talisman/object of comfort

a first (hopefully in a series of more to come) talisman or object of comfort made after an idea and pattern by victoria gertenbach, whose work i find really inspiring.
if i remember correctly, i picked up the stone on the shore of lake constance. i covered it with bits and pieces of linen and cotton scraps; stitched with vintage buttonhole silk.

i find this way of embellishing and interacting with an object from nature a very calming process, and it adds another layer of meaning and memories on collected materials. i do have a habit of picking up things when going on walks, they may be visually attractive in some way, or i like the touch, feel and texture of them and playing with them while the are in my pockets, or just holding them; it’s a comforting thing to do. over the years, even though i only keep special ones, i have built up a small collection of various of these stones, pieces of wood, shells, sea glass pieces or other things, and i look forward to work a few more of them into a collaboration with nature and memory.

“afternoon sunshine” quilt

my second quilt. hand pieced from vintage fabric and merchand & mills linen (purple & green/yellow). i dyed the vintage fabric pieces myself, two of which are vintage handkerchief fabric from france (mouchoirs de cholet), and the third is vintage austrian linen (schneeberg webe, pottendorfer spinnerei und felixdorfer weberei aktiengesellschaft). the dye was made from sequoia cones and a mix of pine cones. the quilting thread is vintage embroidery thread, also plant dyed by me (tagetes, onion, pine and sequoia cones).

measurements are approx. 100cm x 100 cm.

more tiny quilts

two more tiny quilts have been added to the collection – one i made and forgot to share previously, and one i started in august and only finished now (in november). sometimes my open projects stay open for a long time until i feel the urge to finish them. but they are completed eventually.

both are hand pieced from scraps or second hand fabric, both have a flanell batting from an old bedsheet.

here’s the whole bunch of them. i suspect, the gang will keep growing…

array top

at the moment it feels like i’m slowly working through all the things i made and collected during summer time – my finished projects i never came around to share, my dyed fabrics and threads, the plants collected and dried for dyeing, all the summer memories stowed away for darker times with less sunlight and time outside.

summer felt quiet and peaceful, and only in looking back i realise how productive (not in a neo-liberal/capitalist sense) i really was. i spent so much time with the indigo vat, started and finished hand sewing and stitching projects, collected flowers and other dye materials, a regular creative practice, and i think that is also why the summer did feel so peaceful and bright. my focus was where it needed to be, my creative work was woven through my days and the rhythm of it all felt very right and natural. i think i need to remember that…

one of my hand sewing projects was a hand sewn version of the array top by papercut made from vintage/antique fabric. the fabric dates to some time between 1920 and 1950 according to the old lady i bought it from and a hidden away stock take note i found inside the bolt. it feels like a linen/cotton mix and sewed up really nicely.

it wears really nicely with leggins or jeans, and i like how the fabric seems to shift colour depending on how the light hits it. my arms are really long, so for a version with puffed up sleeves i’d need to cut the arms a bit longer, but that’s an easy alteration to make to the pattern. maybe a shirt version with puff sleeves in a cosy winter-y fabric at some point?

all photos taken and (c) by H. Oesterle

tiny quilts

i’ve been intrigued by quilting for quite a while. mostly it was the technique of using even the tiniest scrap of fabric and work it into something new. but then there is also the tactile quality of quilts – i love running my fingers over the crinkly, wavy structures of fabric and thread, it’s just a very pleasant feeling. the design possibilities are endless. and then there’s also the element of heirloom quilts that have been passed on from generations to generations, keeping people warm and hugged, being mended and changed and reused over and over again. so many layers of meaning and making that have kept me curious.

recently i came across the idea of tiny quilts and took part in a community quilting exercise on creativity and newness organised by zak foster and amanda nadig, which was a great way to start playing with quilting on a small scale.

out of this came three tiny quilts in total. i also revisited an old project of mine from two or three years ago where i mended/reconstructed an old pillowcase of mine into something that i would now also consider a tiny quilt.

tea cup for size reference

all of these are completely stitched by hand – both the piecing and the quilting. they are playful little projects for one or two afternoons and i really enjoy making them. somehow it’s helpful to make things that don’t need to be useful and only exist because i enjoy the process of making them. i’ll probably do a few more every now and then, in between larger projects or whenever i need some headspace.

materials are mostly antique/vintage/second hand, apart from very few scraps that are store bought.

abstract embroidery – untitled

another abstract piece, designed as wall hanging, that emerged from working on my first piece, topography. march 2021.

plant dyed vintage cotton embroidery thread (tagetes, onion skin, tagetes/onionskn mix, sequoia cones, pine cone mix) on antique, hand woven linen from austria.

