Thursday, November 18, 2010

More on the Moon: The stitches used in the project

Before I started working on the Moon project, most of what I stitched was super simple. My fallback stitch is the good 'ole backstitch, and most of the designs I've stitched are straight up line drawings with little filled in. That's one reason I was particularly drawn to Sharon's Sumptuous Surfaces class. I was really intrigued by the depth and text she creates in her pieces, and wanted to see how my style might work with those techniques.

Sharon guided us through designing our pieces and shared a variety of stitches for us to incorporate as we wanted to. Her online stitch dictionary is incredibly extensive, and each week she'd usually share some new stitch in our class materials. I also used Mary Corbet's valuable video library of stitches as a point of reference. Below, I'll list the stitches I used in this project. (hint: I saved the best for last) The great thing is that most of them are incredibly simple stitches that you likely already know or can learn easily. I'm listing each stitch and then, in parentheses*, I'll list links to various online resources where you can learn the stitch on your own. On this picture and this picture (on Flickr) I've noted what most of the stitches are (as best I can). Let me know if you have any questions! Please note that in this post, not all the pictures are matched up perfectly with their stitch information, so don't let that confuse you.
*The Web sites referenced are as follows:

Stem Stitch (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) - The stem stitch is one of my all-time favorite stitches. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once Leslie showed me a little trick on getting started, I was hooked. Once you get going with the stem stitch - especially if you are using the sewing method - it works up very quickly and stitches in a beautifully rhythmic cadence. Stem stitch is often seen as an outline stitch, but it also makes a gorgeous filling. I worked rows of stem stitch to fill large areas, working left to right and then flipping my work and working back down the line so the stitches ended up kind of interlocking as they went (though not perfectly all the time. ;) When worked with pearl (perle) cotton, it takes on an entirely new texture that is divine.

Chain Stitch (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) - I have to admit, I used to not be a very big fan of the chain stitch. It took me a while to get the hang of it, and I was used to working it with pretty large, open stitches. I decided to try tightening up the stitch to use as a nice, textural filling and quickly changed my opinion of the chain stitch. I became obsessive, challenging myself to make the stitches as tiny as I possibly could. I particularly delighted in stitching the chain in size 12 (read: tiny) pearl cotton.

Satin Stitch (In a Minute Ago) (Sublime Stitching) The only part of the project where I used the satin stitch was on Tycho. It was technically a "padded" satin stitch, because I first outlined the shape of the area with split stitch and then laid the satin stitch down over that, giving it a bit more volume.

Split Stitch (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) Most of the split stitch I did on this project is covered in satin stitch (see above) but there are a few areas where I worked rows upon rows of split stitch for filling.

Portuguese Stem Stitch (Pin Tangle) (Needle 'n Thread) The main part where the Portuguese Stem Stitch is used is in the outline of the moon. It created the perfect, knobby edge to the moon. I love when I look through my telescope at the very edges of the moon. They always appear so textural as they edge off into the blackness of space. This stitch did a nice job of capturing that.

French Knot (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) (Sublime Stitching) I love love love love love love love French Knots. Once I mastered them (thanks, Jenny!) they quickly hit the top of my list of favorite stitches. I went French knot crazy on this piece. There are sections where I packed French knots on top of French knots and just luxuriated in their texture. I used different kinds of threads to beef up the texture even more.

Bullion Knot (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) Bullion knots have always kind of intimidated me, and I have to admit I'm still not 100% comfortable with them. Mary's video helped me get the hang of them, though, and I used them sparingly in this piece. I want to play with them a little bit more, because I've seen some really fun applications of bullion knots that I'd love to try ...

Buttonhole Wheels (In a Minute Ago) (Needle 'n Thread) Buttonhole wheels are incredibly fun and addictive. They make great flowers, are graphic and easy to work up.

This is the first buttonhole wheel cup I ever stitched! The start of something wonderful ...

Buttonhole Wheel Cup (Pin Tangle) This has become, by far, my all-time favorite stitch. This was one of the first new stitches Sharon B shared with us during the Sumptuous Surfaces class, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a perfect stitch for the craters on my Moon. Sharon's instructions and photographs are very clear and easy to understand. Essentially, you are working a button hole wheel and then working buttonhole stitches in to the ridge of the wheel. You can work as many rows as you like, and the more you add, the higher up the ridges of the "cup" will stand. When I worked this stitch with a fine pearl cotton (size 12) and added at least three rows to the "cup" it produced the most fantastically gnarly craters. Give them a try!

One of the coolest things about this project is how dense the stitching became. I'm used to my projects staying fairly light and simple, but when I took this one off the hoop, I was stunned by how .... heavy it was it was thick and substantial. I loved that!

It's easy to look at a project like this and think, "holy smokes! So complicated!" but hopefully when you see the stitches broken down above you can see that it's all actually simple and well within your reach.

If you missed the first couple of posts in this series, check them out here:
Space + Craft (still) = Awesome
More on the Moon: Sharon B's Sumptuous Surfaces Class

Up next in my series of moon posts (sick of 'em yet? too bad! ;) is more about the moon and why it makes me ... swoon!


  1. I just love your embroidery, this is so creative and your stitching is lovely.

  2. The project is wonderful, of course, but I just thought I'd say how wonderful a resource you've created in this post! So many stitches, so little time.

  3. I am so completely blown away by this!! Your stitching skills are incredible. I flew right over to sign up for the Sumptuous Surfaces class but it's not offered right now. Needless to say, I am on the list to be told when it is back. I dable in embroidery and this is so inspiring!! I'm so happy I found your blog!

  4. This is incredible. Thanks for sharing how you did it. Your work is just beautiful. I am following you so I can check out all of your other work.

  5. I FINALLY figured out how to do that darned French knot stitch at the Stitch Lab party - I have been trying to do it since I was 10 years old. Turns out, I was wrapping the thread the wrong way around the needle. Now, I'm like you. I want French knots everywhere! Hurray!

    Love, love, love your moon. Do another Stitch and Bitch soon so I can come!!!

  6. You say you're a crafty type? Well, with your moon piece, you just graduated to the artist type, no doubt about it. What a spectacular piece! I've been reading all of your posts about it (so far) and visited your Flickr page with the little boxes identifying the stitches you used. Hard to believe you just learned some of them! If your piece didn't make the final judging, either the judges were blind or I'd really like to see the pieces that did get in.

    Plays With Needles sent me a link to your blog, for which I'm grateful! I've been doing bead embroidery for 25 years and before that thread embroidery. In the last two years I've been combining them. Here are links to three recent pieces that combine bead and thread embroidery in case you'd like to see:

    I'll be visiting your blog often... Love it!!!

  7. I agree totally with Robin - you have definitely shifted your universe and become a fiber artist.

    I will never, ever understand the judging and I have done my share of grumbling. You have done a much better job of moving beyond this than I have.

    I am amazed at what you have accomplished and am so looking forward to seeing the direction your future will take you as this was, in my view anyway, a giant leap for Rachel!

    You inspire me!

  8. I can't believe how beautiful this is! It's amazing, you do AMAZING work. :) You are quite the inspiration!


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