Embrace the Power of Color

Feb 21, 2011

From Marcy: I own five pairs of red shoes. Everyday shoes, dress-up shoes and a pair that's particularly well-suited to puddle-jumping. Just putting them puts pep in my step and throughout the day they give me energy. Such is the power of color. The latest issue of PieceWork is all about color and the energy that people devoted to extracting color from nature and infusing it into the tapestry of their lives. It's a globe-trotting journey that will help you embrace the color in your own life. And here to tell you about this exploration is the editor of PieceWork, Jeane Hutchins, who herself owns a fine pair of red shoes.

Putting the March/April Color in Textiles issue of PieceWork together made me think about color in a completely different way. I am in absolute awe of the power that color has. It influences our everyday lives, our moods, our culture, what we eat, wear, and even the car we drive. The earliest needleworkers must have been aware of this power, too. They used yarns and threads dyed in various hues, but achieving those hues was no easy undertaking-pigments had to be extracted from plants, trees, or the egg casings of insects in processes that could take days, weeks, or months.

The steps that needleworkers took to add color to their lives is simply amazing. Here are a few examples from this issue:

Donna Druchunas's knitted wrist warmers with a crocheted edging.

Photograph by Joe Coca.

In Belarus, the color red has played a role for centuries. Many homes still have a krasny ugol, a "red corner," where towels decorated primarily with red embroidery and ancient motifs are draped over religious icons. Our Belarusian Wrist Warmers to Knit with their delicate crocheted edging incorporate the color red and traditional Belarusian motifs.

A Meiji-era bag with traditional sashiko.

Photograph by Tetsuo Yuasa from the collection of Mitsuko Suzuki.

In Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries, laws dictated that only black, navy, or gray clothing could be worn. To offset this dullness, people began to embellish the clothing with sashiko stitches, a technique that dates to the 8th century. Sashiko is probably the world's first recycling technique-a way to reinforce and thus continue the life of worn-out clothing. Brilliant blue indigo-dyed fabrics with white sashiko are strikingly beautiful.
A bilum (string bag) from Papua New Guinea. Collection of the Papua New Guinea National Museum.

Photograph by Andres Fyfe.

If you don't have pockets, how do you carry your personal possessions or transport more than a few pieces of firewood at a time? In New Guinea, men and women have used ingeniously constructed (using string and a looping technique that consists of figure eights and half hitches) and indispensable bags called bilums. And even though the bags were quite utilitarian, many were embellished with brilliant color extracted from local plants.

I typically don't make New Year's resolutions, but I did this year. It's to pay more attention to and appreciate all the color that's in our world, not to mention thanking my lucky stars that I can just pop into my local yarn store and immerse myself in color—no dye extraction needed!

Welcome to our celebration of colorful textiles. I hope it adds more color to your life!

Best,

 


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