Now I'm a Milk Thistle

I've had a bit of a lonely half term; my family were away, most of my friends were working, and Pip has been very busy with work and being a new home owner. I did manage to host a small gathering yesterday, with home-baked brownies and pumpkin pie, though; there are far too many sweet treats left lying around the house!

I may have spent a lot of time with Mad Men boxsets, but I did try to use the time semi-productively; whilst slobbing I was stitching, too. In fact, Milk Thistle is finally finished.

The book deals with sickness (and sickliness) and recovery, the subdued gloom of the English national psyche, weeds, delicate flowers, frailty, vulnerability, stereotypes and performativity of femininity, Romantic literature and poetry, and thorns amongst the roses. Milk thistle is thought to be good for the liver, so the book is also about bravery; about not being lily-livered.

Conceptually I think it's the most cohesive of my three artist's books; however, due to the thin fashion and quilting cottons I used for its cover and pages, it doesn't feel quite as "structurally sound". But I did get a chance to experiment with a few techniques learnt during my time at the RSN, as well as some new ones; Turkey rug stitch, Victorian cross stitch beading, and ribbon embroidery all make an appearance.

So here it is, the completed Milk Thistle, an idea it has only taken me two years to realise:


































The text of the book:

We are wilted English roses grown pallid and wan, wandering moors, moaning "Willoughby, Willoughby" at thin air for hours.

I'll twist my ankle attempting to commune with nature, and fall deep in the shaded wood, become a shrinking violet, growing smaller and smaller until one day I simply vanish.

Down in the thicket, the bright fairy bower, I am sickly and fey, I'm a delicate flower.

Up in my garret, my ivory tower, I wax and I wane, I pale by hour.

Laid up in bed with the curtains drawn, lily livered and lovely eyed, stitching petals between pages, paper thin Honesty skin - quick! Sew up the gaps! Don't let the light in.

In the darkness thorny thoughts crowded my head and I thrashed in my flower bed so ineffectually, a delicate flower choked by creepers, bound up by pansy sickness.

Nobody brought me a bedside bouquet, but everywhere I wept, petals sprung, until I watered a meadow.

The White Lady came to me. She told me "Dab tincture of milk thistle under your weeping eyes. It's good for the liver and you need all the unlilying you can get. Remember you're a milk thistle; a tenacious weed."

I was an English Rose.

Then I was Rose Madder.

Now I'm a Milk Thistle.

I'm looking for somewhere to exhibit Milk Thistle, alongside my other two artist's books, if at all possible. If you're interested, please don't hesitate to get in touch!


Tincture of Milk Thistle

I am imminently to be employed (finally!) so won't have quite as much time for making and blogging, at least for the next couple of weeks.
 
 At some point during that time I'm hoping to squeeze in getting the eighth and final page of Milk Thistle done, because, as of today, page seven is finished!
 
 
 
This page is based around a wise old crone; a white witch called the White Lady, who has some advice on bravery to impart to the young Milk Thistle.
 
The text reads:
 
The White Lady came to me. She told me
 
"Dab tincture of milk thistle under your weeping eyes.
 
It's good for the liver
 
and you need all the unlilying you can get.
 
Remember you're a milk thistle;
 
a tenacious weed"
 


 
The page is illustrated with the very tincture the witch describes. Milk Thistle is indeed used to treat liver problems (although in this case is used metaphorically, to treat a "lily liver"; to treat cowardice).







 
I'm quite pleased with the way the page has come together, particularly the tincture. I've got some puzzling over how best to portray the final page, though!



Helenium: tears

The sixth and latest page of Milk Thistle is one of my favourites, possibly because it is about crying, which one could argue is my very favourite theme (see here, here, and also here).

I stitched some stanzas of Keats's Ode on Melancholy on to a handkerchief (aptly), and based the illustration to accompany the lines on this illustration from a book that I snagged from my Mum's work:



But more on that later.

The reason why tears feature prominently on this page is because it is based around a Kensitas Flowers card featuring Helenium, a flower which, in Greek mythology, grew where Helen wept.

