Last weekend I went to an ATASDA class with Effie Mitrofanis, who does beautiful, rich and colourful embroidery. It was a really lovely couple of days.
It was detailed work and I am slow, so nothing came close to finished. Subtract the orange stitching near the top and the beads, and on the left is my entire production for Saturday. The stitched area is about 12 centimetres square (under 5 inches). I’m just setting expectations of what there is to see, not complaining – it was a weekend of learning, companionship, colour and fibre. Pure pleasure.
We started with a base of muslin, then put on strips of fabric – mostly dupion silk. Straight and herringbone stitch secured and decorated the edges. (Effie has some samplers showing incredible variety of texture and appearance using just straight stitch.)
Next were some tips on binding the ends of gold cord, followed by (drumroll) bullion stitch over the cord. The class was absolutely quiet as we worked on this, but I think everyone was very pleased with themselves and their results.
Dual rows of blanket stitch were worked at the top, setting ourselves up for the next day.
Some beautiful random-dyed gimp was wound over the blanket stitch base. There is also some beading over the gold cord and some bugle beads where I plan to do some seed stitch in a variety of threads.
My second sample has raised chain band up the left side. The blue thread is something anonymous that I bought from a member stash-busting stand at a recent ATASDA meeting. Very effective. On the right is wave stitch (more thread from the same stash-buster!). I’ve also added some little flower-shaped beads to highlight the line I wanted to extend from the patterned fabric. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen below.
Effie also showed us how to make a wrapped cord. My sample used six lengths of stranded cotton thread, plus beading thread and some gimp. I wanted to do at least a little of most of the techniques Effie showed, but I didn’t get as far as knotting or multiple wraps side by side. You can build up all these elements to get some really effective results.
I learnt quite a bit over the weekend, over and above the various techniques from Effie.
- I followed past advice from Claire, choosing a colour scheme and heavily editing the material and thread I took to class. This saved a lot of time and really helped me to focus on what we were doing.
- Zinger threads. When finished these small works can be really rich and complex surfaces. I can get lost in the detail. The use of “zing” (like the blue in sample 2’s raised chain band) brings life and focus.
- It’s a detail, but I like the red thread used as a base for the raised chain band. It felt a bit risky when I chose it, a bit out of the main colour theme, but the small amount visible really adds some subdued complexity. My working theory is to try to be bold in the early stages. If it doesn’t work it can be covered or adjusted somehow. Better than being bland.
- Not everything has to be planned and have deep meaning or thought or concept. Responding to the thread and work, to what is developing under your hands, is a wonderful, centering, restorative experience. I don’t know how that fits with OCA course work, where you’re trying to fulfill requirements, show development and critical thinking, develop design skills… It’s not necessarily all mutually exclusive. Perhaps it’s a matter of balance, perhaps I just need more skill / experience / development.
Resource: Mitrofanis, E. (2009) Threadwork: silks, stitches, beads & cords. (Binda: Sally Milner Publishing)