The crewel work course I have been teaching came to an end last week. It’s a mix of sadness – the last time I’ll be with that particular group – and admiring what each has done and learned. None of the projects was actually finished but all were well on their way and some only needed a few more stitches before blocking and mounting. I’m still, after all these years teaching, impressed and delighted by the wide range of designs and different projects produced when all have had the same input from me!
The Embroiderers’ Guild branch I belong to has been running a ‘Travelling Books’ amongst its members. The idea is that a group (of six or eight) is set up and each chooses a theme for their own small sketch book. They outline the theme on the first page and do an embroidery to be mounted on the next. The book then travels to another in the group who interprets the theme in their own way and passes it to the next and so on. When the book reaches its ‘owner’ again that person has a book of lovely small embroideries done by friends. A great idea. I have just done a page for a young member of our group whose theme was classic novels. Others had represented The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol, Robinson Crusoe, Little Women, Canterbury Tales and Jane Eyre. The young embroiderer herself had chosen Pride and Prejudice. I chose The Hobbit (which, I argue, was written long enough ago to count as ‘classic’ now!) and worked a piece based on the illustration of Smaug the dragon curled round his treasure hoard. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time machine embroidering a huge hoard and then set it with sparkly, french knot jewels.
I do enjoy the notion of a fresh start for a new year. An illusion, of course, as I never really ‘finish’ a year off in terms of having completed all projects and having nothing to carry over into the next! I do have some minor rituals to mark the passage of time. I tidy and clean my workroom and make an attempt to reduce the amount of clutter. I start a new desk journal to capture this year’s to-do lists, jottings, plans etc. I once again determine to work more effectively – to get things done, rather than find them unfinished in a box at the end of the year. Have you done anything to mark the transition to 2018?
A couple of posts ago, I when I reviewed my favourite stitch books, I said I would tell you about technique books that I have found valuable. The first is one I have written about before: The Anchor Manual of Needlework, a volume that sparked my love of embroidery.
More recently I have learned a great deal from Gail Marsh’s Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques. This is a wonderfully illustrated, thoroughly researched and delightfully written exploration of the embroiderers who developed traditional skills and designs and influenced the course of embroidery for the rest of the century. The Gawthorpe collection provided the source material and much of it has not been seen in print before. Fascinating.
An Australian author, Effie Mitrofanis, has a fresh approach to traditional techniques such as Casalguidi work. Her work is firmly rooted in needle skills but allied to a more contemporary and lively appreciation of the potential of colour in previously neutral and monochrome schemes. Her 2009 book, Threadwork, presents a lively combination of beautifully worked stitches and cords and beading with an exuberance of colour.
I am also enjoying the ongoing series of technique manuals from the Royal School of Needlework. If you want to know the ‘right’ way to do something then these are the books for you. Stitches and methods are well illustrated with photographs of the workings and there are lovely examples of contemporary interpretations of such traditions as crewel work, canvas work, blackwork, whitework and more.