On Sewing Notions

I have been on a trip down memory lane, thanks to a tutorial by British textile artist Anne Kelly on how to make a textile book. She presented it on the Stitch Club platform last week. She suggested the theme of mapping a journey, using ephemera such as photos or postcards, old receipts, tickets, maps and brochures. Because I did not have any of these to hand I decided to use my mother’s old sewing bits and bobs. It has been gratifying to enfold these memories into a concertina book. (Footnote: with thanks to Asta for the word “enfold” and an acknowledgement to TextileArtist.org, the Stitch Club organisers).

The book of my mother’s sewing notions, in all its wonkiness

Given the ambiguity in the title of this little book I could also use it to store notes on stitching ideas (ha!). Should I confess that I recently had to be reminded that sewing notions refer to haberdashery? Now that I have looked it up I also know that the word in this context is only used in the plural and the full definition is “miscellaneous small wares, esp. cheap useful ingenious articles or haberdashery” (OED).

The method for making the book is also ingenious. The collected items of ephemera are sandwiched between a layer of cloth and a layer of tissue paper and held in place with a thinned solution of glue. As you may have noticed, I used old dress patterns instead of plain white tissue paper. The glueing part was scary, but I am pleased I screwed my courage to the sticking place and did it, because the result is a lovely surface which Anne Kelly likened to that of oil cloth. Once the glue dries the piece curls up on itself and needs to be ironed flat.

After this I could start on the machine and hand stitching. I am happy that my mother’s old sewing notions have been collected in one place. One of her tray cloths was used for the front and back covers. My enthusiasm got ahead of me and I made a very large book. The front and back pages are overstitched and the edges stablised with old fashioned boning wire.

Anne Kelly has a quietly refreshing approach. She encourages one to play and experiment; and not to strive for perfection but to be empowered through creating work. This is the second online workshop she has given through the good offices of TextileArtist.org. I wrote glancingly about her first challenge, where I practised on a piece of overdyed fabric instead of an old linen napkin as she had suggested. After this I did feel confident enough to appliqué and overstich on a pair a napkins.

Finishing line

At last the African Hoopoe tapestry cushion cover is finished. I know I have twice posted progress photographs of this work, but could not resist celebrating its completion as it’s been a long time in the making.

21 thoughts on “On Sewing Notions

  1. Wow, what a process!
    The book looks fab!
    It’s a super tribute to your mum’s sewing memorabilia.

    I love the pattern covers — so retro. Reminds me of learning to sew on my mum’s old Singer treadle. And spending hours in Ansteys — in Joburg city centre of the old days— searching through their pattern catalogues.

    Those Hoopoe look like they could fly off ….


  2. What a fascinating project – I’m not sure I’d be brave enough for that tissue/cloth step, but it sure looks cool! Congrats on the finish as well – it’s so bright, lively, and pretty!


  3. What a clever idea to use old dress patterns instead of tissue paper – especially apt for the notions! And how very brave to apply the glue – it evidently worked out really well. I like the ‘notion’ of preserving keepsakes in this way.


  4. What a fun way to save and remember your mother’s notions! Clever idea to use a pattern sheet too.
    I have my grandmother’s sewing basket and when I open it the smell alone already brings back memories.


      1. I am sure she would have been, but sadly she passed away in 2004, years before I started sewing seriously. I am sorry I was never able to ask her for advice because I have been told she was really experienced at making clothes.


  5. What beautiful results you’ve gotten on these projects. I enjoyed see the notions preserved. Reminded me of my mother’s extensive collection. And the birds. Just wow. Those colors.


      1. It’s easy to do so, you showed us some wonderful things here. I always look forward to seeing what you are doing because your projects are always well thought out and good to look at at the same time.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Like everyone else, I agree, the use of dress pattern tissue paper is genius…but what really intrigues me is the use of boning for the edges…amazing.
    And now you have the perfect ‘scrapbook’ encasing and enshrining (!) your mother’s sewing ephemera in a manageable and (he)artistic keepsake filled with special memories.


    1. I have seen old pattern tissue used in textile works before so can’t claim credit for the idea. As for the boning, it was one of those lucky bright ideas.
      Love the phrase “encasing and enshrining” to add to the notion of enfolding memories in these concertina books.
      Thank you for your beautiful response dear Laura

      Liked by 1 person

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