Wild Ideas for Free-motion Stitching

machine stitched rose pillow sew wild
Rosette pillow from Sew Wild.

pokey boltonI just finished teaching my Printapalooza class at the CREATE mixed-media retreat in Chicago, where I was blown away by the creative energy of all the artists who taught and participated. People were stitching, painting, printing, playing with plaster, doodling, sketchingoften all at the same time!

As it always happens when I'm with a group of artists creating in this way, I come away with a desperate urge to get back into my studio and experiment with all the new things I've learned. As you read this, however, I'm taping Season  9 of 'QATV' (where I will get even more inspiration), so my studio session will have to wait a bit.

In the meantime, I'm keeping notes in my sketchbook so I'll remember all the ideas I want to try. I recommend keeping a sketchbook for this purpose; you can use your notes as creative prompts when you get stuck for inspiration.

Even if you can't attend a retreat, you can make a list of prompts based on what you see in your daily travels or from art books or how-to videos.

One thing I like to do when I learn a new technique is to brainstorm about all the ways I can take it further. A perfect example of this is in Alisa Burke's new book with DVD, Sew Wild: Creating with Stitch and Mixed-Media. In each chapter she explores a basic mixed-media stitch technique and then encourages you to "go wild" with it.

I particularly like her ideas for free-motion stitching. I mean, just when I think I've come across every way you can stitch or every surface you can stitch on, Alisa comes up with more. Here are just some of her suggestions that I plan to use as prompts:

Things to stitch on:
Recycled fabric; wallpaper; hand-dyed fabric; fused plastic bags; painted fabric; bleached and stenciled fabric; wrapping paper; recycled cardboard packaging; brown paper bags; corrugated cardboard.

machine stitch samples
Some of Alisa's stitch swatches
from Sew Wild.

Thread experiments:
Light and dark colors of thread on contrasting surfaces; stitched lines of varying weights; thin curvy lines for a peaceful and airy appearance; only primary colors of thread; expressive zigzag lines for energy and excitement; dark repeating lines for a bold appearance; different values of one color of thread; stitching outlines of shapes and objects; stitching shades on shapes and objects; different colors of stitching layered on each other.

It's a great idea to make up a series of swatches using these prompts, and then put the swatches in your sketchbook for later experimentation.

You may never again stitch with primary colors on corrugated paper or zigzag on plastic bags. But it's so valuable to have at least tried something "wild" in your art. You might want to pull back or you might want to take the experiment even further. But you always learn something.

There are so many learning opportunities in Sew Wild, it's like going on a mixed-media stitch retreat without the time and expense of travel!

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