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Friday, January 29, 2016

Patriotic Crochet of World War I: a probable example

One of the friends I stayed with recently in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney has a supper cloth inherited from an aunt. She and I spent one evening examining it and finding out what we could about its likely background.

The cloth is rectangular, embroidered in the centre , with a deep crocheted border. It is roughly 2.5ft x 3.5ft. The embroidery on the centre fabric is to one end rather than centred. The shape suggests it may have been designed for a small, square table with one end hanging down the front of the table.
What intrigued us were the motifs on the crocheted border. Crosses - chunky Red Cross-type crosses - alternate with the motif of a bi-plane.

A bit of Internet searching turned up some information.  Between 1915 and 1917 women's magazines published patterns not only of practical items (such as gloves, hats and scarves) to knit for the troops, but commemorative and patriotic items for the home (such as table linen). There are numerous extant examples of table cloths, runners and supper cloths with borders, commemorating battles, ships, regiments, individuals or events.

Some patterns for crocheted borders are adjustable, designed to be added to an existing piece of linen to enlarge and embellish it. We thought it likely my friend's piece had been treated this way. It had a wide, hem-stitched border to which the crochet had been added.
None of the examples we found online commemorated the Air services . The navy was well represented. We found examples from England, France, the USA and Australia. The Australian War Memorial has a useful example and background on its website (Dianne Rutherford, Patriotic crochet in the First World War).

We can't, at this stage, be certain, but it is probable this piece comes from that WWI period and was made from a pattern distributed by a women's magazine. The Red Cross itself published a couple of pattern books. Biplanes were extensively used in WWI but only for training in WWII. The cross, on the other hand, may signify a church cloth, rather than the Red Cross.

The embroidery is largely satin stitch with some drawn thread work around the edges.
This was a privilege and lot of fun -  sharing, examining and researching. We did not find a pattern for this specific piece but we gained an insight into the lives of women on the Homefront in the First World War along with the designs and crochet techniques with which they were familiar. It was extraordinary to have in our hands the only example we could find of a patriotic crocheted cloth commemorating the air service.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Chicken apron on the go

One of my projects while away this holiday season has been another printed cross stitch apron - the bright and cheery chicken one. I made one of these a couple of years ago and had another in my stash. I thought it time I stitched it.
The best things about the apron are the cheery colours and shape. The worst thing is, in my view, the cross stitch. 
Working cross stitch on printed crosses presents dilemmas. If you cover the printed crosses you have gaps between the rows. If you attempt to avoid that by aligning the crosses it is difficult to keep straight and you get more background showing through between the bars of the cross.

I tried to work the crosses touching each other but wasn't happy with the coverage, so went back later and filled n the white spaces by a combination of extra crosses and straight filling stitch. 

This gave me more solid colour.
I used the simple cross stitch on the grass squares on which the chicken walks.
I have been staying with friends in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney (where the weather has been cold and misty - a welcome break from Adelaide's 35C + heat). Both friends have lovely gardens - great to look out on in the misty weather.
On the lower edge of the apron I worked the border of squares using a random order of all the chicken colours rather than following the suggested pattern. Random squares made it easier to sit and talk and stitch - and was more enjoyable than constantly consulting a chart.
                                                                                                                                        This is very simple stitching - but satisfying in both execution and the result.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Little travel project

I'm I bought a number of pieces of fabric printed with Japanese sashiko designs at a craft fair a year or so ago along with a few skeins of sashiko thread. I haven't tried any of them, so grabbed one to try on the plane while travelling to Canberra for Christmas. I chose a variegated thread - just wanted to see how it would play out.

I couldn't decide whether the technique would be like Italian blackwork - where the direction is important and the idea is to keep the line of running stitch continuous, or whether you jump from one shape to another on the back of the fabric.

I began working with the stitch continuity assumption. This way, you go where the stitch takes you, rather than where the design takes you. With a variegated thread this matters. Following stitch continuity, I took the closest option each time I got to the end of a line, sometimes going over a stitch to change direction.

In the end I decided the design was a better guide and switched. This way I followed a shape and pathway, if necessary 'jumping' the thread across the back (no more than 2 cm). This gives a greater sense of flow and continuity.

It was a lot to fun to do - and a goood travel project. 

When I finished the piece I used the same thread to create a casing along the top and to stitch the two sides of the piece into a bag.

I had plenty of thread left to make a cord to thread through. Voila! Another bag to put gifts in.