Friday 29 March 2024

A. Resolving the styling of the dress and looking at options for the sash

Dress front thus far with the altered vintage photo incorporated into the bodice; daisy detail worked in eyelet and lazy daisy stitch to represent the embroidery featured on the girls' dresses; a line of poetry worked in stem stitch along the lower edge to represent my Aunt's love of poetry and the papier mache bobbins to represent the originals bequeathed to me by my Aunt:

The dress back with a central motif worked in hand stitched cut work to represent my Aunt's lace motif. I need to consider further additions of daisies to the bodice back and skirt:

Options for the sash: I had a vision of stitching a strip of my Aunt's poetry  along the length of the sash but it soon became clear that this would be too heavy and cumbersome. Instead I decided to use a length of cord machine wrapped with white, grey and silver threads which worked well couched along the lower edge of the bodice. An idea had been for two of the papier mache bobbins to be suspended from the sash but I was unhappy with their alignment; this was remedied with the use of two acorn cups  painted white and into which a hole was drilled to accommodate the ends of the sash which then wrapped nicely around the bobbins and allowed them to hang nicely as seen on the above photo of the dress front.      

B. Compilation of a book to accompany the dress to tell the story of it's conception

I have compiled this little book to tell the story of the  conception of this project and to demonstrate, through my own emotional responses, how I have used the dress to show and celebrate the worth and value of the work represented within it. I feel that through my own approach and artwork I have  brought past memories and the present together.

I made a batch of hand made papers with which to construct the book. I wanted to achieve a worn look and used a  selection of finer and tissue papers  to make a paper pulp which I felt would compliment the lace motifs made by my aunt. The book is composed of 4 signatures which are bound together in a basic codex method [information from Cover to Cover by Shereen La Plantz]. This basic structure has facilitated the addition of one of my papier mache bobbins to decorate the spine of the book. 

This is the front cover adorned with the lace motif which inspired the project plus one of the vintage photos featuring my aunt and my mother. I feel the papier mache bobbin attached to the spine compliments the textures of the hand made paper:

Pages of the book in first signature featuring the introduction and lace motifs worked by my Aunt:

Signature 2. The bobbins:

Signature 3 The bodice: 

Altered photos:

The bodice back:


Signature 4. The poetry:

My Aunt composed and published many poems 'to paint with words' especially in her later life. I have chosen this font for the text as she used an old type writer to write as her hand writing deteriorated. She used a quote from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream to embroider a sampler depicting the family farmhouse, her own personal take on Shakespeare - which I have used to embroider the hem on the dress.
"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows." Personally I love the  suggestion of movement in these words as I conjure up my own memories of the hillside pastures she is referring to.

I have selected a few of her poems to reflect the love she felt for her homestead in rural Somerset. She used colour in her poems and describes her surroundings in a very painterly way.

My Aunt:

The next step will be to decide how I will present the dress as I prepare to exhibit it with The Stitched Textile Group in the Ace Gallery, Somerton,  Somerset.  I envisage suspending the dress inviting visitors to walk around it. 
I have a strip of embroidered poetry text from which to hang it in some way incorporating an embroidered 'daisy chain.' I need to consider this carefully. Feeling excited!

Thursday 7 September 2023

Construction of the dress

I decided to make a paper template with pleats to demonstrate how the bodice and skirt would fit together. 

Paper template with pleats measured and pleated to fit lower edge of bodice, alongside skirt pieces which were then pleated using an under layer of cotton lawn and over layer of silk crepeline. 

Skirt and bodice joined with a spattering of flowers worked in eyelet stitch - flowers experimentally placed at this stage

I thought more at this stage how to how to represent the lace bobbins in my own way to compliment the dress.

I played around with cut off kebab sticks with beads threaded on to create the basic bobbin shape and then wrapped the whole with tissue paper - papier mache style - these were then wrapped with thread and beads. Delighted with these!

Not sure where to put them yet, this seems to be very much design by process but perhaps hanging from the sash? 

Having completed the stem stitch for the dress hem I now turned to the text on the sash. Again I have a wealth of poetry courtesy of my aunt. I chose this :

The land of my childhood, the land where I grew. 

The land I love still. 

Where I walked in the woodland. 

The pathways I knew. The land I remember. By E.M.Lock

My template for the text to be worked for the sash as for the hem of the skirt:

And next I'll be thinking about creating a small book to accompany the project, I've made a stash of papers to use. Considering how to incorporate the components involved:

Thursday 28 April 2022

New project. Stitched textile artists. Collections.

 The proposed topic for this next project is collections.

My immediate reaction was to consider the collection of antique  lace bobbins which belonged to my aunt with which she worked beautiful pieces of handmade lace.A small selections of my lace bobbins:

I really loved the above and playing around with the bobbins to find pleasing patterns but then came to realise that these are beautifully worked in fine crochet! I needed to think again!

I still had plenty to chose from and kept coming back to this piece, given to me by my aunt:

It originally came to me in a frame with a tiny photo in the centre of my aunt with her sister [my mum] and her brother. Delightful.

How would I use this? So delicate and beautiful. 

