Oodles of Billboard music chart toppers are easy-to-play three-chord songs, and all of Western music is only comprised of a dozen notes. According to fiber artist Liz Stiglets, embroidery works essentially the same way.
“It can seem really complicated if you look at an entire piece,” she admits. “But you can do so much with the basics. You can take three basic stitches and apply them in different ways. They build on each other, and you get a lot of variation just by changing the length, angle, or how close together you put them. You make a line with a straight stitch. You change directions and make two lines. Make five and you have a star.
“There are,” she adds, “a million different stitches. But you can complete a pattern with just a couple of the most basic ones. It’s very accessible.”
The techniques aren’t the only aspect that’s accessible, thanks to CozyBlue Handmade, Stiglets’ business devoted to supplying, teaching, and inspiring embroidery artists. CozyBlue’s motto is “slow down, get cozy, get crafty,” and Stiglets makes that a frictionless process by offering friendly DIY kits. Each one includes an embroidery hoop, a how-to starter guide, and a pre-printed pattern design that eliminates the need for transferring or tracing. Even a total beginner can take it up.
“Part of my goal is making it easy,” Stiglets confirms. Her patterns are exquisitely composed with delicate details and beautifully balanced color schemes. They reveal Stiglets’ flair for creating cleverly nuanced designs that can appear vastly more difficult to execute than they actually are.
The whole kit and caboodle is portable, too. Think knitting, only tidier and more discreet. “You can keep the hoop and everything in a little bag and bring it with you in the car,” she says. “Embroider while waiting at the bus stop for the kids, watching TV, or listening to a podcast. You find little short periods of five or ten minutes to be creative, instead of letting the time pass mindlessly.”
A stitching revival that swelled in the first decade of Etsy has continued to attract momentum. One constituency (no pun intended), dubbed Subversive Cross Stitch, focuses on traditional message samplers one might see at grandma’s house — if grandma were salty and given to mottoes like “Stab Fabric, Not People” and “Whisky Makes Me Frisky.”
“Historically, embroidery involved a lot of traditional rules,” Stiglets notes. “Today it’s more about self-expression and creativity. The cool thing is that there are a million ways to demonstrate your unique voice, and they are all valuable.”
The New Yorker recently published a feature about a new manifestation of “Stitch ’n Bitch” clubs called “The Tiny Pricks Project.” It specializes in messages of progressive political resistance and just held an exhibit in Manhattan.
Stiglets organizes a stitch club, too. “It’s a range of ages, mostly women but some men, and a lot of them learned to stitch as kids and are coming back to it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to slow down for a moment and bring a little more mindfulness into your life, and the better it feels … it’s therapeutic.”
Liz Stiglets, East Asheville. CozyBlue products are sold locally at WHIST
gallery and gift shop (444 Haywood Road #102, West Asheville, whistshop.com); at Sassy Jack’s Stitchery (30 North Main St., Weaverville, sassyjackstitchery.com); and at Echoview Fiber Mill (76 Jupiter Road, Weaverville, echoviewnc.com). For more information, visit cozybluehandmade.com or check out @cozyblue on Instagram.