Last week I completed the first Community Stitch Challenge from Textile Artist with my portrait of James and Helen walking along the beach…
This week the workshop was by Merrill Comeau,, she’s a very interesting lady and her challenge was to include text in a piece of embroidery, it could be a single word or a whole load of words.
It took me a while to think of which words to use. There were all sorts of examples coming up on the facebook page, from positive uplifting ones to angry ones, to very sad and poignant ones. One which hit a nerve for a lot of people was an embroidery of an elderly lady, clearly very upset, with the words ‘Bitter Pill’. The embroiderer had just had to put her mum in a home and was feeling very guilty. There were so many messages of support, it was quite moving.
After much thinking I decided to use the first two lines of one of my favourite poems, ‘Leisure’ by William Davies;
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep and cows
No time to see, when woods we pass
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to glance at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait til her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.
When my friend and I go walking we often stop to look at something, it could just be the sunlight coming through the trees, or the reflections in a pool, that’s how we see the red squirrels and the deer or the owl flying by. Our OH’s find it very amusing that whether the walk is five miles or ten, it still lasts all day as we do like to stand and stare!
My first thought was to do a generic view, I started to try and draw one but it didn’t take long for me to decide to do my favourite view, Catbells from Friars Crag, I’ve spent many an evening watching the sun go down from Friars Crag on the banks of Derwentwater.
Having sketched out my idea I had a rummage through my batik scrap box and pulled out several fabrics which would work. I used calico as the background and decided to just do raw edge applique. Batik cotton has a very dense weave so it doesn’t fray as much as usual quilting cotton. I cut out the shapes and arranged it on the calico…
I started to stitch the shapes down with a simple running stitch. Having stitch the fell down I then had the idea of including a clock face in the reflections possibly with no hands as a play on the line ‘We have no time…’
I used the insides of embroidery hoops to draw the circles and decided on Roman numerals to give an idea of the timelessness of mountains (and I also thought they would be easier to get neat!!) I used one of the fabrics printed circles to be the centre of the clock face. I used a silver thread to outline the clock with back-stitch and then running stitch towards the end. The reflection of Catbells still needed securing so I just used running stitch again.
I wrote the words freehand with a silver gel pen and then used a grey DMC thread to back-stitch over it. I’m pretty pleased how well the writing has come out, though I realised too late that I have missed a word out of the first line, luckily it doesn’t affect the line!
All that was left was the trees on Friars Crag. It took me ages to arrange my ‘squiggles’ of green! I wasn’t sure how to stitch them down at first and eventually stuck to running stitch so it would detract from the main image.
I’m pretty pleased with this piece, it’s also one of those projects where I could have gone a lot further, the circles on the grey for example look like the iris in an eye, there is also a possible underlying theme that actually we don’t have time to stand and stare if we care about the natural world and are to slow climate change down.