During a routine dental check-up some years ago, my Greek dentist once caused me some alarm by announcing that he was going to begin his autopsy. Noticing my rabbit-in-headlights expression, he calmly explained the etymology – the Greek translation of the word is something like ‘seen for myself’. I’m not the most relaxed dental patient and it was helpful to have this (slightly nervous) laugh at the time.
And of course, seeing for yourself is always the best way to learn. I drew some masking fluid on a page of my colour palettes sketchbook before adding watercolour. And – surprise – it doesn’t work.
You can see where it was, and it does act as a resist of sorts, but it doesn’t rub off in the normal way when the paint is dry. It lies underneath as a separate layer and sinks into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. I’ve added some pen marks over the top to enhance the effect here and there. I don’t know if it’s because this paper hasn’t been sized, or whether the surface is just too soft. The reason doesn’t really matter; the fact is it doesn’t work as I’d expected. But now I know, having seen for myself.
As always, I can see some of these designs working in textiles with stitch, but for now it’s just an exercise on paper. It’s been a hectic week, and paint on paper is one of my best ways to relax and recover some equilibrium.
I use a separate small square sketchbook for testing paint colours before committing to the thing in progress, and I really like the little abstract compositions that happen purely by accident:
Another long bank holiday weekend here in the UK – whatever your plans are, enjoy some time out.
One of those strange conundrums – the older I get, the slower I become, but the faster time passes. That makes a net loss multiplied by two, according to my flawed logic.
There is no rush, of course, and everything takes as long as it takes. There just never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want to do.
So I am still on paper and got distracted by noticing I was running low on collage paper, so had to stop and paint some more. Actually this is one of my favourite activities. I use inks, paints and mark-making tools of various kinds to liven up old book pages, envelopes, junk mail etc. Loosening up and splashing some colour around makes for a very happy (slightly messy) afternoon.
The sketchbooks I made for the shop last week disappeared in about an hour, so I’ve made a few more – these are the last of them, for now at least.
And finally, in what’s turning out to be more of a news roundup than any kind of meaningful post, I’m really happy to have had my work featured by My Modern Met. You can read the article here.
Sketchbook-making, obviously. I prefer to make my own because I like to vary the paper content and size of the pages. Readymade sketchbooks are usually variations on A4 and I don’t always like the proportions.
The little book with the wraparound cover below is for experimenting with various forms of ink. I have acrylic ink, ink/stamp pads, inktense blocks, and a few distress crayons, plus the more obvious drawing pens etc.
Just somewhere to try dripping, blotting, stamping, stencilling etc with various kinds of ink. My favourite thing so far is drawing with a little twig dipped in ink.
The spread below was made by sponging yellow/purple ink onto damp paper and then using the twig to draw in the green marks. A few random splatters is always very satisfying.
I also quite like the distress crayons, which you can smudge with a bit of water. This is the wrong kind of paper really (it’s very soft cotton rag), as it won’t stand up to too much rubbing. I’ll probably try this again on more robust paper.
I made more sketchbooks than I will use, so I’ve added a handful or so to the shop.
One of the best things about a daily stitch practice is that you can use up all the odd ends of thread and yarn that seem to accumulate from other projects. If you keep it simple, you only need a yard or two of thread per day so it’s a good opportunity to use up the last bit of thread in a particular colour.
I only had a yard or so left of this purple and white marl yarn, and it turned out to be almost exactly the right amount to fill the circle and outline the box. I’ve stitched it down with a vintage cotton thread – maybe Sylko or Coats, it’s lost its label.
It’s exactly like patchwork, but with thread instead of fabric.
…after the second bank holiday weekend in a row. It’s probably done me some good to take a couple of days out, though time off isn’t quite the same when you get to do what you love for a living.
The more industrious corner of my work table doesn’t know about time so it’s still exactly as it was when I downed tools on Friday. I see now it needs dusting. Thread and fabric shed their fibres all the time.
You can also see a couple of beautifully smooth pebbles from a recent trip to the seaside. I was lucky enough to find a hag stone, a pebble with holes in it, which you can just see hanging above. It’s sometimes said that they find you. I love to marvel at how old these things are, how many millions of years they’ve been around. How much time they hold.
Also on the table, appropriately enough, is Marking Time II (and thank you, Dawn, for naming it). This is another long cloth pieced from hand-dyed vintage fabrics and stitched with motifs from ancient rocks and prehistoric marks on the land.