Consequently, the text I have written and stitched for the page reads

Nobody brought me a bedside bouquet,

but everywhere I wept, flowers sprung,

until I watered a meadow




To accompany the Kensitas Flower, I stitched the following line from Keats's On Melancholy on to my handkerchief:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud

as I felt they were appropriate. The eye illustration that accompanies the text is the "weeping cloud" of the poem.























There are only two more pages to go now, and then I can (finally) stitch the whole thing together. It's been a long commitment but I think it will pay off.

Pansy Sickness

Pansies are a flower close to my heart, as I've explained before. I'm even considering getting a tattoo featuring one. So I had to focus on the humble pansy for a page of Milk Thistle.

I chose the most gloriously lurid 60s cotton for the background of the page. This is  because I based the text of the page partially on The Yellow Wallpaper, a late nineteenth century short story about a woman's descent into madness when she is essentially forced into house arrest by her husband, holed up in a room with yellow wallpaper which takes on an increasingly sinister edge. 

My text reads

In the darkness thorny thoughts crowded my head

and I thrashed in my flower bed so ineffectually

a delicate flower choked by creepers

bound up by pansy sickness

The text was also influenced by the meaning of the pansy as given by Kensita's cigarettes; "Thoughts: Think of Me".



I scanned my first blooms to be dried in my flower press (pansies of course!) to become the pocket in which the Kensitas woven silk pansy would be kept. I rather like the vibrant purples and yellows against the yellow, orange and lime green cotton. A ghastly clash to reflect the "thorny thoughts" and "pansy sickness" (which is in actuality a fungus which attacks the pansy's stem and may cause it to collapse).






I have another page to share over the next few days which I completed during my stay in the Highlands; it was quite a productive trip! Two more pages to go after that; I'd better get stitching.

Lily livered

I'm not at all sure about the latest page of Milk Thistle (although I am halfway there now). A few things went wrong in its making, and I almost wished I'd used a brighter, more minimalist background fabric.


One thing I am happy with is the sprig of Honesty I scanned and used as the page's pocket; it is ethereal, almost ghostly; a fellow artist on Instagram described it as "fairy money". It's the perfect holding place for the red lily Kensita's woven silk flower card.







The text of this page reads

Laid up in bed with the curtains drawn, lily livered and lovely eyed

Stitching petals between pages - quick! 

Sew up the gaps! Don't let the light in

There is a separate text sewn on to white work fabric which reads

I thread my needle by the sun's light

I lose eyesight by candle light

This is based on a passage in The Subversive Stitch which describes how cottage industry embroiderers ruined their eyes through sewing by candle light.

This page is based around how invalidism, together with embroidery, became a part of the inculcation of the feminine in the nineteenth century.

The bright fairy bower


 
The third page of Milk Thistle deals with Romantic (with a capital R) preoccupations with sickliness, and the cult of the (myth of the?) tortured artist.

 


 
 
The text reads:
 
Down in the thicket, the bright fairy bower
I am sickly and fey, I'm a delicate flower
 
Up in my garret, my ivory tower,
I wax and I wane, I pale by hour
 
 
I've surrounded the words with a garland of ribbon roses and tiny beaded blooms, and a thicket of wild flowers springs from the page.

Book Marks

A wealth of wit, literary references and life's big themes are on show in the current exhibition at E17 Art House. Those literary references are particularly apt as the exhibition is entitled Book Marks, and is part of Walthamstow's inaugural literary festival, Words Over Waltham Forest.

Paens to literature, reading and writing in the exhibition include quick-witted visual puns (an orange with a piece of clockwork inserted where its stem should be), conceptual riffs on the sanctity of literature (a Bible which warns that God is watching you via a security camera in the front cover, another with legislature scrawled over chapter and verse), and the more straightforward, though no less charming (sculptures and photographs of readers enjoying a quiet moment with a good book).

