If someone were to ask you to draw a picture, what’s the first thing you would reach for? Crayons? Colored pencils? Markers? Chalk? Pastels?
Those are probably some of the drawing tools that would immediately jump into your mind. But what about a needle and thread? You probably didn’t think of those, did you? But those tools are exactly what thread artists might think of first.
Thread art can take many different forms. For example, a knitted or crocheted sweater can be a work of art on its own. But many knitters and crocheters can also use their needles and yarn to create beautiful images.
Likewise, those who practice needlepoint and quilting can make fabric items that are as lovely as any painted or drawn picture. Even young children can try their hand at string art by wrapping string or yarn around a series of nails embedded in wooden frames.
Using needles and thread to create works of art has a long history. Hundreds of years ago in medieval Europe, large woven images hung on walls. Some could be hundreds of feet long and broken up into multiple panels. These pieces of thread art told grand stories and were called tapestries.
One of the most famous examples of a tapestry is the Bayeux tapestry. Over 230 feet long, it depicts the Norman conquest of England and features William the Conqueror as its primary figure. Tapestries were valuable pieces of art, because they could be moved easily and displayed in many locations. In addition to wall hangings, tapestries could also be incorporated into pillows, blankets and chairs.
Tapestries can use many different colors of thread. Tapestry threads can also be blended and layered in three dimensions. These unique characteristics give tapestries and look and feel unlike any other form of art. When displayed in different lights, their colors and textures can take on different qualities when viewed from different angles, making tapestries as intriguing as any painting.
Drawing with thread is not as easy as drawing with a crayon or a colored pencil. It’s also not easy to erase your mistakes! Thread artists are very skilled at using their tools — needles, thread, string, pins and nails — to create drawings that look like they could have been drawn with a pencil.
Some thread artists have even taken creativity to a whole new level. Toronto thread artist Amanda McCavour creates thread drawings that seem to float in the air. How does she do it? She creates thread drawings by using a fabric that dissolves in water. Once she has her thread creation just like she wants it, she dissolves the fabric, leaving a drawing consisting only of thread suspended in mid-air!