Threadsketching in progress

Threadsketching – A personal story of artistic development

Did you ever wonder – why architectural embroidery? And what is threadsketching?

Truth is, my artist journey didn’t begin with the embroidery medium. It started already when I was just a few years old and discovered that it was much more fun to play with pen and paper than any other “real toys”. And when I was about 12 years old I discovered street sketching…

But let’s start from the beginning to get a better introduction to the new changes and developments of the threadsketching techniques (and how it involves you too!)

I have always been passionate about history, people and how our destinies are always linked to different places.

Think of the “Treaty of Versailles” for example that took place in the Versailles castle just out of Paris. Imagine what those walls have seen and heard… And how what took place there had such a huge impact on modern history and thereby millions of people.

Versailles castle
Inside one of the Versailles castle’s many halls

The Versailles castle is perhaps a too big and obvious example. I actually find the less obvious stories more intriguing, which is why you often see me draw odd buildings on random streets rather than the natural attraction.

Because it’s when you walk the smaller backstreets, off the otherwise traditional centres and tourist attractions, that you get to know the beat of a place:

  • Who lives there,
  • What are their lives like,
  • What do they believe in,
  • Are they happy?
  • What do they think of the place they live?
  • How does it look like? Why?
  • Who built it?
  • How long did it take?

… the questions are endless!

And that’s what is so fascinating about it.

The backstory

As aforementioned, my architectural sketching dates back much further than my architectural embroidery. I remember walking around the island of Marstrand on the west coast of Sweden and my fingers were just itching.

It was the summer of 2008. I was 12 years old. And by that time I had been drawing just about everything but houses…

Yet this itching feeling wouldn’t go away. It came back every time I walked the old wobbly streets and looked at the several hundred years old buildings that aligned the streets. In fact, the house we were staying in dates back to the 17th century.

My grandmas’ new husband (yep, she re-married at 70+ it’s possible you guys haha), had an apartment since many years on this island. And my family and I had the chance to spend a couple of weeks there every summer.

Smell of history

I fell in love with the place. Not only for its beautiful and charming houses (and the fact that you’re not allowed to have any cars on the island…). But also because it was the first time I got to experience the vibrations in the air when you can really “smell the history”.

Marstrand has a very rich history, having belonged to Sweden, Norway and Denmark through the years. It’s also the place where Charles and I got married in 2018, which will obviously be in the history books as well haha!

Artist Couple on their wedding day
Photo taken from our wedding day

To cut a long story short, the itch back in 2008 urged me to bring out my pens and sketchbook. I went down to the beginning of the street we lived on and started sketching what I saw.

The next day I did the same thing, but on a new location and the rest of our stay continued in the same fashion. I also took plenty of photographs so that I could continue drawing even when we left the island to go back home.

And then I moved to Paris

The years went on and I kept sketching houses whenever I had the opportunity to. But as high school came along I had less and less time to continue my passion for sketching architecture. Until I moved to Paris in 2016.

Elin Petronella in Paris with Eiffel tower in the background
Me on a rooftop in Paris. Photo taken by Charles

At the time of moving I was still in my “I will be the next President of the UN”-phase (I have a B.A. with Honors in Politics, Philosophy and Economics for the one who is curious). I had been accepted to several big universities in the US and only kept the one in Paris as a backup plan… But truth is: Paris had always been my dream. Following that summer in 2008, I had seen the movie “Moulin Rouge” and knew I had to get to Paris to draw at some point.

The opportunity came in 2014, but I chose to extend my entry to the following year so that I could take a gap year. I spent it in rural South Africa working for an NGO that I had been very involved with during the high school years. Everything that happened there is a whole other story. But in short: it completely changed the way I view life. Had I not met Charles I would probably have gone back to work in the field. Instead, it’s now one of our dreams and goals to create joint projects with arts and development in the years to come. So be sure to stay around for many more years ;).

The circle was complete (almost)

The school in Paris had offered me a big scholarship and I saw it as a sign – It’s where I was supposed to go after all! Even though I didn’t major in Fine Arts, I filled up all my electives with every art class I could get my hands on.

Suddenly I was there. In Paris. The city of love and arts. Drawing naked men and women in a small studio just under the roof top (dare I say about 500meter from the Eiffel Tower… It was like a dream). Quite early on in the semester the second year I got a homework to draw a series of street scenes.

And the circle was complete (almost).

Meeting Charles

Simultaneously I was also working on several embroidery projects, one of which was my first ever paid commission. It was a student at my school who had commission me to create an embroidered lion on the back of his jacket. To be able to follow the progress he made me create an Instagram account: It was September 2016.

Embroidery patch on jacket
The finished lion embroidery patch on the back of a black jeans jacket

Just a few weeks later I met my now husband Charles, who was already an active artist in the city.

He saw my architectural sketches and my nightly embroidery work (I used to stitch all evenings after classes and homework) and asked: Why don’t you embroider your architectural sketches?

Yeah why didn’t I? I hadn’t even thought about it.

I gave it a try, shared it online and the rest is history. NOW the circle was complete.

