Tuesday, 24 July 2012

..our heirloom winner......

We at Les Soeurs consider ourselves very fortunate indeed to be regularly rubbing shoulders with amazingly talented participants who stitch away, sometimes for a living, but usually just for the love of it and who share our passion for textiles. How extra great that we have recently been able to get a glimpse of the superb work of some their ancestors.

Whilst  Julie Arkell was staying at Les Soeurs Anglaises earlier this month she had time to go through the many  photographs of stitchwork heirlooms sent in by competition entrants.  Her unhappy task was to choose one that she felt deserved special attention.  Catalina's great aunt from Rabano in Spain, stitched  this incredible piece in 1897, and the fascinating chronicle of hard work and dedication involved can be read below.  Catalina wins a free place on one of our workshops next year, and the two runners up will receive a substantial discount.

"This embroidered panel was made by my great-great aunt as a gift to her brother (my great-great uncle) when he left his position as priest of the church of his native village of Rabano to become canon of the Spanish city of Valladolid, a post of great importance within the church. The image is a copy of the main altar in the Rabano church and was embroidered as a memento of the years my great-great uncle spent there.

"The panel hung in his house for many years until he gave it to my grandmother’s sister, who subsequently gave it to my grandmother.  It was eventually handed down to my father.

"At some point the embroidery was framed and on the back of this frame there is a handwritten note in pencil praising the quality of the needlework, possibly written by the person who framed it. This person also noted in the note that the image of Longinus with the lance at the cross shows him lancing Jesus on the wrong side according to the gospel, although in fact the only gospel to mention this act of Longinus, St John 19:34, makes no reference to which side he was lanced.

"The embroidered panel is divided into three sections and depicts different scenes of the life of Jesus Christ:

"Centre: the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ with the three Marys, The Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleofas and Longinus on horseback with the lance.  Right hand side (from top to bottom):  Jesus tied to the column, Jesus being crowned, Jesus carrying the cross.

"Left hand side (from top to bottom): Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives, St. John the Baptist, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Peter with the keys to heaven’s gate and the cockerel.
"The names of the figures are stitched in white, mainly in cross-stitch, underneath each figure.

"I love the way my great-great aunt used the threads to ‘draw’ these figures, especially the different expressions on the faces. If you look closely, each one carries its own emotion, for example the sorrow on the faces of the three Marys. This she has managed to achieve simply by using different but simple colour combinations of threads. Most of the panel is stitched using shades of greys and browns, combined with occasional splashes of brighter colour, most notably the use of red for the Virgin Mary’s dress and Jesus’ cloth. 

"This picture has been hanging in my parents’ bedroom, above their bed, for as long as I can remember.  As a child I used to climb on the bed and play with my sisters making up stories about the people in it, not realising what they represented.  It was only years later, when I developed a love for textiles, that I began to fully appreciate the amount of work and skill that had gone into this remarkably beautiful piece of needlework."  Catalina

We will be posting onto this blog more examples from our competition over the next few weeks and we'd like to say a big thanks you again to everyone who sent in pictures to our 2012 competition.

Friday, 13 July 2012

...puppets and fetes....

Thus ends another fab workshop with Julie Arkell.  What a gal!  And what a group!  Dauntless in the face of hail storms this part of France hasn't seen for years, and flooding, damp trips to the Maison de Maitre for meals, and tight quarters on the music night.  

Julie getting in the spirit

Not a brilliant advertisement for Les Soeurs, you would think, except that it didn't seem to matter a dot to our enthusiastic stitchers!  Everyone was determined to have a good time - and good time was had indeed.  

Supper outside on a rare warm evening.

In fact, the extra time indoors simply meant our busy ladies were even busier creating beautiful puppets and bunting (apparently Americans only know them as "garlands" so were a little apprehensive about what they would be expected to make).  The final show was fantastic and stories behind the characters produced, a delightful bonus.

Some finished puppets

A visit to the local marche and our secret brocante was de rigeur  where endless treasures in the way of linens, cotton reels, buttons, boxes, you name it, were to be found and fought over.....  suitcases were filled to the brim -  some participants actually had to send back boxes with things they just couldn't squeeze in.

Talking of entertainment, Dave and Woody and Steve popped over for an evening of music and by the end of the session everyone was up reel in' and a'rockin', in fact  generally dancing their little socks off.

Dave on banjo, Woody on washboard (Steve just out of shot on right)

After the "grand tea-party" on the last afternoon, members of Les Soeurs team enjoy a rare photo-shoot