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Wende Cragg appliqués pillows and other textiles in silks and velvets, adapting historical patterns from archival books.

In her early 20s, Wende Cragg was faced with a choice: Should she spend her days mountain biking near her Bay Area home, or creating textiles with her signature appliqué? As the only woman taking part in “clunker” rides in the Marin County hills, Cragg was the first to photograph the now wildly popular sport in its infancy. Eventually she learned to balance time out on the bike with intense bouts at her sewing machine, and the results are here to see.

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“Dance of the Calla Lilies,” in silk on silk dupioni, is a favorite design.

Initially Cragg made wall hangings and exhibited at fiber shows. After her brother introduced her to Arts & Crafts in the early 1970s, “that just changed everything for me.”

Soon she was collecting Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau patterns and adapting them to pillows. She sought out an Arts & Crafts antiques dealer in Sausalito. “He immediately ordered a bunch of stuff. At one point, my pillows were sitting on Greene & Greene furniture, and I thought, I have reached Nirvana!”

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“Filagree Nouveau” is an Art Nouveau- inspired pillow in silk and silk dupioni.

Each appliqué takes nine steps, patience, and tenacity. She begins by creating a design, usually starting with line drawing from her collection of Dover books. “I’ll download the design and then I can use the computer and printer to print it out in sections.” Once the design is taped together, she blows it up to the correct size for the piece she has in mind and attaches it to interfacing. She glues the interfacing onto the background fabric, typically silk, dupioni, or velvet. Then she cuts out individual pieces of fabric that make up the pattern and applies them to the interfacing with adhesive spray. She usually bastes the fabric in place. Using a sewing machine, she satin-stiches around each applied piece of fabric. Narrow or wide, she likes stitches to be very tight, so that no fabric edges are showing.

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Detail from “Ode to Freida,” showing Cragg’s immaculate stitchwork; appliquéd silk on silk pillow.

Cragg stayed busy during the pandemic; she has 14 projects in the works as of summer 2021. These days she’s more likely to head to a trail head than jump on her mountain bike. Still, it’s ready whenever she is: “It’s just a matter of pumping up the tires.”

WENDE CRAGG
Appliqué Artistry
Fairfax, California
(415) 453-6762
appliqueartistry.com

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