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Design Digest: Leaping into the Rabbit Hole of Embroidery

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Design Digest: Leaping into the Rabbit Hole of Embroidery

By Angela Davis

In Design Digest, we highlight a particular favorite technique, type of popular design or share our experiences learning how to do something. Today, I am going to do all three!

Hand embroidery has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity recently, in both the craft and fashion worlds, and this revitalization is inspiring all kinds of crafters and crafters-to-be to join in. Discovering one particular technique has me very excited and planning all kinds of embroidery projects.

According to Wikipedia, the “basic stitches on surviving examples of the earliest embroidery — chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch — remain the fundamental techniques of hand embroidery today.” Embroidery is thought to have originated as a natural outgrowth of the practice of tailoring, mending, patching or reinforcing precious fabrics. Inspired, bearers of needle and thread sought to incorporate decorative stitches and colorful threads to embellish their work and enhance its beauty.

Embroidery has also served a functional purpose in marking one’s clothing and household linens for being sent out for laundering. As it has evolved, embroidery has become appreciated for its decorative function as well as for its more practical purposes.

Like many young girls, I began embroidering as a child in elementary school — first stabbing a tapestry needle threaded with yarn through burlap for an art project. After devouring library book stories in which pioneer girls were embroidering samplers, I started trying out various stitches and different weights of cloth and thread.

This was happening in the 1970s, when embroidered jeans and denim shirts were de rigueur, so I picked up various tips and techniques from women in my family and my neighborhood, and from women’s magazines. Along the way, I also learned counted cross-stitch and a bit of needlepoint, too.

Jump ahead to the present: I came across an image online of something called a Dropcloth Sampler — a stamped cotton cloth featuring a charmingly chaotic mix of lines, shapes and lettering that positively begs for embroidery. I found the designer’s etsy shop, ordered my own Dropcloth Sampler, pulled out my box of DMC floss, pearl cotton, and supplies, and got ready to start.

Then panic hit. I didn’t want to ruin the cuteness of the sampler with my awkward stitching. I decided to order the Creativebug class taught by the designer, Rebecca Ringquist, and got started.

Angela Davis' in-progress samplerRight away, I knew that I was onto something here. Rebecca’s teaching style is friendly and clear, and the instruction — it has set me free! I have been doing my own DIY-version of satin stitch for as long as I can remember. When Rebecca said that we should always stitch the outline before filling with satin stitch (even if you plan to remove it after), suddenly, my embroidery looked so much better! For so long I have struggled along, treating the printed or drawn outline of a shape as the guide to fill in. If you fill in a stitched outline, the results are so much better!

As I prepared to write this article, I reached out to Rebecca and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me. She is an artist, designer and teacher, who currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She comes from a crafty family. Her parents are both makers; her mother is a weaver and her father is a furniture maker.

As an art major in college, Rebecca became interested in the social history of samplers and their makers. Designing her own sampler patterns then became a logical next step for her. Because her sampler business and her art studio are housed in the same place, she is noticing that her samplers are becoming more painterly. Her drawings are influenced by her embroidery, so both practices are having an effect on one another.

Rebecca says she is excited for there to be more threads on the market and sees the trend toward more hand-dyed and artisanal threads as a hopeful one. Her samplers are available for wholesale, and her book Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops, published by STC Craft/ Melanie Falick Books, released in April 2015, has an exclusive sampler to embroider included.

I can’t say that I have fallen into the rabbit hole of sampler embroidery as much as I have jumped in — all because of stumbling across one really great technique that empowered me and opened up a whole new world! My next plan is to learn how to embroider on hand-knits, so stay tuned for that!

For more information about Rebecca Ringquist and Dropcloth Studios:


Learn: Online Workshops with Rebecca

Follow: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Shop: Dropcloth Samplers


About the Author

Angela Davis

Angela Davis, B.S.B.M., is a fiber artist, Craft Yarn Council of America certified-hand knitting instructor, author, artist and designer. She is passionate about supporting the needlearts, handcrafting, slow-fashion, visible mending, supporting small-batch producers of ethically and ecologically sound fibers, and reducing textile waste. Angela has taught knitting on European and Japanese tour buses, started a knitting-for-charity club at an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, has knitted props for the television show Mad Men, and is a contributing author and designer for publications including Piecework, STUDIOS, Knitting Traditions, and Sockupied magazines.

By day, Angela is director of product development and artist relations for internationally renowned punk, garage, rock and metalcore bands. She lives in Long Beach, California with her three sons. Angela’s Ravelry ID is alittlebird, and you can find her on Instagram as @angelaxdavis and on Twitter as @angelaxxdavis.

Tags:  Design Digest  dropcloth sampler  embroidery  TNNANews 

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