09 March 2014

Hand stitched 1

This is the first of my guest posts on ...And Then We Set It On Fire last week. I am posting it here as well, for those of you who may not have read it.

Hello everyone! I am Erica Spinks from Sydney, Australia and I'm so happy to be able to talk to you about hand stitching - my favourite subject.

Back in the 1980s, I went to my first patchwork class. It was at a local quilt shop, a rareity in Australia in those days. As beginners, we were required to make either a sampler or a medallion quilt, of our own design.

We were guided through the process - selecting blocks from a book, drafting the shapes, making the templates from sandpaper, choosing fabric and then cutting it with scissors, stitching all the pieces together by hand, sandwiching it and hand quilting. Even my binding was applied by hand! This was the beginning of my love affair with hand stitching.

Quilting on my first quilt. I don't think my stitches have been so even since then!

Over the years since, I have made countless quilts and textile pieces, some sewn together by machine but most stitched by hand. New 'time-saving' tools have been invented during those years and 'quick' patterns have followed for people keen to produce as many quilts as possible within their limited sewing time.

This, however, has never been why I stitch.

My relationship with the cloth I use is important to me. I need to feel it in my hands, draped on my lap. I need to know that the needle, an extension of my own hands, is full of treasured thread. As it intersects the cloth and joins the pieces, I can feel that it is my own creative effort that is making an object that had not previously existed. With my own hands, and simple tools, I have made something tangible.

Stitching, for me, takes as long as it needs. I do not work to deadlines; I rarely work to themes set by other people.

I simply hand stitch for the sheer pleasure. My enjoyment is with the process.

Detail of Jetsam. Hand-dyed fabric, with knitted pieces and hand stitching.

I am not an embroiderer. You won't see complicated stitching in the pieces I've made so far, though I have ideas for future works that may include stitches of different shapes. I use simple straight stitches, sometimes in rows and sometimes scattered across the piece, as you can see in this detail of stitching in Jetsam.

Simple straight stitches can add a lot to a work. Here's my Watermelon Summer, a piece I made during a very hot February in Sydney. Lovely wonky stitching with hot pink crochet thread really symbolises how frazzled we were!

Watermelon Summer

In my next guest post, I will show you the threads I enjoy using and some examples of my wholecloth works. I look forward to sharing with you again.


  1. Wow Erica that's amazing hand quilting for a beginner!
    Love your philosophy too.

  2. I think I already commented on the other blog...but I too love hand work and your work is amazing!!! Love the detail you create!!!


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