Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vermicultural Embroidery

I’ve got a rather large stack of design books which I refer to frequently. Although I am not a serious scholar of history, I do enjoy visuals from by-gone eras. Owning these books is akin to having a little museum in my home. Considering where I live, the books are an indulgence but one I constantly enjoy. When I travel, I like to visit old places and look at the design ideas and motifs that were used in past times. Often, I’ll see something that looks familiar. I will search my books to find out in which era the design is credited. The old adage “everything comes around again” is so true.

Many of my projects begin with a browse of my favorite books and magazines. I seek inspiration everywhere! In current magazines, I mostly find design motifs that are repeated from the past. I watch trends come and go – seeing if I can spot the newest design trend and deciding if I like it or not.


One of my favorite old fashioned patterns is the “vermicular” pattern – in other words – worms. In the fabulous tome “Textile Designs” by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers they say this about the vermicular motif:

"The Ancient Romans used the word vermiculatus to describe a pattern inlaid as if with the tracks of worms. This coral like design has endured for centuries. Carved into stone as a surface ornament, it passed into a Western tradition of fabric design….. But it is little seen in twentieth-century cloth. The origin of the word – from the Latin vermiculari, to be full of worms – may suggest why squeamish modern designers avoid these patterns."

I, you all know, am not one to be afraid of worms. Worms, to me, speak of the healthiness of soil. If I dig a new garden bed and the dirt is not full of worms, I worry. I add some compost and hope the worms appear.

As for the worm motif and embroidery – boy is it perfect. It is easy to draw freehand and fun to stitch. It is mindless and soothing to fill in a bunch of curly, undulating organic lines. The light green pillow has an almost calligraphic worm motif – the lines cross over each other. (This pattern is featured in Colorful Stitchery.) The dark green - the one I have been carrying with me and stitching in bits and pieces for over a year) pillow is closer to the worm motif used in the old fabrics - the lines do not cross over each other.



A similar feeling pattern to the worm is a coral inspired design. This motif has been so popular for the past few years, I almost wonder if it is overdone? I’ve seen it on extremely expensive china, on fabrics, and even on paper napkins. I love the organic shape of coral and of course, you can’t beat its color.

It’s been so long since I have shown anything that I have made – I’ve had the green pillow stitched and have been waiting for the right moment to get the backing on. I guess it was today.

7 comments:

susan b anderson said...

Beautiful pillows!

maymomvt said...

Beautiful pillows. I, too, have been fascinated by this worm motif--first saw it on old wallpapers when I was a kid. In those old photos, none of the worms were matched on the wall--very odd look! I like how you adapted it to a more contemporary look.

Marcy said...

Vermicular! Of course. Thanks, Kristin, what a great word. I've been doodling vermicularly for nearly 40 years, and I never had a name for it before now. :D

K. said...

I love embroidery. I haven't done much over the last years, but it was my first love as a child. I saw your post from several days ago about the old flour sacks being used. I still have some flour sack tea towels of my grandmother's. It WOULD be great if someone would bring that packaging back!

Gammy aka Peggy said...

Kristen, I so love and appreciate your love for things of by gone eras. How precious it is for your to share with us. Thank you.

Felicia said...

They turned out lovely :)

RI said...

I KNOW THIS ST AS "VERMICECLLI" FROM MACHINE EMBROIDERY WHILE DOING MY CITY & GUILDS (UK)OUR TUTOR WAS ABLE TO DO THE PATTERN NO BIGGER THAN YOUR LITTLE FINGER NAIL ...I ONLY MANAGED THE LARGE VERSION...LOVE YOURS