September 3, 2010
I thought long and hard on this, and while I’m often inspired by words and even use words in many of my pieces, I was having a hard time thinking of a specific quote that I wanted to immortalize. I eventually came up with one of my favorite quotes from the Travis song “Side” – “Life is both a major and a minor key, just open up the chord.” I shortened the line, though, which I think makes it a little more bittersweet.
It’s a bit hard to see in this picture, but the cotton floss is variegated in blue and purple – it was my first time using variegated floss, but I liked the effect and look forward to using it again. Because the script (embroidered in my strange variation on back stitch) is fairly simple, I used a lightly patterned white cotton for the background. The flower details on the fabric are much more visible in this picture than in reality.
Halfway through stitching the Travis piece, though, real inspiration struck. I read Catullus in Latin class in college, and he quickly became my favorite ancient poet (because yes, I’m the kind of girl who has a favorite ancient poet). His poems are known by number, and 64 (LXIV if you’re as geeky as me) is known as his “little epic.” Little because, at just over 400 lines, this poem can’t even hold a candle to true epics like Virgil’s Aeneid (which is 12 BOOKS or roughly 10,000 lines). But what the poem lacks in length, it makes up in strength and impact. It tells the story of the wedding of Anchises and Thetis (Achilles’ parents), including a lengthy description of the embroidered coverlet on their wedding bed, which shows Ariadne after she was abandoned on an island by Theseus. I especially liked picking this poem because the subject is something embroidered.
I picked my favorite lines from 64 – “Nulla fugae ratio, nulla spes. Omnia muta, omnia sunt deserta, ostentant omnia letum.” They’re horribly depressing lines, used by Ariadne to describe the bleak landscape she has been left on – “There is no means of escape, there is no hope. All is silent, all is deserted, all speaks of death.” I didn’t choose it because it was so depressing but because I love the repetition of the “nulla”s and “omnia”s.
I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how this one turned out. I was a bit rushed to get it in before the contest’s deadline, and in fact, this is the second version of this that I made. I was an idiot on the first one and made a huge mistake. I used a dark heather gray wool and thus couldn’t draw the design on, so I put the design on some tear-away interfacing and started sewing. The embroidery turned out perfectly, and I loved what I thought it was going to look like. When it came to removing the interfacing, though, it just wouldn’t pull away. My stitches started pulling and warping as I tried to carefully remove it with tweezers, and after trying to clean up a tiny section for a few hours, I gave up and decided that a second embroidery was a better bet. I opted for a shiny purple/gray fabric that pulled more than I had hoped, and I used a combination of light blue cotton and gold metallic floss to produce a bit of a variegated look (that’s the one part of this that I’m really happy about). I still have my first embroidery, and if I get bored sometime this winter, I may give cleaning it up another try. A detailed shot, where you can see the variations in the floss, is here.
Edit: I didn’t win the Embroidereading contest, but I’m not surprised, considering how great the other entrants were. Luckily, the Embroidereading Flickr group is being left open as a gathering place for all embroidered quotes. Check it out – I’m in love with the concept and am sure I’ll keep adding to the group.