Text in textiles or embroidered text is a great way to add some narrative to textile artwork or to add in specific details - such as a name or date of birth in a sampler.
Embroidered writing can be in whole sentences or just snippets of a story or even just one word. The image shown above is the part telling of the story of Venus, the Roman Goddess. In this textile artwork I've selected just a few important parts of the text as the purpose was to encourage those looking at the work to look at the rest of the pieces and to consider the story for themselves. I made a conscious decision not to reveal the whole story.
Using embroidered text gives the opportunity to really personalise textile artwork by copying someone's writing as I've done in the work above. This was based on collecting dandelions with my son when he was young. He decided to independently write about it in my sketchbook. I thought it would be appropriate to the piece to include his writing, so I traced over it and embroidered his style of writing rather than my own.
The first two images show hand embroidered writing. It is also possible to free machine embroider writing as I've done in the piece above. This work explores the history of a museum where I had a residency. You can see more about this work here at the bottom of the page. Free machine embroidered writing is a lot quicker than hand embroidered writing. I find that my writing style is different when using the sewing machine than when hand embroidering - and I think both are neater than my actual hand writing!
It is also possible to hand embroider Braille. This work above was taken from a book exploring the history of Worcester that I made a few years back now. In Worcester there is a museum, The Commandery, that has had many uses over the centuries, including being a school for visually impaired people. It seemed appropriate to embroider the title of the museum in Braille - and it does work.
Combing different types of text in embroidered artwork can add a different dimension and look effective. In the work above I've combined typed writing using a vintage typewriter with hand embroidered text. This work explores the history of embroidery and feelings towards it over time. During Medieval times, British embroidery was highly desired and was one of the biggest exports. Over time this diminished and during the Victorian era was mainly seen as a hobby for ladies or to teach girls how to write. I do think that now embroidery is becoming more valued as an art form once more.
For those who would like to try embroidering writing I would suggest a simple back or split stitch to begin with. Depending on the size of the work you could also try chain stitch or stem stitch - or even couching. If you have a go, I'd love to see what you do in the comments below.
Overall embroidered writing is a fabulous way to completely personalise a piece of textile art and is so enjoyable to do.