Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Some thoughts on Embroidery

I'm quite embarrassed of your kind comments on the embroidery! Thank you for each one of them...


I was not born with the skill, only with the passion for yarn and for beauty. Having the passion has made the hours more pleasant while trying to learn. Many many hours have gone by with needle and floss and what you have seen here on the blog are not my first attempts on embroidery.

Inspiration (or motifs) for embroidery are all over. When I look at the cookie I'm here having with tea, there is the shape of a cookie and some curves from a cookie presser (I don't know if that is the right word choice here) I could use for embroidery. There are fabrics, wall papers and books. Children's books are very good for sources for gathering motifs. Whatever shape or line or curve pleases my eye, I take it. There are also books for motifs entirely, maybe you want to take a look into this site of the Embroiderer's Guild, go for the book categories and there drawing and design.

I draw the motif into the right size. I study the lines and the curves and shapes and try to memorize the motion of the line or movement of the design. I try to know them thoroughly. And memorize them so that I don't need to transfer the design to the wool because I find it difficult. I like the freehand embroidery better. I just chalk in with tailor's chalk the main lines. I have the drawing by me so that I can see what I planned but I might choose to rearrange things along the way or add something or leave something out completely. I pick the color palette for the design but not for separate motifs, I decide the colors for them while I embroider.

Stitches depend on the picture and on the motifs and on the preferences as well. Today I feel the love for chain stitches but there is a soft spot in my heart for buttonhole as well, sort of like for stockinette and and lace.

The embroidery wool I use I buy from the Renaissance Dyeing. They have absolutely fantastic palette and really they have done all the work for me already when dyeing the wool. The wool is light and soft and a pleasure to make delicate and small stitches with.

I know what I'm about to say next might not work for everyone but this is so me that I'll say few words anyway. I'm built this way: I go for the mistakes, I search for them, I dig them out fiercely. I have to find them all not for the sake of the mistakes but for becoming better. Mostly the mistake is quite obvious to me, and instead of looking away from it, I underline it. I try to be honest. What went wrong and why the outcome is not pleasing? All the "what ifs" are good questions to me. I try to answer the questions too, find the solutions. This conversation is very private. Sometimes it takes time and there are occasions when I don't find a good solution. I don't tell myself that is is good when I know it is not. Very often I don't like my work when it is done. I don't think there are more than five things (maybe not even that many) that I have liked when finished. But I just have to keep on trying.

I can live with the mistakes. It is not the end of the world. I'm not afraid of them or making the same one again. Mostly they just leave me with a desire to try harder. Very exhausting at times. But would not trade this for anything.

Not even for ice skating.


  1. Marlyce Swinnerton in Windsor,Ontario,Canadah12:56

    Thank you for describing your art and craft talent in embroidery. I think it is true that not everybody is like you in the way a mistake is perceived. I know that I do not look for it and underline it. I try to avoid looking at it, and sometimes I look at it "slanted" and "squint eyed" trying not to see it. If it continues to hit me in the eye, then I'll try to correct it. Your way yields better results. I will study the embroidery stitches book you recommend, and start practising. I have done a little bit of embroidery on knitting, but usually using tear-away scrim on which I have traced the design, and I embroider through it and the knitting. And I have used cotton embroidery threads on cotton knitting--neither of which stretch much. I will try your process, because the results are so beautiful. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Thank you for that explaination.

    I hear you about searching out the mistakes. I am my own worst critic. And people often say, "It looks fine to me." And it is fine because the garment is still useable and beautiful. I just want to be able to do it better next time.

  3. I believe the best of stitchers often don't like or are very modest about their work. If we didn't make mistakes, we would never learn anything new. Your work remains, beautiful.

  4. Art and work, and passion, and taste for nice materials all work together in your very beautiful work!

  5. Thank you for such an in-depth explanation about your embroidery. Can't wait to see the finished sweater.

  6. sonja poor16:47

    Your work is beautiful and your pictures so warm and nice. Thank you for sharing your work and your thoughts on your work. And thanks, especially, for another drawing.

  7. Anonymous17:13

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and inspirations. I think you are a talented artist and teacher. Sharing your personal drive to improve is appreciated. As always, the Finish lessons are also appreciated and enjoyed.

  8. Yes, maybe it is only us who see our mistakes, but…. Mom remarked this weekend that I shouldn't bother to rip back and fix the lace on her sweater. But I had to. For me -- not for her. And I do learn from it. So it all equals out.

    Another masterpiece, Lene.

    Ooo… I did so miss the wee birdie… kiitos!

