Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sneak Preview

2010 Gifts for my Family. From Top Left to right: A Call to Gather, Two Rabbits Gambolling in Summer Flowers, Last Berries in Summer (x2), Sunday Evening, Two Angels with Goodnight Wishes, Two Bears Floating, Crossing Paths Homeward.
I have been very busy over the last week or so (thanks for noticing Nan) writing final papers for my study as well as finishing these storycloths. Well, I haven't quite finished them but as I will not be able to post now until the New Year I wanted to put them up to show. As you can see I have finished the second bear cloth as well as made changes to the original Last Berries in Summer. I was not happy with the colors and depth of tone and it took quite a bit of work for me to be relatively content. In fact, the bears have now become one of my favourites. It probably helps that I have completed all the final surface stitching on this pair. Oh, that was a really satisfying process. I can't wait now to work further on some of the others pictured. I am also very glad that I persevered with changing aspects of the bearcloths because I very nearly gave up. But, as perhaps you might agree, they convey a sort of charm now. The other newy is the rabbit storycloth. It is called Two Rabbits Gambolling in Summer Flowers. To my mind, it is full of fun and  happy Summer-y movement. One other positive alteration is in the bottom cloth, Crossing Paths Homeward. You may recall that I was not happy with the original darker moon. I think the new moon is much more in keeping with the subtle tones of watery twilight.

I want to express the depth of satisfaction that making these cloths over the past few weeks has given me. I began working on small cloth, following examples and hints in Janet Bolton's Patchwork Folk Art, when I realised I needed some clear structure with which to begin to find my own voice in cloth. I am so glad I did. I would never have thought I would find satisfaction in this sort of design work. I have always had a propensity for just letting anything and everything roll out of me. I have enjoyed this so much that I will continue in this way for the moment. Next year I hope to take some of judes Whispering Classes and it will be interesting to see what happens with my creative journey then. I love jude's work, and derive immense enjoyment from reading, and interacting with, her blog.

So, in appreciation at this time of the year it is appropriate to say thanks to the chief sources of my inspiration, my Mum, who sent me Janet's book, Janet Bolton and jude, as well as my blogging friends with without whom my storycloth world would be significantly less rich.

At close of needle last night after stitching for hours, I pinned all my gift cloths up ready for the photo this morning. Now I will take them down to pack for Christmas.

Wishng you all a peaceful holiday stitching season, Gilly

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anyone for Smocking?

Surprise Gift
I received an early morning phone call the other day - well it seemed early as I was still under warm covers and reading with a cup of tea at hand - from a wonderful quilting woman who was very kind to me when I first arrived to live here in Canada. She said she remembered that I once had mentioned I used to enjoy smocking when my children were young. Apparently she had received some goods that someone wanted to pass on to new owners and among them was a 'Sally Stanley Smocking Pleater' and a pile of books (I have only pictured half of them!). Well, as soon as she saw it she said she thought of me and was just phoning to see if I'd like them. Yes, yes, yes! What a wonderful morning surprise for me and, well, of course I could not ignore such serendipity! So now I have a beautifully maintained smocking pleater and many books redolent with their previous owner's fervour - handwritten notes and a very warm cloth-oriented spirit attached. I feel very blessed. I am also conscious of a sense of stewardship and privelege. I do not know who they belonged to yet I feel a sweet connection with her. I'm not sure when I will begin smocking again, however I feel confident that I will.

At close of weekend needle I have been trying different border fabrics for the rabbit small cloth. I am debating whether I have made the base cloth too long for the rabbit or even for two rabbits. We shall see! I have also nearly completed the second bear small cloth. Christmas is drawing nearer and it feels great to have a little pile of storycloths ready.

Happy stitching wishes, Gilly

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Angels with Goodnight Wishes

Two Angels with Goodnight Wishes
This is Two Angels with Goodnight Wishes, another duo to form part of the package of gifts for my family. It is taken directly from Janet Bolton. I have changed her design a bit to suit my needs. I am finding that following her designs closely is a really good way to learn about color, highlight stitches and overall composition. Janet, to me, is a genius of understated design. These measure six inches by three inches each and belong as a pair. I would like to make variations of this for all my family members.  I would also love to have these in my own bedroom. It seems so reassuring to go to sleep with the thought of angels delivering good sleeping wishes outside my window. Lovely thought.

At close of weekend needle I have laid out another Janet Bolton design - a rabbit. I also dyed a selection fabrics in brown onion skin, these are just rinsing now. There was one piece of cloth that had a streak of rust on it and combined with the onion skin has turned a lovely licorice colour. It may become part of a rabbit.

Happy stitching wishes, Gilly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Questions of Identity

I made this a few months ago, one of three storycloths about women in contemporary consumerist society. It is titled Crowned, an exploration of identity: cosmetic surgery, the expectations women struggle to live up to, the masks we wear, how difficult it is to know who we really are, how a smile sometimes betrays us, how we are tossed about by the way we think others perceive us, how difficult it is to be objective about ourselves, others, the world.

It is interesting for me to look back on this and to see how my self-understanding has developed. This cloth was in response to young white women in western society where 'choice' is a term commonly used. For example if a question is posed: 'What do you think about the fact that it is increasingly common for young (and older) women to undergo cosmetic surgery as a pretty much 'normal' experience?' A typical response is "Well, that is their CHOICE'. Yes, on one level it is, but what external pressures are there that make women feel they need to change their bodily appearance? Women 'voluntarily' undergo surgery so they can try (and always, always, of course always fail) to meet the expectations of a consumerist, capitalistic, patriarchal society. A society which on a broad scale does not care if you look like a Barbie Doll - all that is really important are the dollars exchanged.

