Pandemic Treat Workshop, Merill Comeau

This week, American textile artist, Merill Comeau, presented her Stitch Club workshop to 880+ students around the world. When I watched the Stitch Club video on day 1, I felt unsure I’d go for this floral subject, as flowers aren’t one of my design motifs 🙂 But once I’d done the homework of identifying and researching a flower that I related to, and assembled fabric snippets and threads, I felt more enthusiastic. Of course the workshops are not compulsory, but on the basis that you learn something new from every teacher, I plan to try everything on offer. Enrichment.

We were asked to identify a flower that in some way was important to us, and use that with her freeform stitchery methods to assemble a fabric collage. I thought about flowers I liked and considered several, including Australian natives Sturt’s Desert Pea and everlasting daisies. I also walked around our garden, where most plants are past flowering now winter’s here. But the several hibiscus shrubs are out, and I remembered that we had pink hibiscus in our first marital home, and had at least one in almost every garden since (Denver was way too cold) That seemed highly symbolic, so I took some photos and settled on hibiscus. Researching ‘hibiscus’ I found a long list of meanings and symbolism associated with them, and focused on a few that I feel say something about me:-
Hibiscus are associated with creativity, positive attitudes, optimistic outlook and as the flower is short lived it serves as a reminder to make the most of the time available. And finally, aparently the unpredictability of life is represented with a hibiscus.

Merrill assembles her richly layered stitched collage works on a tulle base, that allows a sense of looking through, spatial depth in place. Tulle- hmmm, the only ones I have are plain black, fine black with gold speckles, and a white one with small polka dot flecks. I have some very fine nylon organzas in black grey and brown – possibilities I considered until I spotted something else – and what is a workshop if not for trying things out? Last time I was in Denver CO, about 2 years ago, I visited a large fabric store and felt I really needed to buy several metres of clear heavy duty plastic, like the protective bags new pillows come in. I felt I could use it as a fabric but apart from encasing an embroidery in some, I haven’t done anything with it yet. It’s not the first time I’ve been seduced by a material of some kind and have it sit around for ages waiting for an idea to turn up.

Embroidery encased in plastic. It sews up well, as you can see.
The first two leaves hand stitched on in very freeform stitchery.
They’ll be oversewn but other leaves and twigs in the background.

In sewing on these two leaves I learned the plastic doesn’t need to be in a hoop or frame, and I’m so out of practice I find that awkward, but it handles just fine. Of course, every pin or stitch makes a non-healing hole in the plastic, but if any are a problem I’ll just sew something over the top.

The collage colour palette of fabric scraps from my scrap bags.

I also have a few glitzy sparkly party dress fabrics and might add a few snippets as highlights when I see how it’s going.

This is what I’ll use for stitching my collage, as I think hibiscus requires bright. I have heaps of embroidery threads in storage 🙂 but maybe less choice is better. The luminescent floss I also bought somewhere in Colorado last visit, just another of those buy-it-when-you-see-it-even-if-you-have-no-plan purchases, and perfect. I also have plenty of metallic gold, silver and pewter metallics if needed. It’s a wet day here in Montevideo, perfect for cutting and stitching, so I’m headed upstairs for a while.

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