Embroidery. It was the first textile art I ever learned. Crewel embroidery is an art with a long history. The Bayeux Tapestry, in fact, is not a Tapestry, nor woven: it was, in fact, embroidered. The Victoria and Albert Museum in England has a fantastic page on the history of English embroidery, here. Embroidery has a wide history, not just in Europe, with some of the oldest references dating back to China 500 B.C.E.
I find it relaxing. I have started to work on my own designs, usually modifying an existing one as from a kit, like the one from the left (which is one of my oldest pieces, and I did not modify it; I think I made it around 1987). Embroidery artists are able to translate their graphic ideas into needle, thread, and fabric, and do so either from their own original designs or by adapting from paintings and other art. I find that pretty darned amazing, to be honest.
I confess, though, that I adore kits. I find ones that I like, and then it’s like coloring in designs in a coloring book. My mind relaxes while my hands are kept busy, and I get to play with color and texture. While embroidery seems intimidating to the beginner, needlepoint and cross-stitch are both needle arts that similarly have kits and can be done with little to no experience. If you’ve a mind to try embroidery, though, give it a shot – I made this piece before I learned anything from another textile artist, and was able to follow the instructions. Most of the stitches are fairly simple ones; the only more complex bit the French knots (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I found horridly difficult – so after this kit, I made sure to pick ones that didn’t require them).
But for the adventurous artist, and for those of you who are able to translate flat, written instructions and graphics to the three-dimensional world of canvas and thread, the world is your oyster. There’s a burgeoning interest in needlework and some amazing books that have come out recently that are sure to delight both the novice and experience needleworker. My favorite of the new artists is Jane Nicholas, but beware: viewing her site may consume many hours of your time because her art is captivating. You have been warned. 🙂