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Pattern and the power of making

I’ve been thinking on and off for a few years now about how important *pattern* is to me. How I’ve always loved knitting, crochet, embroidery, beadwork where there is a rhythm to it. A repetition that is meditative.

But also about how I like coincidence in my life. How spotting a pattern in events or my surroundings is pleasing.

And also about how pattern can sometimes be made stronger by breaking the pattern a little, by way of pointing out where the pattern lay. By creating a feeling of discomfort in the broken pattern. Or a feeling of comfort in breaking the pattern maybe, to break the monotony.

There was an art installation on an open field beside a road, back in Tasmania where I’m from. I’m not sure if it’s still there. But it was a scattering of red shapes. Just oddly shaped objects laying around on the field. But when you got to a certain spot on the road then =bam= all of the shapes lined up from that ONE spot and spelled a word. And the you blink and they are just shapes again because you’ve moved on. I don’t even remember the word. But I do remember a powerful feeling and a definite change in the way I thought about pattern, because the connection between all of those random shapes was completely invisible until you reached that one spot.

My thinking that emerged from that installation:

  • That the ability to spot a pattern could depend *entirely* upon your point of view.
  • That pattern could exist but you would never see it unless you moved.
  • That connections between things could be unseen but very strong/meaningful.
  • Juts because YOU don’t see a pattern doesn’t mean it’s not there.
  • Just because YOU don’t see a pattern doesn’t mean someone else can’t as they have a different point of view.

And on a meta-level:

  • That art could change the way you think about the world.

Some of this may seem very obvious, but I never realised these things before that installation. It changed the way I viewed the *power* of art. Of making. Of expressing ideas.

And today I read this: “thinking about design and repetition and how interrupting a rhythm makes a personal statement about being there.” (from here: Yes. So so close to my heart.

And. Once, along time ago, I read that some cultures value the ‘deviation from perfection’ in textiles/art as it says something about the maker. And even deliberately put ‘imperfections’ in repeating patterns to achieve this. I never understood this, but my thinking has changed and I can now value this. My thought is that there is often only one way to follow ‘a pattern’ but an infinite number of ways to deviate from a pattern. And now Jude’s words guiding me back to the thought: making the choice of where to deviate is the bit that’s personal.

Okay so many words today, but I’m thinking a great deal.

Maybe it’s because I’m working on this piece, a festive pattern I bought to make table decorations for Christmas:


It’s been a *very* long time since I worked on a purchased pattern rather than my own thoughts/design. It’s allowing my mind to wander.

And dessert last night:


Icecream and frozen yoghurts I made. And berries I picked myself.

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Cat dreams

Backed and quilted. The texture really shone this morning in the low light.


I sighed as I felt the softness of the red and orange damasks from Deb. Now that they are quilted down, they are soft and strong. I am so pleased.

After a trip out early to the market, I wrapped the edge of the backing around the whole cloth and stitched it down. Now it feels whole and done. Ready for gift-giving as a bookmark. I played with rolling and unrolling it.



I also decided to add some thread beads to the moon, it just needed some more texture. Using Jude‘s technique of sewing in the ‘in between’.


And from last night, some weaving.


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Keeping on

A few days with stuff going on and some health issues, so making small stitching progress.

I’ve been working on my free-pieced piece. I have an idea for embellishment that highlights the meeting points. I’m enjoying it so far, even if I am taking it slowly.


Or maybe *because* I’m taking it slowly.


Enjoying the details.


Enjoying how it’s just happening and taking me along with it.


Birds are on hold for a bit. They will be back.

And I’m still working my way through Small Journeys. I don’t want it to end.

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Lazy day

Today was kind of a lazy day. I started immersing myself in Small Journeys and spent some time stitching scraps together as I listened and watched.


With Javi pressed up against me, as he has been for days, and is right now. Sigh.

