Little tree

Is your Christmas tree up yet?

Ceramic tree on our hearth. Tree from Emily Grace Ceramics

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:

‘Little tree, little silent Christmas tree… who found you in the green forest and were you very sorry to come away?’ – e.e.cummings, ‘little tree’

And one for the stitch journal:

Little tree

November

Where does the time go?

November on the stitch journal

A few moments of each day are here, of course, memorialised in thread.

A few days
November days

There was some chain stitch that became a crossroads.

Crossroads with roundabout

One month to go, and this year will be sewn up. I can see the end of the cloth.

December days, waiting for transformation

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

A little loopy

I thought I’d invented a pretty loop stitch the other day, but apparently it already exists.

Interlaced running stitch, discovered by accident

It’s basically pekinese stitch but with the thread looped around running stitches rather than back stitches.

The long cloth in the video and below has been in progress for a while, just somewhere to collect stray stitches and orphan fabric scraps when I remember to catch them.

Home for waifs and strays

Tree in a bird

Every so often our feather duster sheds one of its lovely ostrich plumes.

Every home should have one

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?

Trimmed ostrich feather

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:

Ostrich feather tree

Just adding to the story collection really.

Leaves worked with silk and cotton hand-dyed threads on hand-dyed cotton lawn

Doesn’t it just make your heart sing when something like this happens?

Ostrich feather tree with seed-stitched falling leaves

Just looking

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.

Traveller’s blanket in progress

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.

Fabrics that say Winter

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

Eco-dyed silk velvet with couched silk bourette yarn on tea-dyed silk noil

And this beautiful eco-print from Jane Hunter

Fine silk, eco-printed, with hand stitch.
No straight/square edges happening here.

And then a few vignettes are happening here and there:

Traveller’s blanket, centre. Antique fine lawn cutwork embroidered panel
Hand-dyed vintage cutwork, more eco-prints by Jane Hunter

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.

October

Another month on the stitch journal, recording the autumn days.

31 days of October

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.

Days in October

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.

November days ahead

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.

Threadbare days

Treading softly

Little stitches, little steps. Some seeding stitches and French knots on this beautiful eco-printed silk from Jane Hunter

Eco printed silk with hand stitch

Trying to find the fine line between trampling over the delicate pattern and using hand stitch to enhance it.

French knot flower heads, seed stitch ghost leaves, and whipped running stitch stems

Treading softly, on tiptoe, through this Monday morning.

Silk panel on tea-dyed silk noil

A good evening

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.

Box of threads and some cloth. What could be better?

There have been some golden days.

Hand dyed silk thread, autumn gold.

Today was a very rainy day.

A long day of rain. Hand dyed silk thread in grey/lilac

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.

The other side

There are some days that I’m glad to see the back of.

Repair and renew

The silk on my favourite cushion had shattered.

Self-shredding silk

Initially I thought I could just slide a lining fabric underneath to stabilise it and then darn the surface, but it really was beyond repair on closer inspection. The only thing for it was to disassemble the section and replace the fabric.

Deconstruction

The whole cushion, pieced top and envelope back, is hand stitched so there was a fair amount of unpicking. I’ve been able to salvage parts of the silk for other projects, but have replaced the panel with a lovely piece of eco-printed cotton from Jane Hunter textiles and a piece of textured silk fabric from The Silk Route.

Repaired and renewed

I’ve got a few days off from the hectic day job this week, and had been feeling pretty much like that shredded silk. It feels today as if I have repaired myself a little as well as the cushion. I think when cloth and thread are part of your soul and identity, the simple act of repairing something with needle and thread becomes very restorative.

Eco-printed cotton and textured silk

Quiet time is exactly what is needed this week. Nice to have my favourite cushion back in service too.

Beautiful cloth and simple hand stitch
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