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The New Embroidery

There is a revolution going on in the needle arts world. Embroidery has been around for centuries and has always been considered a decorative art for curtains, clothing and pillows. What I’ve seen lately has gone way beyond traditional embroidery.

I first observed this change with Jen Brommell’s work. Last year she spoke at the guild and brought several of her quilts. Her work is improvisational using minimal colors and abstract designs. We all had a chance to view her quilts up close, which I noted were covered with cross hatchings or diagonal lines done with embroidery thread, given the quilts an overall texture.

Shortly after, I went to see her exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Center and saw more quilts covered with this embroidery thread. It was quite thrilling!

Next to Jen’s exhibit was another exhibit by an artist, Jamie Lynn Williams, who presented embroidery in a different way. She used linen or canvas as her background stretched over a frame and then long stitches of thread giving the appearance of brush strokes of paint. Each individual piece was a new take on this art form.

In September, the guild invited Brian Haggard. Although I would call him a more traditional embroidery artist, his quilts were incorporated photographs, crazy quilting and were covered with embroidery. Complementing his wonderful quilts was machine quilting done by Kathy Franks. I liked his work so much I bought one of his books.

While all this seemed to be leading me to locate my box of embroidery thread and needles, I had one more push from Quilting Arts Magazine which ran an article about Meditative Stitching. The article instructed the reader to take a small square of fabric and add patches, buttons or other embellishments along with stitches to hold it all together. I pulled out my box of scraps, threads, buttons and started making small 4” squares. It was most satisfying to be back to stitching, like putting on a favorite pair of shoes and I created a small quilt with patches and embroidery.

The new embroidery revolution is just another way quilters and artists are changing the traditional arts and making them into something new. I hope you have a chance to play with embroidery, too.

Happy stitching!

Mary Ellen Straughn

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