A record of time passing, days spent and gone. Each little block the shape of a unique moment, preserved for ever.
It isn’t important to me that I remember what each day meant, or what happened when. It’s more meaningful overall as a visual record of time. The bigger picture. A piece of my life.
A few of you are starting stitch journals of your own in 2023, and an enormous thank you if you’ve purchased and downloaded my template (here). I’ve created a Facebook group, Stitching Life Community, for hand-stitchers to chat, connect, share progress and best tips for hand-stitching. Type the group name into the Facebook search bar and you should find it. It’s a private group, so you need to apply for membership by answering a few (easy) questions. I’d love to see you there and follow your progress.
Over halfway through December, and heading towards the darkest days of the year here in the UK.
I’ve learned such a lot through making this stitch journal. I no longer think of it as a journal though; it’s become more a collection of daily stitch meditations. I will certainly make something similar next year, though probably not exactly this design. If you want to try something like this, you can download a PDF with templates and notes here.
At least once a week someone asks me what the foundation fabric is. It’s this, a vintage French bed sheet, cotton/linen blend (sometimes called metis):
I will stitch on this fabric again next year. I probably have enough fabric here for another four daily stitch scrolls, if I stick to the long/thin format. I find it an easy shape to work on because you can roll up the ends as you go along, which keeps it fairly compact.
The sheet holds a few memories of its previous life, one of which is a hand-stitched seam down the centre. I’ve assumed that this was a sign that it had worn well enough for a previous owner to have turned it, because parts of the sheet I’ve been stitching on (a strip torn from the outer edge) had worn very thin. Turning is where you extend the life of an old sheet, which tends to wear most in the middle where you’ve been lying on it, by cutting it down the centre and then swapping the edges – so you then sew the original outer edges together, creating a central seam and letting the worn parts become the new outer edges. Someone from the past has hand-sewn this seam down the middle:
BUT there is also a darn on the outer edge, which is clearly a selvedge – so, given that the sheet appears to have been turned, but the new outer edges are selvedges (and not hemmed raw edges) I’m deducing that the fabric was possibly hand-woven on a home loom because it’s taken two widths to make one sheet. Hand looms created fabric with narrower widths than the big commercial looms, so the only way to create wider fabrics was to stitch narrower lengths together.
The sheet has been hemmed with impossibly tiny, regular stitches. I had assumed that this was machined, but I’ve unpicked a tiny bit and it’s just one single thread so has clearly been done by hand. It’s a very good quality fabric so will have been stitched and mended carefully.
The only thing I’ve been occasionally dissatisfied with this year is that the fabric is white. Sometimes I have wanted to stitch with white thread, and it just doesn’t show up well enough. The rule that I made for myself was no painting or dyeing, no added fabric or applique, just thread on a foundation. I don’t want to dye or paint it, because then I’d have to predetermine the colour, and I think that would create more limitations. I may, however, give it a very quick dip in some weak tea, just to knock back the whiteness but not enough to colour it too much.
I’m looking forward to revealing the whole thing at the end of the month. Yikes, that’s a week on Saturday! Hope you’re looking forward to seeing it too. In the meantime have a wonderful, peaceful festive season, and thank you for your friendship and support during 2022.
If you do a lot of hand stitching, you can’t help inventing new stitch variations occasionally. There are lots of variations on basic stitches, and many ways to combine one basic stitch with another.
Here’s an interlaced/woven running stitch/blanket stitch combination, which looks best in two colours:
You need to work a row of running stitch first, keeping the stitch and space between stitches as even as you can. Then you can work a blanket stitch into the gap, using a different colour, and weave through the running stitch to start the next blanket stitch.
A simple enough idea, and easy to stitch. It probably needs a better name though, combining blanket and running. Blanning stitch. Runket stitch. Oh dear me, no. Suggestions on a postcard please.
And a very warm welcome, firstly, to new subscribers – thank you so much for joining us here. If you’re looking for a quiet restful space, where nothing much happens except some hand stitching and gentle reflection, then you’re probably in the right place.
On the subject of which, I do enjoy my quiet Sunday mornings. At weekends my husband likes a long lie-in, and I don’t. I’m generally wide awake and out of bed the second I wake up, usually driven downstairs by hunger. I have the metabolism of a hamster and need frequent refuelling. Once the need for breakfast has been met, the rest of the morning is my own and I can stitch away in my workroom until lunch time. I call it a workroom – actually it’s the spare bedroom. Maybe I should go all Proper Artist and call it a studio.
This quilt, originally a (Time) Traveller’s Blanket as part of an online class with Dijanne, has become a celebration of winter, my favourite season, and maybe it will be finished in time for next winter. It certainly isn’t anywhere near done at the moment. The top and back are hand-dyed silk noil, with some soft flannel (brushed cotton) as the middle layer.
This little tree is an experiment in making branches with blanket stitch and so far I like it. I’m using hand-dyed cotton perle size 12 thread, on a scrap of hand-dyed Swiss cotton fabric applied to the quilt top. I really like the way the woven dots in the fabric look like snow.
The rest of it seems enormous, but it’s only about a metre square.
I’ve added a layer of sheer fabric to some of the patches. This one is simple embroidered tree pictograms on hand-dyed silk organza, and then I’ve layered a piece of painted dotted tulle over the top. It’s impossible to photograph, but in real life the dots create little shadows on the organza beneath.
I always think this multi-layering is one of winter’s best gifts. It’s the season that most brings time to reflect, to look beneath the surface, to embrace the shadows, to see in the dark. To see through the dark too, because it doesn’t last long. It will be spring before we know it, and if you’re on the other side of the world it’s already summer. If that isn’t time travel, I don’t know what is.
Ours doesn’t go up until the day before the winter solstice. This is because husband and I both have birthdays before Christmas, and it can’t be Christmas until after the birthdays. That’s the rule, and a completely arbitrary illogical one it is too. Strictly speaking, it isn’t Christmas until Noddy from Slade shouts ‘It’s CHRIIIISTMAAAS’ and neither of us has heard that yet this year.
Until it’s time to haul our thirty-year-old tree out of the loft, I will make do with embroidered ones. The traveller’s blanket has a little Christmas tree panel, made with herringbone stitch and cotton perle threads:
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.
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.
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:
And the front of the same day:
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.
Every so often our feather duster sheds one of its lovely ostrich plumes.
I’m currently working on the traveller’s blanket and thought, like a womble, waste not want not and all that. A quick trim of the feather and it kind of looks a bit tree-ish doesn’t it?
In ordinary circumstances of course an ostrich is going to need a lot of help if it’s got any hope of getting into a tree, but here in my creative little world where (nearly) all things are possible, here we are:
Just adding to the story collection really.
Doesn’t it just make your heart sing when something like this happens?