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    Seeking Inspiration? Start Here!

    written contribution by Christi Johnson of Mixed Color.

     Last week we explored the benefits of bringing creativity into our lives, and some simple techniques for opening up to your own creative potential. This week, we’ll dive a little deeper into the heart and soul of the creative process - inspiration! We’re going to spend some time finding our personal style and use this inspiration to accent a piece of clothing with personalized stitches.


    The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word spirare, which means “to breathe” - this is where our personal intentions meet the outer world; breathing life into the images we’re creating on the fabrics in front of us. 

    “Where do your ideas come from?” This is a question Neil Gaiman, author of delightful stories like Coraline and Stardust, is apparently asked quite often.


    In his pondering of ideas, he described all of life's experiences; from that strangely dressed man you saw at the bus stop this morning, to the memory of a family vacation when you were a child; as elements that contribute to the pile of memories that can best be described as a compost heap.


    Compost is made up of all the waste left over from feeding ourselves; inedible peels, too-old-to-eat leftovers, and the rotting bits of fruits and veggies sliced off during meal prep. If you’re a gardener, you’re likely familiar with what these waste products turn into - the richest food for your soil, which will nourish the plants that, in turn, will nourish you.  


    Floral Motif Pattern

    DMC Thread Pictured: Mouline Étoile

    As visual artists, our creative compost heap is not limited to ideas or memories. We can literally pull out old projects, scraps of fabrics, and retired clothing from the past in order to feed our future creative endeavors. 

    Unearthing Your Past To Nourish Your Future 

     Grab a few of your favorite images from books or magazines, maybe some clippings you saved, or a printed fabric you find delightful. Begin to collect at least 5-10 items that bring you joy, arranging them on your desk (or floor - my personal favorite workspace!) and meditating with them for a bit.

    • Are there consistent themes?
    • Colors you find yourself drawn to?
    • Certain repetitions of shapes?
    Record any consistencies, sketching motifs and shapes you find popping up again and again.  

    Christi Jay Creative Exploration
    Shop With Christi Jay

    The goal of this process is to discover through-lines of your personal style through the work that you’re intrinsically drawn to. By viewing these images side by side, you’re able to more easily see repetitions and harmonious elements occurring that may lead to an evolution in your own visual language. 

    Breaking Down Creative Blocks



    Finding yourself staring at a big blank wall of “what do I make?” no matter how many inspiring images you look through? Not all inspiration comes with a plan. Sometimes a bit more playtime can be the ticket to working your way out of a block.


    There is freedom available in NOT knowing, NOT expecting, NOT having a “vision” . The overly ambitious project can easily result in frustration. Choose instead to explore - the re-use of old materials releases one from the constraints of expectations, the openness to new ideas allows space to notice; new forms, new possibilities, new combinations.


    Allow the feeling of the unknown to be a meditation. To leave room for your individual interpretation of elements of design.


    One of my favorite ways to get started with embroidery? Select a garment and decide to cover it in little symbols. By working with a variety of smaller design elements on a garment, you allow yourself the freedom to do as little or as much stitching as you’d like!


    So when you have a feeling or a vision for a certain design, you can look at this garment and say, where could I add this to make this piece even better? It's sort of like tattoos for your clothes!


    Upcycle Apparel With Christi Jay


     Shop With Christi Jay to Make Your Mark. 

    Project for the Week: Small Scale Embroideries on Clothing  

    Now let's use our inspiration to breathe some life into the garments in our closet!


    For anyone who’s familiar with my work, it’s no surprise that denim is one of my favorite materials to embroider on! The twill texture and hand stitching seem to go together like bread and butter, and the weight of the denim means you don’t need to use an embroidery hoop.


    Now for our artwork - let’s go back to our inspiration that we’ve gathered. What were the common themes you discovered? Personally, I’ve always got stars, sparkling suns, and cosmic inspired visuals going on, so that’s what I’ll focus on for the theme of these jeans. The embroidery patterns I’ve developed for DMC include lots of fun stars and flowers for you to play with these allover styles if you’re not ready to use your own designs.


    To start, I like to cut out scrap paper and place the motifs on the garment to get an idea of the placement. This way I can make any adjustments before transferring (especially important for an iron-on transfer!!). You can pin these on and try on the garment too, to be sure you love the placement. 

    Placing Small Motifs

    Download The Floral Motifs Pattern by Christi Jay

     To make these stitches really bold and dimensional, I’ve chosen the DMC Perle thread in a size 5 (check out my IGTV video for an easy way to store these Perle threads!), with a few splashes of Etoile for sparkle.


    Maybe your theme is more botanical, or just some funky simple shapes. Once you’ve transferred your designs and chosen a few colors (in this case, I went with some golds and rust colors to match the stitching of the denim), the fun begins!


    For more variety of texture, try mixing up your stitches. Allow the smooth sheen of satin stitch to play off of a light sprinkling of running stitch; or the lacey nature of detached chain stitches to highlight the boldness of a cluster of french knots. Be sure to leave your stitches a little on the loose side; this way you can avoid any puckering of the final garment!


     The fun part about this all over technique is - even if you’re not finished, you can still wear the garment… and even if you thought you were finished… you can still come back and add more stitches! 


    Make Your Own Sampler
    DMC Threads Featured: Pearl Cotton



    We’d love to see your finished projects!! Be sure to share on Instagram and tag @dmc_embroidery and @christijay so we can join in on the creative fun.


    Want to dig deeper into designing your own artwork for embroidery? The doors for my online course, “Embroidery For Everyone” are now open! Head over to my Embroidery Portal to learn more!


    Books for further research on Embroidery Inspiration:


    Alexandra Jiacopetti - Native Funk and Flash

    Constance Howard - Inspiration for Embroidery

    Peter S. Beagle - American Denim