The Stitchbook

The Scrapbook collective was orgainised by Helen Birmingham , from Untangled Threads.

It was a big project, started in 2019, finally completed by me in 2021. Along the way there has been the pandemic which put paid to the exhibiton these books were to appear in November 2020 at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. They may or may not have their chance to shine in 2021. From my point of view it has been a massive undertaking, probably bigger than I anticpated, and not helped by a house move and two failed house moves- but that’s life, it happens. I’m writing this post to try to order my thoughts and think about what next.

I had always wondered what the term mixed media means, and I certainly have a clearer idea with several of the packs introducing me to completely new things.

I also wanted to find out what inspired me, and yes I have a much clearer idea of that too.

There was the chance to undertake a second year of these projects, but after careful reflection I prefer now to try to find my own voice. Time alone will tell.

The project began with a starter kit , to get us used to slow stitching, and to give a flavour of the packs to come. Each pack contained full instructions and the materials needed to complete the work. Online videos were provided to supplement the instructions- password protected.

Slow stitching- right hand page.

Each technique has two parts- one where you are learning, and the second where you compose a piece using the technique, and building on the ones that have gone before. So the double page spreads- are left side, original work, right side practice piece. They are mounted onto a page which holds a pocket- either for other sample pieces, but in my case I shall keep the teaching materials that came with the relevant pack.

Left hand page- slow stitching, right hand texture

I enjoyed the starter pack enormously, especially making a collage using the materials provided- the sea is one of my favourite subjects for stitch.

The first proper pack for the book was called Texture, and we learned how to create texture using different stitches and threads. I really enjoyed this page.

Left- Texture collage. Right- Pleats

I loved stitching the collages – my pack neatly divided into two colours- the top one was my reaction to the heather which blooms during August on the North Yorkshire Moors, the bottom one, sunsets. Heather and Sunsets never fail to inspire me. At the time I was really pleased with the two collages, now less so.. not sure why.

Next up was Pleats- I loathed this box. I don’t do well with careful measuring and folding, but I managed it, and consequently feel quite pleased with the results.

Left. making a framed picture Right rust dyed collage

The second part of the pleats box was to create a framed picture- I went with a woodland scene and the sides looked so like a stage setting I added a pleated curtain- I’m still quite pleased with this page.

The next box had us dyeing fabric- this was my rust dyed piece. The rust marks reminded me of a Big Pit in South Wales, formerly a coal pit, now a living museum- I went with a death and decay look- still love this page.

Left dyed fabric collage- Right Joomchi

I like the simplicity of the turquoise fabric- one of my very favourite colours. As a technique it was one of the scarier ones, involving chemicals and dire warnings, but resulting in a kitchen full of drying pretties.

The next box used mulberry paper to create a multi layered “fabric”. This box was not very popular with the group as a whole. However I have a big stash of mulberry paper and had a right good time splashing water and making holes. I may well try this again.

Left Joomchi collage- Right geli plate fabric collage

For all the fun I had with joomchi I’m less keen on this piece- too much is too much.

Next up was geli plate- universally popular with us learners. Take one ready made geli plate- loosely paint a back ground , wipe off a bit, press down fabric, brilliant back ground fabric- I kept going till I ran out of fabric- I’d do this again like a shot.

Left- geli print collage- Right image transfer

Love my geli print- it was hard to choose just two.

Next box was image transfer- very disappointing all round, including for Helen Birmigham- a lot of us didn’t possess the right computer printer to transfer photos to fabric, we had to rely on photocopies etc

Lets’s just say I did it.

Left image transfer butterfly, Right Visible darning

I just don’t like the plastic butterfly. The background is ok.

I was really looking forward to visible darning, all that lovely running stitch. I hated this box almost as much as the pleating. Not only didn’t I like the colours, I was moving house, and so it sat around for months.

Left – what can I say, Right- tyvek

I loathed the colours of the sari silk in the darning box, and the wretched stuff frayed so much it drove me up the pole- but I got a grip and did it.

Tyvek- the white stuff the forensic bods wear to do their stuff on a crime scene. Well this was seriously weird, paint and melt. But I quite liked the results and the challenge of creating a collage. My paints are getting pretty old these days, lockdown etc, I just went with what I had, and actually I quite like the resulting collages.

Left Collage with Tyvek, Right kunim felt

In fact this tyvek collage is one of my favourites- I just love the bling.

Next up Kunim felt- a special felt to melt into flowers- very quick, and rather nice to do. I was at first appalled at the garish colours, but once done I quite like them. Sadly you can only buy this felt in the States and for some reason I forget now it’s not obtainable. Shame.

Left Kunim felt collage- right couching

The background fabrics were included in the box- they just said garden to me- it’s ok.

Couching- I like couching- but here we were to use couching to produce writing. The hours I spent agonising on what words to produce- background fabrics were provided, but I was by now very hung up on the words needing to go with felt collage on the opposite page. Well I got there, but the result is somewhat clunky.

Left Bayeaux stitch- right faux chenille

Part two of the couching box was to produce a tree using bayeaux stitch within a frame. Whilst some students got hung up on drawing a tree it was designing a frame that had me stuck– thank goodness for TV when a programme had a mirror hung on a wall to inspire me. Not sure I did the stitch right but I like what I did.

Next up is faux chenille- basically scraps of fabric ripped to shreds. What’s not to like- easy to do and very satisfying.

Left – faux chenille- right weaving.

I even quite like the white faux chenille although I did sneak some colours in.

