Hearts stitch journal, 01 February 2018

Red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning. But I don’t care – the day dawned mostly clear and mostly bright, with wonderful streaks of pink, purple and ice blue. It’s colder today, though not cold enough for frost, and in a moment, I’m out on a bike ride (wish me luck – my first since my injury). Today’s threads are all vintage bar one: dark pink 1920s rayon embroidery floss, grey Cartier-Bresson Brilliante d’Alger, rayon shawl fringing in pink, blue and lilac, and pink DMC coton à broder 22. Only the gold Decora rayon is new(ish) in that I bought it new, but about 20 years ago. These are not easy threads to sew with, and I used a blunt needle to avoid splitting them and held them taut at the back. Today I thought it would be fun to use only one stitch, so this is entirely done in chain stitch, forward, reversed and angled.

The fabric for this month is hand-woven hemp, which was produced in convents all over this area, mainly as sheeting, on narrow looms that mean the sheets had to be joined down the centre. I drew up the squares with a quilting ruler and drew them in water-soluble marker, then stitched them with a long running stitch by machine, so they can be pulled out afterwards. Then I washed out the markings and dyed the fabric grey with a Procion acid dye, dipping it very quickly, using salt as a mordant and vinegar as a fixative.

However, this month’s stitching nearly had a disastrous start when, halfway through the outline on the heart, my cat jumped up, dipped his tail in my coffee and neatly flicked a drop over the work. Since it was the first heart, and I know that section won’t be filled on the panel, since it’s a 28-day month, I just turned the panel the other way up – I’ll try to figure out what to do about the splash stain later!

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