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