I have long been fascinated with the many different ways we can incorporate color, texture, and motif into our textiles—colourwork knitting to tapestry weaving to embroidery. As a handspinner, embroidery has been a particularly fascinating rabbit hole to explore because of the sheer variety of yarns we can use. We can spin yarns to knit or weave into the base, and then create an entirely different set of yarns to embroider atop our handspun cloth.
There are not many resources for those interested in learning to spin for embroidery. Sarah Swett wrote a great article in the Spring 2009 issue of Spin-Off about spinning for needlepoint embroidery—I highly recommend both the article and Sarah’s fabulous blog. Much of what I have learned about spinning for embroidery comes from pouring over embroidered textiles in museum collections and experimenting with the simple practice of placing stitches on cloth. I have written a bit in previous posts about my research at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum (Iowa), the Norsk Folkemuseum (Oslo, Norway), and in Estonia. (And a previous article on spinning for Norwegian embroidery in Spin-Off Summer 2014.)
All of these influences led me to write an article in the new issue of Spin-Off called “Sublime Stitches: Spinning Wool for Embroidery.” It’s so exciting to see it in print! The issue also includes an embroidery pattern I designed with the idea that you can practice a variety of stitches using a variety of yarns. My basic premise is that (A) there are no rules about what fibers and what yarn designs must be used, and (B) that you shouldn’t be afraid to get stitching. I meet many spinners who feel immobilized by the idea of stitching with their own handspun. One of the things that made me feel more confident in just jumping in was looking at older examples of woolen (crewel-type) embroidery. The back of the work isn’t always perfect. The cloth sometimes puckers. The motif might not be dead-center. And often, I think these imperfect pieces have a life and vitality that surpasses a piece of immaculate cross-stitch.
The article has loads of information on how different types of wool behave in different basic embroidery stitches, how plying impacts motifs, and finishing yarns. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
My wool-centric palette included some lovely fibers from some great fiber folks: