Bridging Arts

Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Sri Lankan fish curry

Another tremendous post Christmas dish. Therese Rajadurai, Wandsworth Asian community librarian, has been another keen supporter of Stitch from the start. Before her annual pre-Christmas trip to Sri Lanka, she very kindly came along to the York Gardens Library classes to help out. And even found the time to contribute a recipe.

A Sri Lankan Fish Curry
6 pieces fish (Kingfish or salmon)
1 Tbsp Chilli powder
2 Tbsp Coriander powder
½ tsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Black pepper
½ tsp Cumin seeds + ½ tsp Cumin seeds
7 cloves Garlic – chopped and mashed
½ tsp Fenugreek
½ cup Coconut milk
½ cup Tamarind water
½ Onion
Curry leaves
½ tsp of black pepper
Basmati Rice

• Fry the onion with the cumin seeds and fenugreek.
• When brown add the coconut milk and all the spices individually.
• When it comes to the boil add the fish pieces.
• When the fish is cooked add the tamarind and salt (to taste)
• Just before taking the fish out off the heat add the black pepper, 2 cloves of garlic and ½ tsp Cumin seeds (these add to the flavour). At the end put some curry leaves to bring out the full aroma.
• Serve with boiled Basmati rice or String Hoppers or Hoppers
• Desert can be Vatilappann (Sri Lankan egg custard – delicious)

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Words for the pillowcase

My daughter's great friend Tessa has taken up the embroidered word theme this Christmas and embroidered a pillowcase for her parents as a present. It looks brilliant - the opening lines of The Go-Between (L.P .Hartley).
So ....first lines and closing lines of novels on pillowcases - a project for the New Year?

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Chinese steamed cod from Lam Moy

As promised ... a series of fish recipes contributed by the embroidery class will follow. To kick off - Chinese steamed cod from Lam Moy who is one of the dedicated embroiderers continuing to meet on Thursdays at York Gardens Library, even after the formal classes have finished a spontaneous sewing circle. Left: Lam with Maureen Markham, who kindly came to give a demonstration to launch the exhibition at York Gardens Library.
Chinese steamed cod

Ginger – shredded
Chinese mushrooms (or other) – sliced
Spring onions – shredded
Soya sauce – Light
Sesame oil – dash
Strips of Carrot – for garnish

Steam the cod, ginger, mushrooms, soya sauce and sesame oil.
Add spring onions before serving and decorate with strips of carrot before serving

Serve with rice.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Jessica Aldred's website

Jessica Aldred, of the Royal School of Needlework, who has been such an enthusiastic backer of Stitch, has just launched her own website . Pictured: Jessica (far right) when women from Battersea, south London, paid a visit to the RSN collection and ateliers at Hampton Court Palace, this summer.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A German blog and Arthurian romance

Another suggestion from a reader... A German blog.
And an interesting coincidence - the writer (though I don't speak German, so am not sure!) has been to Cornwall recently, home of Arthurian romance and the setting for Tristan and Iseult's ill-fated romance, already mentioned...
And home to another Bridging Arts project, I Packed This Myself, which throws a spotlight on migrant workers who play a vital role in the Cornish economy - in fact it would grind to a halt without them.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The order of the fish

Just to recap what fired the discussion about cooking in our embroidery classes....
Our own fish embroidery, a kantha (quilt) from Bangladesh has been loaned by Ferdous Rahman, of Restart 50+. These quilts are traditionally made by stitching layers of fabric together, sometimes old saris.

The fish motifs on the quilt inspired many of the embroiderers - At other classes, we also asked participants to bring in embroidery from home that they cherished.
It also inspired Hannah Walker who designed a fish motif for our sewing pack. At the classes, she pointed out that the fish is a Christian symbol, but is also widely used in the Islamic world... Pictured - a fish banner of the Mughal emperors. Each of the sewing packs has a theme for discussion. Naturally the fish motif prompted talk about cooking and recipes. To follow: more recipes contributed by participants.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Embroidery workshop recipe for Christmas

As previously mentioned, Glynn Christian, the UK’s first TV chef, is a keen embroiderer and brought in his collection of landscapes to one of the classes. Following our discussion on cooking, inspired by the fish motif studied in week two, he offered the following recipe for general Christmas enjoyment.


This truly delicious and attractive relish, originally from New England in the USA, is easier made with a food processor but a sharp and heavy chopping knife and a few minutes will give equally good results. Once made it softens, turns a pretty pink and the flavours all exchange to produce something original and fresh tasting. Cranberries have a very high Vitamin C content, and it is this that gives the relish its very long life. I find it is a much appreciated Christmas gift and as well as being served with turkey or other birds it really brings leftovers to life.

The recipe is excellent what ever the proportions you use, so do not hassle about exact amounts. It is better to err on the side of making the chopped pieces too big rather than too small: it will mean only that the relish takes a little more time to soften and mature, and it looks better than when too finely chopped.

