Strictly Stitching

What has this tree got to do with strict stitching? Well 2 things really – first – I took this photograph in a field in deepest Shropshire, it reminded me of a painting by Pollaiulo, of the nymph Daphne turning into a tree as a result of her asking the gods to intervene in her immanent rape by Apollo.  Can you see the way her upturned arms are turning into leaves as she pleas for help?  I find that this is usually the way with the gods, they do give you what you ask for, eventually, but never how you quite imagined it  – which is why I have been wanting to stitch an image of this particular event for several years.

Secondly – we were on a flying visit to see our friend Nigel Hurlstone, his dog Lola Delores, and his new work in progress – now Nigel is a strict and relentless machine stitcher and I want him to come to Heart Space Studios to talk and teach later next year but I also want him (or I) to make a kimono out of some of his new fabrics. When we First arrived I walked into his kitchen and immediately spotted the stitched sample pinned to his kitchen range.

Turning around, instead of the usual kitchen table I saw a large -work-table complete with sewing machine and a half stitched sample rolled up and pegged to keep it in order – this is the lightest room in the house so I wasn’t so surprised  – but no supper in here tonight.

Kitchen table overtaken by stitched sample

Now this is what I call strict stitching; but not exactly what you imagine to issue from a country kitchen is it?

This is a new set of work but where on earth had he got the inspiration to stitch End Captions from old Hollywood films with rigid rows of double needle machine stitches? “I don’t know hen” Nigel said “I just like doing it for hours at a time – keeps me focused”  I know when I am being fobbed of but as he was a founder member of my Stitching and Thinking group, there was no need to go further at this point.

So first things first, an early evening dog walk.

and the moment we walked into the fields surrounding his house it was obvious why he was stitching row after row after row with  twin needles….

Now looking back at some earlier work the effect of living in fields of maize, barley and corn became obvious.

However back at the  work-table I became fascinated by the edges of all the unfinished pieces: now I really get really iffy when people praise the incidentals about my work, they usually  just love the back of the embroideries…..and here I was liking the edges of the material used for stretching

The way the colour collects and intensifies when channeled and seen against the contrasting white strip is compelling and the stitching makes the cloth feel very seductive, it rolls and folds easily in the hands and I just want to make clothes with it – an unusual reaction as I gave up designing and making clothes many years ago.

What is curious and fortuitous, is that the stitching brings into focus the enlarged and hazy digitally printed images. The large scale of this work and the intensity of the rich blacks remind me of sitting in darkened cinemas as a child, engrossed in those huge black and white films, Technicolor was the colour film of choice though.  I was immediately transported back to The Rialto in New Ferry, the local cinema of my childhood home – eating chocolates and watching the Saturday matinée with my brother Colin.  So strange,  the sensations buried in our minds waiting for an opportunity to be delivered after some 50 years by a strict piece of stitching…….


4 thoughts on “Strictly Stitching

  1. Dear Janet … I admire the way you write about your work… do you do a post in one sitting or do you plan it in advance?… it seems so spontaneous. I’m trying to document what I do and it seems to come out all wrong… I don’t know if other people can see the connections that are there and how much I should explain or use links…

  2. Hi Chris good to hear from you again…thanks for the accolade.

    Yes I do write the words spontaneously but I do plan the images and the idea for the blog in advance and take/ assemble my images before I start – but often have to trot off and take more mid blog when the text goes in a direction I prefer to the original idea I had on the subject – I sort of think of the blog as another outcome for my ideas and spend about half to a full day on it – which for a hand embroiderer is pretty damned quick!

    Anyway as you have been blogging far longer than me and your very elegant and minimal blog is not at all in the spirit of my own I suggest that you look at Kirsty Hall’s blog/website – I have had advice from Kirsty and she is really helpful and knows her stuff so if you want some help go to

  3. Hi Maris, I was relying to your posted message about the stitched roof tile but saw you have found my friend’s work as well, he is as insistent a stitcher as I am not uses a machine – whereas I am a hands -n sort of person.

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