Last week, my sister from Pennsylvania showed up for our family reunion, toting along a little sample project she whipped up.
It brought to mind a discussion I recently had with Gary & Christine on FiberTalk, about embroidering anything.
The question arose: when do you draw the line on whether or not to call something embroidery. Can you embroider anything, and still call it embroidery?
Since I’m a sucker for all things embroidery, I tend to learn towards yes, you can. I’d probably draw the line, though, when it leads to a confusion of concepts.
In this particular case, there’s no confusion. This is obviously embroidery, and this little example serves to demonstrate that you can definitely embroider unconventional things!
My sister Sarah hails from an area of northeastern Pennsylvania where birch trees are prevalent, and in the interest of good husbandry, their trees get a good trimming now and then. Dying trees get removed. Branches culled. New trees planted.
They actually have a sheep farm, River’s End Sheep, where my niece raises grass-fed Suffolk and Jacob breeding stock and grass-fed lamb. So if you’re in the area, looking for sheep for 4-H or for maybe to start your own woolery, they’re a good source!
In any case, besotted with her collection of birch logs, my sister got it into her head that she could slice the round logs down into disks, to do something with.
From there, it was not much of a leap to think of Christmas ornaments.
And from there, while we were FaceTiming one day, it wasn’t much of a leap to embroidery.
Birch bark, incidentally, has long been used in handicrafts, especially by Native Americans, and fashioned into containers, pouches, boxes and so forth, embellished with stitchery. So this concept of stitching on birch isn’t exactly new!
While it’s never good to remove birch bark from living trees – removal can kill the tree – the bark is amazingly resilient even after the tree is dead and can be stripped off the dead tree for use.
You can find some fantastic images of moose hair embroidery on birch bark, simply by googling “moose hair embroidery on birch bark.” This article on the Fenimore Art Museum blog talks a bit about it, and offers a few photos, too, if you want to read more about embellishing birch bark with embroidery.
So, what Sarah did was this: taking culled branches from some of her birch trees, she salvaged good, consistent ones and sawed them into half-inch disks.
The dark, inner ring of the bark was kept in place, providing a rustic frame around the disk.
Then she took a simple snowflake pattern, marked the intersections and beginnings and ends of the design lines onto the birch disk, drilled tiny holes with a dremel, and stitched the design using six strands of white floss.
She made sure the beginnings and ends of the threads were tucked into the thick wood and secured, so that you can’t tell the difference between the front and the back of the embroidery.
I think they make adorable, rustic ornaments that are much more interesting than prefab, stitchable wooden disks. I love how the birch disks preserve the rustic character of the tree!
What’s Coming Up
Exploring the wooden disks brought me back to the whole concept of embroidering eggs. And it just so happens I know someone with a fresh supply of goose eggs. The brain is whirring…
But on the more realistic front, I’ve prepped some experimental linen fabric to test it for stitching and construction possibilities, and I’ll be sharing those explorations with you.
And ooooh….I’ve received an advanced copy of a much anticipated book, too, so I’ll be reviewing it for you this week. You’ll be among the first to see the insides!
I had a terrific week last week with my family as we celebrated my parents’ 60th anniversary and played together during our reunion! It was rather a mad week! But it’s good to be back in the swing of things again, and I’m looking forward to sharing lots of exciting stitchy stuff with you in the coming weeks!
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