Fair Isle Sampler

As the day of the election approaches things are getting fast paced here in the London household. I have settled in on a semi permanent basis, while daughter No 1 is sent all over the country to research and report on interesting marginal constituencies and the statistical curiosities of newly analysed voting patterns. Ridiculously early trains and overnight stays make this a more difficult job than it looks, especially when very small people wake in the night and want their mummy.  Fortunately daddy is not the sort of man to put his head under the pillow at such times and he responds to the cries with much needed comfort and reassurance – which sometimes includes going down and up 4 flights of stairs to fetch a warm drink. That the second smallest person has had a fever this week and also wakes in the middle of the night is just another thing that needs to be coped with by a man who not only has 2 children but 2 columns to write every week. How do they do it! Well, probably in part because they have a good team at home here. Daughter No 3 is the best of nannies  and she, me and a gem of a home help, manage cooking, childcare, cleaning and washing between us – if one can’t do something, someone else takes the job on, we mix and match – in fact it can be rather fun. We are still, however, thankful that there are only a few days to go.  Black Friday may be nothing compared to Friday 13 December as sleepless nights agonising over election results  judder into mornings of attending school nativity plays.

Sample bands of Fair Isle in the same pattern but different colours

Knitting and sewing, much curtailed by domestic activities, all I have to show this week are 3 sample bands  of Fair Isle, one of which is destined for the small person’s Christmas present.

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Whitework embroidered alphabet: letter K

A whitework alphabet: letter K (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

In Yorkshire for a family memorial service, this week has seen more knitting than sewing but here is an embroidered K that I just about managed to finish before leaving home. (If you look hard, you might make out long loose stitches tacking the linen to the stabilising backing. These will be undone when I get home when I’ll also surround the design with an outline square of back stitch.)

A whitework alphabet: letter K (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Kimonos are interesting garments and, rather like saris, were made from the whole of a bolt of fabric (36 cm by 11m) with no waste. Traditionally kimonos are made from seven pieces.  Two extend from the front hem, up over the shoulder to the back hem, the sleeves are cut from two further pieces and and another pair form the side panels. The final piece, much narrower than the others forms the neckband which continues down both front pieces to finish the garment off.

Detail: whitework alphabet: letter K (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Japanese embroidery has its own long history, having developed in an unbroken tradition over at least 1,000 years. Read The Tale of Gengi for brilliant descriptions of kimonos which differ little from the garments we know today, except that wearing one garment at a time was never enough. Status could be read in glimpsed layers of sleeves draped over the edge of a carriage while the rest of the woman remained hidden inside!  Snippets of embroidery visible on neckbands crossing the throat tantalised for beauty of both fabric and body beneath. Shizuka Kusano’s The Fine Art of Kimono Embroidery is a wonderful book for learning more about the art and craft of Japanese embroidery and the many pages of excellent photographs are a real joy to study.

Shizuka Kusano: The Fine Art of Kimono Embroidery

Embroidered kimonos exhibit both flat and twisted silk threads as well as metallic threads. Embroiderers were particularly fond of flat stitch in untwisted silk  (satin stitch) which gave flowers’s petals a soft smooth sheen. See the V & A’s website for more details about making a kimono.

Detail of embroidery from Shizuka Kusano’s The Fine Art of Kimono Embroidery

I blogged last week’s embroidered J for Jug in such a hurry that it was only later that I realised how crumpled the fabric was. I’ve now ironed the embroidery and replaced the photographs with the newly ironed versions. Goodness, standards are slipping!

 

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