More thoughts on doodle embroidery

Since my previous post, it’s been bugging me as to why the interest in doodle embroidery has caught on. Partly, it’s due to a couple of authors bringing out books featuring that style of embroidery, so that it’s been put in the public eye. I think at least one of them has a business selling the designs featured in the book she’s published.

My book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’, published in 1996, which is now only available second-hand

I’ve no problem with that – I did the same when my book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’ came out in 1996. Now, it’s only available second-hand, though – it’s been out of print for over five years. Blame Guild of Master Craftsman Publications – they decided to remainder it, not me! Most of the designs from the book are still available individually as chart packs from my website, though.

What interests me, in particular, is what grabs the imagination of the public and makes them think ‘Mmm, I’d like to do that’, once they see a certain style appearing, that’s new to them. Is it really the idea that they want to stitch something, but think that, as they’ve got very little time (apparently – see the previous post on this subject!), they choose a project from the perspective of the time it will take to finish, rather than the enjoyment they will have while they are creating it?

When I used to sell my miniature needlepoint kits at needlecraft shows around the country (I don’t attend shows any more, I sell only from my website), people would sometimes ask, ‘How long will this one take to complete?’, and that always bemused me, as I’d never think of the ‘time cost’ when I’m considering buying a kit. What’s more important to me is the aesthetic look of the finished item, the interest I’ll get from doing (learning to do?) the various stitching or other techniques needed, the colour scheme and where I’ll put the finished item, etc. etc. Possibly the cost is a factor. But the number of hours it’ll take is virtually irrelevant – I’ll stitch it till it’s finished.

It would be like asking in a restaurant ‘How long does it take to eat that?’, and if you’re told ‘twenty minutes’, then you’d choose something smaller/easier to chew up. Doesn’t make sense, does it? You’d choose your food, hopefully, on how it tastes, not on how quickly you can stuff it down your throat.

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Doodle embroidery – what is it all about?

A selection (very SMALL selection, actually!) of my embroidery books

Yesterday, I went to a really good, independent bookshop near where I live. It’s called Webberley’s, in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, and it’s a great shop. Two floors of books, both fiction and non-fiction, on all sorts of subjects. A large craft materials section makes it even better.

I was hoping to browse through their craft/embroidery books section, and maybe make a few suggestions to ‘Santa’, as he’d come, ready-prepared, with his credit card. However, I came away disappointed, and not for the first time, after looking through recent embroidery book titles.

It’s not the shop’s fault – I know they can only buy in what’s available from the publishers – but I find the latest ‘craze’ for books on ‘quick and easy’ embroidery extremely depressing. The projects in the books seem to all be things like ‘how to stitch three buttons onto a shop-bought cushion, add some lazy daisy stitches and you’ve got a wonderful addition to your home’. No you haven’t, actually.

And why are the only ‘allowable’ colour schemes brown, brown, and more brown?

And don’t start me on ‘doodle embroidery’! What’s that all about? Take a line drawing of something that looks like bad clipart (is there such a thing as ‘good’ clipart?), and then backstitch over all the lines, often in just one colour. Voila! Erm…you’ve then got a line drawing that’s been backstitched over. What do you then DO with it?

The embroidery books that I’ve loved to collect over the years are truly inspirational. Gorgeous photography, projects that have your fingers itching to start as soon as you open the book, instructions so clear that even a completely new technique looks simple enough to try. Stumpwork, ribbon embroidery, thread-painting, blackwork, 3-D projects, historical items…they’re all tempting if presented in the right way.

The selling point with a lot of the designs in recent books is that they’re quick to finish. This is partly what I dislike about them. I know there is a modern myth that ‘people these days have less time’. It’s very easy to buy into that idea. However, there may be more things available to do now than in previous times, but each person still has the option of CHOOSING – and maybe that’s the real problem. Many people watch TV for five hours a day, and think that’s OK. Then they say they’ve got no time. Excuse me? Turn the thing off. Even better, get rid of it. You’d be amazed how much more can be achieved when the  time-filling, gadget-needing activities are eliminated.

If someone has little time, but still wants to do somethng creative like embroidery, I do question the idea that a project needs to be completed in one session, too. If you’ve only got half an hour a day to stitch, but you work on one project for a month (30 lots of half hours), you can easily make a very worthwhile item in a month.  What’s wrong with that?