Excuse my soap box -  the outright oppressive manipulation of women's self esteem by capitalist ideology makes me angry. (On another note - let alone the cross-cultural oppression that goes hand in hand with capitalism.)

So - it is interesting for me to see how, over a few months, my thoughts on this matter have consolidated and have now led to a public post. I do not critique women's individual choices because it is very important that we do have choice, rather I critique the values of consumerist society.

At close of needle I muse on my small orderly cloths and how they reconcile with this political storycloth, and how they both emanate from the one being - me. Perhaps the face above reflects this also? There is more to this story.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Call to Gather

A Call to Gather

This is A Call to Gather. It is 9 inches by 4 inches. It has different feel to last week's Two Bears Floating. It has a cooler, more subtle light, which it should as it is dusk whereas Two Bears Floating is in the middle of the day. I could not stop myself from finishing this. Each week I look forward to the next storycloth that seems to come from somewhere inside me. I feel these elephants are on their way to a burial ground. Apparently elephants are able to discern bones of elephants from among bones of other animals. They are such amazing, magnificent animals. I wanted to keep them unadorned but could not resist adding some hint of exotica by way of fabric bits. I am finding it a little easier to manage tiny bits of fabric. I surprise myself by enjoying more and more many hours of fiddling with colours and shapes and designs before making final decisions.

At close of needle I am wondering how this deepening love of making storycloth is informing my own identity as Gilly. I feel I am changing, becoming deeper, stiller, calmer, with a bubbling joy far inside. It feels great.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Bears Floating

Two Bears Floating

Two Bears Floating was a dream to create. It is the simplest  design I have made yet. It was such an enjoyable process. The colours are as clear as crystal and the tonings worked well, I think. (You can tell I am pretty happy)!

I am getting better at eliminating clutter.  I feel that each time I begin a storycloth I am more more confident trying out, arranging and re-arranging. I can 'hear' myself thinking what I want the focus to be, what color and type of fabric, what effect I'd like to create. For example, the two sets of horizontal stitches at centre bottom took some working  through. I didn't want any markers that took away the effect of free-floating, yet I wanted some little grounding point, formalised so it suggests human dwelling. I also wanted to pull the two pieces of cloth together, to provide an achievable 'bridge' between the two bears who seem to be floating inevitably away from each other. This is also why I added the birds at centre top - just a little, but I think strong, tie between the two floating bears. Marks that make the hope that the bears will get back together, more certain, if that makes sense.

They are each six inches by three inches and together form this week's storycloth. Any honest feedback is appreciated. Really appreciated.

At close of weekend needle I had begun the backing cloth for my next cloth. A wintery one I think.

Happy stitching everyone, Gilly

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fabric Store versus Op-Shop

Washed and ironed store snippets.

I decided to experience buying cloth from a fabric store instead of limiting myself to op-shop purchases. I enjoy op-shop buys because there is such a good chance of finding interesting and unique fabrics. The down side is the bulk of items to deal with and store once I bring them home. As a result of my visit to a fabric store I found some great advantages in buying fabric thus. It was easier to find exact shades I was after, if I was attracted to a small design aspect I only needed to buy a small yardage, and the cost was not high when only buying a fragment. Overall though, I loved assembling the little pile of color and design. I could look at this little pile happily for the rest of my life. This pleasure reminds me of the immense satisfaction I derive from organising stationary items in drawer or on a desk. Fabric store shopping doesn't replace the thrill of the really great op-shop finds but it certainly does enhance the range of fabrics from which to choose just the right one for the task at hand. Plus it was really good fun - better than choosing a cheese from a Paris 'fromagerie'. That is saying something! I did learn that when washing these fabrics I need to put them in a little bag to minimise the huge tangled mess I had. Any tips regarding this?

At close of needle I had nearly finished my second bear cloth. I will post it soon. I am pretty happy with it. The two together do make a stronger composition just as Janet Bolton comments in her book, Patchwork Folk Art.

Happy stitching all, Gilly

Tangled mess after washing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crossing Paths Homeward

Crossing Paths Homeward

This is Crossing Paths Homeward, my storycloth on this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. There are fragments of cloth dyed with brown onion, wolf lichen, and rust. It is four inches by three and 3/4 inches. This is my first try at a small dwelling in the background. It has taken hours of looking, trying, shifting etc. Hours of pleasure. Well, of course, this is to be expected and is integral to the overall enjoyment of cloth making. This piece satsifies something within me. It has elements which allow my mind to wonder about the who, where, why and how. It has some personality but not so much that disallows a viewer from imagining their own tales about the characters, place, and time. This is my  design, but includes elements which are completely attributable to Janet Bolton. This storycloth is my favourite so far. There is a small, bearded figure with a walking cane at bottom right. I 'm not sure how clear it is on screen. He is crossing paths with an outgoing whale, as both continue homewards.

At close of Thanksgiving needle I am very thankful.

Happy celebrations Canadians and happy stitching everyone, Gilly

Monday, October 4, 2010

What to Add?

What to add?

To date, I have sewn this ram and cat onto cloth and do not know what to add next. I have tried a sun and some flowers. But I am really at a loss. I think one of the reasons for my confusion is that while this piece is a small cloth, at eight and a half by five and a half inches, it is actually about twice as big as I have been working with. It seems there is so much space, and my propensity for clutter is overwhelming all sensible thought. Hahhaha.

Any suggestions most welcome as I am struck immobile over it.

On a lighter note we went rafting with sockeye on the weekend. It was such a beautiful and exhilarating experience that I thought I'd share a happy pic.

There were a couple of jokesters on board.

