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Russian Head Dresses – Guest Blogger – Penny Peters

December 4, 2016
Detail, 18th C Headdress, The Russian Museum, St Petersburg

From the Middle Ages through the 19th Century custom required women in western Russian to cover their hair at all times. Scarves tied at the nape of the neck or other quite plain head coverings were worn for every day. Festive headdresses for girls and women were the most important part of traditional costumes.  They could usually be seen at wedding ceremonies and other ceremonial occasions when women wore their finest clothing.  These headdresses were often stitched in gold and silver threads, decorated with fresh water pearls, mother-of-pearl chips, beads, glass or stones.  Many had beaded netting or fringe that covered the forehead. They were decorated with care and highly cherished in the family and passed down from generation to generation.  Almost every district in every province had its version of headdress of distinctive shape, methods and ways of decoration.

The three headdresses shown here all have decoration stitched in the distinctive style of Russian fresh water pearl embroidery.  This was accomplished by preparing a raised bed of soft thick threads that are couched to the ground fabric. Then a strand of pearls was laid on the bed of threads and couched down.  Finally the edges of the raised bed were sometimes covered with a twisted gold cord carefully stitched alongside.  The shape of the headdress was made by embroidering directly onto a stiff paper shape which was covered in a decorative fabric that was sometimes woven in metal threads.. 

Textile Appreciation at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts

November 29, 2016

When we have time in the teaching schedule I like to invite those who love or enjoy textiles as much as I do for a morning at the studio. 23 people from Canada and Washington came today.  Penny Peters gave a great Power Point Presentation titled Historic Russian Embroidery. The photos and her talk highlighted some of the important textiles from her tour to Russia last year.  Her closeup photos of the techniques and stitches gives us a good opportunity to study the methods of embroidery. After Penny’s talk we had a chance to have a cup of tea or coffee, some of Don’s sausage rolls and brownies before looking at those special items that people brought with them. First we whisked away food and drink before we passed around some of the textiles. They were diverse in character and country. We ended by looking at our collection of Khevsur Costume handed down to us from one of our past students, Betty Manning.

Here are 3 Russian photos from Penny’s presentation.  There are also a few photos of items that people shared in the second part of the morning. If you would like to know when we hold Textile Appreciation days, let us know and we can add your name to our newsletter list. The next blog will be about Russian Headresses.  Gail Harker

Presentations to the Fidalgo Island Quilters

November 21, 2016

Every once in a while I have an opportunity  to make a presentation to an arts or textile group.  I was invited  to speak and show slides to the Fidalgo Island Quilters Guild last month about the courses we hold at our center in La Conner, Washington.  The Fidalgo Island Quilters are a large group of active people who meet once a month at the United Church in Anacortes. There is a group that meet in the morning and another that meets in the evening.  I talked to both groups. It was such an inspiration to speak in a beautiful environment surrounded by stained glass windows and beautiful architecture and to be met with enthusiasm.  Brightly colored quilts in red, white and blue were draped over the church pews. Just a few of the many quilts made especially for veterans by the Guild every year.

This month three of our students: Christina Erickson, Nancy Drake and Dianne Corso were also invited by the quilters to show some of their art and textile work that was created from the courses at our center in La Conner, Washington. Each one presented their artwork to much acclaim from the audience.  Here are a few photos.



Embroidered and Quilted Kanthas at the Victoria and Albert Museum ……. Guest Blogger: Penny Peters

November 13, 2016

In October 2014 Gail Harker took a group of students to England to study British Textiles.  One of our stops was at the famed Victoria & Albert Museum in London where we spent most of the day viewing magnificent 12th-19th C textiles embroidered in England.   Just as we were being ushered to meet our bus,  I spied a small exhibit of Kantha quilts from India.  They grabbed my attention partly because they were visually so different from the refined textiles we had just been studying.   Their repeating patterns were carried out in running stitch in yellow, red and blue threads on off white cotton fabrics, and in their simplicity they made powerful statements.  I grabbed my camera and was able to take a few photos as the others loaded onto the coach. 

Thanks to the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing photography within the galleries.

Brain Games, Research, Sampling and Dogged Determination…… Guest Blogger – Margaret Joseph

November 3, 2016

Autumn Exhibition – Blog #9 – Level 3  Advanced Studies in Experimental Stitch – Asters – last in series

Coming to the Barn House for courses is always a pleasure. The Skagit Valley is so beautiful and changes every day. The friendship of the students and the open gift of support and sharing are so enjoyable, but this course has definitely taken me in new directions and stretched me. I’ve enjoyed exploring new hand stitches, accepting that distorting them is fun and very creative. The historical studies always open new doors for the bank of textile knowledge. Gail is patient and encouraging. This time Penny has been on hand each session to extend the guidance and add suggestions.

The thought of creating a 3D item has always intrigued me but it has been a long hard learning curve to create one for this course. I dredged up many schemes to make a jelly. I’ve learned so much about internal structure, piecing parts to make a whole, finding new materials that express the integrity of the subject etc, etc. The brain games, the research, the sampling, the redoing, and the need for patience and dogged determination have all been part of my life over the last months.

A Meaningful Journey in Textile Art – Guest Blogger – Wendy Mackinnon

October 22, 2016

Autumn Exhibition – Blog #8  – Level 3 Advanced Studies in Experimental Stitch – Asters

I always have a sense of satisfaction at the end of a 2 year program when I pause to reflect on all the wonderful work we have all achieved.  But for me, it is the journey that has the most meaningful lessons.  Taking vague ideas, filtering them through design principles, and learning to listen to the work in progress is a wonderful challenge.  Along the way, we meet and bond with other emerging artists in our class and have the luxury of spending creative time in a supportive environment here at ‘the barn.’ The guidance of Gail and her assistant Penny along the way is focused on our developing the skills to work independently. Much of my work is inspired by the flora of the West Coast as in my umbrella titled In the Shade.   However, world travels remain a strong influence as in my piece titled Gellabeya.

The Art of Machine Embroidery

October 13, 2016

Between our past two exhibitions a very special class finished up. The Art of Machine Embroidery is a class that began last January and we’ve had a wonderful three sessions. The students have had an incredible time further exploring machine embroidery and implementing techniques to translate their inspirations into art. Here are a few pictures from class and some of their work which I’m excited to share with you. Our next Art of Machine Embroidery class begins in November, click here for details.


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