More Free form bargello

Every so often I opt for a free form bargello design. So instead of repeating patterns I just use a single vertical stitch. The design comes from the variation in the shapes which make up the composition. In this case I was inspired by a painting we saw in the Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen last year. Unfortunately I did not note the name of the artist. Anyway back home I sketched my own variation which is not a million miles away from taking a line for a walk. Here is the finished piece.IMG_5247

The wandering line is a whipped stem stitch. For this I used two strands of DMC satin thread in yellow. The rest of the piece is the bargello bit and is made up of a vertical stitch over six intersections. I used Fine d’aubusson wool for this. Made by the same company which manufactures soie d’Alger silk. It is a very fine wool and I used three strands for the work. I wanted to as near as possible completely cover the canvass, which is an 18ct aida.

For this composition I used a restricted colour range. The bulk of the canvass is covered with two shades of blue and two shades of violet. I used the enclosed sections to provide a bright contrast. In this case a red, which the French company call azalea.

Though relatively simple to stitch, at least once the outlines have been stitched, this is slow work. I spent at least 36 hours just stitching the piece.  I am quite pleased with the result, which now lies ensconced in an IKEA frame.

Vintage Embroidery Design

I have just finished stitching my latest project. This was a design which goes back to the First World War period. IMG_5244

The pattern was one of a series which I found inside copies of Fancy Needlework Illustrated magazine. The issues date from 1914, 1915 and 1916.  Inside some of them were various iron-on transfers. The arrangement above comes from a transfer with four identical designs. I used two of them for the composition.

I was pleasantly surprised that the transfers still worked, a hundred years later. Though one was quite faint and I had to go over the lines with a fine pen. There was nothing to indicate the purpose of this particular design, nor the fabric or stitches to use. So I was left to my own devices.

The fabric is a fine linen in Orchid Haze from Wemyss, a Dundee based company. The threads are all silk from the Soie d’Alger range from Au ver à Soie. Just one strand was used except for the seeding.

The colours have some interesting names – it is a French company after all. The tendrils are medium orchid, which almost blends with the fabric. The bus are in a medium ophelia pink. The leaves are stitched with two different greens – a very light nile green and a medium dark silver green. The outer petals of the flowers are in two tones of blue – azuline and dark azuline. To complete the palette the centre of the flowers is rose des alpes pink.

Most of the design is filled with satin stitch. The centre of the flowers, in pink, is padded satin. The leaves are mainly long and short stitch. For the seeding I used two strands of the silk threads. The long tendrils are stitched in Quaker stitch. This is my first attempt at this particular stitch, which is a combination of a stem and a split stitch. A bit fussy, but it looks OK.

It was a bit of a daunting challenge to try stitching something so fine, but the silk threads are a joy to work with. I have a few more transfers from this period, which I will attempt from time to time.  Happy stitching!

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

This week I managed to see the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry on its brief visit to Edinburgh. This is a fine complement to the Great Tapestry of Scotland and was initiated by the same team. The panels were designed by the same artist, Andrew Crummy, so there is a clear underlying unity to both tapestries. The fabric, linen, and the threads, Appleton wool are the same. This one has more panels, just over 300, but each is smaller – a 50cm square.

The Diaspora Tapestry started in 2012 and has involved stitchers from 34 countries, all with a living Scottish connection. The project is a celebration of Scottish heritage and culture, the people and places which connect Scotland to its global diaspora.

With the opportunities that the British Empire opened up to Scots to leave their homeland and settle elsewhere, it is not surprising that the majority of panels come from  countries that were once part of that empire. However long before then, while Scotland was still an independent country, Scots had ventured far and wide in Europe. The tapestry provides a fine visual record of this part of our history.

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Scotland in the middle ages had developed alliances and trading links with most of Europe. Scots have played an important role in the cultural, economic and military development of many countries, including the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Russia. The first panel shows one of the most celebrated of these alliances – the auld alliance with France.

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I was aware of some of the important contributions of Scots to other European countries, but was pleasantly surprised by some of them. For example I did not know that two Scots were among the select band who founded the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

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However with the Union of the Crowns with England and later with the Treaties of Union, Scots began to venture much further afield. First to the American colonies, and not always as free men, as this panel shows. Defeated soldiers could be taken as prisoners and sent to New England to be sold for between £20 and £30 each.

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Thankfully most Scots who went to America were not taken as slaves, though not all went willingly. A happier recollection of this movement of people is the town of Alexandria in Virginia, founded by Scots. Alexandria, along with Nablus, Wurzburg and Orleans, is one of Dundee’s twin cities.

