Mom always says, "never cut a knot, always untie it. If you can't figure out how to untie a knot, you'll never figure out how to solve your problems."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011+1= moving into the new year

The Snowshoe Hare, by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992.

Greetings for the new year.  I feel as though I've been lagging behind and had better post something before the first full week of the new year passes, the moon becomes full and starts waning, and the constellations that are visible take flight and realign  themselves. I picked the piece above from Mary Oliver because of a few words that would apply to those of us that have picked cloth and thread as our medium...tangles, lapping thread...across the field and into another year. 

I've been occupying myself with domestic affairs.  My mother had a few issues with heat - as in furnace went out and then the fuse box needed updating/replacement...and of course the payment of same. There is one small minor electric replacement that needs to be done but if it doesn't happen no big deal. 

Most of my time was spent at mom's during the pass week, yes we even stayed up until midnight on NYeve.  I think this was a first for us, together at the changing of the guard.  I had a small bottle of bubbly, have had it for near 30 years, so we opened it and even did a toast.  I think mom managed a sip or two and I think I scored about four before we decided, that's okay, we've done the ritual.  But she enjoyed it so...

The hands that first taught me to hold needle and thread...of all kinds.
I still think her hands are quite beautiful, even though they do show their age, and time has not been kind.  She has arthritis in her hands and has a hard time bending the fingers. She tries still to knit and crochet, though her memory is such that she is always undoing her stitches, since there are more or less  then what she originally starts out with.  But I'm going to give her a box of various thread so she might try embroidery. She use to make such beautiful cloths. 

I did occupy myself with stitching while I pondered domestic life. I finished LEFT, but will do a separate post on that.  I did finish my first cloth fascicle.  Assembled the beginnings of another and a larger cloth, 12x12.  That's large for me, since mostly the fascicles are closed, 4x4, and open page layout, 4x8.

This is the first fascicle to be completed.  One thing I did learn, even though I managed to get the three images on the page - the collation and pagination were off.  I did them as 4x8 page spreads not remembering that once they got bound the facing image/text would not correspond.  I have fix that for fascicle two.  So as a result the negative (cut-out, text, left-side, odd-numbered) image is not with the partnered leaf-positive (leaf, image, right-side, even-numbered) page.  The front-cover image is the outline of a half-oak-leaf and the dates worked.  The back cover has a few cryptic symbols, notes, comments - that is my thinking/thoughts sketching page.  The inside of the book has a, usually six line, poem that is the voice of the leaf that is pictured on the page.  All  my leaves are female - that is the voice that I know best.  I usually write these in my head while walking mom's dog...they are reactions but my mood, the day, something I see.  (My Chekhovian, "subjects for a short story," from the Seagull) I'd probably be better off taking a notebook with me, since sometimes it a race to remember as well...but maybe that is part of the processes.  The stitching is not pre-planned. It too depends on the mood and what's in my thread bag.  I really like working with this size...and books, well, they are as natural to me as my right hand.  I became a librarian because I simply love the touch, feel, contents, smell, the totality of the book.  

I've also been placing a little "key" on the pages as I'm stitching.  They are little squares that are stitched in the colors of the sky, at some point during the day...the most prominent color of the day.  This is done from something that I saw Deb G. doing over at her blog beecreative.  Deb is part-taking in something called the sky scarf: Leafcutter Designs - Projects, Conceptual Knitting.  The idea is to knit a row a day in response to the sky.  I really liked this idea, but really, starting another new project wouldn't be wise, I said to myself.  But I did like this so much that it's in my mind, on the mental Rolodex, and I'll do it down the road.  In the meantime, however, my little "keys" are my version of the sky scarf idea. 

Emily Dickinson made forty fascicles of her poems in her life time.  So I've decided that this year I will make forty as well.  With fifty-two weeks and one extra leap day I might make it.  It took me about a week to do this.  Assembly is part of the process.  I have a few yard of a natural muslin that is 32" in width.  I can tear 4" section that easily divide into four, 4x8 "pages."  Then the leaf preparation and assembling.  The stitching and notations are made following this processes.  I have also been keeping a "paper" fascicle as a sketchbook.  

The next fascicle is also ready to go:

You can see that I have adjusted for the collation, pagination issue.  Only the center, pages 3-4 are the actual images that will be seen together after assembly, (lower left corner)  The other pages are 2 and 5, 1 and 6. They are almost all basted and ready for stitching.  The cover is also started.  This time I'm putting the "keys" on the back, as well as the contents listings, the notations; this will act as sort of a colophon.  

Oh, and just to have something to do other then the fascicle project, I'm going to do doodling on cloth, my calendar cloths, if you like.  I thought I would do a monthly cloth, 12x12, where I could try out ideas, stitching/stitches and what-nots.  I guess you could call it a sampler or my what-if project. 

