Threads again

There’s nothing like a well-stocked shop, and at present I have nothing like a well-stocked shop. If you did manage to get your hands on some of the latest batch of hand-dyed thread – thank you so much, it’s on its way. If you didn’t, don’t worry – there will be more.

So now I need to start all over again. It takes a long time to hand wind every skein in preparation for dyeing. I wondered if a yarn swift would help to make the process a bit more efficient. They’re designed for hanks of thicker knitting yarns, and I was sceptical about whether it would work for finer embroidery thread, but so far I’m impressed. In the photo below there’s a textured yarn skein in progress, but it also works perfectly well for threads.

Yarn swift, newly installed and working very well

For the next batch I’m going to try dyeing larger skeins initially, and then wind them into smaller skeins after dyeing. I’m still trying to figure out what works best here, both for me and for everyone else. I’m not sure that I will continue with so many different textured yarns indefinitely and will probably instead start to focus on just embroidery threads after current stocks run out. I might make an exception for silk boucle, which is one of my favourite textured yarns.

Cotton and silk threads in progress

Also I’m not sure that I’m going to do the big announcement thing when threads are ready. While I’m really grateful that there is so much demand, selling everything in a matter of hours is exhausting. Ideally I’d like to keep the shop stocked at all times, so I will add threads as they become available. If you’re interested in buying thread, please bookmark the shop products page here and keep checking regularly. It will be at least a couple of weeks before there are any more, but I’ll be working on it in the meantime.

In other news, March has begun, and the theme for this month is windows.

Early March on the stitch journal

You can see that I skim off a few of the threads for my own use. Dyer’s perks, I call it. They’re just skein ends and seconds really. The purple cotton slub has a few white bits in it where the dye didn’t quite find all the yarn. This does happen with thicker yarns, and you can easily cover the white bits with couching stitches.

The first two days are based on images seen through windows. The cherry blossom, along with so many other signs of spring, seems very early this year. The wheel is turning and time carries the colours of spring and the changing light.

Early March: twigs, buds, and cherry blossom

February

A short month but a full page:

Spots of time

Interesting how different the dynamic is when stitching round shapes as opposed to straight-edged ones.

February on the table

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.

A few moments in early spring

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.

The other side of February

There is still a lot of the year left:

March, waiting

Next month will be windows.

Spots of 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.

1st and 2nd February 2023

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
3rd/4th/5th February 2023

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.

4th and 5th

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 other side

The cloth is starting to soften very nicely. It’s just like getting to know a new friend.

January

For a month that usually seems to drag its heels, January has shot past in a blur this year. This is a sign of getting older, right?

When I started the second stitch journal, I was slightly concerned that it would turn out more or less the same as the first one and that there would be no real value in doing it again.

But what do you know? It looks quite different from last year’s. At least, it looks different to me.

January 2023 daily stitching

Same fabric, same threads, same person. Different circumstances perhaps. Different time.

January, detail

This time it’s a book rather than a long scroll, and this year I’m using a different template or layout every month.

January, detail

There are signs of spring outside in the garden, and the light is starting to change. Winter will be packing its bags and moving on. There is a pun here about seeing the back of winter and showing the back of January’s stitching. Of course I wouldn’t fall into that trap, would I?

Seeing the back of winter

Online course: intuitive daily stitching

Well, here we are. After a good few weeks of hard labour and a very steep learning curve, it’s about as good as it’s going to be, and I think I’m ready to let it out into the world. Thank you for your patience while it was under construction.

The course is all pre-recorded, with no live element – so there’s no rush to sign up and no requirement to be available at set times. You can access the material as often as you want, whenever is convenient for you.

Online course via Teachable

The course is aimed primarily at beginners, so it may be helpful if you’re just starting out with some hand stitching, or some daily stitching. If you’re already stitching quite confidently, there probably won’t be much there that you don’t already know. You can watch the introduction without committing to a purchase, and that will give you an overview of the course content.

You can preview the introduction video here

Briefly, section 1 is about choosing suitable fabrics, needles and threads; section 2 focuses on a selection of easy hand embroidery stitches and various ways in which you can adapt them; and section 3 has some general information on how to approach hand stitching as a mindful, meditative practice.

Teachable landing page
Learn to make something like this

The course is quite informal in style and has me going ‘er’ and ‘um’ a bit, even with a script, but nothing is ever going to be perfect. I’ve tried to present it as if we’re in the same room, learning together.

If you don’t already have a Teachable login, you’ll need to create one (it’s free) in order to access the course.

