Last year I read about a stitching challenge issued by The San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. (https://www.sfneedleworkanddesign.org/) They were partnering with Kreinik Threads, and the theme of the challenge was Burlesque. My first thought was of young, shapely women, in risque costumes, doing high kicks in a dance hall.
But, reading further, I learned that burlesque also means to parody, or an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something. I was intrigued, but I hadn’t done any stitching challenges before, so I decided to check out the requirements for participating. I printed the information sheet, noting the deadlines for registering, and for completing my challenge. Reading further, I discovered that participants would receive some free Kreinik Metallic Threads to use in their challenge piece. Free thread? I’m in!! I followed the instructions to register.
While I waited for my sparkly treasure to arrive, I began thinking about the challenge. Metallic threads are bling, and I decided to use the bling as my exaggeration. But, what surface would I use for the stitching? And what would be my design?
Searching through my fabric stash, I came across my experiment pieces, colouring fabric using different resists, and decided on a piece of cotton painted in mauves and pinks. I had used glue for the resist, creating a spiral design and a few dots. I love spirals. I began following the white of the spirals, stitching with a variegated thread that had similar colours to the background. Using an outline stitch, I decided, would create a base to stitch into with the metallic threads, and it wouldn’t show too well against the fabric.
A bag of Kreinik metallic threads appeared in my mailbox, with a welcome to the challenge. There was so much thread crammed into that little baggie! Different kinds of metallic threads in blues, pinks, reds, purples, greens, whites, silver, plus gold, were soon sorted and piled up on my desk. Wow! Some were thin, and others were thicker. Some of the whites were thin wisps of Aurora Borealis sparkle.
Examining my base fabric, I wondered whether stitching the spirals that were close together with the thicker thread, might make them fatter than the spirals. Would that cause them to connect to one another? Hmmmm, connect…….connecting…..connections. Aha!
I thought about the different types of connections people have with one another, and decided to depict them in stitch. Sometimes our connections are convoluted: they wind around one another before they intersect. Sometimes we choose not to connect with others and become isolated. Connections can be made on different levels, such as those between people taking the same class, or sharing philosophical discussions, or through shared emotions. Sometimes couples, especially those in a new relationship, have eyes only for one another, and become removed from the people around them. And sometimes, too, we may reach out to connect, but no one reaches back towards us.
I wondered how to depict the different types of connections using only metallic thread. Creating different levels in thread meant, to me, stitching in layers, and I chose to use tiered rows of buttonhole stitch. The connected spirals would represent the convoluted connections between two people. Where different threads would interconnect, that would indicate connections on different levels. The dots, if not joined with twirls of thread, would show isolated individuals, and small, connected groups or pairs of people would be conveyed by joined thread twirls of drizzle stitch.
Once the embroidery had begun, I examined the cloth, pleased with the result. Then, I began to think about the definition of burlesque, and decided that my design needed more to be an exaggeration. More thread? What about beads for more bling? Seed beads were added to most of the spirals. Sparkly ones. And then I added some Swarovski crystals and other beads from my stash for even more glitter. Luscious bling! Now the fabric glittered and sparkled, and I felt that it was definitely burlesque.
Connections is the title of this piece, and it is a dimensional depiction of the different kinds of connections we have with others. There are up to four layers of buttonhole stitches on the spirals. The drizzle stitch twirls stand up from the surface of the fabric, adding to the dimensional effect.
This challenge was so much fun! I found that each decision I made in my embroidering sparked an idea that led to another. Gradually, Connections grew from an initial idea to a realized concept. I was pleased to be able to complete my challenge on time, and sent in a photo of my piece.
Once the challenge was closed, participants were able to view all the pieces submitted. What a varied collection of pieces and ideas! There was also a gallery show that was open to the public, as many of the completed works were sent to the challenge organizers for this purpose. Other pieces not sent in were represented by photographs on display.
The San Francisco School of Needlework and Design issues challenges on a regular basis, and signing up can be an interesting way to challenge yourself, try something new, and participate in promoting needlework, in person, and online. It took me out of my comfort zone, and I created something new and different. And, hey, I still have more luscious Kreinik thread left over! Win! Maybe the next challenge would be an interesting project for Embroidery Guilds! Happy stitching.
What I Learned:
1- I found that accepting a stitching challenge could be a lot of fun!
2- Working within limited parameters can dare one to be innovative.
3- Trying something new can unleash one’s creativity.
4- Working within another’s concept can stimulate varied approaches to one’s own work.