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Exploring Stitching with Process Art Embroidery
Back in February, I teamed up with my friends at Oh! Canary Art Studio, the wonderful process art studio in Sam’s hometown (& my neighboring hometown!) of Maplewood, NJ, for an all-ages workshop on Process Art Embroidery. Oh! Canary owner’s Lacey had seen me on Instagram playing with haphazard, intuitive stitches inspired by the incredible fiber artist Elizabeth Pawle and asked if we could team up to co-host a workshop like this for our New Jersey friends!
This class turned out to be one of the most joyful, inspiring workshops I’ve ever been part of! Parents and kids alike spent two hours with needle and hoop in hand exploring the sensation of stitching yarn to fabric and experimenting with the art elements of texture, color, and shape. There were no rules and no end goals other than seeing where our needles and imaginations would take us.
This focus on the process over end result is what process art is all about.
My friend Meri Cherry, the amazing LA-based process art teacher and studio owner, beautifully explains process art in Play, Make, Create, her gorgeous, inspiring book of process art invitations. Meri writes:
“Process art is about the journey. It is about listening, connecting, empathizing, and wondering. Process art honors the individual in all of us. It values critical thinking, exploration, thinking outside the box, and the developmental process of each individual. Simply put… Process art is all about the making and the doing, rather than the finished product.”
Too often in my classes, I sense the anxiety building in some students when the thing they’re making doesn’t look exactly like the project sample or when they get to a step in the lesson that is so new and intimidating to them that they literally forget to breathe. (Literally!)
What made the class at Oh! Canary so exuberant, so invigorating, was that there were ZERO expectations put on the students and what their outcome “should” be. Rather, the workshop was two hours spent in the creative zone, where we all tapped into that sense of exploration and thinking outside the box to which Meri so eloquently alludes.
“Process art is all about the making and the doing, rather than the finished product.” -Meri Cherry – Play, Make, Create
Needless to say, this sense of joy through creating is something from which all of us can benefit during this pandemic — a time when so many of us are stuck at home and are simultaneously in need of a sense of escape and ways to connect with ourselves more deeply.
With that in mind, we recently introduced a Process Embroidery Mini Kit to our shop so that you can hopefully experience the same joy we all felt during our in-person class in February. This kit contains all the materials you need to explore the process of stitching on fabric and is perfect for ALL ages, starting around 5+.
Here is how you can set up a process embroidery session for yourself and your family at home!
- Embroidery hoop*
- Burlap* (recommended for kids) or scrap fabric
- Yarn needle* for embroidering on burlap or embroidery needle for embroidering on fabric
- Needle threader* (optional but recommended)
- Assorted yarns,* threads and embroidery floss
- Assorted beads* with holes big enough for yarn needle to pull through
*Comes in our Process Embroidery Mini Kit!
SET IT UP
Setup for this project is simple! Put out bowls or baskets filled with yarns and threads in assorted textures (scraps are super fun for this!) along with whatever large beads you have lying around, just make sure their holes are large enough for the needle you’re using to go through.
Each crafter should get an embroidery hoop. I find a smaller hoop (~4-6″) is best because filling up a small space is less overwhelming and has faster, more instantly gratifying results!
Each crafter will also need fabric and a needle. Younger children and children new to handing a needle do best with burlap and a plastic needle, as the needle is safe for small hands and the holes in the burlap make for easy stitching! Bigger kids and adults can try this with a large-eye embroidery needle and regular fabric (canvas and quilting squares work really well!).
Cut your square of fabric to be slightly larger than your hoop, anchor fabric in your hoop, then it’s time to start stitching!
Choose your first piece of yarn (whatever color or texture calls out to you!), tie a fat knot at the end, thread your needle, and start stitching! For younger kiddos working with burlap and a plastic needle, you can knot the yarn to the needle after you thread it to prevent it from slipping off, just test it to make sure the knot is small enough to still go through the burlap.
Go in and out of your fabric, letting your stitches take you wherever they lead you! You can also add beads, pom poms, tassels, and whatever else you like to add playful texture to your work.
When you are done with a section of stitches, you can secure your embroidery on the back by tying a big knot, passing your needle under a recent stitch & securing a knot, or tying the beginning and ending tails together.
The stitch possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas from our class to help get your imagination going…
Stitch in the round! Work from the middle going out or the outside going in for a colorful textured bullseye effect.
Mix your yarns to create playful color blends!
Zig zag and layer! Go back and forth to create zig zags and overlap your stitches.
Create an embroidery rainbow by grouping your stitches by color!
Add letter beads to spell out a beautiful message.
Embroider a thread and bead galaxy!
FINISH & DISPLAY YOUR WORK!
Once you are satisfied with your embroidery creation, you’ll hopefully want to display it for all to see! If you stitched on burlap, simply trim off the excess along the edge of your hoop. If you stitched on fabric, use a piece of yarn to cinch in the edges of your fabric on the backside, making sure to pull in any loose corners.
Process embroidery is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to process art! For more ideas for process art invitations, check out process art masters Oh! Canary (videos on some of Lacey’s best project here & at-home kits here!) and Meri Cherry Studio (more fun projects on Meri’s blog & epic virtual classes here!).
Peace, love & neon,