In the past few years, the art of embroidery has steadily gained in popularity, whether in terms of decorating a place with an already finished piece or learning to craft and create pieces for yourself. If you already have an interest in embroidery or fiber arts, then you might know some of the more popular types of embroidery designs.
While there's no specific set of designs used in every single embroidered piece, there are different traditions and a few old standbys that tend to see a lot of usage. Instead of worrying about coming off as "derivative" or "boring", try embracing them! Popular embroidery designs can still be beautiful as they are, but with a little ingenuity, something previously considered "commonplace" can be turned into a truly creative work of art. Try these ideas out to make those popular but common embroidery designs into something truly extraordinary.
Embroidery itself is naturally textured. Any piece you work on will stand out, not just for its quality and style, but for the peaks and valleys it will make out of any formerly flat piece of material. Instead of trying to keep things as level as you can, work with the changes! Your "garden variety" flowers can become beautiful and noticeable with the usage of newer 3D techniques, like loops and loose threads, or older ones, like French knots and couching.
Whether you're doing something as simple as thistle, or as complicated as a rose, there's a technique to take it to the next level. If you decide ahead of time what kind of flower you want, then you'll have an easier time looking for past projects other people did. You should be able to find a technique that fits, but if nothing matches well, the amount of different threads going into a piece makes different techniques much easier to combine!
Our second suggestion ties in well with the first. While embroidery is a static art, you can easily give it a feeling of movement by leaving your "page", or base material. Turn the edge of the embroidery hoop into the "ground", and leave cute root vegetables hanging off the edge, or have your river flow in one end and out the other. Some embroidery artists even leave their creations with longer thread for hair, then come back and style it later.
This type of technique would require a little more time and effort, but it can easily be combined with some of the 3D techniques from our first tip, to make flowers for a long river or extended walkway, or coral or sea anemones for an ocean scene.
Don't like how decorated an embroidery piece looks? Take things in the opposite direction and try a more minimalistic approach! Outline things that might otherwise be heavily colored and detailed and focus on the simplicity of the shapes. You can turn something as standard as fallen leaves, or complicated as a blossom, into a delicate tracery of black and white.
Another angle to take here is going geometric. Build the bigger shapes with more detail out of smaller pieces with less of it. While geometric designs do lend themselves best to patterns, any outline can be easily broken down into its component shapes. It's possible to "draw" a young buck in triangles and thread with little more than your creativity and a good starting design.
There's a long tradition of the usage of other items in embroidery. Things like beads and beadwork, appliqué, ribbons, fabric, and even yarn and knitted pieces, are often incorporated into embroidery when they're not being embroidered upon. Are you worried about the animals you make looking ordinary? Use patches of fabric to make leopard spots or giraffe patches and brighten up your work in an easy way. Beads can easily turn the center of a flower into something intricate and eye-catching, and yarn can offer a more stable base for a sturdier construction.
Adding in different mediums also helps play to the previously mentioned strengths of embroidery! You can change up textures much more easily by introducing new mediums to your basic stitch work or leap off the page with embroidered constructions of ribbon, yarn, or appliqué.
So, you don't think you can finish the piece you're working on, or you can't think of a way to continue it, or you just don't feel like it. Maybe there are sections you don't mind doing as much, or maybe certain stitches are fun, and others feel like you're slogging through an endless heap of scrapped floss and stabbed fingers. That's okay! It's your piece, your work, and eventually, it's going to be your style.
Instead of forcing yourself to work on a section you can't stand, why not look at it from another angle? Are the skipped sections of stitching going to leave your work looking unfinished? If the answer is no, then great! If it's yes, that's still great. Figure out if your piece looks unfinished in a deliberate way, like you're showcasing white space and undone thread, or if unfinished in a sloppy way. If it's the second, you can always spend a little extra time tying off loose ends to make something accidental look intentional.
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