I have loved hand stitching since I was introduced to it at the age of four. I have been asked what is the difference between embroidery and hand stitching and why are you making such a distinction between the two. My short answer is that I feel like embroidery has to be “perfect” according to a pattern, while I feel like I have the freedom to experiment and play with hand stitching.
Here are a few ways for you to experiment with your hand stitching: Stitch a few of your favorite stitches, then start lengthening, widening, and shortening them. (At first it will be difficult not to go back and “fix” them. Resist!) Change the weight of your thread and start layering more stitches over the previous ones. (One of the biggest challenges to this style of stitching is keeping it random.) I hope that playing with your stitches brings you lots of joy and leads you to embrace the art of hand stitching!
When I was taught embroidery I felt that if my work wasn’t perfect, I had to take it out and redo it. While there is a place for this kind of beautiful art, I found myself wanting to push against all the restrictions and put the fun back in stitching. As I looked around at others’ work I began to see that I was not alone. Others like me were starting to change the basic embroidery stitches to make them fun and funky. I began to play with the stitches by distorting them, layering them, changing the width and length. I also began to use threads and fibers that were not traditionally used for hand stitching. What I discovered was a whole new world of stitching that gave me a freedom to create different textures.
I have found that when I experiment, I enjoy hand stitching again. And it often seems to be just exactly the special touch that was needed to finish a quilting project. So try it! You never know what you can create!
What are your favorite hand stitches? Do you like to add a special hand-stitched touch to your quilts? What advice do you have for those who have never tried hand stitching or embroidery? Let us know in the comments below!
Ruth Chandler grew up in Japan where the vibrant color and texture of Japanese fabric combined with the simplicity of Japanese design caught her attention. She learned basic Sashiko from an elderly neighbor and at the age of 10 she began to create and sew her own clothes which became an outlet for her imagination and creativity.
Visit her blog and website where you can join the fun in their free on-line book studies at Textile Evolution.
Ruth is the author of Modern Hand Stitching and co-author of Fabric Embellishing The basics & beyond.
Ruth is the co-author of Fabric Embellishing The basics & beyond and the author of the upcoming Modern Hand Stitching.