Plunging In

On Tuesday, I went to my favourite store, The Stitcher's Muse, and spent a hundred dollars on a great big piece of Belgian linen to work the next piece in the Codex Canadensis series. (I live on beans and rice so that I can afford such beautiful cloth.)

On Wednesday, I tea dyed the linen, as the Antique White was just a bit too white for me. Typically, I didn't sample. I used three Tetley's tea bags for 30 square feet of cloth, and got a beautiful warm beige. (Thank goodness I didn't follow the online source that recommended 40 tea bags for a table cloth.) After rinsing and hanging on the line outside I decided it was a little too colourful, so ran it through the washer a second time. Perfect!
That afternoon, I began tracing the design onto the freshly pressed cloth. I would show you the cartoon but, believe me, it is a very rough cut and paste job that probably makes sense only to me and I would be embarrassed for anyone to see it. I have got to the point now where I just need a basic outline for placement and I fill in all the details as I stitch. Which might sound like I know what I am doing....

The first parts I traced were the most rudimentary background elements, based on the nautical maps of Samuel de Champlain. Since the creatures this time around are the marine mammals - whales, porpoises, walrus, and seals - I wanted to add a water-y element. But rather than wavy lines, I decided on the compass points and meridians that navigators of the late 1600's would have used. I think they will provide a fitting contrast to the sinuous curves of the swimming sea creatures, and add a clean contemporary aspect to the piece that feels like something new for me. I am very excited about these lines.

But, wouldn't you know it, I screwed it up. The cloth shifted under the transfer paper and the lines didn't meet up properly. I was so keen to start stitching I thought, "I'll stitch the correct outline first, then wash it to get rid of the graphite lines that are out of place." I merrily began stitching, using a different thread from my usual perle cotton, a dark brown organic cotton weaving thread from Louet. Halfway round the circle I began planning my strategy for removing the wayward lines. Spot cleaning would be the best bet, and hopefully quicker than putting the whole piece through the washing machine. But I was stopped in my tracks by the thought, "What if the thread shrinks? Or the dye runs?" I hadn't done a test.

I continued on anyway, tried the spot cleaning, which didn't remove the marks to my satisfaction, and finally admitted to myself that I had rushed in willy-nilly and the only solution was to pick out the stitching and properly wash the whole cloth in the machine. It was 9 p.m. by this point - but fortunately a clear night and the cloth was on the line before I went to bed.

Today, I did what I should have done in the first place and just traced the creatures and the outside round of the compass. I can do all the straight lines with a yardstick after everything else is in place. The cotton thread tested successfully - no shrinkage and no bleeding. And I am grateful for the beautiful cloth. One of the many good things about fine quality linen is that it just gets better the more one handles it. It generously accommodates the foolish mistakes of an overly excited and eager stitcher.


  1. Oh you are like me, not wanting to go backwards, or tear anything out! Also, you have piqued my interest--30 square feet is a pretty big canvas. Will this be your largest piece yet in this series?

  2. one of the very good things about cloth and stitch is you can take out the errant line and start again, pen and ink on fine paper doesn't wash well!


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