Do you remember seeing a quilt or a textile that heavily influenced your journey into fibre and textiles? Something that made you say to yourself: ‘Oh! I need this sort of stitching in my life’. Something once seen you can’t un-see. A piece that tickles the edge of your brain constantly.
I have a few textiles like that. Today I am going to talk about a quilt that I saw over 30 years ago but still influences my work today.
The Margaret Weir quilt is held by the National Gallery of Australia and has taken me down a wonderful path of fabric, lace, ribbons, and embroidery. Margaret Weir was busily stitching her very unusual quilt around 1910. Information about this quilt online is very sparse. You can see a small photo of the quilt on the Australian Museums and Galleries website.
The Margaret Weir quilt appears on the cover of Margaret Rolfe’s 1987 book Patchwork Quilts in Australia. A detail is featured on the cover. I have scanned it and shared it here so you can see what I am talking about.
Classified as a crazy quilt, it is a wonderful example of how the “no rules” philosophy applied. When anyone states categorically that old crazy quilts were never embellished as heavily as contemporary quilts, I try and find a tactful way to point to this one, as Margaret Weir integrated lace and embroidery so extensively you often can not see the background fabric. The quilt also has wadding which is also interesting another misconception people have is that the old crazy quilts never had batting. Some did as even then.
You can see from this detail how, as a quilt, it is strikingly different from other crazy quilts. (Click on the image for a larger view) What strikes me is that this quilt feels like a contemporary piece, yet it was stitched at the beginning of last century. What gives it that contemporary feel? I think it is that Margaret Weir layered her work just as many slow stitch, freeform, contemporary embroiderers do today. By layering, I mean not only the physical layers of lace and fabric and the leaf shapes, but in her choice of materials and stitches Margaret Weir creates an impression of depth. I always feel like I am going to fall into the quilt on one hand and on the other, that the quilt might represent an aerial view of the landscape.
Not only has Margaret Weir influenced my crazy quilting but she also has influenced my freeform contemporary work too. To illustrate here. These details are part of a fabric book I am working on. I am still working on it – so I guess you can call it a WISP rather than WIP. In other words a Work In Slow Progress instead of a Work In Progress. But that is what Slow stitching is about isn’t it? Anyway, you can see the layering of stitches, sari ribbon, crochet lace, lace, the old gold padded tube knitting ribbon and beads of course!
Another detail of a separate section in the same project. I am sure you can see the influence. If you want to read more about my fabric book in progress visit this page
Another example of layering, but not quite so heavy-handed with the ‘stuff’ is this section of a wall hanging. I worked this for my book Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery. I used many sections of this panel as illustrations for stitches. This is another detail of the same wall piece.
As I write I have decided that it is not finished yet as I want to add more layers. I think it will add more visual interest. So I guess for this project it is back in the Slow stitch basket. those WISPs are growing!
Do you have a textile that launched you on a creative journey? Something that when you saw it, made you think, I must to learn how to do that! Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear about it!
Experimenting with different threads can be expensive. You would normally have to buy a whole skein of each type of thread. My thread twisties are a combination of different threads to use in creative hand embroidery. These enable you to try out stitching with something other than stranded cotton. For the price of just a few skeins, you can experiment with a bundle of threads of luscious colours and many different textures.
These are creative embroiders threads. With them, I hope to encourage you to experiment. Each Twistie is a thread bundle containing silk, cotton, rayon and wool. Threads range from extra fine (the same thickness as 1 strand of embroidery floss) to chunky couchable textured yarns. All threads have a soft and manageable drape. Twisting them around a needle makes experimental hand embroidery an interesting journey rather than a battle. Many are hand dyed by me. All are threads I use. You may find a similar thread twist but no two are identical.