Why embroidery?

“Hand embroidery is a slow and thoughtful process. It can be used to make a piece of art, or add art to a utilitarian object. There is a lot of history behind it – embroidery was always considered women’s work, a craft rather than art, and art was only for men. When I get recognition for my work, I feel like I’m giving all the forgotten women from the past centuries the recognition they never got.”

“My favourite thing about embroidery is that on one side of the fabric are all the neat stitches that form a complete picture, while on the other side are the knots, tails and threads crisscrossing. They show the process and create an abstract version of the actual piece (see first two historic images above which show the front & back of a coif).”

“Embroidery is slowly becoming popular again – Firstly because people are looking for hobbies that are good for their mental health. Sitting with your embroidery slows your mind down and it feels good to make something with your hands. You don’t even need to be ‘artistic’ to pick it up – there are loads of embroidery kits designed by artists that include the pattern, instructions and tools needed.”

The environmental option – embroidering with gelatine sequins

“Secondly, I think as people are becoming aware of how the fashion industry is helping destroy the planet. They are interested in buying less and fixing what they have using visible mending, darning, decorative patches etc. This was why I began embroidering onto clothes in the first place – I’ve always tried to make my art with as low an impact on the planet as I could. My own preloved clothes seemed like a good canvas to use rather than brand new fabric. I keep all my thread scraps in a jar to use for other projects and I never use polyester, nylon or other plastic based materials. One of my favourite fabrics for stitching onto is made of organic cotton and bamboo!” Francesca Rea