Second “suzani” progressing. It was hard at first to cut the silk velvet, but oh so worth it!
I know some of you would rather see me posting photos of my embroidery, but please bear with me: summer is the best time for me to do my naturally dyed fabrics, for my own use and for my shop. The shop supports my handwork, so it does all eventually balance out 😆 I have a few scrap inspiration packs available now, and you’ll find them decent sizes to work with at a reasonable price- — *and* i tell you what #botanicaldye #plantdyes i use, unlike some listings elsewhere. This ensures that your purchase is something that is not going to fade, because i use only proven #naturaldyes , and that it is dyed correctly, according to historical use. I unfortunately see on Etsy especially, teeny weeny scraps being sold for outrageous prices with no indication of *what* “plant/botanical/vegetable dye is being used, so they don’t even know what they are buying! Some of it literally looks like old garbage scrounged stained bits you’d find by the train tracks. Not in my shop!
Anyhoo, i am starting to get back to some embroidery, in fact champing at the bit to. There are many too many UFO’s lying around here, all started with excitement, small things that should have/could have been finished by now, if i set myself a schedule. Time management the last couple of years (honestly) has not been a strong skill, or one much used!
I do however like to think of my excursions for stash building and the shop, as “reading breaks”, a time when colour can become important as the base for new work, or to jazz a jaded effort that went PLUNK.
This was the latest “start” of a suzani, untouched since the last week of June:
Not terribly exciting. But then i looked at the pieces of silk velvet recently dyed, and i start to drool:
And cottons too:
I *may* have to dis-assemble the start, and re-piece! I want to have the irregular shape the first one had (not exactly the same of course, but the general idea), a happy accident in sewing diamonds together, and to go larger as well.
The first one:
Now i’m off to do the “re-design” and piecing!
PS There are a couple of velvet scrap packs in the shop at the moment 🙂
The colours of naturally dyed velvet lately are starting to show on Samara, apt because while she represents Autumn in all its glory, these colours too are part of harvests and landscapes. (Click on her for a close-up.)
I’m fondling these as well, with ideas percolating. Velvet is a bit tricky, requiring more patience to stitch, but simple shapes and manipulation techniques might work. Maybe a sister to Samara? (As long as she doesn’t take coming up 3+ years to create….)
Still working on this, albeit very very slowly! Obviously the redder piece is going to need a bigger turn under (or trim) than i thought.
The “loosely based on a eucalyptus” leaf didn’t sing to me, until i added the copper mix beads:
Today should enable finishing the few remaining areas in the diamonds.
The rest of the week will see little studio or stitch corner work done: it’s Mother’s Day week at the ffffFlower Mines, and already i’m tired!
AS USUAL, PEOPLE ARE IGNORING MY NO PIN POLICY>read the sidebar, honey, then do your own research and give credit.
This isn’t a tutorial: there are plenty of embroidery tutorials already online–and if you need a lesson for the running stitch, well, you’d better get on it 🙂 I’m sure there are a lot more inspiring sites out there that i haven’t found yet, so feel free to add in the comments, or write your own post! Some of you old time readers may recognize a lot of this, as it used to be on my old blog. I’ve since edited, amended and clarified here.
Some of you may be familiar with the “Slow Cloth” aesthetic, which encompasses fine craftsmanship, a reverence for the natural properties of the cloth and the process, sustainable practices, the sharing of applicable knowledge in tradition and innovation and the mentoring of these qualities. As this valuable approach to all crafts grows, many are discovering there is a world of possibilities in global history and cultures. India in particular has a rich treasure trove of design and technique, so we will focus this time on one from there: Kantha. (*Slow Cloth can also be done by or combined with machine work, can be woven, knitted, dyed, etc. It is not just a hand technique or just an embroidered or quilted piece, but a sensibility. For more info on Slow Cloth, visit Elaine Lipson’s Red Thread Studio.) LINK HAS BEEN UPDATED, as it was broken before!
Kantha is the original thrift craft of embroidery and quilting, and has become a major component of the “hand worked” aspect in Slow Cloth textiles, but really it’s a basic sewing, embroidery and quilting stitch that has been used everywhere from time immemorial. Practiced for centuries by the rural artists of India, it epitomizes recycling and repurposing. Poverty and necessity dictated that any usable piece of fabric had to be used over and over, superstition adding that old cloth is believed to possess magic, repelling the evil eye, keeping its user safe. Threads were often in short supply too so they were drawn from the same cloth and used to stitch two or three layers together. A simple running stitch makes up most but not all Kantha, and true Kantha in the form of religious, domestic and ceremonial items, is created by using that stitch in simple motifs. Combinations of those patterned motifs create vignettes of daily folk life indigenous to the area, or are from the imagination of the woman working the cloth.
