Studio Saturdays: The power of simple stitching

Adding stitching to your mixed-media repertoire doesn’t require a sewing machine, a ton of supplies, or expert sewing skills. It doesn’t even require fabric. A simple row of running stitches on paper can have a huge impact on artwork, lending color, texture, and pattern.

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Stitched postcards
I embellished these postcards with simple stitches.

I incorporated some simple hand stitching in these small collages with embroidery thread, and I love the effect—every time I pick them up I run my hands over the stitches and am drawn into the photographs. What other material has that power?

The supplies for this project were minimal—watercolor postcards, some vintage photos, acrylic paint, and embroidery thread and a needle. Not shown are rubber stamps, which I decided to add later.

Mixed media stitch supplies
Supplies included postcards, photos, embroidery thread, and paint.

I scraped paint over the postcard with an old credit card, layering analogous colors in three different palettes.

Layered acrylic paint
An old credit or gift card works wonders for layering paint.

When the paint was dry I added some stamped images with white paint. This allowed me to juxtapose the vintage photos with a modern, abstract background.

Painted backgrounds
After being painted, the backgrounds were stamped with abstract designs (I used the Marks set of N*studio stamps from Stampendous.).

After gluing the photos onto the cards I started stitching. I added simple, random straight stitches to one card, using embroidery thread in complementary colors so they would pop against the background (Quick tip: Unlike fabric, once you make a hole in paper with the needle it’s there forever. To ensure correct stitch placement, when coming from the back, punch a hole in the front, then continue to sew.).

Stitched postcard
A row of straight, random stitches was added to this postcard.

For the next card I added a circle filled with French knots. These are easy, even for a first-timer, but you can also fill in the space with small straight stitches, or a satin stitch. I penciled in three circles, but after creating the first one I liked the way it looked and erased the other two. For the third card I made a funky flower with the lazy daisy stitch and two rows of running stitches (Quick tip: Needle pullers can help get the needle through thick papers. These small rubber discs are available in some fabric stores and online.). Don’t worry about making your stitches perfect—they’re supposed to look like they were done by hand.

The French knots lend texture and interest.
The French knots lend so much texture and interest.

Stitching works well as a way to attach and combine papers and fabrics, of course. For collage and assemblage, basic hand stitching can truly transform a piece.

Mixed media postcards
Even the simplest stitches add so much to a mixed-media piece.

Try adding some hand or machine stitches to your next collage, monoprint, textile piece, or art journal page. You can even stitch through a stretched canvas. The resources below offer fantastic techniques and ideas for your next project.

Inspired by mixed-media stitching?

Discover great resources to inspire your next project:

The Art of Whimsical Stitching Print with Collage and Stitch Sew Wild
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The Mixed-Media Workshop Season 100: Best of Mixed-Media Stitch Cloth Paper Scissors, November/December 2013 Mixed-Media Art Quilts
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Find more resources for stitching (and much more) in the

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Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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