metalwork and beads on velveteen
blackwork in silk on linen
Words of Allah
detail of Arabesque
Keys of Allah
detail of Arabesque
I have a sister. Actually I have two sisters, one older and one younger. The sister I am talking about is Albie, my younger sister. You might think that her first name is Alberta or some such. No indeed. I cannot tell you her birth name in fear of being shunned from her good graces. She got the name Albie because she and a couple of her friends as teenagers used to sit out in one of their parents’ carports to play innumerable games of Risk. My sister liked starting from the Alberta, Canada area. The name stuck. When she married she had her name changed to Albie Peterson Merrill. But from her mid-teens she would answer to no other first name. She is a strong-willed person.
Over the years I have given Albie several of my works, including the one entitled Ariadne’s Gold. But her favorite is a big blackwork sampler called Arabesque. Arabesque is on 28 count white linen with blue and black silk threads (as I recall, they are Au Ver a Soie--seven stranded silk). The sampler is approximately 13” X 9” fringed out with four-sided stitch holding the fringe at bay. Several of the fillings are beaded, giving it a dimensional look when seen in the flesh, so to speak.
All of the sampler’s filling stitches are based on Arabic calligraphy. There are seventeen fill areas, including two in the Hand of Fatima to the right. It was a labor of love for me, taking three months in early 2001 to design, stitch, and frame.
Albie invited me and my daughter Barrett to Seattle to visit with her over Memorial Day this year. She said she had something she needed done. So I kicked off my traces, got on a plane to Denver, then to Seattle, and after many mishaps and tribulations, I arrived at Sea-Tac 11:30 PM on a Thursday night. Barrett arrived the next day by train (she always was a show-off!) We started our heavy partying in our all-girl fashion--by eating.
We went and did, saw movies, napped, ate some spectacular Seattle food, drove around, rode a ferry, and TALKED. It was wonderful. Then on the last day when we were in her gorgeous, bright apartment overlooking Puget Sound, Albie told me what she wanted me to do. A corner of Arabesque had come loose from its moorings; some of the white silk threads I had used to stitch it to the silk fabric undercloth had wiggled their way free. Would I please restitch it without disturbing the framing or the backing?
I took a minute or two to exam the situation. I called for a needle--she had one packet of needles and a wonderful old needlebook she had inherited from the family. There was just one needle in her whole twenty that would work. Thank goodness, I had stretched the under cloth silk on artist stretcher bars and not on foam core. I called for the silk thread; I had sent her matching white silk thread some years ago in case something went awry. And I called for her embroidery scissors. Out came a large pair of dressmaker’s shears that had belonged to our mother. They were sharp down to the tips! A half a dozen stitches and snips later and we were in business.
Have needle will travel may have to be my new motto. If, of course, you supply the needle.