Here’s a bit of the demonstration sampler that I’ve used to show you the stitches. I finished the sampler after recording the course – I just show you the basics in real time. You should be able to recognise the stitches I’ve added.

The price of the course is in GBP, because I’m in the UK. If you’re not in the UK, you can use any online currency converter to see the equivalent amount for you. The secure online checkout system will automatically convert the price to your local currency.

Please try and remember this converted amount so that you recognise it when it appears on your bank statement later. If you don’t recognise the amount and flag it as fraud with your bank by mistake, that can cause extra work and expense for me. Thank you.

Selection of worksheets accompanying each stitch lesson

And after all that preliminary waffle, you can find the course here

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.

Week one: intuitive stitching

Another year begins, and along with it another round of daily stitching. Let’s see where this year takes us.

The last 5 days in stitch

I know a lot of people find January very difficult (here in the northern hemisphere, that is) because it’s long and cold and still dark, but I like it. January is generally quiet, after the hectic days of Christmas and New Year, and not much happens – and that suits me just fine. I’ve kept the colour palette here fairly wintery and subdued but will begin to introduce some spring colours next month.

January 1st to 7th

It’s really interesting to look at what you’ve stitched, and to reflect on what meaning you find there. When your mind is still but your hands are busy, a kind of magical insight emerges and you end up producing a pattern in which you can access your intuitive knowledge. We all know things without realising it, and sometimes it can be difficult to silence the chattering mind enough to see that knowledge. So far I see home, which is where I work now and my safe place, a light radiating peace and joy, a mountain to climb (good job I like climbing mountains) and I see paths leading to unknown places. As I continue to work on putting together an online course, I can see that my stitching absolutely reflects where I am.

Some days I prefer the back, which shows you how you got there:

The other side

I’ve been utterly delighted to see emerging stitch journals and hand embroidery from talented stitchers sharing their work in my private Facebook group. It’s becoming a lovely, thoughtful community of hand stitchers, of all abilities, connecting with and supporting each other, learning from each other, and generously sharing knowledge. If you’re working on your own daily stitching and you’d like to join, you will need to answer three simple questions and agree to some basic group rules. There are no right/wrong answers to the questions, but I do need to know a little bit about you before I can approve your request. This just helps everyone (including me) feel safe. If you’re in, you can be sure that you’re among friends.

The beginning

Of course I’m doing it again.

Preparing a strip of vintage linen/cotton bed sheet

I’m using the same fabric as last year: vintage metis (linen/cotton blend) bed sheet, about 13” wide by about 100” long. I’ve hemmed the long edges, just by turning an inch or so under, giving a finished width of about 11”. I’ve given it a quick dip in some tea just to knock back the whiteness, which gives me the option to use white thread some days.

This year I’m using a slightly different format. Instead of one long continuous scroll, I’ll fold the strip concertina-style to form twelve separate pages so that the finished thing will look like a book.

In book form

I’m trying different templates this year too, just to see how it looks. Some pages will be circles, some will be rows or columns, some blocks will have spaces between. Haven’t quite thought this through, but the process is supposed to be intuitive, so I don’t want to over-plan.

Trying different layouts for each month

I’ve begun with some very simple stitches. I’ve marked out this month’s grid but haven’t yet completed the outlines – I may do that as I go along, I’ll see how it goes. There are no rules.

A blue beginning
The back, showing the hemmed edge

From today I am no longer employed, so this marks the start of a new way of life for me and an adventure. I’m looking forward to having more time this year to focus on my own work, to set up some online classes, dye more thread and fabrics, create some embroidery patterns and templates – and maybe a few more things besides.

Lines

I’ve been very happy to know that so many people are planning to start their own daily stitch practice. I find it very restorative to reserve a few minutes a day for some quiet time with fabric and thread. Just a few stitches, just to see what happens.

I also like seeing time mapped out like this. A calendar has the same function, of course, but somehow this has more impact for me.

January

Here’s to all new beginnings.

The end of a beginning

365 days.

Long cloth recording a long year

It measures 10” x 95”

Impossible to photograph effectively

950 square inches of hand embroidery.

Wrapped around a large industrial wooden bobbin

A record of time passing, days spent and gone. Each little block the shape of a unique moment, preserved for ever.

Summer days

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.

Last winter

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.

Sound on!

Time travelling

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.

Continuing on the Winter Time Traveller’s quilt

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.

Little tree, in progress

The rest of it seems enormous, but it’s only about a metre square.

Very much still in progress; hand stitch on applied fabric scraps

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.

Painted tulle layered over embroidered silk organza

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.

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
%d bloggers like this: