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)

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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.

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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”

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)”

Simple Crafternoon Pleasures

I taught five beginners to crochet today!

Today was an awesome day. It didn’t start well, but it improved rapidly.

On my way to teach at my Crafternoon group, while getting on my first bus, I stepped on the hem of my brand new dress and it tore in several places. Luckily, I had my needlework chatelaine pinned to my apron and a good assortment of thread on me. So while waiting for my second bus I sat on the grass under a tree and mended the holes.

People walking by looked at me as if I were performing an arcane bit of magic.  A needle and thread! What is she doing? Two minutes later a quick and dirty repair job was done. I got a huge kick out of the teens trying to figure out if I was actually sewing or doing a bit of performance art. It was a small but real pleasure.

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A Stitch in Time, William Henry Margetson, 1915.

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Visible Mending: The Beauty Of Broken Things

It’s been a hell of a overcomsumption party, but the fun is over and the guests are puking in the bushes outside. It’s time to relearn the wisdom of Making Do and Mending.

The Japanese have a really beautiful set of aesthetic traditions that, to me, are the exact opposite of the frantic, febrile spasm of over consumerism that the world seems to be caught up in. We are literally consuming ourselves to death.

One of the most beautiful and healing of these concepts is wabi sabi.

Wikipedi says, “Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view  centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

“the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry,  asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy.” (Wikipedia)

Those are such beautiful concepts. There is a coolness, serenity, naturalness and acceptance that feels like the exact opposite of anxiety in these concepts. Now I am no expert at all, but I think I really get this right down to my bones. These are my guiding principals as a craftswoman. Continue reading “Visible Mending: The Beauty Of Broken Things”