Why I Stitch…


If you spend half as much time trawling Blogland as I do, you’ll no doubt have seen a fair number of bloggers lately writing about why they write. I love reading these posts, I suppose we’re all fascinated by what brings us back to the blank screen, time after time.

I started thinking about writing one myself, but before I got very far, the word stitch booted out the word write and just wouldn’t go away. So why I write will have to wait for another day, this post, shamelessly using the same format, is about…

Why I Stitch…

What am I working on?

This is what I’m stitching at the moment – well, I would be if I wasn’t also running a part-time taxi service for two teenage daughters, doing daily battle against the invading laundry pile and attempting – frequently in vain –  to keep on top of the cooking/shopping/gardening and cleaning.


This time I’m going for some gentle texture, so it’s what I’ve taken to calling a canvas embroidery as opposed to the stitched tapestries which are smoother (because they’re all done in tent stitch).

How does my stitch differ from others in the genre?

Ummm, is there a stitched tapestry/canvas embroidery genre? I’ve never been able to decide if what I do fits into any category, which is probably why I find it difficult to know what to call it. All I can say that I know is perhaps unusual, is that I much prefer to stitch into loose-weave canvas materials rather than the rigid monos and interlocks – it makes for interesting times trying to square anything up, but I like the feel, the weight and the drape of the finished pieces much more than anything I’ve ever done on stiff canvas.

Or perhaps I should say that for me, stitching is just painting in threads. I use wools, silks and cottons as a painter would apply oils, acrylics or watercolours – thread just happens to be the medium in which I’m most at home.

Why do I stitch what I do?

I was tempted to answer this ‘I stitch, therefore I am’ (sorry Mr Descartes). I don’t know why I stitch, but I don’t seem to be complete, to feel at one with life the universe and everything unless I have some stitching on the go. It’s just something I’ve done for so many years, it’s integral to who I am.

I tell people that I find the process of stitching meditative and that’s true. When I’m repeatedly passing the needle backwards and forwards through the canvas, I find a peace and inner calm. But when you think about it, that’s not surprising because it’s not something you can do quickly, so it forces you to slow down, and then finding the tiny holes literally requires one-pointed focus, both characteristics of meditation techniques.

As for subject matter, I always wonder where inspiration comes from. I’ve mentioned before how the druidic concept of awen* appeals very much to me, I like to embrace that idea. And somewhere deep in the machinations of my mind, my love of all things ancient and historic, of medieval arts and crafts, and of the patterns and textures from the natural world, coagulates into the designs that finally end up in the canvas.

How does my stitching process work?

Much easier to answer this. I’ll generally start with something loosely seen in my mind – it might be a combinations of colours or a pattern or something that has kindled an idea. I might try to sketch something on paper – probably getting the paints out too, although I never end up with anything even vaguely akin to the cartoons tapestry weavers may use. I just try to see how it might sit in two dimensions.

Then I lay out the canvas and draw on a rough guide (one advantage of using loose-weave scrims and crash, is that it’s much cheaper than tapestry canvas, so I’m not afraid to get anything wrong).

Then I rifle through my stash of yarns and pull out all the colours and textures I think I’m going to want. (If the project starts with a colour concept, this stage will come before the design). Often I’ll decide I need to add shades, so it’s off to whoever has what I’m looking for – I love that part! And frequently, once I’m into the piece, I’ll decide it needs additional shades, so these are bought in as and when they’re wanted.

I mainly use a clip-on frame to hold the canvas because I like to be able to move around it – I suppose this is where I really depart from woven projects which have to be created line by line and this is also why I tend to think of it as painting in threads, after all you don’t paint from the top up or visa versa, you go all over the canvas as the piece requires, and this is to some extent how I stitch (this is also how I decide how to fine-tune which colours to use where).

And after that, it’s just a case of sitting down and stitching and stitching and stitching until all those little holes are finally filled with threads.

* Awen: It’s not an easy concept to sum up in a few words here. The wiki link is a start, but there are druid bloggers and writers who do a better job – albeit in many more words if you’re interested.

A couple of Why I Write posts I’ve really enjoyed are from Sue at The Quince Tree and Jessica at Rusty Duck. Check out the comments on both these blogs for links to more lovely bloggers’ posts – you’ll need a large mug of your favourite beverage and half and hour at least to while away, but it’s one of the best ways to meet some new Blogland heros.

Do continue the hop if you haven’t already, whether it’s why you write or stitch, or, well – whatever makes your heart sing.

23 thoughts on “Why I Stitch…


    1. Thank you. I must admit I’m really enjoying reading about other people’s motivations to write etc, so I thought I’d contribute my little bit.

