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