As I’ve been reading stitching blogs again, I noticed people talking about their ‘cheaters’ and wondered what on earth they were talking about. It dawned on me that it might mean the cheap glasses you can by in pharmacists here. I googled around and yes! You can buy magnifying glasses-glasses and that’s what people meant.

Okay. Well I’ve been struggling with my lighting/magnifying set up for a while now. I have a light stand with a magnifier on an arm, on wheels. I also use a small LED headlamp if I want a quick splash of light but don’t want to wheel over the huge contraption, but I didn’t have a portable magnifying solution.

So yesterday, the man and I went on our usual Saturday morning market shopping expedition and stopped off at the pharmacy on the way. And Oh MY goodness. I bought a pair of glasses for $20 and they are marvellous! They even came with a hard case and a big cleaning cloth.


So I got right back into doodling some tiny trees and symbols on my doodle cloth and the ‘cheaters’ are grand. Everything is so crystal clear in them, it’s AMAZING.


The other thing that’s grabbed me again is the ‘Art of Manipulating Fabric’ tome. There are some techniques in there I’ve been playing with on a small scale. But in doing so I made this little surf board thing out of fabric scraps and the batting out of a men’s tie.


It’s become my ‘needles in use’ pad. Which I like. Small and useful is good. Maybe I can make brooches with my other experiments… hmm….

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The satisfaction of pairing

Today was a bit more productive, I am very happy with this bird from this morning’s stitching. His name is Mr Swampy.


And that’s it for the bright fabrics I own. His body is beautiful blue silk from SpiralDyed on Etsy. I only have one piece and it’s blue, so at the risk of making too many blue birds that’s all I’ll make from this fabric, for the book. The blue/green stitches down his front are also from SpiralDyed. I would order some more (thread AND fabric) from them, but they are on a break at the moment. It was my first purchase, so I only bought a few bits. But I’m VERY happy with their products.

And so I felt at a bit of a loose end. I surfed the blogosphere and re-watched some of Jude’s Feel free videos. I watched her video of free piecing and was reminded of her most recent ‘stray’ cat piece, made from small scraps that she joins.

I stared at my small bundle of scraps and decided to do some what-iffing of my own. I just pulled out my little collection and spread it out on my board and just played with colour, joining as I felt I liked.


I’m really pleased with my combinations. And now I’ve begun a little stack of bases and possible figures to make into something larger later. Some of the details leapt out at me as I went.


And now I have fewer scraps. It feels good. And it was something easy and mindless to do while I boiled the christmas pudding and made dinner.


I love the little dimples of the basted pieces.


And I also realised that I accidentally made double the pudding mix I usually do. OOPS. Two full basins and just as much still in the bowl. Looks like I’ll be steaming puddings tomorrow too. Ah well, they make nice gifts, and they mail well.


And inspired by reading Caro-rose’s blog, I pulled out this old piece and blocked it out so I can frame it.


And for some reason laying in bed this morning, the light on the ceiling seemed very beautiful.


It was a good day.

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This morning was a long walk to South Melbourne market, around the lake. And then back home, around the lake. About two hours walking on a sunny morning. The flies were horrendous on the way back. It’s a bad year.

Once we were back from our treks, I felt inspired to stitch some. I’m trying to lift some of my duller fabrics with bright threads. I worked on this little fellow. He tells me his name is Egbert.


So I have three pages with recognisable birds now.


My plan is to stitch their names onto the pages (e.g. Egbert Marchbird) and then the babe can make up her own stories for each of the characters.


After the names, I will stitch a ‘ground’ of some sort for each.


I’m still not happy with the fairly dull colours I have in my fabrics, but hopefully that will change soon. I’ll keep on stitching in the meantime. Gotta keep going :0)


The sky this evening portends a very warm night.


Hopefully I can sleep, I’m not keen on heat at night. And last night was a disrupted one.

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Birds marching

Tum tee tum tum.

