Cassandra Dias: Miniature embroidery landscapes

<i>Cassandra Dias:</i> Miniature embroidery landscapes

Just a few years ago Cassandra Dias was a mum of two young children, dabbling in a variety of crafts she sold from her Etsy shop.

A gifted bag of DMC threads and the quieter times in 2020 gave Cassandra the opportunity to learn and experiment with her stitches. Adopting her love of impressionist painting, and using her own photos of the vineyards, hills, seascapes and rivers of her native southern California, Cassandra found plenty of inspiration for her chosen subject of landscape embroidery. 

As she worked on her skills, she posted regularly on Instagram, growing an impressive following. It wasn’t long before she received requests to buy her artworks and to take commissions. 

Today, Cassandra delights in not only being a stay-at-home mum for her children, but in her discovery of the freedom of stitch and the joy of creating exquisite miniature landscape embroideries.

Cassandra Dias, Five Works by Cassandra Dias, 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Five Works by Cassandra Dias, 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.

Dabbling with art forms

Cassandra Dias: I used to love colouring, drawing and painting as a child, and remember being  encouraged to enjoy art. I took art classes throughout junior high and high school, studying acrylic and oil painting, sculpture and ceramics. My peers even voted me best artist for the high school yearbook. 

In college I decided to take a break from art in order to find a more traditional career, but none of the classes I took really held my interest. So, after graduating, I came back to art and started creating again. I taught myself crochet and silk screen printing, and opened an Etsy shop where I sold my handmade items. 

With every art form I’ve tried, with the exception of formal classes at school, I’ve taught myself after researching the basics. I enjoy challenging myself to see if I can learn to make things with my own hands.

‘Teaching myself a new skill is something that is really fulfilling for me, and that’s probably why I’ve gone in so many different creative directions during my life.’

Cassandra Dias, Textile artist
Cassandra Dias, Li River, 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery threads, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Li River, 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery threads, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Li River (detail), 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery threads, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Li River (detail), 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery threads, canvas, bamboo hoop.

Discovering embroidery

I started embroidery in January 2020 because I wanted to add another art form to the list of things I’ve tried. 

While browsing Instagram, I saw pretty floral designs with lots of neat satin stitch leaves and woven wheel blooms. I guess I was initially attracted to the visual appeal of these pieces. But when I actually went to visit the artists’ pages, I found that a lot of them were moms, just like me.

It was nice to see them in their various stages of motherhood with photos of them simply being mamas to their kids – but also to see posts devoted to their love of embroidery.

‘I felt a sense of connection to these women who had made time for themselves to have a creative outlet.’

Cassandra Dias, Textile artist
Cassandra Dias making progress on an embroidery in her workspace at home.
Cassandra Dias making progress on an embroidery in her workspace at home.

At the time, a couple of women I followed on Instagram – Jacinthe @littlehouse_happyfamily and Merrill Melideo @merzydotes – were posting some of their embroidered creations, and I thought this pastime might be something I’d enjoy too.

I had kind of slowed down with my crochet work because the basic stitches I was using had started to bore me, and I’d lost interest in silk screen printing and the other crafting I was doing to try to fill up my Etsy shop. I had an old bag of DMC floss I’d never used, so I decided to pull it out and give embroidery a try in the hope of finding a new passion.

I also liked the fact that embroidery seemed like a low maintenance hobby, one that could easily be put down and picked back up again when time allowed. Being a stay-at-home mom, with lots of other things I needed to manage throughout my day, the fact that I could pick up right where I left off was really appealing and convenient – I didn’t have to worry about things like my medium drying out on me, as paint or clay would do.

I picked it up pretty quickly after researching the basic stitches. During the pandemic lockdown, I was able to get lots of practice. I enjoyed doing most of my stitching on the couch, since I didn’t have a designated embroidery area at the time.

Little did I know just how passionate an embroiderer I would become!

Cassandra Dias, Wildflower Woods, 2021. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Wildflower Woods, 2021. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, California Poppies, 2021. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, California Poppies, 2021. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, California Vineyard, 2021. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, California Vineyard, 2021. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, San Geronimo Hills, 2021, and Rocks at Malibu, 2022 (details). 9cm (3.5") each. Thread paintings. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoops.
Cassandra Dias, San Geronimo Hills, 2021, and Rocks at Malibu, 2022 (details). 9cm (3.5″) each. Thread paintings. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoops.

From hobby to enterprise

To develop my hobby as a business, I started posting my work consistently on Instagram, using popular embroidery hashtags so that more people would be able to stumble across my photos. This helped me to gain the interest of new followers. 

Once I had made a bunch of pieces, I started selling them every week on Instagram – ‘first-to-comment-wins’ style. That, to my great relief, worked really well for me, and my following increased pretty organically from there.

