Friday, March 28, 2014

Threads, stitches, texture and light

Needlewoman by Diego Velazquez 1600's
I just returned home from two days in D.C. spent at the  National Gallery, Portrait Gallery and American Gallery.  I feel so fortunate to be able to take in so much incredible beauty and that my family, like me, is happy to spend an entire day in a museum, minus a break for food. 

I found the way the Dutch masters rendered light is truly remarkable. The sheen on her skirt (below) looks of the highest quality satin available. Which made me think about how we stitchers look for threads to help render a painted canvas to appear more like fabric, fur, petals and glass yet for hundreds of years painters are able to achieve every imaginable life like surface using just one medium, oil paint, and often the texture is relatively flat.

Clearly (well not so clearly in these pictures but in real life) there's no doubt that this woman's dress is fabric, she has a fur scarf or stole around her neck, a gemstone in her gold ring and you feel as though if you reached out you could touch her skin and feel her hair.  Is light really more the answer to achieving the right texture?  Or is paint just too different than threads?

These two close ups below are details from a stump work piece in the 1500's from England.  The beaded leopard is my favorite.  It looks like it was done on another piece of fabric and appliquéd onto the silk. For the most part the beads are perfectly aligned similar to a brick stitch.

and the lion is an example of messy beading! All happily coexisting along side the leopard.  I like how by choosing the correct light, medium and dark beads you can achieve a very uneven ground texture like the grass beneath the lion.  The flower looked to be of gathered silk ribbon with lovely stump work leaves. 
Basically I tried to immerse myself in the beauty and be inspired by the diligence of these artists from long ago.  Here we are 500 years later still enjoying the very same past time, struggling often to achieve what they did and naively thinking our needles and threads are going into uncharted territory!  So much creativity has been explored for centuries and I do hope it will continue to be for centuries to come.


  1. Thank you for sharing this artwork and your thoughts.

    1. Hi thank you for your kind words, sometimes I just want to write what I'm thinking about and not necessarily what I think stitchers might be expecting. I like to read posts that are genuine and not feeling like I'm at someone else's pep rally.


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