Have you heard of an embroidery sketchbook before?
If not, this is a friendly warning that you may want to make one at the end of this article! 😉
The concept of keeping an embroidery sketchbook was born already a couple of years ago when I began to experiment with thread-sketching. Thread-sketching, invites you to develop your artistry in the same way pencil sketching in a regular paper sketchbook does. It’s just the medium that changes from pen and paper to fabric, floss and needle.
As a result, it makes perfect sense to have a dedicated space where you can practise your stitchery with less pressure and more creative freedom.
Personally, I have used sketchbooks for as long as I can remember. Probably, since the day I discovered how much I love to draw and make art!
Thanks to social media you even have a lot of artists who dedicate themselves as full time “sketchbook artists”. In that case the sketchbook isn’t only a collection of your artistic progress, but it becomes an art piece in and of itself.
Personal visual journal
A sketchbook is a very personal thing since it’s originally made to be used as a sort of visual journal. I don’t know of any art professor who don’t tell their students to keep a sketchbook as part of their regular practise.
Considering how personal a sketchbook is, it comes perhaps as no surprise that “flip through my sketchbook” videos on Youtube often receive millions of views. We’re just so curious to have a glimpse into someone else’s world.
But I also think (from an artistic perspective) that to flip through a sketchbook is very inspiring. It brings new ideas of how you can represent thoughts, objects, feelings and more.
For example it was great fun when Brandi, a long time Charles and Elin community member, asked in a recent live workshop to have a look in my sketchbook. Even flipping through my own book made me realise how even time and location impacts your work.
The book that I had for the live workshop has been with me through 3 moves across countries… From France to Portugal and then to Sweden. Furthermore, many of the drawings in the book have turned into patterns for you to stitch as well, which is very cool to look back at.
You can access the full replay of the livestream workshop inside the latest “Thread sketching Mastery” course on Charles and Elin Academy.
5 reasons you want to have an embroidery sketchbook
As aforementioned, the reasons to have a sketchbook dedicated for your embroidery work are the same as a for a regular sketchbook.
1. No pressure
To keep a sketchbook allows you to create with less pressure. Because it’s only you who decide whether you will allow anyone else access to have a look inside.
Furthermore, it’s the perfect place to try out ideas and techniques that you otherwise don’t know where or if you will have use for. It doesn’t matter how it comes out. Whether you think it looks pretty or not.
The goal is the excitement of trying it out. And thanks to the low-pressure environment (you can literally just close the book and you don’t see it any more, or even rip out the page/fabric-page), you get to fully enjoy and lean into the process.
Who knows – your silly idea might just be what becomes the next big thing in your artistry. It may very well be what turns out the most beautiful and you simply wouldn’t have known it if you had never dared to try it somewhere.
Let your embroidery sketchbook be your passion project where you let yourself free!
2. Boost your creativity
Dedicate pages to create a stitch dictionary or explore various color palettes. The more you create, the more you will notice how it gets easier for creativity to flow. It’s as if creativity is a muscle just as any other muscle in the body. The more you practise it, the stronger it gets.
3. Hone your skills
Just as creativity is a skill that gets stronger with practise, so are your manual art skills as well. For example, the more you use the backstitch technique, the easier you will be able to make it look like you envision. I use the backstitch technique as the example because it’s the technique we use the most in our architectural designs.
As a result, we frequently receive the comment: “Oh I don’t manage to make straight lines“. Don’t worry! The answer is simple: The more backstitch lines you stitch, the neater and straighter you will be able to make them (if that is the objective).
French knots is another technique that often needs some “knotting” to achieve the look and feel that you desire. Charles has taken French knots to another level as a result of practising his skills.
He fused his previous knowledge about stippling (a drawing technique where you make tons of dots on the paper) with embroidered knotting, and was able to develop impressive realistic embroideries.
You can learn more about the techniques and how you can create your own realistic stippling with French knots in his Masterclass “French knot realism”.
The course is, along with all courses on the Academy, part of the Charles and Elin membership – so be sure to check it out if you’re on the look for some new inspiration for what you can do with floss and a needle.
4. Develop your style
Let’s start by tricky question: How do you think someone’s style emerge?
Your style isn’t something that just appears out of nowhere. It’s the result of trial and error in response to how you feel and think about what you make. If you love the outcome of one technique and loath another, it’s easy to assume that you will continue to explore with the one you love.
Your style is always in continuous development as a result of life itself. By simply living, we get new inputs and experiences every day that ultimately impacts who we are and thus our style.
Of course, you tend to have a basic style (often before you even notice it), but from there you can expect to make many tangents as time pass.
I love architecture for example, which is often the base for my subject. But how I stitch a building etc. can greatly vary whether I’m in mood for thread-painting, thread-sketching or just a graphical design.
5. Experiment out of your comfort zone
If you never try something new, you will never know what “can be”. Our motto is always “Just try it”. Because if you don’t try to go out of your comfort zone, the only thing you risk is to have to live with regret. And who wants to live with regret that they never dared to try out their ideas?!
Your sketchbook gives you the opportunity of a safe place to do all the crazy things. The key is just to do it. And I strongly believe you can!
How to make a sketchbook for embroidery?
I imagine that you would be able to embroider in a book with thick papers. But you would most likely have to be very careful and pre-stamp it where you need the holes to be.
The embroidery sketchbook that I am referring to throughout this article is made entirely with fabric. Preferably scrap fabrics, as it adds a fantastic utility value to left-over fabrics that you don’t know what to do with.
In case you are anything like me and many others in the community, you probably have a lot more material than you can take care of. It’s just so fun to buy new arts and crafts supplies! So let’s put them to use now in our fabric book. If it’s not used for pages, it can be used for decorations or various mixed media experiments (the possibilities are endless!).
I recommend to use a sturdy cotton such as duck canvas or a jeans fabric for the book cover, whereas the internal pages can vary more in both thickness and rigidity. In the Thread Sketching Mastery course I have made a detailed video tutorial with accompanying written instructions (PDF) of how I put my embroidery sketchbook together.
After reading this article, I really hope you feel inspired to get your sketchbook practise going too!
To work in your sketchbook is an on-going process, which is why the Thread sketching mastery course will be continuously growing with new content over the next weeks (potentially months). It will include everything from downloadable worksheets, to hands-on tutorials as well as more relaxed livestream replays.
All content serves to give you the tools, inspiration and know-how to fill your first embroidery sketchbook and thereby be on the way to greater artistic fulfilment!
Let’s get started <3
The first parts of the course are already uploaded to the Charles and Elin membership. So be sure to check it out here!