Thursday, July 28, 2016


 This post is about the phulkari embroideries from the Punjab area of India.
I have long been inspired by the bagh (garden) embroideries where the stitches completely cover the ground fabric. (see here for another example)  They take several years to complete and are used in wedding ceremonies.
 All photos in this post are of the bagh I saw at the art institute of Chicago in 2015.
To get such accuracy in the geometric pattern, the stitches are worked from the reverse of the fabric using counted thread.  This is mind-boggling.
An interesting link with many more examples of phulkari traditional work is here.
Anne Morrell says:

Darning stitch in phulkari is usually started with a small knot or back stitch and finished with a little back stitch.  The embroidery is worked with the reverse side of the cloth facing the worker.  The stitches change direction, and this, combined with the use of an untwisted, soft floss silk thread, reflects the light, giving the surface a shiny appearance.  The traditional colours of thread include white, gold, orange, green and crimson.

Friday, July 22, 2016

turning the air to cloth

turning the air to cloth
Watching the birds whirling gracefully across the blue sky with undulating curves, I think how they look like cross stitches.  Then they disappear, fly away.
I was inspired to make something that might hold that ephemeral moment.
In this piece, embroidery is used as a quilting stitch to connect the birds and the air around them into a kind of spirit cloth.
The black birds that move so beautifully in unison over the fields could be seen as a metaphor for those dark yet brief moments that happen in all our lives.

Or perhaps they just show us that it's time to make a change in direction.
Round Lake Mud Bay 1915 oil on wood by Tom Thomson
There is an exhibition opening this weekend at the Perivale Gallery and I am showing this bird quilt.
Images of the full quilt can be seen here.

It is a two sided quilt.
Above Us is the second side of the wall piece turning the air to cloth.  The dark outlines of the birds in flight are filled with white or light coloured threads to signify peace and calmness.  The underneath side of the common embroidery stitches that cover the body of the quilt mark it with an unexpected, subtle drawing.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

hoop by hoop

 one thing at a time
slowing down
hoop by hoop.
I don't need much really.
This enforced quiet time is just what I've been wanting.
hoop by hoop
I use the hoop as a design tool
I stay within its boundary
not planning but trusting
I'm not sure it will be OK
 "living is a form of not being sure,
not knowing what next or how
the moment you know how
you begin to die a little"  agnes de mille
an emergence
an unfolding
hoop by hoop
like nature does
hoop by hoop
the creative act is miraculous
it is defined by its situation

we are defined by our situation
studied simplicity
the world's fragility
the connection of textiles and healing
hoop by hoop
this piece is very large  (10 feet square)
the size means that it is part of my life for years
three years just for the stitching

hoop by hoop
this cloth is physical evidence
of hours of labour
of silence
of stillness
of healing for body and soul
 "the repetitive motion of a line
the caress of it
the licking of wounds
the back and forth
the endless repetition of waves
the rocking a person to sleep
an endless gesture of love"  Louise Bourgeois
hoop by hoop
made with the body
not the mind
with the heart and the empty quiet
you never know what's going to happen
please let me be myself and love me for it
hoop by hoop

it shows a way

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Irene F Whittome

Irene F Whittome  First Words  1982  encaustic, plaster cloth on wood, collection of the National gallery of Canada

I started this post because I wanted to write about the stunning painting I saw by Irene F Whittome five years ago in the National gallery of Canada. (above)
sarah nishiura  big quilt
I wanted to write about the impact of that painting on me.  I saw it just as the gallery was closing and the guards hurried me past it, so I made a quick sketch from memory.  I came across the sketch yesterday and searched out the painting online, and found it on the National Gallery site.
root connection
Thank you Arlee for helping me to get Irene's painting from the National Gallery site.

It's really large (nearly 100 inches or 248 cm square) and in two parts.
It has high contrast - red and white encaustic, and it uses the archetype of the cross.
Why do some paintings hit you in the heart?

When I see a painting or a quilt on the internet that has that kind of impact, I save it.  I don't have a pinterest board, but like to visit the site every now and then and poke around.  How else do we learn what we like?

I am showing a few here that remind me (as Irene's does) to work with simple shapes and to consider high contrast.  Click on their names to see more of each artist's work.
ingrid press
Irene F Whittome is a Canadian artist who has been given one of the highest honours our country can give to an artist.  The Order of Canada.  Here is her web site but I could not find the painting from the National Gallery on it.  I did find many other really thought provoking works.

Irene's painting First Words uses the archetype of the cross.
The cross is just implied in the painting.  It is erased.
My sketch done from memory didn't erase the crosses!  In fact, my sketch was covered with crosses.
I was surprised to see the painting on the web site (see it with a quick link to here.)
ingrid press
This post is a bit of a ramble.
I thought I would also give an update on my left LEG.

I am now feeling much better, although I am still using a walker.
I had to have a second surgery on July 4 to drain what looked to be an infection.
As I heal from the inside out, I am being protected with strong anti-biotics.
Being mended.
sophie truong
Thank you for all your good wishes.

Monday, July 04, 2016

hand pieced nine patch

 This post:  a step by step for hand-pieced nine patch.
 Cut fabric squares.  These measure 1 1/2 inches before sewing.
Line them up:  Knot the thread.
Begin your sewing 1/4 inch in from the edge with the knot on top of your work.
Take a back stitch there to have a firm beginning.
The stitch used for hand piecing is the running stitch.
For added strength, use Jude Hill's rhythm.  She begins each running gesture with a back stitch.
The rhythm is:  back, running, running.  back running running.
 At the end of this tiny seam, do another back stitch, and then a loop knot before cutting the thread.
 Sew three patches together.
Sew two lines of three patches together (six patches)
Then sew three lines of three patches together (nine patches).
This is the nine patch.
Important tip for hand pieced seams.
FLOAT the seams.  Don't sew them down like you do with a sewing machine.
Instead, feel the sewn edge with your fingers, line it up, and make a back stitch really close to that seam's ridge on the side you've just finished stitching together.
Then slip the needle through the seam line without sewing anything - you just want to get it to the other side of the seam.
Make another back stitch on the new side.
Back, running running.  Back running running.
End with a double back stitch when you get to the seam.
 Slip the needle through the seam without sewing.
 Back stitch on the new side.
Sew two nine patches together.
The nine patch is a traditional quilt block.
Three rows of three nine-patches = a double nine patch.
It's possible to create a very large fabric using the nine patch as a building block.
 The most important tip is to allow those seams to float.
 The hand stitched seams become a design element on their own.
The weight of the thread gives substance.
The above photo is from three months ago.
When completed, it will measure 90" x 90".
I keep the patches to sew it in a zip lock in my purse.
I've been working on it for over two years.
I am not in a rush.
There is a dynamic circular whirl caught within the square limits of a well crafted nine patch.
Stop thinking so much and feel it.