Containment is the title of a series of small textile works that I have stitched over the past weeks. The name came to me as I was walking our dog and enjoying the new (curtailed) freedom of being allowed to exercise within a 5 km radius of home in the early morning.
As usual, I double checked the meaning of the word in the The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and was gratified to find that it is a perfect description of the situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought upon all our lives:
containment n. the action or fact of containing or holding; restraint; esp. the action of preventing a hostile force etc. from expanding into other areas: M17
The M17 indicates that the word that came into use during the period 1630-1699 and I wonder whether it was first used to describe the measures taken against the “hostile force” of warfare or plague. Perhaps both? The root word, contain, has a lovely family of meanings, including to enclose, to restrain or control, to restrict, limit or confine, and to keep within certain boundaries. Before leaving this wordplay, here is an uncanny quotation from Edmund Spencer (1552-1599), cited in the OED: “To contayne the unruly people from a thousand evill occassions”.
The first piece in the series was made in response to a prompt from Anne Kelley on the TextileArtist.org community stitch challenge (which I keep mentioning in this blog). Because I had enjoyed stitching a tree of flowers, and because there was more of the overdyed fabric used for the background and more of the braid I had cut up to use in the piece originally titled FlowerTree, I decided to try another one, and then another, until it became a series.
Containment #1 (30 x 21 cm) and Containment #2 (21 x 30 cm)
In making the second piece I did not have to think too hard about the size, fabric, shadow stitching, or the decorative machine stitch used for the edging, as I simply repeated the techniques used in the previous piece.
By this time I was on a roll and remembered a box of shiney bits and pieces that I had collected previously. It contained fat quarters of Indian fabrics, sequins, beads, ribbons, etc. and I opened the box and started to play. The vase of flowers in Containment #3 was modelled on a previous piece I had made after watching Cas Holmes give her tutorial on the TextileArtist.org stitch challenge. Next, a piece of salvage from an African wax print fabric that was in the box became a tree trunk and the paisley shapes from the edging of some Indian fabric made interesting leaves. To add to the theme of Containment, I used the scraps to patch together a large garden pot to hold the tree. To mute the vibrant reds a little, I over-stitched the whole cloth with plum coloured thread, using the wavy zigzag stitch on my Bernina. As I stitched I sent off thoughts of thanks to Anne Kelly, who had introduced us to this method of over-stitching.
It seems like a sideways (landscape format) phase then took hold. The last full moon was in my birth sign and so I paid extra attention when I saw a remarkable photograph of it on Gerry Gericke’s Facebook page (all her photographs are astounding). I asked her permission to use it for inspiration, and Containment #5 was the result, even though there is a nebulous connection with the theme. A friend, who saw my request for permission, asked me to tell her how I would create this close up of the full moon in cloth and so I took a series of photographs as I was making the piece.
Containment #6 was also made from Indian paisley shapes, cut up and reconstructed. This seemed like an appropriate place to use some of those sequins.
I used the last of the flowers from that bit of Indian braid, bought in Southall, to immortalise (ha) the arrangement of nasturtium flowers blooming in our autumnal garden. The vase is made from two layers of fine bridal netting and the leaves and stalks from a scrap of roughly spun wool. And the last piece in the series is for you, Chela, and your delightful post Morning Meditations, about the seven coffee mugs that parade through your week. In comparison, I boringly have one favourite mug, and this is a wonky representation of it.
Did I mention coffee? Until next week, may you feel contained and not constrained.