This word makes one think of being constrained, hemmed in, even imprisoned. So, when it came to thinking of ideas for the March theme of ‘fenced’ for the #areyoubookenough challenge on Instagram I was stumped. Then it dawned on me that a fence also offers protection and solace, especially if it encloses a garden.

A representation of my garden in a seven-page accordion fabric book. 6 x 5″ (15 x 12.5 cm) per page

It took a while to arrive at the idea of using my own garden as the source material for the images in the book. I began by stitching a silver fence from lame (with umlaut). Thank you Asta for suggesting this. The intention was to applique (with umlaut) floral fabric behind and in front of the fence and so create a garden on the inside pages of the book. I first painted the book’s blank canvas green (using acrylic ink), then fused floral fabric and, on top of this, the fence posts along the opened up book. The fabric is Kaffe Fassett’s “Row Flowers”, my current favourite.

After stitching down the fence I decided I preferred what was originally meant to have been the outside of the book as the backdrop for the garden. The outline of the fence in closely stitched grey lines was more appealing and less obtrusive than the heavy silver lame. Turn the book around, I told myself, it’s quicker than unpicking (ha ha) or starting again. But I did not know where to begin with a new design for the enclosed garden. The skeleton of the book lay fallow for a couple of weeks while I pondered on what to do.

Then I decided that an enclosed garden needs a gate so began there, by first drawing a rickety old wire gate inside our garden, then tracing the drawing and then machine stitching it (through the tracing paper) onto the first page of the concertina book.

It was probably at this point that I decided to use scenes from our garden to illustrate the three double page spreads in the book. And here I must pay tribute to Johanna Basford, whose adult colouring book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book also sparked ideas. On the first double spread I used fabric and applique to copy the pots of herbs on the patio. Luckily I have a box of fabric bits with fusible web backings, left over from previous projects. When I became tired of cutting out tiny chillies and tomatoes and leaves I got out my Inktense pencils, took a deep breath, and drew some of the leaves and fruit.

From left, green beans in full leaf; Habanero chillies in full fruit, sweet Basil going to seed, baby tomatoes, and a Tamarillo or tree tomato (Solanum betaceum). [Just in case you had trouble identifying the herbs and vegetables !!]

After making the first double page I began to play in earnest and pulled out the pencil crayons, koki pens, ink and paint brushes. I did struggle a bit to copy the very ornate birdbath in the garden. Until recently it was surrounded by tall garlic chives in full flower.

The final set of pages depicts the stone paved enzo in the herb and vegetable garden. There really is a bay tree with a bird house in that section of the garden (but it is planted in the ground, not a pot).

The final step in the making of the book was the overstitching. I hesitated before setting my sewing machine to the wavy zigzag stitch and then sewing all over my drawings. After practising on a sample I decided the patterning would add to the fenced theme and would also unify the images. Here I acknowledge Anne Kelly, from whom I learnt this trick.

And so I have a record of the garden in its late summer abundance. I started work on the new inside pages with three days to spare until the month ended and the deadline for the #areyoubookenough_fenced March challenge. It pretty much took up all of the three days to make this little book. Here are a set of photographs of the process and various arrangements of the finished book:

Round and round the garden

Still on the garden theme, but jumping to a different project — the Bernina South Africa round robin challenge, which runs monthly for six month. I wrote about starting this in a previous post. The instruction for the second round was to surround the central appliqued motif with joined strips of fabric. I made a garden path using plain greys alternated with the flower fabric.

26 thoughts on “Fenced

  1. This book and the quilt are beautiful. Thank you for the refreshing take on “fenced”. I could not get beyond the “hemmed” in interpretation. The overstitching technique is perfect. I need to try it. I love all the detail you added to the book. I can feel and smell the garden. I have that very same Kaffe Fasset fabric, and I love how you presented it in your round and round the garden block. As usual, your post is so inspiring and refreshing.


    1. I am so pleased that you can feel and smell my garden — this is a high compliment and I am glowing. Thank you Chela.
      If you have a look at Anne Kelly’s website you will be inspired to try the overstitching technique


  2. That little book is simply amazing. I learn so much from your posts, since I rarely use different fabrics and have never used Inktense pencils. I think I need to broaden my play circle a bit πŸ™‚ You little mini quilt is fun with the bright colors and stitching, too!


  3. The fence garden is a stroke of genius idea. It’s beautiful. I may be odd but I find being enclosed comforting as long as I know I can get out when I choose. Your book makes a safe space, in my mind.


  4. Hi Mariss, What fun!!!. Fences also remind me of those over which we climb when we want to get to the other side and boundaries shouting “Keep Out” which are so tempting to climb over and break rules. We must always be pushing and climbing over boundaries. Never accept to be penned in. Love your garden. A treasure forever. Wish I could do that.


  5. The entire piece and what it represents is an inspiration. But what really pulls it all together and marks it as so unique is the ‘simple’ attention to detail in your rendering of the wire fencing. It adds without overwhelming the overall piece.
    Practical question: did you find machine stitching the silver metallic a bear?! Or is it not, in fact, metallic thread?


    1. Oh thank you Laura for seeing it as an inspiration.
      The wire fencing was stitched with a variegated cotton thread called Sulky, made by Gutterman. As you know, I avoid machine stitching with metallic thread for the sake of my nerves.
      I did find the ‘secret’ thread hook on the handle of my sewing machine (which you alerted us to in your post about stitching with metallics) and using it stops the machine from skipping stitches when machine quilting. Belated thanks for the tip

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, this is just amazing. All those tiny details that you managed to squeeze in like the birdhouse and the fruits just lovely. I think the overstitching works very well here, it doesn’t distract from the images you created but complements the theme.


  7. This is really delightful and beautiful work, Mariss. πŸ™‚ I enjoy all the details you’ve added in the garden (so life like!), and the lovely stitched fence. What a cute little book and a cosy little world.


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