Shortly after I started doing embroidery, I read a review for Jacqueline Enthoven’s The Stitches of Creative Embroidery. It sounded really interesting and I eventually found a copy of the 1964 book on etsy. It didn’t have a dust jacket, the corners were a bit rough, and I loved it to bits. I may review it in more detail at a later date, since the book is very well written and she provides many examples of samplers and creative finished pieces; what I want to talk about today is the introduction.
It is one of the most inspiring few pages I have ever read about embroidery, inspiring me to get better and showing me the way to do it.
Learn to doodle with a needle. After you have learned or become reacquainted with a few stitches, play with them and see how you can vary them. Lengthen them, shorten them, bring them closer together or farther apart, try thinner or heavier threads, and experiment with texture. Once you have mastered a number of stitches, you will find that ideas for using them will come to you. Before long, expression will blossom forth and you will know just what you want to do. It will bring satisfying reward and even exhilaration. (Enthoven, The Stitches of Creative Embroidery, page 16. Reinhold, 1964.)
I don’t know how many bits and scraps of fabric I went through, trying to be my stem stitch to look less anemic, trying to get a buttonhole stitch to look even, testing whether I could ever, ever make a french knot without stabbing myself in the leg. I threw most of them out, keeping a few of them around because they had a pretty set of up and down buttonhole or maybe a nice chunk of satin stitch. Doodling and trying stuff out has become a relaxing endeavor, something to do while watching The Kids in the Hall for the umpteenth time.
I recently commissioned (and I by that I mean asked very nicely and bought her a few coffees) another pencil drawing from my sister in the same vein as the Button Octopus. This time, I wanted a crewel-inspired Venus fly trap. Once I am finished it, I will definitely share it here, along with the pattern.
I traced out her design twice, and for two days while I was at a cottage (with no electricity or wifi, I am still not sure how I survived!) I tried a few different things, read the latest Inspirations magazine and plotted how my venus fly traps would look. I settles on a rather simple stem stitch shading on the stems, but went with a chain stitch/back stitch combination I read about in Inspirations; it’s the stitch on the furthest left edge of the filled in fly trap leaf. It’s a regular chain stitch, which has a back stitch overlapping over the edge of each chain. I think it’s lovely and will have a really cool effect if I use my colours carefully. That said, chain stitch has never been my forte which means: more practice! I need to practice getting them small, getting them even and most importantly not getting them too damn tight that it turns into a single line with no dimension. Netflix and Kids in the Hall, here I come.
PS: which tendrils do you like best? The long french knots make for a cool effect but the sharp little Vs on the right hand side are so sharp and controlled, I kinda like them too. Decisions decisions!