I had a co-worker once that was a sewer and knitter and a fellow creative. But she was consumed by practicality and every time I showed her something I was making, her first response would always be, “What are you going to do with it?”
I used to find it a bit irritating. We no longer work in the same office but that question burrowed into Art Brain and we spent a lot of time thinking about how to answer it. The truth is, I wasn’t going to do anything with it. The majority of what I create I make because I want to. Some of it’s functional (like a crochet blanket) but otherwise, if Art Brain has an idea? I’m rolling with it.
I find that embroidery/hand stitching – at least in the United States – bears a heavy burden of the “What are you going to do with it?” inquiry.
Stitching does not need to be for creating clothing or patching a hole or re-attaching a button. It can totally be free range, it can be a pure expression of what is in your heart and mind. I’m finding the more I stitch the more I want to harness thread and needle as a form of pure expression. Let me show you some examples.
A couple of years ago I had the fortune to take a week long class with Dorothy Caldwell at Nancy Crow’s Art Barn. We worked on making a small book with various exercises and I don’t recall now if she told us to use stitching inside the book, but it definitely made it onto my pages. And it was loose and free. It followed the outline of my thoughts at that particular moment and I can still feel the core of that when I look at them.
Ever since that class I’ve come to love using thread like a pen, drawing and moving across the fabric with an internal purpose that may only translate in my mind. But I believe that hand stitching holds the same kind of impact as painting and drawing and pottery – it’s embedded in so much of our everyday lives, I sometimes think it’s hard to view it as art.
But we definitely know it is. ????
This recent stitch meditation is another good example of using thread as a means of conveying emotion. This is the text I posted with it: A new stitch meditation. Recovering from cancer is not a linear path. Some days are a jumble in my heart and body and other days sear with grief. But mostly there is gratitude. It’s an intense mixture.
It felt incredibly liberating to use hand stitching for this. A kind of unexpected freedom I didn’t know it could offer.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what your reason is for stitching. But I encourage you to push beyond the idea that it’s simply a utilitarian activity. It can create some truly beautiful work that captures your unique emotions. Let your needle and thread off the leash, let it go free range!