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.

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