With more people showing a genuine interest in my work and asking if I led any classes or sold patterns, I started filming more tutorials, which I posted on my social media pages. I also started creating patterns, which I sold in my online Etsy store.

Cassandra Dias, First Workshop, 2023. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, First Workshop, 2023. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, First Workshop (detail), 2023. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, First Workshop (detail), 2023. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, First Workshop (detail), 2023. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias,First Workshop (detail), 2023. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.

Favourite scenes

I enjoy embroidering different types of landscapes for completely different reasons, so it’s tough to decide which are my favourite scenes. Some of my favourite things are adding small flower details and creating french knot trees for my pastoral and rural pieces.

‘If I had to choose one, I’d probably say I like creating seascapes the best, because I love blending all the colours that make up the waves – adding reflections and incorporating rocks and things to create a rough contrast to the smooth flow of the water.’

Cassandra Dias, Textile artist
Cassandra Dias, Big Sur – Willard Little Repro, 2023. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Big Sur – Willard Little Repro, 2023. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Rocks at Malibu, 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting, cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Rocks at Malibu, 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting, cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Rocks at Malibu – Daphne Huntington Repro (detail), 2022.  9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas.
Cassandra Dias, Rocks at Malibu – Daphne Huntington Repro (detail), 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas.
Cassandra Dias, Rocky Coast with Sailboat, 2021. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas.
Cassandra Dias, Rocky Coast with Sailboat, 2021. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas.

Process of creating

When I’m working from a reference photo, I just eyeball the picture and freehand draw a rough sketch of it directly onto my fabric before I start stitching. If I’m creating a design from my own imagination, I still sketch it onto my fabric, but sometimes it can take a couple tries before I get it the way I want. Because of this, I use a water soluble marker just in case I need to erase my lines and start over.

I use unprimed cotton duck canvas because I’ve found that it’s sturdy enough to withstand how taut I like to have it in my working hoop. It’s also pretty durable when it comes to the amount of layers of stitching I incorporate in my pieces. 

I mainly use DMC six-strand cotton embroidery floss, with the exception of some random brands of old floss I have in the bag of threads that was gifted to me.

And since I normally work on such a small scale (my completed embroideries are mounted on nine centimetre/three-inch hoops), the six-strand embroidery floss is perfect as I can split up the thread and work with fewer strands when I need to. All of the materials I use are readily available at my local craft store.

Cassandra Dias, Almon Waterfall (in foreground), 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Almon Waterfall (in foreground), 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Almon Waterfall (work in progress), 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Almon Waterfall (work in progress), 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.

Framing small hoop embroideries

When I complete a piece, I hang it directly on the wall with a clear push pin. If I decide to keep an artwork for my own personal collection at home, I like to display it in a shadow box. I can either prop up the box on a level surface or hang it on the wall, and the glass barrier helps protect the embroidery from dust and other environmental elements. Whichever method I use to display my work, I always make sure to keep it away from moisture and out of direct sunlight.

Moving forward

Luckily, I haven’t had too many challenges so far. Sure, there is the occasional pause I need to take to reflect on the direction I want to go in with a piece. I’ve found that whenever I come upon something that stumps me, I just need to keep moving forward instead of backwards. I might add some more stitches instead of taking them out and trying again, and things will usually work out the way I want them to in the end.

In the future, I want to create my thread paintings on a larger scale and take on more commissions. I’m also interested in exhibiting my work. If time allows, I may try to create more patterns and also look into offering workshops through my website. I’ve been thinking about creating prints of my work as well, so I definitely have lots of ideas to progress my business and make my art more accessible to others. 

‘I want to make sure I continue to cultivate my love for embroidery, so it will always be about finding the right balance between checking goals off my list and enjoying the actual process of stitching.’

Cassandra Dias, Textile artist
Cassandra Dias, Lupine in California – John Gamble Repro, 2022. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Lupine in California – John Gamble Repro, 2022. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Mojave Desert in Palm Springs – Paul Grimm Repro, 2021. 9cm (3.5"). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.
Cassandra Dias, Mojave Desert in Palm Springs – Paul Grimm Repro, 2021. 9cm (3.5″). Thread painting. Cotton embroidery thread, canvas, bamboo hoop.

Practise & share

The best advice I can give someone who is interested in starting embroidery is to make it a priority to set aside time for yourself to practise. When I first started researching stitches, I came across an article on The Spruce Crafts that was really helpful. It gave step-by-step instructions and listed the materials I would need. 

Try all the stitches that look interesting to you, and figure out which ones you really enjoy making. From there you can experiment with different types of subject matter and apply those stitches to it. Greater confidence and improvement in your technique will come with practice. 

