I recently became inspired by a Fall/Winter 2015 trend report on StyleSight.com featuring prints that use simple black line-drawn symbols as design motifs. It reminded me of the fun show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from way back in 1997 called Wordrobe that featured garments throughout history whose designs incorporated words and letters. As the exhibit showed, taking common symbols that are normally used for practical communication, and creating a design element with them is not a new idea – as I found out again when I came across a great image from Bauhaus Textiles of patterns created with typewriter keys from 1932.
I thought of all the symbols used in the needle arts and I started poking around my library of embroidery and knitting books. The symbols used in 19th century whitework embroidery caught my eye. Taken alone, they have clean direct lines, but arranged all those symbols together in a floral motif, and they create a very different effect. And, if you take those same symbols and arrange them in a completely different way, the look can be very modern.