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.
…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…
My Inner Crone, Babushka Renata. (Illustration from ‘Rechenka’s Eggs’, a wonderful book by Patricia Polacco)
My Inner Crone, Babushka Renata. (Illustration from ‘Thundercake’, a wonderful book by Patricia Polacco)
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”
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.
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’.
Yarn being spun for Brenda Barrie’s Hand-Spun Crochet Merino Rectilinear Stole. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Brenda Barrie’s Hand-Spun Crochet Merino Rectilinear Stole. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
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.
Back. Crochet alpaca coat and matching scarf. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
Front. Crochet alpaca coat and matching scarf. Renata Bursten 12/2016.
This type of embroidery on gingham fabric was very popular during the depression when lace was a luxury most could not afford.
I first learned about Depression Lace (aka chicken scratch embroidery, Hoover lace, Amish embroidery, gingham lace, snowflake embroidery, broderie Suisse) about a year ago and I really wanted to try it but I never managed to find any good cotton gingham so that I could try it.
But last week I went to Ikea, and to my joy, found that they have this nice pink cotton gingham for $6.95 Canadian a metre. Score! (They have some very nice linen as well, that’ll be my next purchase. 🙂 I love Ikea’s fabric department.)
So before trying a nice gingham apron (a la Dorothy and The Wizard Of Oz) or some nice depression lace throw pillows, I thought I would play around and experiment with a sort of sampler. Continue reading “Depression Lace”
Have you ever tried embroidering on paper? It’s fun but a bit picky. Once a hole is in the paper there is no going back.
This week I did a little embroidery on watercolour paper. Turns out that it is, hands down, the easiest paper to embroider on that I have ever tried. I used an awl to punch the holes (after placing the paper on a piece of leather) and used only a variety of outline stitches. I think it is simple but effective.
Hi, I am back! My son was married last week and it was wonderful. There was even some cool string things involved that I plan to blog about later. Ritual macrame, anyone?
So I have just been doing small stuff this week. I am crocheting two doilies and the ‘pretty purple peacock blanket’, and lastly I have been doodling with string.
My mom gave me a little bag she got from Clinique as a freebie because I loved the colour and pattern, and I can always use more project bags. She looked bemused when I said thank you and grabbed some string and my needlework chatelaine, but what can I say, I love doodling with string 🙂