  2. I have loved reading this! I feel the same way about not being in harmony with the universe if I don’t have a needlework project somewhere in my orbit. Your work is lovely; it was so great to hear more about your approach.

    1. Thank you. It’s not something we often write about is it and yet it really helps us to get to know each other better. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I love your stitching Anny because it so different from any other stitching I see on blogs or on Pinterest. In fact I’m not sure I’ve seen any needlepoint/canvas embroidery apart from yours. Thank you for a glimpse into your creative process.

    1. Those little glimpses sparked by the Why I…. format are so fascinating, I’m delighted to be part of the snowball. Thanks for opening it up so generously.

  4. Fascinating post! I used to stitch. Every winter I still have the urge to go back to it and at least complete the unfinished projects still in the cupboard. I wish I had more time. I’d agree wholeheartedly about it being meditative and incredibly satisfying too.
    Thank you for the link, I’ll make sure it appears in the comments on my post too.

    1. Thank you Jessica. Despite the pests and problems, I’m sure gardening delivers some of the same satisfaction, even if not quite Zen-like! We all seem to need something in our lives where we find fulfilment.

  5. I 100% agree with this part of your post .. “but I don’t seem to be complete, to feel at one with life the universe and everything unless I have some stitching on the go.”

  6. thank you for going in to so much detail about the process. I love the stitching that you do. The colours and the patterns. Lots of talent.

    1. Thank you. I don’t generally find it that easy to explain why I stitch, but somehow the prompts drew out some things I hadn’t really clarified in my mind before. Glad you like it.

  7. I loved this, Anny, and I don’t stitch at all! You give such a vivid insight into the creative process that works for you that I was totally fascinated.

    1. Thank you, strangely enough putting it in writing helped me clarify a few things which I haven’t really been able to put into words before.

  8. Anny, I was very interested in your blog entry about “Why I Stitch”. After reading it several times I realized that this is what I have been missing in my life. When time is overwhelmed with the things we HAVE to do we put off what we should be doing for ourselves. I found your blog by way of Chilly Hollow Adventure. Was intrigued by the heading and the rest is history. LOL. After I send this I am going to pull out my WIP needlework projects and review. Haven’t seen them in a while so I am curious if they still excite me. If not will start NEW. I personally love your Celtic Swirl for its beauty and spiritual impact on me. I would love to do something like this any advice? Thank you for your sharing. All the best from Little Compton, RI USA. Kathi

    1. Kathi, how lovely to meet you, thank you for getting in touch – I love the way Blogland works and the serendipitous way we find people who resonate with us. I do recommend finding something that helps take you out of yourself regularly as a way to stay happy and grounded. For me stitching seems to fit the bill, but I’m sure there are lots of other ways to get into the flow too. If you’re going to begin a new needlework project, I’d say just start off by having fun, try doodling something simple onto some linen scrim or fine burlap and then stitch into it. One of the things I like most about stitching in this way, is that after a significant amount of stitching, the canvas suddenly seems to feel like cloth rather than canvas – sounds weird I know, but it’s as if it transforms, and I love the way that feels. But when you start, don’t try anything too big – it takes a long time to stitch and you really need to persevere, so play small and get bigger as you find what appeals to you. If there’s anything specific I can help you with, do contact me either through the comments here, the contact email (under About in the menu) or email me ann(at)42marketing dot biz. Best wishes Anny

  9. I am just getting around to using WordPress again and realized today that I ‘followed’ your blog some time ago … catching up with this post and thoroughly enjoying what you have to say ! BTW, your stitching is so beautiful !

    I have always wondered why I went to fibre art instead of staying on my original path (in my teenage years) of becoming a painter. But there is definitely something, probably the lovely tactileness of having cloth and thread run through my fingers, that keeps me so in-tune with my thoughts. It’s (for lack of a better word/meaning) like dreaming. I first realized this when crocheting allowed me to ‘lose myself’ in that work and in that time taken … such a needed time to deal with the thoughts in my head. Now I find the same with my sewing machine. The hum of it and the handling of fabric and the resulting canvas always transports me somewhere else. My mind just takes off into areas of my mind that need discussion/sorting/attention and the world is always better place for it. It is ‘my time’ and nobody can intrude … it is my sanity.
    You have raised interesting points (Awen) which I have always been curious about and which has resonated with me for a long time … off to Google to read more !

    1. Hello Sharron, many thanks for your comments. I wonder myself about what makes fibre related art so soothing, it’s not something that’s easy to express in words, but when you feel it, you really understand it, as so many of us do. And coincidentally, I think of Awen in much the same way.

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