Marie-Renée Otis, artist in residence in Paris,
Fellow of the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec

The Fifteenth Week

The Shikankari Embroidery Technique, from India


In India, in the region of Uttar Pradesh (Central North of the country), there is the traditional technique of Shikankary: Shikan means delicate; Kari means work.

For this lesson, Shika makes us work on cotton organdy fabric (in comparison, organza is made of silk).

The Shikankari technique plays with shadows and exploits the transparency of the fabric. Certain stitches are worked on the right side of the piece and other stitches are done instead on the back side.


Paisley motif, Shikankari embroidery

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Shikankari technique was employed to ornate the clothing and the linen of the nobility.

To perform Shikankary, mainly five type of stitches are executed
- Herringbone stitch
- A variation of Knot stitch
- Blanket stitch
- A variation of the Bullion stitch
- And Stem stitch


A delicate veil embroidered in Shikankari embroidery

According to the desired effect, one, two or three threads can be used. At its source, the Shikankary was done essentially as Whitework. For this class’ exercise, at Zardosi School, the students rather embroider in color. To recreate the traditional effect the fabric and the threads are the same color, a modern interpretation of Shikankari in Paris.


My exercise in color at Zardosi School

The photo research and the translation are made by Lucie Daigneault
Marie-Renée Otis, artist in residence in Paris, 
Fellow of the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec 
The Fifteenth Week

In the context of trying a new idea in the EAC blog, the original "The Fifteenth Week" blog is going to run in three successive postings.  Each will be posted three days apart, this week. Now on to our weekly blog.....


The Kantha Embroidery Technique, from Bengal

Once again, I go back to Zardosi School. This time, for learning the embroidery technique from Bengal: Kantha. This technique consists in stitching (with a needle, not a hook) four layers of a thin fabric, the “mulmul”, a cheesecloth or gauze-like fabric.

The Kantha Embroidery is an ancient technique developed by Buddhist Monks, in the 6th century. The monks recycled every worn out fabric available. By layering and stitching the pieces of fabric it was possible to solidify the pieces of fabric and to give them a second life. The tradition was to stitch small 4 X 4 in. squares, prettily embroidered for offering them in exchange of goods. Apparently, in 1498, Vasco de Gama brought back from India the Kantha technique. Therefore, in addition of spices’ cargo, Portugal discovered Kantha embroidery.

The Kantha technique gives an impression of great simplicity. Emerging from the general plainness (plain stitches, worn out fabric, a limited variety of colors) but can generate rich pieces of embroidery, true little wonders.

So the recipe is:
1. Four layers of cheesecloth that you “iron” with your hands, by this you smooth the fabric and the layers stick to one another.

2. No need for an embroidery hoop. Sitting down on the ground, the Indian embroiderers use their knees to help themselves to stabilize the embroidery project.

3. First of all, the piece’s hem is embroidered with running stitches. Only after that, the main design is stitched in the center of the square. Of course, during the process, little bumps and an uneven surface take shape, giving an appearance of padding.

The motifs: The choice of the motif carries a message: a foliage motif means life; fish shapes mean a feeling of fullness, the classical Tree of Life symbol means wealth; and the whole range of Indian Gods could be added as themes.

Often, in the center of the piece, a lotus flower is displayed, framed by geometrical patterns.

The colors: Traditionally the chosen colors, for the main design, are: blue, yellow, red and green. Surrounding and underlining the central motif are concentric running stitches in white.

There is a Buddhist philosophy behind this particular technique: we have to respect fully the work of the hands. We must not undo the too big stitches or the uneven sections, we have to respect the results as they are. Once a stitch is done, we do not rework it. I Iike this philosophy.

Shika, my pretty Indian teacher, has taught the Kantha technique to many students through the years. But until now, no one has shown her Kantha project finished!

After all, maybe the Kantha technique isn’t as easy as we think. What kind of challenge could be hidden behind those semi-sheer squares of fabric?

So, until now no student has shown a finished project? Well, Shika, this is an interesting challenge for me. Will I finish my own Kantha piece?


