Review: Women in Clothes

img_1852Summer vacation reading.

Last year in Barbara’s Fibre 300 Selvedge/Salvage course she assigned a couple readings from Women in Clothes by Shelia Heti, read Heidi Julavits, abortion Leanne Shapton and many many others. I loved what little we read and purchased the book very soon after. It was the book that I toted with me everywhere this summer and shared with anyone who would listen to me.

The book began as a survey with 50 questions aimed to challenge women to think about their personal style. Artists, activists, writers, and more answered the questions in their own way and style. Each page is a surprising gem of stories about women, why they wear what they wear, how it makes them think, feel and present themselves. Photos of personal collections such as striped shirts, glasses, gray sweatshirts, unworn necklaces or bobby pins. Photos of the contributors Mother’s before the daugher’s were born. Photocopies of women’s hands with their ring collections. Conversations about compliments, interviews, story telling, poetry and essays.

My favourite and most inspired discoveries were the sections providing only a word or two on a subject matter. The contributors would then tell a short story, sometimes a line or a paragraph elaborating. Words such as colour, strangers, shopping, protection, or worn to name a few.

My personal favourite, under the topic worn:

“I try not to dress in something that would be more important to me than having a good time. I wouldn’t want to stop doing something for fear that my outfit would get ruined or weird looking in the act of having fun.” -Annemieke Beemster Leverenz.

On reflecting on a cherished garment that was lost by a friend:

“I would have liked to participate in the item’s fate. At the very least I wanted to be the person who lost it.” – Elena Megalos

I savoured every page of this book and felt a severe loss when I closed the final page. It affected the way that I approached my closet and why and how I was adding things to it. Upon completion I felt little emotional attachment to my clothes that weren’t special and I had no problem donating the majority of it to friends, family and charities. Everything that stayed and has been added since must fulfill the identity of “Future Julie.” I consider what items would I pack on vacation, what makes me feel comfortable, happy, or put together (anything black, white, 5 sizes too big and at least double the price than I should be spending). Ultimately I started to think about who I wanted to be when I grew up (28 is still a teen in my eyes), what she wore and what those clothes said about her.

Throughout this book I discovered things that I also felt about specific garments but had not realized. It is by far the most thoughtful collection of writing on style and taste. It made me truly comprehend how clothes are so much more than what we put on our bodies.


Surrealist Automatism Explorations

In attempt to push the concepts and approaches further in my larger scale pieces I tackled a couple smaller explorations. What has so far resulted are much more exciting new compositions and ideas for me.

Opposed to constructing the compositions I did some research in surrealist automatic drawings. What this meant for me is to allow the drawing to happen. By holding my pen loosely and closer to the end I allowed my mark making to react more freely on the paper.



These focused less on filling up the surface on the cloth and instead making impressions in a certain location. Visual elements from nature were considered in the construction of the drawings and translation on to the cloth.



Muted colours are used in the 3 completed embroideries as well as indigo dyed threads.



The result from this experimentation has been very motivating for me to continue with this approach. The spontaneous solutions feel much more successful and gratifying than the compositions that are less intuitive. I am excited by the potential of this technique to affect my large scale pieces already in progress in a impromptu manner.


3 Questions with Artist Christine Mauersberger



Christine Mauersberger. Guide. 2011. Reclaimed wool skirt
silk/cotton thread, sales felt, epidemic silk eco print, hand stitched. 20″ x 21″


I briefly wrote about American artist Christine Mauersberger several weeks ago in a previous blog post here. I reached out to Christine to expand on a couple questions I had about her textile work in regards to her inspiration, symbolism and colour choices.



Christine Mauersberger. Guide (detail). 2011. Reclaimed wool skirt
silk/cotton thread, felt, silk eco print, hand stitched. 20″ x 21″


JT: When executing your drawings after a walk, are they predominately from an automatic place or are you also focused on creating a pleasing composition?

CM: They are from an intuitive place. I’m not focused on making a composition of sorts.

Rather that the movement of thoughts are reenacted by the movement of my hand with pen on paper.

Drawing is a time-based medium, the marks that create any drawing never happen all at once, but they show traces of movement in the same way our bodies move in space.

I play music as a way to engage with a sense of place and time.

Both music and drawing go together, they change our sense of time and transform our experience of time.

(I read this idea  about music and drawing in Lynda Barry’s book ,

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor Paperback – October 21, 2014



Christine Mauersberger. Safe and Warm. 2012. Reclaimed wool blanket, hand-stitched, reclaimed wool scarf. 45″ x 45″.


JT: There are several repeated forms within your body of textile work such as the circle and a cross, what do these shapes represent for you?

CM: The circle is a motif that is universal. I use it to represent the ‘self’ or myself, or a being. In my work entitled ‘Guide” the circle is me. In “Safe and Warm”, it is my father.
The cross motif is often directly related to a religious belief. But for me, it refers to making a decision, whether to move left or right, back or forward. The simple cross shape is pleasing to me, it is straight forward and unambiguous in my work. What I mean is that since I’m not using other symbols that relate to religion, it cannot be interpreted as such, at least I do not hope so.

