Monday, 3 December 2012

Embroidery 101 - A rambling introduction

When I was little, five or sixish - actually, it's entirely possible that I was even younger than that, I remember vaguely going on a holiday with my family to exotic locations such as "Echuca" and "Mildura". I remember pools, long hours in the car, peaches and the intense jealousy that I felt watching my sister with a scrap of fabric with holes in it and a print on the background and some thick wool and a dull needle that she was meticulously using to colour in the picture with. I was told that I wasn't old enough to do one, too. All I knew was that I wanted to colour in with that thread.

We moved to the country and were living in a tiny flat provided by the hospital that my dad worked for.  It had a minuscule backyard - just barely big enough for a cubby house and a clothes line - and a huge grassy area shared by the other flats out the front that looked out over Lake Guthridge - a swampy lake that was full of blue-green algae. I was (am) the middle of three girls and mum started a tradition on Monday evenings that we'd get to spend time with mum one on one and pursue an activity - I started a long-stitch (the object of my youthful holiday jealousy) of my own with her.

My mum and aunt Fleur have always had a great interest in embroidery too - My mum has a half finished tapestry from well before I was born. My aunt has completed some insanely beautiful pieces of embroidery too. Watching them tackle different pieces and use different stitches for different effects really piqued my interest. I completed a few cross-stitches when I was little, sporadically, but when I was 18, bored after finishing school and moving away from my friends and breaking up with my first boyfriend, I started a cross-stitch bookmark of some daffodils and got hooked in earnest. It didn't take too long to finish, whilst I watched day time television, like Passions, and soon I found myself with empty hands, searching out another kit to fill my hands with.

Cross-stitch kits were quick and easy, with everything provided, but the more time that I spent looking in the meager embroidery sections of stores like Spotlight and the more books I started looking at in libraries and bookstores, the more my interest grew. Soon I was making blackwork pieces, seeking out candlewicking. The pieces that I was working on became more and more elaborate. I went to visit Fleur in Brisbane, and we happened to notice an ad in the paper for an exhibition of embroidery and what I saw there only further inflamed the passion for the incredible things that you can do with thread.

One of the pieces was a hot air balloon, sewn on an almost invisible piece of fabric, so that the balloon appeared to be hovering in space. There were also some examples of Japanese embroidery - so meticulous. Every geometric shape was absolutely perfect. Gold threads were couched in red thread in perfect distances apart, like tiny gold bricks with red mortar. I wish I had photos of these to show you, but the luminosity of them just doesn't translate in print, anyway.

Anyway...the long and the short of this interlude is to say that embroidery is more than backstitching onto fabric. The limits are only what you make them. In this series of posts, I want to cover some of the amazing types of embroidery out there, to get you inspired. I also want to give you a breakdown on some common (and less common) forms of embroidery, then give you some tips and tricks on how to do them yourself. If people are interested, I'd also be happy to host an "embroider-along", where we modify an item of clothing with embroidery. Would you be interested in that?

Please feel free to jump in with questions at any point and let me know if there's anything else that you want me to cover.


  1. Thanks for this lovely introduction Bella! I, too am from a family of stitchers but am only just getting into it myself. Your inspirations are very timely!

  2. I'm definitely up for an embroider-along! I have decided on a blouse pattern that I think would do well. So now you'll have to create a button!
    Once I properly start my blog (as in, write a post), I'll definitely link you. :D
    EXCITEMENT. What pattern to pick??

  3. I'm in, I'll you Gingers initials on to piece of baby clothing. :)