The other side

A few people have asked to see the back of the stitch journal.

I hardly ever stitch on just one layer of fabric, being a bit of a quilter at heart, and I wondered at the start of the year how robust a single layer of stitched fabric would be. Surprisingly robust, is the answer. The layer of thread, through added stitch, becomes integral to the fabric, and the resulting cloth feels almost like a thin quilt.

I also wondered how difficult it would be to maintain even tension on a single layer without using a frame or hoop. Likewise, it’s been surprisingly easy. Some of the circular stitches have ended up with a little raised bump in the centre, because my tension was a bit off, but some days are like that and I don’t mind the imperfections.

The other side of autumn

You can see some of the thread ends, but I tend to weave most of them in, and I tend to bury most of the ends in the whipped running stitch borders.

Thread ends on show

There are some minor snarl-ups and accidental knots on the back, but that doesn’t matter to me. Most of us carry knots and tangles in the side we don’t show to the world, and I like the honesty of having all the ends visible. As every maths teacher says, ‘show your working’ and the back of the cloth traces the paths I’ve taken more clearly than the more orderly front. If this had been a two-layered cloth, I would have buried all the thread ends neatly between the layers and none of this would have been visible.

Some days I actually prefer the back, as with this green day in the centre:

Bands of green running stitch

And the front of the same day:

Green day from the front

Most of my stitches are very simple variations on running stitch so the back often doesn’t look that much different from the front, apart from being slightly untidier. Tidy can be over-rated, I think, and we all have a mess hidden in the cupboard that no one is allowed to look in.

I don’t mind referring to the other side as ‘the back’ but I won’t call it ‘the wrong side’. The front couldn’t exist without the back, and vice versa. Neither of them is right or wrong. I think of each side as a self and shadow self, where one helps to illuminate and complete the other. Two sides of the same cloth, of course.

Back of late summer
(Almost) the corresponding front

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

10 thoughts on “The other side”

    1. Thanks so much, Janet. Like many hand stitchers I prefer the feel of the cloth spread out in my hands to seeing it stretched in a hoop. New Year isn’t too far away now – anticipation is delicious, isn’t it?

  1. “Most of us carry knots and tangles in the side we don’t show to the world, and I like the honesty of having all the ends visible.” This is a profound statement. So true that the backside isn’t the wrong side. It’s just the other side.

  2. thank you for this! … I can’t say why I so love seeing the back of any piece of cloth … perhaps because it helps to answer the question of how the front came to be … and I especially love seeing how you wove a mend at the edge of the bands of green …

    I confess this has me considering another patch-a-day cloth with the coming of the new year … I’ve already made two, one in 2016 and one in 2021 … hmmmm

    1. The back fills in any gaps in the story for sure. It’s like being backstage I guess, where the front of house is all colours and bright lights while everyone is running round behind the scenes trying to make it all right on the night. And hooray for daily stitching! I am definitely doing this again next year, with some slight changes.

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