Friday, 14 February 2014

Women in Stitches

I always say that there is nothing more annoying than visiting a blog where the blogger has not blogged for ages and I felt embarassed to discover today that I haven't posted a blog for over 2 months.  Shame on me. So I am now going to put that right.

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a talk to the Worcester Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. The subject of my talk was Women in Stitches, a talk focusing on the quilt I made for my degree show in the final year of my Fine Art degree at Solihull College.

My quilt entitled The Hours is made up of lots of embroidered vintage tray-cloths.  The idea to do the quilt started when I bought a tray-cloth from a charity shop for 50p.  I liked the idea that I had rescued it and started imagining who the lady was that had stitched it and felt sad that all her hardwork had been abandoned.  It became a kind of crusade and I rescued more and more tray-cloths from Ebay and charity shops. Decades ago women must have spent hours embroidering these intricate pieces, only for them to be forgotten about years later.  That's when I decided I would join them all together to make one huge heirloom quilt.  I would call it The Hours which would be testament to the countless hours women had spent stitching them and a celebration of the skills and crafts traditionally associated with women.  Below is the centre panel of the quilt and the inscription reads:

'I dedicate this quilt to all those women who devoted hour after hour to the art of embroidery and stitch'.

Each of the tray-cloths (or panels) that make up the quilt is dedicated to a woman who for them, stitching was important either as a pastime, a necessity or their livelihood.  My intention was that for each of the panels I would combine my own contemporary stitching and ideas with the existing embroidery; to marry the old with the new.  Some of my ladies were real women I had known like my mum Frances who knitted for England, sewed all my summer 'frocks' (what an old-fashioned word for dress but she always referred to dresses as frocks) and took in mending to earn a few bob.  Others are based on women I discovered during my research into the history of embroidery and stitch like 'Florrie' who had knitted ever since she could remember and would make her grandaughter wind her hanks of wool into balls.  This is her panel where I have recreated a traditional Emu wool pattern using an old felted jumper of mine.  

Doris was my mum's best friend and next door neighbour and very much a dressmaker.  In fact they both were. They could both run up a 'frock' in an evening although my mum was the more proficient of the two especially when it came to cutting out.  Doris would get a bit flustered with laying on the pattern pieces so more often than not my mum would end up having to go round next door to help her cut it out. My dad would get a bit annoyed over this as she usually then ended up spending the whole evening round there as of course they would end up having a good old natter accompanied by endless cups of tea, and maybe a whisky or two as a treat for a job well done and to bolster her against the cold night air and in preparation for the arduous journey back to her own house next door, just a few short paces away.   

Iris was an embroiderer who was taught to cross-stitch samplers at school with letters of the alphabet and numbers along with the name of the school and the name of her needlework teacher Mrs Ollerenshaw.  Unfortunately it took her nearly all of the school year to sew it though as she kept mispelling her teacher's name and had to keep unpicking it all.  It's a wonder she ever touched a needle again after that.

Gracie was also a dressmaker who I found in a book called Women and Craft and I loosely based her on many women of her generation who during the 1950s and 60s made all their own clothes and those of their families.

Margaret was taught to knit and sew by her mother and was typical of girls growing up in the 1950s and 60s who would enjoy making all their own clothes in a bid to try and copy the fashions they saw in the trendy boutiques which had just started appearing on every high street.

I have included above just a few of the panels that make up The Hours quilt but you can see more on The Hours page on my blog. 

Anyway here are just a few pics taken on the afternoon before, during and after my talk.

I spent a really lovely afternoon with the Worcester Embroiderers Guild and was made to feel really welcome.  Thanks especially to Chairman, Sylvia Thistle for putting me at my ease. 
Their meetings are held on the first Tuesday afternoon of each month at Perdiswell Young People's Leisure Club, Worcester WR3 7SN @ 2.00 pm.   I will certainly be back to visit you all again. Good job my visit was last week as I see Worcester is now a town of two halves almost cut off and submerged by the awful floods. Hope you are all OK and surviving. 

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