It's possible I just made up the term 'surface embellishments', but when we started talking about non-thread stitching, I had an immediate notion to play with adding beads or sequins to embroidery. It's not as wild or experimental as some of my teammates' contributions, but I liked the idea of adding texture to embroidery in general.
So I dug in my craft stash (we all have one!) and pulled out some bits that I could use to decorate a design without using six-stranded floss or any typical embroidery stitches and chose a simple vintage pattern from the Hoop Love Vintage Transfers Pool on Flickr to play with.
My little cactus has beaded markings (the only green beads I had were really a bit too big for the size of the design, but I love the distorted proportion!), couched tapestry wool outlines, and size 5 perle cotton for spines.
The cactus' flower has a beaded center and, again, size 5 perle cotton in the petals, and the outline of the flower is made from the very curious DMC Memory Thread! My Freaky Flowers swap partner included this thread in my package and I just had to play with it - it's lightly wired, so it holds shape, but wrapped in soft thread, so it doesn't crease as tightly you might expect. I stitched down (with sewing thread) the space between each petal, then very gently curved each petal away from the fabric to give it a 3D-effect. I've never played with Memory Thread before, but it was very fun - it definitely needs a bit of further investigation!
My no-thread experiment is a little more mundane than the others, but I hope it will inspire you to dig in your stash for non-thread alternatives. I'm sure you all have a treasure trove of goodies that can be used to give your embroidery extra depth and texture!
What are you stitching? Please share in the &Stitches Flickr group. We'd love to see it!