Some people might get shy when talking about our bodies, but not embroidery artist Jess de Wahls. Her ongoing series called Big Swinging Ovaries features the reproductive organ stylized and turned into a motif representing female strength and empowerment. As hoop art, the shape of the ovaries are the centerpiece, and they act as chameleons. Cloaked in a variety of subject matter—including Frida Kahlo, cats, and cacti—the organ has a mind of its own. Sometimes, Jess even gives them eyes or other facial expression. But regardless of the subject matter, each piece is done in a Jess’ gorgeous, maximalist style that covers much of the surface in bright colors and textures.
Embroiderer and artist Libby Williams uses a combination of stitching and painting to create unique travel portraits of the places she’s been. “I’m from the U.S. but have been living in Luxembourg for the past year and a half,” she tells me in an email. “I like to work back and forth between abstraction and representation, always taking inspiration from the landscape.”
It’s no secret that I love embroidery—and that especially extends to clothing. Last week, I shared the collaboration between Rifle Paper Co. and Keds, which included, among other styles, a pair of stitched sneakers. They’re great for the warmer weather months, but Boden is ready to take you into the fall and winter with their set of suede folk-inspired embroidered boots and flats.
This week, I’ve been enamored with artwork and illustrations where small elements make up a spectacular whole. On Tuesday, I shared the meticulous cut paper work of Margaret Scrinkl, who uses a combination of scissors and an X-ACTO knife to achieve fine details. Brannon Addison of Happy Cactus Designs does the same thing with a needle and thread. Her tiny embroidery features a host of beautiful blooms, from five petal plants to leafy ferns. After finishing a piece, Brannon usually frames it.
Do you want to try embroidery but don’t know where to start? Patterns can help you become comfortable with wielding a needle and thread as you learn new stitches. And with the recent revitalization of hoop art, illustrators are creating modern modern hand embroidery patterns that you can try today.
If you’ve ever tried embroidery, you know how methodical the practice is. It teaches patience; you’ve got to take it stitch by stitch, because there’s no great shortcuts when it comes to embroidering by hand. Embracing this fact is Slow Stitch Sophie, a Vancouver-based crafter who wowed me last year with her “fields” of beautiful floral embroideries. Since then, she’s continued her practice of creating intricate compositions that resemble sun-soaked landscapes.
When I first came upon the embroideries of Lauren Singleton, aka YesStitchYes, my immediate thought was, “They look painterly!” Her style, with elongated leaves and petals, remind me of graceful brush strokes rather than lines poked with a needle. Paired with script-style text, this hoop art has a breezy, carefree style to it—one I don’t often see in embroidery.
In Philadelphia, there’s an exhibition at the Paradigm Gallery on embroidery and contemporary fabric work that’s a must see. Called Stitched: Part II, it features 16 artists who make use of these techniques in a variety of ways. Their individual imagery differs, but they are all constructed (in part) with a needle and thread.
Bralettes are en vogue, and I am here for it. One of my favorite iterations of this trend is the embroidered bralette, which combines intricate stitching with delicate, sheer fabrics. Emily Parkinson of Birds & Beestings has an illustrative take on this type of intimate. She stitches entire scenes that extend across the chest. Her small but striking collection features embroidered prickly cacti (previously), spotted fungi, jade snakes, and the art of Henri Rousseau.
Danielle Clough goes beyond the embroidery hoop to create colorful stitches in unusual places. Using vintage rackets as her frame, she fills their plastic grids with flowers and succulents. They seemingly float on top of it, but are secured by a combination of stitches, knots, and needles.