Finally weaving- again everyone loved this, even me- my favourite colours, and very very satisfying- good to go out on a high.

Left weaving- Right inside of back cover.

I even liked weaving over a hole- I might do it again.

The covers were all our own work, so for the inside I used up as many similiar colours to the weaving and as many stitches as I could think of that we had tried. I added the word stitch- but not with couching!

Back and Front Covers

I wanted the covers to reflect the whole experience- rust dyed backgrounds- think I got a bit carried away as the rusty objects are now very clean and rust free!

Constructing the whole thing was very challenging- my two least favourite things- measuring and cutting fabric, but tis done.

I’m jolly glad I took part, and I mostly enjoyed myself -well out of my comfort zone! I ‘m not very happy with simple abstract pieces, I like things to mean something to me. Landscape and colours attract me, so what next I wonder?

Author: nanacathy2

We recently moved house to Wiltshire to be closer to family. This means I have a lovely new area to explore and being retired time to enjoy my family, the garden, walking, reading, crafting, history and life in general.

25 thoughts on “The Stitchbook”

  1. Well done, Cathy! What a wide-ranging set of projects for you to have tried. It’s going to be very interesting to see what pops up in your thinking for future projects, as you inwardly digest and reflect on all your experiences. Time has a way of sifting things sometimes and we can’t necessarily predict what might come to the surface as a perfect solution for a future project. You’ve grown your artistic experiences tremendously, which might be why some things no longer appeal. Jolly well done! ๐Ÿ’•

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  2. “create, share, learn” perfectly sum up what this experience has been for you! I’ve enjoyed watching you tackle each new challenge, and applaud you! It’s not something I would do myself, because I like to learn only one new thing at a time lol and would probably not have risen to the challenge of trying out so many new skills. But what a great sense of achievement you must feel !

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    1. I think my main feeling is actually relief that I made it to the end, despite everything else going on around me. I’m glad I did it, and I loved some of the boxes, but not all. Looking forward to doing new things.

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  3. Thank you for talking us through your book and the processes. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, relating to so much of it as I have done this Stitchbook as well. The sense of community and shared expereince has been my favourite bit of the whole thing – especially valuable under the circumstances.
    I applaud you being able to continue through and after your house moving – I’m pretty sure I would have given up.
    Love your book.
    Now to finish mine – nearly there. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It has been quite an undertaking. The Facebook group was terrific- seeing how people did their covers helped a lot too. Looking forward to seeing yours. Was greatly relieved to have my email from Helen confirming a safe arrival in Scarborough.

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  4. It was interesting reading which you liked and which you didn’t, I loved trying all the different things, but some I wouldn’t go out of my way to try again – I didn’t have much success with gel plates where as yours are lovely! I think it pushed everyone out of their comfort zone and you have a book to be proud of.

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    1. I was lucky with the gel plate to have some acrylic paint that performed well. I think I would have prefered to use proper fabric products though rather than mixed media. I really loved your finished book.

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  5. It’s like an art foundation course: you spend a year trying everything to see what you like best and where your strengths lie. Now you know what isn’t for you and what is, you’ve made something interesting and pretty along the way, and you know what not to bother with. Life is short, art is long, go with the good stuff!

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    1. Wise words Kate, as always. I definetly prefer more stitching and less scary stuff. When you go to shows there is so much stuff that I have no idea what it is, I was keen to try in small quantities. I certainly prefer more stitch and less chemicals and warnings! I have three nice new projects to go at now, plus another big finish to do, so am pretty content.

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  6. I so enjoyed seeing your pages and reading your thoughts about your experiences! What a huge undertaking this was! Your willingness to leave your comfort zone and try these new things is quite inspirational, I am pretty sure that the first box would have left me on the floor in a heap!

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  7. I am so impressed with this accomplishment. It would have scared me silly. WAY outside my comfort zone too. I’ve always wanted to make a fabric mixed media journal. Yours is so full of color and so eclectic that each page is fascinating. Maybe once I get some projects done that are waiting, I’ll try something similar. I like the idea of it coming in a kit and doing it with others. You can be quite proud of this stitch book.

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    1. Thank you for this very nice comment which I really appreciate. I was out of my comfort zone a lot- I would have liked more emphasis on stitching though, but at least I got to try lots of stuff without having to buy huge amounts.

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  8. Hey Missus – I seem to remember you telling us you don’t feel brave enough to try new things these days!!
    What a good exercise this has been for you to learn new things and find out what appeals and what doesn’t and what you might try again in future projects. Plus you have a lovely little book to keep. A real useful thing to have done.

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    1. Thanks Tialys. I was a gibbering wreck by the time I had figured out how to bind it and make the covers- it’s taken about four days to recover. I plan on keeping on with new stuff and scaring myself as often as possible- helps me know I am still alive.
      I expect I shall have enjoyed the stitchbook a lot more in a few months time when I forget the trauma of some of the boxes!

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  9. I love this! I have wanted to do slow stitching for a long time and reading your posts and then looking up some of the other participants has me thinking about maybe doing my own stitch book. Thank you so much for all the details.

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  10. Oh my goodness – Cathy! This is amazing. I love what you can do with needle and thread. And I didn’t know you had a second blog, so I’ll be following this one, too!

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  11. love the finished book, what a treasure and so useful to refer back to. Love your plan to scare yourself as much as possible. All your pages are alive and fresh, it really pays to force yourself to work outside the box. Fabulous, one-of-a-kind art, never to be repeated. Well done, keep moving forward.

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