Stitcher Profile: Karen Ruane
The work of Karen Ruane has a soft sophistication. Karen works mostly in white on white with an attention to detail that draws you in for a long look. I find white on white work incredibly attention grabbing and also relaxing... especially considering that I most often work in the opposite direction.
I was lucky to be able to ask Karen a few questions about her work, and she has also given us some helpful tips. Enjoy this interview and be sure to visit Karen's places on the web, her blog and shop.
How/when did you learn embroidery?
When I was a child my Grandmothers would often sit and stitch domestic cloth using iron on transfers and the prettiest of colours. Inspired by those memory's I started to 'play' with needle and thread when my children were small. Making pretty blankets and pictures for them with pre printed patterns as my Grandmothers would have done. Then, as my children grew I became more serious about my embroidery, eventually studying the theory and practice of needlecraft to Degree level.
Do you embroidery daily? Do you have a embroidery ritual/place you stitch?
I embroider every single day, apart from when I am away from home on holiday. As I use hand embroidery techniques my favourite place to work is in my comfortable chair, in the lounge. My 'things' however, threads, cloth etc are strewn from one end of the house to the other.
What is it about embroidery that keeps you involved in the art?
Embroidery is a passion, an obsession even. I have a real desire to continue tradition, to mimic my Grandmother's, to pay tribute to all women who have throughout time used embroidery as a means of enhancing the lives of their families. I am also conscious of cloth as a tool of comfort, shelter and protection in the knowledge that throughout history it has been used for all those purposes. Quilts for warmth, the swaddling of newborn infants, the make do and mend movement when times were hard.
Your work involves white on white design which I find particularly alluring.What inspired you to focus your work toward white on white design?
My interest in white on white was born during my study at University. I was creating large cloths as a metaphor for my desire to protect and wrap my children. White for me symbolised the purity of the mother/child relationship. Since that time white has become a mark of 'me' Karen Ruane the maker. It is such a beautiful technique to practice and create. I do use colour from time to time but my heart lies with white because of the symbolism I associate with it.
What are your favorite flosses to work with?
99.9% of the time I use only two threads. Anchor cotton perle no8 and Anchor coton a broder 16. ( I believe this is DMC in the US and called Floche) and of course, I use those in white.
Do you have any hints and tips for embroiderers?
Wash your hands regularly. I wash mine at least once an hour. Regardless of whether you are working in white, if you are embroidering by hand it is essential. Your skin contains natural oils which aren't visible, be aware of them and prevent them seeping into the fibres of your cloth.
Do you have any other favorite materials/tools/books?
I only ever use natural cloth and thread, cotton, silk and linen. Silk is my favourite cloth, the way it handles, the precious nature of it, Dupion is the type I use most frequently but I do have a special love for silk muslin although it is quite hard to source. On the rare occasions when I use machine thread, usually only for construction on cloths such as backing them, I use cotton thread there also. As for tools, well I am lost without a needle...you won't be surprised by that! My book stash at home is mainly filled by reference books relating to cloth and textiles in a historical sense. The book 'Whole Cloth' by Constantine and Reuter is the one I cherish most, It constantly inspires and informs me.
Do you have a favorite stitch/stitches?
Oh yes!! The French Knot without a doubt.....I could do them in my sleep, I never tire of them.
Do you have any upcoming events/shows/classes that you want to tell us about?
I have just come to the end of teaching a six week online course, 'embroider, embellish create'. Also, my beginners class 'buttons and more' will shortly be coming to an end. I intend to run both these popular courses again early in the New Year and am taking names for my waiting list at the moment.
Where can we purchase your work?
My work is availabe for purchase through my etsy shop.