If you decide you want to turn your embroidery into a business, it’s important to have a consistent social media presence, so posting regularly on your social pages will help draw in people who are interested in your work and, in turn, help develop connections with potential clients.

Cassandra Dias choosing from her thread colour selection in her home workspace
Cassandra Dias choosing from her thread colour selection in her home workspace

Key takeaways

If you’ve found Cassandra’s journey and tips encouraging, remember these tips for your own practice:

  1. When starting out with embroidery, begin by trying out some basic stitches. Find those you like and practise until you’re confident with them.
  2. If, like Cassandra, you enjoy reproducing landscapes, take photos on walks or visits and work from these. You can sketch out the shapes onto fabric with a water erasable pen.
  3. When you’re working on a piece and are unsure of your direction, keep stitching rather than unpicking. You can cover up stitches with new ones, building layers for texture and direction.
  4. When you’re ready to share your work, set up an Instagram account and a website. Use popular relevant hashtags to attract new followers.
  5. Share your joy and sell your work too. Cassandra used competitions, filmed tutorials and designs of her own patterns that people could purchase.

Cassandra Dias was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and now lives in Camarillo, California. She has been embroidering since 2020 and sells her work on her website and her patterns on her Etsy pattern account.

Her work has been featured on websites including DMC, This is Colossal, My Modern Met and School of Stitched Textiles, and she has been featured in print in Love Embroidery Magazine.

Artist website: cassandramdias.com
Facebook: facebook.com/cassiemdias
Instagram: @cassiemdias
Etsy: etsy.com/shop/CDiasEmbroideryArt

Has Cassandra’s landscape embroidery made an impression on you? If so, take a look at our interview with five different artists who depict landscapes in their work. We’ve also highlighted some of the best books on different embroidery stitches to start you on your journey.

What impressed you about Cassandra’s work and story? Let us know in the comments below.

Thursday 13th, June 2024 / 09:39

NEWSLETTER FOR TEXTILE & FIBER ARTISTS

JOIN A COMMUNITY OF 60,000 STITCHERS

Share in the creative secrets of the world's most celebrated embroidery artists.

And discover how to create breathtaking art with textiles and stitch.

All Inspiration. No Spam.

Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter

6 comments on “Cassandra Dias: Miniature embroidery landscapes”

  1. Jan Booth says:

    Hooray!! At last a straightforward, non-abstract embroidery. Thank you.

  2. Cath S says:

    Very stimulating & inspiring to see that you can create such beauty on such a small scale. For anyone new to embroidery this is an ideal project as the small size is not so intimidating as working on a larger scale can be. The use of a limited range of stitches & the use of easily obtainable embroidery thread illustrating that such breathtaking landscapes can be created is amazing especially after being self-taught & only embroidering for 3 years. Your colour blending is superb as is the layering effects you have achieved. Congratulations & best wishes for your continued success & creativity in 2024.

  3. Chris Kramer says:

    Thank you for giving me such inspiring stories of Fiber artists. I am a new member but have thoroughly enjoyed the newsletter so far and look forward to the next “ creative secrets” they share.

  4. Triballier Mireille says:

    Magnifique travail de ce que nous pouvons qualifier de peinture à l’aiguille. Il semble que le coton DMC soit le mouliné spécial. Utilisé en deux, trois brins ?
    Et sur quel type de toile ?
    Cordialement.

    • amberley says:

      Hello, Cassandra uses stranded cotton and tightly woven, plain weave, medium weight fabrics, with little or no stretch,
      such as 100% cotton or calico (US muslin.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello and welcome to TextileArtist.org

TextileArtist.org is a place for textile artists and art enthusiasts to be inspired, learn from the best, promote their work and communicate with like-minded creatives.

NEWSLETTER FOR TEXTILE & FIBER ARTISTS

JOIN A COMMUNITY OF 60,000 STITCHERS

Share in the creative secrets of the world's most celebrated embroidery artists.

And discover how to create breathtaking art with textiles and stitch.

All Inspiration. No Spam.

Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter

What the artists say

"Textileartist.org is an invaluable resource. I am constantly sending students there and sharing it with other practitioners".

Nigel Cheney
Lecturer in Embroidered Textiles at NCAD

"The beauty of TextileArtist.org is that whenever you visit you'll discover something that you didn't already know".

Rachel Parker
Textile Study Group Graduate of the year 2012

"TextileArtist.org gives contemporary textile practice a voice; leading artists, useful guides and a forum for textiles".

Cas Holmes
Textile Artist and teacher

"This website is exactly what we need in the textiles world. A fantastic inspirational resource".

Carol Naylor
Textile and Embroidery Artist

  Get updates from TextileArtist.org via RSS or Email

Topics

Most Viewed