Wash a large sweet orange and a small lemon, cut into quarters and then remove any pips. Core but do not peel a large, sharp apple - a Bramley is ideal, of course. Process the orange and lemon in a food processor until rough and finely chopped but not a puree - you might have to do this in two or three batches. Remove the mixture and then roughly chop the apple in the processor, again staying well away from making a puree. Mix the apple into the citrus mixture. Then process 8oz/ 250g or so of fresh of frozen whole cranberries until the cranberries are all cut up but still in varying sizes. Mix everything together and then add 4oz/ 100 - 125g of sugar - white or brown.

Cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours by which time everything will have begun to soften, and then give it a good mix and taste - it might need more sugar. Store in refrigerator at least a week before using - longer is better.

Variations: add 50g/2oz of finely chopped celery including some leaves OR 4oz/ 125g chopped fresh pineapple OR 4oz/125g well-roasted pecans, roughly chopped. Two or three tablespoons of vodka, gin, cognac or port make a great addition too - as you might imagine. Small amounts of any or all of these additions might be added every time you serve some of the relish.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Embroidery from the train

Taking out the Christmas wrapping paper box discover a forgotten piece of embroidery packed away by accident. Dating from the summer when I had an obsession with embroidering words on fabric - a way of whiling away the hours up and down to Cornwall on the train.
Think the small words work well - have done some pillowcases as Christmas presents with much larger patterns (and not lines from Dante's Inferno! but more cheerful thoughts...)
But small seems best in this context.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Two Stitch Christmas cards and a present

Two wonderful Christmas cards with a Stitch theme ....
Crocheted snow-white flowers from Katrina Williams (above) who has been a lynchpin of the project since it started. And from Momtaz Begum-Hossain a printed card with a button and flower edged with inked stitches. Plus.... a spectacular brooch with which to dazzle on dark winter afternoons. (Momtaz and her sisters are loyal supporters of Bridging Arts, all producing fabulous entries for the British Sari Story annual competition.) A very Merry Christmas to Katrina, Momtaz, Joleka and Fatema - and everyone who has worked so hard on Stitch this year.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Beware of embroidery

News from a blog reader about an exhibition coming up in Ealing in January. Five artists' work displayed – Kate Keara Pelen, Louise Riley, Tilleke Schwarz, Laura Splan and Tamar Stone. Click through to their websites to see examples of their amazing work.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A spontaneous sewing circle...

Our formal classes at York Gardens Library are over. But a keen group of embroiderers is going to continue to meet on Thursday mornings. What better result could we have hoped for? One of them is Jean Morgan, who - after a chat with Glynn Christian about his embroidered landscapes - brought in a book Embroidered Landscapes by Helen Stephens to cone of the classes.
Jean is interested in creating pictures with embroidery, particularly in using single thread embroidery which she thinks can imitate the fine lines of a drawing. She brought in a dormouse of her own design to demonstrate just how.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Grit and glamour

A rainy dark evening. Walk down New Bond Street on the way home from a meeting. Impossible glamour in Fenwick window (though a similar cropped faux leopardskin jacket can be bought at a snip in Primark).
Wonder how this sparkle can be translated into real life. Then on the tube spot see just how.
Central Line glamour: how sequins can lift the spirit. (Actually think that the bag is a star Primark buy, too).

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

An embellished birthday cardigan and laced Christmas lights

My birthday and the cardigan theme persists! my daughter has given me a wonderful black cardigan she has embellished....
and in central London ....see more unexpected lacing and weaving - this time Christmas lights threaded in and out of railings.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Learning how to crochet

At the Battersea class someone commented on my daughter's perserverance in learning to crochet. She worked it all out from an old embroidery book we found at a church book sale last summer. It was hard (initially) to find the right size hooks etc. But she kept trying. Pictures speak louder than words. And it's her 21st birthday today - so I thought I would say well done and happy birthday dear Josie! If anyone else has photos or news of an unusual sewing or embroidery project, please let me know and I will put them up on the blog.
After her birthday lunch in Manchester, wander around the Christmas market. There is a talking reindeer…

And a party feeling, even inside the Town Hall … where the extraordinary arches and corridors are reminiscent of looped stitches and skeins of thread. In the back of my mind, am sure there is another historic link, too, with all the work we’ve been doing in Stitch. But will have to go home and read Pevsner to find out just what that is.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Christmas party and more medical stitching

Meet artist Christine Warrington at a Brent artists' party in Willesden Green  - after far too many months!  Christine created work on old age for the Heritage Lottery funded project A Stitch in Time - Bridging Arts worked on this with the Gallery at Willesden Green. She is a nurse and, like our medical blog reader of a few days ago, view stitches in another (non fabric) context. She coincidentally spends much time with a very much older friend, Rose, making her acutely aware of mortality. She stitched pieces of rough muslin together, enclosing images that reminded her of age, time passing, and Rose.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Final class ... and yet more

