Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Stitch in Time...

She watched and taught the girls that sang at their embroidery frames while the great silk flowers grew from their needles. -Louise Jordan Miln

I cannot count my day complete til needle, thread and fabric meet. -Anonymous

This was a particularly interesting project for me to work on. I was completely surprised and delighted to find that while working with needle and thread this way it stirred up great feelings of nostalgia.

Something that was very unexpected when I first began thinking, planning and sketching out the details of this piece.

As I sat ever so slowly and carefully stitching, I thought of the generations of women that came before me doing the exact same thing,

making the same type of crewel stitches albeit most probably not the same design.

It felt very fulfilling and oddly connecting, save for a few minor details, like light for one.

I realized that my brightly lit workspace would have been simply an impossible dream to an 18th century woman, who would have done all her work and craft by a few flickering candles!

Small things we take for granted now were once a very precious commodity, like needles and pins for instance.

Before industrialization each needle was made by hand, very time consuming and expensive to produce!

Can you just imagine that?!

If you have ever run across an elaborately decorated needle case at an antique store or museum you get some idea of how highly prized and carefully kept these items were.

Reminds me to appreciate them all the more, and see them for the miraculous, tiny works of art they truly are!

I have had this antique cotton corset for some time now, I knew I wanted to create something wonderful with it but wasn't quite sure exactly where to begin, but one day while doing some rough sketches it just jumped out at me, and off to work I

went, it's funny how some things just fall together isn't it? As though they were suspended out there, somewhere in the air, waiting to drop into some unsuspecting passerby's head! Thunk!

One of the best things about being an artist is that art need not be based in reality or even function for that matter!

The only rule is: There are NO Rules!

What could be better, really who could ask for more than to have the freedom to create with utter abandon!

Fantasy in every shape and form can be created and utilized freely without explanation or excuse!

So combining a vintage corset with a much loved old lace blouse seemed perfectly fitting to me.

I did learn that when working with fragile antique fabrics it may be necessary to add a backing to strengthen and stabilize it,

so I added a piece of unbleached muslin to the back of the corset before I did any embroidery work on it.

I've always loved the traditional Tree of Life floral design popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and thought it a perfectly

fitting motif considering that the actual garment was something created to literally squeeze the life outta ya!

A beautiful yet unusual pattern with a decidedly Indian influence of colorful exotic fantasy flowers and vines growing out

in all directions. While working on this project I found that the art of embroidery has a very direct way of getting you in touch

with the past, and was truly a fast track to a softer more romantic time when it seemed as though time stood

still, yet slowly, quietly marched on.

I used reconfigured 18th century fashion plates from my private collection to create the two gentle ladies seen here in the

design, and cut up a Jessica McClintock lace blouse, can you believe I actually wore that top back in the 80's!

Yep, with a long denim skirt, a tanned leather belt with a big silver buckle and cowboy boots!

What was I thinking?!

But as I seem to recall the " Prairie " look was a big trend back then.

Remember, just moments before the" Grunge" look swept the nation!

Hey....I heard those snickers and giggles out there!

Any way back to my story, I used Victorian laces gathered at estate sales and flea markets.

And just a few months ago I ran across an antique dealer who was parting with all of her embroidery goods, needles and hoops

and boxes of fine embroidery thread in every imaginable color!

And best of all the thread was all wrapped up on pretty paper tabs and even sorted by tones!

I really hit the jackpot with this one, a chance meeting with that lady set the wheels in motion, and being that I love to have a try at a wide variety of mediums I was excited to give it a go! Only one thing this modern girl could complain about, my hands got a little stiff and I couldn't get it done fast enough!

For all of the nitty specifics and gritty details on how to recreate a Baby Doll Corset garment of your very own, as well as viewing some of the most beautiful creations I've ever seen anywhere, ( I've got my eye on a gorgeous tiered ruffle skirt that would look just smashing with my corset!) Really you will be stunned, one of the most beautiful issues of ~Belle Armoire~ ever! But I must warn you, run, don't walk to secure your very own copy of Stampington & Companies, Sept/Oct issue of Belle Armoire. Trust me you'll be glad you did!