Saturday, 2 August 2008

Right, wrong and room for innovation

I’ve just started embroidering a new design – the source of much excitement and daydreaming over the past week. I stole minutes here and there before work this week to prepare my design of Jacobean leaves, filling in the details freehand directly on to the fabric and working out which stitch to use where as I went along.

I stitched the trellis on Thursday morning – working the late shift meant I had an hour or so to spare before heading out. And delayed just long enough to make a cup of tea before picking up my needle again this morning to start outlining in stem.

And then I hit a snag. The jagged edges of the leaf don’t really lend themselves to stem stitch. But the longer sections look really good in stem. Conundrum. So I began improvising, using stem for the longer sections and straight stitches for the shorter bits. And then decided to switch to outline stitch for the left-hand side of the leaf so the stitching is mirrored on either side of the stalk.

Out of the blue, a memory from a goldwork course I went on a while ago with my mom popped into my mind. We both lick the ends of our thread to get it through the eye of the needle – it’s a move that I think is genetic, it comes so naturally. So my mom casually licked her thread and the ladies next to us literally gasped. We looked up, to be told that the acid in our saliva (which is actually alkaline, we checked) would eat away at our embroidery over the years and it would eventually disintegrate. Hats off to my mom, she simply told them quite politely that by the time her embroideries had disintegrated she wouldn’t be around anymore anyway, so what did it matter.

But it’s not the first time I’ve come across a “right” and a “wrong” way of doing things in the embroidery world. And I have to admit I’m not really a fan of dictation. I’m more a believer that the more room for innovation, the greater your chance of creating something truly magnificient.

Sure, the stitches are pretty much cast in stone, but what’s stopping us from climbing out of our floss boxes and coming up with new ones? Or randomly interspersing stem with straight stitch when the result is a beautifully jagged leaf edge?


noricum said...

I love your leaf!

Don't those ladies wash their embroidery? Even if it will be framed, you want to wash off all the oils from your hands, and whatever else accumulated while you were working on it. (No matter how careful you are about washing your hands first, I'm sure the pieces definitely benefit from a wash. You just need to make sure you don't have threads that bleed when they're washed.) I do like your mom's response, though. :)

Anonymous said...

People get so caught up in the 'right' and 'wrong' ways to do something so much that it takes any fun out of it. Good on your mom for her reply! And I love your leaf! I love the look of Jacobean embroidery.

kat said...

Kel, your work is so intricate! Lick away I say!