I’m working on a Left-Handed Stitching book. It’s a HUGE project, but I’m determined and am taking it one small stitch at a time. Yesterday I was working on a Threaded Backstitch and so I began to stitch on a piece of linen that I whipstitched some wool shapes onto. Once I had done one example of the Threaded Backstitch, I decided to go ahead and do a Double Threaded Backstitch. And once that was finished I thought – well wouldn’t it be fun to do a couple more, one below the other?! Do you see what I’m having to deal with here? After I finished doing those, the gap between the Double Threaded Backstitches seemed to be calling out for a little something, so I did what anyone would do, and found some beautiful Stef Francis Silk Chenille and decided it was perfect to Couch. Swoon. And then there was a tiny space at the very top and so I stitched a 2-wrap French Knot, which looked like a little tumble weed. Perfection(!) and that made me feel happy. As I stitched, I thought I could hear some Silk Ribbon calling out to me, so of course I had to find it, retrieve it, and use it, because what else was I going to do? Ignore the call? No, I don’t think so! So I made a little cluster of Silk RibbonRoses to one side. And that’s when it occurred to me. I’m NEVER going to finish this book if I continue to go down every rabbit hole I see.
Except it’s SO much fun to go down those rabbit holes and who knows where they might lead?! Some of my best discoveries have been deep within such holes, which means this book will take a little longer to do than I’d originally anticipated. Plus I’m using lots of photographs to demonstrate each step of each stitch and I intend to show how to end and begin a new thread, in case you run out in the middle of the stitch, as well as how to end the thread once you’ve finished doing the stitch. Those are a couple things I always wish to see, but rarely do in a stitching book and that got me wondering, what about YOU?
Tell me what you like to see in a stitching book. What do you dislike? What do you wish they showed? What do you wish they didn’t show? What about text? Keep it short and simple or do you like longer explanations and even stories? What else? Am I forgetting anything? Tell me. Tell me everything.
I spent at least 16 hours this weekend analyzing and stitching examples of the Trellis Stitch. Specifically the spiral trellis stitch, which was one of dozens of stitches that adorned the Plimoth Jacket, a women’s waistcoat, made in the early 1600’s.
Another heavily embroidered jacket is in the costume collection at the Metropolitan Museum here in New York City, which I would LOVE to see one day.
While I have done dozens and dozens of Spiral Trellis Stitches over the years, and have used this stitch in a number of my designs, I had never tried to figure out why it was often so difficult to replicate, and to replicate consistently.
So this weekend I decided to do just that. I experimented with a couple of different ways of stitching it, how to best add a new length of thread when your thread, which it inevitably does, runs out, how to consistently get good results when decreasing, stitching in all kinds of different threads and thread weights, and I even tried my hand at stitching a non-circular Trellis, which I will need to do a bit more experimenting with before I am completely satisfied. I had to fill in the center part with French Knots because I couldn’t figure out how to decrease the inside in a way that looked flawless.
I then posted my results to my Youtube Channel: Ariane Zurcher ~ On the Other Hand.
As I am left handed all of this was even more tricky because none of the embroidery books give instructions for the way I finally ended up stitching this beautiful, yet challenging stitch.
I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot. Perhaps that’s because I’m coming up on my 20th wedding anniversary with this awesome man. Our relationship has seen its ups and downs, but we are committed to doing the hard work of showing up for each other no matter how painful and difficult that may be. As a result we have entered into, what I think of as, our golden years together. I love this man more today than those first few years when we met and decided to have children together. I am well aware of how fortunate I am, it helps that he is as committed as I am, and is also funny, smart, kind, thoughtful, complicated, a great dad, a great friend and all around amazing human being.
Or maybe I’m thinking about relationships because it’s the holiday season when we typically fly to Colorado to visit my mother and sister, but because of the pandemic are unable to do so or maybe it’s because this year has thrown a couple of relationships into stark relief. I have had to come to terms with the fact that a few were not what I thought and others that have only reaffirmed how wonderful they are. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from both.
I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I start the morning reading something, usually something philosophical or a meditation of some kind. This morning’s reading began with a quote:
There are two equally dangerous extremes – to shut reason out, and to let nothing else in.
When I’m stitching the magical moments come when things just flow from one idea to the next – easily, magically. But there are other moments when everything I stitch feels wrong. Color is often at issue. If my base color is one that I don’t find particularly appealing, then everything I subsequently do can feel off simply because the base color isn’t one that speaks to me. The trick is finding the magic even then.
As many of you who follow me on Youtube know, I’ve been struggling with my latest improvisational piece. It uses a flesh-colored hand dyed piece of linen as its base, and it’s been problematic for me since I took that first stitch. Still, I’m determined to continue, if for no other reason than as an exercise in working through the myriad issues that are coming up for me. And what I’m learning is that if I’m committed to something, really committed, I am willing to have the difficult conversations, I’m willing to hang in there even when things get problematic, I’m willing to keep showing up. And when I do that, something magical always happens. (Of course if we’re talking about two people then BOTH people have to be willing. It won’t work if only one person is willing and the other isn’t.)
With the piece shown above, this is the magical moment that occurred a few days ago. I don’t know that it’s enough to shift this piece from an exercise, into something that I’m able to fully embrace, but I’m getting there and I’m going to keep showing up for it and see what happens!
If you’d like to laugh and explore stitching (or in my case attempting to) with silk gimp and the thicker gimp that Painter’s Threads hand dyes, this was the live stream I did yesterday. Warning: We laughed A LOT.
My attempts at using the crinkly silk gimp became more comedic than informative… However, I am determined to continue investigating this beautiful, if challenging thread, and what I’m able to do with it. So this is just the beginning. By the way Mary Corbet, who is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to threads, stitching, and everything and anything to do with embroidery, is such a great resource. If you click on her name above, it will take you to her blog. She also has a YouTube Channel, where she demonstrates stitches.
So here’s the thing… I am a designer first and foremost. I love playing with threads and seeing how I can use an unusual thread in a different way. My approach to hand stitching is from a design point of view. When I’m working with a thread, like gimp, whether the crinkly silk gimp or the thicker cord Gimp from Painter’s Threads, I am thinking about color, texture, and how I can use it so that it creates something interesting. As I design, I’m considering size, shape, dimension and how all of that fits into the piece I’m working on.
For my River Rocks Pouch, I used all three of these gimps in different ways. A couple of the shapes on that pouch I added gimp French Knots, which I love.
I’m off to the last remaining quilt shop in New York City in a little while. I’ll be filming it, and will post tomorrow morning. So if you want to come with me on my little adventure, tune into my Youtube Channel Ariane Zurcher ~ On the Other Hand tomorrow. Until then, here’s to exploring and stitching!