So I haven’t had much time lately for actual embroidery or cross stitch (although I have managed to keep up with the Steotchalong!), but my mind’s been brimming with new pattern ideas. I draw a lot of my inspiration from pop culture – TV shows, movies, music, memes, comics, etc. – and I like to mix in traditional motifs and references to my nerdy history and lit loves. I’ve been writing all my ideas down in my pattern book, and I think I’ll actually have some time this weekend to pick out a few and work on them – hooray!
Anyways, that got me thinking about the creative process. It often takes a lot of work to get from idea to finished piece, and for most people there are a bunch of stages in between. How about you? What’s your work process? Do you stitch ideas directly onto fabric without making a pattern? Do you spend oodles of time perfecting your pattern before your needle is ever threaded? Do you draw up ten versions and then decide on your favorite? I’m curious how other people work!
As to my creative process, it varies. Most of the time I’m watching TV or scrolling through my tumblr dashboard and I come across something that makes me laugh. I’ll write down the quote or make a quick sketch of the image, usually on whatever’s lying closest to me (more recently I’ve also started an inspiration pinboard, which helps when I can’t figure out that the misshapen blob is supposed to be Ron Swanson). I tend to also have a lot of ideas in the middle of the night (when I don’t want to get up or turn on the light) which leads to lots of weird, badly misspelled notes on my cell phone and scribbles on a pad of sticky notes I leave next to my bed (even harder to figure out than the normal blobs). These pieces of paper generally get spread about amongst my possessions, so when I want to turn one into a pattern I can never find it. Long story short, I finally decided to start a pattern/idea book (best decision ever!). I bought a plain black notebook and started accumulating all of the scraps of paper and transferring their ideas into one place. I know I still have lots of notes floating around somewhere, but at least all of the most recent ones are in the book.
So, what happens next? Well, I tend to experiment with the idea a lot before it turns into a formal pattern. I sketch a few ideas out, I play around with different styles and arrangements, I try different fonts (if it has lettering). I usually decide right from the start whether the piece will be embroidery or cross stitch, but otherwise everything’s up in the air. I don’t even think about colors until much later. Sometimes I even come up with four or five completely different sketches (which are always difficult for me to pick between). In the end, I settle on a version and use it to make the actual pattern. At this point, my process changes depending on whether the pattern is for an embroidery or cross stitch piece.
Cross stitch patterns take me FOREVER. I’m not one of those people with the innate skill to lay out a pattern in just the right number of squares. Oh no, it takes me ages to mash my pattern into decent shape. I am really picky about everything being even and balanced, so I spend wayyy too much time moving everything over a few squares, only to realize I should have shifted them the other way. Lettering takes me the longest. I usually end up trying out at least five different fonts just to fit the words into the space I want. In the end, I am left with a piece of paper with lots of erasure marks, scribbles, and calculations. Sometimes I transfer the pattern onto a new piece of paper, but more often I leave it and move on to the stitching.
Embroidery patterns cause me less stress. I’m usually less worried about balance and space, and more worried about my lines. I draw out a few versions of what I want (or trace if I’m working from a specific image or screenshot). I’ll fiddle with bits and pieces and move any words or borders around, but as long as I have a good image I’m pretty satisfied. Like with my cross stitch patterns, I don’t generally end up with a nice neat pattern at this point.
In both cases, I take my current patterns and stitch them up. While I’ve already settled on the basics of a piece, I tend to change bits and pieces while I’m stitching. This could be as small as adding a square or two or altering the border, or a major as moving the text to a new spot or adding a few more things to the piece. I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve ever followed a pattern to the T (whether it’s my own pattern or someone else’s!). I think this is mostly because I’m still working through my ideas when I’m stitching. Plotting something out on a piece of paper is different than seeing it actually stitched up.
Anyways, once I’ve finished a piece, I’ll decide if I want to make a formal pattern of it for future use. Generally I want to, and if I have time I’ll transfer the altered design back onto paper (yes, sometimes changing it yet again!). I’m still searching for a good (and relatively cheap) Mac software option to make digital patterns – any suggestions? Unfortunately for me I think there’s a lot more programs built for PCs than Macs.
That’s about it! So now, what about you? Does this process sound familiar? Do you do something completely different? I’d love to hear how other stitchers make their ideas into patterns and pieces!