Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wm Morris

I have had a horrible no good very bad day which began with a confrontation at the dog park. It really is humans who are the problem. The less said about that, however, the better. Things improved markedly when the dude came home and we ate Swedish Meat Dumpling Stoup.

Oh, you know what happened that I will discuss? The physical therapist got my wedding band off my injured-but-also-fat finger! Third time lucky, I guess. (The dude's okay with it, since it's just temporary.) Anyway, the final results with the finger are that I have a slight malformation (the tip droops) which is highlighted by the fact that I hyperextend my fingers. Go figure. I have full range of motion and no pain, so I'm going to live with my horrible deformity.

I had thought on Sundays I would review a random book from the craft room shelves, but I skipped last Sunday. Well here it is. The Art of William Morris in Cross Stitch. Though published in 1996, it is available for a decent price at Amazon so I am happy to discuss it.

The book opens with a short biographical and artistic introduction. Each pattern is preceded by a description of the originals and how they were adapted to the present project. This material is thorough but not compelling. The instructions are written for the novice, and the patterns mostly call for aida fabric, which of course, can be substituted.

The first section pulls together birds from several Morris works and features them in harmonizing backgrounds. While the bird from "The Strawberry Thief" (on cover) is recognizable from the original the other two birds less so, mostly because they've been harmonized into submission.

Morris's Blackthorn design contributes the inspiration for the violent bed linens (including the ever-useful nightdress case). Directions are included for finishing. The patterns throughout the book are color without symbols. (You know how Leisure Arts did a combination of color and symbol in their patterns? Yeah, not that.)

Dove and Rose provides provides the central motif for...the Dove and Rose picture. This is one of the patterns that is in such soft colors I find it hard to believe that Morris had anything to do with it, but that could be just my impression of Morris. You'd find his work dark if you'd been forced to read News from Nowhere in your freshman English class too. Nope, just checked; the original is much darker than the interpretation provided here.

There's a horrible jewelry box done in plastic canvas. I can't even look at the page to learn more about it; it's so hideous.Extensive directions for construction follow and three pieces--two done on silk gauze--to put inside the jewelry box. Again, the colors are too soft for Morris.

An adaptation of the Evenlode chintz decorates a tray and coasters. Of course, you could stitch these into something else. Not a fan of the colors on the tray. A series of projects (bookmark, card, frame, bookcover) using the Kelmscott Press Designs follows. I am not a fan of the use of metallic floss here. Just seems too off.

The Pimpernel Footstool--if you google images of this book cover, you will see it was also used as a book jacket design--is, IMO, the star of the book. I would never stitch a footstool, but this piece just rocks. (She does suggest different finishing techniques but this ain't our first rodeo.) Even the pattern is gorgeous. Maybe I'll put it in a frame and hang it on the wall. ;p

More chintz--the Pomegranate Chintz--guides the next designs. And they are suggested as gifts for men (all you Christmas crafters). The projects are finished as lids for "turned elm" bowls. I like the idea of these bowls because they embody the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement so well.

We're about halfway through the book, and it's getting rather late, so to speed this along, I'm only going to discuss three more patterns which I find to be particularly Morris-esque and leave out the other four. The Flower Garden collection, from the Morris design of the same name, is stitched on navy evenweave with particular attention given to the fact that this design had no shading. Morris "said he was aiming for the effect of inlaid metals." I think the effect reproduced well. But the designs are for a spectacles case (oh, the book's English, right?), checkbook cover, and credit card wallet. Not how I'd want to use it, but this is the man who famously said, Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

A poppy, cornflower, fritillaria, and campion, make up the next four projects. I think I like these for being so suggestive of Morris without being "hey, I'm a William Morris knock-off." Each flower is stitched on dark green aida, a color I really associate with his work. On the other hand, one could say these are the least Morris-like for being so simple. He did have a tendency to fill all the space, didn't he?

Finally, the Brer Rabbit picture is remarkable. Originally produced as a monochromatic printed cotton fabric, the designer, Barbara Hammet has stuck to the bluer end of the spectrum even though she incorporates white, green and purple in the design. Although it does not show in the photography--which is plentiful and large enough to really get a sense of the finished product--she has used Marlitt and metallic threads with the cotton floss. The book concludes with a techniques section that will be irrelevant for most stitchers.

So 15 patterns with variations on use and finishing. If you are a fan of Morris it is a good book to have, even if you were to make only one or two projects from it. And I think there are four I would stitch...if I ever had the time for it.


Coral said...

Thank you for the review.

I'm glad your finger is getting better.

barbara said...

I picked this book up for a couple of dollars in a book bin someplace and although I haven't stitched anything from it, I do love looking at it.

Hoping your day today is idiot-free!

Chocolates4Breakfast (TerriBoog) said...

My favorite line from Seinfeld is "People, they're the worst."

Great book review! I love William Morris. I don't have the book but if I ever see it, maybe I'll pick it up. Maybe.

At least your deformity is a small one!

Margaret said...

Thanks for the review. Might have to get this one. Love Wm Morris!

Needle Nicely said...

I'm familiar with Wm Morris as a designer, etc., but never knew about any writings. I'm not sure I'm strong enough to tough it out after your comment (freshman English can be so humorless, slight sarcasm intended). But there is a part of my brain that wants to know. What perverse beings we humans be! Thanks!

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Thanks for the review. I have several needlework books I'll will never stitch from but I just like reading them and drooling (into a hanky not on the book!).

Monica said...

Hi Anna, I just recently joined your blog. I'm just curious was your "droopy finger" treated? I don't mean to be a budinski but, sounds like a mallet and often repaired by 6-8 weeks of continuous splinting.