One panel from her Antependium Project
No, not actually “English Work,” although Tanya does some of it, and she is English!
Tanya is an historical reenactor (from many time periods) a costumer, and an embroideress extraordinaire! Her blog details her many projects, which she completes with a speed that astounds me!
Right now I’m fascinated by her large antependium project. It is absolutely beautiful, and I can’t imagine finishing something like this in my lifetime, let alone all the costumes, cushions, and other embroidery projects she seems to be doing at the same time!
Go see the blog. http://opusanglicanum.wordpress.com. But expect to get sucked in and lose a few hours reading back posts and looking at all the pretty eye candy. You might want to make a cup of tea before you go.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about the Art Nouveau, Art Needlework, and Arts and Crafts movements recently. All of them are related, and William Morris and his daughter May feature predominantly in the fiber arts movements of the times. So what have I been thinking, other than I LOVE this group of related styles?
I’ve been thinking about thoughts. William and May Morris believed that Berlin Woolwork was a scourge on embroidery. Berlin woolwork, for those of you who don’t know the details was worked in very fine wool (often equivalent to 2-3 strands of our cotton floss in thickness), and was counted from a chart onto lightweight canvas in cross stitch. It often reproduced a piece of famous artwork, or just pretty pictures. Uh oh. This sounds familiar. Could it be that this was just Counted Cross Stitch in wool? (Yup, it could. It is. It was.)
William and May Morris wanted to bring back what they considered the higher craft of “real” needlework. Crewel stitches. Design decisions on the part of the embroiderer. Silk threads. Embroidery that looked like stitch work and didn’t “just” reproduce a picture in pixel mosaic.
Now I’m not going to speak or type against counted cross stitch – I design the stuff, after all! However, I was thinking about the book I gave away a couple years ago… “Art of William Morris In Counted Cross Stitch”. And then I got thinking about the cross stitch woolwork “reproductions” of Morris designs that are found as kits in the needlepoint shop (Beth Russell?)… and my thought?
I think William Morris is rolling around in his grave in despair.
And I’m laughing. Because embroidery techniques rise and fall in popularity. And while counted cross stitch has been very popular over the years since the 80s (partially because it really IS easy as these things go…) the freestyle embroidery stitches are coming back. Look on Craftster at some of the finished projects. Look at the popularity of Sublime Stitching. Look at the wonderful embroidery on the Ning groups: Hand Embroidery Network and Stitchin Fingers. These are good things. And we’re richer for the variety.
Try new things. Be a stitching dilettante!
Last Monday I posted a link to some Middle Eastern patterns I had found via twitter.
I love the way information travels around the web. I received a lovely comment on my post pointing out that she had shared the information and linking to her Yahoo group that is teaching blackwork techniques:
Her blog includes the informational posts – patterns and other such will be included at the Yahoo Group.
My great-grandmother Cotterell produced some amazing embroidery and quilt tops. I didn’t know about any of them until after both my grandmother and my mother were gone. Only then did I find the linens in my grandmother’s closet — after Mom had died and we were finally emptying the entire house.
I had had the thimble longer. It was part of a tin box of embroidery things my grandmother gave me before she died. But then I didn’t use thimbles — and it was too big for my 12 year old finger anyway. Somehow I managed to keep hold of it, though the embroidery supplies have disappeared over the years – some used, some lost in moves…
My great-grandmother’s thimble has a hole in it. People aren’t usually surprised by this, until they find out that it is in one of the dimples on the top — worn through because she always used it in exactly the same way, pushing her needle with the exact same spot year after year.
The thimble fits my finger perfectly now. This is surprising because I am not a small woman – I stand 5 foot 9 inches, and have fingers of a size to match. Modern thimbles have changed shape to make them easier to manufacture, I suspect, and their angles don’t fit my hand nearly as well as that old one.
This is sad. Because perhaps more surprising than the fact that she wore a hole in it is the fact that I wear and use it exactly the same way — which is to say that I can’t use it, because it no longer serves its primary purpose– the needlew goes right through that hole and into my finger whenever I try!
The thimble now lives in my sewing cabinet: I can’t trust it in my workbox, as it always finds its way onto my finger. But I keep it to remind me of my connection to an amazing needlewoman — a lady who has inspired my stitching since I first saw hers, and in whose footsteps I dare to follow.
Please don’t take this as disparaging to either my grandmother’s or my mother’s skills with a needle. Both of them did exquisite work as well. But the level of fineness that is apparent in my great-grandmother’s linens is not there. Mostly, I suspect, because styles changed between the late 1800s when my great grandmother learned, and the 1920s (when my grandmother was stitching). My mother’s work that I’ve seen was typical of the 60s and 70s when I saw her doing it. She was a painter by preference, but would pick up a needle on a whim every so often.
Runner spread on my art table
Back months ago, when I bought the Society Silk Needlework piece at the local antiques shop, I also found another that I didn’t’ think I could justify buying. The EO had other ideas and we went back for it the next day.
I would really love some help in identification. It’s an interesting piece. I suspect it came from the same estate as the society silk, as the woman said the house had many many needlework pieces, most of which had been purchased on the owner’s travels through her life.
I’ve been through all my references, and although I can find similarities to this piece in many different locations, I can’t find enough that I can confidently say “this came from this area” or even “this was inspired by this area’s work…” I want to say Pakistan, Afghanistan, somewhere in that area… shisha mirrors, heavy flat silk on orange (faded) cotton…
Any ideas? Documentation sources you want to recommend?
In any case, it’s another very interesting, unique and striking piece, and I’m glad to have it in my slowly growing collection.
Runner spread on my art table
The central motif
closeups of border stitching
Closer view of top of “goddesses”