Sorry the photos are kind of crummy today, it’s raining – shockingly – and they look terribly lumpy but although I’d like to retake them, you’ll see a lot of this project over the next weeks, so there’s no need to get them perfect this once.
This December, the local branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild (of which I am branch secretary, don’cha know) will participate in an exhibition that will showcase embroidery of all types, as far as I understand. I haven’t been a member for very long, but apparently the branch sets a challenge every year, a theme or project type, and everyone creates something to share at one of our meetings. This time, we were each given an 8-inch canvas, the theme of our city and told to pick a place that inspires us and go with it. The challenge pieces are usually just seen by the branch members, but this year, all of our pieces will be exhibited together as part of this local exhibition.
Well, the thing is that I’ve only been here for a couple of years and don’t feel like I know it well enough yet to have a place I find ‘inspiring’. To be honest, I’m not even sure I’ve found places (as in, specific locations) I like yet and, in the long-run, I suspect this is probably a temporary stop for me. There are people I absolutely adore here, but I wasn’t about to embroider my friends on a tiny canvas. That would be creepy.
So I had to approach the project a little differently – Milton Keynes is kind of like a patchwork town, made of all these tiny areas that were joined to make a whole – though they all have their own identity, in a way. So I saw it like a sampler of sorts, and decided to create my own take on the traditional map sampler. I traced a map of the different parishes or neighborhoods or whatever-you-call-em over and over until the shapes were simplified, then traced that onto my fabric.
Now I will fill each neighborhood with a different stitch, based on blackwork fill patterns. This sampler:
is a sampler in the earliest sense – literally a sampling of blackwork fill patterns I re-created from Elizabethan embroideries I analyzed at the Victoria & Albert museum in London a few years ago. I took a whole mess of photos, then charted as many patterns as I could make out, then stitched them up. I really use it like a reference, though my mother is forever saying I should have it framed. Anyway, it’s proving very useful with this project, though I’m not using them as strictly as I might for another project. I’m allowing my stitching on this map sampler to be a little more freeform-y and relaxed.
The stitches will be all in blues of all sorts – unity in color, individuality in stitch. When it’s all filled up, I will stitch all the boundaries in, I think, a fat chain stitch, maybe in white or cream. Something that will frame each area and pop against them, kind of like quilt sashing. But I won’t get ahead of myself, I have less than a month to finish and I’ve got an awful lot of fill to work on.
(By the by, have you entered my giveaway for a copy of the new Scandinavian Issue of &Stitches?! It’s open until midday Wednesday, go enter over here!)