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(Fogra 39) Job:02-28051 Title:RP-Textile Artist Handbook
#175 DTP:225 Page:157
152-159_28051.indd 157 3/6/12 8:57 PM
needleworkThe TexT ile ArT isT 's sTudio hAndbook
Crewelwork is a kind of free embroidery that produces
a varied and intricate surface through the laying down
of stitches side by side. As with other kinds of free
embroidery, the stitches are not dependent on the wo-
ven grid in the ground cloth. The pattern is based on
embroidering stitches in different sizes and directions
to create a continuous color field. By changing the di-
rection of the stitches, the embroiderer changes the
angle at which the light reects off the thread. That in
turn alters the shade of the color a little bit. This subtle
change can offer a rich and sophisticated feel to the
finished piece without using more than three or four
different stitches. Crewelwork is most effective with
silk thread (as was done traditionally in China), but you
can use wool and cotton yarns as well. To appreciate
the full range of possibilities, you only need master
the most familiar stitches. Most commonly, crewel-
work is comprised of patterning done with the satin
stitch, backstitch, stem stitch, and chain stitch.
Cross Stitch
Cross stitch is named for the “X” stitch formed when
two straight stitches are crossed. This single embroi-
dery stitch has become a particular technique in itself.
If you like the look of traditional Scandinavian textiles
or textiles from the Greek Islands, you will love cross
stitch. It is precise and meticulous work with the pat-
tern often preprinted on woven cotton or linen cloth
(with warp and weft forming a grid) and the colors
blocked off. To make the stitches the same length,
the embroiderer counts the number of threads in the
background fabric. Because of the regularity of the
stitching, both sides of the fabric look the same, mak-
ing the fabric reversible. The stitch itself can morph,
changing the crossing angle to form other stitches
such as the herringbone stitch, but the crossing pat-
tern remains consistent.
Though a very old traditional form of decorative
embroidery, there are contemporary artists such as
Katherine Shaughnessy who have applied the crewel-
work technique to more contemporary work.
Cross stitch is another form of using thread to draw.
In cross stitch, stitches are regular and even, and the fab-
ric is reversible. Shown here is the work of Jamie Chalmers,
aka Mr X Stitch, a very popular UK–based artist.
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The TexT ile ArT isT 's sTudio hAndbook
Sometimes called needle weaving or white work be-
cause it is often done on a white ground with white
thread, openwork refers to all embroidery that looks
like lace but is really stitching on fabric. This kind of
needlework is very old and has a deep history in Scan-
dinavian textile art. This technique requires precision
to remove specific threads from the ground fabric to
form open spaces or holes. Once a regular pattern is
established, the holes are rimmed with embroidery
stitches to create the appearance of lace. Openwork
is traditionally applied to table linens and bedding as
borders, but can be used anywhere to create an open
If you like the look of open spaces in cloth, you can
also try the technique called cutwork, or broderie an-
gaise. This technique removes more of the ground
cloth than openwork and is often found in decorative
cuffs on clothing and high-end bed- and table linens.
To do cutwork, regular embroidery stitches are
worked in patterns before any cloth is cut away. The
result is a highly intricate and frilly fabric, like the
one often seen in collars and cuffs in the sixteenth-
century Spanish court.
ABOVE Tracy A. Franklin is an excel-
lent example of an artist who uses
many techniques such as open-, cut-,
and drawn-thread work. She is truly a
specialist in the field.
Drawn-Thread Work
If you don’t like the idea of cutting out background
threads, you can experiment with drawn-thread work.
This technique creates open spaces that are lace-
like, but the ground cloth stays intact. The spaces are
achieved through a pulling apart threads and securing
them in a pattern with embroidery stitches. Nothing
is cut, so that the edges of the holes are a little bit
thicker than those in openwork and cutwork.
Decorative beading is a means of adding sparkle and
texture to fabrics and other accessories. It was tradi-
tionally done with glass, wood, or animal bone beads
and other natural materials, but has greatly expanded
today to include many more materials such as syn-
thetics. Beading can be done through on- and off-
loom weaving, stringing, sewing, gluing, embroidery,
knitting, and crochet. Every form of textile media can
benet from a sparkle or two.
There is some difference in the appearance of beads
that have been applied to the fiber before it is woven,
knitted, or fully constructed and the look of beads that
are sewn or glued on later. The latter will have a more
pronounced dimensionality and may be more vulner-
able to damage through wear and use of the cloth be-
cause they lie atop the fabric rather than integrated
into the fabric construction.
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