Finishing Up The Stitched Australia Book

Here is the finished book with its wrap tie. I got to use the last two small pieces of wood patterned by Toni Rogers in Queensland.  All threads used in the book came from Australia.

And besides using Australian tea to color the pages and shellac that I bought in Australia, I used my little geometry set bought in Brisbane many years ago to make circles, etc. Even my needles came from Richmond, Tasmania.

The images were harvested from this book.

There is something magic and charming and educational about all the pictures used in this book to tell a bit about the settling of Australia.

I used a coptic binding for the folios and spacers in the book.

And after I got all the folios shellacked, tea dyed and stitched I put them into some sort of order of settling the land.

I realized that I wanted it a bit thicker and had this picture of four surveyors/telegraph workers sitting there. The reason it sat there was because it is my romantic idea of what a true Australian male looks like. In fact several years ago while teaching in the Northern Territory the assistant to the Craft Alliance there introduced me to her husband. She knew I would like him because he had this look of pure Australian bloke. When she finished work that week he was going to take her on trip around the perimeter of the continent on his motorcycle. He had that truly capable look about him and had me grinning in his company. Any one of the men below could have been related.

Anyway aside from all that, these men in the picture and two more random images became the in between two-folio signatures to make the book larger and eliminate seeing the empty space between those folios.


I liked how they inserted themselves into the other images and the country. It might matter that I listened to Lyle Lovett music while I put these boys into the book.

There are other images, lots of other ones of people settling into the country, displacing the aboriginal culture.  And kangaroos.

And the convicts….all accused of one of the nineteen crimes that got them deported to the other side of the world.

I will stop here and maybe figure that I have enough samples and books that involve the stitch. There are only four in the class so far and I have no idea until I start teaching where each of their interests lie.

It will be my last class taught for John C Campbell Folk School here in Brasstown, NC. Thirty years and six months is quite enough. I look forward to really enjoying this last one and hope the students do as well.

Til next week when I can show pretty outside pictures again.

Drawing and Stitching

Here is part of the herd that Lee feeds each morning. We had to wait for them to cross over the road before heading off to drop our absentee ballots off at the voting center. We pretend we are not here so as to avoid the crowds….at least we are hoping there are crowds this year.

In the studio I attempted to draw the ovenbird. This time in graphite and colored pencil. I am not good with colored pencils. They seem too soft, too mushy on the paper….and the colors are really terrible. You need to do so much blending to get anything near the right color and then they are even mushier. See what I mean?

There is no way I can get the blackness of this bird’s eye.

I think that colored pencils should be used for soft rose petals or chenille bedspreads and nothing else. And since I have no roses or a bedspread like that, I put them back in their boxes and will stay with the mechanical pencil, eraser (another thing you can’t do with colored pencils is ERASE!) and a bit of watercolor if I am doing birds…..or anything for that matter.

But on to other things. I am still doing some ideas for books that are all about the stitch. I found an old picture book of Australia. One I just collected and glanced through. All the illustrations with very little text are black and white old drawings, etc.

So I trimmed the sheets after carefully clipping the sewing threads to remove folios. Now here I am beginning to stitch with threads I can only get in Australia. It is a unwaxed linen by Guttermann.

It was fun to pull out just a few folios and then arrange the sized sheets into a bit of story. With so few words, the book was much more about the illustrations. But the whole book was so “Aussie” and the roughness of those who settled there.

I loved this page about the loneliness of shepherds, etc who needed a mate to spend time with. The ratio at the time was eleven men to one woman so the land owners would send them off with a mate. And according to this interpretation, that is where the common expression of “mates” in Australia originated.

The tool I am pressing down the stitching with after the design is made is a sewing tool that Jane Nicolas gave me. It is very handy for pressing folds in cloth as was its original intention but also good for pressing threads into paper and closing up the holes.

The images are very mid 1800s. Lots of tough, “sinewy” manly explorers. Even my favorites, Burke and Wills get some notice.

This morning I cooked up some Australia black tea that comes in a canvas bag from down under. After shellacking dots on the pages, I stained them with some tea.

