Those Goldwork Currents

So what on earth led me into this gold work phase? We could start with my first trip to Tunisia in the 80s, when a friend’s mom dressed me up in traditional wedding clothes of Ksibet El Medouni.

Fine Fabric and Fiber Creations by Alanna Nelson

Each town in Tunisia had its own bridal style.  If you’re from Hammamet, you’d wear the Hammamet style wedding clothes.  If you’re from Ksibet El Medouni, you’d of course wear something like this.  There are many layers to their traditional clothing, which is topped with a long woven “malia” (this link  gives you an idea of the variation of styles).  Two things are common to all Tunisian bridal wear: jewelry and gold work.

This summer, I’m going to a formal wedding in Beirut.  They are a lovely couple… so cute to see how excited they are about bringing their lives together.  I’d love to wear something that reflects my ties to Tunisia.  Goldwork certainly would be lovely.

Having perused all of those lovely books, I decided that whatever I make should definitely be something that I can wear again. This means real gold is out.  Never fear, I’ve already started imagining a couple of projects where I’ll use the real thing. I have a dark teal silk mix fabric in my stash.  Metallic machine embroidery on a “fouta et blousa” style two pieces ensemble is the thought of the moment.

Ok, I don’t think I’ll get this fancy, but step back and let your imagination wander

So think of me this weekend, making the  muslin, playing with stabilizers and putting my sewing machine to work.

Dipping into Goldwork

A variety of currents sent me scurrying to the library looking for books on goldwork embroidery.  For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to metallic embroidery of many genres.  There’s a rich history of metals in embroidery, and of course, technology makes many of these materials accessible to the everyday embroiderer.  My library system had several books with Western historic and contemporary perspectives.

"New Ideas in Gold Work" by Tracy Franklin embroidery

"New Ideas in Goldwork" by Tracy Franklin

Alanna Nelson Explores Historical Gold Work Embroidery Techniques

"18th Century Embroidery Techniques" by Gail Marsh

I also enjoyed reading Virginia Churchill Bath’s “Embroidery Masterworks: Classic patterns and techniques for contemporary applications.”  And of course, even though it’s not gold work, this was irresistible:

Crewel and Surface Embroidery Designs by Trish Burr

Once this was gobbled up, I couldn’t resist and bought a copy of:

I’ve got a couple of projects in mind, and I’ve been trolling the Kreinik, Superior Threads and Berlin Embroidery sites for supplies. Mary Corbett has some interesting posts about her Tudor Rose goldwork project. Oh, dear, I feel a wave of metal embroidery coming on…


Dressing Carefully: Thinking about textile choices

A barometer of culture and class, fashion has always reflected our values.  The textiles in your life are, in essence, a reflection of your style and a statement of time and place.  One of today’s guests on the WBUR On Point radio highlighted just how true this is.

Elizabeth Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” was today’s guest. Her travels in Asia, researching the factories and lifestyles of those who produce much of the world’s inexpensive clothing, resulted in a not surprisingly dismal report.   It is all quite obvious…. how else can shirts sell for less than $20 or shoes at the same price?  I haven’t read the book, but it appears that her analysis is on target, and it will be interesting to see how the larger manufacturers, retailers and fashion media respond to her journalism.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this come up in public discourse.  Last month, at the Common Cod Fiber Guild, Clara Parkes of the Knitter’s Review spoke about a Texas company which has become the last remaining large fleece processing plant in the US.  She spoke of disappearing small lot dye houses.  She reminded us that many of our favorite US yarn brands are simply distributors of products milled increasingly in China (although South America, Italy and Turkey still have a big stake in the game). She also shared some of the stellar U.S., British and European yarn brands who are holding on against the tide.

You are what you wear and what you create.  Choose carefully.

Roving Braids

Roving braids seen at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival


Sprouting Projects

Has anyone figured out how to create an additional 6 to 8 hours in a day?  If so, please comment below.  Spring sprouts projects!

I jumped on board for my first sail of the season last Saturday. Alanna Nelson travels the seas with textiles!
There had been no time to choose a new project, so a sleeve to the Lily sweater on dpns came along. No needles were lost overboard!

My other knitting projects include commissioned Christmas stockings and corrections to the Level II of the Master Knitter Program.  Now that I think about it, you could call theses two projects “treat or torture” respectively.  In any case, these projects needed to stay on land.

