In July, I like to set aside knitting, crocheting and embroidery in favor of thinking about it. It’s summer and the out-of-doors is resplendent with so much color, texture and shape it almost leaves me dazed. Everywhere I go I see inspiration for needlework projects.
On my evening walk I spot a dark-gray flat stone shaped like a heart. I pick it up and put it in my pocket. Another time I see a small stand of ragged robin, a pink wildflower. Somewhere in my stash of embroidery thread I have that very shade of pink. The rock is small enough to stitch to fabric with pink floss the color of the wildflower.
On yet another walk, I note how the tall grass in the meadow bends into lithe green curves. I sketch the curves when I get home and I ponder how I might re-create those curves with needle and thread.
On trips to the beach I drop bits of driftwood, beach glass, feathers and broken shells into a small plastic bag I carry just for that purpose. These items can become mobiles, elements in an embroidery or part of a “found” art project. Indeed, I have spent many a pleasant hour working out ways to stitch beach glass to fabric. My two favorite are what I dubbed “lashing” it down with silk thread, cotton floss or variegated tatting cotton, and the mirror embroidery technique.
Last summer I found on the beach a rectangle of silvered wood, roughly 6 inches by 8 inches. Its time in the water had rounded its edges. One of its short ends was ragged, as if a beaver with sharp teeth had gnawed on it just for the fun of it. I took the wood home, let it sit in the hot sun for a week or so, then I glued to it bits of beach glass arranged in a spiral pattern. Now every time I look at the piece, I recall that pleasant day in the company of an old friend as we laughed about life and talked the afternoon away.
I also look for leaves to press between the pages of my sketchbook or the journal I usually have with me. Leaves are endlessly interesting, presenting a myriad of shapes and veining patterns.
All this becomes the raw material that will feed my imagination in the months to come. While it is true that some of the stuff I gather and the notes I make will never come to anything, that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I have looked out and away from myself to all that nature has formed and offers with such abundant generosity.
“Thread: Stories of Fashion at Strawbery Banke” is open to visitors through Oct. 3 at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H. The exhibit features clothing and textiles that tell the story of Portsmouth residents’ social class and lifestyle through the centuries. Items on display include a locally woven and printed cotton gown, the silk suit and brass buttons of a civic leader and a 1950s vintage satin prom gown. The museum also has on display fashions inspired by the collection, including work by designer Austin Scarlett of “Project Runway,” London milliner Philip Treacy, lifestyle and home furnishings designer Lily Zane, and other contemporary artists. For information, go to strawberybanke.org.
Mary Bird of Orono reports that 6-inch squares keep coming for the Bog Blanket Project. Approximately nine were completed during the Bog Knit In Public event, and more are arriving daily by mail or personal delivery. Yarns used include wool, cotton, bamboo, alpaca and pygora. The squares are knitted, crocheted, felted and use handspun or commercial yarns from bulky to laceweight. Some feature landscapes or images of bog plants and animals, some apply textural techniques to suggest the bog landscape. To contribute a 6-inch square, mail it to: Orono Bog Boardwalk, P.O. Box 12, Orono ME 04473. The deadline has been extended to Wednesday, Aug. 15. The squares will be stitched together into one or more afghans and sold at the annual Orono Bog Boardwalk silent auction in the fall to raise funds for operation and maintenance of the boardwalk.
Dr. Laura Johnson, Historic New England associate curator, will present an entertaining and informative talk, “Everything Old is New Again: Revivals and Reproductions of Historic Textiles,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 8, in the Nickels-Sortwell House Barn in Wiscasset. Admission is $5 for Historic New England members, $10 others. Reservations are recommended but not required by calling 882-7169 or visiting historicnewengland.org. Johnson will talk about how textiles were designed, produced and later reproduced for new generations wanting authentic historic looks for their homes.