Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crewel Embroidery

An Avon Products  Crewel Kit I did in the 70s
As a child, I learned  the embroidery arts in Home Economics in school where we would practice the various techniques using DMC cotton floss on linen handkerchiefs. I was always so proud of my work no matter how it turned out. I think it was the enjoyment I had in doing embroidery work. Later, under the tutelage of my dad's eldest sister, Auntie Columbia, my embroidery horizon broadened to include crewel, cross stitch and bead work. As an adult in the early 70s, I picked up again on hand embroidery as a hobby and worked with cotton floss, yarn, pearl cotton, ribbon and beads. The embroidery arts kept me entertained at home, work,  doctor's waiting rooms, hospitals,  airports, hotel rooms and most every place I went since the materials you need were so easy to tote around. I gradually gave up embroidery as a main hobby and shifted to quilting and painting when I retired since I now had the luxury to sit and sew and paint to my hearts content without having to deal with my hectic work schedule. Besides it was getting harder and harder to get the thread into the eye of the needle as my eyes began to show signs of aging. Gradually, I embroidered less and less.

I was so inspired, after viewing the Bayeux Tapestry in France, to take up crewel embroidery again. Crewel Embroidery is a decorative form of  embroidery using wool and a variety of different embroidery stitches following  to a design outline on the fabric. It has a history stretching back to the early Middle Ages. It was used in the Bayeux Tapestry, featured in my blog In Bayeux - art, architecture and embroidery.  After we visited the cathedral in Bayeux, just across the street , we saw a shop selling crewel embroidery kits of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry. To me they looked like faithful interpretations of the scenes on the actual Bayeux Tapestry, including the colors used. I seriously contemplated buying a kit but could not decide right there and there. Instead, I picked up the shop flyer in case I decide to order online. Here is their site showing some of the kits they have on sale - Bayeux Broderie.

Once we got home, I was very tempted to order a kit from Bayeux Broderie but was dissuaded by my perceived hassle of ordering from abroad and having it shipped here.  So I searched the Internet for another crewel embroidery project I would be inspired to tackle. During this search, I rediscovered the wonderful kits of Elsa Williams who was very popular when I was into crewel embroidery in the 1970s.  I decided that I would like to work on one of her kits.  I ran into great difficulty finding a project since most of the sites carrying her work appear to be out of business or out of stock. I resorted to Ebay where I was able to pick up a vintage crewel embroidery kit called Paul Revere. The finished embroidery is designed to be mounted on a stool which was included in the kit.

Considering how prolific Elsa Williams was in needle arts, having produced hundreds of crewel, cross stitch, needlepoint and other traditional embroidery kits and designs, there is little out there on the web about her life. She wrote several important books and a syndicated column,  hosted a popular PBS TV show on the subject and  taught correspondence courses and at her school, The Elsa Williams School of Needlework. She also opened shops In New York, Palm Beach, Southampton and Nantucket selling her kits and needlework supplies and where needlecraft classes were taught as well.  And now. it seems that none of her designs and kits are being produced so if you really want to work on an Elsa Williams design, you will have to look for vintage kits in sites like Ebay and take your chances.
Elsa Williams (1912-2011) was largely credited for the renaissance of hand embroidery in the mid century, after it experienced a sharp decline with the introduction of the sewing machine, Without realizing it, she must have been my  main influence in picking up embroidery again as a hobby in the70s.

This is the kit I bought on Ebay

I have now mounted the fabric on an embroidery frame and sorted all the wool yarn. All that is needed is to make the first stitch, Let's see, where do I begin?? I think I'll start working on this on New Year's Day...I hope to be able to share with you my work as I go along and more importantly, the finished product. Please check out this particular  blog post for updates. 
Threads sorted, fabric mounted!

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