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?


So onto the last box for the Stitchbook project. Having followed the progress of others on the facebook page I knew that it seemed to be universally loved. I had done weaving on my City and Guilds creative embroidery course using a box for a loom so I was pretty confident about this .

The weaving project box from Untangled Threads.

I loved the colours of the materials- one thing I have learned in this Stitchbook project is that loving the colours makes a task so much more enjoyable- I have really struggled when I disliked them.

First task was to turn a box into a loom and make the warp- then start weaving.

Loom in action.
Adding in fabric.

I found it hard to keep the warp taut and had to keep pushing the sides of the box away from me. I was pleased that I managed to keep it relatively straight at the edges.

Off the loom now, and adding beads at the bottom.
I backed it onto some hand dyed felt.
The finished page.

The final project was pin weaving- this was new to me. You mark up a piece of card, draw a shape, add pins and there’s a loom.

The pin loom.
on the loom

It was obvious to me that I had made my piece rather on the big side- there would not be sufficient warp thread to do more little shapes as others had done- never mind.

Onto the backing fabric.

If I could only make one shape which would be the last page in the stitchbook and the first that anyone would see if we ever do have the chance to exhibit them, I tried to make it as impactful as I could. It’s backed onto another piece of hand dyed felt.

And there it is- my last box completed- just four more pieces need for the covers- quite looking forward to having total free rein on these and revisiting some techniques from previous boxes.

Couching and Laid Work

The first part of this box was couching, and the task was to couch words and create a sampler. We were given a list of suggested words that we could trace on to fabric- but these seemed a bit trite to me- good words like Love and Family but rather hackneyed. I wanted to come up with my own. It took me ages to find some I was happy with.

In the end I decided to create a background and see if anything suggested itself to me , and fortunately it did.

The colours made me think of sunsets ( too obvious a word), and so twilight suggested itself to me. And I suppose because we are still busy renovating the garden, gardens suggested themselves to me. From there came the idea of a secret assignation. Secret was fine but assignation would have been a lot of couching, and so I thought of tryst which is a much better word.

The left hand side looked a little bare till I came across some fabric scraps.

Quite pleased with how it turned out.

The second task was laid work- but not the kind I was used to. We were going to do Bayeux stitch, based on the Bayeux tapestry, which of course is an embroidery and not a tapestry.

Helen suggested we drew a tree like these in the leaflet which were used as full stops in the narrative of the tapestry. I wasn’t keen on them, looked like bonsai trees which look as unnatural as can be. I would draw an ordinary tree trunk and branches.

Then came the dilemna of how to frame it on the page. I was watching TV one night and one of the scenes had a mirror which had a lovely blue and yellow border. But I had insufficient thread left to do this, so I compromised with what remained.

I quite like this, it reminds me a little of a stained glass window.

I enjoyed doing this box a lot as it was all stitching. But I am not keen on using couching for words- back stitch is much neater, nor did I like this laid work which seems quite clumpy. However it’s all a learning experience.

Stitching landscapes

I really enjoyed this months Stitchbook box. The gel printing was quite straight forward and very satisfying. Next stage to add some stitching.

I started with this one ripping the brighter of the two prints and applying it to the second and hence less bright piece.

And that’s it stitched. Next I laid a second print over its counterpart the brighter first print

and stitched into this

I think these two are my favourites. The next one was the print in which scrim had been used as a resist.

It didn’t seem to lend itself to much stitching so I stopped.

This is the last one with the brighter first print over the second lighter one.

Now I have to choose which two to put in the stitchbook.

Any thoughts please? I think I shall try this technique in the futre to see what I can do with it.



Gel Plate Printing

Another new skill to learn this month from my Untangled Threads Stitchbook Collection box.

We were provided with a ready made gel plate, acrylic paint , fabric and thread. Brief to paint a simple landscape and an abstract and print onto the fabric and stitch. For years I have collected magazine pictures, so I searched through them and found three landscapes I thought might work. As to abstract , I would have to wing it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The first print is on the left, second on the right and I had added somered and yellow. I much prefer the second print. We were supposed to spray water and do a third print, but there was virtually no paint left on the plate, so I just over printed onto the second piece. The suggestion is to tear one piece and stitch it onto the second I have to decide if it would be better to tear the one I like- the second, or the one I find garish and use it to highlight the other.

Again I only got two pieces from this sample. I like the first brighter piece. But again the dilemna of which to tear and which to keep whole.

This may be my least favourite, so I may start with this as I learn how it stitches up.