We had a great weekend. I returned home after rafting alive with retained sensory impressions - colour, texture, smells, intertwining shapes, sounds of the river and human laughter. Plus I was suffused with a sense of reverence for the sockeye journey, somewhat torn over whether we should have been there at all. I do not see a huge division between humans and other animals.

At close of weekend needle I was still considering future moves over the ram and cat cloth.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Fun, What Fun

Last Berries of Summer.
This was such fun to make. It is another small piece, six by four inches, and despite the small dimensions, took a considerable while to complete all the stages of construction and sewing. I feel I am getting better at discerning between fabric, colours and textures. However it takes time, and a certain stillness of being. This bear has a partner storycloth which is on the way to completion. I really enjoyed working french knots on the sky. I also decided to try Janet Bolton's suggestion of adding little stars. It really does brighten the whole cloth up, and works very well with small pieces of silk fabric. I am surprised because I thought I would not like the addition.The left hand vertical bar is muslin dyed with brown onion skins, and the right hand side of the sky is silk dyed with wolf lichen. The colours aren't showing really well in this photo. The wolf lichen cloth is a pale lemon-y color.

At close of needle yesterday I had walked away from a jumble of scraps of fabric as I was still in the planning stage of Last Berries of Summer's second piece. This morning I have started afresh with morning eyes, and have nearly decided on the cloth choices for the second bear storycloth.

Happy stitching; and I love visiting everyone's blogs. A wonderful community of cloth makers.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Pleased at Last

Sunday Evening
This is my favourite small story cloth. It is my own design, inspired obviously, by Janet Bolton. Somehow this works. It almost glows. I want to pick it up, hold it, or admire it from a distance. There is something about it which draws me. Sunday Evening has a short story. This beautiful, horned, blue cow named Bella-mia, has been working hard on behalf of all cows who have been, and who are to come. She has been pleading with Rassey, magnificent She-wolf of the Underworld, to release all the cows who have not resolved their anger at the humans who mistreated them cruelly all their lives. Bella-mia is tired but sleeping happily under an enchanted sky on this particular Sunday evening. She is at peace because Rassey has agreed to release all the dead and angry cows in order that they forgive their cruel human masters and mistresses. All living creatures will be happier for this.

Sunday Evening is 7 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches.

At close of weekend needle I had completed Sunday Evening, completed Bluebird in the Early Morning, and dyed several lots of cloth. A wonderful weekend immersed in storycloth.

Happy stitching , Gilly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Important Enough

First four small pieces.

I have a new bulletin board and this purchase has made my storycloth life so much more enjoyable. In order to get a distance perspective I was in the habit of laying pieces of cloth on cushions leaned up against chairs, and strewn all over the apartment. Or so it seemed. I felt I couldn't focus effectively on the works in progress. I couldn't see them clearly from a distance. I think worst of all though was the consequent feeling of disorganisation which infused our living spaces. Quite unpleasant and disturbing really. I had pondered for a long time the value of making work space organisation a priority, but somehow kept on delaying making any sort of purchase, except of course for regular thrift store expeditions. Well the day came for this purchase and it is so good to have a dedicated space for storycloth and associated articles and images that inspire. It can all be changed around as needs and seasons suggest. The day we put it on the wall above my desk I was walking on air. I love being able to come in here and stare for a long time, or just catch a glimpse of a storycloth. First thing this morning, for example, I could see a color problem with one cloth. I was not able to really see such things the way I used to work. There are more little cloths on the board now, than are pictured above, and it is working well to have several in process. If I have fifteen minutes I can choose an appropriate task from the best cloth for the purpose. But I think overall what I have done is make explicit to myself that both I, and my work, are important. Important enough to have a bulletin board.

At close of needle yesterday I had made some design alterations on a yet un-named cloth. A storycloth inspired by a goat.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Monday, September 13, 2010

Be - troo - to - me: dyeing for pink

Step 1: soaking pre-washed calico in boiling water and vinegar.
 I am suddenly busy at University with my schedule not quite finalised. Thank you for comments to my last post. As soon as I am in a routine I will answer people's kind comments to regular posts, but for now I will address Nandas question regarding beetroot dyeing. Here is a synopsis of my journey to dye some calico pink for the backing cloth for 'Bluebird in the Early Morning' (Janet Bolton). Step One (above) is soaking fabric in water and vinegar - apparently vinegar helps with obtaining reddish colors.

Step 2: simmering beetroot leaves and beetroot in water. Then add fabric.
I added the fabric and simmered the pot for about fifteen minutes. I left the fabric soaking in beetrrot water for twenty four hours, dried it in the sun, ironed it. This is what it looked like after ironing:

Step 3: ironed cloth after drying - this has not been rinsed at all yet.
At this stage I was quite excited because it was such a beautiful, subtle, yet rich pink colour. However, to my dismay,when I rinsed the fabric in warm water with detergent virtually all pink hue disappeared. I decided to repeat the process with the same cloth, hoping to achieve greater depth of colour.
Step 4: I repeated the whole dyeing procedure with the addition of a handful of salt.
This is a lovely, more even, colouring and I was hopeful that the addition of salt may have helped keep the colour fast. However I was to witness colour flowing over my fingers and down the sink as I rinsed it. But this time I did not use detergent, just hot water and certainly less dye was lost than the first time. This is how it finally looked after the two outlined dyeings, soakings, dryings and rinsings:
Step 5: after final rinsing and ironing.
The dyed cloth will form the small edging around the storycloth.
It has turned out to be a very subtle dusky pink hue which is quite beautiful and reminiscent of early morning light. It will work beautifully as backing cloth to 'Bluebird in the Early Morning'.  However I am mystifed as to how to retain vivid pink colours on dyed cloth. Linen is probably more receptive than cotton calico; and I wonder if  alum would be effective. However, despite my searches in local supermarkets (British Columbia) I have not been able to find alum for purchase. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

At close of needle yesterday I had attached a sheep and cat to a small cloth. More on that later.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bluebird Final Flower Choices

Final flower choices.