Our final class of four at York Gardens Library. We study a Turkish rococo motif of a Horn of Plenty. Faduma Abdullahi is wearing a gold embroidered dress (with chain stitch), bought in Mogadishu some years ago. We learn goldwork techniques seen in church embroidery from the Middle Ages in this country.
And still more enthusiasm.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

News from a visitor

Feedback from a visitor to York Gardens Library -
"I enjoyed the exhibition, especially the wonderful feel for colour and how it lit up the dull December afternoon. Highlights for me were Ferdous Rahman's embroidery. The colours reminded me of Thomas Wardle's dyed Indian tussar silks and the Leek Embroidery Society's work which used his silks. Safia Qureshi's motifs of seed pods reminded me of British 'bizarre' silks like one of those that we saw in the British Galleries. I loved the colours of Chhaya Biswas's daffodils and the story. The way that Amina Aziz's embroidery burst through the boundaries was wonderful too. It was moving in places including Bushra's story. I am so glad that I went."
Such interesting comments! Will follow up these links ....Pictured: Daffodils by Chhaya Biswas

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Stitching from Bangladesh and the operating theatre

A pencilcase bought in Bangladesh by Seeda Islam to the latest embroidery class – much loved and well used... Women in villages and towns embroider these cases through special schemes aimed at encouraging skills that they can use to earn money and transform their lives…. This pencil case is quilted with the same tiny running stitch as the kaftans from Topkapi Palace (seen in Paris) and the kantha in the exhibition at York Gardens Library.

And a blog reader who spent the afternoon fitting pacemakers emails to say he has been stitching too. Stitching of a different kind and a sharp reminder of the different pressures people face in their lives. A surgeon's stitching saves lives.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Going the extra mile

An enthusiastic group of Somalian mothers attend the class (we are very fortunate to have funding from Wandsworth Council to pay for creche places) and inspired by the class last week Fartun Abdulle found time between looking after her young children to embroider an extra fish at home in her spare time. She changed the colours from the brilliant oranges and reds of the pack to green. Why green? “Because the colours of the old fish (oranges and reds) don’t reflect me," she said. She went to Fulham market to buy the green embroidery threads.

Kathleen Oyediran
brought in two more tablecloths , embroidered before she was married 40 years ago. These are ones that she finished! And now often uses. The colours and the designs (ordered from magazines as was popular at the time) recall the tones and herbaceous borders of another age, pale mauves, daisy yellows and pinks. She was living in north Yorkshire and working for the local authority, embroidering in the evenings and at weekends. Her mother taught her the stitches.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Kaftans from Istanbul in Paris

In Paris for a flying visit...(above - a chalk drawing of a cheeseboard on a cafe blackboard) by chance come across an exhibition of embroidered kaftans from Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, at the Louvre (only just - there was a strike about proposed job cuts...)
Was struck by the tails left on the ermine lining this 16th century quilted kaftan (quilted with the same running stitches we saw in the kantha last week).

And spotted pomegranates on an Italian velvet kaftan from the second half of the 16th century - alongside tulips (another flower that links east and west)

And finally a talismanic kaftan with phrases from the Koran - in our first class, someone pointed out that people often carry pieces of paper with phrases from the Koran as talismans to protect them. This quilted 17th century kaftan was covered with them.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Romance from Persia and exceptional effort

A grey day in Battersea.

We are studying a rose and nightingale motif. A 19th century ink drawing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art conjures up the mystic romance of Persia. As do lines from the 14th century poet Hafez of Shiraz.

In the garden at dawn I sought for a rose
When nightingale's voice broke the peace with her prose
Like me, she was mad for the love of a flower
And woke
up the garden by trilling her woes.

Faisa Faran posed with her embroidery from last week.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Royal embroidery in Battersea

A great day today in Battersea with Maureen Markham, embroiderer of many Royal gowns, who helped to launch the Stitch Wandsworth exhibition at York Gardens Library. Miss Markham trained with Norman Hartnell, the Queen's favourite couturier, and over several decades worked on fabulous ceremonial and evening gowns. A large crowd to see her demonstrating her exquisite work. Including women from the Asian Women's Group and Restart 50+ who created embroidered panels for the show reflecting scenes from their lives and other patterns, inspired by the project. A team photo.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Images and history

A highlight of the embroidery classes is course leader Hannah Walker's work on related images and history. While researching kantha (Bangladeshi quilted embroidery pictures above) she discovered a piece of trapunto (quilted) embroidery at the V&A, made in Sicily in the 14th century. There are 14 scenes of Tristan and Iseult's ill-fated love.
"Although in subtle shades, the large scale designs are very clear and the quilt must have looked particularly impressive by candlelight, with lively scenes of battles, ships and castles," says the V&A.

Great embroidery and a great story. And a link to recent experience. In Cornwall a few days ago I had a meeting at a school near Malpas, where in the legend Tristan (pretending to be a beggar) carried Iseut on his back across the ford. The crossing in fading light.