Still on the subject of Mammen, one of the other discoveries there was a pair of decorated bands. They appear to be a combination of embroidery, appliqué and tablet weaving, and would probably have been used to embellish a garment of some sort.
You can see from my notes that I initially intended the central filled area to be some kind of needle weaving, rendered in something like ceylon stitch, which is what it looks like to me. That seemed like a sensible idea in theory. In practice, I realised that the stitches would have to be really tiny in order to maintain the right sense of scale, and that I would have to spend much more time on it than I was prepared to set aside. In the end I decided to interpret it slightly more simply, as a collection of couched threads and ribbons.
While it’s not quite as beautiful or delicate as the Viking version, I’ve tried to preserve some of the main features. The vertical threads are couched onto a piece of very fine silk muslin, with silk sari yarn couched along the edges.
This panel is then stitched onto a piece of distressed linen (I scratched it with the point of some sharp scissors, wincing and apologising profusely throughout) and then stitched that onto some open weave cotton fabric with a small buttonhole stitch. The backing is textured handmade paper.
I applied a piece of tablet woven braid along the bottom of the sample – one of my very early attempts, using 2-ply wool yarn – and a piece of vintage lingerie strapping, to represent the original horizontal bands.
The samples for this first book are deliberately being worked fairly quickly and intuitively because I intend them to look – on the surface, at least – incomplete. The idea of digging up something from the past is one that I find particularly intriguing, and I’m really interested in what time does to tangible objects and to intangible memories. Remembering past experiences often illuminates that same kind of incompleteness, where the visual memory of the experience itself is somewhat ragged around the edges, but the feeling that comes with it is often powerful enough to produce a very real physical effect.
It’s never just stitches on cloth, is it?