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?
The definition of good morning: a cup of hot black coffee, a cloth in progress, and a little collection of fabrics ready for their auditions.
These are non-competitive auditions because they will all win in the end. I really like just looking at fabrics – although it’s never just looking, is it, because I have to pick them all up and touch them as well. It’s just seeing with hands, I suppose.
The Traveller’s Blanket is turning into a short story collection. I’ve found it quite challenging to adopt someone else’s technique while making it look like my own work. Dijanne makes these cloths so beautifully and I didn’t want to produce an imitation. I imagine it’s a bit like doing a cover version of a very well-known song.
It’s a good opportunity to include some treasure, like this silk velvet, eco-dyed by Arlee
And then a few vignettes are happening here and there:
Now that a few fabrics have been applied, the cloth is stable enough to work on without support from the table. Eventually there will be some kind of quilting or seeding in between the motifs, but I think that point is still some way off. In the meantime it can carry on keeping my knees warm while I stitch in the evenings.
Another month on the stitch journal, recording the autumn days.
The weather is still unseasonably mild, which I find worrying. But weather is not the same as season, and the light is starting to change as we continue on our annual journey around the sun.
31st October is Samhain in the pagan calendar and traditionally marks the start of winter. The days are so much shorter already but I enjoy the long dark nights. Just extra sewing time really; time to reflect and make plans.
November is stretching out ahead, its days already outlined.
I’m stitching on a vintage French metis (linen/cotton blend) bed sheet which had worn thin in places. I can see I will have to start the new month with some darning.
On work days I settle down with the stitch journal in the evenings. I don’t mind the dark nights at all – actually I prefer night to be dark. I don’t get on well with the endlessly light summer evenings at all.
There have been some golden days.
Today was a very rainy day.
The purple day in between is rows of blanket stitch, also in silk thread.
Sometimes I like to look at the other side of the stitch journal. I really like the fact that this is just one piece of cloth, no lining or backing, so everything is visible: the good, the bad, the ugly, and all the loose ends.
There are some days that I’m glad to see the back of.
I’ve finally made a start on my traveller’s blanket for the last ever class with Dijanne Cevaal. It took a while to think about the right foundation for this quilt, and in the end I decided on a piece of tea-dyed silk noil. Soft but textured, lightweight but warm. The back is hand-dyed silk noil, and the middle layer is brushed cotton (also known as cotton flannel).
A slight stumbling block in the thinking process for this quilt has been that traditionally these quilts have been all about travel and recording experiences, and I’m probably the world’s worst traveller. I’ve never ventured beyond the UK, never been on an aeroplane, and have never had a passport. I don’t even drive. I get seasick just watching boats on TV. What could I possibly have to say about travel?
And then I thought of course we’re all travelling constantly – through time, through life, through experiences. And so my blanket has ended up being about a journey through winter, my favourite season, which will be with us very soon. I’m thinking greys, dark blues, sludgy/grey greens, browns, whites.
I’m starting in the centre with this beautiful piece of antique embroidered cutwork, a mystery object. Does anyone know what this would have been, originally? It seems to be a discrete piece, and doesn’t look as if it’s ever been part of anything else – at first I thought cuff, but it’s not long enough, and there is no evidence of unpicked seams. It’s about 2.25” x 6”. Dressing table mat? Answers on a postcard please.
I’m using a few fabrics expertly eco-printed by Jane Hunter together with some vintage and antique pieces that I’ve been saving for something special.