Three weeks ago (9 April 2020) I glancingly referred to the TextileArtist.org community stitch challenge and now I want to sing their praises from the rooftops. What a whirl it has been to learn and stitch with famous textile artists, simply by signing in to their Facebook page. For six weeks there were Monday workshops, followed by Friday question and answer sessions and I am sure that these days were also highlights in the socially isolated lives of other stitchers around the world.
This is how the challenge was described:
Starting Tuesday 24th March 2020, every week (for at least five weeks) a different artist will deliver a burst of inspiration in the form of a short video workshop and a hand-stitch challenge that you can do at home over a few days. The challenge will be quick and simple enough for you to get involved with whether you’re a beginner or an experienced stitcher. And you won’t need any fancy materials – just some fabric, a needle and a few threads. So far these amazing artists have agreed to take part: • Creator of stunning nature-inspired pieces Cas Holmes • Award-winning figurative stitch artist Emily Tull • Maker of beautiful minimalistic textile art Richard McVetis • Embroidered portraiture artist Emily Jo Gibbs And our mum and former Chair of the renowned 62 Group of Textile Artists Sue Stone will be kicking things off.From: About this group on the Facebook page of TextileArtist.org community stitch challenge 2020
There was a sixth challenge given by textile artist and author, Anne Kelly, which used folk art, slow stitching and textile scraps as an encouragement for “emotional repairing”. TextileArtist.org said in a post that there had been an enthusiastic call for a sixth workshop, and noted that the group had a following of 16000. It has taken me at least an hour to get started on the writing of this post because I have been looking at the images of the work posted on the group page. It is a visual feast with some outstanding, astounding, astonishing stitching as well as warm comments and conversations about the pieces.
Although I did not take up all the challenges, I learnt something from each of the videos and am sure that the effects will pop up later in unexpected ways. What I am trying to say is that the video workshops and the generosity of all the textile artist tutors has had a wonderfully stimulating effect on my own stitching practice and, judging from the wealth of work that has been posted on the group page, on others.
As usual, there is a story behind this FlowerTree. Anne Kelly’s suggestion was to create a folk art design — a bowl of flowers, emulating the tree of life structure, and stitched onto vintage napery. Yes, I do have embroidered napkins and lace cloths lurking in a drawer, but decided instead to practice on a piece of overdyed fabric (with the thought that that set of embroidered linen my mother passed on to me would make a fine quilt).
As I was about to dig into my stash of decor samples for fabric flowers I remembered remnants of braid I had bought at Southall or Little India, London, on a memorable day with two long-time and nearly long-lost friends. I have been waiting for the right moment to use them, and this was it, because at least one of the braids contained lovely shiny flowers. A plainer gold braid suggested itself as the bark and branches for a tree. A happy accident was the way the green lining of the gold braid unravelled itself into beautiful greenery. And the rest more or less happened by itself and stitching muscle memory. The braid I used is pictured alongside.
The glancing reference in that previous post was to Cas Holmes’ tutorial on making a collage from cloth and paper and adding a well-loved familiar object. I had used a vase as the object and is perhaps why I did not want to repeat that shape in this exercise.
In his contribution, Richard McVetis inspired us to try our hand at couching in different ways within a shape. He suggested one draw four outlines of a square or circle, or alternatively trace around an object with a distinctive shape. For that challenge I only couched inside one of my four outlines, using unravelled carpet wool. I do intend to return to the exercise and experiment with using other cords and wool. This experiment with couching led to the making of another collage piece.
I was enchanted by the two Emilys (Emily Tull and Emily Jo Gibbs) and their respective tutorials. Both required drawing and that is a skill which I have yet to master. Because I joined the challenge late, I missed the first exercise and now have Sue Stone’s stitching tutorial to look forward to.