We were given some scrim and shown how to use this to take up the paint and mask the calico in a print.. I left some of the scrim without paint, and I think this will be fun to play with the stitches.

Finally an attempt at abstract.

We’ll say no more about this.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon making these prints. Next onto some stitching. Love to hear if anyone has tried gel plate printing, and any tips gratefully received.


Joomchi- part one

Joomchi is the art of felting mulberry paper. Who knew you could felt paper, let alone it was so much fun to play with paper and water.

I’ll be honest I was disappointed with the selection of papers in my latest Untangled Thread box. One sheet each of orange and black and three near identical ones of green. The thread colours didn’t thrill me either, red and green- far too Christmassy for my taste.

However as it happens I have quite a nice selection of mulberry papers in colours I like, so I knew I could move onto them once I had the tecnhique under my belt.

Joomchi is a Japanese art form and the word translates as “eager hands.” Basically it’s just like wet felting wool but much quicker and easier. Helen Birmingham has made a wonderful video showing how to do this, which sadly I can’t share, you have to buy her box of delights for access.

If you can wet felt wool you can do this, just don’t need washing up liquid, or quite so much water and physical effort.

And you can create the most magnificent effects. I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

and build up collages.

And now it’s onto the stitching- yes stitching paper!

Dyed Fabric collage

Task- to use procian dyes with different fabrics to observe “take up” of dyes. Create a collage from the the three materials- muslin, calico and polycotton sheeting. stitch with floss dyed at the same time.

I enjoyed this exercise a lot. I felt confident with the dyeing process , and I loved the slow stitching- no profound thoughts this time, just mindfullness.

I felt very tranquil whilst I made this.

Stitching on rust dyed fabric.

The brief for the rust dyed fabric was to stitch into the surface of the fabric, remembering to let the fabric do the talking. Often I have found myself in the stitchbook imposing myself on the material with some pre-conceived ideas. This time I wanted the fabric and the rust marks to really speak to me.

The piece will be stitched onto a calico page , so my first thought was to find a backing fabric which complemented the rust dyed fabric. I had a piece of black denim left over from my single attempt to make dungarees for a grandson which did the trick. I frayed it a bit and trapped the pulled threads with some fabric and netting left over from the Texture box.

I choose some floss to stitch with.

I began to stitch with  simple running stitch around the marks. I loved the negative space  which I hadn’t noticed before.

As I stitched up the fabric I noticed that the rusty screws from our garage had left not vertical lines like the nails but horizontal ones, my stitching changed direction.

As I looked at my piece I began to think that the fabric looked like an industrial landscape,one that had been abandoned, left to rust and decay.

Big Pit in Wales- now a museum, once a thriving pit. I thought of the lost lives, the unfinished working lives, the forgotten dreams and aspirations, the broken communities.

All in tatters. I added the off cuts from the rust dyed fabric, and some gathers.

If we forget the past , we will repeat the mistakes, remembering the past is the key to the future.

When to stop stitching , when is a piece finished?  I don’t know if more stitches would be good or bad , so I stopped, just as the miners did at Big Pit. Unfinished? Maybe.

I call it Tattered Lives.


Staining and Dyeing Fabric

So it is onto staining with rusty objects and dyeing with Procion MX dyes for the Stitchbook Collective. Just for the record I am now totally out of my comfort zone. The moment  instructions say measure and mix I have had it. Total panic for a few days, followed by hours of watching the amazing video which comes with the pack and reading the written instructions. Then copious notes and working out in what order to do everything, and where in our small kitchen. Eventually I bit the bullit and got on with it.

Pre soaking in vinegar followed by making a wonderful rusty parcel.

Pre soaking fabric while the dyeing of another piece happens in the old saucepan. I used an old tray covered in plastic and kitchen towel and managed to contain spills with no mishaps.

Drying the fabric by the kitchen door.

Before ironing it all.

Honestly I am so thrilled with myself.

But it wasn’t till I wound the dyed floss

That I was so overwhelmed by things that I cried at success.

Next stage is to start stitching. For once I have absolutely no ideas and so will be slow stitching mindfully as I let the fabric dictate what happens.

Stitchbook- edges

We were asked to create a frame from fabric, give it an edge and stitch anything of our own choice in the middle. I very much wanted to incorporate both pleats and gathers and techniques from the previous boxes.

I really enjoyed doing the gather in the first sample, they reminded me of the gills in fungi.

So I tried to make a mushroom- husband says it looks like a chef’s hat!

The Stitchbook project is begining to show me what inspires me- it’s the natural world- so far its been- the sea, heather moors, sunsets and woodlands. I am learning about myself as well as slow stitching.