Pulling Threads

Embroiderer and embroidery become one
"I didn't choose to embroidery – Embroidery chose me."
 
I have played with fabrics, threads, yarns and color, stitched and cut for as long as I can remember, but if someone had suggested to me as a child that I would someday be an embroiderer, I would not have believed them. That was until I had an embroidery lesson as part of a fashion course and I was hooked. Now I cannot imagine not stitching – it has become part of who I am.
 
It may sound like a cliché, but for me, embroidery is not about the finished product but about the process of getting there. It is about the satisfaction of pulling threads through fabric, watching a design slowly (very slowly) emerge, while working out how best to represent a design in stitch. 
 
In a sense there are two sides to my embroidery yet, each rely on the other. ONE: I teach and design kits and TWO: I create embroidered pictures, both abstract and little narratives. Both are as important as the other to me, partly because they are very, very different in the way I approach the work.
 
I love teaching!It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to share and pass on what I have learned and my experiences with others. I sometimes wonder if I don't get more out of it than the course participants and I find workshops of great value to me in developing new designs. 
 
Many of my kits start life as class project. They will be designed for a specific technique, mostly in crewel work, raised embroidery (also stumpwork) or goldwork. Before I start, I will have a clear idea of the level of difficulty I am designing for, with a clear list of stitches and techniques that I want to include. I see most things around me in stitch and find inspiration for the designs from many different sources; historical pieces, nature, stories, picture books, patterns and fabrics, just to name a few. Sometimes an idea has been brewing for a long time just waiting to be brought to life. At other times, a design is borne as a result of the chat going on during a workshop, and at times, I spot something (a pattern, a detail, a fabric) and instantly see it as embroidery. 
 
Once the original idea is in place, I play around with sketches and doodles before producing a simple line drawing. I might note down a rough plan of stitches and colours, but not always. I will choose my fabric and pull out a pile of colours in the shades I want to use, usually a lot more than I end up using. When working on projects for kits, I try to somewhat restrict the number of materials I use, but without compromising the design not to make the finished product too complicated to put together and too expensive.
 
The stitching process for these pieces is very structured. I take notes of the process while I stitch in preparation for the written instructions. When I am really organised, I will write the notes after each stitching session, but most often I get so caught up in the stitching, I forget. I also have to keep count the amounts of threads and other materials I use in order to put the kits together later on. Once the embroidery is finished, I spend weeks preparing diagrams and putting the instruction booklet together before the kit can be assembled. This is the time consuming part – the stitching is the easy, and by far, most enjoyable bit. 
 
The process of my other pieces is very, very different. Most importantly and what I love most about them is that this is where I can stitch as I please without concerns for others to be able to reproduce the design later on. These pieces are all about using threads and stitch techniques to create design full of textures and patterns. For my small people and other raised works, I draw largely on techniques from traditional stumpwork although my pieces are very, very different from the original sources. The nature of this type of work does mean I have to plan it a bit as components have to be stitched and put together in some sort of order, but I still don't prepare detailed plans or colour drawings - at times resulting a bit of 'reverse stitching' if it doesn't turn out how I anticipated. 
 
One of the things that draw me to stitch is a fascination with the unlimited number of ways you can choose to stitch something and how those choices ultimately affect the look of the finished piece. You can create endless textures and patterns within a design, simply by changing your stitch, stitch direction and weight of your thread. This is something I have recently started to explore in little 'doodle' pieces done mostly when I travel to teach. These are small squares completely covered in stitch. I start by drawing a simple pattern directly onto plain calico or linen, before filling it entirely with stitches. Although these are abstract patterns and forms, the choice of colours, textures and stitch patterns used in these, often reflect the places around me. I am really enjoying stitching these because they quickly take on a life of their own and I never really know where it leads until it is finished. 
 
For more information about Anna’s classes and work, visit: http://www.annascottembroidery.com.au/
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