Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beadwork, Embroidery and the Lost Art of Handwork

Being quite disorganized this week, one is only now scrambling for ideas for this week's post at 9:00 p.m. on Friday evening (fully realizing one should have thought about that before  spending the last two hours laying on the couch watching Sons of Anarchy). A rather one-sided debate was held as to whether one should even bother writing at all this week, before reaching the conclusion that should the weekly posting routine be disrupted it would be a slippery slope towards its inevitable decline, with it most likely ending up in the same To Do List with the rest of the commitments that one should accomplish but really has no desire to - things such as daily exercising, healthy eating, lessening one's consumption of alcohol, etc. And so the hastily cobbled together post for this week is: Beadwork, Embroidery and the Lost Art of Handwork.

The insomniac  has always been interested in sewing and, more specifically, the adornment of sewn items with beading, embroidery and the various other artistic embellishments that were practiced by women in an era when full-time employment didn't suck up one's time like a Dyson vac. In her vast lifetime, the insomniac  has attempted many different styles of handwork. Back in the Day when she hung with hippies and bikers, many a denim shirt and pairs of jeans were embellished with DMC multicoloured floss; a well-worn book entitled Native Funk & Flash by Jacopetti and Wainwright ca. 1974 being the source of much inspiration.

The only piece still in existence from this era has been exhumed from the spouse's closet today - a shirt created for him during a month long rest in the Psych Ward. Of course, it didn't hurt that while in the ward, one's entire day could be spent embroidering without having to worry about going to work, making meals, or any of the other menial tasks that consume a person's day IRL. The only drawback being one had to ask the attendants for the needles and scissors which were, not surprisingly, kept in a locked cupboard.

Based on an album cover, if one remembers correctly.
Which seems fairly unlikely (no thanks to Lithium) ...

For a while, the insomniac  actually considered moving to the United Kingdom and attending the Royal School of Needlework to improve her skills. But by then she and the spouse had purchased a Home and some Harleys, with the resultant Mortgages and Loans, and the dream was put on the back burner. With the arrival of the offspring, the dream was definitively laid to rest. During this span of her life, her creative endeavors were limited to glancing through her rather large library of Victorian handwork books, and marking the pages of projects she would like to attempt should there ever again be any free time available for such luxuries as sewing.

The Offspring in their Younger Years

Obviously taken on a day when they
weren't trying to annihilate one another ...

While the offspring were growing up, the insomniac  retired for the first time in order to stay home and raise them. During this era, a small business called Night Bear Designs was conceived, whereby the insomniac  created goods inspired by native clothing and regalia from the early 1900's. Beaded buckskin jackets, mukluks, moccasins and the like were created for sale and even for Hollywood movies, such as a beaded knife sheath for Shanghai Noon (which one had to pause and rewind at least a dozen times before catching a glimpse of it) plus various other small pieces for the many Westerns shot in and around Calgary. This Iroquois inspired outfit was one of many created for the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming in 2002, at which one was fortunate enough to win the “Best Adaptation of Materials” award.

Black Velveteen Dress
Glengarry Bonnet and Purse

The style of beadwork on the above outfit was a favourite as it worked up fairly quickly, as far as beadwork goes. The same stitch is used in the collar below, the recreation of which is on the other  To Do list, which includes all the things the insomniac  is actually looking forward to accomplishing at some point in her life.

A Victorian Collar

Shortly after winning the award, when the children were older and didn't particularly want to have their Sainted Mother around watching their every move, the insomniac  closed down the Night Bear website and returned to the regular work force, which certainly pays a whole lot better than sewing but is nowhere near as satisfying creatively (the word “soul-sucking” springs to mind).

For now, she contents herself with sewing an occasional piece for her close friends, who understand they will have to wait seemingly forever until said piece is eventually finished but who - for the most part - are okay with that.

Tyrel's Coat with Soutache Braid

Kat's Purse with Bleached Out Bits

The terrible picture can be blamed on one too many
bottles of Apothic Red that Christmas Eve ...

Garfield's Box Blankets,
seven of which were created for his mother's potlatch last year ...

But even though a steady job suffocates one's creative spirit, the steady paycheque allows for the accumulation of masses of Victorian mourning trimmings, antique beads, buttons and fabrics, which shall one day be put to good use when the insomniac  retires for the second and final time, and is once again able to return to her sewing, provided her eyesight hasn't completely failed by then, that is. And thanks to the multitude of images available on the World Wide Web, the other  To Do List grows larger by the day, a small sampling of which is shown in the following pictures ...

Victorian Mourning Coat

Another Victorian Mourning Coat
(because just like a bottle of Apothic Red,
one is never enough) ...

And Yet ANOTHER Victorian Mourning Coat ...

Victorian Mourning Cape (for a change of pace) ...

Aesthetic Gown
(no handiwork as such, but my goodness - those sleeves!)

Upon proofreading this week's post, it would seem the title should have been more along the lines of “Who Has Time to Actually Be Creative in this Workaday World Anyways, or Good Heavens Where did the Time Go?”, although perhaps that's a tad too long-winded and maybe even a touch negative.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... as for herself, the insomniac  plans to take a short trip down Memory Lane before retiring by thumbing through her tattered copy of Native Funk & Flash. And should time permit or sleep elude, perhaps a quick glance through the Encyclopedia of Victorian Needlework, Volumes I and  II, as well. Goodnight, my pretties.



  1. ...♥...
    Such talent with the needle deserves long-windedness