Hemmed In Exhibition 2012

Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012

As you all know, I took part in an exhibition here in Milton Keynes, though I should actually say that the local branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild took part and I am part of them. The exhibition ended a few days ago but I wanted to show you just a couple of my highlights. Literally, just a couple, because there were specially two things that I fell in love with completely and would’ve gone back to visit every day if I lived close enough to the gallery.

The exhibition itself, entitled “Hemmed In: Embroidery and Needlework from MK and Beyond”, was basically broken down into three parts: the 8″ squares and other works from our members, historical / past works from the national Embroiderers’ Guild collection, and a selection of modern embroidery curated by Mr X Stitch. I loved an awful lot of what was there, but I expect a lot of attention will have been paid to the less traditional works and I think it would be a shame if the other beautiful pieces on display were overlooked. I imagine there are lots of posts and photos around of the other sections, so I’ll stick with what I really loved the most.

I know shamefully little about the history of embroidery, but I’m learning, tiny bit by bit, and this exhibition taught me what I’ll want to learn about next for sure. What will always stick in my head is seeing these pieces from the 1930s, stitched by Elizabeth Grace Thompson:

My Mother, 1935
Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012
Chords, 1934
Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012

Sigh. They’re just stunning. Anyone who knows me really knows that I lovelovelove the style of the 1930s – the soft colors and bold shapes, the geometric elements combined with florals, deco and feedsacks and Bakelite and Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Love. So of course these jumped right off the wall when I saw them first. I love how they are both so gentle in their way but full of boldness. And I extra-love the large, fat stitches she’s used – I always enjoy making stitches tiny and tinier, dainty and perfect, but these big stitches aren’t worried about being exact or perfect and that makes them just glorious. I understand that Elizabeth Grace Thompson is very important to modern embroidery history; I’m very excited to learn more about her.

The other pieces that grabbed me – from the second I first entered the Gallery – were these quilts by a fellow guild member, Margaret Pratt:

Art Deco, 2011
Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012
Oyster Shell, 2010
Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012

I think I probably like them for much the same reasons as the embroideries above – they’re so soft and yet totally not, equal parts traditional and very modern. And of course the Art Deco quilt also appeals to my 1930s geekery. I can’t even imagine designing and then making a quilt like these, where on earth would you even begin?! It just seems like there’s so much involved: the design itself, fabric choice, stitching decisions, embellishment (you can’t see in the photo, but the Oyster Shell quilt has teeeeeny tiny little beads scattered about so delicately), quilting, binding … it’s just a mystery to me. But so lovely, and I’m very glad I got the chance to admire these.

Of course all of our guild members did lovely 8″ squares, and I thought it was so cool to see right there on one wall a whole group of people with one big thing in common all in their own unique styles. I couldn’t pick just one out to show, and I couldn’t possibly have photographed each one to post here, but here’s what our wall of squares looked like:

Milton Keynes Embroiderers’ Guild collection of 8″ squares, 2012
Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012

Awesome. Of course one there on the end might look familiar and I guess I could take a second to point that one out, ahem. You guys know how I barely slept for a few days there and was starting to get a bit loopy picking out those absurdly tiny blackwork stitches –

Hemmed In Exhibition - Milton Keynes - MK Gallery - 2012

– and yeah, I’m just a little proud of how it looked up there on the wall. After all, it’s not every day a gal like me gets to be up on a gallery wall!

7 Comments on Hemmed In Exhibition 2012

  1. Jess
    January 12, 2013 at 02:13 (5 years ago)

    Sigh. Those Elizabeth Grace Thompson pieces are stunning! I too cannot get enough of the 30s.

  2. Genevieve
    January 12, 2013 at 06:00 (5 years ago)

    That is just SO awesome! Congrats to you!

    That art deco piece is SO beautiful too.


    • Margaret Pratt
      January 12, 2013 at 08:41 (5 years ago)

      What an accolade Julie. Just to explain where the Art Deco design came from. It was a 1930’s shoe in the Museum at Northampton. I wish we had such elegant shoes today!

  3. SuzySewing
    January 12, 2013 at 21:48 (5 years ago)

    How wonderful :)

  4. Bridgeen
    January 12, 2013 at 23:55 (5 years ago)

    Thanks so much for sharing these. I’m living vicariously through your photos as I so dearly wish I could have been there myself. I don’t know much about embroidery history either, and those 30s pieces are so modern. I love them. You are so lucky to have an embroidery guild near you. It’s great that you all got to show your work together. You’re peice looks great, I can’t believe it’s only 8inches, in the your earlier photos I thought it was much bigger- I guess the painting made me think it was big painting sized. Now I realise how fiddley it must have been!
    Congrats again! I’m sure it won’t be the last time you have work on show either :-)

  5. lilirious
    January 13, 2013 at 21:34 (5 years ago)

    I feel real silly saying this, but I’ve never looked at embroidery this way.. it’s absolutely amazing! Your work is really amazing! Congratulations!

  6. RMW
    January 14, 2013 at 06:04 (5 years ago)

    At least they put great things in thier exhibition. I went to a quilt show at a museum here a couple of months ago, and nearly everything was what my family calls “weekend art”. It was nearly nothing unusual or difficult to do, just small lap and wall quilts, (some were the size of placemats) and there was less than 30 of them in the whole (large) room. You know, alot of applique work etc, but nothing large or out of the ordinary. If they had done them by hand I would appreciate them more, but whatever. They did have a precious few (3) mid to late 19th century and early 20th century hand made (the only ones full size) quilts, and I liked those, even though they were just traditional patterns. They were at least done by hand, and not just whipped up in a weekend. My favorite quilt that is in a museum (not the same museum as the quilt exhibition) is in a neighboring county. It is a bed sized quilt and was done by a classroom of rural schoolgirls in the very early 19th century. Each of the girls in the old style one room school (now the history museum, not a school) was given an 8inch square to embroider (the teacher did a couple as well), and then they were sewn and quilted together by hand during bad weather. It is a history quilt. Each squares topic covers a different part of the history of the schools community. Each girl (most under the age of 13) drew thier topic (like pony express, gold rush, western migration etc) and embroidered it. Some were better at drawing and/or embroidering than others, but it is just a whole rural classroom project that took the entire school year to complete. The quilting itself repeats, but it is the shape of the state flower, and not just geometric or random squiggles. It might not be fancy or perfect, but it is still my favorite. I don’t quilt, just embroider, and maybe quilters would feel differently about the recent exhibition, but to each thier own. :-)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *