Lines, Marks, Stitches, 4

For stitchers like myself, embroidery options range from following traditional patterns like pulled thread work or hardanger and more, to following instructions from a book or stitching over commercially printed fabrics. Whether challenging or routine and automatic, most people find hand stitch, hand embroidery, therapeutic and calming. I’ve been a keen stitcher since my first efforts with a needle and thread around age 7, and in the past 40 years creative embroidery, has been a really important part of my creative life.

Over the last 20 years there’s been a general resurgence of interest in hand stitchery (including Japanese boro, sashiko and Kantha from W.Bengal and Odisha regions of India bordering Bangladesh), and that includes a renewed interest in mended vintage fabrics. ‘Visible mending is now a real thing, along with something called the ‘slow stitch movement’ which I’ve mentioned here before in 2010 post, to which the comments in response are particularly interesting. In the 10+ years since I wrote that post, there’s been a conflation of that term with ‘hand embroidery’. The straight stitch itself has become a means of creating art, being placed end to end, side by side, crossed over another, scattered at random, and placing it in other, more complex ways to make lines, filler textures or repeat patterns. It is the most basic stitch, and well known to quilters of course.

My regular readers will have been noting the development of the raw edge hand applique technique I’ve recently been using, and will have noticed how thrilled I was that Pandemic Pattern was recently selected for Quilt National 21.

Raw edge, hand stitched applique, a tecnhique I’ve been exploring for the past year. Lower centre row – a detail of “Pandemic Pattern”

By the time I began Pandemic Pattern, I’d found the most comfortable needle for me working this technique is a long fine one – of the kind some manufacturers label ‘darners’ – because people used them when darning or mending knitted jumpers and socks particularly. Until I began sewing this way, apart from using them for hand tacking/basting, I’d never needed these needles much, and having two seemed plenty. Recently though, I dropped one on the light coloured carpet in my sewing room, and couldn’t find it, and came to realising that having only one spare was a bit precarious. Although I’m long sighted and even grabbed a torch to help, I just couldn’t see that needle anywhere. Frustrated and a bit irritable, I came downstairs for a change of activity including some lunch and checking emails. When I returned a couple of hours later, the angle of the sun had changed and I now saw the needle sticking up out of the carpet pile, right beside where my foot had been when I dropped it. The next day Mike and I visited several haberdashery stores – mercerias – including quite a few downtown. The only large needles I was shown were of the kind you might sew canvas sacks with, more like a toothpick more than anything.

I’ve been shown some long thick needles but what I want is fine by comparison!

There was nothing fine and long, except occasionally just one lurking in among sets of about 30-40 other needles, but I already have more hand sewing needles than I’ll need for the rest of my lifetime, and was beginning to think I’d have to get one of the offpsrings to send a packet or two of darners down from the USA. First though, I decided I should put out a call for help to my book group and the mahjong girls (only one friend is in both) Sure enough, as I hoped, someone came good with two she found in a merceria over in a part of town I hadn’t thought to go, and someone’s promised to look in her mother’s stuff. At this point I had 4, which was wonderful – and then joy oh joy, a wonderful surprise – I found another one lurking in the bottom of a little sewing kit I keep with the cream hexagons that I’m adding to the Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, see previous post . So I won’t have to have some couriered in, after all.

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2 Responses to “Lines, Marks, Stitches, 4”

  1. Franchi says:

    Alison, I’ve been fascinated by your method of raw edge appliqué! I wonder, since you that elusive darning needle, what kind of thread do you use and do you try to match it color wise?

    Thanks

    Franchi

  2. Alison says:

    Franchi – the short answers are (a) polyester machine sewing thread by either Gutermann or Mettler and (b) no, it’s artist’s choice influenced by what I have on hand, what the background colour is, and whether or not I want to go with metallic.

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