Friday, October 3, 2014

- The kitchen towel series: Lessons in slow cloth

I love to hang stuff out to dry. Aside from the eco-friendliness (and thrift) of it, there's nothing to match the thirstiness of terry cloth towels or the crackly crispness of sheets and napkins set out in the hot Texas sun. Better yet, linen rarely needs ironing when it air dries.

Indeed, this is one of two drying racks that we put on the moving van before traveling the 1500 miles from Virginia to Texas back in 2009 (the wooden rack to the left is a quilt stand that my dad made years ago). When we arrived, I remember being absolutely giddy when the bath towels I put outside dried before the next wash load was done.

So yesterday I washed the four kitchen towels made over the past several months of slow cloth study and hung them out to dry so I could photograph them in their un-ironed glory. Then I recalled the lessons learned as I made them (you can also look back on the original posts by clicking "KitchenTowel" in the index to the right).

Why kitchen towels? Because they're a good size for trying new stuff out, for testing how the results stand up to machine washing, and for getting to feel the results in-hand, day in and day out.

Kitchen Towel 1 (front view of running stitch)

I started my study of slow cloth (a concept first encountered on Pinterest) by doing some simple running stitch (aka Kantha) with a single strand of floss on a pre-made linen/cotton napkin. As each strand ran out, I chose one subtle color after another.

Lesson 1: If you want your stitches to show, 
be sure to pick colors that contrast with the ground cloth.

Kitchen Towel 2 (front view of running stitch)

Because the lines of stitching on Kitchen Towel 1 did not run parallel to the machine-hemmed napkin, Kitchen Towel 2 was done on a piece of linen cut from an old table cloth and hemstitched to ensure perfect margins (a lesson learned back in the days when I was obsessively making altar linens at Hickory Neck church). Notice how the closely stitched area is far smoother than the unstitched area. And since I knew both sides would be visible, I chose not to use knots.

Kitchen Towel 2 (back view of backstitched thread ends)

Lesson 2: Backstitching anchors thread ends as well (or better) than knots,
looks pretty good from both sides, and stands up to repeated laundering.

Kitchen Towel 3: Spirit Stitch Sampler (front view of stitches and quilting)

About this time, I stumbled onto Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth blog and decided to do her online self-study class Spirit Cloth 101. Wanting to remember the stitches she presented, I went back to my cotton/linen napkin supply and doodled a random path for Kitchen Towel 3: Spirit Stitch Sampler ... without any backing. 

Spirit Stitch Sampler (back view of quilting on muslin layer)

Lesson 3: It's much easier to layer cloth from the outset 
than to apply layers later.

Lesson 4: This isn't my mother's quilting ... it's fun!

Kitchen Towel 4: The Homestead aka The Golf Course
(front view with quilting aligned north/south and east/west)

Unfortunately, I started Kitchen Towel 4: The Homestead before learning Lesson 3. 

The Homestead (back view of quilting on harem cloth)

Fortunately, an order from Dharma Trading arrived in time for me to learn ...

Lesson 5: Harem cloth is amazing stuff.

The Homestead (front stitch detail)

I played around with surface stitching, appliqué and quilting. And even though the appliquéd patches of trees came out looking more like a map of a golf course, I learned ...

Lesson 6: Ragged edge appliqué does not fall apart,
even after repeated washing and handling.

The Homestead (front lettering detail)

Finally, even though I loved the look of the stitches made over rubber-stamped lettering on The Homestead, I now choose to hand-letter my needlework.

Lesson 7: Be true to yourself ... it's way more fun.


Mo Crow said...

love this exploration of line and stitch, thank you for sharing Liz

Liz Ackert said...

Thanks Mo ... I was definitely inspired by Dee Mallon's summary blog post about her take-aways from Considering Weave

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

oh this entire collection is so inspiring and I love those racks, so practical

Liz Ackert said...

My daughters think I'm crazy hanging clothes, but I honestly think it's easier than the dryer

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

I hang as well (we don't even have a tumble dryer)