Monday, August 10, 2009

Still in the Design Stage, Slow as Molasses

Researching Traditional, Ethnic Embroidery Designs
I've been doing research on traditional, Polish and Eastern European embroidery designs like never before. Today I got a book from that deals with the goddess figures of Eastern Europe. (Goddess Embroideries of Eastern Europe. Mary B. Kelly. Studiobooks, Box 23, McLean, NY 13102. 1989. ISBN #0-929 021-24-X) Symbolism and meanings never even crossed my mind before. This is an anthropological study, research and an analysis. I flipped through the book quickly, look forward to reading it properly, because I was enjoying the explanations of the origins of these designs, their meanings, and how designs change from realistic to abstract. But right now I just wanted designs that would help me. This is not an embroidery how-to book, but rather a discussion of the cultural elements in embroidery. Illustrations in the book are black and white etchings--just enough to give us a general idea of the original.

I immediately found a paper cutout of a Polish goddess. Two things are wonderful here. For those who don't know, I'm often referred to as a bird mom because of my long years of keeping my cockatiels happy and alive. One of these Polish goddess figures has a bird on her head and one in each hand. What could be more appropriate? Added to that I had a gap in my design for the back--I just hadn't figured out what to have at lower back. My problem is solved! I will place some form of the goddess there (with birds)!

Another book that deals with goddess figures is Embroidered Textiles by Sheila Paine. Thames & Hudson, Ltd, NY. 1990 & 2008. ISBN 978-0-500-51394-1. This is a big full-color book with many photos of examples. I can't really review it until I spend more time reading it. It does include discussions of not only goddesses but also symbols of various religions incorporated into embroidery. This book is beautiful, and I wanted it just for the photo on the cover. Many of the photos are large and clear enough that you could copy the embroidery, but this is not an embroidery how-to book.

What's Real?
So many topics, so little time. These days I've been focused on two things, feeding the souls in my care and getting to solid work on my vest. The feedings have increased. There were no finches coming around, then one day there were three. Now there are 30+ and the food disappears in nanoseconds. But what we get in return is the air between the trees full of flitting and singing gray-green finches. Meanwhile I went to the table next to the finch feeder and cut out my vest pattern in butcher paper. Now I've drawn the embroidery pattern and like it. It's not totally like so many of the Polish Krakow-region vests. I used elements of the designs I've seen but added my own style to the elements.

I have two concerns. One is that at first I was seeing mostly factory-made, contemporary versions of the women's vest. Embroidery has been replaced by rows of rick-rack. Then I see a lot of sequins and/or large gemstone beads. I'm not convinced these are correct. So I've decided to use seed beads, bugle beads, and some sequins plus hand embroidery. The second concern is that so many of these vests show off a hodge-podge of sparkly beads, without a real sense of design. Is that primitive Polish art, is it poorly made factory work, or is that what was common? I have also seen very organized designs, so what's real?

Fabulous Site for Books and Photos
I have just ordered three books of Polish embroidery. When they arrive I'll tell you all about them. I found them on eBay where the vendor (SLAVART) has put up wonderful photos from the books. This way you can see for yourself some of what I'm looking at. I can't seem to find an easy way to give you access to the eBay site so I'll give you the vendor's website--she deals in books, art, dolls, and costumes from many nations:

Only now I have a new problem of sorts. I mentioned to my mom having drawn my design and being quite pleased with it. She said sternly, "I have to see this, to make sure it isn't Americanized." Heck, I thought it was "Rosalieized"--I had drawn images of roses my way. I don't want to use the normal daisies. I might just have to not show her my design until it's sewn and beaded!! Tomorrow I hope to find a very large frame at the Michaels store where I've seen them in the past. My biggest embroidery frame is 17" square and I need something 24 inches wide and almost as long. I was going to cut out the center of a piece of foamcore, strengthen the frame with duct tape, and sew the edges of the fabric to the frame. But I sense that would be very cheap and unstable. So let's see what I find. I can always come back to the idea. I can also go to a hardware store and buy plywood strips. I need something that can hold the weight of the beads as I work! (I did indeed find stretcher bars at Michaels. The largest was 22" square. That will have to do and will most likely be adequate. After all, I have to get my arms around behind it. A bigger problem was finding thumb tacks to attach the background fabric to the frame. Push pins seem to be more popular now. Thank goodness for hardware stores--they had plain, inexpensive, well-made thumb tacks!)

Discovering Recycling with FabMo
Meanwhile, I have also been investigating recycling fabric. Apparently home decor designers keep sample books, have samples for clients to take home, and at the end of some season, they just throw these away. If you go to you will see how a kind couple are making an effort to keep these out of the landfills. With the help of volunteers and organizations that offer up space, they sort fabrics, wallpapers, trims, and so on. They set up appointments in order to prevent a huge crowded rush, and anyone wanting to create with these materials is invited in to choose at will and for FREE! I had not been before because it's at least a 6 hour drive for me. But I just had to see for myself. Tables are covered with stacks of samples of all sizes. There's not too much yardage but many pieces to sew together. They don't put everything out at once so that people coming in on the last day will have as much interesting variety as those who arrive the moment the doors open.

The concept works! Especially in these recessionary times, artists can use the boost. In October they will have a reception to show off a gallery of work. Judy's dolls will be there as well as Jan's purses and tote bags. Their young granddaughter made a collage that is very creative. I picked out mostly silks and linens and mostly in three color schemes. I found a piece of Polish linen in navy blue and built up a collection of burgundies and navy blues around it. For Trinity I picked out yellow cottons for her dolls. My other colors were brown/black and then a minty green and beige. I envision simple pieced kimono jackets. I understand that someone in Kansas City has already asked for information on starting the same project there. Heck, I'd like to start it nearby myself. I guess the first thing to do is to find the interior decorators. That likely won't be a problem in the wine country. When I took the ethnic embroidery class, I found people who would be interested in scraps. Today I found out my model, Janet, could use them for Christmas gifts (wrap wine bottles) and the receptionist at my physical therapy clinic is interested also. I think this should lead somewhere!

Edenwool--A Felting Star
In my travels around Facebook, I found a link to a fabulous Canadian artwear artist. Check out her work at

Feeling Sorry for Myself
I know I will soon forget so I'll mention this here and now so you'll know where my time has gone. My husband has felt sorry to have to push his chores onto me. He can't get around well and so I do the taking out of garbage and running to the store and whatever requires climbing up and down the stairs. The upshot is that now I have arthritis in my hip and find it painful to move around. So he thought he would do me a favor and help clean up my computer files. He went after the bookmarks. What he didn't know was that that overflow was where I would park sites I was going to mention in the blog. He eliminated duplications and put everything into alphabetical order. I barely paid attention to the names of blogs I'd set aside. I've now spent hours trying to reconstruct the list. Some of these will just have to wait until I come across them again. Today he went after the fridge. I closed my eyes and didn't watch! Till later, Rosalie


Mandi said...

I'm really interested to see your embroidery!

Good luck with the finches. When we get goldfinches traveling through here I end up filling my tube feeder with Nyjer seed at least twice a day!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for asking Mandi. Oh, you'll see my embroidery, not to worry--probably a bit in progress and then the finished product if I can ever get it going.

Twice a day?! That stuff is expensive! I had filled two tube bags at a time, have cut back to one. Do yours waste a lot on the ground? But yes, now that I've started this I want to keep it up.