My First Embroidery Project Was…

It’s not hard to remember my first project as it was only 5 years ago! A friend had given me an old, soft and beautiful English linen tea towel printed with William De Morgan’s peacock and fish. She knew that I love the Arts and Craft movement. Although I had never embroidered, something about the idea of glorifying and honouring the humble tea towel and the anonymous feminine work that it represents tickled my feminist fancy and I thought I would outline a few lines. Ha!

I had never stitched but as a weaver-in-training (loom and tapestry) I was very comfortable experimenting with thread and yarn so I bought some DMC floss and a pack of needles and thought I would just doodle a bit.

By the time I was done, around 250 hours later, it was heavy with thread. It turned out to be a vivid and naive piece that I am still very proud of. And I have been stitching ever since.

These days I really enjoy learning, adapting, and practising different traditional styles of needlework, but I think that embroidery is, at it’s base, the most intuitive and natural of all the yarn and thread crafts. That first piece showed me that picking up a needle and thread, even with no knowledge of proper stitches, is enough to create a work of beauty.

I wonder what your first project was?

My Hands Embroidering WdM week 2peacocks blockedfishieshalf finished Celocanth week 4

‘Invisible Mending’, by C.K.Williams

“Three women old as angels,
bent as ancient apple trees,
who, in a storefront window,
with magnifying glasses,
needles fine as hair, and shining
scissors, parted woof from warp
and pruned what would in
human tissue have been sick…”

Invisible Mending

Three women old as angels,
bent as ancient apple trees,
who, in a storefront window,
with magnifying glasses,
needles fine as hair, and shining
scissors, parted woof from warp
and pruned what would in
human tissue have been sick.

Abrasions, rents and frays,
slits and chars and acid
splashes, filaments that gave
way of their own accord
from the stress of spanning
tiny, trifling gaps, but which
in a wounded psyche
make a murderous maze.

Their hands as hard as horn,
their eyes as keen as steel,
the threads they worked with
must have seemed as thick
as ropes on ships, as cables
on a crane, but still their heads
would lower, their teeth bare
to nip away the raveled ends.

Only sometimes would they
lift their eyes to yours to show
how much lovelier than these twists
of silk and serge the garments
of the mind are, yet how much
more benign their implements
than mind’s procedures
of forgiveness and repair.

And in your loneliness you’d notice
how really very gently they’d take
the fabric to its last, with what
solicitude gather up worn edges
to be bound, with what severe
but kind detachment wield
their amputating shears:
forgiveness, and repair.

by C. K. Williams (1936–2015)

Continue reading “‘Invisible Mending’, by C.K.Williams”

The Art Of Invisible Mending

How to do invisible mending (and a bit of upholstery repair)

I’ve been doing a fair bit of mending for friends and family lately, and I am very honoured that they have trusted me with some pretty important textiles! I finally got a chance to try some very fine invisible mending. I thought I would describe the process for you.

Wikipedia describes invisible mending as:

Invisible mending is a sophisticated weaving method consisting in rebuilding the fabric of a garment but also of upholstery after an accident: snag, burn, accidental blade or scissor cut, etc.

Both the warp and weft of the fabric could have been damaged. Invisible mending is the reconstruction of both the warp and weft using a long needle. The mender (most often a woman until the craft started to vanish), picks all the necessary weft warn in the hem, and the warp yearn in the extra fabric on the inside of longitudinal seams.

She will reconstruct the warp and weft to exactly match the original weave. After this is done and the garment has been pressed, the mended part will be undetectable on the outside of the fabric. However, on the reverse side, the restored area will be marked by the long hanging threads where the weaving was done. The hanging threads occur because invisible mending is done without tacking, as it could deform the fabric (unlike darning work).

While mending in general is included in the industrial production process, invisible mending is a service that is still provided by high end dry cleaners. In addition, the results of invisible mending are invisible on both sides of the fabric.

Up until the 70s, mending and invisible mending were common practice. Nowadays, they have become fine crafts associated with tapestry weaving.

Continue reading “The Art Of Invisible Mending”

Baba’s Story: Learning Needlecrafts

…The most difficult part of learning any new skill is learning to tolerate the distress of being bad at it. Everyone feels clumsy and frustrated as they work to get a new skill from their mind to their hands…The feeling you get when the skill just clicks into focus, it’s just indescribably satisfying…

One of my favourite blogs, Crochet Concupiscence,  has a list of questions that people can use to self-interview. This blog is all about crochet, and I do a number of needlecrafts, primarily sewing, weaving, embroidery, spinning and crochet, so my questions/answers are a bit different. Still, it’s a good way to think seriously about how string became the organizing principal of my life. And since I am currently snowed in following a blizzard,  here is section one: learning to craft with fabric, thread and yarn…

 

All About Learning The Textile Crafts

Q1. When did you learn needlework?