Bluebird in the Early Morning (Janet Bolton) is ready for the final flower choices to be stitched on.  This small cloth fills me with happiness each time I look at it. I love the warmth it projects, the simple hopes of each day to come. My next task will be to organise the backing cloth. I am not happy with my initial choice (not pictured) and so I am going to try dyeing some washed calico in beetroot.
At close of needle yesterday I had re-arranged some pieces on my small cloths in waiting. Fixed a backing to another small cloth and generally tidied up the fragments of cloth that spotted our floor. Today I hope to sew on these flowers. That doesn't sound like much, however it is quite a lot, for the Fall Semester at University has begun.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raw and Brave


Mnemosyne (thankyou) wrote a comment on my last post regarding a feeling of rawness when completing a personal work, and the bravery of posting it. I would like to respond. I will address rawness first, and then bravery.


As a child I incurred an ugly wound on my inner calf whilst riding a tricycle with a spiky pedal. Through my tears I could see raw calf muscle. It didn't hurt much, as I recall, because the wound was quite deep. It was a wide wound and today I carry a wide scar. The scar tissue is silver white and paper thin. It would be easy to pierce. If I inadvertently pierced it I would, again, see raw muscle. My raw muscle. Thus, my rawness is covered, just covered, by thin, thin skin.

Yes, I feel rawness at completing 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding'. I have hardly a skin to cover the rawness. I feel as if I am putting myself on the worst kind of line. Exposing myself to myself. In finishing this cloth I feel as if I have taken a piece of charcoal and scrawled my faults all over the world; taken the finest pencil I can find and gone beyond the universe with the tinest words I can write, listing all my failures. However, despite intense discomfort, I have also experienced liberty in this process. I have released an inner space in which to take another step forward.  I am building my portfolio of experience.  jude has described this incisively as 'continuing'.


I do not feel it was brave to post my storycloth. I would have a year ago or even three months ago.  Posting my first cloth in judes beast class was very difficult. But I did not and have not finished that piece ('Harbourmaster'). Recognising my difficulty with finishing things (and following 'rules' in general) led me to work on a forest cloth, 'Raven's Bad Trick' until near completion.  It was wild and pretty unplanned. But it was in the process of working to completion that I learned so much. Part of this learning was in the actual posting of it amongst the class. I was not put down, I did not feel stupid. I just felt determined to get better at making cloth. Really though, it wasn't just not feeling put down that prompted my determination.

It was also in the receiving of right words of encouragement that I was strengthened for the next step forward. I was fortunate in that I was receptive to right words. By right words I refer to psychical, spiritual 'right' words. Through beast class experiences I grew to trust a group of women. Women who are also on a cloth journey. This trust is combined with a timing in my life whereby my feet are both facing forwards on the same road.  A happy combining that has led to me begin a blog and post my storycloth.  I wasn't brave in posting 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding' because I didn't need to be. I trust these women of cloth, and I am making strides in trusting myself.


I happily acknowledge those who posted comments to me over the long weekend. I needed them because, although I didn't feel brave, I did feel raw. Very raw - and thus a bit brave too, I guess. I hope my post today expresses my appreciation. But in case it doesn't I will state it explicitly: I value every word given. I know sometimes these words are written in haste, sometimes with a great deal of thought, but they are nearly always written with insight. I will let your precious comments settle inside me for awhile and then integrate them when I write a critique of the cloth component of  'How Raven Wrecked Wedding'. In many ways I do not want to write a critique but doing so will allow me to more fully lift the blinds on my discomfort and rawness. I want to look at myself right in the face. Now that might take considerable bravery.

At close of weekend needle I had assembled several base layers for small cloth. I had also begun snapshot story scenarios on most of them. This is in line with wanting to have several pieces on the go at once. I had a great weekend of stitching and will post about it as the days unfold.

Happy stitching and many thanks, Gilly

Friday, September 3, 2010

How Raven Wrecked a Wedding

How Raven Wrecked a Wedding.
Once upon a time, last week and next week, Raven was in love with Raia, faithful protector of great warrior Gead. Raven wanted to claim Raia as his own and was always plotting to steal her from Gead.

Gead lived in Deep Dark forest and kept all the enemies of the realm at bay.  He was a fair and much loved warrior. Whenever he returned from battle his father, Spirit Bear, would say to him. "Gead, it is time for you to marry. Remember there is only one wife for you - the fair Glorious who shimmers with all the colours of rosy dawn over Big Lake on a perfect Spring morning". Gead would always respond in this way, "Yes Father I know, but I have not yet earned valor enough at war. When I have been ever braver I will marry". So Gead continued to protect Deep Dark Forest until finally a date for the nuptials was set. Everyone in this magical realm became involved in excited preparations.

Gead allowed himself to relax and enjoy the preparations as he had achieved more valor than any warrior before him. He busied himself, composing his wedding vows, with the help of Raia who knows his heart better than any other. As the pair sat on the shores of Big Lake engrossed in this joyous crafting of words, Raven hatched a plan. Raven knew that Gead could marry no other than the fair Glorious. He thought that if Gead were to marry another then the wrath of Spirit Bear would see Gead exiled. Thus, Raia would be freed and could marry Raven. But Raven never thinks things through, and all his plans go awry. Or do they?