mount hand turned by @orcoyoyo from willow wood (salix); string hand twined from leftover thread i used during the dyeing process to secure the skeins of thread in the dyepot.

modern regency shirt dress

my latest hand sewing project was a shirt dress made the way men’s shirts were made around the 1800s. i wanted to use the same construction with a modern fabric to make an everyday wearable garment.

the original plan was to make this shirt dress from linen, but as i didn’t have a fitting weight of vintage linen at home, instead of buying new fabric, i searched for something else instead. i found a set of vintage cotton bed linens, most likely weaved in austria, that looked like it could work and i could imagine myself wearing it.

what intrigued me about the shirt construction is that these shirts are made entirely out of square pieces of fabric. this means that there are no or almost no off-cuts, so no fabric waste is left. nowadays we would call this zero waste, but not so long ago, fabric was so valuable and expensive, people would natrually construct their clothes in a way to not waste any of the fabric. this was no fashion trend or anything, it was just sensible.

the way these shirts were made also meant they would adapt their fit quite easily for differently shaped bodies. they were not exactly one size, but a body was definitely allowed to change its shape and the garment would still fit.

and they were incredibly sturdy, so a shirt could take a lot of wear and still be intact or mendable. the parts that take the most strain are strengthened in various ways.

all in all, a very clever and sensible approach to making clothing, even though today’s fashion industry wants us to believe differently.

i shared most of the steps of how to make a shirt like this over at instagram in a highlight: -> regency shirt

oh, and a bee came to visit when we were taking photos:

it’s a really comfortable piece to wear, either with jeans or leggins/tights, or once it’s warmer simply as dress. i might make another one at some point, now that i have an idea about the general construction. also, if anyone has questions and wants to make their own, i’m always happy to answer questions and support to the best of my abilities.

the whole piece is entirely hand stitched.

all photos by @orcoyoyo

antique linen scarf

usually i do work on several projects at the same time. i have always worked like this, it’s the same with books – never just one.

so, one of my current long term projects is an antique linen scarf. it used to be a pillow case which i took apart. the linen is of a beautiful quality, handwoven, a wonderful linen sheen, drapes really nicely. it is has also thinned out a lot, it’s around 100 years old after all.

originally i wanted to keep it white and visibly mend all the worn out areas with vintage buttonhole silk. i did do a few of those mends. then, in summer 2020 i took a workshop in plant dyeing and dyed the whole piece with indigo.

then it sat for a while, as i wasn’t sure how to progress. the next idea was then to cover it with sashiko stitched geometric patterns, thus strengthening the fabric and keeping it from wearing out more. turns out, the fabric did only want to be stitched along the grain. so, i decided to listen and cover the whole piece in rows and rows of parallel sashiko stitching. this will take a while, but i’m not in a hurry. i stitch a few rows whenever i feel like it. whenever i come across another thinned out area, i mend it, patch it, and stitch on. i kept all the prior ideas in terms of stitching – taking out would have made the fabric deteriorate even more, and somehow i found it nice to have all stages of this project visible in some way; also visualising the way my stiching has already changed over time, and i’m sure it will keep doing so. and that’s just what learning is – practicing and having the practice change you and your work.

this is how thin the fabric is, it’s almost see-through.

a patched area:

and some mended areas that pre-date me, they already existed when i bought the pillow case; plus a hand stitched monogram. i really like finding mended areas in vintage or antique fabrics. they are traces of the textile’s story.

and a close up of the layers of sashiko stitching. the white ones were my first attempt. now the whole piece will be covered in stitches like the blue ones, in different shades of indigo dyed thread by Sashi.Co. on another note, if you want to know more about sashiko and hear the voices of japanese people who have been practicing sashiko throughout several generations, check out the instagram and youtube of atsushi from Sashi.Co (or Upcycle Stitches, which is their us website). sashiko is much more than just running stitches on fabric. there is a deep history and culture attached to sashiko, and i really recommend to get a glimpse into this world by listening and learning and not just copying a style.

stitching practice

this was today’s work – stitching on my slow stitching piece. it is something like a stiching journal – a piece i stich on whenever i don’t have the headspace to work on something more complicated, or when i need to find a place of calm.

and just today the thought occured, that maybe rather than a side-project, a side category, maybe this is really the core of my work with textiles and stitching. the slow, repetitive movement of pulling thread through a piece of fabric so that it might clear my head, give me space to think, slow me down, make me present if only a few minutes a day. and whatever emerges, emerges. sometimes it feeds into my other creative areas, sometimes it’s just stitches. sometimes my stitches add up and eventually become a garment. but sometimes, just stitches…

running stitch on avocado dyed linen; vintage embroidery floss