A1. I came very late to the textile crafts. I was already in my mid 40s before I began and I am  only 50 now. My grandmother had taught me a bit of crochet when I was 8 or so, but she had difficulty teaching a left-handed kid with learning disabilities that included directional confusion. It was frustrating for both of us.

In grade 7 I took a class called crafts (very unwillingly). The teacher was old-fashioned and refused to let me knit ‘backwards’ aka left-handed. The two of us struggled over a 12″ teddy-bear made of horrid blue variegated acrylic for the whole semester, with her smacking my left hand with a knitting needle every time she found me knitting left-handed. To this day I don’t like to knit!

My real start in needlework came via a general  commitment to living more simply, I wanted to learn to sew enough to make myself a simple wardrobe of long dresses and pinafores. Basically I was aiming for the life and wardrobe of the Crones pictured above. (One of those is me!) And now that’s pretty much my life! Continue reading “Baba’s Story: Learning Needlecrafts”

Baba StringThing’s December 2016 Round-Up of All Things String.

I am pretty sure I don’t need to tell you what a colossally anxious year-end 2016 has been. And added to that, my yearly resurgence of feeling crappy has made it even worse. It seems to be dark ALL of the time…The upside? Lots of quiet middle of the night crafting. Here’s a quick round up of December’s projects.

Will this dreadful year ever end? Thank goodness for the Zen of String.

In Winnipeg, talking (aka complaining, bitching and/or ranting) about the weather is not small talk. It’s an all-important preoccupation. So please bear with me…

I am pretty sure I don’t need to tell you what a colossally anxious year-end 2016 has been. And added to that, my yearly resurgence of feeling crappy has made it even worse. It seems to be dark ALL of the time. Here’s today’s: Dec 26 – Daylight. 8:26 am – 4:33 pm 8 hours, 6 minutes.  But of that there was only 3 hours of sunlight because of cloud.

May Biewe, the Sami Goddess of the Sun, Spring, Fertility and Sanity, who restores the mental health of those who go insane because of the continual darkness of the long winter, bless us all with strength, light and sanity. I think we are going to need it! (My fervent wish for all of us)

I have trouble with my circadian clock anyway, but this month it has been spinning around wildly. The upside? Lots of quiet middle of the night crafting. Here’s a quick round up of December’s projects.

Crochet

Brenda’s Rectilinear Home-spun Scarf: This is a scarf I made for my mom out of my handspun yarn. She watched me use my new tiny lace-weight Turkish spindle to spin and ply the yarn…and then skein, soak, stretch, wind and crochet the yarn into a lovely little scarf for her. Completed 12/2016, Fibre is hand-dyed fair-trade merino from Manos Del Uruguay in the colourway ‘Wildflowers’.

Alpaca Coat Of Many Colours + Matching Scarf: Also, while my mom was here, I made a crochet alpaca coat of many colours and a matching scarf. There was no pattern, it is just an elaboration of a circle vest but I am very happy with it. It’s light but warm and I have been wearing it a lot. It took a bit more than three days to crochet and the beautiful multicoloured yarn that inspired the whole design came from a stitch’n’bitch buddy, Linda L. Thank you Linda! The scarf was made just to use up the last bits of yarn, but it turned out amazingly well. It uses arrow stitch, a cabling stitch I had never tried before, and it’s a new favourite.

Continue reading “Baba StringThing’s December 2016 Round-Up of All Things String.”

Baba StringThings’s Round-Up of All Things String.

Greetings my fellow String Sistren and Brethren, I have missed you all!

This has been a really busy few weeks for me. I have been working on finishing a commissioned crochet peacock feather blanket, my depression lace is looking better and better, and I have bought a brand new lace weight Turkish spindle and some beautiful fibre. I seem to be spinning all of the time now.

Teaching

My teaching has been chugging along nicely. I have many new crocheters, lots of new kumihimo braiders, and a few people interested in trying embroidery for the first time. Exciting!

Fibre Festival!

Also, there have been some wonderful string events here in Winnipeg. The Manitoba Fibre Festival was amazing as usual; it’s a real gathering of the tribe. Continue reading “Baba StringThings’s Round-Up of All Things String.”

Examining The History Of Ugliness Shows There Is No Such Thing (Article)

“There is no art in turning a goddess into a witch, a virgin into a whore, but the opposite operation, to give dignity to what has been scorned, to make the degraded desirable, that calls for art or for character.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have strong feelings about the concept of ugliness, appropriate because ugliness is a strong concept. I have a friend who once told me that, in his opinion, I was “All about the pretty” which is not quite right. Actually I am all about the beautiful which is  a much more powerful and challenging aesthetic. And ugliness is often beautiful. I encourage reading this impressive article.

…”Hag is not a nice word. Yet there comes a time in every woman’s life when nice is tedious, when nice is insipid, seeping into the soul like souring milk, warping the mind. Indeed, nice can, at times, be all that is offensive.”
~ Emma Restall Orr – Kissing the Hag.

Continue reading “Examining The History Of Ugliness Shows There Is No Such Thing (Article)”