I considered interpreting the lace through cut work, I needed to transfer the design onto a suitable fabric perhaps cotton organdie [ as it doesn't fray]. Unfortunately the transfer pen did not give a clear enough outline from which to work. I persevered with the cotton organdie and decided to trace the motif onto tissue paper and machine stitch through to the fabric. Having removed the tissue paper I worked a running stitch around the edge of the motif. When I reached the bars I took the thread across the space 3 times without catching the base fabric and then adding a buttonhole stitch to cover the bars. 
A further 2 rows of running stitch were added to the interior of the design before I added further buttonhole stitch closely over the outlines working the stitches to fit the shape of the motif. 
I love the raised effect achieved by working in this way and the twisting of the buttonhole across the bars.

Very pleased with this but worked earlier in the project. The photographic image of this image will be included as part of the altered photo concept but I will need to consider how to incorporate this into the  finished piece at a later stage.

Moving on I felt I'd like to include a vintage but altered photo relevant to the children but in keeping with the history of the lace. The photo below seemed perfect, my aunt and mother playing as children in the farmyard where they were born and raised. I wonder who took this photo to capture this precious moment in time, it would date at around 1932 or thereabouts. I found it in the memoirs written by my Aunt. What a wonderful legacy she has left and such a gift for me as love to use these in my artwork in the form of story telling.

I decided to experiment with printing the photo onto a piece of cotton organdie. I needed to prepare the fabric with a colour fixative to prevent fading for which 
used Rit ColourStay fixative. I have an Ink jet printer and used the freezer paper method to print the 
image onto the cotton organdie - with a good result. I also wanted to capture the image of the girls in 
stitch by working with free machine embroidery on a sheer fabric. To achieve this I traced the image 
  onto tissue paper and using a hoop to secure a piece of silk crepeline (which is a very fine pure silk
 fabric with a stiffness to it which I liked for ease of working on this occasion). I was able to stitch 
   through the tissue paper which was then gently torn away to reveal the stitched outline.                                                     

I stitched over the image a second time to strengthen the line and have left some of the trailing threads in situ as they give a wonderful sense of movement. I'm pleased with the effect of the images of the girls and the lace showing through the layers facilitated by the sheer quality of the cotton organdie and suggesting the passage of time:

Image printed onto cotton organdie:

Traced image on tissue paper:

Free machine stitched image through tracing paper :

Cut out girls:

Layered composition:

                                              And with the photos of the two girls laid on top:

At this stage I discussed my ideas with Sian Martin and members of The Stitch Textile Artists Group
via a zoom meeting. Sian suggested I incorporate the layered elements into a girl's dress. 
This immediately resonated with me given the beautiful dresses worn by the girls which held opportunities for hand stitched detail. I decided to develop the above piece into a dress bodice and then consider ideas for embroidered detail on the back of the bodice and on the skirt. Ideas started to flow through our conversation - text along the hem of the skirt to reflect the poetry composed by my aunt and perhaps eyelet embroidery to adorn  the back of the bodice and a sash. 

I researched and found an ideal dress pattern via Etsy from The Freckled Pear Vintage Kate dress:


This pattern and instructions came as an instant pdf downloaded online. Perfect!

Given that my printed image had been developed from an A4 image I needed to adjust the pattern accordingly to accommodate it into the dress bodice.

Very excited now! Final layered composition:
I decided to place the cut out photos of the girls onto the base fabric rather than on the top as previously shown.

I used a cotton lawn as a base fabric for the bodice front and set about putting together the layers:
  • paper girl cutouts and lace fragments were applied to the background using Bondaweb followed by
  • the machine stitched outline of the girls
  • and finally the printed image laid over the top.

I was then able to use my modified pattern piece for the front bodice to cut out my completed design.
I then applied the bodice lining ( white cotton lawn). With right sides together I aligned the bodice front to the lining and stitched the seam. All that remained was to clip the seam and understitch the seam allowance to stop the lining from rolling towards the right side of the garment. 

Now the bodice back, skirt and sleeves. I plan to use the base cotton lawn as before but overlaid with silk crepeline for it's softening effect but also for it's transparent but matte finish which will compliment the bodice front.

I considered using elements of the lace doilly motif to form a collar but decided that it was too fussy and detracted from the layered effects I'd already put in place.

My attention then turned to the bodice back. It occurred  to me that the hand stitched motif might work very well placed centrally on the back, couched in place onto the base cotton fabric with a layer of silk crepeline to soften it (represented by tracing paper here):

Eyelet hand embroidery:
I made up some mock up dresses to help me visualise and therefore balance my hand stitching along the hems of the sleeves and lower front bodice with more eyelet embroidery cascading down and across the dress front. I'd like to add hand embroidered text ( my Aunt's poetry) along the dress hem with the addition of a sash embroidered in the same way:

Experiments with eyelet embroidery and various threads as below:

Research into which hand embroidered stitch I'd use for the text was my next task.
Stem stitch was my favourite as it offered both a softness and fullness of line; I looked at ways of
applying the stitching to the dress hems and the sash. I tried a layer of sheer ribbon with the base cotton and  then the ribbon plus crepeline but both finished with an untidy back of work. The winner was water soluble fabric with a the shape of the letters drawn on ( to guide my stitching)with strip of ribbon fed through on top and supported with a small embroidery hoop. On completion the water soluble fabric was washed away and the ribbon and stitching allowed to dry. The ribbon and  completed line of text was then hand stithed into place along the hem of the dress.

Text in place worked along the hem of the dress i.e. the cotton lawn under layer. I also decided to make use of the silk crepeline selvidge along the hem edge - a lovely neat finish for the outer layer.

I'm also playing with ideas of how to incorporate the lace bobbins:


My reference:
Teach Yourself Embroidery 1938

And Embroidery by Good Housekeeping 1981: