Thanks for the comments on the blog yesterday. It was interesting to see that everyone agreed with the article I linked to. You don’t have to agree, you know. I have seen other comments elsewhere where people definitely did not agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was lovely to read them.
Today’s post we move on to the final of the images I will share with you of the embroideries that Irene loaned to me. This last one is a cloth from Spain.
The work is done on a cloth that is quite lightweight and very fine. The drawn thread work has borders of stepped satin stitch blocks. Threads are cut and removed, and then the resulting mesh is re-worked with a dove’s eye filling.
Some years ago we were in Seville in Spain and visited a small regional museum. We saw some amazing whitework embroidery there. So fine, so detailed and so beautiful. There is a very strong tradition of whitework embroidery in Spain, though as with the embroidery I shared from South America, some of it is not necessarily in styles unique to the area. Whitework is loved the world over, and some of the styles are loved and worked the world over.
While looking down my Facebook feed this morning, I found a link to this article on The Dumbing Down of the Quilting and Sewing Industry.
Oh, yes, I do so agree.
I know that mistakes slip through in my books and patterns sometimes, but it is my strongest desire that they do not! One of the hardest things in kissing a book goodbye and sending it off to the printers is that you KNOW you will have missed something, and it will go into print and be there to embarrass you forever more! (If you find a mistake in one of my publications, PLEASE let me know, because it can be corrected in a future printing.)
The standard of finishing is dropping dramatically, mostly because people just don’t have the skills or the inclination to do things properly anymore. I think this is partly brought about by living in a society where we just don’t tolerate things that take time. It needs to be quick, and if it is not quick enough, sometimes people cut corners to make it quick.
But no, there is so much satisfaction in learning to do something well. I personally get so much enjoyment from taking the time to do things properly. If I do want/need to rush, invariably I will make mistakes. Being the sort of person that I am, I can’t live with leaving things that are of a lower standard than I want them to be. And then mistakes will just need to be fixed, which usually takes more time and effort than doing it right the first time.
In terms of design, I really really push myself to come up with the best I can. When I design an embroidery, I never go with the first version. It can always be improved and if it is a moment of sheer inspiration, even a great first design can always be tweaked! This is something I try to teach my daughters for their school work. First draft is never the final draft!
Embroidery takes time. Especially the sort of embroidery that I enjoy and have in my books. So probably you, my lovely readers, are in the same choir that I am. We don’t mind if a beautiful project takes effort and time, because we actually enjoy that. I do hope though, that as time goes on, society’s need for quick doesn’t mean that no-one else joins our choir.
This post is a little half-baked as I really haven’t had the time to think it through a lot. However, dropping standards IS something I have noticed.
I think, for me, it all comes back to the old adage: If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
What do you think about this?
In addition to the Cuban whitework that Irene loaned me, she also sent some embroidery that was described as South American. There was a needlelace doily, and two hand towels.
The doily is in a very similar vein to one that I found amongst my great aunt’s linen some time back.
You can see that the doily has a framework that has been closely buttonholed, and the fillings are patterned detached buttonhole.
From the back you can see that the framework definitely sits on the front of the work.
The two hand towels are made with a similar design to each other, but one has coloured floral embroidery and the other has only white. The end of each towel is worked in a style of tape lace, where woven tape is used as the framework, joined together with needlelace.
There are detached buttonhole fillings and buttonholed picots.
The embroidery on the towels features delicate drawn thread work, as well as satin stitching.
I am not sure where in South America these embroideries come from – South America is a large continent! They do not appear to be styles that are unique to South America, as beautiful whitework in similar styles can be found in other cultures. However, they are beautiful and worth enjoying together!
On Tuesday and Wednesday Singleton Embroiderers Guild group welcomed me back to teach Portuguese Whitework. A couple of years ago I did a Mountmellick workshop with them, which they greatly enjoyed. It was lovely to see several of the completed projects which they proudly brought along to show me!
Our Portuguese Whitework class got off to a slow start, partly because (as planned) I caught the train up from Sydney in the morning, and part of the way had to go on a bus, due to trackwork (not planned!). That added an extra half an hour to my trip, making it a long 4 hour journey.
It was quite cold, but we got our needles moving on our biscornus. (I can’t say that was really enough movement to warm us much, though!) The sun streaming in was very welcome!
The ladies in the group are very talented stitchers. They produced beautiful work. Even those who said that they were “not counted embroidery people”, did a wonderful job, and you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t really their thing from the quality of their stitching!
Hopefully next time I visit, I’ll get to see a lovely selection of completed Portuguese Whitework biscornus. Thank you to Shirley for your wonderful hospitality, and to Elaine for organising everything and doing all the little and big things to make my trip run so smoothly. Thank you to the whole group for your warm welcome. I enjoyed my time with you all.
Sorry for my silence lately. I have been rather snowed under with preparation for classes of all kinds (ones I am teaching and ones I am learning from!) and travel. I have to start preparing for the upcoming Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair too, because that is fast bearing down upon me!
When you wake at 2am and your mind goes into overdrive, you know you have too much happening. But unfortunately the only way I can reduce some of that is to get it done!
