Friday, 19 August 2011

Just doodling

So I've said for some time now that I wanted to go back to embroidery. I enjoyed it as a kid, mostly doing cross-stitching but also working with other free embroidery stitches. Since I began beading I learned how to do bead embroidery and perhaps that is what has at least partially lead me back to embroidery. And then there was this book, which made me discover new stitches that urged me to learn about even more "new" stitches online.

But as with many things it took a long time for me to do any embroidery. At first, I couldn't find my old stash of embroidery floss (yeah, after 15 years or so you tend to forget where you put it). Then I didn't have anything good to embroidery on and that's partially still an issue. After that? Couldn't think of what I wanted to do, what designs to come up with and which techniques to try. And then other things got in the way. Sounds familiar?

Anyway, this week I told myself to stop obsessing about all that and just doodle. Doodling is a very good way to get out of a rut or freeing yourself from creative blocks. I've done it before with beads, using freeform RAW (wrote about that experience  here). This time I did it with thread and needle.

I pulled out a piece of aida that I realised I'd never use for any actual project due to the bright red colour. And then I got out a skein of embroidery cotton in a colour I doubted I'd miss. That was a very important point for me: using materials I doubted I'd have any use for in a future project. I often don't want to use certain items from my stash because I "save them for something special" or don't want to use them up as I won't have any left then (can't always afford to buy new, sometimes it's also a matter of finding it again). So by telling myself I wasn't going to use the thread and cloth anyway, I got over that specific mental block.

Then I just doodled. Noting tidy, nothing planned or designed. Just doing a stitch I wanted to do, one I already know or one I want to learn how to do. The stitch I'm working on might be the one to inspire my next step or I choose a stitch I've been meaning to learn or I pick up a book and flip through to find a stitch that seems fun. Just going with the flow. Barely bothering to secure the ends of the threads and transporting them across the back of the aida. It doesn't matter. Some stitches are uneven, the aida is pulled too taut in places. But it doesn't matter. What matters is to keep stitchin, keep enjoying the work of the hands and feeling the flow. It's like some sort of meditation. Time just flies passed.

One thing about using counted thread is that it made it easier when testing new stitches as I could use the grid as an aid. I didn't have to think about spacing the stitches (somewhat) evenly or counting anything. It was like rolling down a highway: the grid creating an easy-to-follow path without any obstacles. You could say the structured design of the aida made it smoother to stitch in this unstructured way doodling is, if that makes any sense.

My big hurdle when it comes to creating is always the starting phase. Always. Must sound silly sometimes because I'm talking about things I love to do. Still, it can be a real block, a huge hurdle for me to overcome sometimes. Not least when I begin thinking about what I can and can't use in my stash (as discussed above) or when I can't afford buying supplies I need. But doodling is so free and informal, it can be the perfect way to begin creating after an off period. No obsessing about using the right materials or making something that looks good. No thinking or planning, just doing. No worrying about the end result -- it's only the act of doing something that matters. If the end result is good or you find inspirational details in it, it's a great bonus, but if it isn't good or useful for future designs it's not a failure. It's a success the second you begin working on it.

 And that is how doodling works for me. It's like warming up for the real race or just playing around. All fun, no demands or goals to reach (or fail to reach). Not sure the method would work for everyone, but if you have the same issues I have or like to put a lot of pressure on yourself (like I often do), you might want to try it if you haven't done it before. Freeform techniques, no matter in what medium, are perfect for this.


...and for those of you interested in embroidery, here's a close-up of the stitches. As you can see two things I really, really like are herringbone stitch variations and threaded and whipped stitches. Click on the image for the full picture -- it's 1400 pixels wide so you can really see each stitch. If not in detail so enough to make out what type of stitches they are.

 I've used about a quarter of the aida so far so there's still a lot of room for more doodling. Though I think I must find another fabric for trying out stitches that doesn't work well on counted thread.

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