The Embroiderer's Story


July 9th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy stitched this borage as the model. She sent me a photo, labeling it “borage – done”. Which of course it is not. I’m trying to be careful about that now. Borage needs some black and white in the middle, and then the little spiky leaves done too.

But this is the big part, and for the next session (officially 8-11 August, but any time the week of the 4th can work as Tricia will be here working on GOLD) we’ll have borage directions. This is good, because in the master pattern borage is the only motif that repeats.

Borage by Wendy.It’s a three-across, four-down repeat, and borage appears in the middle of the top row and at the left end of the bottom row (as Tricia drew it – it’s a repeat so theoretically you could start anywhere and repeat outward). So twice as many borages, sort of. Lots of opportunity to use the spectacular dark blue gilt sylke twist. See you soon?

To address the questions in the comments about comparing the lace gold thread to the embroidery gold thread, and how the embroidery gold thread is made, and the needles, and that, we’ll have to wait till Tricia comes back from vacation and can let us know. I’d say maybe towards the end of next week? I know she’ll get us the information as soon as she can.

I think there will be plenty of goldwork to do aside from the coiling vines, too. I was thinking, the tops of the foxgloves and pea pods are gold. The vine has many curliques (which it may be should be worked as you come to them, but maybe they’re separate, I don’t know) which will be gold. Most of the leaves have gold veins. The rose, strawberry flower, pansy and honeysuckle all have gold centers. The straight lines that stick out of the columbine and honeysuckle blossoms might be gold. (No, I don’t mentally catalog the work left to do, over and over. Why do you ask?) So we may well have goldwork available to those who either don’t want to or can’t match the established stitch density of the plaited braid. All of which to say, don’t worry, there’s plenty work to go around.

The other day I heard from some embroiderers who hadn’t sent in a sample or signed up to stitch because they were nervous about having their work “judged”. We’re really not using the samples to judge, or to keep anyone away. No one’s been refused. The samples let us take advantage of everyone’s strongest skill, and give Wendy and Tricia a starting point for helping to improve everyone’s stitching. Even those very experienced with this kind of embroidery have reported that after a few pointers and two days of practice, their work has improved and they go faster. Several have called the embroidery weekends a kind of ‘master class’, with individual attention (Wendy & Tricia usually have 20-25 students in a class and here we never have more than 8) and lots of time to practice.

So don’t let that keep you away. Come stitch. This chance won’t be here much longer. I swear.

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3 Responses to “Borage”

  1. Robbin Douglas says:

    Please, let me agree with Jill that your stitching (or your lace!) is not being judged. Some samples aren’t even complete because people didn’t like some of the stitches. Tricia has said (and I think she’s said it here, she’s certainly said it in person) that it’s the experienced embroiderers who worry about their work not being good enough. There are people who’ve worked on the jacket who’ve never done surface work before! But they’ve been interested, tried the stitches, and been encouraged to work on the jacket. And they’re a lot less afraid of it than some of the most experienced stitchers. Heck, we had to badger Jill into working on the jacket. At the last session this woman was walking around and stitching at the same time on detached pieces and I think it’s probably hard to pry that hoop out of her hands by now.

    In addition, there’s really a variety of tension on pieces on the jacket. It even exists within some of the motifs because one person starts something but they might not be the one to finish it. But it doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, just different. You see it when your nose is up against the work, but when you hold it away from yourself it’s not what catches the eye. Everyone’s work will be just fine. Add sparking gold braid and other gold bits and gold and silver lace and put it in a case and people are going to be amazed and dazzled by the beauty; they will never see and never say “Hmm, Robbin had really lousy tension on her buttonhole stitch there.” (Of course with the gold the consistent tension is much more important because the braid is continuous and really what catches the eye. But the motifs are separate and as Jill said, there are lots of other places the gold will happen, too.)

    They really do use the samples to see what you do well. I was at the first session and Tricia said to me “You do good ceylon stitch. Here, work on Thistle leaves.” Karin really likes the trellis stitch and worked lots of bug bodies. Seeing the samples helps them match your tension to something that might be mirrored on another prominent piece, or decide you would work well to finish a started piece because your tension is similar to someone else who started that piece.

    But there aren’t any awards and no one is going to be booted out. There’s just a lot of stitching to do and a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you work on something and look and say “I stitched that” and “I did my small part in making this jacket come into being”. It really helps to be there for a few days because you get the rhythm of things and you stitch more confidently. Not to mention there are so many things to be learned from fellow stitchers and the wonderful ‘instructors’.

    And even if you can’t come and stitch, send in your sample. They’ll be part of the exhibit and a way for people to see how things worked, as well as a permanent part of the Plimoth documentation on the project.

    If I sound like a fanatic, I’ll admit it. I’ve never enjoyed a project as much as I’ve enjoyed being part of this. I can’t imagine something so unique happening near me again. I spent a wonderful peaceful birthday stitching there last year and as many vacation days as I can dig up. I know I’m lucky that I’m close enough to get there more than once, but believe me, those of us who have come multiple times aren’t taking space away from others. There’s a lot of stitching and a lot of lace still to be made and you’re really missing out on something if you have the opportunity to try this out and pass it up!


  2. coral-seas says:

    Hi Jill, I have nominated this blog for the “Arte y Pico” award. Please do not feel obliged to pass on the award, I simply wanted to acknowledge how inspirational I find this blog, the project and all those who have contributed, even if only through comments on here.


  3. Nicole Roussos says:

    Okay, okay! I am properly chastened. :-D The sample’s in the mail; should get there Tuesdayish.

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