First things first: tomorrow I am off to Singleton in the Hunter Valley to teach a Portuguese Whitework class tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ll have a lovely time, I am sure. I have visited the Embroiderers’ Guild group in Singleton before, so it will be great to visit them again! While I am gone, the office will be unmanned, so if you place an order in the next day or so, I will attend to it on my return. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
The next big outing after the Singleton class is the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair, 12th-16th of June, at Darling Harbour. I will again be exhibiting in Stand L42, which is the same number as last year, so I expect it should be in the same place as last year! I’d love you to come and visit me. I am planning to have some of the projects from my next whitework book on show. (Ooooh! Letting the cat out of the bag!)
There is so much to prepare for, as well as continuing with writing books etc. If only I didn’t feel so harried and stressed… So much to do, way too little time! I must remember to get enough sleep, as that will definitely help.
When I was on the needlework cruise earlier this year, I had some really interesting conversations with some of the students. One lady, Irene, said that she had visited Cuba and while there, she had seen people working whitework embroidery. She wondered if I would be interested in seeing some? Would I ever!
After the cruise I duly received a package in the mail from Irene, with a variety of whitework embroidery in it. What a delight!
The work is on a very finely woven fabric, which looks to be cotton, though may have some additional other fibre in it. The thread is also very fine – about the thickness of one strand of floss – and has quite a bit of sheen to it. I’d say it is some sort of synthetic fibre.
The central motif of an eight pointed star is worked on a mesh of drawn thread work, with the star itself woven into the fabric.
The drawn thread work around the central motif echoes the central eight pointed star, using the same shape, but worked in a very complicated drawn thread work pattern.
It was lovely to see this example of whitework from a place where I had no idea that there was a whitework tradition! Thank you Irene, for sharing this embroidery with me! Next post, I will show you some more of the embroidery that she loaned to me.
In July 2011, I received a phone call out of the blue from someone in a movie props department. She needed some handkerchiefs embroidered as props for a major movie that was being produced. Would I be able to help them?
Um, sure! I conscripted my sister to help me, and together we embroidered two handkerchiefs for an un-named “I’m sorry I can’t tell you what movie it is” movie. The designs were supplied to us, and we just did what we were asked. I did the flowers on both, and my sister Prue did the leaves.
On finishing the second handkerchief, I took a photo of the one I had in my possession. I’m hoping that Prue took a photo of the other one, which was a different design.
Daisy Buchanan’s handkerchief for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby
In time, we figured out that the movie was Baz Luhrmann’s production of The Great Gatsby. With the release of the movie already in America, and the impending release elsewhere, I decided now was a good time to finally show you the handkerchief.
We deduced that because it features daisies, and because one of the main characters in The Great Gatsby is Daisy Buchanan, that it is a prop for Daisy (played by Carey Mulligan). We have no idea if the handkerchiefs ended up being used in the movie. We do hope so!
If you see the movie, and if you see the handkerchief, I’d really like to hear that it made it in. Let’s do a bit of Great Gatsby handkerchief spotting! It could be my only ever starring movie role!
Added later: This is the second of the two handkerchiefs, with a different design.
A long, long time ago, way back in 2000, I entered a hardanger I had designed and stitched in the Nordic Needle Hardanger Design Contest. At the time, I was working as a book designer for an international publishing company.
I sent off a photo of my embroidery and was delighted when it was selected to be shortlisted. That meant that I had to send the actual embroidery to the US for judging. With great trepidation, I sent my embroidery off by courier to America. I really hoped that it would get there safely, and then get back again safely too!
The risk paid off, because my design was one of the six winners chosen that year. I was thrilled! In time, the design was published in the annual Nordic Needle publication showcasing the winners. (Mine is the one shown top right on the cover.)
Because I won that competition, I sent out press releases to local publishers of needlework books, informing them of my win. I thought that I might be able to contribute a project to a book they were working on. They had other ideas, suggestion that I might write a book for them on Hardanger embroidery. And so began my publishing career!
Yesterday I received an email from Antonia, one of my long time readers, letting me know that she had found a review of that Hardanger design on a French website. I had not seen this review before, so was very pleased that she let me know about it.
Thank you to Antonia for alerting me to the review, and thank you to Yolande, the author of the review. You have both been very kind!
I must say I have been particularly indulgent this week. I have stitched for most of the week, and it does mean that I have gotten an awful lot done! I put aside the large project I was working on yesterday to work on a small one for a specific purpose.
The small project is going very well, and today I am looking forward to constructing it and then working a needlelace edge around it, which will be a new technique for me. I’m really looking forward to nutting it out!
I also have a project for Inspirations magazine on the go at the moment, and that will need to be finished in the coming weeks. So much sewing to do. So much fun!
Yesterday I had a lovely day of stitching, working on my latest whitework project. It is progressing really well, and I am enjoying seeing it grow and change as it nears completion. I think that I might even have the embroidery finished by the end of the week. Then I’ll need to design the next one and get stuck into it, which will be fun too!
I was thinking that when this one is done, I’ll have two projects where the embroidery is already completed for my book. (The construction still needs to be done.) However, it occurred to me late last night that I have already completed another project, finishing and all.
It is lovely to accidentally find that you are further along than you thought!
I have also been working on the step-by-step instructions for the book, as with this project I have been thinking very much in terms of “how do I explain this technique?” as I have been stitching. Knowing what to put in and what can be left out (usually very little, in my case!) is an important thing to sort out.
When I have figured out what needs to go in, then it needs to be decided the best way and order in which to present the information. All this lovely problem solving to do. I love my work!