Counted thread embroidery is a technique produced on a plain-weave, or an even-weave ground fabric. A wide variety of stitches can be applied to the ground fabric by counting fabric threads, producing a relatively symmetrical image. Cultures from all over the world have traditions based on counted thread techniques. Some of the techniques that fall into the counted thread category include assisi, cross stitch, blackwork, pattern darning, bargello, canvaswork (needlepoint) and many of the whitework techniques. This course will cover several of these techniques, exclusive of whitework, which will have its own concentration as it is a broad area of study.
Plain weave linen is linked to the origins of weaving itself, early flax weavings discovered in Fayum, Egypt date to 5000 BCE. Examples of cross stitches on plain weave fabric exist from as far back as the sixth century BCE.
Counted stitches, from the earliest of times, were used to decorate clothing, tents, ecclesiastical objects and household items. Each region of the world developed unique cultural styles, prominent stitches and patterns. Through historic examples, it is evident that regional patterns traveled across continents and political regions.
Samplers on counted ground fabric have historically been used to record patterns, stitches, family records, darning patterns, poems and religious verses, as well as maps. Arabic style patterns and stitches arrived in Europe through Mediterranean trade with Islamic Spain. During the 15th and 16th centuries, blackwork was a popular counted technique that illustrated arabesque patterns combined with geometric designs.
By the late 16th century, patterns influenced by German and Italian decorative designs, and imported eastern carpet designs, gained in popularity. Traditionally, designs from the 16th and 17th centuries were heavily influenced by flora and fauna and patterns derived from tiles or iron works.
For hundreds of years, a joy for embellishing and furnishing the home and religious institutions has been practiced in counted techniques. Canvaswork (needlepoint), with its ability to endure heavy wear, has been used for table coverings, furniture upholstery and cushion covers.
Stitching on found objects, such as chain link fences, metal strainers, and tennis rackets provide contemporary artists larger canvases in which to ply their works. The practice of counted thread embroidery, by both hobbyists and professional embroiderers, be it in fashion, home furnishing, ecclesiastical, or artistic forms, has stood the test of time, and continues to be a popular craft, enhancing our personal environments and enjoyed by people everyday.
In this course we will learn counted thread work through exploration of:
Fabric and thread selection
Stitch execution and tension
Overall best embroidery practices
During this course we will explore and sample the following styles:
Berlin wool work
This concentration will focus on the fundamentals of counted thread embroidery styles practiced on a plain weave ground. After completing this concentration, students will be able to apply what they have learned into works of their own design and they will have the confidence to mix counted thread techniques to create contemporary works and the skills required to reproduce historic examples in counted thread.
Prior to the course start date, each student will receive a pack of detailed course instructions, describing the course, required pre-work, class schedules, and an equipment list.
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