February stitching

And that was February. One-sixth of the year gone already. The stitch journal doesn’t slow down the passing of time after all.

February stitch journal block, overall size about 8″ x 10″

I don’t want to say too much here about what’s happening in the rest of the world, but February brought Mr Stitching Life and me some big news (good news, I think) and the prospect of enormous change.

detail from mid-February. A heart for Valentines and rain in the preceding days

I used to worry about all kinds of things. Small things, mostly. It’s taken many years to realise that I probably have a degree of social anxiety, and I am happier when I don’t have to talk to real live people. I used to worry about everything I said, everything I did, whether I had offended someone or said the wrong thing. Silly, really, because it’s much easier to do all of that in writing. The written word lasts so much longer than the spoken one.

the last days of February

I find these days that I worry less. The last few days on the world stage (and probably the coming ones too) demonstrate that literally anything could happen, and most of us have no control over quite a lot of it. There really isn’t anything to be gained by worrying. It uses up energy reserves for no good reason. I’m finding that the stitch journal allows me to witness the passing of time without really agonising about the daily minutiae. I find myself wondering rather than worrying, which is quite refreshing. In particular I find myself wondering about this empty space that will be filled by March:

Unrolling a new month

There are some big changes coming, and I think I am ready for them.

Fabric scrap bags

Another shop update imminent – help me make some space in my work room (and in my head too). I have more fabric than I need (don’t we all?) so I’ve made up some scrap bags that are good for all kinds of creative embroidery and needlework. I really don’t like calling them scraps – they are all treasure.

small scrap bags ready for travelling to their new homes
sample pack – they’re all different but similar

The link to my shop is in the menu bar at the top (or at the bottom if you’re on a mobile) – thanks for taking a look.

Niddy noddy

Niddy noddy is such a ridiculous word. I prefer to call it a skein winder. I used to have a lovely wooden one but it was very bulky and took up a lot of storage space. I’ve recently found a lightweight one here that comes apart and can be stored flat.

silk PLA niddy noddy from DorIdeas.co.uk

I’m not on commission, by the way, I’m just really impressed by the design and how easy it is to use – one wrap equals one yard, so it’s easy to measure skeins of thread for dyeing. I usually improvise this part of the process, winding skeins around the back of a chair etc, but I may decide to try selling some hand-dyed threads and in that case I will need to know the yardage of the skein.

silk PLA niddy noddy with textured yarns

I have more textured yarn than I need. These are good for couching onto experimental embroidery or contemporary art quilts. Sometimes I crochet a chain with these yarns and then couch that to a surface if I want a more chunky appearance.

selection of textured yarns in 10 yard mini-skeins

I will get round to doing a shop update at some point, just to see if there is any demand for a mixed pack of textured mini-skeins in these lovely woodsy muted colours. A little of these goes a long way, I find.

yarns and threads for winding

I also need to find time to dye some more embroidery threads. I often use crochet cotton as a substitute for perle threads as they are usually slightly more matt than perle and a bit smoother, which I prefer. My mother’s old knitting basket is the current repository for threads and yarns that need winding into skeins. It’s older than I am and has faded from red to pink, but it’s still going strong. It was always full of knitting in progress when I was a child and it’s good to see it still in service. I think these things remember what they were made for and like to stay useful.

Colour

I am learning a lot from the stitch journal. I don’t often stitch on plain white fabric, preferring generally to use layered, hand-dyed bases. I understand colour theory, of course, and I know about the different effects that colours can have on their neighbours, but the stitch journal has enabled me to have a better understanding of how this works. The stitch journal is more about line, whereas in my usual work I focus more on shape.

This set of green silk threads is from Airedale Yarns and when it first arrived I took one look at the bright emerald green and thought that was a colour I would probably never use. Too bright, too shiny, too ‘green’ (if there can possibly be such a thing). I like the more muted shades.

