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So, What is “Stitches, not Words”

This is a project that took over my very being. It's about process, which I love, it's about fiber, which I love but it's more than that. It's about me and where I am in my life, where I come from and perhaps where I'm going.

It began by discovering eco dyeing on the web. I devoured everything I could find by India Flint, Alice Fox, and others. Small jars of tea with fabric wrapped around rusty bits sprung up all over my house. I loved the serendipity of the results including the additional gift of having dyed the hand spun with which the bundles were tied. I dyed bits of old flannel sheets, old camisoles that haven't seen the light of day for years and damask linen napkins.

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Dyeing jar with tea, fabric and rusty bits

Next was setting up a dyeing space in my basement, replacing my hot plate, and digging out my dyeing equipment from years ago when my dyeing wasn't so eco friendly...

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Dyeing space and pretty ugly bundle...

I have a history of spinning wool fiber just for the joy of it with out needing an end product. My resulting stash of yarn was enough. So it was with the dyeing until I hit upon the napkins. They had belonged to my mother and my grandmother before her and were always used for special holiday dinners. As the eldest daughter I did my share of ironing them as well as polishing silver and setting a formal table. I actually enjoy this once or twice a year but these white napkins had been retired years ago in place of new ones and had spent their time in dark drawers.

These neglected, once so elegant, objects were reborn in wonderful greys and brown and became gutsy with marks from iron nails and gears. They bore the scars of this new adventure well but now what? For a while I was content to let them pile up but they needed more.

About this time I discovered Jude Hill and her technique of cutting cloth up and reassembling it. I sent away for the harem cloth she uses for backing and set to work. The designer in me loves the energy of the number three and it's square of 9. Each thread is attached and tied off with 3 stitches. Rows and columns of three. I have ideas for other numbers but right now, these pieces want 3s. Hand stitching is meditative for me and this is where each work takes on it's own life.

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Harem cloth backing and stitching

At first a completed piece was enough but then they demanded more, starting with applying small bits leftover from their forming and then adding simple stitches. Sometimes the stitches are about texture, often they are about drawing and mark making. They tell a story of life energized through experience and repurposed. They use stitches, not words. They inform my other work, and through me, my other work informs them. Each piece has a mind of its own and I listen.