An example of Kantha embroidery

Another example of Kantha embroidery

My own finished Kantha project, the right side
My own Kantha project, the back side

~translated and researched by Lucie Daigneault


Fran was a long time member of EAC, beginning in 1973 when she joined the Lakeshore Creative Stitchery Guild. Fran moved from Montreal in 1980 but kept her EAC membership as a National member, until she moved to Dartmouth, when she joined the Stitchery Guild of Bedford

Sunnyslope, representing Fran's childhood home

Recognizing the need for a daytime Chapter in the Dartmouth/Halifax Metro Area, Fran was one of the founding members of Alderney Needlearts Guild which meets in Dartmouth, but draws members from the wider Metropolitan area. Not long after Fran moved to Winnipeg and joined the Embroiders Guild of Winnipeg and finally her last move was back to Nova Scotia and although she lived an hour outside Dartmouth, she faithfully travelled in to not only our monthly meetings but as well to the weekly stitch-ins with her daughter.  


Fran's two grandson's taking in the brook near where they lived

Perhaps some are wondering why I have included this mini travel outline; I included these facts for two reasons, to list the Chapters Fran was a member of over the years and to illustrate Fran felt being a member of EAC was important; in fact she took great pride in being a long time member.  



Fran took many classes during her long association with EAC and enjoyed a wide variety of techniques. She participated in many Chapter projects along with working on projects of her own.  She was quick to both praise the work of others and offer assistance when the opportunity arose.  Fran had a ready smile for all and took great pleasure in getting to know new members of the Guild; this was easily accomplished at our weekly lunches after stitching which so easily and importantly merged the social of stitching and sharing meals together.



Our Chapter participated in the Stitch in Public day in 2013 at the assisted living facility Fran lived in the last few years of her life. During this time Fran enjoyed sharing her love of the work a threaded needle can accomplish with the other residents, while enjoying her own stitching and the company of the Guild members. Fran touched our lives in so many ways, we are truly blessed to have known her. 


~thoughtfully submitted by Marie Cron

I recently attended the fall CreativFestival in Toronto, due to an initiative by the EAC to bring more needlework teachers to the event.  The reception that I got was beyond anything that I had expected.  In each of the four classes that I taught, my students were overwhelmingly happy to see me.  I felt a little like a celebrity!  


In two of my classes, I had the same group of dedicated stitchers - three wonderful ladies who are friends all year round and attend quite a few events together.  They always buy the Platinum pass at the CreativFestival, which entitles them to as many classes as they can fit in their schedule, and they try to take full advantage of this.  They told me that in recent years, they had been finding it difficult to fill their schedules with classes that interested them, mostly due to the lack of needlework classes (although they are willing to stray outside of the needlework box, if something looks really good - like the Arm Knitting class they took this year).  They were so happy to see more needlework classes this year that they were almost giddy about it!

Another woman, who was in three of my classes, comes to the Festival every year from Chicago and calls it her Week of Happiness.  I asked her why this show was her favorite, of all the ones that she could choose from closer to home.  She told me that she loves that there isn't just one focus at this show.  She meets her sister in law there, who is a knitter and crocheter, and they can both get classes that they enjoy and spend the rest of the time together.  And she just loves the city of Toronto as well!

I was happy to see some younger people in my classes as well.  I had at least three who were in their twenties and it was a huge relief to me to see them.  My love for needlework will live on!  One attended with her mother, and they were having a lovely bonding time at the show; I think that Mom was really enjoying sharing her love of needlework with her daughter.  Another was a really passionate needleworker who blogs about her needlework and collects (or rescues) pieces from antique stores.  She even sent me a photo of a tablecloth she found in Toronto while she was there!  The third was a very quiet young woman who never spoke in class except when spoken to, but worked diligently and seemed to be enjoying herself.  There are many kinds of stitchers.

In every class, my students came with a great attitude - happy to be at the show and ready to learn something new.  I was told over and over that they were so happy to see more needlework classes this year and they wanted me to return next year to bring them more again.  