Perhaps next week there will be time to fondle fiber and choose summer sailing projects.

As promised, here is the top to the “Signature Sunspots” quilt, which is waiting for me to reschedule my long arm quilting appointment.  The back is a hodgepodge of fabrics… let me gently remind quilters to always square after every seam?  I forgot this on one band.  When the pieces get large, there’s a lot to remember.  The signatures are on the vertical light blue bands.
Signature Quilt by Alanna Nelson
As for garments, perhaps I can create them in my sleep, as I’ve heard happens in Hong Kong?  My l’il gymnast has a big school dance in early June. She has requested a dress. We were in New York at the beginning of May and we stopped by Mood. She got to pet the dog made famous by Project Runway, and we chose some great fabric.  Then there’s that skirt I drafted for the Drama Queen.  She’ll be home this weekend and hopefully that will head out the door.

And to top it off, gold work embroidery haunts moments carved from the to do list.  Oh, yes, more garments on my horizon…. my summer travels include a wedding in Beirut in July.

It’s all I can do to stop daydreaming about knitted sofa covers, punch needle trims, tassels I want to try and the possible.

So yes, anyone with ideas about how to create those extra hours…

Sleeping Beauty finds her Purse

Once upon a time, delightful dialogue and whimsical pictures inspired me to knit the “Chamonix” skirt from Knitting it Old School.  In my stash was a kit for a shadow knit sweater whose gauge never worked, but with a gorgeous supply of Harrisville yarns. A quick gauge swatch revealed a perfect match. Obsessively, I cast on in hopes of wearing the skirt during winter, 2011.

Worked from the top down, the pattern offers alternatives for increasing based on desired skirt flare angles and the wearer’s body structure. I ripped it out after 6 inches, and made the size larger, just in case of those Christmas cookies stuck to the hips.  Throughout a snowy January, I happily watched the snowflakes fall outside while the snowflakes grew on the skirt.  By early February, it was done and I could hardly wait to try it on!

Chamonix Apres Ski Skirt from Knitting it Old School

Chamonix Apres Ski Skirt while blocking

There was no need to look in the mirror after I pulled it on.  I became the Abominable Bubble Woman wearing an oversized skirt. See the angle of the skirt as it lays flat? In three dimensions, there was that same angle. Nothing could disguise the fact that my yarn substitution yielded the same stitch gauge but not the same fabric drape.  Reblocking did not alleviate any of the issues.  I couldn’t wear it, (but I did one day, anyway) the stickiness of the wool made frogging (ripping out) useless, and I couldn’t find anyone willing to take it.  Tossed into the pile of stash yarn, it was the equivalent of Aurora sleeping and waiting for the prince to kiss her.

Enter the Sophia Carry All pattern by Amy Butler.   My parents sweetly gave me this  last summer. Pulling out the pattern pieces, I realized that the Chamonix fair isle pattern might be the perfect match for the handbag.  I tossed the skirt with a bunch of towels in the washing machine on hot and shoved it all into the dryer.  The top, sides and piping were carefully carved out of the skirt.  I chose green faux suede  for the purse bottom and gold cotton for the lining.

The pattern calls for  folded over, stitched down the middle dividers for interior pockets.  That’s not my style: give me a zipper side pocket and two welted pockets to organize the smaller items.  It’s a bit more work, but saves time when I’m looking for my phone or keys.

Faux suede is fairly hard working, but I wanted the purse to have feet.  The sewing shops in my daily path didn’t carry them, so I sliced a cork from a lovely Pinot Noir into 0.25”  circles.
cork slices used as handbag notions
I covered each one with the same faux suede and sewed them to the purse bottom.  This is my first try on this and I’m curious to see how it wears over time.
microsuede cork slices as buttons

In the end, I made the purse without piping: 4 layers of felted skirt and 2 layers of interfacing were difficult to sew.  I thought about cotton piping, but the texture was just not appropriate.  Quilter’s template and 2 layers of very heavy nonwoven interfacing supported the purse false bottom.

And then I treated myself to a perfect set of handles by Lantern Moon.  Tacking the lining into the bag took more time than I originally anticipated, but I can hardly wait to move into this new hand bag.

 new handbag