Vintage cloth, December days

Over halfway through December, and heading towards the darkest days of the year here in the UK.

Darker days

I’ve learned such a lot through making this stitch journal. I no longer think of it as a journal though; it’s become more a collection of daily stitch meditations. I will certainly make something similar next year, though probably not exactly this design. If you want to try something like this, you can download a PDF with templates and notes here.

At least once a week someone asks me what the foundation fabric is. It’s this, a vintage French bed sheet, cotton/linen blend (sometimes called metis):

French vintage cotton/linen blend bed sheet

I will stitch on this fabric again next year. I probably have enough fabric here for another four daily stitch scrolls, if I stick to the long/thin format. I find it an easy shape to work on because you can roll up the ends as you go along, which keeps it fairly compact.

The sheet holds a few memories of its previous life, one of which is a hand-stitched seam down the centre. I’ve assumed that this was a sign that it had worn well enough for a previous owner to have turned it, because parts of the sheet I’ve been stitching on (a strip torn from the outer edge) had worn very thin. Turning is where you extend the life of an old sheet, which tends to wear most in the middle where you’ve been lying on it, by cutting it down the centre and then swapping the edges – so you then sew the original outer edges together, creating a central seam and letting the worn parts become the new outer edges. Someone from the past has hand-sewn this seam down the middle:

Hand-stitched central seam

BUT there is also a darn on the outer edge, which is clearly a selvedge – so, given that the sheet appears to have been turned, but the new outer edges are selvedges (and not hemmed raw edges) I’m deducing that the fabric was possibly hand-woven on a home loom because it’s taken two widths to make one sheet. Hand looms created fabric with narrower widths than the big commercial looms, so the only way to create wider fabrics was to stitch narrower lengths together.

Vintage bed sheet with original darning

The sheet has been hemmed with impossibly tiny, regular stitches. I had assumed that this was machined, but I’ve unpicked a tiny bit and it’s just one single thread so has clearly been done by hand. It’s a very good quality fabric so will have been stitched and mended carefully.

Tiny stitches on a hand-stitched hem

The only thing I’ve been occasionally dissatisfied with this year is that the fabric is white. Sometimes I have wanted to stitch with white thread, and it just doesn’t show up well enough. The rule that I made for myself was no painting or dyeing, no added fabric or applique, just thread on a foundation. I don’t want to dye or paint it, because then I’d have to predetermine the colour, and I think that would create more limitations. I may, however, give it a very quick dip in some weak tea, just to knock back the whiteness but not enough to colour it too much.

I’m looking forward to revealing the whole thing at the end of the month. Yikes, that’s a week on Saturday! Hope you’re looking forward to seeing it too. In the meantime have a wonderful, peaceful festive season, and thank you for your friendship and support during 2022.

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