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Laura Tandeske, “Emperor Norton 1,” 2018

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SNAD Collection

Hand embroidery is found in cultures worldwide, dating to between the 5th – 3rd centuries B.C.E. Techniques used to make tents, tailor clothing, patch, mend, and reinforce cloth fostered the development of both sewing and the decorative possibilities that led to the art of embroidery. In its varied forms and styles, embroidery has served to decorate cloth with threads to create both simple and intricate designs onto the belongings of civilizations, adding texture and dimension, depicting realistic interpretations of figures and nature, recording history and working as a medium to practice alphabets. Meaningful symbolism, devotions, political beliefs, and calls to action have all been wrought with needle and thread as a means of personal and cultural expression. By employing and applying historical and cultural resources and techniques of surface embroidery, embroiderers have, at their fingertips, the freedom to create apt contemporary interpretations and self-expressions.

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SNAD Collection

Surface Embroidery is a broad term that encompasses many styles and techniques of embroidery where the stitches are decoratively applied to embellish a ground fabric (or unexpected medium) with needle and thread. This course will discuss techniques typically associated with surface embroidery on ground fabrics that are not counted, for example:

  • Crewelwork
  • Crazy Quilting
  • Mountmellick Embroidery
  • Free embroidery
  • Art needlework

There are hundreds of stitches used in each of these techniques. These many distinctive surface embroidery stitches can be used for filling motif shapes, working curves, creating outlines, adding texture, and strengthening edges. The course explores various stitch families and groups used in surface embroidery and their function in design.

This course concentrates on stitches applied to fabric without focusing on the structure of the ground fabric, as in counted techniques. We will cover thread choice in relation to stitch types as each thread has unique qualities of twist, strength, feel, and look. A variety of thread types will be provided for practice and experimentation in class.

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SNAD Collection

While studying some of the surface embroidery techniques, the course will cover:

  • Color choice
  • Thread choice
  • Stitch families
  • Shading
  • Project design and design balance
  • Fabric selection
  • History
  • Overall best practices

Surface embroidery is a very accessible technique; it does not require specialty fabric or costly threads, and provides endless opportunity for exploration and creativity.

The Surface Embroidery concentration builds a valuable stitch vocabulary, making it an excellent choice for beginners. A large stitch vocabulary is important because many of the surface embroidery stitches are found in other techniques and this knowledge will prepare students for study in future concentrations.

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.

Questions? Check out our FAQs!

Register for upcoming Surface Embroidery CSP courses by selected your desired date from righthand sidebar, or by checking out our class calendar.

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SNAD Collection


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Laura Tandeske, “Emperor Norton 1,” 2018

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Laura Grover, “Where Art My Teeth,” 2018