To start creating stitches with texture, I first got out my sewing machine, free motion foot and embroidery hoop.
I then played around with stitching in different directions and different threads, making the areas of stitching as dense as possible. After a while it becomes difficult to to keep the fabric flat and the needle just seems to bounce off the surface of the stitches. I found vertical stitches catch the light more than horizontal ones and so appear lighter in colour, however this isn’t really noticeable in polyester thread. Once I switched to variegated machine embroidery cotton the vertical stitches looked a significantly different colour, almost like I’d used a lighter shade of thread. The silk thread reflected the most light, making the horizontals seem a dark dull navy, while the horizontal stitches seemed to glow a bright vibrant blue. I then tried layering and overlapping the different threads, the polyester thread looked dull and muddy is comparison to the other threads, and areas of the embroidery cotton seemed to blend into it, but the silk thread remains more separate and sits on the surface of the other thread better.
I then switched to a new piece of calico, I first machined a couple of dense areas of stitching to provide a background to work some hand stitches on to. I then repeated my original experiments by stitching small, dense patches in different directions using a bright yellow cotton yarn as I find it takes a long time to work up samples in thinner threads. I like the small diagonal squares, they seem like something you would use to cover something like a bag or cushion, thought they might be too visually ‘busy’ to use as a background for other stitches. I then tried out other stitches suggested in my course book, such as blanket, cross, satin, Cretan, herringbone, couching and french knots as well as colonial knots and bullion knots. They are all easy to work in neat straight lines, but I found it much harder to try and work with them in a free and haphazard way, even the areas where I’ve tried on purpose to make them jumbled up and messy still look quite ordered and neat to me! The shiny satin effect embroidery floss really does stand out against the matt machine embroidery cotton though, which I was pleased about as I was struggling to find threads that really contrast with each other.
Next I worked up a piece mostly in black’s and gray’s (the blue is watersoluble pen that has failed to wash away) to focus on the differences between satin, variegated, metallic and normal embroidery floss, as well as polyester machine thread, perle cotton, ‘invisible’ thread and a thick ribbon like thread, taking inspiration from the books ‘Drawn to Stitch’ by Gwen Hedley and ‘Mark-making in Textile Art’ by Helen Parrott.
Black cotton voile was my next challenge, it is much thinner and more delicate than calico and I’ve only ever used it for dressmaking before. The first thing I noticed was that if the needle I used was too large or I pulled the stitches too tight then it left holes in the fabric, it also seemed quite stretchy so it was difficult to keep it taut in the embroidery hoop. This did mean it was good for creating more 3D effects though as stitches seemed to float on top of the surface and weren’t held as flat. The marks I made were mostly inspired by ‘Mark-making in Textile Art’ again, apart from the pink semi-circles which are based on a fabric design called ‘Valley of Azure’ from the Meadow collection by Leah Duncan. I also tried painting over some of the stitches with fabric paint to see if I could highlight them, but the fabric was too flexible for this and the stiches just disappeared. The paint does apply easily to the voile though, and stitches worked nicely on the painted sections, so this is something I would try again.
Finally I used some black cotton poplin to make some small samples working from my own mark-making sketches. Three of them were done on the sewing machine and one by hand.