Hello, Friends! We are moving right along in 2016, and I’m pretty much used to typing out 2016 instead of 2015! This year is already zipping by pretty quickly, but I have been busy planning away for more features here, and I’ve also started a lifestyle blog about books, TV, movies, and pop culture called The Byrne List. It’s still under construction, but I’ll let you all know when its live. Today I’ introducing you to Chloe Redfern, a talented embroidery artist from the UK. I met Chloe on Instagram (if you’re not on IG, you really need to be! You can meet so many fantastic people from around the world!). She filled out the contact form on one of my Backside posts, and I am excited to feature her interview.
Tell us about yourself
When I finished my art foundation year I worked with mixed media for around six years, creating painted paper and fabric collage with hand stitch. I had always especially enjoyed the hand sewing, and one day started to put together an embroidery pattern based on one of my collages. I enjoyed the process so much that I took the decision to focus more fully on the embroidery aspect of my textile work, and I now work almost entirely with hand embroidery, usually on plain fabrics. I started my Etsy shop back in 2010 and sold my original artwork and also fabric decorations. I now sell original embroideries and downloadable PDF embroidery patterns.
When did you start doing embroidery?
I started to work with textiles during my art foundation year, adding hand stitch to mixed media pieces, and I started to work with embroidery in the form I do now around a year ago.
Was there anyone who taught you, or are you self-taught?
My Mum is an artist so I grew up in a creative environment and picked a lot of things up along the way. Both of my Nans were keen knitters and stitchers too, always making their own curtains and things, so although I can’t knit unfortunately, I did pick up a love of making from them too. Although I did an art foundation year following college, most of my process has developed (and continues to develop) from trial and error, rather than any sort of formal training.
Do you still have the first piece you created?
The first proper embroidery framed in a hoop I created was an abstract piece inspired by landscape and estuaries. Or if we are going right back, my Nans bought some small embroidery hoops and a little sewing kit for me back when I was around 6, unfortunately I don’t have photographic evidence of anything I made back then, I wish I did! I do remember making a picture of a little bird in a nest from some fabric off cuts my Mum had given to me.
Where is your favourite place to embroider?
I have a small workspace in my bedroom where I do most of my stitching. There isn’t a lot of room but it works well for me as I tend to work on small pieces and like to keep things quite tidy anyway. I work at my computer when putting together patterns, or at my work table when drawing or stitching and tend to listen to the radio, music (folk music is a favourite of mine) or podcasts.
I must confess though that I do quite a bit of stitching in the living room in front of the television too! That is one of the things I really like about embroidery, it’s so portable and can be worked on anywhere.
Show us your backside…of you hoop!
For the first embroidery I finished in a hoop (the estuary inspired piece pictured) I trimmed the fabric around the edge of the hoop, but after doing a bit more research I started to stitch a felt disc to the back of each finished work. I like this method as it allows me to remove the finished work from the hoop if needs be, for instance if I need to adjust the tension. I sometimes photograph the back of my stitching before covering it up though as it can look quite interesting (I have included a photograph of the back of my blackbird embroidery)
What is your favourite part of the embroidery process, and why? Your least favorite part, and why?
I think I’d have to say my favourite part of the process is when I am part way through stitching a piece, when the main structure of it is starting to take shape and I am starting to build up areas of colour and add in details.
If I had to pick out a least favourite part I think it would be finishing embroideries off. I quite often have them sitting around for a few days before I get around to giving them their final trim and stitching the felt disc to the back.
What are your top three favourite stitches?
I use fairly simple stitches in my work and really enjoy the different effects that can be achieved with these. I use backstitch for outlines and details, and straight stitch of varying lengths again for details and also to fill in areas. I also like French knots to add a bit of texture. Being a bit naughty here and mentioning a fourth stitch, but I’ve just started to experiment with woven wheels which I really like. I definitely want to experiment with more stitches at some time.
My blackbird embroidery is quite a good example of how I use stitches, backstitch for outlines and straight stitch to fill in areas, and also for the patterned areas on his wing and my small fern embroidery shows how I utilise back stitch to draw shapes.
What is your favourite brand of floss? How do you organize your floss?
When I was working with mixed media/ painted textile pieces I used to use a lot of the type of sewing thread that comes on reels and is often used for machine embroidery, such as ordinary cotton or polyester sewing thread or rayon threads. I had a little box of stranded cotton sitting around which I started to use when I started to focus more on embroidery and now I use that almost exclusively. I really like how it stitches and how a different number of strands can be used. I do still have a couple of boxes of other threads though, I confess I have a little bit of an addiction and if I’m ever at a textile show or shop I like to pick up a few more colours. I’m trying to be a bit more restrained now though until I’ve used some more of what I have!
I am quite fussy with organising my threads, my DMC stranded cottons are all wound onto plastic bobbins in a box and labelled with their numbers. I invested in a thread colour chart last year which has been so useful for identifying unlabelled colours and also choosing new ones. It’s also a lovely object in itself!
Do you create your own patterns, or purchase patterns from other artists? If you create your own, how do you go about creating them? Where do you find inspiration?
I make my own patterns and really enjoy deciding what to work on next. Most of my inspiration comes from the natural world and I love working with images of birds and animals. When making a start on a new pattern, I make several drawings before making a final drawing which I then scan in and tidy up on the computer, this becomes the pattern. I will then transfer this onto fabric and stitch it. If I am working on a project which won’t be turned into a PDF pattern I quite often like to draw freehand onto the fabric, this is the technique I used for my mandala embroidery.
What’s up next for you? Are you excited about a particular piece you’re creating?
I have several things in mind that I want to start working on or experiment with. I have more bird and animal patterns in mind, I’d like to do some more colourful pieces like the mandala I recently finished, and I’ve been experimenting with using acrylic ink and hand carved stamps to colour small areas of fabric before stitching. As I write, I am working on a small embroidery to submit to an open exhibition.
Thank you so much for sharing your embroidery story and process with us, Chloe! You are such a talented artist, and I enjoy the pieces that you create. I look forward to seeing what you’ll do in the future!
In March I interview the dynamic duo Hannah and Jessica, a.k.a. Lady Jane Long Stitches! Look for their feature on March 10, 2016.
Are you interested in being interviewed for Backside of the Hoop? Fill out this form!