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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Practicing Embroidery Stitches

After attending the 'Thinking Through Stitching' UAL workshop by Sukhwinder Sagoo-Reddy, I decided to buy some hessian and embroidery needles to practice some different stitches.

I really enjoyed stitching on hessian during the workshop, because of the large holes, it is very easy to embrider without needing an embroidery hoop. I also like the coarse texture and dull brown colour, which contrasts with my colourful embroidery threads which "breathe life" and animate the hessian. I started out attempting something which was far too ambitious - a rainbow darning stitch square. I made the mistake of not counting the holes before starting, so I ended up using white and black as well as; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple to make up the number of holes I needed to fill. I then attempted to make it look better by sewing a black and white border, but this made it look even worse, so I abandoned it.

The next stitch I attempted was the "split stitch" which we were shown in the workshop but which I hadn't had time to attempt. I used two different colour threads and pulled them through each other to form a chain... Which was when I realised that "split stitch" is another name for "chain stitch" which my mother had taught me when I was a child. The trickiest thing about this stitch is ensuring the two different colour threads are on both sides of the chain.

I then attempted the darning stitch again, this time being careful to count the umber of holes (16 rows and 16 columns) before I started. I decided to simplify the design this time, using only two colours; pink and green. I think this turned out much better but I realised the embroidery threads were a bit too thick, making the darning square too dense resulting in an uneven tension.

So, I attempted the darning square a third time, and because I was too lazy to split the embroidery thread in half, I stitched every other hole in the hessian instead. I used blue and yellow threads this time and the tension was much more even across the darning square. I realised to create a neater darning square, it's neccessary to ensure the embroidery threads don't become twisted.

I decided to attempt a final darning square, this time with a diagonal pattern. I used pastel coloured threads; green, yellow, pink and blue and did my best to ensure the threads weren't twisted. I think this darning square turned out the best. I think I enjoyed the darning stitch the most because it is essentially weaving the threads to create a new surface and I find the wayeach thread contributes to creating this new texture by holding other threads in place a really inspiring metaphor for collaboration.

I then attempted some other stitches; arrow stitch and cross stitch using the rainbow threads.

The arrow stitch was very easy, in fact the hardest thing was ensuring that the six different threads didn't become tangled at the back! Cross stitch is also very easy, and I laid the stitches out in a grid allowing 3 holes per cross-stitch with the rainbow pattern running diagonally.

I then made another cross-stitch grid, using black and pastel coloured threads, but this time made the grid pattern more dense, so that the hessian wasn't visible beneath it.

I also made an arrow-stitch grid in oastel coloured threads. I really liked how this one turned out.

I also practiced basic running stitch by creating an interesting pattern. I used black thread to create a base layer running in a horizontal direction and then overlayed orange, green, pink and blue threads running in a vertical direction.

I also created a flower design, by uding rainbow threads, each radiating from a central hole to create a circular-ish pattern. I realised that it's important where the knot is tied at the back otherwise it moves to the centre and is visible from the front.

The final design I attepted was a venn diagram. This was inspired by a conversation with one of the tutors, who said that the concept of my research project (intersectional identities) could be represented by enn diagrams. I started off by attempting to stitch the outline of two intersecting circles with a black thread. I made these identical by carefully counting the holes and direction of each stitch. I then used blue, purple and red thread to fill the spaces (purple filling the intersection when blue and red combine). Visually i'm not sure the design worked, it may have looked better if I had used darning stitch to fill the spaces and also made the intersectional element much bigger. Something to consider for the next time...

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