Another month seems to have disappeared in a whirl, leaving just a few stitches behind to prove it was there.
I went back to the grid formation for this month, which I like because it always feels like a more accurate representation of days: a few patches of time with no spaces between. I like the other layouts too, for different reasons.
Lots of flowering and new growth in the garden. Some days brought less happy news, but things seem to be looking a little brighter now.
Earlier in the month we found time to go and see the bluebells and wild garlic in the woods.
The front shows where you go, and the back shows how you got there. Two sides of the same story.
The stitch journal is becoming a book. I’ve stitched the first few completed pages into the spine of the cover. The music is Menuet from Bach’s Cello Suite no 1 in G major, expertly played by cellist Steven Isserlis.
Still a lot of the year still to go, and a few feet of linen waiting to unfold. June will be vertical stripes. Long days.
One of the best things about a daily stitch practice is that you can use up all the odd ends of thread and yarn that seem to accumulate from other projects. If you keep it simple, you only need a yard or two of thread per day so it’s a good opportunity to use up the last bit of thread in a particular colour.
I only had a yard or so left of this purple and white marl yarn, and it turned out to be almost exactly the right amount to fill the circle and outline the box. I’ve stitched it down with a vintage cotton thread – maybe Sylko or Coats, it’s lost its label.
It’s exactly like patchwork, but with thread instead of fabric.
…after the second bank holiday weekend in a row. It’s probably done me some good to take a couple of days out, though time off isn’t quite the same when you get to do what you love for a living.
The more industrious corner of my work table doesn’t know about time so it’s still exactly as it was when I downed tools on Friday. I see now it needs dusting. Thread and fabric shed their fibres all the time.
You can also see a couple of beautifully smooth pebbles from a recent trip to the seaside. I was lucky enough to find a hag stone, a pebble with holes in it, which you can just see hanging above. It’s sometimes said that they find you. I love to marvel at how old these things are, how many millions of years they’ve been around. How much time they hold.
Also on the table, appropriately enough, is Marking Time II (and thank you, Dawn, for naming it). This is another long cloth pieced from hand-dyed vintage fabrics and stitched with motifs from ancient rocks and prehistoric marks on the land.
The beautiful lightweight cotton fabric in the section below is eco-printed by Jane Hunter and makes the perfect ground for some couched cup and ring marks. I will add more stitch, of course.
Easing myself back into the working week, and hoping your week ahead is a good one.
30 circles, 30 days. A few minutes of quiet stitching every day, each one a little oasis of calm.
I like the negative space. It’s like the untold part of the story, the gaps between thoughts and activities.
I’ve also been working a bit more on the cover, since this will eventually fold up into a book.
It’s very simple but it’s enough, I think.
Next month, back to the grid – squares/blocks with occasional circles. Maybe the best of both worlds.
Incidentally, you can now purchase and download my 2023 templates here – 12 different templates, approximately A4 size (or 8.5″ x 11″ letter size, if you’re not in Europe): there are some grids, some blocks, some lines, some shapes. I’m looking forward to using them myself.
I gave myself a break over Easter. I’ve come back to the cloth that (as yet) has no name: the first in a small series about cup and ring marks, ancient circles and spirals, lines and basic marks.
These lines and circles seem to communicate without words. Maybe they come from a time before language; certainly before literacy. There is a kind of magic about them, a deep and unfathomable wisdom in their shapes.
I’m enjoying the earthy colour palette here, and the repeating motifs.
I’ve been invited to give a talk to a local stitching group and I’m just gathering together some inspiration. I’ll take this unfinished cloth too, mostly to see if anyone can help name it.
I don’t know where the first quarter of this year went, but at least some of it is here in daily stitches.
The whole page is about 8” x 11”.
A few stitches every day, some more meaningful than others, some more attractive than others. Some days are like that too.
This cloth is a long strip, like last year, but this time horizontal rather than vertical. The plan is to make it into a book, concertina-style, folding the months into pages and stitching them to the spine of a cover. I’ve made a start on the cover, which is vintage linen and a lovely surface to work on. There isn’t a plan for the design; I’ve just started with some simple lines of running stitch and I may or may not add to it.
The page for January will be stitched to the inside front cover, then the gap between January and February will form a valley fold that can be stitched to the spine of the cover. February and March will then have a mountain fold between them, making two pages, and so on. It isn’t nearly as complicated as I’m making it sound. I think it will work.
