Monday, February 19, 2024

Stitch Journals: How to Create and Use Coptic Bound Fabric Books, for Slow Stitch Exploration and Expression

Photo: A stack of hand-painted signatures waiting to be bound into stitch journals.

Back in July of 2022 during a studio clean, I found a couple of small fabric books stuck in a drawer. I had made them the previous summer, and for whatever reason they hadn't lived up to my expectations, thus in the drawer they went, the place where things I don't know what to do with wind up. I'm not certain but I think I originally intending them to be needle books. I must have had some other visual imagery in my mind of what they should look like, because obviously they had disappointed me.

Photo: This is the style of book that I had originally made and found stashed away in a drawer. 
Made from old feed and grain sacks, I call them my "Rustic" style stitch journals.

But finding them again after a year had passed, I was now able to see them with fresh eyes, and this time only saw something potentially wonderful... two small books that I could turn into stitch journals.

Photos: An "invented language" stitch journal called "Book of Symbols". It's filled with abstract symbols, representing things that I see as I travel my local rural roads, such as fences, farms, barns, windmills, crops, etc.

Ever since then I have been on a journey of making stitch journals and filling them up. Along the way I have been sharing photos of them over on Instagram and have had lots of questions asking if I would do some sort of tutorial on how I make them... So, I set out to do just that.

Photo: A themed book with barns as the subject.

I quickly realized that the information I had to share was more then just one tutorial, so I began to write a course on how to create various Coptic bound stitch journals that one could use for slow stitch experimentation and self expression... which is what my journey had become about, and continues to be, as the more of these that I make the deeper I dive into this art form.

Photo: Page spread from a momigami paper stitch journal, 
made from old National Geographic magazine pages.

And after now working the better part of a year, I am truly delighted to have it available for anyone interested in taking the plunge along with me.

Photo: Page spreads from two painted stitch journal.

The course is available in my Etsy Shop and can be found here. The course is presented in a PDF format, (no videos) and is broken up into 5 parts. Written in a conversational tone, and full of color photographs to help guide and inspire. 

Photo: More hand-painted signatures, stacked and waiting to be bound into stitch journals.

This course is meant to be worked independently and at one's own pace, but I am available to answer questions if need be. 

Photo: A cascade of stitch journals in various stages of use.

As an artist I have always wanted to fill up volumes of art journals, and in the past I've tried to keep a practice of doing just that, with sketching, painting, collaging, but none of it has ever stuck, and I always found myself feeling like I lacked discipline. Finally though, the lightbulb went on above my head... I am primarily a textile artist, so why not make textile journals and fill them up with stitch?! This obvious thought had alluded me my whole adult life, but once that light of wisdom shined on me, oh, what a joy to now have volumes of my very own stitch journals... Safe places where I can play with needle and thread, explore texture and color, save bits of vintage materials and buttons, or transform them with rust and dirt... It's been eye-opening and soul satisfying, and I hope should you join me, that you will also find the same to be true. 

Happy stitching and may you always be curious. Xo

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Whispered Stories - My 'In Conversation' Quilt

A few months ago Tara Glastonbury from Stitch and Yarn reached out to me and asked if I would like to be her partner in an international group exhibit that she conceived and was putting together. The premise of the show was 7 Australian quilters would each pick an international quilter to be their partner. Each pair of partners would then begin to have a conversation(s) (via text, email, Zoom, or even in person if possible) about anything they fancied. Each individual would then make a quilt that reflected what they had conversed about with their respective partner. I loved the concept, and thrilled with the chance to work with Tara (someone I have admired for a long time) I joyfully accepted her invitation. 

Tara and I conversed about many things, including personal memories associated with cloth, the love of working with previously used cloth, the idea that old or used cloth holds memories, the attraction to cloth with worn holes, faded areas, marks, stains and any sign of a previous life or use.

With those and other thoughts teased out in our conversations, we each began to create our individual quilts. I started off with this pile of vintage grain and feed sacks pulled from my stash...

All of these vintage sacks were found locally and their various shades of white, along with the stains, marks and imperfections found on them remind me of the colors and patina found on the old local white washed barns, of which many of them may have once lived in a previous life... 

I decided to do a 'quilt as you go' approach, creating nine 12.5" x 12.5" blocks, made up of various raw edged appliqué patches. If any patch had a hole in it, I placed another piece of fabric behind it. For an added little touch I used bits of patterned fabrics that I gleaned from a deconstructed antique quilt. I then machine quilted each block with vertical and horizontal rows of unevenly spaced lines, again, reminiscent of those old barns with all of their wonderful lines...

I joined the 9 blocks together on my sewing machine using a zig-zag stitch, and covered up those stitches with a hand-whipped satin stitch, using many different colors of variegated threads...

I also choose to forgo traditional or faced binding, and simple repeated the hand-whipped satin stitch all around the quilt's boarder....

I revisited every hole that I had placed a piece of fabric behind, as if they were an old friend. I listened to their whispered stories of how they came to be as I did more hand-whipped satin stitches around each of their frayed borders...

I added 'fence post' hand stitches (| | | | | |) around the edges of every patch. And then I added hand quilting down the middle of every space created by those previously machine stitched lines...

Once, when flipping the quilt around so as to stitch on a different section, I caught this view of the sun streaming in behind it and I do believe that quilt was quietly singing...

I mended threadbare areas with some needle weaving...