The beautiful lightweight cotton fabric in the section below is eco-printed by Jane Hunter and makes the perfect ground for some couched cup and ring marks. I will add more stitch, of course.
Easing myself back into the working week, and hoping your week ahead is a good one.
30 circles, 30 days. A few minutes of quiet stitching every day, each one a little oasis of calm.
I like the negative space. It’s like the untold part of the story, the gaps between thoughts and activities.
I’ve also been working a bit more on the cover, since this will eventually fold up into a book.
It’s very simple but it’s enough, I think.
Next month, back to the grid – squares/blocks with occasional circles. Maybe the best of both worlds.
Incidentally, you can now purchase and download my 2023 templates here – 12 different templates, approximately A4 size (or 8.5″ x 11″ letter size, if you’re not in Europe): there are some grids, some blocks, some lines, some shapes. I’m looking forward to using them myself.
I’ve had a few enquiries recently about the templates that I’m using for my 2023 Intuitive Daily Stitching, and I’m in the process of gathering together some grids and motifs into a new PDF.
My linen/cotton cloth is too thick to trace directly from a paper template, so I’ve had to find alternative ways to transfer the lines and marks. I usually use a window as a light box, taping template and cloth to the glass while I transfer the shapes with a pen. I also wondered about using this iron-on transfer pen, which I’ve had for a few months and hadn’t got round to trying.
I tried it on this leaf template – (I’m planning to use this one in October – nice idea, yes? – I’m seeing red and gold falling leaves). Unaccountably, I really didn’t expect the pen to work at all. But look! I did a little squeal. I used the pen to trace around the shape on the blank side (the back of the paper template – if you print on thin paper you can just see the print on the other side of the page), placed the drawing over a scrap of linen and touched an iron (on silk setting) to the paper, and hey presto. Instant, and very easy.
The pen says it’s permanent, which I’m assuming means it won’t wash off, and that of course means that I will need to cover the lines with a stitched outline. But since I usually do that anyway, that’s no great problem.
Isn’t it great when a gadget works as it should? Tell me what time/labour-saving sewing tool you like to use.
I gave myself a break over Easter. I’ve come back to the cloth that (as yet) has no name: the first in a small series about cup and ring marks, ancient circles and spirals, lines and basic marks.
These lines and circles seem to communicate without words. Maybe they come from a time before language; certainly before literacy. There is a kind of magic about them, a deep and unfathomable wisdom in their shapes.
I’m enjoying the earthy colour palette here, and the repeating motifs.
I’ve been invited to give a talk to a local stitching group and I’m just gathering together some inspiration. I’ll take this unfinished cloth too, mostly to see if anyone can help name it.
I’m continuing with the linen cover for this year’s stitch journal.
I hardly ever do straight lines intentionally. I used masking tape to keep me on the straight and narrow. Initially I started with lines of running stitch to give some sort of structure on which to build something more complex. I was thinking maybe couching, or columns of embroidery, or whipped running stitch. If ever I don’t know what to do with a blank canvas, I generally find that making a start with running stitch takes it where it needs to go. And sometimes it turns out that running stitch is all it needs. I find I’m really liking the simplicity of it.
Initially it was going to be just blue, but I’ve started adding some greens and some space-dyed threads that give a flash of colour here and there. I’m using fine-ish threads – nothing thicker than perle 12 – and mostly my own hand-dyed cotton and silk. I like the unpredictable subtle colour changes that you get with hand-dyed thread.
The title box is outlined with couched silk boucle. I’m not sure what the title will be yet. The heavyweight linen came from a vintage French shirt, and is difficult to stitch on – I have had to resort to a thimble, which I hardly ever use – but beautiful quality. I can’t imagine it having been a very comfortable shirt, but I think it will be a perfect journal cover.
I don’t know where the first quarter of this year went, but at least some of it is here in daily stitches.
The whole page is about 8” x 11”.
A few stitches every day, some more meaningful than others, some more attractive than others. Some days are like that too.
This cloth is a long strip, like last year, but this time horizontal rather than vertical. The plan is to make it into a book, concertina-style, folding the months into pages and stitching them to the spine of a cover. I’ve made a start on the cover, which is vintage linen and a lovely surface to work on. There isn’t a plan for the design; I’ve just started with some simple lines of running stitch and I may or may not add to it.
The page for January will be stitched to the inside front cover, then the gap between January and February will form a valley fold that can be stitched to the spine of the cover. February and March will then have a mountain fold between them, making two pages, and so on. It isn’t nearly as complicated as I’m making it sound. I think it will work.