My writer’s day, catalogued in the previous post, mentions embroidery which is pretty important to me. It, like writing, is something I will do every day (night actually) without fail. Some women pick up knitting needles or the crochet hook. But me? I pick up a needle and thread.
It’s an odd thing really…
The Royal School of Needlework says this about crewel: ‘Introducing a range of stitches and an element of shading, crewelwork is an ideal technique for beginners new to embroidery.’ And yet when I began to stitch some thirty years ago, I began with a very elementary thing (I thought) – the bullion rose. And then a bit of cross stitch – nothing too demanding.
And then about twenty years ago, I saw my first ever piece of stumpwork, and like someone obsessed, I had to learn that magical artform, never dreaming that I just might be able to handle something so perfect, so fine, so three-dimensional (or raised, as it is described).
Whilst not a master-stitcher by my calculations, I managed to put together some quite fair pieces of work that I’m not ashamed of displaying.
In amongst all of this, I free-form embroidered, with stitches learned through the last thirty years. I did baby’s rugs, adult rugs, cushions, bags – anything and everything that gave me pleasure.
And meanwhile I would see people doing crewel and something in me would bypass it as if there was no substance in it for me.
Until last year when I did a crewel class with the excellent Margaret Light. The delightful piece above.
That was a coup de foudre. I had found my new obsession.
I have always loved working with wools, specifically Appleton’s from the UK. But Margaret introduced me to Gumnut Yarns, the softest, finest, most interestingly dyed wools one could work with and better still, they are made in rural Australia!
I started trawling Pinterest, the net, anywhere where there were pictures of crewel. And then earlier this year, I purchased a Hazel Blomkamp design from my favourite stitching shop, A Stitch in Time.
Not being that much in love with the colours of the work, I decided to change them to my favourites and thus the old Appleton’s sand, taupe and shades of blue draped out of my thread box. But colours weren’t the only issue. There were a plethora of unique crewel stitches that I hadn’t yet learned.
What to do?
So I plugged on with variations of what I do know and a design of sorts began to emerge.
But in amongst all of this, Margaret returned and I did a course in a most delightful thing called a Deerfield pocket.
All in Gumnut, all in superbly shaded blues. I am halfway through the pocket and have yet to trace and begin the items of the chatelaine.
But I am so enthusiastic, I’ve purchased the little mother of pearl rings that hold the chatelaine and also some William Morris binding from the UK with which to put the pocket together.
Other embroidery forms have dropped away just now and I am content with the less fine, more tactile sensations of wool. This may also have something to do with ageing eyes as well.
All I know is that when I settle down on the couch for the night, and I pull my frame and wools onto my lap, I can feel the gears slipping to low, and the metabolism slowing. It’s a lovely and very worthy sensation…
A final caveat: if you’re an expert stitcher and you’re reading this, please don’t look closely at my stitching. I don’t claim to be any expert, that’s for sure!