The cross is directly related to representing an artifact of time. Humans do come to crossroads if not daily, most surely when we must make decisions about what is next for ourselves.



Christine Mauersberger. Mind Map. 2011. Linen, silk/cotton thread, hand stitched. 41″ x 40″.


JT: The majority of your stitched works feature white or red thread, what is the significance of these colours in your work?

CM: The only way to understand something is to make things.

When you are making something as we do as artists, you don’t necessarily know what it is that you are making for a really long time.

We make things through our bodies and then must understand how to trust it and listen to it.

This is true for my use of singular colors. (sorry you’re Canadian colours!) 🙂

When I began to stitch in 2009  I used a natural-wool colored embroidery floss and also red because they please me.

I know that red is a strong color. It can mean STOP or represent blood, or danger or even anger.

Over time, I have come to think of the color red to mean life, vitality and strength.

The natural-wool color you refer to as white is still a bit ambiguous for me.

I think of it as pleasing and passive and good and clean and full of potential.

It’s an honest color-non-color.

And when I use it (white) , I’m striving to make something beautiful with very few color components.

I’ve distilled my palette to the least number of colors, and in the case of using white, only one neutral color in order to make a glorious statement about line and beauty.


Thank you so much to Christine for investing time in providing me with very thoughtful and thorough responses.



Removing Warp and Weft Threads

As I previously mentioned I have yet to come across any examples of fibre artists removing the warp and weft threads from the cloth base. This is particularly an interesting affect with linen as the thread widths vary between thin and slubby. I completed a couple test samples to see the variety of weight and structure I could remove from the cloth.



Sample swatch- pulling out one direction of threads within the linen.



Sample swatch- pulling out a variety of compositions of directional threads to remove structure of the linen.


Once I worked up the guts I started cutting in to my first embroidery to add some texture by removing threads. It was a really liberating experience to leave the result to chance and begin cutting and pulling threads out. It forced me to be reactionary and resolve certain choices that I had immediately come to regret.



Single warp and weft threads pulled intersecting with one another.


Particular points of interest are in the intersecting corners where a hole forms. It developed curious points of tension on the cloth.



Detail photo of removed warp and weft threads.

The goal in pulling out the warp and weft threads was to continue to speak to the map like nature of my work. The missing threads create lines and pathways at intersection points referring to the directional nature of maps.



Stitch Journal #2

A couple weeks ago Mackenzie recommended that I check out the book Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith. Not only does it have a deliciously soft cover, search  it’s filled with genuinely beautiful photography of a variety of textile practices including quilting, this site patchwork, kantha, boro, mending and darning. All of these techniques are drawn together to discuss the concept the slow movement and the role that stitching plays within it.





The book showcases work by the author as well as other international textile artists seeking contemplative approaches to their practices. Throughout Slow Stitch Wellesley-Smith documents her stitch journal which is a combination of seasonal observation and time spent thinking. When the cloth is filled she stitches on another panel, it is a process that is without a time limit, outcomes or a projected result.












All threads are naturally dyed.








Examining artists within the book and others not included I have been thinking more about projects that are never truly finished. There are always more elements to be added or taken away. Slow Stitch has also provided me with the confidence to accept imagery in my own work as not necessarily depicting anything in particular except the process of creating and stitching to achieve content.


Slowly making progress covering the length of the cloth.




Stitch Journals

For several months now I have been following Bonnie Sennott and her daily stitch journal. For an entire year, adiposity at the start of each month, she begins a new embroidery on linen which she works on each day. Based on what she witnesses in her backyard she mimics the colours and growth occurring documenting the changing of the seasons. Sennott uses one colour and one type of stitch each day with each stitch improvised creating an abstract composition. She documents each day on her instagram and blogs regularly on her experiences during the project.

Sennott uses the stitch journal as a part of her morning routine. I love the idea of approaching a piece of cloth each day and affecting it with thread without any preconceived notions of what it will turn out as. Especially when you’re taking the spontaneous element of weather and nature in to consideration.


Day 274. The last day of September.



Day 268.



Day 280. October.



Filling The Surface

One thing that I am battling with larger scale embroideries is combating all the white space, myocarditis there’s a fine balance between too much and not enough. I’m stuck within the realm of too much white space and have been researching a variety of other contemporary embroidery artists who’s work expands across the cloth.


Rieko Koga. Tourne tourne. 2010. 152 x 110 cm. Hand embroidery on cotton.


Rieko Koga. Des Pas. 2013. 65 x 49 cm. Hand embroidery on linen.

Rieko Koga, adiposity a Japanese artist living and working in Paris, works by hand to create responsive, spontaneous embroideries based on her environments. I thoroughly appreciate the balance of weight within her work as well as the variety of scale.



