One of my best blogging buddies recently wrote that she had noticed that some of us had become less active on-line. As the year draws to an end one tends to run out of energy, doesn’t one? And I have been struggling to write this week’s post. So why didn’t I just abandon it? To say that I don’t want to disappoint my faithful readers would be only half-true and also rather pompous. The honest answer is that I write these weekly reports mostly for myself. It’s a way of keeping a record, of describing a newly discovered stitching method or insight, and of keeping myself on track. While walking this tightrope of telling the truth, I admit that often I push through and finish a project so that I will have something to write about. And here’s another true confession: I am a little shy about showing you my latest creation.
This week’s post is about my memento mori [remember, you must die]. In case anyone is put off and is expecting to see a skull, let me reassure you. It is no longer fashionable to keep a skull on one’s desk as a reminder of mortality and the shortness and uncertainty of life. My memento mori is a a book containing a quotation that reminds me of the passing of time more than of the inevitability of death. I stitched it not in a fit of morbidity on my 64th birthday, but as a response to a prompt from the AreYouBookEnough monthly challenge that runs on Instagram. November’s theme is winged and so I decided to play with a phrase from Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress”:
But at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
The making of the book was also a bit of a struggle. Following the same format I used for the ten previous concertina books I have made this year for the monthly #areyoubookenough community challenges, I decided I would speed up the process by stitching the book by machine. After all, I wanted to finish it on the day of my birthday. The ‘blank’ or canvas was prepared by fusing black flannel onto a 6 x 40 inch strip of hemp cloth. This gave the book-to-be a nice weight to work with. I then folded the book to make the pages and the front and back covers. With my new knowledge on the use of Inktense pencils (from Kathryn Harmer Fox’s recent workshop) I boldly set about colouring in the carriage, after tracing and then stitching the outline onto the front cover. The ‘wings’ on the side of the carriage were stitched in gold rayon thread.
Next I tackled the words. It was a dismal failure because the words were too large and clumsy and it was difficult to read the phrase. Nevertheless, I stitched a border around the words, hoping the frame would rescue the situation. It didn’t.
So what was to be done. Put the project aside and ponder on a solution. I listened to my own advice and went off to an end-of-the-year celebratory meal with my quilting group (the QUOGs). And there the solution presented itself in the form a reel of Madeira gold thread, given as a gift by one of my dear friends.
To add to the serendipity, the electricity was turned off the next morning, so I was ‘forced’ to hand stitch the phrase onto a fresh piece of hemp cloth. The Madeira thread behaves beautifully and does not snap or shred (as other metallic threads sometimes do).
I used Inktense to colour over the original machine stitched words and hand stitched the bandage of the new, hand stitched lettering over this, allowing my mistake to still show.
So, the lesson I (again) learned during the making of this book is summed up by that old adage “more haste, less speed”. I think I first learnt the phrase in sewing class at school!