Embroidery Workshops

Motif in Parma embroidery

I have given two workshops in two weeks, both fun and very different.

Dragon worked in Parma embroideryThe first was with my Stitches with Stories group and we explored the origins of Parma embroidery then worked on a traditionally based small piece. Appropriately enough for the time of year it featured a heart-shaped foliate motif. In these sessions we also look at how the technique can be adapted to our own personal taste and style of work and already one member has embarked on a richly coloured version which looks wonderful.
On Saturday I led a workshop for the Brightlingsea branch of the Essex Handicrafts Association. A very different approach to embroidery which looked at creating pattern from simple stitches. The results can be used for many types of decorative work – mention was made of next year’s Christmas tree decorations and a set of napkins. I’ve used them for crazy patchwork in the past. I love the richness they give to the shapes.
I particularly enjoy this session as every person comes up with their own way of combining a framework stitch, such as Cretan, with two or more others. The resulting array of decorative lines is always intriguingly varied and this group didn’t disappoint. Jan even produced a fish from graduated up and down buttonhole!

Embroidery workshop preparation

Dragon head in Parma embroideryGetting ready to run a class or workshop has always been enjoyable. Researching the history of a type of embroidery, and working samples to help students see the possibilities, is very satisfying.

Parma embroidery features in my next workshop in a few weeks. I included it in a workshop back in 2013 when I covered several techniques in one day. This time we have the whole time to explore it so we will also think about the use of the stitches and design elements in less traditional ways. I’m looking forward to seeing the different interpretations by the the group as they develop their own use of Parma embroidery.

By the way, there is still one place available on the day if you want to join us: details here.

Sign for Textiles East FairThis weekend I dropped off some pieces that will be in an exhibition by the Eastern Region Textile Forum. It takes place as part of the Textiles East Fair on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 February. This looks as though it will be well worth attending – many different exhibitors, guilds, traders and demonstrations.

Saturday was the day of my workshop on ‘Stitches with Stories’ and last week was busy with making sure I had enough of the varied threads and fabrics for the group to use to work their samples.

Sample of Mountmellick work

Mountmellick embroidery

I had planned the session to be a mix of telling the stories around the styles’ development and of practical activity, learning the stitches and working them in a small, typical design. The social contexts, and the reasons for development of these types, Mountmellick, Parma and Sorbello, were similar though at different times and in different countries. Wealthy and well-connected women created embroidery techniques that could be learned by the poor in their region to earn desperately needed money to help support their families. A crucial factor was that the initiator is not only ‘invented’ the embroidery and taught the skills but also used their status and connections to develop viable markets for the finished product.

Embroidered Parma motif

Motif in Parma embroidery

In contrast, the final one we explored was Broderie Glazig, which is a continually evolving style originally used for embellishing the garments worked and worn by the ordinary people of a specific area in Brittany. Definitely brighter and livelier than the restrained colour schemes of the household linens intended for wealthy patrons!

Motif from Glazig embroidery

Typical Glazig motifs

The day sped by, so much so for me that I completely forgot to take any photos of the many works in progress. Hopefully some of those there will send me pictures of their finished samples. Now to start looking forward to the next Workshop; a complete contrast as I’ll be offering different ways to get a third dimension above, or below, the flat surface of canvas work.

Embroidered wyverns

Cushion cover in Parma workOne of the real pleasures of teaching, for me, is researching a new technique or embroidery history. For my ‘Stitches with Stories’ workshop in October I wanted to follow up on Parma embroidery  I first came across it in the wonderful Anchor Manual of Needlework. This was first published in 1958 and in my teens I repeatedly borrowed it from my local library. It was the volume that essentially sparked my interest in, and love of, hand embroidery. I finally bought my own copy in the 1970s – the second reprinting of the third edition, so there must be many copies out there.

The manual covered everything from darning, through lace, via knitting and crochet. I always turned to the fine hand embroidery which was exquisite and inspiring. In the section on Italian Embroidery was that from Parma. A tantalising glimpse of ‘a cushion cover’ with appealing wyverns and a clear explanation of how to work at ‘typical Parma Embroidery Stitch’. And that was all I knew.

Table runner in Parma workNow, thanks to the wonders of the web, I have tracked down a recently reprinted Italian volume from 1926, Arte e Ricamo a Parma, and there, on the last page were the little wyverns again. The book has photographs of several embroidered articles along with line drawings of typical designs from local church architectural decoration. Lovely!