Textile art uses the ancient crafts of spinning, weaving and decorating cloth to create decorative objects. These can be purely decorative (like a wall hanging or tapestry) or functional (like a quilt or piece of clothing). We asked some of the North Bristol Artists more about their specialities.
The craft of embroidery is an ancient one, and in it’s simplest form it is the decoration of fabric, or other materials, with thread or yarn using a needle. It can incorporate other materials including beads, pearls, sequins, feathers and many other small items.
From the logo on hats and clothing to a treasured quilt or blanket, embroidery is all around us. Though traditionally considered a craft, it has long been raised to an art form by such recognisable names as Grayson Perry, Faith Ringgold and Kaffe Fassett.
There are many traditional types of embroidery from across the world. From South Asian Kantha, to the Irish Mountmellick, Japanese Sashiko to the Bayeux Tapesty (which is actually an embroidery!), from English Crewelwork to Punjabi Phulkari. Many of these techniques have seen a resurgence of interest, as evidenced by the numerous images on Instagram and Pinterest.
Contemporary hand embroidery
Unlike cross stitch, contemporary hand embroidery is often characterised by a more free or liberal approach to embroidery. Stitches are often combined in unusual ways to create artwork that can be highly textured, 3-dimensional or photorealistic. Though there are only a small handful of basic stitches, these can be adapted, combined and elaborated to create unique work.
Free-motion machine embroidery
Free-motion embroidery turns the humble sewing machine into a tool that can be used with as much freedom as an artist’s brush. Once the ‘feed dogs’ are dropped, the embroiderer can skilfully move the fabric to create detailed images, fine lines and areas of solid colour using the machines built-in stitch settings. Unlike the machines used to embroider high street clothing, the free motion technique makes unique pieces of work that can’t be replicated.
NBA member Aly Dalrimple demonstrates free-motion machine embroidery.
Other Textile Techniques
“I use special needles to sculpt and form the wool into many different shapes. Because sheep’s wool naturally wants to mat, it holds shapes with little support and no extra additions. It is a great art, and it is so environmentally friendly since it only uses wool. I love the local farmers I work with so also get to support them and create items that have little miles to them.