Saturday, 17 June 2017

All work and no play

Ok, so I've done lots of lovely embroidery but now is the time to kick back and enjoy myself with these slightly bonkers cacti!

Each year, my friend Chrissie and I have a little stall at our local Sue Ryder Hospice Garden Party. We make all sorts of things like aprons, cushions, lavender bags.... but this year Chrissie wanted to make cacti.  Very fashionable, very hipster, very good.  I got a bit carried away and rather than dinky little cacti with flowers, mine turned into a Mexican cartel with bushy eyebrows and moustaches! 

They make me smile and I hope they have the same effect on others.  Come and visit our stall at Manorlands Garden Party on Sunday 8th July.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Sowing the seeds of love

This Travelling Book challenge was a delight!  The theme is gardens but I chose to make an embroidered seed packet with seeds stitched in bullion knots on fine net.

The book is for Margaret, a longstanding member of the Embroiderers' Guild and responsible for inspiring, encouraging and supporting, countless new members over the last 25 years, including me!   I wanted to make something special to reflect her love of flowers and contemporary embroidery.  My seed packet was based on one used as a wedding favour which was inscribed with the phrase "commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty".  Funnily enough this same phrase was spoken by Margaret as she gave me a bunch of flowers for running a small errand.

It's a mixture of hand and machine embroidery but the sewing (sowing) instructions on the reverse were printed onto fine cotton and then stitched onto the final seed packet.

I hope she likes it!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Victoria Hall, Saltaire

I love Saltaire!  The fabulous Salt's Mill with its art and bookshops, Hockney pictures and sensational cafe.  Each year the UNESCO World Heritage site hosts an Art Trail in which art from new and established artists is displayed around the village, in houses, churches and other venues.

This year there was an open call for people to create postcards for display in the United Reformed Church.  The postcards will be sold for £5 each for the benefit of the Cellar Trust, a local charity which specialises in helping people recover from mental health illness.

I so enjoyed making my architecture pictures that I decided to recreate Saltaire's Victoria Hall in the same style.  Why not pop along and see if you can spot it?  The exhibition and Arts Trail is on from 27-29th May 2017.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Hidden Lives (part II)

Another month, another book - this time the subject is lace.  Five years ago, I researched the lives of Victorian social reformers, Josephine Butler, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon and Octavia Hill for an exhibition inspired by lace from the Gawthorpe Textiles collection.  This is a reproduction of the same piece.

It is a lady's cuff: machine embroidered net decorated with hand-made paper couronnes.  Hand cuffs to bind Victorian women, financially to their husbands, intellectually to the expectations of society and physically by a well-defined sense of duty.  With limited means of expression, I imagined a Victorian woman stitching I dream of escape and set me free, unobtrusively working the words into the decoration.  The key motif is reminiscent of a chaterlaine worn by a house-keeper (the only suitable job for a woman).  The paper couronnes are fashioned from old books, alluding to the power of the written word to change the status quo.

Just one stitch

I've been teaching my Haworth workshop class about the joy of using just one stitch.  This Japanese style cherry tree has been completed using Sorbello Stitch, an unusual knotted stitch in the shape of a square.  By varying the weight and nature of the yarn, you can create beautiful textures.  Most of the stitching was done using a viscose pearle yarn.  It was horrible to work with (twisting mercilessly into huge gnarls) but the resulting stitches look so like cherry blossom I had to keep going.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Renaissance - a pocket full of memories

Here is the next installment in the Skipton Embroiderers' Guild Travelling Book project.  The theme for this project was Renaissance and in particular the cloth of Italian Renaissance courtiers.

At around the same time that I was researching this theme, my daughter introduced me to a book:  Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (Jones & Stallybrass 2001).  The book describes how clothes were passed from master to servant, friend to friend and lover to lover.  In this way, argue the authors, the memories associated with the material are transmitted.  I loved this idea of 'ghosts of owners past' and wanted to incorporate it in my piece.

Thinking about what kind of things might be passed on, and mindful that I could only reproduce a small item or fragment for the book, I remembered that pockets were detatchable items before the 17th Century.  Italian saccoccias (pockets) were beautifully decorated items.  I made my scale model saccoccia out of devore printed velvet and discharge printed silk because the two processes leave a kind of ghostly image - a memory of a previous owner.  The fabric was designed, dyed and printed by my daughter for her A-level art course which gave it particular significance to me.  I hand-stitched a motif from a 16th Century fragment of Italian silk velvet using gold coloured thread, another memory if you will.

Finally I wondered what one might keep in a pocket.  My inspiration came from the phrase 'born with a silver spoon in her mouth'.  Prior to the introduction of place settings, people carried their own spoon with them to table.  For land-owing classes this was often a silver spoon.  In Medieval times, such people were craftsmen or farmers who frequently had dirty hands.  Not wanting to be mistaken for a serf, the silver spoon became a mark of wealth and used as a passport or credit card might be used today.

I made a silver spoon using machine embroidery on disolvable fabric.  Once the plastic film had dissolved, I gently shaped the work into a curved bowl and rounded handle.

By way of explaining my work in the Travelling Book, used a paper-chain of ladies to illustrate the transmission of memories with the saccoccia.

Straight Stitch Architecture

After a few weeks of meticulous stitching I decided to give my Haworth Stitch Group a slightly different challenge; to create a picture sewn in straight lines.

I was inspired by a project from HoopLa magazine which showed a London cityscape, drawn with long single stitches and punctuated with small spots of coloured fabric.   Some of the group chose favourite cities and some chose this charming illustration of Dutch houses.  The pictures are postcard size and the pieces of fabric are teeny-tiny.  The 'drawing' was worked in thick top-stitch or button thread using elongated back-stitch.

I quiet like the discipline of straight black lines and can see other projects that might include this technique.