This week I’ve been stitching the ‘orange tree side’ of the Home Sweet Home workbox, by Carolyn Pearce.
First, I stitched the tree trunk and branches in Stem stitch, using five close shades of Appleton’s crewel wool.
The oranges are outlined in Split stitch, using one strand of Anchor stranded cotton.
Then, to pad the shape, I worked Satin stitch within the outline.
Then I added the top layer of Satin stitch, in the crosswise direction to the first layer. You can see, on the left hand orange, the two layers, as the top layer is being completed.
Finally, I worked the leaves in Fly stitch, using a variegated thread with lots of colour changes in it, which gave a lovely look to the leaves. The tiny end of each each orange was worked by adding a very small Cross stitch in dark brown Anchor stranded cotton. This picture looks very ‘William Morris-y’ to me!
I was pleased with how the bee in this panel came out. The one that I stitched on the emery block came out looking more vine weevil-like than bee-like. I like this one a lot better!
The basket of oranges on the ground is made by first padding the shape with a small piece of felt.
Then Appleton’s crewel wool is woven across the shape in the same way that I did for the beehive on the thread cutter cover.
The oranges in the basket are little orange seed beads. The organised part of me has trouble reconciling the fact that perspective has gone out of the window here – the oranges on the tree are huge compared with the oranges in the basket!
Lastly, I stitched the meadow flowers at the base of the tree, in a similar way to the other panels and smalls.
Pretty, isn’t it? But those two sizes of orange still bug me……
In 2010, I wrote on this blog about a large wallhanging with a Zen Buddhist saying on it which I’d stitched for a Unitarian Chapel that I used to attend – the blog post is here . In that post, I explained in detail how it had taken almost a year to make.
Even when I wrote the original blog post, I had already stopped being Unitarian, and my dilemma at that time was that the Chapel still had the wallhanging. Recently, though, I heard that the Chapel is probably due to close, as there is now no regular Minister and the congregation has dropped to just one person! And he’s 82 years old. So, I contacted ‘the congregation’ and asked him if it would be possible for me to have the wallhanging back. I really didn’t like the idea of the wallhanging languishing in a damp building for ages, not being seen at all. Surely, I’d be able to find somewhere better for it?
I got it back within days, fortunately. It did seem strange to have it back in my possession, when I’d never thought I would have it (or, possibly, not even see it again). So, then I had the issue of deciding what to do with it. I certainly didn’t want to just roll it up and store it in my loft, as that was as daft as leaving it in a building that no-one uses any more. I tried placing it against the wall of my living room, to see if it would work to hang it there, but it just looked completely out of place – it’s very big (about three feet by four), and was made for a public space – it just looked silly in a living room!
Then I remembered a couple of friends, who are Universal Sufi, the same as me and my husband. They have a large house in Germany, which they run as a khankah (a Sufi house where people come to study, and to dance). They have large ‘public rooms’ that I thought might be suitable. So, I emailed them and asked if they’d like it, but also made it clear that if they thought it wouldn’t be suitable, then I wouldn’t be offended – I didn’t want them to have to take it under sufferance! But they said,’Wow!’ when they saw the pictures I emailed them, and so, a few weeks ago, I delivered the wallhanging to them. It now has a new home in a place where it will be really appreciated, and the spiritual phrase on the wallhanging will hopefully inspire lots of people. It might even tempt someone to start embroidery – you never know!
A few years ago, I used to attend a Unitarian Chapel near where I live. For a couple of years, I got really ‘into’ the Chapel, and got involved in various groups, Committees, and so on. The Chapel was in a modern building, and looked quite bare inside – quite like a classroom, really – with chairs in rows rather than pews, and only a couple of framed prints on the walls.
So, I volunteered to make an embroidered wallhanging for the Chapel. I discussed what might be suitable with the Minister, then searched online for a suitable piece of text.
Unitarians are not just Christians who don’t believe in the Trinity, these days – Unitariansim has broadened out during the past fifty or so years to include people ‘of all faiths and none’, as the blurb on the leaflets goes, so I had a very wide range of texts to choose from for the wallhanging. I settled on part of a piece of poetry from a Buddhist monk and philosopher called Dogen Zenji, who lived from 1200 to 1251. It seemed to exemplify what Unitarians of all types believe:
Do not listen to the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself.
It seemed ideal.
So, I went shopping for some linen for the embroidery, and some apple green velvet for the backing fabric. I raided my (huge!!) stash of Appleton’s crewel wool and Anchor stranded cotton for the threads to stitch the wallhanging with, and then set to working out the design.
I wanted the piece to have a kind of Jacobean feel – like Tree of Life wallhangings from country houses, only more delicate. I wanted it to be interesting to stitch, as I knew it would take a long time and I didn’t want to be bored to death stitching it, but it also needed to have impact from a distance, so the blocks of colour needed to be quite bold.
I worked the lettering first, as I wasn’t sure if the technique I had chosen would work, so if it was going to fail, I wanted to know that before spending weeks on doing all the rest of the embroidery! I used a padding technique described in Susan O’Connor’s wonderful book ‘Monograms – the Art of Embroidered Letters’ (which, annoyingly, was only in print for about 18 months, and is now hard to find, but if you get the chance, then buy it, as it’s great). The technique involved working a split stitch outline first around the letter, then working loose stem stitches in rows thickly all over the inner area, at right angles to the direction that the final close satin stitches would be placed. I used two strands of Anchor stranded cotton for the lettering, and each letter took about an hour.
The floral swags above and below the lettering were great fun to do. I only vaguely planned the colour scheme before I started stitching, so I surrounded myself with embroidery stitch manuals as I worked, choosing different stitches all the time.
When the stitching was finished, I pressed it gently on the reverse side, over a thickly padded ironing board, then attached the embroidered piece to the green velvet. I made tabs to hang the wallhanging from, so that a wooden pole could be slotted through later.
The whole piece took about a year to do.
But here’s the problem: six months after I gave the piece to the Chapel, I stopped attending services there, as I felt that, spiritually, I had outgrown Unitarianism, and, due also to other issues around the Chapel, felt I needed to move on. But the wallhanging stayed there. Part of me wanted to take the wallhanging back (as my leaving wasn’t done under the most pleasant of circumstances), but I knew I’d given it willingly at the time, so it seemed unfair to demand it back. I just hope that the people who may see it, get something out of it. Recently, I’ve heard that the Chapel may close, as the congregation has dropped to less than ten, and the Minister has moved on with no permanent replacement in sight.
I’ve ‘lost’ embroideries of mine before, for various reasons, and each time it hurts! I think this may be a lesson in trying to not be attached to things, but it’s not easy!