Take Your Hand Stitches on a New Journey

When I started hand stitching as a girl, I focused on traditional techniques like counted cross stitch and projects like samplers. It wasn't until many years later that I realized I could take my hand stitches anywhere I wanted them to go, without following a pre-determined pattern.

images that inspire hand stitches
Helen Parrott uses images like these to inspire
radiant hand stitch designs.

Once you start thinking of hand stitches as ways of making marks, you begin to notice inspiration everywhere. Using your own photos or a sketchbook to record patterns in nature, architecture, and so on, you can develop a reference guide to use for developing your own hand-stitching language.

In her book Mark Making: Fresh Inspiration for Quilt and Fiber Artists, Helen Parrott shows how to find, record, and develop stitched marks for your textile art.

For example, Helen shows how to use the simple running stitch to create a radiating pattern using natural and manmade objects for inspiration.

"A simple running stitch line can be applied in many ways," writes Helen. "In traditional North Country hand quilting, stitching is begun in the center of a piece and then worked outwards. This helps to ensure that the final textile is as smooth and wrinkle-free as possible, and has an even tension. My research into this way of working led me to make a piece of textile artwork influenced by this method.

"Using your chosen fabric, thread and needle, build up a series of lines, each starting in the center and working outwards in the radial pattern" shown here.

how to do the radiant hand stitch
How to do the radiant stitch, from
Mark Making
by Helen Parrott.

How to do radiant stitch
By Helen Parrott

1. Starting from the center and working outwards, stitch the lines in numerical order, starting at 1, using running stitch. Then stitch the quarter division lines (lines 2, 3, and 4 on the diagram).

2. Add further rows of stitch, always bisecting the space left between two rows to keep an even tension.

hand stitches inspired by flowers
Radiant stitching inspired by flowers.

3. Continue to add more lines of stitch, bisecting the remaining spaces, until the work is sufficiently stitched. Note: The placement of the lines of stitches was judged by eye. The lines could be marked out before stitching if that is helpful.

Although I'm an experienced hand stitcher, Helen's exercises and beautifully photographed examples opened my mind to many new possibiltilites, making Mark Making one of my must-have resources.

P.S. What inspires your hand stitching? Leave a comment below.

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