New Kits Launching
Peace Gardens and Market
47 Bryant Street
April 29th 11am - 5pm
If you are in the Asheville area, I will be vending at the Spring Fling for the Peace Gardens and Market. It is the 20th Anniversary of the gardens that were created as a protest against the Iraq War. These gardens have been an important part of the community ever since. The space grows food that is given to elders in the neighborhood and the founders Safi and DeWayne have used the gardens to give local youth something to do that is productive.
I have volunteered for years at the gardens and the Spring Flings are one my favorite events of the year. This is the first year that I will be vending and I am using it as an opportunity to present my new embroidery kit designs.
I hope you will stop by and say hello!
Seed Stitch Ritual
I tend to think that being a witch is not always about what you do but what you notice. For me it’s a disposition, to see wonder wherever I can and observe the magic that is around and within us.
Take seeds, a seed is a truly remarkable thing. They are tiny spells, proving to us time and again that life and growth are possible.
I find solace in this at a time when the world seems so broken (has it ever not been?).
To honor seeds and the inimitable forces of Spring, I share with you some ideas about seed stitch. Seed stitch is an easy stitch to learn but its applications are varied. It is a collection of small random stitches that can be grouped together to form a mass of color and texture. Below is a video I made showing how to do seed stitch. It’s one that I use a lot in my own work.
A Seed Stitch Ritual
For this ritual you will need a small piece of cloth - any old scrap will do.
Am embroidery needle.
Some embroidery thread.
Additionally you might want a candle and some incense. Or you can sit outside somewhere and spend time in the natural world while you sew.
Think about something you want to begin - a project or maybe a quality in yourself.
Meditate on this intention and ask spirit to help you with your plan.
Begin sewing seed stitches across your piece of cloth and as you do, say the following “With each stitch, may my intention grow. Sew, grow.”
Add as many little seed stitches as you like. When you are done, either carry the cloth with you, put it on your altar or somewhere you’ll see it everyday.
If you want to be creative you can add little patches of cloth and seed stitch over them. But make sure you keep it simple to maintain the integrity of your intent.
If you are intrigued about doing embroidery, I recommend starting with a kit. This is how I picked up embroidery again after quite a long time. It's perfect because it is a minimal investment and you don't have to hunt around for supplies. When looking to buy a kit, make sure the list of contents includes:
- A printed panel
- A needle
- Embroidery thread
- Full instructions
I recommend starting with a small, simple design first to build your confidence. However you should also choose a design that you like!
Here are some kits that are reasonably priced designed with beginners in mind. These are affiliate links.
Whether you are experienced at hand sewing or just learning this is a nice project to do over a weekend.
The key to this piece is the variety of yarn widths and colors that create a lovely variety of abstract patterns. If you have lots of scraps of yarn then you are good to go. It’s also important to have a fabric that will be loosely woven enough to allow thicker yarn to pass through without to much pulling - think linens, muslin, even burlap (hessian)
Perhaps you scroll through sumptuous pictures of embroidery and other fiber art projects online but think “I could never do that.” If that is the case I am here to tell you that you are mistaken.
I want to address some of the myths about embroidery.
Embroidery is Complicated
At first glance embroidery can look intricate and while some designs are, there are many that don’t take long to complete. I have met many people who say that they like to do cross stitch but could never do embroidery. I have done plenty of cross stitch and think it is less rewarding than embroidery in some ways. First, although you only need to learn to do one stitch for cross stitch, following the pattern can be difficult and there is always the risk that should you make a mistake, the whole pattern could be thrown off. Secondly, I find referring to a chart interrupts the flow of my sewing. In embroidery this is less of an issue.
Some embroidery designs require you to learn a couple of stitches such as running stitch or satin stitch but the learning curve is shallow.
Stitches Need to Be Perfect
Nope. In fact I think the lack of perfection makes your work unique and fascinating. Even if you make a little mistake, chances are that by the time you finish your piece, you won’t even notice it.
You Have to Be Talented at Sewing
If I could ban the word talent, I would consider it. The idea that some people have talent and others don’t seems to be a kind of elitism as well as a way of creating a sense of rarity that adds inflated value to something for the purposes of commodifying it. I have been sewing for over thirty years which is why I am “good” at it, whatever that means. And I still make mistakes, really big ones. I learn from them and keep going.
