Monday, November 15, 2010

More on the Moon - Sharon B's Sumptuous Surfaces Embroidery Class

This is a follow-up post about my high texture hand embroidery of the moon. It was a massive project, so it deserves a few posts. Today, I'll cover the class in which I started the project. :)

Last spring, I took an online class from Sharon B of Pin Tangle that was called Sumptuous Surfaces. I've followed Sharon's blog for a very long time, and while my stitching style was quite different than her work, I was really intrigued by her class offering. I was ready to challenge myself and try something new in my embroidery.

Our first assignment was to create a 4"X6" monochromatic piece. Because the moon makes me swoon (no really, the first time I looked at the moon through my telescope, I started to cry) I decided it would be a perfect subject for monochromatic, high texture embroidery.

I fell terribly behind on the project, though, and as other students zoomed right into their second projects (a full-color piece) I slowly but surely stitched away at my moon. It traveled with me to California, Colorado, New York and was with me in several embroidery classes and Stitch 'n Bitch evenings. I've never worked so hard or so long on a project.

I've also never used so much embroidery floss on a project! The black sky portion alone used two full skeins of floss each of black and a steel gray color. It was crazy! Types of thread used include stranded cotton embroidery floss, pearl cotton, rayon and silk. I hadn't stitched with pearl cotton much before, and Sharon encouraged us to try lots of different kinds of threads. I have a lot (I mean ... a lot) of stranded cotton embroidery floss, and most of it was stuff I got through various jobs. I decided to take a trip to Ginger's Needle Arts here in Austin and treat myself to lots of yummy new threads. I went a little nuts, but I didn't care. I was able to get some great stuff and support a local business. Score!

This project made me fall in love with pearl cotton. I wasn't sure how I would like it, but after using all sizes and a couple of brands (DMC and Anchor) I was sold. Big time. The pearl cotton just adds a whole other layer of texture to the stitches that is loads of fun to play with.

I also wasn't sure how doing an embroidery class online would work, but it turned out to be great fun. Sharon was a great instructor who clearly put a ton of effort and planning in to the class. Each week, we had a lengthy downloadable lesson and an active online forum in which we posted pictures, asked questions and got feedback from classmates and Sharon. It worked out great, and it was a lot of fun to see everyone's work progress and interact with people all over the world, as well as one person who was right here in Austin with me. All in all, the class was a truly fun and inspiring experience, and I can't wait to take another one from Sharon soon!

In my previous post, I explained this project, my passion for space and moving on past disappointment. In my next post, I'll highlight the various stitches I used in the project! Stay tuned ...


  1. I'm fascinated. So far, anything I do looks like a kindergartener did it. :( I'm checking out her page and will be watching here for more. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nooooo! No negative self-talk in these here parts. ;) I'm sure what you do is awesome, and really - it's not about the result as much as it is about the process (for me, at least). Keep in mind that I've been obsessively stitching for about four years now, and most of what I do is super simple. This was a big undertaking and was spread out - mostly - over months.

    Here's what I like to do when I see someone's work and feel either intimidated or like I could never do something like it (like when I look at Jenny Hart's amazing embroidered portraits.)

    1 - I remind myself that this person is usually either a professional or has some kind of special training or has spent lots of extra time honing their skills. If I was just learning how to swim and then watched an Olympic diver dive and said, "Why can't I do that!?" how nuts would I sound? Right? ;)

    2 - I think about how I would talk to my kids or my best friend about the same subject. Would I say, "OMG! You are sooooo lame! That looks like a baby did that. Come ON! What is wrong with you!?" No way! I'd say something more like, "Wow! Check it out, you tried a new stitch you'd been wanting to learn. Rock on with your bad self." or something encouraging. I have to remind myself constantly not to talk down to myself. As soon as I start getting down on myself, I have to stop-rewind-try-again like I'm talking to my kids or my best friend. It's kinda nuts how we'll allow ourselves to talk to ourselves, isn't it? (hellooooo overuse of "self/selves" in a paragraph!)

    3 - I'll remind myself that I'm in this for the fun of it. Just Have Fun. I say this all the time to my embroidery students: Don't fret over being perfect - JUST HAVE FUN. The more fun you have, the more you'll want to stitch. The more stitching you do, the better you'll get. Next thing you know, you'll be "perfect." (though I really hate that word ;)

    I'll step off my soapbox now. I just want people to have fun with stitching and to give themselves the time and space to learn something new, experiment and not get down on themselves if it doesn't turn out "perfect." Perfect is highly overrated. ;)

  3. Well, I am sortof having fun, but seriously, go check out the latest post... for the record, the orange slice is supposed to be smiling.;) That's why I saw "kindergarten".

    Really, I have an idea of something I want to do but I don't have the skill level yet to attempt it. That's so frustrating. Maybe a sampler would work, but sometimes I'm not even sure what fabric I should be using. (knit = ugh!) Thanks for the encouragement though.

    Slow and steady...

  4. Oh my goodness! That is so cute! Seriously! Honey - you have got to give yourself some credit here! Stitching on knit = pain in the a$$. Seriously. If you don't have a good stabilizer on the fabric, forget about it. And even with a stabilizer, stitching on knit can be really tricky.

    Here's what I recommend for starting out: don't care what projects you do. Or ... well... don't care so much. File those "dream" projects a little further back in your head and just knock out several small, simple projects in the meantime. A big thing I also talk to my students about is small successes. You want to build your confidence, not kill it! (and trust me, nothing kills confidence like stitching on knit. Whewboy.)

    In my early days of stitching, I just stitched non-stop. One of the best things to stitch when you are starting out is a tea towel. It's practical and useful, can be knocked out fairly quickly and - if you like - makes a great gift. Invest in good quality tea towels - having the right fabric really makes a difference. I like either
    Sublime Stitching towels or the iron on transfers or download some freebies and get to stitching. Keep it simple and just stitch, stitch, stitch. Stitch every day for 15 min while you're watching tv or something.

    You can also grab a fat quarter of cotton quilter's fabric from the fabric store for just a couple of bucks and stitch on that. Starting with nice, even-weave fabrics like cottons or linen will make your stitching muuuuuuch easier. It doesn't even have to be something that will end up as/on a project - just stitch. Before you know it, you'll be improving like crazy and your confidence will build. :)

  5. Rachel you're the best. So much great advice I want to print it up and spread it around.
    I love your story of how your moon surface came about. I look forward to the next installment too. :)

  6. Wow! How awesome! Love the moon stitching!

  7. So happy i found you today trough mr X.
    Wonderful work you do. We might even meet in Sharon's next class.

  8. WOW! You and I were in the same Sharon B class (I was the one with the anchor and desert scene) and I am SO GLAD I stumbled onto your blog, I had wondered if you ever finished that Moon. And it is FANTASTIC, as is the rest of your blog, which now that I've finally found am going to be reading regularly. :)


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