I have a thing about spirals; I’ve been collecting spiral images for as long as I can remember, many of them in a sketchbook dating back to 2002, but for far longer than that: ammonites, periwinkles, new ferns, wrought iron gates, staircases, fractals....
Did you spot the spiral of stones that crept into the blog a couple of weeks ago? I didn’t know at the time what this week’s blog was going to be, I can’t help it, I’m just drawn to them. And I have my own stone spiral, which I made long before I discovered Kettle’s Yard.
The inspiration for this week's stitch comes from the beautiful dense and precise chain stitch embroidery of Gujarat. A small handmade wool rug covered in chainstitch crewel from Liberty's of London (hence the smallness!) was one of the first things I bought for my first home. It was covered in a flowing pattern of flowers and birds all worked in chain stitch using a jewel palette of coloured wools.
The V&A collection contains many examples of this type of work, including this beautiful padded and heavily stitched hunting coat, from 17th Century India. At India's Mughal court (early 16th - mid 19th century) the professional male embroiderers were famous for their use of an extremely precise repeat chain stitch form of embroidery known as Ari work. It is also sometimes referred to as tambour (from the French word for drum because the ground fabric is stretched tightly across a frame or hoop needed for the regular chain stitch). The tambour stitch is stitched with a specialist hook called an 'ari', which is similar to a crochet hook.
Well this week we were going to be drawing spirals but that’s going to have to wait till next week now because today I have decided to take advantage of all this beautiful sunshine we’ve been having in the south of the UK and explore drawing shadows instead.
As I have been on my (OK, not quite daily) early morning walks around Fleet Pond I have noticed the shadows and dappled shade being cast by the newly emerging leaves and wondered how I could use those creatively. I’m always tempted to take loads of photos, but in reality my photos often just reside on my phone/PC and this is only the first step towards being creative. I was looking for a more immediate way of recording my surroundings, so today I decided to take some basic tools with me and get stuck in.
The technique I chose is shadow-drawing, which is a simple way of recording the shapes or outlines of objects on the page. It has to be said that it is much easier to do on a still day or indoors if it’s as windy with you as it was here this morning. Indeed, you can do this anywhere as long as you have a good source of light and something to draw that has an interesting shape.
But its a great technique to save for a sunny day so you can benefit from that extra sunny feel-good factor.
No, you haven't just found your way onto the Gardeners' World blog, it's just that, with all the sunny weather we've been having here in the UK, I've been spending rather a lot of time out in the garden these last few days.
Now, more than ever, I'm thankful to have an outdoor space of my own; with life so locked down it's become a place of sanctuary - and constant work! Daylight hours are growing longer and longer so I can be out there for hours, especially since this week I decided to paint all my fences; however after spending 10 hours already today and not even half way round I'm wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea!
Come the evening, though I feel exhausted, I still enjoy sitting down and picking up my hand stitching. The rhythmical movement of the needle and thread through cloth is soothing and calming; in these uncertain times it's just what I need.
Courses and workshops at InStitches are all about building up people’s confidence in their abilities and one of the things that many people are often really underconfident about is the D-word!
People can’t draw: or at least that’s what they think.
But actually, we can all draw. We can all make marks on paper (did you have a go at the mark-making challenge in #institchescreative2020 week one?). As children we made marks on paper without thinking about what they looked like or whether they were realistic, and without listening to that inner critic. When did we lose that?
This week we are carrying on working with a straight stitch.
Still? I hear you say,
Oh yes, I reply, keep reading!
We are going to stack it, curve it, mix it up and generally become playful with it...have you realised yet how versatile this simplest of stitches can be?
Musicians do it; mindfulness practitioners do it; we all do it in so many aspects of our lives (our morning routine, walking the dog, taking the kids to school) – so a daily art or stitch practice is not such an odd concept.
Many people find that at times of high stress or extremely busy periods their creative juices dry up – usually just at the time when we need them most! Daily practice is a simple, non-threatening way of getting back into creativity again.
I don't know about you, but this last week I haven't been able to focus my mind or concentrate on any task for more than a few minutes at a time. So I'm resorting to lists; many, many lists! Breaking tasks down into small, achievable steps is how I cope. It's SO satisfying to tick them off:
One more step towards a normal life again.
It won't come as a surprise to you then, that I've created a list for this stitch blog! So now at least I know where we are going; all you need to do is show up each week and we can go together. For 10 or 20 minutes, maybe longer, but at least we can do it together and we'll even be socially distant compliant!
Before I show you the stitches for this week, did you see our Monday Instagram post/story? It was all about using an uneven running stitch to create fantastic ripples on a quilted surface.
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