Outside of the classroom, the show floor was a visual feast!  Everywhere I looked, there was creative inspiration - gorgeous quilts (including one of the most stunning quilts I've ever seen - Fire and Ice by Claudia Pfeil with over 55,000 Swarovski crystals on it!), enticing beads, crocheted wonders (the Crochet Crowd booth was really something to behold!), fabrics galore.  I had to hold myself back from buying too much to take home in my suitcases, but I couldn't leave behind these gorgeous "Color Stories" from That Bead Lady.  She puts together 6 vials of Miyuki Delica beads that go together beautifully; she is great at this, so they all look delicious.  I would happily have taken one of each, but I restrained myself to these two and hopefully they will inspire me!  If you've never used Delica beads in your needlework, by the way, they are wonderful!  They are a perfect cylinder, so they always lie on the fabric the correct way (they don't roll so that the hole points up).  I just love them!



But one of the very best things about the show for me was spending time at my own table in the EAC booth.  Beyond the leaflets and kits that I sold (and I sold more than I had expected, which is always great!), I loved meeting the other EAC members and seeing people come every day for the Make and Take of the day (all beautiful projects!).  That table was always crowded with eager people wanting to learn, but my very favorite was a boy of about 10 or so.  He spoke to me first, since my table was at the front of the booth, and I directed him to the Make and Take table.  He stayed for quite a while and was very focused on his work.  I could tell he was enjoying it, and I truly hope that it will become for him what it is for all of us - a lifelong passion.

Two friends checking out their new Gingerbread Girl kits
It was a whirlwind of a week, so fast that it seems like a dream.  I think that I will be processing all that I saw and did and experienced there for a long time to come.  Perhaps until the next time!  Hope to see you there!

Kathryn Drummond

Have you ever seen Tanja Berlin's needle painting "in person". It's a dream come true. Each delicate thread well stitched creating almost alive embroidery. And you think "I could never achieve such beautiful embroidery". You are wrong, if you go on Tanja Berlin's website you'll see many examples of needle painting by students. There is hope for us too!



berlinembroidery.com

The EAC Virtual Threads Guild will host soon the famous embroidery designer and teacher, Tanja Berlin, for the Purple Pansy Needle Painting On-line Class. This project is suitable for all levels of stitchers and is written with the beginner in mind. Needle painting is a surface embroidery technique so there are no worries about having to count the threads of the fabric. In this fun on-line class learn the method of transferring the pansy design onto the fabric (optional) and then working the embroidery in stem stitch and long and short stitch to create this realistic pansy.

The on-line student will receive a pansy kit with a detailed instruction booklet with lots of line diagrams for the pansy. Three separate on-line class lessons will be posted in PDF files. The PDF files will have lots of work-in-progress colour photos and additional tips to work the embroidery.

The lessons will be posted on a Virtual Threads sub-group on the following dates: 
     First lesson on Friday, January 16th 2015
          Second lesson on Friday, January 30th 2015
               Third lesson on Friday, February 13th 2015

If you are interested in this project, make haste, there are already 5 participants and  the registration session ends on December 1st.

To know all the details and register go to 

https://ca.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/EAC-CyberChapter/info

or write to

eac-cyberchapter-subscribe@yahoogroups.ca


Lucie Daigneault
for EAC Virtual Threads Guild Program Committee
Marie-Renée Otis, artist in residence in Paris, 
Fellow of the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec 
The Fourteenth Week


The Treasure of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame



The Treasure of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame was for a long period of time one of the richest in France. Then the French Revolution happens in 1789. Everything collapse, the revolutionary government abolishes the clergy and its privileges. The churches, the convents and the monasteries are robed of their treasures. Every parcel of valuable good is sold, melted or reused.

Those treasures are completely emptied. Many years later, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame begins to receive again legacies, to commission masterpieces, in fact, to rebuild from scratch its treasure.

Nowadays, for special events, the Mass is still celebrated with ciboriums and cups set with precious stones. But even more precious than this goldsmith work are the Holy Relics: the Christ's Crown of Thorns, a nail from the Christ's cross and a piece of wood from the crucifixion.

