Monday, February 17, 2014

Auntie's Work

Yesterday, I gave a talk for the women's group at my synagogue about how I became interested in embroidery and use it to connect with Jewish tradition.  I showed them my challah cover and State Fair matzah cover, but I also had the opportunity to show them more of my Auntie's work.

This is a challah cover decorated with doves, a challah, a kiddish cup (for drinking ceremonial wine), candles, and a siddur (prayer book).  The words in the siddur are the beginning of the blessing said over wine at the beginning of Shabbat dinner on Friday nights.  The candles are unusual because normally the mother of the house lights two candles at the start of Shabbat.  This challah cover has a candelabra with five candles.  Some families just like lighting extra candles, or they have a tradition of lighting one candle for each child and/or grandchild.

This well-loved, well-used challah cover has an incredibly elaborate challah and a longer segment of the blessing over wine on Shabbat:

"And there was evening and there was morning.  The sixth day--the heavens and the earth, and all within them, were finished."

This cover felt much older, with an extremely soft texture.  It reminded me of the texture of a tallis (prayer shawl) my dad has that belonged to his grandfather or great-grandfather, where it is on the way to having the thickness of tissue paper.

This is a wall hanging of the Hebrew alphabet. Auntie made one for my mom and each of her sisters as wedding presents.  My parents then let me take it to hang in my apartment after I got married.  Every so often, I take a couple moments to look at the stitches.  This has the widest variety of stitches out of any piece my great-aunt made, and it has interesting color choices and changes.

One woman brought a cross-stitch matzah cover made in Latvia in 1892!  Her grandmother's best friend made it for her as a gift before she left for America.  The friend created a logo on the back of the cover in which she intertwined her and the grandmother's first initials.  Other people took the time to share their experiences with embroidery.  It seemed like each woman had a project lurking in her closet that she started decades ago and never completed.  I was glad that my talk really struck a chord with people, and hopefully it will inspire some of them to take up stitching again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Once Upon a Time . . .

Hear ye, hear ye, the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery sampler for 2014 begins!  This year's theme . . . fairy tales!
Don't spell it "Once Upon a Thyme," or the subject matter will be very different
One might think that if you've done one yearly sampler, you've done them all.  Not so, for the fair ladies at FPS have introduced some magical new touches.  Instead of going nuts having to stitch up a dozen boxes for frames, they decided to make the borders more creative.  This pattern has a lacy border that incorporates magical images, including toadstools, castles, and crowns.  The border outlines the entire pattern, then the space within is divided with simple lines.  This style is much less tedious to stitch--I worked on the border for a month and never got bord--er, bored.

And the villagers rejoiced.
This will be my first time working with a delightfully whimsical glitter linen.  It is hand-dyed, with shimmery plastic woven into the fabric so that it sparkles in the light.  It's possible to try to recreate the effect by using glitter spray on cheaper linen, but that can stiffen up the fabric.  This linen from Picture This Plus is truly a dream to work with.

Dyed with glllllitter berries!
It is also my first time working with hand-dyed thread.  The pattern uses three colors from Weeks Dye Works, a thread company that only sells to small retailers and online vendors.  The lack of ability to order directly from the company caused an issue when one of the colors, Blackberry, quickly ran out.  I was able to get some shipped out to me, but then USPS somehow lost my package for several weeks.  Finally, my fairy godmother kicked into gear and my thread arrived on the very day that the pattern for the border and January square came out.

I'm glad I got it, because the variegation is gorgeous.  I have to alter my technique when I stitch with the hand-dyed thread.  Instead of doing several legs in one direction and coming back in the other direction (Danish method), I am working on each X individually (English method) so that the color changes are really noticeable.  Hand-dyed thread can be unpredictable in how variegated the colors turn out.  Some people end up disappointed if the skeins they get don't have much variation.The skeins I got happened to have fantastic color changes.

Variegated thread:  All the impressiveness with no extra work
On the first of every month, I will get an e-mail with a pattern for that month's square.  I haven't started on January or February yet, so all I will say is that these squares offer a glimpse at one young lady with her short roommates and another young lady with her amphibian suitor.  I hope they do The Emperor's New Clothes, so I can find out if the Emperor wears boxers or briefs.

Even in the early stages, this sampler is a crowd pleaser.  I think it might even be State Fair material (in 2015)--it would be a welcome change from the photo-real cross stitch pictures of cats and Jesus.