A few much needed days off. I spent my time flicking through some new books of Elizabethan embroidery techniques (included a few different versions of that ever-niggling plait stitch). I want to try them all out so I spent the afternoon stretching up my ‘home’ embroidery frame. This is slow, quiet work I prefer to do at home.
Stretching a cloth onto a frame takes time. The fabric must be pressed, a straight gran fold made at the top and bottom and then placed exactly matching the middle of the bar tape. Then you over-stitch the fabric to the tape, keeping the stitches evenly spaced every few mm. Repeat for the other bar.
Next you take a length of twill tape and bast it to either side of the cloth.
(the next stage will be to tension the cloth onto the roller bars and stretch the sides, but I didn’t have enough tape and pins so that’s a job for another day)
As I attach the cloth, fixing it down with hundreds of tiny stitches, wonder about the hidden labour – all the essential but usually unseen or undone stages in a process…
A morning in the Blythe House archive spent frantically documenting T.82-1924 – a pillow cover with an embroidered boarder
The photographs were not great quality but will do for reference. I also got some microscope images – these will have to be put together, but I’m rather keen on he idea piecing together fragments. There are many areas of the embroideries which are fragmentary – the whole basis of this project is the reconstruction of fragments. Collaging together images is a method I use in my drawing practice and find my fingers itching to get to my drawing board and begin to draft these motifs out. I have a notion that I would like to make a drawing on a monumental scale – these stitches are so tiny, I have an instinctive desire to enlarge them to massive proportions…
I had requested the backing fabric be removed so I could see the back of the embroidery but the linen of the pillow cover has become extremely brittle, so instead the textiles conservator cut a number of small rectangular holes in the backing fabric – creating little windows onto sections of the embroidery. This pragmatic conservation compromise is unintentionally brilliant – creating frames of abstract compositions. I’m going to have some fun with this!
Back at Blythe House Archive – the plan today was to get some close-up images of the embroideries using the DinoLite microscope camera.
The images from the microscope are much more detailed but I will have to splice them together as the focus area is quite small. I’m not sure how much additional detail will be gained over the photographs – I’ll have to work with both once I get back to the studio.
Today I was introduced to another PhD student, Rosie Taylor-Davies (http://www.taylordaviesdesign.co.uk/), who is working on 18th century embroidery. I was very much inspired by her approach to research, in particular the research books she has produced for each object she is working with – I took some notes on the things she included that might influence my own approach (shared with permission):
Details on how the object was documented:
* photo slices using a sliding camera rig;
* colour analysis.
History of the object:
* design sources.
* documentation of process;
* side-by-side comparisons of details.
Overall design diagrams (hand drawn) acting as a reference map.
I also had quite an interesting conversation when trying to explain my research, during which I had a moment of clarity regarding an aspect of my PhD that has been bothering me.
There has always been two approaches to the digital aspect of this project. The first is about the geometric structure of the patterns and digitally tracking the stitch paths – essentially regarding the patterns as visual algorithms – to create reconstructions. This could also be applied to the later, free form, speckled blackwork – but, I’ve had a niggle in the back of my mind that applying this ‘system’ to that style of blackwork would be artificial and the results inadequate. However, the second aspect of digital technology I am interested in pursuing is about physically integrating electronics into fabric to create reactive surfaces (trying to bring forward something of the materiality of textiles) – and I think this could work quite beautifully with the free-from blackwork.
In the back of my mind, I already have several ideas for pieces around these two ‘modes’ – indeed I’m already working on projects that explore both. However, I’ve been pensively wondering how to bring these two approaches together. What I realised during today’s brief conversation is that I don’t have to.
They are two separate (but related) approaches.