Sunday, 31 July 2016

..... darn it......

10% off our next 2 workshops  /  earlybird tickets

We've got the summertime blues as 2 or 3 participants have had to drop out of our upcoming workshops for various reasons.  But there are also greens, yellows and reds in abundance all around us!  Yes, the temperatures in south west France have moved up to the 30s most days now, the gardens are at their colourful peak and when we're not enjoying regular dips in the salt-water pools to cool off we're learning a little bit more about the arty craft of darning......
We all know how technological advances have engaged us in constant fast-forward motion making life overscheduled, stressed and hurtling towards the next task, whether at work or at home.  We mostly rush our food, our family time and even our recreation. If, like us, you can make space to sit in the shade for a few moments we'd like to pass on a little information about the slow art of hand-darning as a method of repair, embellishment, and a means of prolonging the life of a garment for economic or sentimental reasons.   Darning offers the stitcher an opportunity to slow down; the hand moving the needle into and then out of the fabric in a soothing, rhythmic pattern offering simultaneously a quiet time to unwind and a meditative recharging of the spirit whilst producing something useful yet beautiful.
Traditionally, darning is often employed where patching is impractical or would create discomfort for the wearer, such as on the heel of a sock, cardigan elbow or trouser knee.  It generally employs a simple running stitch "woven" in rows along the grain of the fabric, with the stitcher reversing direction at the end of each row, and then filling in the framework thus created, as if weaving and  But simple over-and-under weaving of threads can be replaced by various fancy weaves, such as twills, chevrons, etc., achieved by skipping threads in regular patterns. The length of the stitches are often varied to produce geometric designs.Though the skill and techniques of darning and pattern darning are essentially the same, the line between them holds significance in the intention of the maker. Is this pattern being used to repair and extend the life of the garment, emphasise its historical use or simply  to enhance and embellish the piece; possibly all three?

Since the original purpose was to reinforce weakened fabric or replace areas where the fabric had been ripped or disintegrated it was usual to match the repair threads as closely to the fabric as possible and if the fabric had a pattern, it was necessary to find suitable replacements for all the colours. Many sewing baskets contained scraps of fabric that could be unraveled and threads reused. The repair was worked from the topside where fabric remained, and rewoven where it was completely gone.  

Our knowledge of pattern darning originates from textiles from Egypt dating to the 11th century.  Traditional embroidery using pattern darning is found in Africa, Japan, Northern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and Peru and designs for pattern darning seem to be carried forward from generation to generation.  Current darning methods are remarkably similar to the much older Egyptian designs. The skill is believed to have moved north along trade routes and is called skakkaglit in Iceland where it appears on altar cloths, bed linens and curtains. In this stitching, we start to see wool thread being used on linen and church inventories mention skakkaglit as an adornment.
Sashiko has been used in Japan for centuries for the continued reuse old clothing and is most famously visible on their Boro clothing (should you ever find yourself with some spare time in Tokyo, we highly recommend a visit to the Amuse Museum  where you will find an amazing private collection of Boro garments).  Starting with a couple of layers of old cloth, a new layer of fabric was added on top using tiny stitches. Sashiko means "little stabs" and resembles grains of rice. Traditionally the thread was white and the fabric indigo blue. Several styles of sashiko developed over time but the most basic pattern is called Moyozashi. This pattern is very geometric with straight or curved lines. The main difference with this type is that the lines do not cross. There should be a tiny bit of fabric showing between the stitches. If the geometric design does meet and cross, then the style is called Hitomezashi. The more colorful version is Nanbu. Kogin is also a derivative of Hiteomezashi but it follows the weave of the fabric and the stitch extends up to five threads in length with fabric threads showing between the stitches.
Our 5-Day workshop, KNITTING, DARNING & MENDING, this September, is to be led by Celia Pym,currently enjoying a UK Craft Residency at Cove Park, Scotland, who has travelled widely in Japan studying their darning, knitting and stitching techniques since completing her degree at Harvard University.   For many years Celia has been the enthusiastic, leading light in the art and craft of "Visible Mending", it's history and value in the household which combines the skill and philosophies of textile repair.  A small hole in a sweater might be darned with a matching yarn for practical purposes, but "Visible Mending" combines the utilitarian with the decorative by choosing contrasting colours and perhaps a different weight of yarn, maybe adding pattern and picture to the work. This visible mend brings frugality, design and frivolity into one place, literally stitching history into our daily lives as clothing and household linens sprout small testaments to a lineage of stitching as an essential skill in the human story.
Several places have recently become available on both Celia Pym's Knitting, Darning and Mendingworkshop, 21st to 27th September - a hands-on adventure learning beautiful traditional methods to repair - as well as a couple at Claire Wellesley Smith's Weekend event from 7th to 10th October.  We'll be writing more about Claire's exquisite work and teaching methods in our next newsletter, but if you can step in and  book a place at either event before the middle of August, we can offer a 10% discount as late-comers.
And just a little reminder that we still have tickets for the incredible Gigspanner concert the weekend before Celia Pym's workshop, (www know this because Gigspanner have performed here twice before!).  So if the idea of some first class music, followed by a few days of quiet B&B accommodation in an amazing location, before moving into the world of stitches, we'd be happy to sort it out for you.  Bring your partner and we'll give you a special rate.
Tickets for Concert only

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