Starting to stitch

Project 2 is Developing your marks. We go from making marks on paper to making marks with stitches and threads on fabrics.

Stage 1 is preparation – getting materials organised and trying out some fabrics, threads and stitches. I have reached the stage of somewhat organised, which I have deemed good enough to continue. One major task was sorting thrums into a form that will be convenient to use for stitching. Many are already a good length and I’m keen to see if they’ll make the jump from weaving to stitching use. I now have a series of bags, the major sort being by colour (red, orange, yellow etc, then neutrals and multicolours) and then by type (fabric, yarns, and snippets – little bits that may come in handy to build a background, couch down, whatever).

Variety of stitches on calico

Here is my first sample, worked on calico in perle cotton while I got a grip on the stitches. Most are the base set given in the OCA notes, with a couple added from Claire’s class that I wrote about here. (Have I mentioned that Claire is the person who told me about OCA and enrolled on the same day? Her learning blog is TactualTextiles).

With each stitch I tried to start out “properly”, then move into a free-er interpretation. I’ve dabbled in stitching now and then, but never consistently. While working on this I found myself getting home from work and all I wanted to do was stitch! From bottom to top (and sometimes right to left) in the photo the stitches are: running, stem, chain, satin, herringbone, open cretan, cretan, cross stitch, blanket, couching, seeding, french knots, raised chain band, colonial knots and detached chain. I took the photos outside this afternoon and I like the shadows that were captured – it makes the chain stitch look nice and plump and shows the height of the stem stitch.

Overall I found traditional and neat difficult, and sometimes painful as my hands cramped in the effort to control. The wonky-fied were pretty much all fun and I like the different textures and marks I was able to achieve even in this first attempt.

Sample 2 - variety of threads on voile

The second sample is on light cotton voile, with a range of threads but limited to herringbone stitch and french knots. I started using thrums – in particular my “go-to” yarns 20/2 silk and 22/2 cottolin. Everything looked good while I was working with the voile stretched in a hoop but I’m not so keen now it’s off. The fabric just looks limp and lifeless. I could mount it on something, but then what would be the point of using a light-weight material? Maybe it will be just right for some future project.

Various yarns on hessian

My third “preparation” sample was on natural coloured hessian. I liked the smell of the fabric when I was cutting it, I enjoyed stitching on it and I find the results really interesting (not the “interesting” which means you don’t like something). I actually worked from the bottom up, but for ease of reference I’ll give the yarn types going clockwise from the top: bendigo 2 ply wool; rug wool; a fancy textured silk; 22/2 cottolin; 20/2/ silk (some in tripled strands); perle cotton size 5; perle cotton size 3; a 2 ply silk merino; stranded embroidery cotton (3 strands); 6 nel linen; raffia (I think).

I started with the finer perle cotton and that is one of the least successful and gave the most trouble. Not a good match of fabric and yarn in scale I think. The french knots kept popping through to the back, so I experimented with raised chain band, and a sort of detached version of it.

I was surprised to like the cottolin. Usually I like shine, but the yarn sits so comfortably and at home on the hessian. I think it makes it easier to see the spaces, as well as the stitches.

The fancy silk works in a different way, especially the french knots. It has enough personality to stand out against the hessian, with a different texture.

The orange linen is full of character, both the herringbone and the french knots. That bit of stiffness gives it a feisty look.

The raffia is a standout in terms of texture – look at those shadows! I’d like to try it on some black hessian – maybe fairly formal stitch forms to contrast with all the texture and the scale. I thought I might have trouble stitching with this – breaking or shredding – but it behaved rather well, with just a bit of distortion of the weave.

One thing I’d like to try is leaving long ends in weaving and stitching back into the finished cloth with them. I’m thinking of something exploring colour mixing, swapping in and out weft and warp threads and using them to continue blending or contrasting.

I found this preparation stage very useful. I expected to find it somewhat slow, possibly meditative, maybe enjoyable. In practise some parts didn’t work for me, but a lot I found exciting. I can also recognise myself developing preferences. I feel ready to move onto Stage 2 – Exploring marks and lines through stitch techniques.

1 Response to “Starting to stitch”


  1. 1 Meg in Nelson September 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    What a lot of work! I’ll come back to read the text – I’m watching Wallabies vs Ireland just now.


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