This is the January cloth, pinned, sketched and experimenting with.  I'm not sure about that round circle object.  I don't see it blending in with the cloth over-all.  I think it would be better done in just thread but once it is stitched up maybe it won't be the thorn of the upper right corner.  We'll see.  

Thank you for stopping by and hope your week passed was not riddled with domestic problems but happily employing your hands with doing something creative.  



  1. I love your leaf fascicle and find the pages are richly evocative. I laughed when I read about your experience with the first collation and pagination. I often do that type of thing. It's a good thing I'm not an engineer!

    I was very moved by the photos of your mother's hands. They truly are beautiful. The last photo I have of my mother and father together, before my mother passed away, is of my father lying in his hospital bed and my mother in her wheelchair, reaching out to each other and holding hands. I also did a close up of their hands.

  2. i love everything in this post. your stitched leaves are marvelous and love all the leaves on your january cloth. i admire your discipline to only work on a couple of projects at a time. i gave up on that, even though i've tried. if i want to try something new that i think about or see, i just can't get it out of my head until i do it. looking forward to see what comes next.

  3. What a wonderful daughter you are - so I 'know' your mother must also be truly wonderful. I love her hands!
    Your projects are inspiring. I love reading your blog and seeing your images --- happy new year!

  4. what a wonderful post . i love your leaves .
    really nice .happy new year !

  5. Your new years eve sounds like a memory keeper! I see beauty in your mom's hands. Wonderful projects you're working on!

  6. ah your fascicles are a great project love the scientific notation and botanical observations combined with poetry & hmmm... yes layout with books can be surprising! I glued the text block into the covers upside down and back to front on a couple of the early books!

  7. 40 in a year sounds ambitious, but it's a fascinating process. Your mom's hands are beautiful indeed.

  8. henrietta, the project is coming together nicely. another binding will facilitate using single folio signatures in succession. you could use a stationer's binding, that is assemble each "book" together and when finished a "book" sew on tapes. one of the first three keith smith books may have a simple solution for you.

  9. Henrietta, I enjoyed so much in this post! The hands spoke to me right off. I have photos of all my loved ones hands. My mom's are on my blog also :) http://pomegranatetrail.blogspot.com/2011/10/mother-daughter-feathers.html
    I so love the hands & faces of the elders.
    I love the weaving Jan. 2012 journal. I like how the leaves continue from one strip to the next. I think you are very organized and determined and will therefore be able to make 40 in one year's time. I will look forward to watching you move through them. I also like the way you've adapted the sky scarf project into your work.
    take care.

  10. Henrietta, amazing work. Look forward to seeing your project develop. Your Mum's hands are beautiful with a life of stories behind them I am sure.

  11. Your project is an inspiration. You seem to be very focused and have got a real plan.

    Perhaps you have said before which text you are using - is it Emily Dickinson's poetry or your own or other wise?

    And do you think you will always be using oak leaves? Or other?

    I love , absolutely love , the idea of making 40 tiny pamphlets like this.

    also, I wish I had taken a photo of my mother's hands. Your photo of your mother's is beautiful.

    Happy new year.

  12. well, a.... i have been reading and gazing and reading and gazing some more, but still no words. my eyes are smiling and my heart too... your mother's hands are beautiful. no, beyond beautiful!! your stitching inspires me and nourishes me. as with the first time i saw your stitching i think "oh, here is a kindred spirit."

    i think your 'what if' cloth is fabulous...


  13. I was very touched by your mother's hands. I have not seen my mother in a long time. We don't live in the same state. You are both blessed to have each other...to have a relationship. I love the relationship that you are engaging in with your fascicles. They are a relationship with yourself as you commune and record your year. Thank you for sharing these with us. I am always learning so much from you and feel blessed to have found your blog. I love your library...would love to just read the titles ...I love reading titles in libraries. I wish the information would jump into my head instantaneously and I would be able to retain it. I wish I had a brain.

  14. your mums hands are gorgeous... and so is your work, I saw this last photo... no it was the oak leaves on Pinterest. I will repin it and make sure there is a link to your blog. ciao bella!

  15. I love hands... and handmade books.. your mother's hands are beautiful and so is your book.

  16. what a good and good and good
    to this post. i like the feeling of it, this
    slow thoughtful record of Time and Doing. i
    can almost hear a voice.......

  17. Your mom's beautiful hands bring back such fond memories of my grandmother's hands. She too had arthritis. I wish I had taken a photo of her hands.
    Fascicles .... there's that lovely word again! I'm inspired by your stitched pages and love the thought of "tangles, lapping thread...across the field and into another year" .

  18. I found this lovely poem about Emily Dickens and I wanted to share it with you.

    I really love this comment by one of the posters.
    Martin DeMello said...

    I think Collins was alluding to the deeply personal nature of Dickinson's work
    - IIRC she never intended for most (if any) of her poems to be published, and
    one does get the feeling, when reading some of her work, that it exposes her to
    an almost uncomfortable extent.

    Just thinking of you, hope you are having a wonderful stitching day.


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