Whitework

It may be a reaction against all that cochineal that I’ve been using recently, but I found I felt very much like concentrating on white for a while. I’ve been away from home for a few days, with just a limited range of materials. I’ve got a box full of various white fabrics: silk, linen, gauze, calico, silk velvet. And a box of threads (see photo). And a small box of lace, which I love. Years ago, when my children were very small and I was at home most of the time with them, I used to get time off on a Monday evening to go to a lace-making class. And then, at intervals during the week, I’d find time to make a tiny bit of lace. But it’s very time-consuming making bobbin lace, and once I started full-time work I really didn’t have any spare time for it. However, it’s left me with a diminishing legacy of hand-made lace which I use occasionally in projects. It’s lovely to incorporate materials with which you have a very close connection. And there are few connections closer than a thing of beauty which you’ve made yourself using only fine thread. Threads for whitework

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m interested in the crazy patchwork that was in vogue in Victorian times. Rather garish, some of it, but an interesting example of the whole being greater than the sum of the very tiny parts. I thought it would be interesting to strip all the colour out of this style of work and to produce a piece using only white or off-white materials. Without colour, the only scope for interest is texture and the minimal contrast provided by the neutrals. You’ll see that I perhaps didn’t quite manage this: the neutral linen comes out looking surprisingly dark in contrast to the white, and I used the silvery pale grey silk gauze folded in four, so it too looks quite dark. But mostly it’s white. In the bottom of my tin of white and off-white threads I found a few beads and a washer or two so I’ve incorporated them as well. This was not a particularly taxing piece to do. I put very little thought into composition (it’s crazy patchwork, after all), and just added embellishments as they occurred to me. But I did enjoy it making it very much. Whitework - crazy patchwork - detailWhitework - crazy patchwork

Stitch project – Kindle cover

This is a post about how I made a new cover for my Kindle. The header photo on this blog and website is a close-up in bleached-out black and white of this embroidery. The finished object is in the colour photo below:Kindle cover - completed

The inspiration for making this came from the main material I used. I find that’s often the way. Seeing or handling material gives me ideas, or contributes to ideas that have been simmering away in the background. The material in this case was a bundle of silk sari strips – you’ve probably seen them – which are, I think, recycled material. Long strips are sewn together to make a continuous length of material which is then bundled up for sale. The colours are often very bright but what attracted me to this bundle was the relatively muted range of shades.

When I got the bundle home I carefully separated out all the individual lengths and ironed them. The next photo shows the range of colours I obtained from this one bundle- I pasted an example of each of the colours into my sketchbook:Sari Strips - samples

For my City & Guilds Diploma course I’d been studying the history of British embroidery, which turned out to be fascinating and one of the best aspects of the Diploma. I’d been very struck by the crazy patchwork made by ladies with scraps of silk in the nineteenth century. There are plenty of examples of images on the internet. It’s wild, it’s garish, but somehow it kind of works. Here’s a link to an example held at the Quilt Museum in York. Crazy patchwork together with the silk sari strips gave me the idea of producing a kind of linear crazy patchwork.

How I made this: I cut a ground fabric (a piece of black cotton satin that I bought as an offcut for very little from Greenfibres in Totnes) to the approximate size I needed for a Kindle cover. I’d made a paper pattern of the right size and used it to draw the Kindle cover onto the black cotton in white drawing pen. Then starting at one edge I machine-stitched a length of the pressed sari fabric onto it and pressed it so that the machine stitch didn’t show. Then I took my next strip and machine-stitched it onto the first strip, so that a reasonable amount of the first strip showed, then pressed the second strip, then moved on to the third.

Below is a photo of a small sample I made to be sure this method worked. The lines are quite wiggly, because the sari strips were of variable width. I thought this really wouldn’t matter too much once the piece was embroidered. Then on to the really enjoyable bit which was doing the stitching.Kindle cover - sampling

I used various stitches: feather stitch, fly stitch, French knots, couching, seeding, herringbone – whatever I felt like doing, in whatever colour and thread seemed appropriate. I loved doing the stitching. Once the piece was embroidered I then put a facing onto it in the same black cotton to form a smooth interior. I turned it out, slip stitched it and then hand-stitched the two sides to form the envelope for the Kindle cover. Then I attached the big mother-of-pearl button which was the single most expensive item in the piece at £3.50.

The final photo shows a close-up of the embroidery:Kindle cover close up

This project was really enjoyable and it used very inexpensive materials. Of course, it took ages to do, but we crazy patchworkers don’t mind that…..

If you have any questions about this project please leave a comment or contact me.