Saturday, March 26, 2011

And then there were two - a cloth book project

My second grandson Liam was born a few weeks ago in Bangkok. He is the dearest little boy. I can't help marvelling at how he seemed to change and grow before my very eyes while I was there. Here he is just 3 weeks old.

On one of his first outings, Liam Cindy and I visited Pretty Quilt Shop a nearby quilt shop - a rare find in Bangkok - and we found some eye-catching black and white printed fabric. Tiny babies see contrasts most easily so the black and white fabric, seemed perfect for making a simple little cloth book - one for Liam and one for his cousin Jake who was born just 6 weeks earlier.

Cotton quilting fabrics.
We set out to make a book about 15 cm x 15cm with the inspiring fabric, but only a vague idea of what we would do. Cindy was still feeding the baby every 2 hours. That left me with quite a lot of the actual sewing to do to complete our joint project before my return to Cape Town a few days later. We had to work on the dining room table because the work room has changed into the baby's room. We also all ate at the dining room table. You can imagine there was lots of clearing up and setting out to be done between meals.

The starry fabric is a bit like an op-art design. It makes your eyes feel a bit peculiar and you have to concentrate to focus on it when you see a big piece. That was a nice quick easy page to do. One Cindy could squeeze in between feeds. The problem came when it backed onto a white page. The 'show through' of the stars was a bit distracting and we had to put in an extra layer of the white cotton fabric.

The starry fabric showed through from the back

I rather liked the strong lines of the black and white striped fabric, but as a page in the book it needed a little extra 'something' - like a red line. In her blog, Mary Corbet had just suggested using two rows of buttonhole stitch as a line stitch which I liked, but I had no time to experiment with it first. In the end I stuck to good old chain stitch and a single red line added a focus and a bit of pizzaz. I still like the idea of the blanket stitch as a line stitch and want to try it sometime. Don't you think the unexpected wavy lines of this fabric are rather fun?

The front and back cover pages
Originally we wanted to applique some shapes onto a white background using a machine satin stitch. Its quick to do. That didn't work out too well though. The sewing machine we used didn't have a foot for satin stitching. Simple straight satin stitch lines were manageable, but definitely not the curves. Instead, blanket stitch did the trick for the circles. The red circles were fused onto the fabric before the hand embroidery was done and it made working with the rather coarse red cotton fabric a whole lot easier too. You can see the circles in the picture below where we are working at the dining room table - just before supper.

Embroidering the faces - our last page!

Apparently babies recognise faces very early on. Its got something to do with the spacing of the eyes, the nose and the mouth. Liam's dad Paul is very talented and he dashed out a number of faces for us to choose from. It was hard to choose just one, but we did and we embroidered the outlines with stem stitch.

And here are the two books, stitched together just hours before I flew back to Cape Town.

I'd love to receive your comments and also hear about any cloth books or quiet books you have made.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whitework swaddling band at the V&A

Wandering on through the British Galleries at the V&A recently, and after seeing the poignant embroideries of Mary Queen of Scots that I mentioned in my last post, I came across a beautiful whitework and cutwork edged swaddling band. With my little grandson Jake just a few days old, it made me a little regretful that we no longer have the time nor the need to make such special items.

The long rectangular swaddling band I saw at the V&A was made around 1600-1625 in Italy. I would guess that it could have been a couple of metres in length. Although not the whole of the length was embroidered, it must have been a major undertaking to embroider. It is edged with a 4 cm wide linen band of embroidery in satin stitch, eyelets and cutwork, with a picot edge.  The embroidered edge would show as a spiral as it wrapped around the baby.  When you follow the link to see the photos of the work, do click on the 'More Information' tab for details about the embroidery too.

In contrast to this finely embroidered swaddling cloth, one of the receiving blankets that I had taken over to London for my daughter was brushed cotton; and one that I had used over 30 years ago to swaddle her! Not quite an heirloom, but it did have special meaning for all of us.

I hope you are having a good week wherever you may be.