From the moment of glancing at the title of How To Deal With Problematic Neighbours, the reader's mind is set racing guessing what the solution may be. Its contents are almost predictable, though still tickle the funny bone; a pistol conveniently concealed inside for dispatching with annoying acquaintances.




J. Thomas's artist's book was one of a number of offerings lining what I affectionately refer to as 'Conceptual Corner' in the exhibition, and is the next door neighbour of my contribution. Big Teeth, the artist's book which consumed me for around a month and a half, is a hand sewn exploration of the women's language of cloth in fairytales, and of what happens after happily ever after.




To the right hand side of Big Teeth was another artist's book, this time for sale in an edition. Subtitles (of Life and Death) by David Barette also happened to be my favourite piece in the show.

It's a simple idea; collate quotations on life and death in the form of screenshots and subtitles from a variety of classic films. But it works. 


The screenshots take the form of postcards that one could "cut (or rather, pull) out and keep", or keep as a complete work of art. Perhaps it appeals particularly to me as part of an image, iconography, pop culture obsessed generation; the Tumblr generation, if you will. It's certainly very accessible and instantly gratifying.




Between the Lines by Wendy McMillan, UK Law transcribed over Biblical Text

1984 by Francis Long



Insect Travellers Author/artist unknown. This artist's book disperses advice and adages alongside scientific illustrations of insects.



Bible Cam - God is watching YOU by Pure Evil


Genre - Mystery by Hannah Battershell. What tales could this abandoned typewriter tell?

A Soul of a New Machine by Jonathan Thomas
The artist E. J. England uses  book covers as their canvases; of course, one would need to read the words enclosed within to know whether these paintings are illustrative, or what is suggested to the artist by the books' titles.

The Stars Look Down by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book.

The Lion by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book


Of Love and Other Demons by Divya Venkatesh
I've been in a number of exhibitions with soft sculpture and embroidery artist Harriet Hammel, but the attention to detail and accuracy of her illustrative comic book embroideries exhibited at Book Marks never fails to astonish me.


Beano Embroidery by Harriet Hammel

Dandy Embroidery Fragment by Harriet Hammel
Another favourite piece was Jonathan O'Dea's book-sculpture Burning Back the Layers. Created as a tangible embodiment of the artist's struggles with reading as a dyslexic, the work also reminds the viewer that books come from trees; it reminds us of the lengthy process the materials have undergone in order for a book, perfect and complete, to be placed in our hands. The longer I spent with this piece, the more of its layers I unpeeled; a very appropriately titled work.

Burning Back the Layers by Jonathan O'Dea

Reading by Esther Neslen
This exhibition is rich and beautifully curated, many of the pieces situated in such a way that they have a profound dialogue with one another. I am sure book based art is a genre I will return to time and time again over the course of my career; books are my first love, after all (and what better first love to have?) As one of the art works in the exhibition mused, in the immortal words of Morrissey: "There's more to life than books you know, but not much more." Quite.

Big Teeth: The Storybook Opens

As an artist, it isn't often that everything comes together in a perfect configuration (ignoring for a moment the fact that perfection doesn't exist). So it is with my most recent project, Big Teeth (though it came pretty damn close!)

Just as I was stitching the third to last button hole through which to lace ribbon tying the pages of the book into its codex, I realised that I had cut the button holes on the wrong side of the page. Luckily this page flowed almost as well with the text the wrong way round; both sides fit in with their neighbouring pages almost seamlessly, though my mistake was disastrous enough and for a few minutes it looked like an all out temper tantrum was imminent.

I present to you the almost-exactly-as-I-envisioned-it soft sculpture fairy tale artist's book, Big Teeth:

















This book has been brewing in my head for years. When I originally wrote the first version of the text, I was around fifteen or sixteen, and envisioned the book in paper, collage style. I subsequently lost all copies of the text and had to re-write it (and hopefully improve on it slightly) from memory.

Now that I am a needlewoman, it seemed appropriate to weave references to cloth and textile techniques into the pockets of the book.

