Phase 1 of this fabric concertina is complete: the initial stitching together of layers on each panel. Threadcrumbs patches were stitched to their backing and the very thin dyed cloth was stitched to a gauze backing for more substance. I used metallic thread, blue for the what I’m considering the front and gold for the back. Although I hesitated about it due to the gaudy bling factor, it’s done now. The configuration is set as shown below, although there might still be tweaks required. I think it’s a nice balanced layout that will “read” interestingly when assembled as a concertina. Phase 2 will be embellishing some or all of the panels with stitched motifs. I’m thinking mostly thread beads representing seeds, but maybe some seedlings too.

While stitching, I think about the book, the title, how I feel about it, what it’s trying to convey. The working title had been Blizzard of Seeds, which was the packet name from the threadcrumbs shop. The theme is early spring and the juxtaposition of snow, melting, greenery poking up here and there. Kind of astringent, bitter, and maybe dreamy too.

While looking for the names of the moons by month online, I stumbled instead on a baby name generator. Under names that mean moon, the first listed was the Greek name Adrastea. It’s the name of one of the moons of Jupiter and means “inescapable.” I liked it well enough to use as a working title for now.

Blizzard of Seeds

I’m excited about making another fabric concertina. I had cut some squares of gold fabric and mull quite awhile ago for no particular reason. They were just sitting around on the shelf where I keep my sewing notions and some scraps. I got the idea of putting them together with the last set of patches I got from Jude Hill’s threadcrumbs shop, entitled “Blizzard of Seeds.” It made a beautiful match. I supplemented the six squares of gold with some dyed fabric from my stash, enough for a six panel concertina.

Impatient to see this vision realized! But I’m trying to pace myself. I need to take reasonable care laying this one out and measuring squares so everything turns out well.

Also planted the first seeds of the season today! Starting alliums indoors: leeks, shallots, and Cippollini borretana onions.

Randa stitch

This is a mini tutorial for the randa embroidery stitch I used for the concertina joins. The joins look great on both sides! I used a variegated Valdani pearl cotton thread.

I learned this stitch from a YouTube video, not in English:

316-Decorative joining of two edges with needle(Randa embroidery) By Sushma’s Craft and Creations

The steps:

The first three steps are to get started. I didn’t take pictures; maybe I’ll update this post later because it’s much easier to show than explain.

Side A is on my right, and Side B is on my left. I keep the gap quite small when taking the first three stitches. After the pattern is established, it’s easy to maintain the same amount of space.

1) first anchor the thread on Side A. Come in from back with a knotted thread. Take another stitch from front a few millimeters away, same side. Bring thread up through the center of the loop created.

2) take the first stitch on Side B coming in from the backside and wrapping thread over the needle before pulling through. This leaves a little knot and a teeny single thread bridge in the gap area between the sides.

3) take the needle under the thread bridge (right side, near Side A). Wrap thread over needle before pulling through.

From here, the pattern is established and next four steps are repeated as long as necessary.

4) take a stitch on Side A and wrap the thread over the needle before pulling through.

5) insert the needle through the left hand loop in the gap, near Side B. Sometimes the loop sinks down and is hard to see, but I usually found it clearly visible. Wrap thread over needle before pulling through.

6) I found it helpful to turn the piece a quarter turn to the right before taking this stitch, probably because I’m right handed. Take a stitch on Side B and wrap thread over needle before pulling through.

7) last of the four stitch pattern. Rotate the work back a quarter turn to the leftb. Insert needle through the right hand loop in the gap, near Side A. The loop may be a little harder to see than in Step 5. Wrap thread over needle before pulling through.

The four-way rhythm of the stitching becomes hypnotic and the work moves quickly up the seam. Just remember to always wrap the thread over the top of the needle before pulling through.

The finished book:

Other joining stitches:

Xenotopias — progress

I am really happy to be getting closer to a finished concertina book, titled “Xenotopias.” The name came from Rob Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. It means strange or foreign places.

The book started with patchwork squares depicting landscapes. Developed for practice stitching curves in Jude Hill’s Patchwork in Perspective class. Most of the scraps came from a big bag of scraps purchased from Deb Lacativa.

The next step was to assemble pages. This required a backing fabric to frame the squares, and an insert material for stiffness. The concertina should stand up when opened and turning the pages should be a soft but not floppy experience.

