On Stitching the Months of 2020

It’s official. I am hopelessly in love with kantha stitching. Without much thought, I began stitching a sampler a couple of weeks ago and now I have committed myself to making one for each month of the year.

Kantha sampler for January 2020 (22 x 36 cm, or 9 x 14 inches)

Yes, I know the first week of the short month of February has already passed and I have only just finished January’s sampler. I have decided not to give myself a size restriction, so I could make a tiny piece for February. And this is a leap year, so I have an extra day (HA!). The joke may well end up being on me. (Last year I boldly wrote that I would make a house every weekend and end 2019 with 50 houses for a village quilt. That didn’t work out, so this year I resolved not to make any quilting resolutions.)

It was the rain that inspired this piece. (I know that I keep harping on the invigorating effect of the good rains that have broken the year-long drought, but it has been an enormous relief.) With the idea of depicting in thread the change from a brown, dusty environment to a green and lush world, it struck me that I could stitch the letters of the month in a gradation to depict this change. It was also a chance to play with my stash of interesting threads. Many of them are hand dyed perle thread from House of Embroidery. The greenest green in my thread box was a DMC skein of embroidery thread.

I had also been idly wondering about using kantha stitching to create letters and this was a good opportunity to try it out. The circles at the bottom of the piece were inspired by a set of painted circles on the inside cover a book I recently read, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami.

For the letters I used the bricking kantha stitch and ran the lines very close to one another to get a more solid effect. The circles were stitched using the stepping method. (I wrote about learning these variations in a previous post. In both cases I had fun experimenting with my needle and thread. For example, when I found that the negative spaces in the circle were becoming too large, I filled them in with a bridging stitch and continued “stepping” around the circle with double the amount of stitches. (It might be easier to just look at the photograph to see what I mean!)

Last week I wrote about being overwhelmed by having five simultaneous projects on the go. The January kantha sampler was project no. 2 and I must say I am pleased to have reduced the number of projects on-the-go. Before I brag about finishing project no. 3, a quick note and photograph on the start of project no. 4. It is also a kantha project and is destined to be a companion piece to Fragmented Flower, the work in progress which I wrote about last week.

The first completed petal of a flower, using kantha stitch

the completion of project no. 3

This quilt has been around for nearly a year and was born at a workshop with my local quilting group when my good friend Karen showed us the birch tree method, which I wrote about previously and I decided to use the hand dyed indigo cloth that had been sitting in my cupboard for a couple of years.

Indigo Blues (178 x 102 cm)

While this is not quite kantha stitching, the influence is there. I quilted it over weekends while watching movies on Netflix. The rows of stitching are about a half inch apart and were stitched freehand, using shadow quilting. I began the quilting by following the lines of the shwe shwe inserts at the centre of the quilt. The quilt is bound with more shwe shwe fabric. (Shwe shwe is a popular South African cloth that was originally printed indigo style in blue and white. It has lately branched out to include vibrant fabric in bright colours.)

I am particularly fond of Indigo Blues for its warm associations. I have already mentioned Karen’s workshop where the quilt was born. Another quilting friend, Augusta, arranged a dyeing party for the QUOGs (Quilters of Grahamstown) to celebrate her birthday and that was where I dyed the cloth — and had much fun. At Karen’s workshop, my friend Cathy, who has a sharp and true eye, helped me arrange the blocks. She said the pattern made her think of jazz music and suggested I call the piece Riff. (“In popular music, jazz, etc., a short repeated phrase, freq. played over changing chords or harmonies or used as a background to a solo improvisation”(OED).) It is a perfect description, but I could not warm to the harsh sounding consonants in the word. It is, afterall, a very soft quilt.

As for Project No. 5, it is still only an idea in my head.

17 thoughts on “On Stitching the Months of 2020

  1. I must admit I had never heard of Kantha stitching but I like what you are doing with it. Great symbolism with the colour change in January. If you run behind you can always catch up in the months with fewer letters in the names. 😉
    The indigo quilt is great, I really love those subtle strips of red.

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  2. I remember that little village of houses you were going to construct for 2019!!! It’s better to set out with a plan/goal and have it evolve (in this case ‘completed’ in a form different from the stated goal at the time) than to not – IMHO.
    Anyway all that to say, I regard your Kantha stitching to be your signature – your distinctive mark of (he)artistry, so I am not at all surprised at these glimpses into your explorations…love it!

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