The text as I intended it to read:

Big Teeth

Please  have a heart, my dear
Mine's a glass slipper
At a stroke it'll fall apart
My pulse beats quicker
Than paws on soil of some sauteed savannah
So make haste, my sweet
See if the shoe fits before
Lions and tigers and bears
Pour out of the rafters

The narrative thread

Trust me, my love
A love like this looks better
From far, far, far away
Up close the most I'll offer
(A special offer to you,
My flavour of the day)
Is a quick kiss
Quicker kick in the teeth
And a hasty getaway
Over the hills and dales and
Away to never ever land.

By the path of pins and needles

So please let's hold the Cinderella
You see
There comes a time when the stretchmarks show
And the glass slipper
Off it slips
And burrows under
Laundry piles and candelabras 
And lions and tigers and bears
Descend from the rafters

Heavily embroidered

So trust me, my love, a love like this looks far better
From far far away
When it has quite such big teeth big cat full fat feelings
Caresses, distress and all the rest, it leaves me reeling
(Soon the lions and tigers and bears
Will descend from the ceiling)

Girl afrayed

You may very well say, my charming fella
"Whatever the weather we'll weather it together"
But don't make it oh so Cinderella
Said I don't see what's so brave about lions, 
But perhaps it'll help
Although I'm trying
 I'm big cat, small claws
Big cat wound up now
Tin can alley cat, canned meow
And despite my best intentions
I shall go to the ball
I shall have it all
But what then?

 
I am worn to a ravelling

Well, mistakes happen, and now Big Teeth is safely off to the gallery and, unless they follow this blog, visitors to the exhibition will be none the wiser! I do hope they interact with the book's pages, though...

Button Holes and Weekend Breaks

I have but six button holes to sew of Big Teeth left, and the deadline is on Wednesday (see, I really am the Tailor of Gloucester!), so I'm whisking the project away with me for a long weekend (Pip and I are off to the South West tomorrow; first Devon, then Bristol, then Bath, visiting friends and old university haunts and generally pretending we're in Jane Austen).

In the mean time, here are some phone snaps of Big Teeth in progress:





My dear friend Katrina came over yesterday for an arts and crafts date; she painted all day, and I stitched (and we squeezed in a little Adventure Time viewing; I think my outfit was very Princess Bubblegum inspired).






Today I put the finishing touches to the contents of the third pocket of the book; based on the tale of the Princess and the Pea, and ideas of spinning yarns and old wives' tales, it's stacked with many mattresses and proclaims that the story is "Heavily embroidered".



I will return with lots of photographs to share, both digital and Polaroids, and, I would imagine, pining for my old Dartington home!

"I am worn to a ravelling"


My favourite of Beatrix Potter's tales has always been The Tailor of Gloucester. As a small child I imagine the appeal was the cavorting, singing animals and the sumptuous snowy Christmas setting. Now that I'm grown, I am enthralled by the needlework and the tailoring itself, and the industrious little tailor mouse and his helpers above all.

Whilst I was in Scotland my best friend popped a little card with the tailor mouse printed on the front through the letterbox.


The mice must complete the coat and waistcoat for the Lord Mayor's wedding, for the tailor has no more twist; no more cherry coloured embroidery thread!


Last Christmas time I spent an entire day watching the BBC's Beatrix Potter adaptations and embroidering (what else), only leaving the house to fetch some red ribbon. It was bitterly cold and snowing outside, and I felt exactly like the Tailor of Gloucester!

I knew that I had to use the tailor's deliciously sewing-specific phrase, "I am worn to a ravelling" in an embroidery somewhere down the line, and with the Big Teeth project the chance has finally come.

As you may remember from my earlier post, the heroine of Big Teeth, conversely to many fairy tale protagonists, is afraid of being tied down by love. Therefore I wanted to express her frustration at being finally "caught" with the tailor's phrase (particularly since all the contents of the pockets relate, in some way or another, to textiles).

For that embroidery's "sister", I used an equally delicious terrible pun, "Girl Afrayed" (I just couldn't help myself; it marries two of my favourite things, needlework and a Smiths song!)