  9. Lene, thank you for the explanation of your embroidery. I think it is the passion that makes you and your work so beautiful. Thanks also for bringing back the little bird. Have the others gone into hibernation? We did not see them so much this summer, I would guess they were busy with gardening, berry picking, etc.

  10. Thank you for the delightful description - though it still is a mystery to me! I have never embroidered, but I am certainly inspired now to learn!!!
    I know what you mean about seeking out the mistakes to learn from them. That you enjoy the process means you are a talented and thoughtful artist.

  11. Welcome back little bird! It's a delight to see you again. My tongue doesn't easily wrap around new words but the Word Messengers make Finnish so tasty I want to try.

    Rooting out and analyzing mistakes is a self-discipline not many are willing to endure. Your artwork in its many forms never fail to produce a sense of joy and contemplation - products of your self-discipline.

  12. I do look for what went wrong with my knitting. I want to get better at the craft. I have found sometimes I do not have the heart to undo the work and do it again the right way. But at other times, it is essential to keep trying till it is perfect.

    Even the pattern the skater made on the ice is so graceful! Another pretty line to study :-)

  13. Your embroidery is just lovely. It makes me think of a book I bought.Handplagg. Do you have this book? It is in Norwegian and so I do not understand some things, but it is wonderful eye candy.

  14. Yeah! Finnish Lessons are back!
    Thank you so much Lene for taking time out of your busy day and away from your own beloved knitting to teach and share with us!
    I learn so much from you.
    I am so glad you mentioned that you analyze and learn from your mistakes in knitting.
    I try do that too and it drives my family mad when I will knit something quite far then stop and analyze my work closely, make a note in my knitting notebook, search a book or internet and look up the better way the technique or item should be, then rip, rip, rip out my work and either start again or move onto something new.
    When I first started knitting I was happy to just knit and knit did not care about all the different ways knitting could be accomplished.
    At this time in my life I am fascinated by the knitting process and learning new techniques.

    P.S. Your winter pictures are so beautiful! I think winter has arrived here early too!

  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I also search for the mistakes, I know right where they are...and it is how one learns the skills in their craft.
    Reading your words though, they present you to be more than competent at line work...and understanding the lines...I once worked with a liturgical designer...his famous words, "Respect the design". This is what you do.

  16. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Scotlynn01:51

    I am thinking I need new mittens to go with my new winter coat...I will embroider them as your work is so inspiring. Thank you for your thoughts, pictures and references. But most of all thank you for helping keep the passion alive for my knitting. My Mama taught me how to knit long years ago, but having just lost her to cancer, well, even sock knitting lost it's appeal. Yet today I feel that spark of passion returning, fanned by your own passion and zest for knitting.

  18. What a great post...more embroidery lessons and the wee little bird is back! Recently I spun some silk with no idea of what I was going to do with it. When I got done with plying it all I could think of was trying a bit of embroidery with it on something knitted.

  19. Hooray! The Learn Some Finnish posts are back! I think they are fabulous and love them so much. You have some real talent for creating charming, beautiful, fun, and educational drawings!

  20. Ah, the Finnish lessons are back! :) I was wondering about those a little while back. I just adore your drawings! They remind me of my best friend in high school, she had the same style of drawing.

    We have had some early snow, as well, although it didn't stay. One good thing about living in South Dakota is that it doesn't get quite as dark as in Finland in the winter.

  21. Anonymous16:08

    Thank you for sharing the beauty in your life--I turn to your blog for a poetic take on our shared fibre addiction, and am never disappointed. And I envy you your surroundings--it serves us city dwellers as a very desirable alternative universe!

  22. Mitty03:42

    I'm so happy to have discovered your blog. Your fiber arts are beautiful, and so are your photos of your natural surroundings. It is a rare gift to be able to analyse one's own creative process and then to express it clearly to others, not only clearly but beautifully. To do this in a language that is not your mother tongue is wonderful! I am finding lots of inspiration in your sharing of your art and craft. My favorite photo is the one from this past Sunday. It is so beautifully composed and the colors are so warm. It makes me think of sitting by the fire with a hot cup of tea, all cozy with my knitting. (I love that you sometimes mention a cup of tea and a cookie, as I am often reading your blog with my afternoon cup of tea and piece of chocolate.) Speaking of cookies, in the USA we say "cookie press", so your choice of words was perfectly clear.

  23. Esther Bourgault06:23

    Thank you for your long explanation and...your lesson of style and simplicity...I personnaly see an error like one stair in a staircase...You have to put your foot on it to go higher, better...

    Your post was so touching... I'm so happy to have discovered your blog some months ago !

  24. Thank you for sharing your journey and so wonderful to see your drawing back. She looks so free and happy in her world.