In art, all materials are grist for the mill. When I was at SAS Fabric Superstore the other day, I saw some sage burlap and decided it had potential. I’ve seen over-dyed pink and yellow burlap, but the sage color was new, so it came back to the studio.
Tonight, I decided to work with it–no expectations, no project in mind. Just working to see what I can do with it, using what I know how to do.
Digging through my stash, I found some thread and some embroidery floss that worked well with the burlap. I cut a piece about 10 inches by 4 inches. To make the edges even, I pulled some of the woven threads out to create a fringed edge. Eventually, the edge will have to be sewn so it won’t unravel, but that’s not now.
Threading the blue embroidery thread, I followed a thread across the fabric, weaving under and over, adding a thread to the loose weave. It’s quite easy.
Another piece of embroidery thread is run through, this one is joined with a piece of orange thread. The blue thread was put in first. Then I used a double thread and wove it on either side of the blue. Because the space is getting filled, I pull out a burlap thread to make room for the weaving.
I continued doing this, making sure that I don’t try to do very precise patterns, because burlap isn’t a precise materials.
To give the piece more interest and a less stripey look, I pull some pearl cotton mixed with orange thread through in the other direction. I love this look, because it has a lot of potential. It’s geometric, and fun.
We are all weavers of our own lives. Our lives are seldom tightly woven, complete when we get them. And if they are, they fray and wear, until there are holes in them. Older folks remember the darning egg. We dropped it into a sock or elbow of a sweater and carefully wove back and forth, weaving from the edges to the center until the fabric was whole again. The patch would show, but that was all right. It was wearable. That’s what we do with lives. Take what we have and mend it to cover the bare spots. Or use a needle and decorative memories to make the loose weave pretty.
This might be a journal cover. Or just a reminder of a life that’s still loose enough to be decorated.
As always, I’m open to all clever suggestions.
—Quinn McDonald is having fun with non-paper materials. She’s astonished at herself.
9 thoughts on “We’re all Stitchers”
Burlap, sacking, or hessian (when it appears in colours in a fabric or craft store), it’s the same all over the world . . . a fabric which serves a multitude of purposes but not designed to last. Holes appeared when it’s put to rough use. I think it is what we can weave in, the uses we put it to, that makes this plain work-a-day fabric something memorable. Just like our lives.
You said that perfectly–every word!
When I was a kid burlap was the material used to hold the feed for our livestock. My siblings and I would use it to carry our fish home after a day on the river. We’d cut holes in it and make costumes for a day of jousting. One summer it became the curtains in the fort we spent everyday building. We used it to dam up the creek one year. It held the rocks in place nicely. Our “pool” remains more than fifty years later though I haven’t checked closely enough to see if the burlap does. Mostly it was weed barrier in our gardens. There was always a pile of burlap sacks in the shed and whenever some type of fabric was needed for a job unworthy of Mom’s fabric pile that’s where we went.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined burlap in the fabric store! Yet here we are and people actually pay good money for it. I’ve seen turquoise, sage, blue, green, red, even white. It comes in any number of colors these days. I’m thinking about buying some to make shades for the windows in my kitchen. Will wonders never cease….
Isn’t it amazing how a piece of fabric can trigger such memories? That’s so cool! I love all the thing you did with this lowly fabric. It elevated the imagination of your childhood in so many wonderful ways!
Fold and stitch it into a pocket and find another heart-shaped stone for your husband, for Valentine’s Day… ❤
I stopped, for some reason, at your first sentence, wondering “grist? What exactly is it?” I’ve heard of grist mills, of course, but I wasn’t clear on grist itself. It turns out nobody is; definition 1 is “grain to be ground” and definition 2 is “already ground grain.” Not very satisfying. But now I had the dictionary open, so hoping for something better I looked up burlap. It seems the word is closely related to bureau, and comes from a french word that mean the cloth used to cover a desk or chest of drawers. So that’s my not-so-clever idea for you: teach some of your classes in France!
Yeah, I’d do that! I’d love to teach in France. Almost anywhere.
This is such a good idea, Quinn! I’ve never seen this done before. It’s something I have to try, considering I have all the supplies needed. Problem is I have no idea where the burlap would be. I’m sure it will show up one day!
A book cover is a good idea. How about appliqueing or gluing something in the empty spaces. A larger piece, backed with interfacing and lined, would make a great bag. Or you could sew this onto a larger piece of one of your other colors of burlap. It’s limitless!
I like the idea of appliqueing something on it. I don’t sew, so a bag isn’t possible, but I’m thinking of maybe a simple folder to carry some of the free-standing pages I make. Hmmm, now I like that idea!