From Studio Journal Design to Embroidery: A hand embroidered file cover part 1

From Studio Journal Design to Embroidery: A hand embroidered file cover part 1

This is the first in a series of articles illustrating the development of my hand embroidered file cover from its start in my studio journal to its design, and then sharing how I stitched the design and the design decisions made along the way.

Hand embroidered File cover design in journal 1

The source of the design

The idea for this project started because at the end of our street, we have a green belt that is being re-planted after the bush fires that hit Canberra in 2003. I had thought I might explore working a few little pieces associated with that area of land as it had seen some dramatic changes. The topic of the fires, the environment, global warming, the devastation, then the regrowth and the changes associated with the Canberra fires is large enough to be a series of works. I was not sure I wanted to work a huge serious series of works but was exploring ideas in my studio journal. I decided I wanted to take it a step further and use my needle to apply the ideas in fabric and thread. Rather than launch into a series of full wall pieces I decided I would first work a sample that could become a file cover. It was a way of testing some of the the ideas I had without committing to a huge long process of a big work.

Hand embroidered File cover design in journal

I started exploring imagery and patterns drawing summer grasses but after a long period of faffing about with these (not shown) I decided summer grasses did not really catch the mood of what I was thinking about. The fires were not mere little grass fires. They were forests ablaze that whipped up such heat they became a firestorm ripping through the suburbs taking nearly 500 homes with it. I decided to focus on a few remaining trees that survived the fires. These are gum trees. At first I had an aversion to using such a cliche of an Australian gum leaf but the more I played with it the more I felt they spoke of Australian summers, heat and in this case survival. I started with just a few individual leaves then after working about 20 designs the leaf shapes moved together producing the page above. When I saw it I decided that would be the pattern. I liked the composition so decided to use it.

Hand embroidered File cover design in journal thread and bead choice

I traced the page to produce a line drawing that I could use as a pattern. Next I sorted out the colour scheme and threads. I chose chunky threads as I did not want delicate stitching. I did choose some cotton perle #5 and #8 but I also chose linen and cotton abroder threads which are dull. They do not have a sheen. I wanted earthy summer colours that felt natural, not threads that had a high sheen to them as they felt too decorative.

I then chose beads that were made of wood and shell. They were unpolished and in some cases a bit rough as once again I wanted a natural feel to the piece. I then scaled up the drawing so it would be the right size for a file cover. I used a window as light box to transfer the design to fabric ( a tutorial on how to do this is here) and started to stitch.

Hand embroidered File cover design started

The fabric I chose is a 26 count linen that is a jute fawn type of colour which will sit well the natural theme of the design which is of gum leaves. The colour is nicer in life than in the photograph.

As you can see I have started to stitch. The top left and bottom right hand areas are stitched using Satin stitch, Padded Satin Stitch. The fine lines you can see are made with Back Stitch, and Running Stitch. I have started to outline the top leaf in Stem Stitch and bottom leaf is outlined in a heavier linear stitch, whipped chain stitch. The textured surface stitches I am using are Bullion knots, French knots, Buttonhole wheels, Buttonhole Wheel Cups and Cast-on stitch. All of these stitches you can find in my Stitch Dictionary.

hand embroidered file cover part 4

Click on the image to see a large version of the finished project. From Studio Journal Design to Embroidery posts in the series are.

My book for creative stitchers

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery book cover

If you enjoy my site you will gain real value from my book:  Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery: Visual Guide to 120 Essential Stitches for Stunning Designs

Feeling stale? Wondering how to add sparkle to your embroidery? I have aimed Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery to be suitable for both beginners and seasoned embroiderers. It introduces techniques to encourage your creative interpretations of stitches. I guide you towards discovering play-points in your embroidery by varying the height and width; by stacking stitches; or by filling multiple rows with the same stitch. With creative variations and demonstrations of tiny tweaks, You will be ready to head off down your own creative path and, of course, illustrated with plenty of eye candy!

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  1. Hi Sharon,
    This is my first time commenting on your blog. My! what an inspiration you are! I just love your work . Thank you for being so willing to share your knowledge, I do appreciate this so much. I too just love working with needle and thread and love a challege. This lastest embroidery of yours is again just amasing. The way you approach your design has given me a good idea of how to create my own design, thank you.
    Thanks again

    Maria Firstbrook
  2. This is really gorgeous Sharon. Lovely to see how 'an expert' approaches design. I love the colours, but then I suppose I would love them, being a passionate Australian. Can't wait to see it when you complete the whole picture.

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