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Scots were also to be found in other parts of the Americas, though in much lesser numbers. However they were often just as successful and important. The first panel above illustrates one of the large estates founded by Scots in Argentina, while the following shows how Scots succeeded in many different sectors in Chile, including football.

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Scots have also played an important role in many Asian countries and not always for the good, alas. This is the case with trade with China. Many Scots worked for the East India Company which led this development in the 18th century. Not just silk, tea and porcelain were in demand, but also opium. A trade that was very profitable and that Britain was desperate to continue. A determination that would directly lead to the infamous Opium Wars of the 19th century.

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Scots were also active in maintaining British military rule over India. My paternal grandfather was a regular soldier in the British army and was stationed for many years in Kanpore in northern India. My father and his elder brother were both born there. So I have always felt a kind of affinity for India. Luckily not all of the Scottish involvement was of a military nature. The following panel shows the beginnings of tea planting in Darjeeling, which owed a lot to Scots. We can all drink to that!

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In addition to the USA, most Scots who emigrated to settle, did so in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Many ended up in Adelaide in South Australia, taken there by the City of Adelaide clipper. Between 1864 and 1887 the ship made 23 voyages to Adelaide. In 2014 this fine ship was was restored and transported from Irvine in Ayrshire to Australia to become a museum ship.

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New Zealand was another popular destination for many Scots and many ended up in Otago, on the southern of the two large islands. Dunedin from Dùn Èideann (Gaelic for Edinburgh), the Edinburgh of the South, was founded in 1848. It is the capital of Otago and Scots shaped the city’s spiritual life, education, and architecture.

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Canada is probably the country with the greatest Scottish connection. The first Scottish settlers in Canada came after Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, was granted land there by King James VI in 1621. This was to become New Scotland or Nova Scotia to give it its official name. Many of the settlers were gaelic speakers and the language remains alive and well in parts of Nova Scotia.

Ontario was another province with a strong Scottish presence. The second panel above is a lovely illustration of the move from rural Scotland to rural Canada.

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This short selection of panels from the Diaspora Tapestry began with Scotland’s links with Europe. It is only fitting that it should end with another illustration of this continuing link. Though many Scots have left to settle elsewhere, Scotland has always been at the same time a destination for others. People from all over the world have come and made Scotland their home, and have enriched the lives of all of us in the process. The panel above illustrates the arrival of Italians from Barga in the 19th century. Let us hope that all who want to come to live in Scotland can do so.

 

 

A Blackwork Heart

I have just finished my latest endeavour with Blackwork embroidery. It consists of two heart shapes, one within the other. Here it is.IMG_4794

The fabric is a 28ct Brittney which is a 52% cotton and 48% rayon mix. The colour is listed as orchid. The threads are Rajmahal ArtSilk, which is a mix of silk and rayon. I first stitched the outlines of the two hearts with two strands of the threads. This is a simple whipped backstitch.

For the body of the hearts I chose three patterns for the outer heart and another pattern for the inner heart. The strands of Rajmahal thread are very fine, so I used a combination of two, four and all six strands for the work. None of the outer patterns seem to have a name, but the inner pattern is a simple zigzag.

The outer heart is stitched in Imperial Purple, while the inner heart is stitched in Spring Leaf. Rajmahal ArtSilk is quite difficult to work with as the strands do not lie smoothly on the fabric. However they are very vibrant and luscious.

The 28 count fabric makes for very slow work, at least for me. The overall size is only 12cmx11cm at its widest. Yet it took me over 26 hours to finish the stitching. Very enjoyable all the same. With luck this should fit into another of my IKEA frames.

I now have a week without embroidery as we are off to Dubrovnik for a bit of relaxation and hopefully, some warmth and sunshine.  Happy stitching!

More Traditional Palestinian Embroidery

For my latest project I returned to traditional Palestinian embroidery.  The design or motif as they are normally called is Disc and comes from Gaza. Here it is.IMG_4740

This motif is one of the many in Margarita Skinner’s book, Palestinian Embroidery Motifs: A treasury of stitches 1850-1950. The Disc is clearly made up of various motifs. Unfortunately the book does not identify them. The centre square seems to be a variation of one of the star motifs, though I am not certain. The vertical and horizontal sections are  examples of the Kohl Holder motif. I cannot make out what the other sections are meant to be.