This cloth is the first in a series exploring the timeless marks found on ancient rocks. Circles, rings, spirals, and lines – all quite abstract but eternally symbolic and full of meaning.
I’ve used hand-dyed silk bourette yarn for couching the rings. It has a lovely soft texture and, unusually for silk, doesn’t have so much of a sheen. It looks and feels more like very soft wool.
The rings on the grey silk band are made with very fine silk tulle, which weighs almost nothing but has a strong will of its own and can be quite tricksy. You have to work very slowly with it and pin it down as you go, otherwise it tends to wriggle away and wander off. This is not a great photo but was only intended to show myself where the rings needed adjusting a little before committing to stitching them down.
A few stitches later, they’re sitting quite nicely.
It’s taking its time, and I’m sitting with each mark to see where it needs more. These plain running stitch circles may or may not be finished. The cloth in this section is textured silk, similar to silk noil but slightly heavier and thicker.
Taking time to make time. All the time is already there. It’s just a matter of finding it.
Daily paint doodles have produced these little pictograms, influenced by prehistoric art and the images found on rocks and in caves everywhere in the ancient world:
Prehistoric art is something I’ve always found really interesting. Not so much the figurative drawings of the various beasts fleeing from human hunters, but more the abstract mark-making and simple patterns. They seem to crop up everywhere from the same kind of time. Shapes like circles, spirals, wavy lines, squares, short lines – basic marks. These are the marks I make most often in my sketchbooks too, and a lot of the shapes will translate very effectively from pen to needle and thread.
I’ve prepared a few long cloths, about 10” x 40-ish”, for adding timeless marks with thread. Just to see where it goes. I’m using linen or cotton as the backing fabric, and brushed cotton in place of batting. The top layers are strips of hand-dyed silk, cotton, and linen.
I’m beginning with circular blanket stitch on hand-dyed textured silk fabric and looking forward to following the thread.
Fragments of antique cotton, silk, and lace, hand-stitched to tea-dyed vintage linen and cotton.
It only named itself this afternoon. The past is always present. We carry it with us wherever we go. I guess that’s what memory is.
And these fragments from the past are still present too. Clothing and accessories made by hands long dead and yet still here. Their voices still speak to us, and the sheer beauty of their work still moves us.
The fragment of MJ’s monogrammed chemise became a pocket for some vintage needles.
New stitches on old cloth, layering new memories over old ones
It hangs from some tea-dyed silk ribbon, which may or may not be strong enough – the cloth is heavier than it looks.
A short view of the other side:
There are lots of frayed and ragged edges. Time made visible. The marks made by a quilter’s needle are still visible in this fragile cotton:
We all have some – the precious, fragile treasures that are taken out from time to time, admired, and then carefully laid back in their box. Relics from another age, fragments of a life long ago laid aside. Somehow they stay with us, surviving war, flood, and other catastrophes.
They’re far too lovely to live in a box, but that’s probably the best place for them, long term. I’ve chosen a few very fragile, ragged fragments and I’m in the process of stitching them to a long, layered cloth made from pieces of vintage linen and cotton.
I’ve had these beautiful lace fabrics for many years, and somehow it just seems time for them to be out in the world again. The vintage embroidered monogram below had been glued to a paper label by its manufacturer, and is gradually coming away. The paper is very fragile, but I want to stitch the whole piece to this cloth so I’ve stabilised the paper by brushing acrylic medium on the back and then sticking it to some antique cotton bobbinet. I don’t know if this will hold, but it feels a lot more robust than it did.
The very fine cotton cutwork trim on the section below has been hand-embroidered, and was once part of a petticoat. The monogrammed silk fragment is from a chemise, also hand-stitched.
The tiny pintucks in this silk are from a christening dress. Looking at the quality of the machine stitches, I think it’s probably been sewn on a manual treadle machine.
And the nineteenth-century fragment below, impossibly fine, is from a tippet, a cross between a shawl and a scarf, worn around the neck or shoulders. The fabric is thinner than tissue paper.
The embroidery stitches are tiny, and I think it’s been done by hand. If you look at the back, it lacks the rigid regularity that machine work has.
Inevitably, as I’m stitching, I’m thinking about the women who made and wore these fabrics. It seems strange to think of them as dead, when what they left behind is so alive and has such presence. There is a kind of sadness, a touch of the Miss Havisham, perhaps, about this piece; but there’s also an immense strength and a palpable sense of survival. How something can be so insubstantial, so easily torn, so translucent, and yet still so strong and beautiful, amazes me every time.