Milton Keynes

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!

More Map Sampler and related news

MK Map Sampler WIP

This is absolutely insane news (I’m still not really over it), but this map sampler project I’ve been working on was featured on the DMC Threads blog the other day! MY project! ME! Can you believe that crazy? It was terribly exciting!

Someone left a comment over there to ask about how to get straight lines on non-counted blackwork, so I thought I’d show you about that here. In reality, I’m not that worried about exact straightness. I mean, the stitching looks basically straight and grid-like to the eye, and that’s enough for me for this project. I think it would lose its character if it was too-too perfect, if you know what I mean.

But I don’t just wing it completely! For each section, I pick a thread color and a stitch pattern to go in that space first. In the middle of that area, I draw a line (with a heat-erasing Pilot Frixion Pen) down the middle to get the first row of stitches nice and even. This type of blackwork filling is usually based on rows or grids in some way, so a line will generally be enough to get a straight start. From there, it’s not too difficult to get the next row straight using the first row as a ruler of sorts, and so on.

MK Map Sampler WIP

Here’s a photo of this new block in progress that will show what I mean. In this case, because I wanted the crosses to create the grid, nice and straight both horizontally and vertically, I marked out a whole grid on the fabric to work from.

Here …

MK Map Sampler WIP

… you can see that I’ve plotted a few squares ahead, marking the beginnings of stitches in pen. This will allow me to curl up with the Scream Trilogy tonight (my favorite tradition on my favorite holiday!) and get right to the stitching without too much dithering over the details. Which often takes longer than the actual stitching. These lines will disappear with the mildest of ironing when I’ve finished.

I was also asked about the embroidery floss storage pictured in that DMC post / my first post here about this project. My mother bought this floss box for me years ago, when we lived in the Netherlands.

Floss Storage

There used to be this lovely little needlework shop in Haarlem, near where we lived then, and since there’s no brand or markings on the box anywhere, I have to assume it was handmade by someone locally.

Floss Storage

I love it so much, it only takes a quick minute to wind the thread on these bobbins (which are just a touch bigger than those paper ones you get) and it keeps everything orderly and easy to find. We don’t keep the threads in number order or anything, just generally grouped by color.

Floss Storage

We’ve actually run out of room in this one already and had to move browns and neutrals to plastic boxes. I’d love it if we could find another similar wooden storage box to expand into.

Happy Halloween, everyone! (I really should’ve taken a photo of the orange drawer, shouldn’t I?!)

Sneak Peek Christmas Patterns

New pattern sneak peeks!

It’s funny, I feel like I’m embroidering *all the dang time*, but it occurred to me recently that I haven’t blogged about any for ages (before the sampler project this week, that is). Which is because most of my embroidery work has been on new pattern sets for the Little Dorrit & Co. shop!

New pattern sneak peeks!

I can’t show too much just yet, but this Christmas-themed set will be out very soon – we’re stitching our fingers off with a self-imposed deadline of November 1st for release. Yikes! I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen, but hopefully we won’t be too far off. Oooh, I do hope you’ll like them – we’ve tried some different things and are pretty durn excited about how they’re working out. For now though, I’ll have to leave you with this sneak peek of the three patterns and get back to stitching!

New pattern sneak peeks!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about my map sampler progress, well, there hasn’t been much. My last sit-down with it resulted in nothing but frustration, trying out stitches in spaces and then pulling them back out, over and over.

Map Sampler WIP

You’ll notice my failed doodlings there, which have since been ironed away to try again. I did manage to pick a few colors for specific spaces though, so I guess that’s something. Back to it tonight then!

Map sampler progress – and a winner!

MK Map Sampler - WIP

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you avoid a project for months and then when you finally pick it up, you love it? I actually stayed up too late last night stitching the area above – this one was really fun, and I was really glad I picked a large area for it. (I’m even secretly a little glad I didn’t finish it, so there’s still some more of that stitch to do tonight!)

MK Map Sampler - WIP

This section, on the other hand, was a bit of a pain in the ass. It seems like it’d be so simple and mild-mannered, but it got all fussy and the spacing went all wonky if even one tiny stitch was slightly out of place. Arg. But it does look nice in the end, so I forgive it.

Stitch, stitch, stitch! I’ll just keep stitching these and showing them to you until you can’t stand it anymore and beg for me to stop!

Oh, but wait, of course that’s not it! We have a winner to pick! Mr Random Generator, can we have a drumroll please …

#4! GILL! Whoopwhoop! We’ll get your copy of the &Stitches Scandinavian Issue to you right away! I really hope the rest of you will go check the ‘zine out too, and I want to thank you all for stopping by and saying hello. I’ve so enjoyed having you here, I’m checking out every single one of your blogs – giveaways are such a wonderful way to meet awesome people – and I hope you’ll come by again soon!