The piece is almost certainly not in the traditional Palestinian style! The fabric is an 18ct Aida in pale yellow. Not normally a colour for fabric. The motifs themselves would I suspect, have been stitched in a number of bright, vivid colours. Instead I went for another of my colour experiments. To contrast the yellow of the fabric I chose just two colours – dark delft blue and dark blue violet. Both from the DMC cotton range and I used two strands for the cross stitches. With luck this piece should fit into one of IKEA’s neat little square frames. Crossing my fingers!  Happy stitching.

Bargello à Six (No 3)

Another Bargello project completed. This is now the third piece I have stitched with six different bargello patterns. The previous two were stitched in greens and pinks. You can see them here. For this latest version I chose a colour scheme based on lavender and violet. Here it is.IMG_4733

The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in green. For this piece I used three strands of cotton, mostly Anchor. Each square is approximately 10cmx10cm.  Some of the patterns are repeats from the previous compositions, while some are new.  As usual with almost all of my work, the finished piece is not quite squared off. Still, adds to the charm, at least that is my story, and I am sticking to it!

The dimensions of the piece were chosen to fit into an IKEA frame. The photo above shows the embroidery in the mount. Now that I have complete three versions of this composition I may try a slight variation. Instead of six different patterns all stitched in the same colour scheme, I will go for the same pattern, but stitched in different colours. Happy stitching!

Why we need another independence referendum in Scotland.

Yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made her much anticipated announcement that she intends to hold another referendum on independence in either autumn 2018 or early spring 2019. I don’t normally write about politics on this blog, but I thought some readers from outwith Scotland may like to hear my views on why this referendum is necessary.

I am in favour of independence for Scotland, but this post is not about that. If you are interested in my views on independence here are a couple of posts, here and here, which sum up my position.

This post is rather an attempt to explain why another referendum is so necessary. The one word answer is Brexit. It may be hard for people not living in Scotland to realise just how much of a divide there is between Scottish opinion and English and Welsh opinion on the EU. In last year’s EU referendum 62% of voters in Scotland voted to remain in the EU. This figure is almost certainly lower than the actual numbers who support membership of the EU. In Scotland 16-17 year olds can vote as can EU nationals. But they could not vote in the EU referendum, as Westminster set the terms for eligibility to vote.

All the evidence from polling is that these two groups are very strongly in favour of remaining in the EU. Both groups will of course be able to vote in the next Scottish independence referendum. So it is most likely that it is not 62% of Scottish voters who want to remain in the EU, but closer to 70%. Yet this very large majority is to be completely ignored by the UK government. A government which has made it crystal clear that there will no exceptions to a clean, hard UK Brexit.

Of course in 2014 a majority of voters in Scotland voted, 55% – 445% to stay in the UK. However at that time the UK was in the EU and a major plank of the NO campaign was that only by voting to stay in the UK could Scotland remain in the EU.

So we have in effect two mutually exclusive majorities in Scotland. In 2014 a majority for staying in the UK and in 2016 a majority for remaining in the EU. But Scotland can no longer have both. If we want to stay in the UK we have to leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. On the other hand if we want to remain in the EU, we will have to leave the UK.

For many people in Scotland this will be a difficult choice. A choice not of their own making. A choice that has been imposed on them by a UK government that has only one MP elected in Scotland and a government that has shown zero interest in reaching a compromise with the Scottish government.

The only democratic way out of this impasse is another referendum. There is a majority in the Scottish parliament in favour of another referendum, made up of the Greens and the SNP. Both parties made it clear in their manifestoes in 2016 that a Brexit imposed on Scotland against the wishes of voters in Scotland would be justification for another independence referendum.

For this referendum to have any sense it needs to take place before the UK has formally left the EU.This would ensure a smooth transition for Scotland to full EU membership. Which points to autumn 2018 or spring 2019 at the latest. By then we will all know the broad outline of whatever Brexit deal the UK government has managed to reach with the EU. All the Ts may not be crossed but enough will be known by then to enable voters in Scotland to make an informed choice.

The ball is now firmly in hands of Theresa May. To reject the referendum would be an affront to democracy. To try and postpone the referendum until after the UK has exited the EU would be nothing more than an attempt to punish Scotland. The only reason there will be another referendum is to avoid Scotland leaving the EU. So the referendum has to take place before Brexit has been consumated.

This is a referendum that has been made in Westminster and specifically by the Tory party in England. Without Brexit there would be no second referendum, certainly not in the near future. It is not only people in Scotland who now have to seriously rethink our position regards the UK, but people in Northern Ireland now face a similar choice. There of course the alternative to Brexit is unification with the Republic of Ireland.

Remember all this is the result of the Tory party putting their own party interests above everything else. What an irony it would be if it turns out that it is the Conservative and Unionist party which presides over the demise of the UK.