And when I was done, I had a quilt (relatively small at just 36" x 36") 
made from cloth that has lived and continues to live a humble but honorable life.

Marked with stains from years gone by...

And newly mended holes and patches...

Full of old stories, and new ones, too...

And which most remarkably has now traveled to places that I have never been, and is hanging on a wall in a gallery on the opposite side of the world from me. Wonders never cease...

Here are our two quilts (my 'Whispered Stories' on the left and Tara's 'Sown Stories' on the right) hanging together side by side at the recent opening of the 'In Conversation" Exhibit in Sydney Australia, at Gallery76, where it will run from now through June 25, 2023, before moving on to its next location in Melbourne...

And despite looking different, with my understated quiet tones and Tara's bold use of the complimentary colors blue and orange, don't they play nicely together?! You can tell they share a background history of some sorts. 

Much to our amazement, after our quilts were well on their way, Tara and I found out during a Zoom chat how many similarities we took in our approaches. Besides using repurposed cloth, we both featured holes, marks and imperfections. We both (without the prior knowleged of what the other was doing) opted for quilt-as-you-go construction methods, raw edge appliqué, and a combination of machine straight line quilted rows (going in various directions) with hand quilting interspersed between those rows. With so many ways to make a quilt, what are the odds that we would both choose so many of the same construction and quilting choices? We even both used the word 'Stories' in our titles.

The whole process was utterly fascinating and my hat is off to Tara for coming up with such a unique concept and huge bows and rounds of applause for organizing it, and shepherding it in to existence. 


Here's a pic of all the participating artists, side by side with their respective partner... 

Starting at the top row, and going from left to right are:

For more information, behind the scenes info and a chance to support this exhibit, please visit the 'In Converstaion' Buy Me a Coffee page.

PS. I seem to be having a lot of glitches concerning the ability to leave a comment, so I've just decided to disable them. Thank you though for reading. xo

Monday, November 14, 2022

My Latest Obsession... Stitch Journals

Over the last several months all of my creative focus has been on creating handmade cloth "Stitch Journals" in which I can experiment in and fill up. Here's an example of one of them...

I began by hand painting all of the fabrics, (Jacquard Textile Colors were mainly used). 

I then machine stitched the fabrics into pages to later hand-bind into the journal.

When I make the "blank" pages I like to add machine stitched lines and bits of machine stitched appliqué.

(I consider the journal to be "blank" until I fill the pages in with hand stitching.)

Those machine stitched lines, and appliquéd bits, act as "prompts"... 
jumping off points for my creativity to land... places for me to eventually fill in with my hand stitching once the journal has been hand bound into a book form. 
(Such as what you see in these photos of a completed journal.)

The hand-stitching creates a sort of non-verbal language. One that can be seen and also felt.

Something almost primitive, and very instinctual.

I take great joy in the whole process... 
from hand-painting, to hand-binding, to hand-stitching.
All of it is meditative, creative and fulfilling.

 And when it's complete, I feel so incredibly satisfied. 

I hope this obsession lasts for sometime.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New Work: Ragged Series

Back in January I began a new series of small stitched works which I am calling my 'Ragged Series'...

Ragged no. 2

In this series I continue to draw my inspiration from my local rural surroundings of Lancaster County, PA. Along with my usual interest in line and shape, I am also playing with texture and taking a wondrous deep dive into exploring the very wide range of local colors, including colors found in the farm fields and old barns, (of course!) to roadside farm produce and flower stands, to the lovely colors of Amish clothing, and old painted farm tractors... It's all fair game, and glorious to me!

Above is an example of how what I see is influencing me. On the right is one of my photos of a local road with old worn barns, and on the left is one of my 'Ragged' pieces. 

To achieve the colors and textures I am looking for, I begin with ripping and tearing bits of assorted fabrics of various weave and fiber content. 

I then individually hand paint each individual piece with different fabric paints and inks. 

The ones shown above were done with a combination of Jacquard and Setacolor paints 
and Tsukineko inks.

Ragged no. 6

Here's another example of local inspiration. Please note however, I don't reference any photos while I work, as I think it would hang me up with trying to get my brain to create more literally. Wishing to keep things abstract, I rely on trusting that I intuitively know these colors, and the rural "feel" I wish to communicate, from a long time of observation and study. I admit to being both surprised and tickled when afterwards I can go back and find photos that connect with what I've stitched. It further reinforces my faith in trusting my gut.

Ragged no. 7

(Inspired by old red barns and the shadows that hide in the corners.)

Ragged no. 8

To date I have completed 14 works in this series and am currently working on numbers 15 and 16. Generally, I tend to work in small series, rarely more than 15 pieces, often less, before moving onto a new subject, as I get so damned bored so easily. It is my true desire however to keep exploring this series at least through 2022. So far, so good... I'm still curious and interested!

I think that interest and curiosity in large part is due to how much I am enjoying the process of painting my own fabric. Above I'm playing with colors and patinas found on some of the old barns, including the wood, the roofs, the shadows... so much beautiful, subtle colors.

Below are a few more pieces from the series along with a couple of examples of local inspiration...

Ragged no. 11

Ragged no. 14

Ragged no. 13

Ragged no. 13 is my only square piece to date, but one of my favorites. 
When making this I was thinking about old red barns and farm fields.


So, that's what I'm up to these days. 
If interested, you can follow me on Instagram where I post each completed piece once listed in my Etsy shop. (To date, as I am writing this post, all but 2 of the 14 have sold, and I hope to list more soon.)