The wedding day arrived, and, under cover of her wedding veil, Raven transformed Raia into a jester. Imagine the horror gasped among all the forest folk when, after the wedding vows were spoken and the veil lifted, there was no Glorious, but in her stead, a jester. A ridiculous jester, with big lips, waiting for a kiss from Gead. Behind a nearby spruce tree a chipmunk thought she saw a smirk flicker over Raven's face. The fear of what would happen next was evident on the faces of all other guests. Not least Gead's. Spirit Bear was at once both furious and disconsolate, because certain promises cannot be broken. This was a most serious transgression.

Gead had been promised to Glorious since before Time began. What shame this brought to Forest Life, which was a comfortable, orderly existence with clear rules. Spirit Bear had no alternative. A punishment must be meted. He took the wedded hand of Gead and blew an ill wind. Instantly Gead felt all power leave him and his hand disappeared from his arm. Gead's mouth involuntarily clamped shut over the jester's springy throat and a violent whirly-whirly of choking red dust whisked the pair up and transported them to Old Mother Emu's Land of Many Suns. Here they stayed, inert as rock, for three hundred years. Gead's hand was unreachable on a distant plain, and jester's garish smile presented a fixed anomaly in this barren land. But what of Raven's plans to have Raia for himself?

After the unveiling of his trick at the wedding Raven had rubbed his wings with glee. "Ha ha", he thought as he sidled up to Raia, "Ha ha, my dear, a tasty morsel for me, now that you are mine". Raia, who can read the thoughts of all creatures took a moment to say, "Raven, you fool, I know what you have done. If you want to marry me you must do what is right and true, as I must do now too". With that Raia vanished in a puff of red dust.

Raia landed in the desert right behind Gead and jester. She kept Gead alert for three hundred years by draining her hearts into his soul of rock. Raia had nearly drained all her hearts and was close to despair when finally Gead had emotion enough to muster one single tear. It was this tear that ultimately drew the attention of Old Mother Emu who knew every drop of water that ever fell in her dry land of red and ochre. Old Mother Emu was so affected by Gead's emotion in her desert that she called upon Rainbow Bird to bring a key with which to free the unhappy pair.

Once free there was much rejoicing between Gead and Glorious who immediately resumed their wedding celebrations. Glorious was returned to all her former splendor and Old Mother Emu was especially pleased because accompanying the beauty of Glorious came the shimmering lights of rosy dawn over Big Lake on a perfect Spring morning. To this day this famous lake is visited annually by thousands of animals and desert folk, where they drink the clear water and become inspired for the better. Gead never regained full use of his hand and an imprint of it can still be seen on the desert plain, as clear as a signpost. In fact, Old Mother Emu chuckles about it on her perambulations. She knows how effective it is in reminding her kingdom about the importance of being honest and true.

Gead and Glorious were happy to stay with Old Mother Emu. They released Raia, who also decided to remain in The Land of Many Suns where she lives now, overflowing with hearts galore, happily married to - yes, you guessed it - Rainbow Bird.

Back in Deep Dark Forest, Spirit Bear heard on the desert wind whispering sounds of joyful celebration, and he realised that Raven had been deceitful once again. Although angry with Raven, Spirit Bear knew that his punishment of Gead was right, because as far as he knew Gead had been disobedient. Being true to oneself as best one can is important. Look at Old Mother Emu walking steadfast onwards and around the scorched desert plains. She is always wise, never doubting her own truth.

You may be wondering what happened to Raven's plan to have Raia for himself? Well - take a close look at the color of the feathers on Rainbow Bird's head. But did not this tale say that Raia can read the thoughts of all creatures? What will happen next?

Happy weekend (long one here) stitching, Gilly

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Morning Meditation

The Three Sisters
I read about an artist, Michel Lefebvre, in an excellent post on 'Working in Quiet Solitude' over at Art Propelled.  Apparently at 5.30 each morning he rises and designs a mixed media collage. He does this as a form of meditation.  I have been wanting to develop a few storycloths to work on rather than focusing on just one at a time. I thought that trying a morning meditation might be just the way for this to happen.  I did not rise at 5.30 am, however I was thinking about 'The Three Sisters' at 5.30 am. I am developing a story around this theme and the above image is my first attempt at communicating part of the story in cloth.  This morning I had a couple of rules:

1) KISS - keep it simple stupid
2) experiment for a limited time with colours and shapes and fabrics.I took about an hour, but for a morning meditation I think 30 minutes all up would be ideal.

I am hoping to gain confidence with taking risks, gain experience with different compositions, shapes, colours, dimensions etc. Also, of course to build a portfolio of sorts. A portfolio of experience.

'The Three Sisters' measures six inches by eight and a quarter inches. I am going to stick with small for awhile.

At close of needle yesterday I had attached bluebird and some flower stalks on 'Bluebird in the Early Morning' (Janet Bolton). It is looking serene. I will make progress posts.

Tomorrow is posting day (barr anything preventing) for 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding'. I am feeling a bit nervous as it is such a long way from professional. But it is a significant achievement for me, and it is a bit quaint I guess. You'll see tomorrow. I told my husband that the best I can say for it is this: 'If I saw it in a thrift store I might buy it'

Well, for those of us who love thrift stores it is not a complete put-down.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Working Small

Bluebird at cut-out stage.
This is my developing version of Janet Bolton's 'Blue Bird in the Early Morning'. I am enjoying working small. It is easier to lay everything out and see what goes where. I am surprised at how small the bits of fabric are. Although I guess it shouldn't really be a surprise. Focusing on the small is a skill I'd like to nurture. Being still enough to see the small. Soak in it.

