An eco printed and stitched vintage linen
1. Left and centre of the cloth
2. Right and centre of the cloth
This eco printed textile is a vintage linen kitchen-refectory cloth from a local monastery, the Sisters of the Visitation .
It is women’s cloth, made by women for use by women; and now, taken on a new life’s journey by another woman. It was darned in white thread and embroidered in one corner with motif in red cross stitch, an inventory control mark. Many of these utilitarian linens were handwoven by the orders’ nuns in other parts of the world and distributed to monasteries in their network. Even a humble dishtowel was treated with great care, as you can see by the darned area of the textile in this image. (When was the last time I darned a tea towel? Hmmm…)
I have eco printed this linen with rose leaves (as well as geranium leaves). Roses make a connection to the history of prayer often said with rosaries by the nuns in the monastery. The linen was pre-mordanted with alum, then tannin from sumac leaves which coloured the cloth yellow-green overall.
See the cross stitched inventory marker for refectory linen beside the eco print of a rose leaf:
The plants were arranged to print in more or less three bands along the length of the fabric. I have no plan before I start to stitch. My goal is to simply to express in stitching my response to the marks on the cloth made by the plants. The stitching progressed in stages: first some free motion embroidery to outline some of the rose leaf prints which appear in a horizontal band on the textile; then some running stitch:
Then some more hand stitch ;
Bands of plant prints: rose leaves and geranium leaves, gently coloured. Free machine embroidery to outline and hand stitching to begin bringing out the forms.
Handstitching in shiny and matte threads: colours, lengths, directions and density of stitched marks, responding in variety to the marks of the eco prints; three major bands of motifs. Communicating natural abundance.
Details of stitching:
The stories behind the use of these cloths in their previous lives are somewhere to be told. Because they were present during much spoken, thought, felt and sung prayer, and because for the nuns, work was equally prayer (“Laborare est Orare” – “To work is to pray” ) these working textiles have become my prayer too. The title of the completed the series of eco textiles using the vintage linens from the monastery will be “Prayer Cloth”. This is Prayer Cloth 1.