Architectural hand embroidery in progress
Progress shot of one of my first architectural embroidery art pieces
Architectural hand embroidery
My first architectural hand embroidery piece in front of the original building in 7th arrondissement of Paris.

Let’s rewind

As the years have progressed and Charles and I have created more and more architectural designs, it got from loose sketches to more sophisticated drawings.

You can for example read more about architectural embroidery in this article.

But what if we were to rewind a bit? Reverse to when the lines weren’t as neat and straight. To the time of more loose and free stitches.

I had already done several experiments with threadsketching on canvas while we were still in Paris. For example, the video below shows me in action as I use the threadsketching techniques directly on a stretched canvas on Rue du Cherche Midi in Paris.


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And when we arrived in Lisbon in the fall of 2018, I felt inspired to pick it back up.

What is threadsketching then?

The goal with threadsketching is to use the thread as your ink and the needle as your pen. This means that you cannot undo your stitches, because they’re permanent. Instead, you need to find creative ways to “work with your lines” rather than “against them”.

Architectural threadsketching
In progress shot of a threadsketching design inspired from the streets of Lisbon. You can see how there are no pre-drawn lines on the fabric.

It’s very much the same principles used when you sketch with ink on paper. You’ve just got to go with the flow. It won’t be pretty every time, but it will be an incredibly enriching experience.

threadsketching in Lisbon
Threadsketching in Alfama, the old part of Lisbon
A closer look comparing a threadsketch (left) vs a pen and paper sketch (right)

I always get such a rush when I do street sketching. Because you have to try and capture whatever you have in front of you within a matter of seconds or minutes. Thankfully houses are a bit easier to sketch than street scenes that includes people (because people never stand still!).

As it was still in the experimental phase I challenged myself to not draw any pattern in advance. The whole design was to be created with only thread and needle directly on the fabric. WOW what a feeling!


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Time of change

Modern hand embroidery got me hooked due to its tactile element. It’s like you create touchable drawings. You can close your eyes and feel the results of your labor. You can feel the movements of the objects and get a deeper connection to it in some way.

But as embroidery is very time-consuming (oh dear… fellow stitchers know exactly what I talk about!), it felt tricky to prioritise time and effort into these seemingly loose sketches that couldn’t be used as patterns.

And so my progress and experimentation got put on hold.

Until today.

It’s now 2021. Charles and I are parents of an incredible, soon to be 1,5 year old little girl. And life has just changed in every possible way.

We have been running our small family business for soon 5 years (!) already and have come to the point where change is necessary.

It’s scary and exciting

Change is the scariest thing. But it’s also what can bring you to the next level.

If you don’t change anything you can’t expect anything new or exciting to happen to you. I’m a strong believer that you can be in charge of opportunities that you create for yourself. And if you don’t dare to get uncomfortable and give something new a try… well you will forever walk in the shoes of “what if”.

So, discussing with Charles what the next step for Charles and Elin would be, it brought me back to thinking about all the things that makes me love the arts. Why we do this in the first place. It also brought me back to Marstrand and those first architectural sketches that laid the foundation of it all.

It brought me back to the various experimentation and moments of creating just because it makes me feel awesome.

Artist doing embroidery in the window
Me stitching in the window of our tiny studio overlooking the rooftops of Paris (ca 2017)

The amount of joy and energy that creating, whether it be drawing or embroidering, has brought me is invaluable. And I am certain that I am not alone in this feeling. That you feel the same way when you get to create and try something new.

All of these thoughts is what lead to the creation of the Charles and Elin Academy Membership.

What if…

  • Instead of having to choose what to work on, in other words what course to take, you can have them all in the same place for the same price.
  • Instead of feeling limited to work on the most “realistic” thing, you can go wild and crazy and try a technique you would have never dared before (and even less to spend money on a course for).
  • Instead of feeling confused of where to go to get inspired and find relevant tutorials, you can access a growing library of inspiring content.

The best membership out there

We want to create the best membership for embroidery enthusiasts that exists online. We want to create the membership that we would have loved to be a part when we started out.

A living space that keeps growing along with its members. That can be receptive to feedback, desires and needs of the community to make it even better for everyone.

Yeah – that is what you get when you join us on this new venture.

And who would I be if I didn’t follow through and embodied the values of regular creation with your hands? It wouldn’t make sense to make this shift from promoting 10 courses across all platforms, to tuning in on one single service, if it wasn’t for the purpose of living the same values.

So to follow through I will start by going back to the roots. Pick up the needle and thread and start threadsketching. And you will be able to join in with me!

Charles and Elin Academy Membership
Click the image to learn more

Coming soon to the membership…

The first part of the threadsketching workshop series will soon be published inside the membership area.

It will involve the introduction of threadsketching as a modern embroidery technique. In other words, mastering your stitches, know when and how to make a certain stitch and much more.

To be fair, I’m super scared but also hyped with excitement about this development.

But there’s no turning back now, so let’s go!

I’d love to have you with me for the ride. Check out the membership here

It will be a fun one full of:

  • New ideas,
  • Inspiration,
  • Creation,
  • Learning and
  • Teaching

Thanks so much for reading along!


Charles and Elin Academy Membership

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