I am still experimenting here with colours. I spent time last night organising the background fabric. I wanted it to have a slightly pink hue for an early morning atmosphere. I cut beetroot and left it on the cloth overnight, rinsing it away this morning. The result is quite nice - it was already a slightly mottled fabric from a previous dye and now it looks very early morning-ish. Again, it was good to be handling small cloth. I have also pinked a piece of white sheeting which will become the backing cloth for the whole piece.

Beetroot dye for early morning background cloth.

I do not have ready access to pink flowers and so used the beetroot at hand. I would, however love to try pink dyeing from flowers as kaite has so beautifully demonstrated.

At close of needle yesterday I had completed all the pre-wash stitching on 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding'. Now I have washed it and have a last stitch or two to do and then I will post the cloth. Well, there is one element that I will be grateful for some advice on, so at the time of posting, it will not be quite finished but v e e e ry close.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

india flint - BODO cloth

Old Indian pouch close-up.
A travelling friend brought me a wonderful old Indian pouch. I do not know what it would have been used for.  I look at the stitching, the thick thread, the regularity and detail. Who was it for? Why was it made? What conversations, hopes and hurts does it whisper? Then I contemplate the unravelled stitches. Like unravelling another history I wonder who, among my ancestors, stitched, hoped and dreamed for me? Who, long, long ago, prepared the world for my soul? Can I meet them through these Indian stitches? It seems some cloth is quite explicit in the history it carries. An example of this is the traditional Japanese BODO cloth.

I'd like talk further about india's fantastic posting on BODO cloth as I believe it has consequences that go to the heart of my creativity. When presented with such a rich and evocative article it is easy to feel bereft of tradition within our western culture. I have commented that I believe in order to have depth of understanding, empathy, rapport with (women) from diverse cultures, we, in the 'west', need first to plead our own traditions to ourselves. We need to seek them out and wear them as a badge of honour - our own identities. Even in a consumer driven culture we enact significant things that women have done for eons. Yet we feel we have no traditions. Or worse, shallow traditions. But are we really that skint?

It may be exceeding difficult, at first, to find depth of tradition within consumerist society. However, I am sure it is here.  Our own pearl, for each of us to find. I write this because my conviction that we need to uphold our own traditions, whether they be the way our table is set, or the how and why of gift giving, directly impacts creating storycloth. All we believe and do seeps into storycloth.

I see a political aspect to creating storycloth. I cannot avoid it. Through my creations I am making  political comment. The raven as trickster is not unlike consumerism where we are 'tricked' into thinking our existences are so shallow that we need to constantly replenish our souls with some tacky piece of plastic which promises to assuage our emptiness. Consequences meted out by Spirit Bear could be construed as political events. To varying degrees, each of us who makes cloth, creates with cloth, is stitching a testament to tradition and status, western or otherwise.

When faced with the rich, intriguing, seeming unattainable traditions of another culture I ask myself what portal of understanding can this open for me about my own traditions. What can I glean from this that will strengthen my ability to communicate my own depths of ancestral wisdom. As with the BODO cloth, I too, have a long, long unbroken chain of wisdom bearers from which to draw succour and strength. I, too, struggle to remember this truth. Yet I seek it further with each new stitch I make.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Monday, August 30, 2010

Janet Bolton Exercise

Simple, small and beautiful.
I will need to choose more colour fragments for this.
This morning I have chosen to make this Janet Bolton exercise from her book 'Patchwork Folk Art ' (2009). The piece is titled 'Bluebird in the Early Morning ' and has dimensions of 9 x 3 and a half inches. I want to work through this small piece for several reasons, the main one being that I want to experience making something so small, to see if it suits me better than consructing larger pieces. I am also so taken with Bolton's designs that I thought perhaps some of her gift might rub off on me if I do a copy. Ha ha. Another reason is that if I can discipline myself to match fabric and tones with her choices then I could almost be guaranteed of having one decent present to give at Christmas time. To these ends, I have selected, washed, and ironed a small range of fabrics I had at hand which may work for this picture.

At close of weekend needle yesterday, I am happy to say, I had almost completed 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding'. Not sure what day exactly, but some day this week I will post it.  Overall, I am glad I continued through to the final embellishing stage as I enjoyed it very much. It really has not ended up as I had imagined. But if truth be known I didn't really have an imagination about its finality. I just have a small amount of embellishing left to do. I also have to adjust to moving on to another story. I am wondering whether it may not be better to have several storycloths on the go. Less intense perhaps, and that way there is always something in process when one construction ends.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still Center

Bark Beetle

Last weekend we walked past this tree whilst hiking through a dry forest area. A recent wind storm had felled several trees, including magnificent twin cedars, though the tree photographed above perhaps toppled for other reasons. Maybe the trails of bark beetle larvae indicate why it is no longer facing the sky.  On a hike in nature, or in the city, or anywhere really, it is possible to see beauty. One could fill a camera with images every day. The dilemma I have at times is to choose what to pause the hike for in order to photograph. There is balance to walking, stopping, photographing - three separate aspects of a hike.

As I said we walked past this tree and I then had second thoughts and we re-traced our steps and took this photograph. I was initially attracted to the organic, purposeful rambles of the larvae. I think these patterns are marvellous. However, on closer observation the central area from which the larvae tracks emanate is discernible. It is this area which has captured my imaginings.

A mother beetle lays her eggs in a spot under the bark. The eggs hatch into larvae and eat their way onwards, through, and outwards, drawing nourishment from the tree, eventually pupating and flying off to lay their eggs in another tree. Cycles. Many metaphors can be extrapolated from this process. I have thought about it in several ways, for example, motherhood, friendships, words, cloth making. I have wondered if underlying all these aspects of  life there is a word that best fits the still centre deep inside, for a woman, anyway. If there is, perhaps that word is 'fertility'.