Every first Friday of the month, at 3:00, a Mass is celebrated and the worshipers can kiss and touch the Holy Relics. The solemn ceremony includes twenty men and women clothed in long white capes, for men, and in long blue capes, for the women. The Holy Relics are set up on cushions. A crystal glass tube, circled with gold, contains the Holy Crown of Thorns. The tube shape hugs the Crown shape.

The Holy Relics were acquired in 1239 by Louis the IX of France (this king was eventually canonized and became St-Louis). At the time, he spent a gigantic fortune to acquire them.

But in 1789, for the Revolutionaries, those objects were completely worthless! The Man’s silliness or the Divine intervention saved them through the centuries.


The Holy Crown of Christ

The nail from the Holy Cross

Young believers kissing the Holy Crown 

Michèle Sauvalle, Glass Pearl Maker



At the beginning of her career, Madame Sauvalle was a glassblower. But in the recent years, she had to let go this aspect of her profession. It has become physically to demanding. The glass blowing takes physical strength for handling the sticks loaded with melted glass.

Therefore, Michèle Sauvalle continued her glass handicraft with the torch technique. Now, she creates glass pearls. The prettiest ones are made following the "latticino" technique, meaning:  twisted glass wires.

Michèle likes to work with artisans from other Art disciplines. Collaborating with them, allows her the integration of her glass pearls in sculptures, lamps, artistic montage, in precious ornament of decor or to create jewelry with goldsmiths.

Madame Sauvalle works also at translation, a useful profession for her financial security. This way, her peace of mind gives her more freedom for creation. In addition of those occupations, she teaches. She adores having students and sharing her knowledge of glass work.

Thanks to the generosity of Madame Sauvalle, I left her workshop with glass sticks of “latticino” to eventually insert them to my embroidery pieces...



Verre et flamme : Création de perles de verre de Michèle Sauvalle,  ISBN-10: 2212123000, ISBN-13: 978-2212123005


Michèle Sauvalle at work, notice the glass sticks in the basket that will become pearls
Michèle Sauvalle at work, closer
Glass pearls by Sauvalle
Le rouge de la neige, a vase by Sauvalle



Mathilde Georget, Embroidery Artist and Professional Embroiderer



Mathilde is one of my friends. I first met her at the beginning of an exhibition in France, to which we take part with our artistic works of embroidery: Les mini-textiles du Musée d’Angers. This is a 3 year touring exhibition travelling through some European countries and also to the province of Quebec. At the present day, our artistic works still continue to travel.

Mathilde welcomes me home, after her day of work. Where does she work? At the prestigious Haute Couture workshop Lesage, the best place in town. When I say “the best place” I certainly don’t refer to the workers’ conditions. But Lesage has assuredly a reputation of high class in the Haute Couture business.

At Lesage’s there are many professional levels to progress in the embroiderers’ hierarchy. There are short period part time jobs and regular full time jobs. Mathilde has progressed up to the level of design draftsperson, meaning she traces the designs onto the fabric, at the exact location, where the embroiderers will eventually stitch them.

Mathilde would like a lot embroidering her own creations. But where to find the necessary time to stitch, if one is exhausted after a long day of work?

The sore dilemma of many artists...



Mathilde Georget in mission in Nigeria, in 2012

Necklace by Mathilde Georget
A creation by Mathilde Georget, close-up of the necklace



The photo research and the translation are made by Lucie Daigneault



Find out more at the Embroiderers' Association of Canada website.
EAC is not responsible for content at external links provided within this blog.

About EAC

My photo
The Embroiderers' Association of Canada (EAC) is a national non-profit educational organization whose purpose is to have a fellowship of persons who enjoy needlework and wish to learn and share their knowledge; and thereby to work towards maintaining higher standards of design, colour and workmanship.

Our aim is to preserve traditional techniques and promote new challenges in the Art of Embroidery through education and networking.
Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email

Search the EAC Blog