November Thoughts

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.

The front and verso sides of the opened out concertina book

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!

29 thoughts on “November Thoughts

  1. Happy Birthday, Mariss – not sure if the day has come and passed, yet, but wanted to wish you the sentiments just the same. It has been a pleasure learning about each concertina book as you work through the challenge. This one is so interesting, as I can relate to that passage. I love it when serendipitous things happen. In the end, your book worked out well, I think!


    1. Ah thank you Wendy for the good wishes on both counts. So glad you have enjoyed the descriptions of how the books were made.
      There is now one more challenge to go. The theme for December is frozen — it’s a bit difficult to get my head around that seeing as it is sweltering here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is lovely Mariss. And real.

    I love your chariot. It immediately brought to mind ‘The Chariot’, a major arcana card in the tarot. According to a source called The Little Red Tarot, the message of the card is ….

    “There is so much you can accomplish under your own steam, if you can find the strength and clarity to focus. This card wants to help you with that. It reminds you of your courage and your strength, an encourages you to direct your energies towards that goal you hold so dear.

    The Chariot often points to battles or obstacles. The road to success is not always easy and you’ll face difficulties and setbacks. But of course, this card urges you on. This is a card of hard work and determination.”



  3. The message of this book to me is persistence and having faith to keep going. Maybe time’s passing underlines these things to me. By the way I have a November birthday as well, yesterday the 19. Happy birthday to you!


    1. Your ‘reading’ of the book has given me a new perspective. Thank you Claudia for this insight and for seeing my intention, when it wasn’t clear to me (!?) Maybe it’s because we almost share a birthday! Best wishes to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Somehow we seem to keep gravitating to those finicky metallic threads! HA! Yours looks fantastic in this piece, Mariss. I took note of it being ‘Madeira’ brand for future gravitation…
    And, Happy 64th! That was one of my favs…I think you might get a kick out of the posts I wrote concerning turning that ultimate Beatles’ age (before we found each other’s websites in the bloggosphere): and
    ps-I am honored to be considered one of your bbb’s!


  5. Happy Birthday Mariss – the concertina book looks amazing – and yes as soon as you believe a simple change will hasten the outcome, life takes a mysterious turn that has you having to rethink the process. And then the electricity isn’t available at the exact moment you were going to use an electric gadget, forcing you back into hand stitching. Love everything about it including the miss spelling…and rectifying that to be even more creative…


  6. A belated happy 64th birthday Mariss. Thanks for the lovely poetic and artistic reminder of time’s winged chariot. It reminded me of the Tibetan Book of the Dead about which my interpretation is not so much about death but about life, to remind us to live a good life in case we die before we want to and instead of embroidery their method is to turn their bedside mugs upside down before sleep. Very deep stuff to come out of a piece of embroidery. I love it.


    1. Oh Judith, I do wish we could take another loooong walk together and talk. Thanks for the good wishes and for reminding me about the TBotD. I have only dipped into it and am going to dust off my copy and now read it properly


  7. very entertaining and cute. I’m always quite hasty so finding something doesn’t fit so well isn’t that unusual for me. I’m also a bit lost for words as this year draws to a close. Also the desire to finish things before xmas is another thing. I’ve decided I will have a research/field work break some point soon (this sounds very something doesn’t it?). I’ve made a list of books I’d like to take a look at, and I think I’ll do some sketching. Think about abstracts a bit. Drift a bit.


    1. Seems as if we have lots in common. Can I steal your idea of taking a research break? Sounds like just what is needed to get off the pre-Christmas treadmill.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Enjoy your field work


  8. A belated happy birthday to you! I just caught up with your last 2 posts and enjoyed them thoroughly. I adore your “Night Sky” – such an imaginative use of that shweshwe fabric! And I thought the quilting was excellent! Your latest “book” is spot-on meaningful. Thoughts of mortality and the swiftness of life regularly compel me to cherish each day. Thank you for this lovely beginning to my day!


  9. I love this. I love the way you fixed the part you were unhappy with. Many of my creations have this phase, an initial attempt that is off. But I don’t like perfection, I don’t enjoy pondering it. It’s not sticky and doesn’t invite contemplation. The words you can still see and the overall texture of the former along with the red color really make the new addition. And it forced a solution you might not have come up with any other way.

    I also love the meaning behind it and the image of the chariot. Totally wonderful!


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