up with.
I really like it! There were a few moments during the process where I wasn't sure it would work at all, but I kept going and I am quite pleased with the final result. Not bad for a complete hand sewing newbie! What I'd like to do next is start to incorporate some different stitches into my work.

Another question I also need to answer is, now I've created these little embroidery designs, what on earth do I do with them now? How can I used them in a sewing project? How do you use similar things in your projects?


  1. I think you're being very hard on yourself re the little brown dog!

    Just noticed how you did the bird on leafy fabric, very nice effect.

    You totally inspired me to go and try some embroidery yesterday, will be posting some pics up soon!

  2. The bird is really sweet

  3. I think your sketches are amazing! The possibilities for using embroidery are endless, i would use them as little pockets on your daughters clothing.
    I love your sketches of the dog! x