Regency silk palette ‘Baroque’

When you stitch a fine line on a white background, however, the colour becomes something quite different. It completely loses its in-your-face greenness and sits quite happily alongside the hand-dyed silk threads on today’s journal block. It becomes a bit more subdued against the white, which I really like.

Bright shiny emerald green in between lines of couched silk perle no. 3

My stitch journal is already very green, I know. What can I say? I like green. I even like the bright shiny emerald green as well now. What I love most about working with colour is how perfectly it can express a feeling or state of mind, without the need for a single word. I have probably used too many words here, but it continually amazes me how much more there is to learn, even after 40+ years of needlework.

Hearts and flowers

Well, it is Valentine’s Day.

‘Have a Heart’, 20.5” x 20.5”

I’m still going through cupboards and finding work that needs to be re-homed, to make some space. This one is a square(ish) cloth made from hand-dyed silk on a vintage damask cloth backing. The heart is hand-pieced, from new and vintage fabrics.

Vintage (1920s) beaded decoration

The background is made from layered sheer and semi-sheer silk fabrics, quilted with hand-dyed threads.

Hand-quilting on layered sheer silk

This cloth is very lightweight as I didn’t use batting or wadding between the layers. It is thin but strong, like love. The heart is pieced and patched, as all our hearts are after a lifetime of love and loss, but somehow all the pieces join together to make a whole.

Love

And talking of sharing the love, I am thrilled to have been featured today on Carina’s blog here. Go and give her some heartfelt appreciation from me ❤️

Small distractions

I need to do something with the scraps box, which fills up all on its own. This is mainly because of my zero waste policy, where no scrap is too small to be discarded. Fabric takes time and resources for its manufacture and isn’t supposed to be disposable.

the scraps box is overflowing again

The only new fabric I buy these days is silk, because old silk is often too fragile to be useful. Decorative, yes, but not useable in a meaningful way. I only buy a small amount, less than a metre, once a year. The rest of my fabrics are cut up from clothes or sheets, or they are bits of vintage linens that I dye myself. I genuinely don’t know where all the scraps come from. I don’t even like calling them scraps, because they are all treasure really.

What tends to happen when I notice the scraps box overflowing is that I stop what I’m doing and try to ‘do something’ with the scraps. If I reflect on that, I can see that I end up making something because I need to use ‘X’, which distracts me from making the thing I really want to make. There’s nothing wrong with thinking ‘what can I make with X’ but if it’s not the thing I need to make, then it becomes a source of mental clutter because I fret about having something and not using it. It’s also a source of anxiety because it prevents me getting near the thing I really need to do. If the stitch journal has taught me anything so far, it is only reinforcing how quickly time passes, and how little of it there seems to be.

unknown object in progress, layering treasures from the scraps box

I am collecting and layering treasures from the scraps box, and in itself that is quite enjoyable, but this isn’t really what I want to be doing right now. I’ve been working on a series I’m calling ‘Survivors’, made from layered bits of ragged, frayed antique fabrics and lace. For various reasons (and the sampler book was a major distraction that lasted a few months) I can’t get to it without climbing over about a million other things in progress. It is getting to the point where I can’t think straight. I also have a lot of fabric that is waiting to be dyed, and nowhere to put it because all the space is full.

At some point I want to give up the day job altogether and see if I can support myself as a maker. Even writing the sentence sends my cautious brain into terrified meltdown. I remember what it was like to have no regular income, and it wasn’t fun.

more scraps, mostly thin strips and frayed edges

I guess the obvious answer is to go through my collection and let go of the things I am unlikely to use. I am hanging on to various types of fabric that I don’t or probably won’t use, because it’s possible that one day I might run workshops and some of these bits would be interesting in a mixed media or experimental setting. I’m starting to feel that ‘one day’ and ‘might’ aren’t that helpful and I just need to live in the present and do what I need to do now, because there is only one of me and I only have one pair of hands. I don’t have the storage space for everything, and I need a lot less than I think I do.

What with the day job taking up most of my working week, this will take a while to work through. But I think there may be a shop update looming in a couple of weeks or so.