For anyone interested in the history of tambour embroidery – I will be presenting my new talk at the Chelmsford branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild tomorrow evening. It is based on the research for the work I am doing for The Power of Stitch
will be displaying in the spring of 2019 (details to be announced shortly).
My talk will look at the arrival of tambour embroidery in London, England in 1765. A fashion ‘must have’ of the late eighteenth century, the technique was both a favourite of the queen, and a means of exploitation of the poor.
(Images on this page show items in the Victoria and Albert Museum which may (or may not) be of tambour work. This chain stitch technique is difficult to identify without access to the reverse of the garment.)
The Chelmsford branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild
meets in the Main Hall, Christchurch, New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 0AW. Meetings begin at 7.30pm and end at 9.30pm. Visitors are wellcome – there is a small fee.
I am working hard on my exhibit for our forthcoming exhibition “The Power of Stitch” which will be at Braintree District Museum to coincide with 2019 Textile Fair. My exhibit tries to show the history of textiles in this country – a hard task and one which took not only a large amount of research but caused quite bit of angst designing.
This detail shows cake wires, couched with grey madeira thread for electricity pylons which makes a reference to power in the title. The background fabric is calico which I coloured during the hot weather. The good weather enabled me to spread the wet fabric out on the grass to dry and consequently the powerful sun fixed the dye. The only slight problem I had was to stop the dog walking all over the dyeing.
I had a great day recently with the lovely Vinny Stapley at her studio on Mersey Island on the Essex coast. We were exploring the Japanese Paste resist technique, Katazame. We were using a simple flour and water paste but I think traditionally the Japanese used rice flour paste. A technique that I had not heard of before.
The first method we used was applying the flour paste straight on to fabric, spreading it thinly with a spatula allowing it to dry and then scratching marks into it. Also applying the paste through a needle nosed bottle. Then applying colour using screen printing inks, not a method I would normally use being more familiar with procion dye paste but the screen inks are more instant.
We then squeezed the paste through a commercial stencil and lastly through a hand cut stencil.
A really enjoyable day learning a new (to me) technique, one I think I will probably use in the future but using my preferred procion dye paste.
Inspired by Hampton Court
I was lucky enough to visit Hampton Court Flower show on Sunday, I had not been for a couple of years and the thing that hit me most was the colour, nothing subtle just in your face a colour explosion. The plant that I found the most interesting were the foxgloves, I have a small woodland area that has the normal pinks and white foxgloves but the new colours ruby glow and cherry brandy are just stunning and will be appearing in a garden close to me as soon as possible. It has inspired me to try to recreate these and similar colours on fabric so I will be spending the rest of the summer with buckets of dye playing happily in the garden trying to produce a colour range in the new foxglove colours.
The Easties decided to have an outing to the Frida Kahlo exhibition last Tuesday – we had agreed the date some time ago and just by chance we more or less chose the hottest day of the year. However, a few of us had a nice ride to and from London in a newish, air-conditioned train and the V&A itself was cool. By the time we emerged from the exhibition the rain had begun to fall and 5 of us could be found sitting in the central courtyard garden balancing trays on our heads as makeshift umbrellas.
The Frida Kahlo exhibition, Making Her Self Up, was more about Frida Kahlo herself and her iconic appearance rather than her art, many of the exhibits being her personal effects which had been locked away for many years. Some may say “would this be what she would have wanted” – people looking at her corsets and her artificial leg rather than her art. I think if you didn’t know much about Frida Kahlo’s art before you went to the exhibition, you wouldn’t know much more about it afterwards.
Nevertheless, despite all the suffering and pain that she suffered in her life through polio and her accident and subsequent amputation of her leg, she had an extraordinary life. I bought a copy of her illustrated dairy some years ago which documents the last ten years of her life. Covering the years 1944-54, the diary contains Frida’s thoughts, poems and reflects her stormy relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. During her lifetime Diego was the more famous artist but in death I think more people have probably heard about Frida than Diego.
In her diary she portrays herself with a broken classical column for a spine – below is a small Frida Kahlo figure that I made and stands in my workroom.
I had a lovely walk first thing this morning, before the heat of the day, I was looking for Queens Anne’s Lace [or wild carrot] and Golden Rod they both grow in the hedge rows. The Queens Anne’s Lace was ready but the Golden Rod was not.
The Golden Rod will be ready soon. Here is the Queen Annes lace I gathered ready to make a dye bath.
The flower heads and a few leaves were simmered not boiled for about an hour, then the liquid was strained before adding mordanted the fabric. Below is the silk cotton mix that is the end result
Its a lovely greeny yellow.
How do you feel that women have made progress over the last 100 years?
What would you like to see improved for women in the next ten years?
You will have the chance to create and contribute to a legacy textile wall-hanging expressing your opinions and feelings, through stitch, about what you would like for women in the future, by joining me and others on Saturday October 6th 2018 in Ipswich.
