Wednesday 17 December 2014

Subversive samplers

I love traditional samplers and enjoyed the ‘The eye of the needle’ exhibition at the Ashmolean earlier this year (see blog in September). I like their regularity and neatness but they always bring to mind the contrast between the constrained cross stitched messages and the feelings of the embroiderer. I would love to meet Polly Cook whose sampler is referred to in Rozsika Parker’s book ‘The subversive stitch’, unfortunately there is no picture but the text reads ‘Polly Cook did it and she hated every stitch she did in it’ (Parker 1984 p132). In the spirit of Polly Cook I produced a virtual sampler using the Illustrator program. The complete text reads: ‘I sew a long seam and my pins and needles help me for sometimes the thread escapes me’ but the words fade in and out to reveal the phrases ‘help me’ and ‘I long for escape’ hidden within the main text, reflecting the concealed thoughts of the seamstress (see image above, taken at the Cloth and Memory exhibition in 2012). I’ve also been sourcing samplers for a Pinterest board on subversive stitching and have found some lovely examples, such as ‘Dull women have immaculate houses’, ‘You’ve done this wrong’ on a sampler stitched vertically instead of horizontally, and my favourite, which says simply ‘Don’t f**k with me’.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Marriage lines

‘Marriage lines’ is my response to a group project at Jane Austen House Museum. The brief was to make a textile response to link Jane Austen’s needlework and some pages from her unfinished story ‘The Watsons’, which are currently on display in the house on loan from the Bodleian Library. I was struck by Jane Austen’s use of pins to ‘cut and paste’ paragraphs from her manuscript, in the same way she must have used pins to hold her needlework together before sewing it. I therefore wanted to link the ideas of pins, unfinished text and fabric, and I decided to make a wedding veil, as Jane’s stories all link to marriage and courtship. The lace trim of the veil includes words from a quote about marriage from ‘The Watsons’ spoken by the heroine’s sister, Elizabeth: ‘I think I could like any good humoured man with a comfortable income’. The words are on separate pieces of lace and are pinned in place, in the same way Jane pinned her needlework and her manuscripts, suggesting that she is just about to sew them down but hasn’t quite decided on their final arrangement. The veil therefore mirrors Jane Austen’s own practice in crafting textiles and text and her equivocal views about marriage - her own and those of her characters.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Stitched together

This exhibition at Jane Austen’s house, Chawton, includes the work of 11 artists - including mine – the veil shown above. The brief was to make work inspired by Jane Austen’s novels and her needlework to coincide with the loan of some pages of her unfinished manuscript, The Watsons, from the Bodleian Library. Several of the artists linked the idea of lace and text including Charis Bailey’s embroidered text, Jo Lovelock’s dream catcher (see below), Poppy Szaybo’s printed lace collars, and my veil – more of which in a future blog.

Others focused on layers and fragments including Charlotte Small’s overlapping layers, Laura Brainwood’s work inspired by layers of paper, Clare Rose’s fragment of patchwork incorporating text and Beverly Ayling Smith’s fragments of patchwork scraps hidden throughout the house (see below).

The remaining artists concentrated on the idea of text, including Denise Jones who linked text with music, Hannah White’s iPad case enclosing original correspondence, and Charlotte Martin’s quotes from Austen’s novels woven into cloth. The artists are all linked to either the University for the Creative Arts or the Royal School of Needlework as staff or students. Caren Garfen mentored all the artists during the project. The exhibition isn’t on for long, it closes on 16 December, so do go and see it before then.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Sampling TB lace

I’ve made a start on my TB lace using linen thread and crochet cotton as a gimp. The basic design indicates the shapes of the bacteria by using gimps to outline open areas in a half stitch ground. The idea was to have open lozenge shapes to represent the bacteria and then add inclusions, again in rough lozenge shapes, to indicate other bacteria in various stages of deterioration. Having made a start on working the pattern, I’m happy with the lozenge shapes outlined in the gimp but not so sure about the inclusions. I think the best plan will be to make the lace and then add other threads to the lace by hooking or sewing them in later if I think I need them. I’m pleased with the tally though and think I will use more, as it adds a bit of interest and also maintains the open shape of the ‘bacteria’.