Following the Mark: Stitching an Eco Printed Vintage Refectory Cloth

When a local monastery moved away last year, the sisters had a garage sale. I collected some of their old kitchen and refectory linens,  woven by nuns of the order elsewhere in the world. Each linen  cloth is embroidered in a corner with inventory letters worked in tiny cross stitch, like this:  ( the red running stitch is mine):

I admire these  humble “slow” cloths, so carefully created and preserved, so respectfully employed in the service of community. And since many of them are stained by that  daily service,  as we are by life, I was inspired  to work through that idea: To stain and mark the cloths further, but with the beauty of natural dyes from my own garden plants and with embroidery, just following the marks. It was a way to honour daily tasks, their life-giving dignity not always registering as we carry them out.  So I  have made my own registrations ( printing with plants, marking with threads, staining with dyes) on this first refectory cloth using rose leaves from my garden, not only to recall the rosaries the sisters recite but to let me share somehow in the stories in the prayer cloth.  

So when my  linen bundles emerged from the steam pot,  the old stains on the cloth  re-emerged but in new colours under the eco prints, and I set out to follow all those marks. 

This is how the whole textile looks at this stage ( work in progress!) Don’t forget, you can enlarge the image by clicking on it and then again with the taskbar Google “magnifier”. It’s cool. And useful. I can see a lot more stuff that way than with my glasses.

Then there are some lovely surface details that bring to mind  the original worker- like the beautifully darned area here ( with an unvintage hole  emerging…):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I free- motion stitched around the darned area to highlight it and to protect it from too much embellishment.  I am using  straight hand stitches for the first layers of embroidery: running, cross stitch, cross hatching, seeding, etc. Straight stitch  seems appropriate for the simplicity of the cloth’s origins even though the surface design is becoming quite elaborate (deliberately so). I am inspired by the handwork of Julia Caprara and Ilze Aviks whose simple straight stitching is far from shallow.  Some of my attempts:

 

 

Other areas:

And another:

And the last one:

A note on the  threads: They are from my stash, too. They are vintage threads from the 1930’s:  Beldings’, a Canadian thread company (samples of the thread are in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa) made rayon and silk thread for embroidery. I found them at local vintage textile sale.

Honour Roll for this post:

Julia Caprara (now sadly deceased). Julia’s wisdom: “Trust your beginnings.” Colour, texture, handwork and design were all strengths but her love of her students, her sincerity in teaching and her devotion to her art were her greatest gifts.

Ilze Aviks works wonders with the humble seeding stitch. I have her books on embroidering marks with seed stitches – they are fabulous.

Next post: Off topic. Some stuff I have been turning up from the stash as I clean out the stufio. Fibre jewels and accessories – all frivolity and fun! While waiting for the silk and wool panels to mordant.

Sorry again about the formatting. Don;t know how to fix it yet.

Wendy

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About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at www.wendyfeldberg.ca.
This entry was posted in Art Cloth, Stitching Eco Prints, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Following the Mark: Stitching an Eco Printed Vintage Refectory Cloth

  1. Just love all this “stuff” from the nuns and what you have done with some of them..beautifulxxlynda

  2. arlee says:

    Wendy, love the simplicity of this, the spareness. Letting age and reverence shine through the “new growth” if that makes sense:)

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you, arlee, for your insight. I would like it if I could always have simplicity, age and reverence shine through my own “life’s cloth” instead of those “dishrag” experiences. TG for art: yours, mine and many others’.

  3. janey29 says:

    I love this look. fantastic

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