There will be other free craftivist activities and the chance to see ‘The Women’s Quilt’. The Women’s Quilt is the brainchild of Gedling Labour Councillor, Roxanne Ellis but is a collective work undertaken by women across the country inspired by the Femicide Census and Karen Ingala Smith’s Counting Dead Women project. This is probably the last chance that the quilt will be available to view at a public event. Roxanne will be there to talk about the quilt and answer any questions. First shown at the InternationalWomen’s Day 2017 the quilt has travelled across the country as more and more people hear about it and it’s powerful message. Many other inspiring women can be seen on the Facebook page of Women’s Voices Women’s Votes where 100 women are featured as a lead up to the festival.
Even though EAST does not have an exhibition on display this year, many of our members (and ex-members) are still involved with other events and exhibitions:
EAST member Melinda is also a member of the Chelmsford 93 Group which have an exhibition just opened at Braintree District Museum, Manor Street, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HW. Ex-EAST members June and Anne also have some work on display here. This exhibition will be on display until 7 July 2018, and there are several accompanying activities to look forward to:
From Saturday 9th to Saturday 16 June 2018, Leigh Art Trail
includes EAST members Tricia – find her at venue 39 – Leigh Cliff Buildings, 12 Leigh Cliff Road, SS9 1PR.
And finally our newest member, Kay is taking part in the Burnham Art Trail
from 14 June, 23 June to 1st July. Kay’s work will be found at the Museum, Coronation Road (10am to 5pm).
My inspiration for our next East exhibition The Power of Stitch comes from a trip in 2016 to Yellowstone Park USA, from that trip I have got very interested in the Power of Nature and how to interpret it through Stitch. I am sure you will have seen Volcanoes erupting recently, my ideas have morphed into lava flows very hot and cold.
Another inspiration has been shibori, which I do with natural dyes and then leave it to dry so all the creases and wrinkles stay put.
These are supposed to look like tree stumps or branches.
and this is a shibori vase.
So I have been trying to interpret lava with natural dyes and shibori. Its not easy to get a strong red with natural dyes, in the picture you will see fabric that is a silk cotton mix dyed with madder and also quite a lot of greys and blacks that I got by mixing log wood with iron and tannine.
At the moment these pieces of fabric are just placed together, so I shall be playing with them and rearranging them, but there are more things to try, I hope to get a 3D effect so watch this space!
On Saturday I visited Norwich Castle Museum for a lecture that was part of the Women of the World (WOW) festival. It was all about the samplers and stitched letters by Lorina Bulwer delivered by Ruth Battersby-Tooke, senior curator of costume and textiles at the museum. I was treated to over an hour of (almost) non-stop information and analysis about the letters with close views of the exquisite pieces. The stories and facts about the Lorina Bulwer work are fascinating and entrancing. I was totally captivated.
Ruth’s enthusiasm, despite the number of times she has spoken to groups about Lorina Bulwer, was such a pleasure. She picked out parts of the text giving explanations but also throwing as many questions. There are many theories and suppositions around the text Lorina chose to use, how she was able to produce the work and how they managed to survive. Given that a lot of the text was very rude about (seventy) named people it is possible that other pieces she made did not survive, the recipients having thrown them out in fury. However, had the letters been written conventionally on paper it is unlikely that these fascinating pieces would have been kept.
Lorina’s anger and passion come through immediately in her use of strong and forthright language. Written as stream of her consciousness even though the pace of the stitching would not be as fast as her thoughts. Repetitive, song-like words tumble and pour out, ‘AMY NANCY TICKLES MY FANCY (ref Billy Boy folk song). Words all sewn in capital letters nowadays, in the digital age, gives the message a shouting voice but would have been easier to sew. Her spelling was excellent throughout her work except for three noteworthy words; eunuch, hermaphrodite and majesty.
The technical discussion interested me too. How Lorina made the stitches so uniform (generally) and on different types of fabrics pieced together like a patchwork. Fabrics may have been donations to the workhouse for rag books and a mixture of institutional fabric, ticking, velvet, silk and cottons. The bindings around the edges differed, sometimes small pieces of fabrics patched together or longer lengths with more words stitched on top bordering around the main body of the letter. Many words were underlined with contrasting coloured stitches to emphasise them and some words have a shadow that make them stand out more. ‘O’s were sewn by pulling through a loop of thread and couching it, helping with speed. It has been calculated that for the 12-foot-long piece it would have taken about six months.
The act of stitching can be such a therapeutic activity for many people, used over centuries and particularly in times of stress and trauma such as soldiers convalescing. Looking on the www at the links nowadays one gets links to stitching and mindfulness, giving time for reflection, recovery, peace. When the medication route doesn’t seem to be working for many troubled minds nowadays why isn’t therapeutic stitch not used more, nor promoted more as part of the cure in mainstream healthcare? “Stilling the mind by busying the hands”.