So far there are only three signatures of two folios done to this point and I am not sure if I am through surface designing or sewing yet. But at least it is something to show students on sewing into the paper, illustration and text.

These pages after folded in the center and cut down are about 4.5 x 8 inches. The original book is about 9 x 10 inches in size. There are loads more to choose from.

Not sure what next to do with them but for now will catch up the other four signatures to this same point and take a good look and where it wants to go next.

Til next week.

Stitched Books And A Survivor

This is the inside of a stitched book that I worked on this week. It was a blank journal that I had made the covers of earth pigments and matching papers with stitching on them. But it was the wrong color for the sage green thread used inside. So I took out all the coptic stitching and made new covers.

I was still thinking about how some of us use our voice from early on while others take so long to find theirs. And it ends with those who simply do not speak.

So here are some close ups of the insides.

Each of the three sentences use only one word per page as the voice diminishes or grows louder.

(photographed with old cover still in place)

And the final page.

It was fun to do, had content and another way to use the stitch in illustrating books.

Another bird hit the window this morning. Lee held it for quite a while so I could get pictures.

I want to draw and paint him like the little yellow-breasted warbler from earlier in the week.

This little fellow was well and truly dead.

And this one called an ovenbird because of how his nest is sideways like an oven door opening.

I think I will draw this second view because of the chest markings and those eyes. I will leave off the bits of sand from his fall to the patio floor.

He hopped off into a bush of rosemary to recover and was well looked after by another visitor.

So what I learned this week.

Do not try to use a book that just does not fit the content. This is referred to as “retrofitting” and never works to a good advantage.

Pick up my brand new mechanical pencil more often.

Use a bit of watercolor with a graphite drawing.

Position the door screen so that it does not look like the wild blue yonder to birds attempting to enter the studio.

Til next week.


Picking Up The Pace

The fog at the dam this week is beautiful. We can feel fall in the air and are wearing extra shirts. It takes me about 3,500 steps to complete this walk. Mostly it is in silence. Lee takes in the view and I think things through. I get ideas in the repetitive movement of putting one foot in front of the other.

One thing I think about is a class coming up that I have to teach called, “Books That Are All About The Stitch”. There is pleasure in threading a needle and piercing cloth and/or paper. And so many ways to enhance stitched bindings. It seemed like a good idea for a class last year, so I put it on paper and now am faced with having to get it ready by early November.

This week I am working on new books using the stitch as a main feature.

Here is a small one on a quilt being put together one patch at a time. I like the simplicity of this.

And inside.

And the pages being worked up for another type of stitching and “thready” binding.

I have pulled out earlier books using threads and stitching as the “story”.

The Mending Book that I sent to Sandra Brownlee after she had the most perfect response when holding it. I love the darning on the spine.

And stitching into reproduced drawings and then mounting them onto a page like my Kimono Book.

And this one, “My Book of Days” all stitched cloth with bits of paper worked in.

Anyway they are places to start and more will be added by the end of the month.

The other day Lee brought me a dead bird. I used to draw them as soon as he gave them to me but this time I just took pictures to work from. This weekend I will sit down and paint him carefully in watercolors to honor his beauty and life lost on my studio window. He is a yellow-throated warbler.

Lee gave him a proper burial. A very pretty little bird that we never get a glimpse of in the wild.

Tomorrow is Lee’s birthday….eighty-one. We are going out to dinner with friends tonight and celebrate. Tomorrow we will go out to lunch and celebrate again.

A friend mentioned this week that if I was seeking balance maybe I should turn off the news. I don’t think I can do that. How can I continue to write my congressmen about what needs to be done if I am not paying attention to how much they are not doing?

Too many people in our country turned off and tuned out in 2016 and left us with the mess we have now.  So balance or no, I will stay as involved as I can be at this stage of our lives.

But it has been a particularly tough week for witnessing the loss of civility…..More pins are a good idea.

I am going back to the threading of needles and setting up my watercolors.

Til later.