Interesting how different the dynamic is when stitching round shapes as opposed to straight-edged ones.
I like the space around the shapes, but I also like the full page of January. Just another way of seeing, I suppose, where neither is better nor worse than the other.
Spring is growing louder here in this part of the northern hemisphere. It amazes me every year how life just comes back so easily, how nature wakes up after her winter snooze and immediately picks up the thread again. Spring is maybe just the other side of winter.
This week I’ve made a notebook using some light weight cotton rag paper – somewhere to collect colour palettes, swatches, and notes about colour.
The paper signatures were easy enough – just folded pairs that could be stitched to the spine of a cover. The cover itself literally dropped through the letter box one day. I cut a corrugated cardboard mailer box to size and painted it white:
The depth of the box turned out to be exactly the right size for a spine to fit the pile of signatures:
I painted some abaca tissue paper with acrylic inks and collaged/stencilled it a bit and used that to cover the white cardboard. I’ve reinforced the spine with another layer of painted tissue.
You can still see the texture of corrugated cardboard underneath the colour but it’s functioning pretty well as a book.
Next job this week is to find a way through these, when they’re dry:
If I can get through them all (and if I can stop myself from keeping them!) they’ll be available from next week.
In my new life of freedom from the nine to five treadmill, I’m trying to set aside Fridays for research and development (AKA playing).
I was given these beautiful super-granulation Schmincke watercolours for Christmas but have been really busy since January and I’ve been trying to set aside some time to try them. It turns out today was the day.
I’m no great watercolourist but what I like most about watercolour paints is that it’s quite hard to make anything look ugly. I really like the granulation effect.
While I’m waiting for more thread to arrive in the post, I’m compiling for myself a thread catalogue. This is really just somewhere for me to organise and categorise the various types of thread that I will be stocking and dyeing.
Initially this was just going to be a notebook and cover, but, well, these things often get a bit out of hand, and now it’s slightly more complicated than that.
The colour palette came about by accident, after I dyed these thick cotton boucle yarns, which will wrap around the whole thing to tie it shut:
I really like the way this very thick-and-thin dimensional cotton slub yarn can be flattened when it’s couched with long stitches:
Anyway, back to over-complicating things, and now it’s a notebook in a wraparound cover, with a pocket for index cards carrying samples and information about the various threads. The pocket came from a silk shirt that I dyed.
I find it very useful to round up information for comparative purposes, so that I can see at a glance how (for instance) silk and cotton threads compare in terms of weight or thickness. Thread weights are sometimes given as an nm figure, which I don’t find particularly helpful. Broadly, this system translates as the number of meters per 1g of thread (the first number) and the number of plies or strands in the thread (the second number). So the silk thread pictured below has a nm of 8/2, which tells you it’s a 2-ply thread, and you get about 8 metres of it per gram. For comparison, standard sewing thread (the kind you would use in a machine) is usually something like 60 or 70/2, which is a lot finer. As a visual thinker, I find it much easier to picture thread weights in terms of wraps per inch – I’m not certain but I think this is a system that is more commonly seen in the knitting world, to help with substituting yarn weights in patterns. I find it much easier to understand that the silk thread below has about 23 wraps per inch (the number of times you can wrap it around a one-inch strip without leaving any gaps).
Finer silk threads, which have an nm of 16/2 and 30/2, have wraps per inch of about 29 and 44 respectively. I find this easier to visualise.
I’m using commercial cotton perle threads as controls, just to see how the weights of my various hand-dyed threads will compare. And even that isn’t as ‘standard’ as you might expect. I’ve used DMC perle 3 to 8 to count wraps per inch, but I didn’t have enough DMC perle 12 so had to use a Valdani perle 12 instead. And here’s the surprise – there isn’t a huge amount of difference between DMC perle 8 (43 wpi) and Valdani perle 12 (44 wpi). I can see by enlarging the photos that the 12 card maybe isn’t wrapped as closely as the 8, but that would only account for another 3 or 4-ish.
This is turning into quite a rabbit hole, isn’t it? I expect somebody somewhere will tell me I’ve got too much time on my hands, but I find this kind of thing really fascinating. Ultimately I suspect this will end up being a self-referencing closed system that only I will understand, and I think that’s probably ok. As soon as thread reinforcements arrive, I’ll be able to start winding skeins for dyeing again – but in the meantime I’m enjoying some quite reasonable down time.
I’m aiming to use a different template for each month this year, just to see how that works. February is pebble-shaped ‘spots of time’, a phrase from Wordsworth’s long poem The Prelude.
From Wordsworth’s text:
‘There are in our existence spots of time, That with distinct pre-eminence retain A renovating virtue, whence… …our minds Are nourished and invisibly repaired’
William Wordsworth, The Prelude (1850), Book 12, ll.208-15
Spots of time in this context are visual representations of time and memory, a spotlight on a few moments of life, that can hold peace and bring renovation. Time, experience and memory are really all we have. That’s our life. With the passing of time, experience becomes memory.
A few stitches on a cloth is a few footsteps on a path. We may not know how long the path is or where it goes, but along the way there will be these little dots of peace and joy.
I really like the fact that this is one single layer, and that the back is accessible. I’m not so sure how that will work when the whole thing is folded concertina-style into a book, when the back will then be hidden under the folds.
The cloth is starting to soften very nicely. It’s just like getting to know a new friend.