For Danish designer Carina Envoldsen–Harris, stitching is a wonderful way to take some time out and take a step back from the worries of everyday life.
“It is a great way to occupy yourself away from the glowing screen of a mobile or tablet. Of course, it is also a chance to create something beautiful for yourself or someone else at the same time,” she says.
“Doing something creative, or something else you enjoy, is great for reducing stress And it gives your mind freedom to wander. The rhythm of working the embroidery stitches is very meditative.
“When you get really absorbed in the embroidery, it is like the rest of the world melts away and your thoughts can drift freely in any direction.
“You can work on your embroidery in silence or while listening to quiet music. Or you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts. While your hands and eyes are busy, your ears can take in stories and ideas that will transport your thoughts to other times and places.”
Carina recommends turning off email and social media notifications on your mobile so you can stitch without interruptions. And put the device outside reaching distance so you’re not tempted to check it every five minutes.
“Sit somewhere comfortable so you can relax, and make yourself a drink. Maybe a nice cup of cocoa or soothing tea. A couple of biscuits are a nice touch too,” she adds.
“Make sure you stay comfortable when stitching. Get up and stretch from time to time so you don’t develop odd muscle pains.”
Gather all your materials together before you start. It is frustrating to have to stop in the middle of the work to go search for a thread colour you forgot or a pair of scissors.
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How to embroider mindfully
The act of selecting colours for an embroidery project can be a mindful one. Unless you are following a pattern exactly, there is a multitude of ways you can put together a colour scheme. Some colour combinations feel wild and carefree, others are more thoughtful and reflective.
You can affect your mood by the colours you choose. Take your time to put together different combinations. Think about how they make you feel. Even if you are following a pattern, you may want to swap out a colour or two to make the scheme feel just right.
You can pick your colours and once you get to know the pattern, you can let yourself be absorbed in each stitch. It is worthwhile to do each stitch properly. Not because it should be perfect but so you force yourself to slow down completely and focus on the simple act of needle and thread through fabric. The mind becomes quieter when focusing on the repetition of the pattern and each stitch.
It is a very tactile kind of being in the moment. The repetition of motif and stitch sections in a mandala design gives the mind a break because the pattern quickly becomes familiar, so you don’t have to worry about which stitch comes next or how to do it.
Winter solstice embroidery pattern
In this motif you can really get lost in the repetition of stitches. Stitch one row at a time, gradually, giving yourself space to relax and be calm as you stitch.
When working the pistil stitches and buttonhole wheels, be mindful of the tension of the stitches.
Work the continuous stitches first: chain stitch and running stitch. Then, move onto the rows of individual stitches: French knot, pistil stitch, lazy daisy, fl y stitch, straight stitch, buttonhole wheel and star.
You can find instructions all of the stitches except buttonhole wheel here. You can find the steps for a buttonhole wheel here.
- Buttonhole wheel
- Fly stitch
- Chain stitch
- French knot
- Star stitch
- Straight stitch
- Running Stitch
DMC colour suggestions
Carina Envoldsen-Harris is a Danish designer and author living in the UK. Under the name Polka & Bloom, Carina has been designing and selling embroidery patterns since 2009. The patterns combine her life-long passions for art, design, history and nature, often including floral motifs and bright colours.
You can find Carina’s work at polkaandbloom.com and her blog at carinascraftblog.com.
Books by Carina: Mandalas to Embroider, published by Search Press in 2017, Romantic Motifs, published by Search Press in 2016 and Stitched Blooms, published by Lark Crafts in 2013.