Chicken Scratch is such a weird name for an embroidery technique! I can only imagine that it came about because this technique of embroidery on gingham involves sharp little stitches … like chicken’s feet maybe? Or maybe some of the stitches look like the hatch marks in the ground after chickens have been foraging for peckable foodstuffs? Whatever the case, for some reason, the name was used, and it stuck.
Gingham Embroidery, gingham lace, snowflaking, and gingham cross stitch are all interchangeable words for “chicken scratch,” and golly – I’d even venture to say they’re somewhat preferable! Chicken scratch makes me itchy.
Anyway – to get one with it – summer time is a perfect time to teach embroidery to kids, or to take up a quick project yourself, and gingham embroidery can fill the bill on both accounts. One of my plans this summer is to help keep my niece occupied by making a chicken scratch apron with her. I want to incorporate this drawn-thread-on-gingham technique with the chicken scratch, using a smaller checked gingham.
It just so happens that there’s a pretty good e-book available online that teaches step-by-step the methods and variations of gingham embroidery. The book is by Laurie Latour, and it’s called The Guide to Gingham Embroidery: Book One – Stitch & Learn Gingham Lace, Snowflaking, & Gingham Cross Stitch.
Though a much more rustic needlework technique, gingham embroidery can be used very effectively to create a lacy design on items made from gingham. My favorite application of the technique is on aprons. Laurie has an extensive collection of vintage gingham aprons embellished with chicken scratch, and she uses a few of them in the book to show the effectiveness of particular chicken scratch techniques.
But the useful content in the book is the instructional material. While gingham embroidery is not a difficult technique, it is helpful to have step-by-step photos of the process of making the different stitches and stitch combinations, along with the method of traveling those stitches to minimize the messy back that can often result in this type of needlework, if care isn’t taken.
Using over 130 photos throughout the 53-page e-book, Laurie demonstrates how to stitch variations of cross stitch, snowflakes, circles and squares that are used to make up gingham “lace.”
Using over 130 photos throughout the 53-page e-book, Laurie demonstrates how to stitch variations of cross stitch, snowflakes, and the circles and squares that are used to make up gingham “lace.”
The book includes chapters on supplies, tools and tips, instructions on stitch variations, three simple projects (embroidered book marks, gingham lace tissue box cover, and gingham lace Christmas trees for ornaments and cards), and an appendix with an alphabet chart, a Christmas tree chart, and gingham graph paper (hey, you don’t see that too often!).
What I like most about the book is it’s suitability for teaching children. See, gingham embroidery is one of those perfect techniques to use to interest kids in needlework. For one thing, the stitches and variations are easy enough that the child is quickly successful, but the result is complex enough to be visually interesting. For another thing, it’s super-quick to work up, and seeing the results form quickly always spurs kids on to do more. There’s nothing like success to keep a kid interested!
So now that it’s summer – and if you’re looking for something to keep your crafty children occupied, or you’re wanting to teach them a skill to keep them occupied through the break – you might consider checking out this e-book on Gingham Embroidery. I’m glad Laurie wrote it. There aren’t a whole lot of books that actually show step-by-step the techniques, probably because in the needlework world, the technique seems so basic. But for a complete newbie to needlework, those step-by-step photos and how-to tips are a terrific way to get started!
Update, 2017: Unfortunately, I don’t have a source for this ebook anymore. If I find out where it can now be purchased, I will update this post with a new link.
What about you? Any plans this summer (or winter, depending on where you’re located!) for stitching with kids? I’m always on the look-out for kid-oriented needlework ideas – feel free to share yours in the comment section below!