From Painting to Embroidery: Translating Between Media


Lately I’ve started noticing more and more embroidery artists on Instagram. I love the colorful modern hoop art from folks like @hopebroidery, @merristiches, and @sewbootiful. At first I was just an admirer, and didn’t think I would ever try embroidery myself - “I need a new hobby like I need a hole in my head”, I thought. But reading a “beginners guide to embroidery” by Hope helped me rethink my original assumption that I’d need to buy a bunch of new supplies to get started. I realized I already had some needles that would work, and I took her advice to use an old pillowcase for the fabric! I had some leftover embroidery floss my grandmother had sent me for use in scrapbooking projects (mega flashback!), so then all I needed was a hoop. One trip to Michaels and $2.50 later, I was ready to go.

The reason I finally “gave in” and tried embroidery myself instead of just appreciating the beautiful work of others is because I had An Idea. An Idea I just could not get out of my head: I wanted to take one of my geometric abstract paintings and make it in embroidered form. I figured I could use black thread for the dividing lines, and then just fill in the different boxes with different stitches in an assortment of colors.

After weeks of daydreaming about it, I finally picked a few colors and dove in. Here’s how it went: 

embroidering the geometric outline in black

embroidering the geometric outline in black

Maybe in the future I’d want to sketch straight lines with a disappearing ink pen and a ruler, but for a first attempt it was so much easier to just have a go at it - wonky lines and all. In this case the embroidered process matches the painting process quite closely; I make the black lines first then go back and fill in boxes working with one color at a time.

I do all the blocks of a single color at once when painting so that I don’t have to keep cleaning my brush switching back and forth all the time. And I did all the blocks of a single color with embroidery so that I didn’t have to tie off and rethread the needle. So really, the theme is I am lazy and hate extra steps, and hate feeling like I might be wasting paint or thread. So many more parallels than I anticipated!!

adding sprinkles of ccolor around the margins

adding sprinkles of ccolor around the margins

I tried different stitches for each color, and specifically didn’t let myself watch too many tutorials or classes because I thought it would be a rabbit hole of “thinking” vs “doing”. So the inner boxes are just things I made up. I tried a few times to fill in only part of a box as a way to mimic the shading / dilution of color that happens in the watercolor version.

the finished piece!

the finished piece!

I did watch some tutorials after I finished the inner section, just to get some ideas for more projects. Im obsessed with are Becca Rindquist from dropcloth studios and highly recommend her courses on Creativebug if you are looking for beginner video tutorials. That’s where I learned French knots, asterisk stitches, and scattered seed stitch; which I think used to fill in most of the whitespace around the central geometric piece. I love love love how it turned out! I might go for a slightly more minimal border sprinkle next time but since this was acting as a kind of starter sampler for me it was fun to try a combination of stitches. 


I have another Idea poking at my brain already... so now I can’t wait to get my hands on some variegated thread and see what magic those create!

Do you have more than one hobby or creative passion? Is there a medium you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t taken the plunge yet? Try picking a project you have done and loved, and experiment with recreating it or translating portions of it into a new attform. I’d love to see what you create! you can post a link here or tag me on Instagram @antianxietyart or using the hashtag #antianxietyart

Wishing you more joy & less stress,


ps if you have any other favorite embroidery artists, please share a link to their work; I’d love to expand my repertoire of inspiration! 

Julianna StocktonComment