Cringing at Your Little Chicken Ways? Reimagining Art #3

Some design moves are easy when making artwork. For instance, I’ve embroidered an apple on this swatch of wool. So without using a pattern or drawing, what do I improvise next to add interest to the design?

Simple answer- stitch a branch for the apple. With a branch, you can imagine that a tree supports the apple. By adding the bough, the background fabric now evokes the sky. And in my case, the apple looks ready for picking, and apple pie is in the future! The yellow branch is the next element that supports the story of this design.

Tip: Be Fearless!

And just like any good story, now comes the scary part! Suddenly you discover there are no easy design moves, and the word “improvisation” jumps out to grab you! You entertain self-doubts, indulge in second-guessing, and cringe at your little chicken ways. Improvisation stops a lot of us cold.

But I ask you to be fearless! Cut that fabric! Snip that thread! Bravely use a color with no name!

And that’s what I did. I bravely trimmed the square edges from the purple wool into a loopy border. It was scary! And now I need a really big piece of apple pie.

I’ll Show You Mine If You’ll Show Me Yours: Reimagining Art #2

Is there a half-finished project lurking in your studio? Maybe it’s time to reimagine how to complete that piece of artwork, time to look at it from a different perspective. Here’s an example. Five years ago I stitched this swatch of wool as a step-out for the Tasty Apple project in my book Joyful Stitching. Now I’m using it to jumpstart my next free-form embroidery project.

Tip O’the Day: Contrast is Your Friend

The leaf was already filled in with lazy daisy stitches in a variegated size 8 thread saving me some work. So I’ve filled in the remaining apple shape with lots of textural stitches like scattered seed stitches, needle weaving, and my favorite, grids of blanket stitches with French knots placed in the boxes.

Notice that dashed line around the leaf, stem, and apple? That’s a back stitch. I’ve embroidered the back stitch with a light green thread (Sprouts size 8). This thread not only outlines the shapes but is in high contrast with the background fabric. Contrast of color or value defines shapes and projects them from the background. So if you want something to show up, use colors that are in sharp contrast in color or value.

Now that I’ve shown you mine. Can you show me yours? I’d love to see what you’re working on in our reimagination series. Email me at laura at

Planner or Improviser? Reimagining Art #1

Are you a planner or an improviser? For a large piece of artwork, I’m a planner. Sketching the design and then creating a pattern gives me a sense of control. These boundaries help define my vision of the piece.

But with smaller artwork, I’m an improviser. A good example is the FrankenStitch Story seen here. The spontaneity of the improvisational process fills me with a sense of freedom and joy!

And if you enjoy the process and challenge of improvisational embroidery, why not make more?

The trigger for my next embroidery is a leftover step-out from the Tasty Apple project in Joyful Stitching. (I was thinking of calling the project Daughter of FrankenStitch! Ummm… maybe not.)

The stages or step-outs for the Tasty Apple project are stitched on a rich purple felted wool. My friendly wool provider, Tracy Trevethan, hand-dyes beautiful colors. I should know I own a lot of it!

I have four swatches with partial hand embroidery to choose from.

And this is the one I picked for the embroidery project. Why? Because the leaf is already filled in with lots of lazy daisy stitches. Don’t you love how the variegated size 8 Lime Frappe changes color across the leaf shape, adding interest and zing?

I hope you’ll join me and follow the process for this next improvisational embroidery. Who knows what will happen? Think of the possibilities!