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.
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.
Embroiderer Sam Eldridge stitches jungles, gardens, and floral bouquets on thrifted garments. The colorful creations breath new life into these second-hand pieces and give them a fresh feel by transforming them into one of a kind pieces. Her embroidered clothing follows a long tradition of repairing a garment rather than outright disposal. Long ago, before the atomization of the Industrial Revolution, people would mend their clothing over and over again, because each piece was so expensive to make in the first place. That’s not really a concern today, of course, but Sam is engaging in the same idea—create a new twist on something old and extend its life for the wearer.
Maybe you don’t have a green thumb and all your plants eventually wilt. You know what? That’s okay. Because thanks to the mushroom felt crafts by Close Call Studio, you can still have something life-like in your home. Amanda Adams, the illustrator and sculptor behind Close Call, creates playful plants and vegetables that are an eye-catching fusion of crafted nature with a piece of the real outdoors. She hand-sews and mounts small fungi, colorful blooms, and prickly cacti on a slice of hand-cut wood. The result is a unique homage to nature that brings the beauty of the outdoors inside—but no extra care required.
Embroidering on tulle seems like a challenge. It’s more delicate than your traditional cotton—making it less forgiving than other fabrics. But when done well, the effect is mesmerizing. We’ve seen how tulle and flowers can frame the world in beautiful bouquets. And with work of Katerina Marchenko, the hoop is like an aquarium; her colorful fish embroidery seemingly floats on the gauzy surface. Confined to their circular frame, it’s like an old fashioned fish bowl. Katerina stitches more than fish, however, bringing whales into the mix. But don’t worry about them—they are later freed from the hoop and adorn her stylish clothing.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared inspiring illustrators and some of the best sketchbooks to follow on Instagram. Continuing this tour of my favorite feeds, here are 11 embroidery artists who fill my timeline with beautiful stitching.
The chosen embroiderers will make you a better stitcher by following them. From beautiful interior scenes to abstract beading, they both inspire and showcase techniques that you’ll want to try. And, if you’re looking for more specific advice, Elizabeth Pawle sometimes does a Q & A in her posts.