On Being Brave Enough

to take up the Are-You-Book-Enough challenge on Instagram

A while ago my blogging friend Chela of Chela’s Colchas y Mas wrote about the areyoubookenough hashtag and I have since been following it on Instagram, noticing with amazement the beautiful handmade books created by people around the world. Each month there is a new theme and it is fascinating to see the different interpretations and inspired works that the monthly challenge evokes.

It being a new year I decided to screw my courage to the sticking-place (as Shakespeare had Lady Macbeth say) and make a book about shelter, which is the theme for January 2021.

A slantways, sideways view of the cloth book

Having dabbled a little in book-making I knew enough to know that I am not able to make a bound book, so took the easy way out and constructed a concertina book out of cloth. Having decided to stick to what I know (i.e. quiltmaking), I made the book from a strip of cream canvas backed with woolen batting. There are eight pages that measure 6 x 5 inches (15 x 12.5 cm) each. The first and last pages form the covers and there are three double page spreads inside the concertina book. Having torn the cloth and cut the batting, I threaded my needle and first stitched along each of the folds to hold the book together. The woolen batting (or backing) is soft and comforting to the touch, so I decided not to add a cloth backing.

The back view of one of the double spreads

It was the content, not the form of the book, that was the real challenge. As I pondered on the idea of shelter the line “shelter from the storm” popped into my head. When I googled the phrase to check its provenance I was reminded that Bob Dylan wrote and sang this enticing, obscure song. According to Wikipedia it was recorded in 1974 and released on Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album in 1975. It is believed that he has never commented on the lyrics. Here’s the first verse:

’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
 When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
 I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
 “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
-- Bob Dylan

Finding myself firmly in the world of metaphor, I then stitched the words “The world is too much with us” on the first page. This is the first line from a sonnet by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. I used it to try to portray the worries and cares which give rise to the human need for shelter and comfort (especially in the current time of COVID).

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
-- William Wordsworth

On the following double page the quotation “A green thought in a green shade” comes from the poem The Garden by the 17th Century poet Andrew Marvell. The poem is an Edenic portrayal of a place where the built world does not intrude and the natural beauty of the garden soothes one into the tranquility of that “green thought” beneath the shady tree. Here follows the sixth stanza of the poem with the fuller quotation “Annihilating all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade”, where “all that’s made” refers to the built world of cities and industry.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.
-- Andrew Marvell

On the final double page I fall into cliché in order to make my point.

I have not yet finished stitching the back cover. I had thought to leave it plain, but on looking at the photograph I think I should stitch around the central motif. Any advice would be welcome.

While stitching this little book I listened to a Spotify podcast called The Daily Poem. It was good to listen to classic poems beautifully read by David Kern of Goldberry Studios. The readings are accompanied by insightful commentary and biographical details on the poet. I am very glad I stumbled upon this listening pleasure.

TIP

An old sewing machine needle can be used when pinning up blocks on a polystyrene board. It works well because it is sturdier than an ordinary pin. I made this discovery by mistake while pinning up a large quilt and grabbed an old needle that had been pinned into my pincushion.

29 thoughts on “On Being Brave Enough

  1. What an absolutely fabulous post, Mariss. I’m going to have to read it again and again. I love your book and it’s theme. I am almost tempted to try to make one myself. I, who can hardly sew a stitch. Thank you!

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  2. Lovely to hear your enthusiastic voice again, Jacqui. Thank you for your comments — I must confess I was not too sure about whether the message of the book would come through, so appreciate the confirmation. You could easily make a concertina book — if you can thread a needle and sew running stitch you can do it!

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  3. Just divine Mariss! Truly….

    The back cover makes me think of togetherness — the two paisley motifs snuggled up (spooned?) in a yin-yang form, For me, togetherness is also a shelter from the storm.

    As always, thanks for sharing…
    Ast
    ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw your post title, and the Dylan song immediately came to mind. It’s one of my favorites. As to the back cover, I might consider stitching “Shelter from Storm” along the curve of the design, maybe along with some Kantha? Just a thought. Thoroughly enjoyed this post!

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  5. Fabulous post! I enjoyed reading the story of your book. I am imagining how it would feel to hold it in my hands, see the content and read it for myself. So comforting. Thank you for the TIP. I keep all of mine in a little jar waiting for the proper time and place to dispose of them. Now I have a useful way to extend their lives.

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    1. Thank you Cindy. It is good to know that you would want to hold the book in real life and page through it. It does feel very soft.
      I too keep my used sewing machine needles (and blunt rotary blades) in a jar because it seems dangerous to throw them away.

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  6. Wow this is amazing! So the challenge is to make one book a month? There was a bookalong – Anne Brooke Sew for the Soul on Youtube, and I have prepared my fabric and haven’t made the book yet. Yours is wonderful. I really like the idea of using poems as starting off posts.

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  7. I’ve finally got back to “making my kind of books” with a 3 hole pamphlet stitch to bind them together. The ones I’m currently doing are only one signature but for now that’s enough for me.
    I’ve also make a type of scroll journal with cloth and those are some of I want to continue with but for now, I’m into paper with additions…

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