Fertility is a beautiful word. Over-full with bounty, promise, hope, progeny. Often I have visualised the still centre inside myself as calm, tranquil, strong. Imagined it as a vast lake on a day when the wind is not low enough to jiggle the surface - still, deep, without a ripple. Seamless. But I wonder if my still centre is not better described as a burgeoning place where an infinity of action, propogation, cycles and strength exalt in life together. Maybe my still centre is more a seed centre - fertile, vibrating, generative.

At close of needle yesterday I was about halfway through joining the backing cloth to the main cloth. I am using about one centimetre invisible basting. I feel I need to do this for the layers to adhere well and so I can see more clearly what to do next regarding final embellishment. Some time was taken up with some adjustments I realised I wanted to make to the main storycloth before adding the backing.

I anticipate that the whole storycloth of 'How Raven Wrecked A Wedding' will be posted next week.

Happy weekend stitching, Gilly

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Hand

Gead's hand, which, to this day, can be seen in the Land of Many Suns.
It had been decreed before Time began that Gead must marry the fair Glorious who shimmers with all the colors of rosy dawn over Big Lake on a perfect Spring morning. Raven tricked Gead's father, Spirit Bear, into thinking Gead had married the wrong person. Spirit Bear was so angry at what he thought was his son's disobedience that he punished both Gead and his new wife (who was really Glorious in jester form). Spirit Bear held Gead's wedded hand, and blew an ill wind, a whirly-whirly of red dust over the shamed couple.  Gead's hand was instantly removed and flung to a far rock in the Land of Many Suns, a parched and magical land overseen by Old Mother Emu. The wedded couple also vanished on the wind, transported to the Land of Many Suns, where they remained inert as rock for three hundred years.

The backing cloth is finished and ready to attach. I can imagine completion now. Well, almost. I am finding it difficult to know what stitching to do as a final embellishment. The design is busy and I want to tone it down rather than rev it up. First things first though, and that means today is the day for attaching the backing to the main storypiece.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home without Walls

Rainbow Bird bringing the key to release Gead and Glorious.
I found it curious yesterday, whilst commenting on jude's page, that I referred to this blog as 'over home'. It seemed so natural for these words to tumble out. Many years ago I read somewhere (and so cannot reference unfortunately) of a visitor to Virginia Woolf's residence, writing that he/she felt physically prevented from entering Virginia's study, so strong was the emanation of Virginia's spirit. I remember at the time, I was only young, wondering at how a person could so suffuse an environment with a sense of themselves that others perceived a physical barrier to entry. Over the years I have developed some strengths in  relaxing into myself, submitting to myself, knowing myself. In fact, relatively recently I recognised a desire to have my very own workroom, both for study and storycloth. Maybe one day that will happen. So, perhaps it is unremarkable, it is certainly with delight, that the words 'over home' tumbled out yesterday. Writing this blog, organising my thoughts, documenting my storycloth, sharing with a wonderful community, feels really, really good. It feels like home.

Cloth-wise, yesterday was great. I had one of those arcs in a creative cycle where things seem to fall into place. By this I refer to more than putting this particular cloth together. I also made progress laying down some foundations from which I will draw principles in future design work. At close of needle yesterday the backing cloth was almost ready to attach. Today, I have an inclination to add a little more in a couple of areas.

So the process takes longer than I have estimated each day. The fun in expansion, contraction, meditation as I 'hop-scotch' along the path the cloth takes me, is another story in itself. A long drink of mountain water. Storycloth.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Backing Cloth Breakthrough

Old Mother Emu

I am very glad I decided to continue working on 'How Raven Wrecked a Wedding' because, after trying several different backing cloths, I found one that seems to tie in all the disparate elements of the storycloth. It makes such a huge difference, I am amazed. Old Mother Emu is one of the reasons for my enlarging the cloth, in order to incorporate her. The story moves from Deep Dark Forest to a hot, dry land, you can guess where.  I am an Australian living in Canada and it feels good to have a story that spans both lands.

Today, I am going to attach the backing fabric. I will think about final touches such as stitches, small pieces of cloth that I might add. I am hoping that with the backing cloth added it will become clearer what more I need to do. It is not an ideal composition but it is eye catching and, I hope, not for all the wrong reasons. I will post the whole cloth soon.

Time permitting today I am also hoping to construct the background of a much smaller cloth and see how that compares to working the current raven storycloth. Can't wait.

Happy stitching, Gilly

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sizing It Up

Glorious after Raven's trick changed her appearance.
This weekend I thought about the size of cloth with which I work. After reading Janet Bolton's book (last post) and noting that her finished works, unframed, are small, I realised there must be good reason for this. Afterall, she is an acclaimed artist in the field. I also realised anew that many of Jude's works are of small dimension too. Likewise, she is an expert in her field. So why is it, I asked myself, that as a novice, I tend to become entangled in much larger cloth?

There are clear advantages to a smaller cloth: less stitches, less to undo or discard if necessary, and less 'loss of face' to oneself if ending up scrapping the whole project, easier to change little bits of colour, a stitch here or there, alter a section of border, less waste of fabric trying things out. There is psychologically less risk with designing smaller cloth - especially for a cautious beginner. So why would it be that when the psychological cards seem stacked in favour of small cloth I lean towards the larger, unwieldy cloth? Just the fact the results are quicker, one would think, would be incentive enough to learn with small cloth. I think the answer lies in a deeply rooted drive towards clutter that plagues my creativity. Small cloth limits clutter and that is scary.

