The Rainbow Squares Project was devised in 1997 to promote the Embroiderers' Guild. Each branch in the South East Region was allocated a colour and members of the branch were asked to stitch a 4-inch square using predominately the allocated colour. Squares of the same colours were then joined into strips and hung together to produce a wonderful display. When the South East Region was split into two, the South East Region and South East West Region, the squares were divided between the two new regions according to branch. Each region ended up with an abundance of some colours and none of others. Branches in both regions are now making more squares to redress that balance. As news of the Rainbow Squares spread, other regions have joined in and are making their own Rainbows.
The real beauty of this project is that is every member can take part. Participants can use any design so absolute beginners and more experienced embroiderers can choose or design something suited to their own ability. Any technique can be used so it is appeals to those who enjoy traditional techniques as well as those who enjoy experimenting with contemporary ideas.
My local branch, Oxford, was originally allocated indigo. We all used the same indigo background fabric and stitched our own designs. At the time I researched indigo and discovered that it was the colour of the sixth Chakra, Anya - the Third Eye. I did a design based on the symbol for Anja but sadly I don’t have a picture of it. The branch members are now making red squares again everyone taking part has been given a square of the same red fabric as a base. I have not started mine yet.
The members of the Embroiderers’ Guild forum got to hear about the Rainbow Squares and decided to make a set of their own. Those taking part were each allocated a different colour. By coincidence I have been allocated red for this square as well. We want the squares to make a cohesive set so we are using unbleached calico (muslim) for the background and basing our individual designs on a three inch circle.
I decided to do mine in bead embroidery. First I outlined the design in petite silver lined clear beads. The beads are threaded onto a double strand of sewing thread which I then couch in place between every second bead. This gives a nice smooth line.
I used petite silver lined red beads to outline the circle, then filled the rest of the outer circle with petite red beads.
I used two shades of matte red beads to fill the large triangles but the difference in shade is not obvious now they are attached. These beads are also couched but over a row of beads that serve as padding. I think that a second shorter row of padding and possibly even a third would have given a better shape.
In the next row of triangles I couched the beads round and round. These are silver lined red beads. I can see that I have made my usual error of packing in too many beads. I always try to cover the background fabric but I should realise by now that beads, like stitches, need room to breath.
For the small, inner triangles I used petite red beads. I made stitches in random directions with three beads on each stitch. The stitches are short so the beads do not lie flat on the surface, this and the changes of direction give a very textured finish. I don't know the name of this technique.
In the center, I attached a shisha mirror with a bezle of beads. I did not have any instructions for this so I kind of made it up. I would have liked the bezle to sit flatter against the shisha. I filled the remaining space with red matte beads attached with a petite silver bead.
My aim was to choose beads of a similar colour in a variety of finishes, shiney, matte and silver lined, then to use a variety of techniques to create texture and reflect the light in different ways. This was a fun project but I was surprised by how time consuming bead embroidery is.