These two little doilies will fill the penultimate and final pockets of Big Teeth.





"Will you take the path of pins, or the path of needles?"


In some of the earliest surviving texts of Little Red Riding Hood, when the girl is met by the wolf in the wood, he asks her if she will take the path of pins, or the path of needles. It is of little consequence which path the girl chooses; whichever she does, the wolf chooses the other path and begins a race to get there first.

What is of significance, however, is the objects chosen to name these two paths. One may think that they are appropriate names for paths taken in a cautionary tale, which is precisely what Little Red Riding Hood is thought of as being today; warning girls against talking to strangers and sexual "immorality".

But the tale has roots, like many of the old tales, as a story of female cunning, strength, and coming of age (don't forget in many of the earlier versions of the tale it is Little Red, not the woodsman, who cuts her grandmother out of the wolf's belly).

So, why are the needles and pins of such significance in this coming of age story? Well, according to this (far superior) article, in the French villages where the European version of the fairytale was originally collected, young girls symbolically passed over into womanhood by going to spend one winter apprenticed to a seamstress.

Therefore, Little Redcap's journey up the path of pins/needles possibly symbolises her (potentially dangerous, as evidenced by the wolf) journey into womanhood.

There may be a slightly more arbitrary reason for the pins and needles; fairy tales, or, quite literally, "old wive's tales" were normally shared by groups of women, who gathered to sew, spin, weave and knit. Telling old stories would make these sometimes onerous tasks more enjoyable, and weaving references to their handiwork into the tales was a way of personalising them; of making them relatable.

I've always been intrigued by the tale of Little Red Riding Hood; aged fifteen I completed an embarrassingly shoddy project based on the story for my Art GCSE, and "She whipped a pistol from her knickers" from Roald Dahl's anarchic take on the tale is one of my favourite lines of literature of all time.

It seems that mine and the tale's paths have crossed yet again in the making of the contents of the pocket on the second page of Big Teeth (and the title of the project itself, of course, is partially a reference to "My, what big teeth you have!")

Each of the pockets contains an embroidery alluding to the references to textiles techniques which are commonly found in fairy tales (for the precise reasons I gave above). For this one, I decided to create the clearing in the woodland where the path of pins and the path of needles begin.

By embroidering literal pins and needles along the paths, I am alluding to the dangers the heroines of fairy tales face along their journeys, and perhaps afterwards (I don't believe in happily ever after, particularly not with a "Prince Charming"!)



I decided to stick with black thread to give a flat, story book illustrative style, and I am quite pleased with the results (even if the trees do look like broccoli as a result!)

With the contents of the first page, I was alluding to the ball of string used to escape the maze in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and to the "thread" of bread or pebbles Hansel and Gretel leave in the woods to find their way home by. I indicated this by carving two tiny trees from birch bark and stringing a red thread between them (another allusion to Little Red Riding Hood?)


The text I chose for this piece was "the narrative thread"; the thread which runs through all our lives, and our oldest stories; our myths and fairy tales, which make up so much of our history and culture.



I have but two more little embroideries to complete for Big Teeth, and then I can stitch the whole thing together; I'm actually going to make my deadline for the exhibition at this rate!


Rest Cure


As much as I do love London, occasionally I need to escape it for a little while. I've been feeling a little disenchanted recently; I think from constantly working so hard on projects, from the long summer which I've been failing to fill effectively, and from spending too much time staring at screens (she says, staring at one!)

So a two week rest cure at my parents' house in the North West Highlands was just what the doctor ordered. I brought my current project, Big Teeth, along with me (and got a surprising amount sewn on the train!) My aim for the holiday was to sit and sew and look out at the sea.

So far it has also included rather a lot of staring at screens (surprise surprise), fine food (and wine!), and the odd walk around the hills and down to the beach. The wild landscape is the perfect setting for constructing a book about fairytales (many of which, of course, had fairly savage beginnings).

First of all, here are some holiday snaps:



An old friend adorning a stone shed on the walk down to the beach (painted by a family friend).

