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Freeform Embroidery Process // How I Create Imagery

October 10, 2012

Hey everybody, here’s a blog about my process of stitching freehand from my imagination. I’ve had people ask me what goes on in my head while I’m working and how I develop my compositions. Here’s a glimpse…

Starting — it’s not so hard. I just pick a fabric and a hoop, then I pick a floss color and just start stitching with no plan in my head. It’s important not to be scared of the result. It’s exactly like drawing for me. Trust the line. Trust your brain. Trust your hand.

This is the very first line of my new piece. I think it looks like a stem and a leaf, so I keep going…

I’m not sure where I want to go with the leaves, so I start doodling some cloud-like shapes (as seen in the upper right). Right now I’m thinking — landscape.

I often set pieces down for awhile if I’m not feeling inspired to work on them. This time, about a week goes by and then I pick it back up. That day, I was fairly depressed. I felt trapped and weighted down with all the responsibilities of being a mom, and honestly I felt like I lost part of myself along the way somewhere, and I just wanted to run away, and be alone. It is insanely hard to focus on my artwork with a toddler that requires constant attention!

So right before I picked back up this piece I thought, I should stitch a sanctuary. An imaginary place where I would want to go and hide for awhile when I feel this way. I was about to get a new hoop and fabric when I looked over at this unfinished piece hanging on the wall and thought — this is a cave-like image. A perfect place to hide. Now I have something integral to all artwork, and that is content. The concept of the Sanctuary series meshes well with my current Motherhood series. I’m excited now. I will definitely be developing this further.

Now, I took some time to really look at the piece and figure out what I wanted to do with the composition. I stitched the brown line, thinking of a path, but then realized that water would work better flowing from the mouth of the cave. There was such a huge area of space in the lower, right-hand corner and I wanted to add something, so I thought- an island. I wanted to do some foliage on the island, so at this point I drew in a sketch of what I wanted with a fabric marker. Most of the work I do is freehand, but sometimes I use a marker to mark out a particular line or to get a component exactly right.

I work into it for a couple hours. I stitch the island and some water. I’m not convinced that the addition of the island was a good choice. I’m doubting the whole composition. So I hang it on the wall and stare at it on and off for awhile. Ideas pop into my head — add another cave, make sure the water swirls around the island, and I make notes in my sketchbook to  make sure I remember these ideas. I sleep on it. Fresh eyes are good.

This next day I stitch on and off for about 4 hours, mostly filling in the water. This hoop is 14″, so that gives you an idea of how long it takes to create my work. By the end of the day, I have a solid plan about how to finish the composition and all I need to do is put the time in for the stitching. One thought I had during working today was, “Artwork is creating a problem and then solving it”.

There were many technical and compositional problems that were created and solved as I was stitching the rest of the piece. I had a particular roadblock near the end. I wasn’t sure if I wanted so much negative space on the left side. I conversed with my husband, who often plays a key role in my work. His insight and interpretation is usually the exact opposite of what I’m thinking and therefore proves to be very helpful.

At any rate, I decide to keep the negative space because this is is the place where I imagine that I would be sitting if I were in the picture. I decide that I will not put my figure in the piece, because I want the viewer to imagine themselves in this place.

I put in about 6 more hours of work to finish the piece, Twin Caves. 


To see more of my Motherhood series and read my artist statement, click here.

Comments and critiques welcome. Thanks!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 23, 2012 8:23 pm

    I love your work and your explanation – thank you; very inspiring! I work in a similar way with both stitching and drawing; I make the first line or stitch, and then see what happens! =D

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