Christine Mauersberger. Timelapse. 2014. Hand stitched embroidery thread on silk/wool broadcloth. 45″ x 45″


Christine Mauersberger. Life Lines. 2012. Linen, Silk/Cotton thread, hand stitched. 40″ x 36″

American artist, Christine Mauersberger seeks to encapsulate the passage of time through mark making on cloth. Through walking she makes maps of her thought process and passage ways and depicts her journey through stitch. The calmness that hand stitching brings Mauersberger mimics the meditative nature of her walks.

I appreciate the balance between dense areas of overlapping or density with either small or larger areas of blank space that allows the eye to rest. The two pieces above reflect a spontaneous and organic nature of absorbing the surface of the cloth.



Richard McVetis. Displaced. 2008. Hand stich on wool. 28 cm x 56 cm.


Richard McVetis. Five O’Clock Shadow. Capturing a moment in time through stitch. A sunny floor in Madrid. 2013. Hand stitch on wool. 19cm x 19cm.

British artist, Richard McVetis, works with the process of repetition to document space, time and form. McVetis compares the similarities between materials of pen on paper and thread on fabric to create simple imagery that examines subtle differences through repetition of mark making. McVetis is a great example of organization and structure that I respond quite positively to.

One aspect I have yet to come across that I am interested in exploring within my work is the expansion of a thread that is the same colour as the cloth and mimicking it’s weave. If it works out as I imagine it will have a very curious tension and add an extra weight to the cloth without using colour or form.


The New Mending

For my Pechakucha I was inspired by Jonnet Middleton’s essay Mending which looks at the rise of modern day visible mending. Through mending we create a relationship between what we do within the garment and what the garment has endured through that activity.


My favourite denim endured a disastrous accidental dryer incident which split high tension areas to shreds. Unable to completely conceal the repair I embraced the wear and tear for an obvious woven repair.


While I compiled my presentation I realized that something that I valued and appreciated so greatly had little to no involvement within the production of my embroideries. As I approach the beginning of my next embroidery I have been taking mending elements such as darning and patches and into consideration.

Something that I’ve been feeling is missing from my work is a spontaneous, no rx responsive element. Mending in its truest form is extending the functional life of an object by repairing areas of wear. These repairs, when not made invisible, can feel like invasions across the cloth and create a sense of tension.

My next series of smaller scale embroideries focuses on playing with exploratory mark making that interrupts the linear construction of the linen. The stitches are in favour of mending a cloth that doesn’t require mending but instead embraces the techniques and aesthetic elements of mending.


The Art of Stillness



In conversation with Pico Iyer and Laurie Brown on Stillness at the Banff Centre Photo Source: personal.


This past weekend I was very fortunate to be able to attend a conversation with writer Pico Iyer and CBC broadcaster Laurie Brown (from The Signal) as they discussed Stillness at The Banff Centre. Pico Iyer (of TED talk fame) has long been an inspiration to me for my written material and content behind my embroideries.

Several years back while working through concepts of home within my work I came across Iyer’s TED Talk called “Where Is Home?” his perspective shook me out of a writer’s rut and helped me work through my own definitions of home. I have since been following his publications closely.

When I later came across his second TED Talk, information pills “The Art of Stillness”. I discovered how we aligned for a second time as I was starting to work through my embroideries on movement. When Iyer’s book of the same title was released I was quick to pick it up, view hunkered down with a pizza and read it from beginning to end.


Processed with Snapseed.
Photo Source: personal.

The biggest takeaway that I had from my experience at The Banff Centre and Iyer’s talk was the importance of slowing down in our fast paced digital world. I often look to an embroidery as a source for my personal removal and overstimulation from technology. Embroidery cannot be sped up, stomach no amount of technology will make those handstitches go in any faster without losing their precise nature. I find myself working on my embroideries losing a sense of time and my surroundings and coming to my own definition of stillness.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the talk, comment below!



Beatwoven: The Fabric of Sound

Textile producer, here Beatwoven, recuperation developed software with a music producer which translates sound and music in to pixels that serve as a visual language of sound. Beatwoven Founder, allergy Nadia-Anne Ricketts, a professional dancer and weaver, saw a link between music, her loom and the patterns created by music and textiles independently and sought to fuse the two. The geometric imagery is then woven to develop high end fabric utilized in interiors as pillows and upholstery fabric. By looking in to the history of the music, the genre and the artist, Ricketts determines colour and textures. The cloth is woven in a silk weaving mill in England.


Pas De Deux. Tchaikovsky’s work from the ballet The Sleeping Beauty. Silk, Rose metallic yarn and neutral cotton.
Source: Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

Piano Concerto No. 2. Rachmanioff. A sample from the collection. Silk, wool, copper and silver steel metallic yarns.
Source: Web. 28 Sept. 2016.


My Tribe. Collaboration with DJ and music producer Demi. Copper metallic yarn, silk, wool and polyester.
Source: Web. 28, Sept. 2016.

Learn more in the video below.


The Fabric of Sound – BeatWoven from Goldsmith on Vimeo.