Sunday, 31 January 2021

One Little Needle


This small square of 20cm was part of the Irish Guild of Embroiderers exhibition at the 2019 Knitting and Stitching Fair in RDS Dublin.
The canvas squares were a forerunner to the full exhibition of the guild in the Lexicon called ‘2020’.
The theme for larger exhibition to be started , teased and introduced at RDS.

At the time of making this piece I was thinking about the tools of embroidery.
I have many packs of needles, bought at trade fairs and in craft shops and even online. 
Yet I realised that for over two years I had hand stitched with the one needle !!
It is a little bent and perhaps not as sharp as it was but I love the feel of it and it knows me.

So that was my starting point for this project and going forward into the main exhibition in 2020.
Like an old fashioned typewriter being part of the novel, or that special paint brush helping the portrait emerge,
my needle is very much part of my stitching progress and always influences my making.
Well that’s what it feels like to me !! It is my typewriter, my paintbrush . . . and the means by which I tell my stories.

Not wanting to actually put myself in the picture, I choose a bird to tell the tale.
But the central character in the story is the needle.
I started by drawing guidelines for my bird, which is a bluebird for happiness . .  why not !
Making the sketch on a separate fabric gave me the option to place it easily and change my mind a few times.

The background fabric was silk noil . .  so lovely to stitch into.
At bottom I added a flowerbed of silk that I had dyed with flowers and leaves and over that some lovely antique lace.
Once everything was tacked into place I could stitch.

I gave myself room in layout for the wording . .  ‘ I am my inner stitch in and out of cloth the needle dreams my journey’.

I gave the bird a flower to stand on and the needle to hold.

I write this post finally in January 2021 . .  still using the same needle !!  

Friday, 29 January 2021

'I'm Still Here'

Textile embroidery wrapped on canvas 50cm x 70cm


Exhibition theme
I was delighted to be part of the Irish Guild of Embroiderers exhibition at the Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire Co Dublin.
The theme was ‘Meetings’ and the selection of embroidery and textiles by members was fantastic.
The exhibition in August 2018  (took me awhile to finally write this blog post).
Here are some photos of parts of the process.

I always start a large textile textile piece for an exhibition with a mixture of excitement and buzz of ideas.
Then after the initial flurry of looking at materials and scribbling notes I get that uncertain stage . . . what exactly do I do ???
Eventually I decided that my slant on the theme of meetings would be . . . meeting time head on !

This ended up a very personal piece about awareness of ageing.
Contrasting the different seasons and physical changes in flowers / pods etc
My mother told me only ever admit to age of 37 - no more.
No matter what happened in her life she would say “I’m still here”
Now I find myself saying it.

I started off with a black felt background to give depth to my colours.
I dyed my silk background with flowers, leaves and some rusty bits and then did some water ripple effects with free machine embroidery. I added felt under the silk to form stones.
I always start with stitching my first elements individually, so that I can change my arrangement as I go along. Elements get added and eliminated as I go . .  like chopped up the fabrics to fit until I was eventually content !! (after lots of standing back and looking at it  !)
Starting to take shape.

On my lap
I enjoy seeing the beautiful work done in embroidery hoops. 
But I am not a ‘hoop girl’ . . . I am an ‘on my lap girl’ and apart from some small amount of free machine embroidery, I hand stitch every tiny or huge project on my lap and love the control I have.
However that might be cosy in winter months but can be a bit too warm on hot days.
Like having a constant heavy blanket on my knees !!

I wanted the top flowers to be the big bright full bloom ones, the vibrant young ones.
I used silks mixed with antique lace and a mix of texture stitching like french knots and bullion. I added lovely deep green scrim as a mossy base for them to grow on !

Seed pods
One of the things I love to stitch the most is the gorgeous seed pod.
I love the complex layers they have and most of all that although they are often the end cycle of the flower or plant they are still so beautiful.
I again used silk I eco dyed with dark flowers and rust and of course more yummy antique lace.
I often buy the antique and vintage lace other people reject - the damaged torn pieces.
I love the history and I will rip and intertwine it with my stitching.

Painting lace
Sometimes the lace, although very old, need to look darker so I paint it.
I use watercolour pencils and deepen the colour to suit my textile piece.
Love the way this is often call ‘to sadden’ !!

Another thing I love to stitch . . dandelions at the seed stage. The make a wish stage !
Antique lace at the centre and work around it.

Another addition to the older section of my textile art are mushrooms.
Who doesn’t like stitching mushrooms?
More of my dyed silk and antique lace.

Stems and roots
They were such fun to make !
I suppose partly due to the fact that at this stage I was well into the project and also finally feeling I was making progress and also because I just love making them.
Some I made by wet felt rolling out for roots and then I had to ‘dirty up’ with watercolour and coffee.
You can get lovely thin root ends by hand rubbing felt.
Others I made by ripping and twisting fabric to form stems and thicker roots.

Lace ending
Finally I gave the mixed garden a strong base and anchor by lots of dark antique lace at bottom.

Sign off
I added my wording ‘I’m still here’ just like my mother 
. . . and stitching keeps me that way . . still here