They have a lot in common, really. Kind of surprising on the surface, but not so much as you dig deeper. Everything has a structure, and physicists are finding that mathematically, everything is related.
I’ve been playing with stitches in crewelwork lately. Often I fall back on old standards that I know work, because they have for centuries – long and short stitch, satin, chain stitch, stem stitch, the occasional french or colonial knot. Blanket stitch and I don’t get along particularly well if I’m not covering wire, and I’ve just recently re-discovered a love for Palestrina knots.
Repetition and Variation
I got to thinking about how similar placing stitches into a design is to placing dance steps in a choreography. The same design rules apply. You need repetition to make sure that your viewer doesn’t get overwhelmed or lost — it creates a safe place – and you need variation or it gets boring quickly.
In dance, we call it the “rule of four.” It takes four repetition for a viewer to get to the “Yeah, OK, I’ve seen that” point – so you can change it up with a bit of surprise on the fourth repetition – 3 hip circles and a figure 8 with the hips for example (or three 8s and a big circle, for that matter…) I can achieve an undulating flow by alternating moves, a-b, a-b, or hip snap, circle, hip snap, circle.
And this is applicable to needlework, too! (Really – watch me!)
For example, you can use color as in the top wing feathers here – red/blue, red/blue. Or in stitches – stem stitch filling, chain, stem, chain. I did the latter on the bottom wing, with a subtle color addition, too. (And note that the top feather is the equivalent of the 4th rep variation ( it’s a raised stem stitch right now… but I’m considering ripping it out and making it plain stem stitch… it just seems jarring.)
The trellis work grid pattern on the leaves provides repetition and the size change gives it variation.
How do you use repetition and variation? Even if all you do is geometric cross stitch designs, do you ever replace a color with beads? Use more than one color?