Monday, July 4, 2011

hand stitched ...

I'm drawn to handstitching. Its a slow methodical process and in my case its not fussy nor fancy. I am self taught. My sewing looks like I'm stabbing the cloth and in some cases my fingers. I have a repertoire of about five stitches ... in and out (running stitch), tidy edge stitch (blanket stitch), one that looks like branches (feather stitch, I think), seed stitch which looks like its name and xxx's (cross stitch).

I'm not a strong artist. I've been making myself draw everyday for at least half an hour to strengthen my skills. I work by instinct. I respond to things when I hold them in my hands. I draw on my memories and experiences and work and work until something starts to surface.

Above are details of one of two long slow cloths (approx 1.5m x 1.5m) that I've been pootling with for a while now. I pick them up and in my spare time, I stitch on them, then grow weary of them, so away they go, until I'm compelled to pick them up again. One is almost two years old.

I enjoy the feel of cloth in my fingers, the bunching of it and then smoothing it back out. No pins are used. I just attach bits as I go, and my cloth grows upwards and outwards made from small pieces of salvaged cloth. . My husband is quietly frustrated at times because I can't for the life of me sew a hem for him. I take them to a friend who lives next door who's a whizz on her machine.

I use all kimono fabric gleaned from Asia Gallery. I love the cloth I find there because its old, marked and made from natural fibres: hemp, linen, silk, cotton, and wool. I'm just adding another chapter to the narrative that already exists in the cloth. Tripping across the top with my marks.

I have recently reorganised my sewing things into an old toolbox and enjoy rummaging through my things. I love collecting old wooden cotton reels, bobbins, needle books and pincushions as well as fashioning my own. I have jars of vintage buttons that I own just for the pure pleasure of having them and several times a week, my son Knuckles and I tip them out, play shops with them or just sort them into size, colours, shapes and into little pottery containers also garnered from Asia Gallery. I'm also the owner of this little beauty (click on link to see)

Buttons, little treasures that I find on my regular jaunt through our local thrift stores or along our shore here in Titahi Bay. Buttons that wash up in the tide probably due to the water treatment plant around the corner where the grey water from washing machines is drained. The local tides do the rest, dumping them in one small area along the shore, sometimes finding up to 50 buttons at a time. I have one whole jar dedicated to my beach buttons alone. Those and my thrifted shell buttons are my prize ones.

Yes indeedy, I enjoy working with a needle and thread, each stitch a decision in its placement and existence. I love my collection of old cloth, wondering as I sew who owned them and used them and reused them. I love vintage sewing accoutrements and paraphenalia, like a magpie, drawn to the tools of a stitcher. How about you? What draws you? What compels you to surround yourself with what you have around you?
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india flint said...

ha ha, am glad to see that you understand the value and pleasure of 'pootling' as well

Martine said...

What draws me is similar to your Rachelle, the simple love for cloth, color and doing. I gather my treasures on the french brocantes each summer and i do so for almost 15 years. I love handstitching but what the heck is 'pootling'?

Claire said...

Old thread, silk twist. What you say is all very familiar to me... Your blog is lovely.

Lynda Howells said...

Thank you for sharing this with us..beautiful blogx l too collect old clothes but not as beautiful as yours..l wish we had a place that sold old kimono's etc. I also have a collection of old buttons which l use to decorate my hand stitched eco cloth. Glad l found your blog..thanks to India x lynda
photo diary......

Liz LaSorsa said...

Enjoyed reading your blog. Mostly though, I enjoyed knowing how some of us are so similar in our passions. But mostly, mostly....I will now begin using the xxxx stitch : ) I can't believe I have been stitching for most of my life and have never taken advantage of such a simple and beautiful stitch. Thanks. Liz

Ahipara Girl said...

@ Indi, did I get that word 'pootling' from you? I must have. I use it all the time.

@ Martine, 'POOTLING' is what one does when dilly dallying around a secondhand shop, or playing with cloth and thread for instance. You may pootle in your garden, my husband loves to pootle with his computers, and my son, his guitar. Just ambling around doing what we love to do. I do not consider doing the dishes pootling. Indeed, its irksome and tiresome, therefore one can only concur, 'pootling' is doing something one loves to do without a care in the world.

@ Claire, thank you.

@ Lynda, thank you and yes, we are blessed to have resources in our area like Asia Gallery. I have learned though, that with an eye for adventure and discovery, treasure can be found everywhere. I love my city, but I bet if I came where you live, there'd be amazing things to be found too.

@Liz, I love those xxx's. I've come to think of them as the needle (and therefore myself) kissing the cloth, putting love into an item or if I'm making something for someone perhaps a few prayers go into it as well. Its a whole love language. I had heard about blessing quilts or prayer quilts (they have a special name that I can't quite recall), but the whole thing is that they are made to bless and as they are made, they are prayed over. I went to a local little church group where the women were blessing one. They make them for the elderly, infirmed, and sick. They had one for a little baby. It was very moving and I was brought back to the fact that some of us do what we do for pure pleasure but there can be so many layers and purposes that come from something so simple as caring for others with what we hold in our hands. Simply put, using what we have to be a blessing in this world. xxx