Embroidery is Slow and Boring
If you choose a large piece to work on then the likelihood is that it will take you ages. So start small. The sense of accomplishment when you complete it is motivating. As for it being boring, I find the repetitive nature of sewing soothing and almost hypnotic.
Embroidery is for Women
Well I have no response to this other than - don’t be absurd.
What potential discouraging comments have you heard? Share them and I would love to discuss them.
What I've Been Watching
When I am sewing I have a couple of different habits. I f I am trying to come up with a new idea or design, I listen to music. But if I am sewing something that doesn't require me to sit at a table, I like to watch films. It's a shame I don't speak every language in the world because then I could watch non English language films. Unfortunately reading subtitles and sewing don't often mix! It's a pity because I love to watch films from other countries. So that leaves me with things in English. Recently these documentaries have had a big impact on me and reminded to just make the work. It's worth noting that each of these documentaries was either directed or co-directed by a woman.
Kusama - Infinity
I love Yayoi Kusama's work. This film does a good job of following the artist's life. I have read her autobiography but I think it's helpful with visual artists to be able to experience their work even it if it is on a screen. Her struggles as woman in a male dominated world, being from Japan at a time when her home country was very conservative and her struggles with mental illness make for a moving and humbling portrayal. If you have ever, like me, used pathetic excuses not to create, this documentary gives you some important perspective.
20,000 Days on Earth
I cannot convey adequately how important Nick Cave's work has been to me since my teens. I love this film so much and find it quite poignant. He's charisma exudes from the screen but it is his narrative throughout this creative documentary that stay with me. The last 15 minutes are particularly impactful. Again, another sermon to getting down to work and trusting one's creative self.
Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Yeas of Jean-Michel Basquiat
There are people who changed visual art forever. Basquiat was one of these people. I like how this documentary showed his growth, his tenacity and self-confidence. I also loved to see how much he was loved as a person as well as for his art. Also the soundtrack is great.
Photo Drop I
I was organizing my pics the other day and thought it would be cool to share some with you from the end of last year.
These are from when my sister came to visit last Autumn. It's always fun to have visitors, we tend to go and do stuff we wouldn't normally do. Here we are exploring this very cool spot called Marquee in the River Arts District. It's a big warehouse full of designers, artists and other creative vendors. This area of RAD is a fave of mine. There's such a mix of things: a skate park, movie theater, brewery (of course) and other little cafes and stuff. It is a little gritty too. A seductive combo for me.
Expressive fiber art is a type of needlecraft that combines creativity with contemplation. Rather than carefully following a design, often created by someone else, expressive fiber art combines different techniques and materials spontaneously. As a result, each piece is unique. In the process you get the opportunity to make choices about materials that creates a practice of being fully present and connected with your intuitive and creative self which many believe is a spiritual connection.
This process has another more commonly used name: slow stitching. I do not know from where or who the expression originated. I became aware of the term through the book “Slow Stitching: Mindful and Contemplative Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. An artist herself, her work often addresses concepts of time and slowness. In her book “Slow Stitching” Wellesley-Smith share ideas for approaching hand sewing as a contemplative craft. Rather than embarking on hand sewing with a finished product in mind, she encourages experimentation and a kind of journaling response to fiber arts. I found this idea liberating both for myself and the students I have had.
Often the people who come to my classes assume that they need a skillful and precise hand to make something worth their time. What they discover is that the enjoyment they feel is not about what their piece looks like but about the experience of sewing and passing of time in an unhurried manner. The mind clears and the hands take over. A space opens up in these moments, a space that many artists feel is a kind of liminal world between the material existence (or reality) and our imaginations where another force seems to be guiding us. We all have access to that place provided we set aside the notion of perfection or trying to make something to impress others.
I want to share a talk Elizabeth Gilbert did many years ago about this mystical thing creativity, because it is so beautiful and right.
Just a year ago I was making tree ornaments for friends and trying to figure out how I might turn my passion for crafts into something that would guide me to my next chapter.
Over the following 12 months I experimented and tried new ideas while my coven mates encouraged and held space to for me to articulate my true desires.
As I celebrate this solstice, I realize how much I have accomplished. Tonight I will light candles and ear dinner with my beloved family. After we've eaten we'll set intentions for the coming year. As my gift to all of you, I share this tutorial on making solstice stars . I dedicate this to the women of my covens. Blessed Be.
I'm Liz Watkin a fiber artist and educator with an online learning background. I've been sewing since I was a kid and love the therapeutic nature of crafts.