Author: Susan Brown

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Placket sampler, cotton embroidered in cross, buttonhole, looping, and running stitches, Germany, 1871
Practical Sewing
Decorative embroidered samplers were made by daughters of the well-to-do for display in their homes, and were symbols of gentility as much as of skill. For daughters of the poor, instruction in needlework, while equally important, often had a more practical purpose: to prepare them for work as domestic servants. Going into service for a...
Silk kasuri kimono fabric by Junichi Arai (Japanese, b. 1932)
From Gray to Black
This extraordinary kimono length transitions over its forty-five foot span from gray at one end to black at the other, creating a striking diagonal composition. The flawless line of the diagonal and the evenness of the gray color, the result of crossing white warps with black wefts, is a testament to the skill of the...
Marisak Karasz
Sleeping with the Fishes
“It’s not how you do a stitch, it’s what you do with it” was Mariska Karasz’s exhortation to would-be embroiderers. Serving as guest needlework editor for House Beautiful magazine from 1951–53, the artist wrote needlework lessons with suggestions for adding unique decorative embroidery to bedding, table linens and curtains. But her instruction was never prescriptive;...
beetle wings
Wearing Wings
Valued for their iridescent blue-green-purple color, the wing casings, or elytra, of the Buprestidae Jewel Beetle have been used for centuries to adorn clothing and jewelry in India, among both indigenous groups like the Naga, as well as in Mughal court costume. In the 19th century an export trade developed around Calcutta, where gossamer-fine cotton...
pocket
Pick a pocket
Before the mid-19th century, pockets were not sewn into women’s clothing, but were an accessory. Pockets, usually worn in pairs, were tied around the waist between a woman’s under-petticoat and her petticoat or skirt. Openings in the side seams of these voluminous skirts provided a discreet way for her to access their contents. Pockets were...
Tharrakarre
The Dreamtime
The Utopia Women’s Batik group was formed in 1977 to empower the women of the Utopia Aboriginal Freehold Property to generate income from creative work. Batik, or wax-resist dyeing, is not indigenous to Australia, but among the many crafts the women were exposed to, batik was the most popular technique. Through the 1980s the group,...
rush-hour-2-lowres
Traces of Light
Rush Hour 2 is part of a series “Traces of Light,” a collaboration with her filmmaker/director husband, Bo Hovgaard that captures big cities at night. Hovgaard’s video camera is unfocused as he captures the light in Shanghai from driving cars and advertising signs. Sorensen selects individual images from the video and translates photographic pixels into...
Vitae
Drawing in Air
Lenore Tawney was a transformative figure in the fiber arts movement, but she studied sculpture before turning to weaving, and moved seamlessly between the two. The improvisational nature of her weaving rejected the grid imposed by the loom, emphasizing the individual trajectory of each thread. Vitae showcases one of her major technical innovations: the “open...
Nuno me Gara
Weaving Illusions
Junichi Arai was born in Kiryu, the center of traditional Japanese silk weaving, and was trained in his family’s mill. He went on to become one of the most innovative textile artists of our time. Over the past fifty years he has won dozens of patents for his work in fiber chemistry, metallic fibers and...