My first choices were a stiff muslin for the background and cut squares of cardboard mailers for the inserts. I made a few of these, but honestly it was a painful struggle. The muslin was really hard to stitch through. I could attach the patch through one layer easily enough, but trying to assemble the pages was really difficult. I bought a thimble. Didn’t really help. I went on vacation, got sick, then the holidays, then a spurt of crochet projects. A nagging feeling that I’d abandoned the project.

Meanwhile the urge to dye kicked in and I dyed some white lightweight cotton with walnuts. On a whim, I laid out some patchwork squares on this dyed piece. Eight squares fit with a small but adequate seam allowances. A way forward!

In one evening, I stitched all eight squares onto their walnut-colored backing fabric with white silk thread. It took another day or two to stitch the squares into pages, right sides together, with a beige cotton thread that blended in. I chose a square of mull for the insert. (I bought mull after hearing about it on Jody Alexander’s Instagram as a stiffener for a fabric concertina.) It gave the right feel, more bendable than card yet holding its own when the book was standing on end.

So at last the final decision was how to join the pages. I’d saved a few Instagram posts of other people’s books with embroidered joins, but I wanted something a little fancier. I had learned a key term – “insertion stitch” – and a little YouTube browsing brought me to this video:

316-Decorative joining of two edges with needle(Randa embroidery) By Sushma’s Craft and Creations

I don’t understand most of the narration. Only a few words like “anti-clockwise” are in English. But I could follow the video well enough to recreate the join in a green variegated Valdani pearl cotton thread. I finished one join this morning. Two more and the book will be complete!

I couldn’t find any other tutorials on “randa embroidery” online, but I’d love to find out more about it. More ideas using this method of joining are percolating!

Started join using randa embroidery stitch

View of two squares being joined on my lap

Finished join – squares not aligned that well! There’s always room for improvement.

Black walnut dyeing

I collected black walnuts last fall from a park in Danbury, Connecticut. I stored them in a plastic shopping bag and did not make any progress in processing them. Recently I was reorganizing my dye materials and opened the bag to a moist, rotting, buggy mess — ugh!

I poured the nuts into a tote and stored it outside in the freezing weather for a few days. A squirrel got interested but only chewed on a few nuts. I eventually dumped most of them onto the ground in a barren patch behind the shop to avoid shocking any plants with juglone. Not wanting to miss out on the dyeing opportunity completely, I reserved about 10 of the nuts that were only minorly deteriorated.

I put the nuts whole into a pot (reserved for dyeing!), covered with water, and set on the woodstove. Over a few days, I took the pot on and off the stove, not really monitoring any boiling or simmering activity. I strained out the liquid and took the nuts out to the dumping area. The liquid was deep dark brown.

Prepared five fabrics chosen from my stash: white and ivory cottons, a linen napkin, and a white and a peach duppioni silk. I scoured them first with hot water, washing soda, and a little dish detergent. I bundled some of the fabrics using shibori techniques with rubber bands and clothespins. Some fabric went in loose. The fabrics stayed in the pot on the woodstove for several hours and off the stove overnight.

Results of fabric dyeing:

Before ironing

After ironing

A few days later, I chose some papers from my stash, bundled them between tiles and can lids, and lowered them into the walnut bath. Also threw in some threads wound onto spools. These also stayed in the hot bath for several hours and the cooling bath overnight.

Results of paper dyeing:

The whole group

Two signatures

Four accordion strips

Assortment of small single sheet scraps

I really like the walnut brown color and the clouds and marks from the dyeing bundles. The darker edges on the papers look great. I’m not sure how I’ll use these materials, but for now I’m just enjoying them. And happy to get the walnut mess out of the house. Next time, I’ll dye with them fresh like you’re supposed to!

Next up: dyeing with my collected acorns, which thankfully are in better shape than the walnuts.

Sewn on Spine Book 4

New skills! And using materials from my shelves! I’m very enthusiastic about this book.

The decorative cloth is Three Cats Shweshwe purchased from Mnandi in Cape Town, South Africa. I added lightweight paper as a backing to make it suitable for bookcloth. I have two more to use as shown below.

I bought the black bookcloth at a spring book arts fair in Portland. It has a very subtle inclusion of a brassy colored thread, only fuzz really.

I chose the cross stitch sewing pattern for the spine. The best technique I found on YouTube linked here:

Sewing in a signature with a cross stitch tutorial

The text pages are Fabriano Artistico hot press.