Giant daisies growing against the shed in my parents' garden.

The first bushel of gooseberries grown in the garden; there's almost enough for a crumble!

An entirely unintentional shot of me wandering around in the garden in a lovely dress.
Of course, most of my time has been given over to sewing, and this current project isn't an easy one (but then I'm always one to bite off more than I can chew!)

Someone else who hasn't been finding my sewing easy is our dog, Rosie. A few days ago, the phone started ringing whilst I was mid-stitch; thinking it might be my boyfriend, I got up in a rush, thrusting the embroidery aside. It landed on the dog.





Poor pet!

My reading material for the holiday has been fairly light; I desperately wanted to read The Little White Horse, but couldn't find it at home or at my Grannie's (hers is the house next door to my parents'). Instead, Grannie lent me Linnets and Valerians, also by Elizabeth Goudge. I must admit, so far I haven't touched it; I've been too engrossed in Issue Five of Magpie Magazine, which, as well as being full of beautiful photographs and articles, has quite a number of the best poems I've read in recent years. They've inspired me to write some of my own (not quite ready to share yet, though). My final "reading material" is my previous artist's book, On Being Soft, which is sob-inducingly superior to my current efforts, but acts as a good source of inspiration nonetheless.


And on to those poor efforts! I think my real problem is that the story/poem that runs through the book is rather text-heavy, and my pages are rather tiny!


The first few pages are charmingly off-kilter, but the last couple are so dense the text is almost illegible! The second to last page in particular is just not gelling for me; I think the blanket stitch around the text is too bright. I may unpick it and start again. Also, the last line of the first page is missing and I can't for the life of me find where it's gone! Typical me!







I do like the soft tones of the scanned and cloth-printed Polaroids against the clumsy blanket stitch and the hand sewn text, though, and I am (more or less) happy with every page other than that pesky second to last one. Perhaps I should have stuck to using the same fabric for each page, as I did with On Being Soft. Oh well, I'm sure the contents of the Polaroid pockets will be more impressive. And speaking of, I'd better crack on with them. No rest for the wicked!


Cover to Cover

I'm making good progress with Big Teeth, the new artist's book I'm working on. Yesterday I finished hand stitching the front cover, and today I've cut out all the pages and will start on the text of the book after this blog post.

That's not to say it hasn't been a difficult process so far; choosing to render the entire book in hand stitching meant lots of unpicking and re-stitching! But I'm sure the end result will be worth it. Hand stitching a piece just gives it so much more soul.

I chose blue and white faded striped fabric, and sewed the cover with the stripes going vertically, so that the pattern was akin to a tube of toothpaste (such big teeth need a lot of brushing, after all!)








I'm happy with the book thus far, even with its imperfections (which is quite something for me!) I think I'm going to very much enjoy this little project undertaken for the Book Marks exhibition.

Big Teeth

Possibly thanks to my little exhibition at Arts and Crusts, I was recently contacted by E17 Art House, a local picture framers and gallery, and asked to participate in a new exhibition there to coincide with Waltham Forest's literary festival in October.

Words Over Waltham Forest aims to incite participants and the public to "tell tales, spin stories, recite rhymes, loosen tongues as Words over Waltham Forest celebrates creative writing, literary inspired art, reading, freedom of expression, language and literature across Waltham Forest."

I have a couple of plans for "literary inspired art" afoot, but first I must create a piece for the Book Marks exhibition at E17 Art House. And, always being one to bite off more than I can chew, I've decided to create a follow up to On Being Soft, my first soft sculpture artist's book.

This new book will be titled Big Teeth, and in keeping with the literary theme, will focus on fairytales and all the allusions to textiles therein, and how there is no such thing as a happy ending. It will have more than a whiff of Hounds of Love about it, being narrated by a heroine who is unwilling to give into love and its trappings.

Here is the design for the book's front cover.


Big Teeth refers both to the wolf in grandmother's clothing ("My, what big teeth you have") and to being afraid of the unruly emotions of life and love (life's "big teeth").

