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:
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:
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:
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 –
– 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!