And that was February. One-sixth of the year gone already. The stitch journal doesn’t slow down the passing of time after all.
I don’t want to say too much here about what’s happening in the rest of the world, but February brought Mr Stitching Life and me some big news (good news, I think) and the prospect of enormous change.
I used to worry about all kinds of things. Small things, mostly. It’s taken many years to realise that I probably have a degree of social anxiety, and I am happier when I don’t have to talk to real live people. I used to worry about everything I said, everything I did, whether I had offended someone or said the wrong thing. Silly, really, because it’s much easier to do all of that in writing. The written word lasts so much longer than the spoken one.
I find these days that I worry less. The last few days on the world stage (and probably the coming ones too) demonstrate that literally anything could happen, and most of us have no control over quite a lot of it. There really isn’t anything to be gained by worrying. It uses up energy reserves for no good reason. I’m finding that the stitch journal allows me to witness the passing of time without really agonising about the daily minutiae. I find myself wondering rather than worrying, which is quite refreshing. In particular I find myself wondering about this empty space that will be filled by March:
There are some big changes coming, and I think I am ready for them.
I am learning a lot from the stitch journal. I don’t often stitch on plain white fabric, preferring generally to use layered, hand-dyed bases. I understand colour theory, of course, and I know about the different effects that colours can have on their neighbours, but the stitch journal has enabled me to have a better understanding of how this works. The stitch journal is more about line, whereas in my usual work I focus more on shape.
This set of green silk threads is from Airedale Yarns and when it first arrived I took one look at the bright emerald green and thought that was a colour I would probably never use. Too bright, too shiny, too ‘green’ (if there can possibly be such a thing). I like the more muted shades.
When you stitch a fine line on a white background, however, the colour becomes something quite different. It completely loses its in-your-face greenness and sits quite happily alongside the hand-dyed silk threads on today’s journal block. It becomes a bit more subdued against the white, which I really like.
My stitch journal is already very green, I know. What can I say? I like green. I even like the bright shiny emerald green as well now. What I love most about working with colour is how perfectly it can express a feeling or state of mind, without the need for a single word. I have probably used too many words here, but it continually amazes me how much more there is to learn, even after 40+ years of needlework.
31 little blocks, side by side, one per day. I keep saying there is no plan, but of course there is a plan – the plan is to stitch a little box for every day of 2022. What I mean is, there isn’t a design. There isn’t a design or drawing for each day, I just thread a needle and see what happens. And really, this isn’t true either. It would be more accurate to say that I thread a needle and reflect on where I am in time and space and then translate that feeling into thread on linen. It is mindful, and it is meditative, to witness the passing of time in this way. It means we are alive.
Some days seem longer than others. Some days bring bad news that hangs around for weeks. Some days make you feel lost. Some bring peace.
The fact that days always have more coming after them I think can bring a helpful sense of perspective – if every day is followed by another, then sometimes the next day can be a new beginning. I find optimism in this stitch journal, and I find myself wondering where I will be in say, May or June, and what the days will bring to me. Or what I will discover in them. Sewing, for me, is always about healing and connection, about anchoring myself to my life with thread, stitching old wounds closed, looking behind and ahead while standing in the present.
Tomorrow is 1st February, Imbolc in the pagan calendar. The first day of spring, where hope reaches a tentative hand out of the cold ground, clutching the green shoots of new life.
It seems impossible that we’re just over halfway through January already, which means I have completed 18 blocks of my stitch journal.
I worried that it might be a chore to work on this every day, but in fact I look forward to stitching a daily section. I sew every day anyway, so it’s just a matter of making a separate space for it. I don’t always like what I’ve stitched, but it surprises me to find that I don’t mind that so much. These are days, and some days are great, and some days are not so good. Most days are a mixture of the two.
I set out with the premise that this would be just thread on a single piece of cloth, so no lining, backing, applique, paint, dye, or patching. I hardly ever sew on a single layer, and whereas I usually bury thread ends etc between layers, I really wanted the back to be visible on this one. I’m already finding it challenging that the background is always white, which is also unusual for me. Some days I have wanted to stitch a white thread on a coloured ground, but I said no paint or dye, so the only way to colour the ground is to fill it with stitch and then stitch over it. That has been working just fine.
I see this as less of a personal diary and more as a universal marker of time, a record of the passing days, the turning of the wheel. We all live through the same day, at the same time if we’re in the same time zone, and the days mean different things to all of us. I find there is something very moving about witnessing the passage of time in this way, and to see it recorded on a roll of cloth.
I look at the blank outlined blocks and think of the days and weeks ahead, and wonder what they will bring.
Here we are in a whole new January, and a happy new year to you. One of the things I’ve been wanting to make for a while now is a stitch journal – some sort of ongoing cloth with a little stitching every day. I sew most days anyway, of course, but hardly ever in the same place. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to see how the threads of days join up over time. I don’t keep a written diary or journal, because not that much happens in my life – which is just the way I like it, incidentally. A new year seems like a good time to start.
I’m using a long strip torn from an antique linen sheet, about 12″ wide and about 8 feet long, and I’ve mapped out a block of 31 fields that I can use as a template for each month – obviously, some months are shorter than that so I can adapt the template as necessary. Each monthly block is about 8″ x 10″ altogether, so each daily field is an inch and a half or so. I will fill in a field every day for the rest of this year, and I’m hoping that the end result will look something like a cross between a map and a path through the year.
I really want this to be just thread, on one single layer of cloth – so no patching, applique, layering, lining, etc – just thread, whatever happens to be at hand, and whatever kind of stitch presents itself on the day. I will let it unfold in its own way and in its own time, and create an overall pattern (or not) as time goes by. Because I don’t know how this is going to go, I’m starting with very simple running stitches, but I think that will change as I settle in to working with this cloth.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how this unfolds. The older I get, the more quickly time seems to pass, and the more precious time seems. I’m hoping that a daily stitch journal will help me to slow down more and notice each single day for the gift that it is.