I picked up all the fabric to construct the book from fabric donations at Significant Seams for a very reasonable price; I love the slightly worn, pre-loved look of donated fabric. The fabric this embroidery will be stitched to make up the front cover is a faded "toothpaste stripe", which I felt very appropriate.

Winter's End


A week before the season’s end, I’ve finished my winter project. What To Look For In Winter? ends on a slightly melancholy note, with the heroine, who is now ready for a new season and new love, wondering what to look for when the weather turns colder again.
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But what to
look for
in winter?
The yellow thread that I chose to embroider the phrase picks up the celandine and coltsfoot blossoms in the illustration, and contrasts with the blue moth print paper which lines the index.
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Moths will continue as a motif in my next project. Now that I’ve finished my modest winter undertaking, I feel ready for a  more ambitious make; I’m going to attempt my first quilt. The Constellation Quilt will focus on my character Polly Kettle,  and writing about  the stars and night.
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In the meantime, here’s the completed What To Look For In Winter, a winter’s worth of writing and sewing.

"When the gorse is out of bloom, then is kissing out of fashion"


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English Rose
Your lips
have thawed
And there’s a
Spring
in your step.
This penultimate page of What To Look For In Winter harks back to the very first page, which addresses the English Rose heroine of the tale/poem:
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The coming of spring has freed the English Rose from the cruel clutches of Winter, and now her heart and lips have thawed and she is ready for new life and new love. Only now will she truly “wilt no more“. There is a link between the original text and my own writing on this penultimate page; the mention of the folklore surrounding gorse and kissing and my mention of thawed lips, just as I wrote that the heroine’s lips were “too chapped and dry to kiss” on this page, which mentions and shows mistletoe:
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Only one more page to stitch, and then I will embark on possibly my most ambitious project yet; a narrative quilt on the subject of the stars.

Unfurling


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Ah, spring. The promise of new life, of green, of renewal. The promise of the seasons’, of life’s, cycles. I do a fair bit of recycling in my art and writing; my most recent page extended ideas of laddered hearts first explored in this cross stitch. These next two pages borrow from snippets of writing which have been revised over the years. It may not quite be spring, but I can feel myself growing more ambitious and optimistic for the months ahead… in a way I’m doing my own unfurling…
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My heart is thawing
Unfurling slow
as ferns under frost.
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Unfurling slow
as bowstring ferns
puckering up
their octopus
feelers.
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Mothball Moments


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Mothball moments
Tumbleweed moments
Rolling on through the hours,
the years,
rolling on through 
the centuries.
This page is about the inertia of depression, when it can feel like the whole world is wintry and pressing down on you, yet passing you by. This is how the heroine of What To Look For In Winter feels, wedded to the cold-hearted Winter.
I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the imagery of the farmer into the last couple of pages of What To Look For In Winter; he didn’t quite fit in with my intended narrative. A tenuous link I can make is that the earth is rolled by the plough, just as the moments roll past the heroine of the fairytale.
As with the earlier “When I married Winter, the world was put on permafrost” page, I tore through the paper slightly with needle and thread, and patched up the reverse of my embroidered page with another embroidery, a fallen oak leaf which I imagine may be one of the fallen leaves of the illustration opposite the leaf, which features my very favourite animal (the fox, not the hounds!)
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Mothmetamorphosis


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As well as being a fairytale, What To Look For In Winter is taking on a fantastical element, with coats and people metamorphosing into moths…
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He pulled his coat
over me
his moth’s wings
And I was mothballed
moth-eaten
I blended into the
curtain
just like a moth.
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I like moths. They’re badass, melancholy winter butterflies, bewitched by the moon (so the Stitch Witch in me approves!)
I embroidered a moth for my series The Onion Cutters’ Club:
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Doubtless I’ll be using the lepidopterans as a motif in the future.
The text of this latest page of What To Look For In Winter is inspired in part by a grainy webcam self portrait I took in which I am blending into the curtain “just like a moth“.
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