The earliest and most basic stitch found in kanthas is the running stitch, the predominant form of this stitch called the phor or kantha stitch. Other forms of stitches used are the Chatai or pattern darning, Kaitya or bending stitch, weave running stitch, darning stitch, Jessore stitch (a variation of darning stitch), threaded running stitch, Lik phor or anarasi or ghar hasia (Holbein) stitches. The stitches used in modern-day kantha are the Kasmiri stitch and the arrowhead stitch. Stitches like the herringbone stitch, satin stitch, backstitch and cross-stitch are occasionally used. (Reference)
So, true Kantha isn’t just a running stitch. Yes, running stitch is basic, easy to do, easy to teach, but that running stitch doesn’t have to go in straight lines: it can make up motifs, outlined and filled in with itself or other stitch variations, be used as border applications and not just as embroidery, but as a form of quilting. Be a little more innovative though than the ubiquitous slapping a couple of scraps together and running lines across it: use your imagination! (Sometimes i feel this one should be called the “racing stitch” as people brag about what they’ve done as TAKING A WHOLE THREE DAYS. Pfft. It’s not about the time, it’s about the use and skill.)
Do these look like straight lines? Nope.
Notes: Some Kantha borders are interlaced, but no couching is done. I consulted an Indian embroiderer in 2009, who was very helpful in explaining the uses, designs and differences. For the interlacing, a line of what we refer to as plain Kantha, the basic running stitch, is done and then the stitches are interlaced through the running stitches. (Known as Paichano or weaving of the thread.) Some of the borders that i thought were couched are stitches done back and forth: complete a line with running stitch, and then reverse to fill in. (This is how a plain seam is done as well, something i remember well from my teen days out in the world on my own with no sewing machine, of how i built my patchy skirts!)
A rich visual resource is this commercial page for stunning antique works.
There are many border patterns that could be combined as well. And don’t think of them as “just” embroidery or as “just” quilting , fuse them, as many of us now do. Running stitch doesn’t have to go in straight lines: try circles, shapes and specific objects as well.
Did you know that kantha is classified into different types as/for useage?
“Kantha” is more than a running stitch in simple lines, holding scraps together: it’s SO much more than that in skilled hands. Look at the optical illusion created by a very creative artisan, on this piece! Some of the background has domed a bit because of the tension of the stitch used this way, but it appears even more dimensional, due to the slight shadows.
My own first attempts at “kantha” were culminated in “Every Beat Has A History”, from 2009. I went every direction possible, intersecting, echoing, circling and jagging ziggy that i could:
Done on “whole cloth” (one of Deb Lacativa’s hand dyed damasks), the only “scraps” were the pieces used to create the large centre appliqued anatomically inspired heart.
About cultural appropriation: None of these motifs are specifically a copy or exact replica of any of these people’s personal symbols. In this case, embroidery is embroidery, and since the stitches are all the same all over the world, no one person or group has a claim on them. It’s in the use, the combination, the colours and the personal aesthetic that lifts them WAY above cultural commodifying or appropriation. If a stitch used by one group is then passed on and used by another, and that’s a Bad Thing, whomever thinks that is way off base! This is how trade, cultural exchange and welcoming new or different ideas shaped the world after all! And NO ONE has a patent, license, ownership, trademarked, copyrighted stitch, even if they change it to “So and So’s” “something else” stitch. You don’t get to rename it, claim ownership: you didn’t invent it, it’s not Something New and Individual to you. Don’t Bogart that stitch, man!
Not going to show you the aborted and horrifying first attempt for the euc leaf on the second section 🙂 I decided to keep that part simple instead and embroider on the section itself.
Just as well, because the text would be problematic to do over the edges of an applied piece. I’m not necessarily for taking the easy way out, but i think i made the right choice here. I’m also not sure i need to add the text at all. Or maybe i add it elsewhere on the piece as a whole. Or at the very least, part of it could become the name of the piece!
I did learn two new stitches though!
The walnut thread is the Pekinese stitch, something i’d love to do as a massed line/shape, and with my anchor stitches smaller. The paler colours (osage and sandalwood) are a woven cross stitch. That second one should be done with a heavier thread to show the effect, but i’m also convinced that it’s just easier to do it as a small weaving if you want more “legs” than the basic stitch has, rather than the awkwardness of trying to go through the same holes and lay threads flat enough to give the shape to it! The basic tute is on Sharon B’s Pintangle, though i went from my stitch bible, Jacqueline Enthoven’s “The Stitches of Creative Embroidery”. You can’t see the extra legs i did though because the silk thread is so fine. Nice lustre, but no definition!
The Pekinese stitch is good for the leaf, though in its new incarnation. Textural, and with the walnut thread and judicious use of paler earth tones, a good almost bas-relief translation of the original sketch. I’ll blend in the lighter threads so they are not so “liney” :), and finish filling in the diamonds as well. The whole when attached to the backing, won’t be as pointy either!