Saturday, 8 August 2015

An unknown collaboration...

Finished embroidery

This week I have been finishing off an embroidery started many years ago by a woman I have never met. The piece is a linen table runner (I think, judging by the shape) and from the pattern printed on it I would guess that it was produced in the 1960's or 70's.

How it looked before I started stitching


The piece has the same design printed on both ends, one of them has just a couple of lines of stitching the other had quite a lot done. This is the section I have completed and the other section I am going to ask one of the participants on Prism Arts Summer School to complete. The piece will then be used as part of the costume for one of the horse puppets we are creating.

Work in progress

Stem stitch stems and thorn stitch leaf

I suppose to some people this may seem like an almost sacrilegious thing to do but I prefer to see it as giving something unfinished, and for a long time unloved, a new life. Using this embroidery in a costume means it will be seen by many more people than if it was left languishing in a linen drawer somewhere, brought out only on special occasions (if at all.) The piece belonged to an elderly relative of another of the Prism Artists and has been in our studio for a couple of years, waiting for someone to come along and finish it and give it a new life. I hope that's what we're doing!

My additions

Her stems, my leaves

Using the stitches already used as a guide I completed the section using mostly stem stitch and in stranded cotton, as that is what had been used already. I've never worked from a pattern printed specifically for embroidery before so it was an interesting technical challenge, following the printed design and trying to blend my stitching with that of the previous embroiderer.

Adding leaves

And flowers
It feels slightly odd to finish off someone else's work, but odd in quite a nice way. I found myself thinking about who she was, what she was thinking as she stitched and how come she never finished it. Did she get bored, or become unable to complete it? I know I have a host of unfinished things in my studio and I wonder if anything were to happen to me would somebody finish them off for me. I hope they would, I don't like the idea of it all packed away and forgotten or thrown out. I wonder would they think about me and wonder what I was thinking?

Completed section

This is one of the things that draws me time and again to stitching and textiles in general, that connection with the past and more importantly that connection with people. We all have such an intimate connection to textiles, a familiarity and understanding that I find fascinating. As Olive Schreiner asked "Has the pen or pencil dipped so deep in the blood of the human race as the needle?" I think maybe not...


  1. This is a great idea! And yes, better than lying in a drawer unseen.

    1. Thank you! The participant who is working on the other end of the piece is really enjoying her work and it is looking great.