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A Stitch Celebration

July 11, 2017

Open House –  Level 2 Studies in Design and Experimental Hand Stitch (class name – Lisianthus)  This past Saturday on July 8th, 2017 we hosted an Open House at our studio for 8 students, from Canada and U.S.A. This was their 5th and last session.   It was a working session as usual but this time Penny Peters and I  (Gail Harker) demonstrated a number of different ways to present small Stitched Artwork for display. Students put some of these ideas into practice for the layouts at the Open House.  Visitors viewed samples, stitch books, a beaded book, sketchbooks and other works of art. It was a great opportunity to see inspiring techniques and artistic explorations.

  Certificate Students: Pat Ross, Therese Stein, Debra Jusak, Bobbie Herrick, Jane Clark, Katherine Kasony – Quinn, Laura Elmore and Annemarie Andresen. Tutors Gail Harker, Penny Peters

Keep watching as I will be placing 8 new blogs to show each person’s artwork in the next little while. There are a few photos included below.  More about Level 2 Studies in Design and Experimental Hand Stitch:  Each session is 5 days with 5 sessions stretching out over 1 1/2 years. Have a look at the description of the next course – Jade (class name) coming up on our calendar.  


© Therese Stein


After the Open House, we celebrated with a glass of champagne.


Visitors view the artwork


A page in the beaded Book © Jane Clark

New York Botanical Gardens

June 23, 2017

Thanks for showing beautiful design from new York Botanical Gardens Ruth


I was in New York City last week for vacation and thought I would share some photos of the New York Botanical Gardens. The gardens are inspiring even without further artwork but this summer they are displaying an outdoor Chihuly installation.

I have been to the gardens before and really enjoyed seeing the variety of plants and flowers. They have a wonderful collection of water lilies that seem to be in bloom no matter when you go.

The Chihuly glass really added to the gardens with their bright colors and wonderful shapes.

The glass was spread throughout the gardens and some were inside the various buildings. They even had some of Chihuly’s sketches.

So if you’re in New York City this summer, it is well worth it to go and visit the New York Botanical Gardens. Lots of inspiration and gorgeous colors. Doesn’t the close up of the glass on…

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Three Generations Stitching Together… Guest Blogger: Christina Fairley Erickson

June 22, 2017

The last few years, I’ve taken the idea of ‘having an experience together is the best gift’ to heart and shared classes with my Mom Nan at the Gail Harker Center.  This year for our Mother’s Day gift, we decided to do the “Flowers in Hand Stitch” day-long class, but as a new twist, invited my daughter-in-law to join us!  While I’m an active daily stitcher, my Mom would like to get back to sewing more frequently, and daughter Zeyneb is a novice.  What a wonderful way to come together!

3 Generations having fun together- Christina, Nan, and Zeyneb

We started with a floral or nature photo printed on fabric.  Gail then worked with us on creating a layered collage composition to enhance the photo we’d chosen.  We then went on to adding stitch onto our collage pieces.  Gail worked closely with students to help determine which stitches would create the effects which the students wanted for their piece, as well as providing instruction on how to do different hand embroidery stitches.

We had 7 students in class, including Marilyn and her teen grand-daughter, Isabella, so we were truly multi-generational, as well as coming with different levels of experience.  As we progressed, we’d meet up and share where we were going with our little pieces, gaining inspiration and ideas from each other.

Grandma Marilyn and grand-daughter Isabella enjoying a day in class

After lunch, we seemed to get a little more open and the creativity really started flowing!  We worked on a second collage, with some students closely trimming their photos for a more naturalistic look.

Ann trimming her fern photo for collage

By the end of the day, we all had two collages in various states of progress and a rich memory of our time together.  Next time you’re thinking of what gift to get your Mom, Grandmother, Daughter, Grand-daughter, Aunt, Niece, or other friend or relative… think about taking a class together!

Mary stitching her sunflower

Mary’s Sunflower with stitch in progress

Zeyneb’s tulip collage in progress

Isabella basting her collage with farmer’s market produce.

Isabella enjoying her first stitch class!

Nan practicing stitches and working on her pansy composition.

Ann’s sumptuous materials!