I see it like this: a small cloth, say 6 inches by 6inches, immediately restricts. The designs I have in my mind have several main characters and because I am not yet making one or the other more main (in my mind and design plans), I want to spatter each of  them respectfully all over the cloth. Physical spatial necessity dictates that I gravitate to a larger cloth, which I guess, makes an unwieldy attempt at story expression certain of achieving unwieldiness in cloth form.

This is what has happened to my current work - "How Raven Wrecked a Wedding". Furthermore, to ensure that all characters are included, I have added cloth, thus making it even bigger. While it is not huge at approximately, 20 x 15 inches, it feels that I have lost the plot, so to speak. These things in themselves are not bad - they show flexibility, awareness of design, and desire to communicate.  However, I wonder if I would be able to project the essence of a story on a much smaller cloth? I wonder if tending towards bigger, more difficult cloth is in a way self-sabotage because there is less chance of being successful (balance, hue, projection, eliciting of response). Perhaps I am scared of success.

I am going to work on this cloth, as it is, today, then leave it for awhile and try a few experimental small pieces. Some exercises in design. See what I can find out about myself.

Oh, I have so many things to say, I am busting. I'll get them out in good time though.

Have the best stitching day, Gilly.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Raia, Keeper of Gead's Heart
Raia has prominent placement in this storycloth, which now has a title: How Raven Wrecked a Wedding. The consideration of composition is foremost in my mind today. I have completed all the characters and realise the competing pressures for what /who is included, where and how they are placed on the storycloth. I have three main influences to balance and counterbalance: the told story, the visual impact, and my propensity towards clutter.

In this regard I received a timely gift yesterday, Patchwork Folk Art by Janet Bolton (2009). Bolton takes the reader through her creative process step by step. I am very attracted to her work which is steeped in innocence of form and comprises simple, quality cloth. Her designs have great impact, perhaps similar to that of a haiku poem. In a chapter titled 'Composition - Arranging Your Shapes'  Bolton writes:

" Working around themes has real advantages, for as you are arranging your compositon many possibilities will present themselves, and the temptation is to try to put them all in the same picture. This can make your work too complicated and overcrowded. If you are working on a number of pictures within one theme, it leaves you relaxed knowing that you will probably find a home for all your ideas. With many ideas in store, your work will develop in a purposeful way".  

Today I will be thinking about this a little more, and if need be, I will put this cloth away for awhile. I like the idea of not panicking if I don't cram everything on one cloth - but that is hard for me. Removal of certain items is like pulling a tooth. However, overriding all other considerations, is my desire to communicate story with cloth. So I am motivated to explore, progress and make the best storycloth I can. Grace, over at Windthread, is also working on placement.

Fantastic book - thanks Mum.
Happy stitching,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Story Begins

Gead of the Deep Dark Forest

Meet Spirit Bear's son, Gead, bravest warrior in the Deep Dark Forest. Long before time began it was decreed that when the time was right he would marry the beautiful Glorious. But, of course, Raven has other ideas...

I am showing a close-up here of Gead's face and importantly his tear, which ultimately saves him from being fixed in rock forever. The story will emerge over the ensuing days as I post more characters. Then I will post the whole cloth, which is nowhere near completion yet.

The cloth for Gead's face is a lovely piece of canvas that I must have had in the compost bag. It has a beautifully marked area that naturally formed his eye. The remains of his battle helmet is embroidered cheesecloth that is wonderful to use. It, too, was composted and washed.  It became very soft and pliable. It is very easy to manipulate whereas the canvas face was quite tough to get the needle through. You can probably see that I have tried some of the stitches jude recommended from her beasts class. It was great fun developing this character as he just fell into place. In fact this whole storycloth so far has been wonderful fun.

Happy stitching, Gill

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Acknowledgement ( a bit formal I know)

Welcome to Storycloth.
This opening post is dedicated to all women, from every time and culture, and their teachings. In this I must acknowledge my Anglo-Saxon heritage: my mother who still teaches me, and my grandmothers who, from the other side of life (so to speak), continue to teach me love of creation. How to make something beautiful, useful, precious. How to find what I need. How to seek the story of cloth.
I acknowledge the process of teaching cloth with this excerpt from bell hooks’ “belonging: a culture of place”(2009). bell writes to give voice to the quilting stories of black women. She speaks here of her grandmother, Baba.
“Baba did not read or write. She worked with her hands. She never called herself an artist. It was not one of her words. Even if she had known it, there might have been nothing in the sound or meaning to interest, to claim her wild imagination. Instead she would comment, “I know beauty when I see it”. She was a dedicated quiltmaker – gifted, skilful, playful in her art, making quilts for more than seventy years, even after her “hands got tired”, and her eyesight was “quitting”. It is hard to give up the work of a lifetime, and yet she stopped making quilts in the years before her dying. Almost ninety she stopped quilting. Yet she continued to talk about her work with any interested listener. Fascinated by the work of her hands, I wanted to know more, and she was eager to teach and instruct, to show me how one comes to know beauty and give oneself over to it. To her, quiltmaking was a spiritual process where one learned to surrender. It was a form of meditation where the self was let go. This was the way she had learned to approach quiltmaking from her mother. To her it was an art of stillness and concentration, a work which renewed the spirit.”
Having been brought up in Australia and now living in Canada, I acknowledge the creations of all indigenous women who weave story cloths with ancient truths. I express my gratitude to these women for every stitch, every spindle, every woven reed, every care taken with the environment.
I hope through ‘Storycloth’ to learn well my own truths, explore my understandings, contribute to the fertile garden of women creating cloth.
And a thanks to Grace, Penny, Kate and Nandas who have encouraged me, and to jude hill and all in her fantastic 'beasts' class. Not sure how to do links yet - or to transfer photos from the camera. So - soooon I will post a pic or two.