Monday, March 23, 2009

Needlepoint Lace Part I: Inspiration

Plate XIV Needle-Made Lace; Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont
Now and again it seems that everything you see and learn applies to one larger concept you are learning. For me lately that has been needlepoint or needle-made lace.
You can, with only a needle and thread, make fabric of many textures that stands on its own with or without a fabric or armature.
When I first noticed this technique I had no idea what I was looking at. A pair of South American Indian slippers made from twisted grass –like raffia– in a glass museum display. The slippers seemed knitted, but being an experienced knitter I could tell that they weren't because of their edges and shaping. Furthermore, all of the stitches were twisted; a good way to introduce stability, no doubt, but very unusual for knitting to be entirely twisted. These facts stumped me until last spring I saw the stitch in a reference book: Ceylon stitch! Of course! why hadn't I connected it before? I experimented with the stitch over the summer.
From there, needlepoint lace appeared around every corner. FiberArts Magazine ran several articles of people using this technique with vastly different results:
Urh Sobocan and his grandmother Iva Sobocan have collaborated on complex illustrations in embroidery and needlepoint lace. For a much closer look at their work, please click on his name above. Parted, 2007; Urh Sobocan in collaboration w/ Iva Sobocan. Scanned from the Summer 2008 issue FiberArts Mag.

You can see that this work is primarily 2D, mounted on a black background. It incorporates netting (foreground left), buttonhole filling stitches (foreground right), bars (beneath chin at left), insertions (long strips throughout), and built up 3D work in the flowers.
In the next FiberArts issue, Sep/Oct 2008, their most personally inspiring release to date, Dorie Millerson's unique approach was featured. She works from sepia-toned family photos and makes needlepoint lace figures in 2 and 3 dimensions.Attachments II, 2005; Dorie Millerson. Scanned from Sep/Oct 2008 issue FiberArts Mag.

In this scan from the magazine, the pieces are suspended in the gallery to cast fascinating shadows. Please visit her website to view her phenomenal work.

As you can see, this body of lacemaking techniques is hugely versatile. In the following posts I will share steps to make your own needlepoint lace project and ideas on applications for the skill.

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