Ann working on second collage

Zeyneb’s driftwood collage with stitch in progress

Isabella’s first collage with stitch

Phulkari Shawls from Punjab….Guest Blogger : Penny Peters

June 10, 2017

I was recently able to add a fragment of a traditional Bagh Phulkari Shawl to my collection of textiles.  The word Phulkari literally means “flower work”, and phulkari shawls were produced in the Punjab region (now northern India and Pakistan) by families for their daughters from at least the 15th C onward. The fragment pictured here is about 15 inches wide.  A shawl would usually be three strips wide (about 45 inches).  The woven strips would be sewn together before embroidering. There are four main varieties—Bagh, Chope, Darshan Dwar and Sainchi. The surface of the Bagh (garden) Phulkari is usually covered entirely with pattern darning stitches worked from the back of the fabric in different directions so that the untwisted soft floss silk thread reflects the light.  The examples pictured here are Bagh Phulkaris.  The Chope type uses double running stitches in counted geometric patterns.  The Chope and Bagh Phulkaris are traditional for Muslim communities.  The Darshan Dwar and Sainchi types often contain figures of humans and animals and are traditional for Hindu communities. In addition to pattern darning and double running stitches, sometimes herringbone, stem, satin, cross, back, Cretan, and open chain stitches can be found.  The traditional ground cloth is usually even-weave hand-loomed Khaddi cloth which is naturally dyed a reddish brown color.  In 19th and early 20th C a limited range of colors was used for embroidery. Today rayon floss is often used in a range of almost fluorescent colors unless a more subdued color scheme (known as ‘elegant color’ to sales staff) is desired, but alas, contemporary shawls are no longer embroidered by families.  The Phulkari shawl has become a commercial endeavor as the Indian economy shifts away from its traditional lifestyle.


Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters


Detail, Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters


Reverse detail, Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters

Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Detail, Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Detail, Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Resources for further study:

Indian Embroideries in the Collection of the Calico Museum, Ahmedabad, Vol 2, Part II, Anne Morrell,  Traditional Indian Textiles by John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard (Thames and Hudson)     Google: Antique phulkari shawls for additional images


Designing with Alcohol Inks

May 16, 2017

This week a group of 7 students from Canada and Washington came together at our studio for Session 7 of 8,  5 day sessions for Level 3 Studies in Art and Design. In session 7 we are completing projects, projecting new ones and have a little time to try out a new medium of alcohol ink on paper.  Not, of course drinkable alcohol but the fluid one that drips, spatters and runs without control on the translucent or transparent paper surface. We chase the ink around the paper with plastic spatulas and drip it on with pipettes to create spidery, bubbly shapes and patterns.  As you can see it’s very messy and has a life force of it’s own with colors that are not shy but very bold and saturated.  Thank you ladies (Gladiolas) for sharing a few exuberant pieces on our blog.  Have a look at our course brochure to see what else this group of art students are studying.   Gail Harker


© Alana Koehler


© Val Gleeson


© Gail Harker


© Rhonda Papiernik


© Catherine Sloan


© Marilyn Waite


© Iris Bell


Inks at work


© Carol Lawrence


challenging to visualize how to get beyond the ink drips


working over ink with pens © Gail Harker


© Gail Harker


It starts out clean

Purring in Class is Allowed

May 6, 2017

In April the level 2 Group (Lisianthus) met for Studies in Design and Hand Stitch  for 5 days. This was the 4th of 5 sessions for 8 students.   Each session sees the introduction of new ways to design and use hand stitches in a contemporary way.  The group is finishing up samples from past sessions when they learned about Kantha stitches, designing and stitching on printed fabric and preparing to make a small handmade bead book. There is almost an audible purring noise while this group is stitching. For those of you who have worked creatively with your hands, you will understand how the body becomes calm, blood pressure drops and other wonderful things occur with the creative process.  Although, I wasn’t able to photograph all of the student’s work, I have included a few photos for you to see what they are doing. Thank you group – for photos of your colorful stitches.  Your enjoyment of stitch makes both Penny and I smile a lot.  I have included a link here so you can read about the next Level 2 class – Jade Flower that begins Sept. 21, 2017.    Gail Harker

Chikankari – The Floral White Work of India – Guest Blogger: Penny Peters

April 27, 2017

A story is told about the origins of Chikankari, the floral white work of India, that hundreds of years ago a Mughal emperor was scandalized because he could see the body of one of the women in his harem through her garment.  When the lady was asked to explain her immodesty, she showed that she was in fact covered in seven layers of embroidered gauzy white fabric.  Its sheerness was said to be so fine that even seven layers would not entirely hide the body.  Well, true or not, the story explains a lot about Chikankari, Indian white work done on the sheerest of handwoven cotton fabric called mul mul. However, the story goes that Chikankari became a favorite of the Mughal courts during the hot dry summer seasons.  According to Sheila Paine in her book Chikan Embroidery—The Floral Whitework of India, it was a craft practiced by Muslims primarily in the Dacca, Calcutta and Lucknow areas, and reached its peak of popularity in the 19th Century. 

When in Lucknow, I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Ruth Chakravarty who employs women to embroider colorful non- traditional textiles (silk, wool and cotton) using Chikankari motifs.  She kindly showed historical as well as modern examples of this beautiful work, and allowed me to photograph a few.  The photos I have included here illustrate both antique and modern examples of Chikankari.  In the modern examples at least three strands of embroidery floss are used, even on the sheerest fabric, thereby giving a great contrast in texture. 

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