I started this project with a plan: a series of silly birds to make into pages. I’ve already deviated from the plan. I’ve drawn a series of bird shapes (or potato shapes or circles or whatever) onto some fabrics.  I’ve prepared some little pages and I’m just blatting the bird shape onto the page, and appliquéing it down. Like this.



Then I’m either stitching little features on as I go. just as the needle takes me. Or I’m taking a photo and sketching some ideas out. (Thanks eternally for this idea, Jude.)


I like this marching bird and his crazy bill. Not sold on this diving bird.


I’m learning a lot about the fabrics as I go. This black cotton is soft and almost sheer. Lovely to work on. The pale brown is an old sheet… Which would be fine except the threads are SO tightly woven together, the needle doesn’t like it so much. Not sure what to do with the rest of the sheet if it doesn’t like being stitched…

Yesterday was a farmers market morning. And among other prizes, I came back with the most beautiful little bag of chat potatoes. We basically never have potatoes but I love them. Tonight I baked them, with whole garlic cloves, and asparagus spears. I made a herb butter. There was red wine.

Potatoes. Such creamy perfection.

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Face cloth finished

Lots of images today. I like the details that emerged here, so here they all are.

Front and back:



And then each of the characters.

Wild cat


Pensive Incan sculpture man:


Magnificent flame mane:


Trapped in TV:


Shirt shirt man:


Ciao babe cat:


Thinking catbear:


Suave cat:


River woman:


Electro shock cat:


Crystal rock man:




Then some detail shots, because I love the folds, and the texture and the meetings between characters:





So that’s that. Much credit to Jude Hill’s teaching in the Feel Free Spirit Cloth materials. Her words and examples have changed the way I think about cloth, stitching, textiles. This piece feels like very baby-steps for me; I am very much looking forward to expanding my thinking and doing of ’embroidery’.

Onto the next piece! I won’t be blogging for a few days as I’m away in the mountains. Taking my pens and pencils away with me to brainstorm in the quiet moments. 🙂

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Moving face cloth along

Last night I finished my crystallising rock man and put my face cloth aside for a while, deciding what to do next. I pulled out one of my newer books that I’ve only partly explored, The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. She talks about a really simple ‘envelope’ method of finishing very small quilted pieces and I realised that that was how I wanted to finish my face cloth. Very simply backing it right sides facing, then turning it right side out, then quilting it.

So I ‘enveloped’ it before bed, and started quilting it this morning.

face cloth quilting

Again, I’m keeping it fairly simple and freeform, allowing the needle to go where it wants. I want the stitches to be visible, part of the energy between the faces, so I’ve started multiple rows of running stitch, using Jude Hill’s method of making stitches tiny on the surface as they flow *through* the faces. And then in places I’ve started to flow *around* the faces too, and then spiral into the spaces between them.

For this whole project, I’ve just been using bits of leftover embroidery thread I have from old kits. I have them sorted by colour(ish), so I’ve just been drawing out whatever colour appeals to me as I go. I’ve been applying the same procedure to the quilting stitches, keeping the colours fairly soft, but varying them between pale golds, dusty pinks and greys. I want them to be visible, but not take over.

I’ve needed to stop this afternoon as my fingers are getting sore. As they do with too much in and out. But I love the soothing rhythm of repetitive stitching, both physically and visually. I love running stitch. My running stitch isn’t always neat and even, but I enjoy the outcome anyway.

I should finish this tonight or tomorrow. I already have my next project boiling away in my mind, so I’m enjoying taking my time on the running stitch and letting the new thoughts simmer.

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Flame manes, ladies, rock men

The flame mane lion creature is done.


Stitching the mane was a slow and satisfying experience. I enjoyed the split backstitch, and can see myself using this again and again.

I also completed this lady… I think she’s river creature, flowing and spiralling.


And have started this rock man, crystallising and extending into the space around him.


Faces so far. Almost done with the faces, but I feel they need some space-embellishment. Then backing and quilting. I can see spirals.