Maybe I’m just weird 🙂

I do sometimes get the response, ‘Well, it’s OK for you, you’re a designer, so of course you like the complicated designs – it’s easy for you.’  But that idea won’t wash either, I’m afraid. I’ve never had professional training in embroidery. I taught myself, from the age of four, because I was ENTHUSIASTIC. I became very focussed on what I wanted to do, sometimes dropping other activities to allow more time for what really interested me. If people never push themselves, we’d all still be sitting in our prams, eating rusks, not achieving anything. Perhaps I’m just more determined than other people? I dunno.

OK, rant over. I think I’ll go and have another look through the heaps of books I’ve already got on embroidery….

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My weekend of Dances of Universal Peace (with embroidery as an added ingredient!)

Birmingham Mike Hadden 091107

Last weekend, there were two good one-day Dances of Universal Peace events on, both within driving distance of where we live. As we couldn’t choose between them, we decided to go to both!

The first one was at the Friends Meeting House in Hall Green, Birmingham. This one happens monthly, and we manage to go most months. The building is lovely – Victorian, I think, and cosy with a quiet feel to it. The day is led by Mike Hadden and his wife, Suzanne, who have their own website with information about the Dances and dates of upcoming events.

Friends Meeting House Hall Green
The Friends Meeting House, Hall Green, Birmingham

We danced from 10.30 till 4pm, with a break for lunch (brought by the participants). Several of the dances were new to me – a couple, in particular, were really lovely. One, called ‘Namaste’, had the lines ‘I honour the place in you where the entire Universe dwells. I honour the place in me where the entire Universe dwells’. It was a very slow, meditative dance, done in pairs. The other dance I don’t know the name of, but the words were something like ‘There is a secret One inside us, All the stars and all the galaxies, Run through Her hands like beads’. It’s based on part of a poem by Tagore, I think. Anyway, it was great, too.

Sheffield Yoga Centre Gulzar 091108
The altar table at Sheffield

On Sunday, we went to the Sheffield Yoga Centre, and had another great day of Dances led by Christina Lausevic (her Sufi name is Gulzar). She plays guitar to accompany the dances she leads, and my husband, Chris,  plays drum for some of the dances, too (when he’s not dancing, that is). Gulzar adds other practices to her Dance Days, so we also did some drumming, and walking meditations.

A beautiful Indian embroidered panel, over the doorway to the room where we danced
A beautiful Indian embroidered panel, over the doorway to the room where we danced

As I’m always on the lookout for embroidery, it didn’t take me long to spot this gorgeous Indian wallhanging, as it was strung across the doorway into the room where we danced.

Sheffield door embroidery detail
A detailed view of the wallhanging

It was lovely – lots of tiny shisha mirrors had been embroidered on it, and, although it was a bit worn in places (it’s obviously quite old), it was a very carefully made piece. I just love the colours!

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How does the embroidery design inspiration process take shape?

judith1200
A doll’s house miniature carpet (called ‘Judith’) designed at the ‘right’ time!

I was thinking about how I actually start designing, today, as I can sometimes go for weeks without any inspiration, and then, like buses, several ideas come along at once.

The embroidery design inspiration process, for me anyway, is a strange thing. I can be inspired by so many things for my doll’s house embroidery kits – colour schemes, historical artefacts, shop window displays, nature – almost anything, really. But one thing that I know now DOESN’T help, and that is to push an idea out when it isn’t ready. In the past, I have felt pressured to perhaps ‘get four designs out this month’, or something like that, and forced myself to sit down at the computer and produce something. But it simply doesn’t work like that, so I don’t try any more. With writing, I can do it, but with embroidery, it has to come of its own accord.

Also, I have noticed that my design spurts are linked to my hormones! Not to put too fine a point on it, there are times of the  month when I can design stuff that I’m really pleased with, and times when what I design is only fit for the round filing cabinet on the floor. Unfortunately, though, part of the ‘hormone effect’ is that the rubbish that I design at the ‘wrong’ times, seems fine for a few days, until common sense returns and I can see it for the drivel that it is. I have noticed that colour schemes, in particular, are affected by the hormone effect – shades that look strange together look vaguely alluring when it’s the wrong time for me to be trying to design. It’s a bit like having cravings for foods which don’t go together, I suppose!

tanya
This doll’s house miniature carpet (called ‘Tanya’) was definitely designed at the ‘wrong’ time! It has since been discontinued.

When I am designing a ‘good one’, though, the test that I apply is quite simple – I keep on tweaking the pattern until I start to get the itchy feeling of  ‘I want to start stitching this one NOW!!’  Then I know it’s finished – if I keep going, I’m just going to overdo it.

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