embroidered at WNYBAC

Like many artists I am so fortunate in the people and places the muse throws into my path. Regular readers will already know that I love spending time at WNYBAC – the Western New York Book Arts Center, in Buffalo. Its a bit of a hike from my home (1.5-2hrs by car) but I finished the second half of my undergraduate degree in Buffalo at UB as a commuter, so I can find my way there and back in my sleep. Last year I was offered an opportunity to have an exhibition in their gallery and that show opened earlier in the month. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will already have seen some images from that show, but in case you don’t here’s a few images

As part of the exhibition “package” they ask you to design a workshop to tie in with the show, and today I taught a cheerful group of 13 students, many of whom had never made a book before, a pretty challenging two signature, two needle cross stitch binding. If you’d like to give it a try, or were in the workshop (thank you!) and want a refresher here is a brief tutorial. To begin you will need the following supplies:

  • This two signature cross stitch template printed on a sheet of letter sized (8.5×11) cardstock
  • 8 sheets of 9×12 paper (grained long)
  • some linen thread and needles
  • an awl, a bonefolder and an x-acto knife

Begin by cutting out the pieces from the template.

1 web

Next score the lines along the spine and fold to create the cover ( printed side inside)

Punch all the dots to create the sewing stations in the cover

Fold each sheet of 9×12 paper in half and tear down into 16 pieces that measure 6×9

Divide into two sets of 8 pages, and fold together in half to create two signatures

Using the stripy punching guide from the template, punch the sewing holes in both signatures

Cut a piece of thread 24-30 inches long, and thread with a needle at both ends. Do not tie any knots in the thread

To begin sewing enter the spine at the head of the book. Each needle should go into the first sewing station, through the signature to the inside of each.

Then take each needle out the second sewing station in each signature, back out to the outside of the spine.

I always sew left to right because I am right handed, but as long as you are consistent it doesn’t really matter. With the spine facing you, take the needle in the left hand row and take it down into the third sewing station in the right hand making a diagonal stitch across the spine.

15 web

Using the same needle, sew down into the 4th sewing station and back out to the spine

16 web

Take the right hand needle and sew into the left side, completing the cross stitch, again take the same needle out though the 4th hole to the outside again. This is now the left hand needle, sew across the spine to make the next diagonal, and repeat until you reach the end of the sewing stations, alternating needles so the crosses form on the stitches in the same direction


At the end, sew up to the previous sewing station, but only through the signature (NOT the cover) tie off the two ends in the gutter and trim.

You can increase the numbers of signatures in pairs and sew into a larger book, like this one. You could also sew between signatures 2 & 3 in the same manner if you wished.


I chose this binding for the workshop because learning it gave me the idea to experiment with making samplers as bindings, which lead to making bindings using lots of other kinds of embroidery – especially blackwork embroidery.

Its been a pretty perfect day – now I am relaxing at home with tea and chocolate. Taking a few minutes to let all my good fortune wash over me, before I get back at it!


NYC – Day 2

I hope no one out there was waiting with baited breath for me to finish the tale? Life this year has a way of laughing at my best laid plans. Oh well, for those who do want to hear the end of the tale, here we go.

I was first into the building on Sunday morning (after another delicious bagel) and was glad I had an extra pair of student hands to help navigate all the keys and alarms. I think I am not really cut out for big city life!

On day two there is a lot of folding – twenty two signatures, and then all those signatures needed to be punched at quarter inch intervals. Once that task was completed we created a book block using a french link stitch over two tapes, leaving a space in the center of the binding which would hold the embroidered design.


Really creating the book block takes more time than the actual embroidered binding – especially once someone has worked out the sewing chart! What is so exciting for me as a teacher is seeing how every participant takes an idea and then sets about making it their own and brainstorming ways to incorporate the new knowledge into their own practice. It makes prepping for a class, and travel, and airports, and noisy hotel rooms all worth while!

After class I just had time for a quick visit with Esther Smith and a college friend who lives in Brooklyn before a terrifying taxi ride to JFK to fly back home again. It was a wonderful break, and much of the snow was gone by the time I got back, an added bonus! I wish the class hadn’t been in the middle of the semester – I felt like such a traitor not going to see a single museum, but hopefully I’ll be back soon.

A Happy New Year!


I worked really hard today- but I feel like there is not much to show for it. I worked on those covers, some weaving of strips, a lot of cutting and gluing – but no finished product yet.


I threw together a journal page.


And then I took Jen’s idea, a binding like a weaving and spun my wheels most of the afternoon. I did finally get one binding to work – the tension is awful, but I think the idea will work.


Like so many of you as the year turns I am looking back, I made a video of some highlights – you can watch it here. Happy New Year everyone!!

TLC Residency day #2

isn't quite working and so I abandoned it for today

isn’t quite working and so I abandoned it for today

So much less to show for myself on the surface today but I am feeling quite satisfied again with the days progress. I started out with a little work in my journal again this morning but that ended up frustrating me rather than relaxing me, so I took a quick break and drove along the coast for a bit (and forgot my camera – sorry).

yes - the diagrams are insane!

yes – the diagrams are insane!

When I came back I switched gears and got back to work on Berehinia or Berehynia, my Slavic peasant embroidery design. After several hours of work I finished the diagrams – whew! – and after a quick lunch I spent several hours measuring, tearing (no paper cutter), folding and piercing the signatures to make up the binding. I spent about 3 hours working on the sewing itself – just long enough to get super excited about seeing how it will turn out – but my eyes are really tired so I am going to have to call it a night. Here’s what I have so far.

looking good so far!

looking good so far!

turkey land cove – day 1

The first day of my residency is almost over. It is quite lovely here – almost too lovely – and VERY clean and tidy. It is a little strange to be working in someone else’s space, and it took me a bit to settle in to some work. I felt a bit awkward putting my tools and materials out in such a pristine space – while my studio isn’t always a complete mess it is lived in. This house is so pretty, like being in a magazine. After setting up, I began the day with yoga, and then a quick journal page to warm up.

a quick warm up journal page

a quick warm up journal page

I worked on a new binding design for most of the day, with a break for a gourmet lunch and some background reading. This binding is actually very sturdy, less difficult than some of the others and quite quick to execute in comparison to some of the previous designs. (see the posts here and here for other examples) I struggled a bit trying to work this out at first, I had to change my orientation before I found this solution. I think I will try and diagram this one and share it.

the binding with its inspiration embroidery

the binding with its inspiration embroidery

I was surprised when my hubby rang to discover it was already 9 o’clock!! After a quick dinner I settled in to some more research reading, and the hours are just flying by. It is such a luxury to be able to just work, but I already realize that the demands of my own home and family are really deeply embedded in my process – like so many women through the centuries I am just used to making do around my other obligations, although I certainly have made good use of this first day. It’s a bit like being in a fairy tale or someone else’s life. It will be interesting to see if I feel differently as the week goes on. And so off to bed!

book news

I have been hard at work for the last couple of days on the guest book for my sister’s wedding, using all that beautiful purple paper. When she was visiting last month we picked out some ideas that I am now wrapping all together to form a unique set of guest books (one for each table at the wedding) housed in a slip cover. She loved this folded origami style (there is some cutting so not true origami) envelope page from this book, again by Alissa Golden. Each book is made of 5 folded pages which creates 4 pockets per signature. These pockets will hold pictures of their guests taken at the wedding.


The fun bonus is the pages also have a hidden pocket, each of  which will hold cards for messages to the bride & groom. The binding – also from Alissa Golden’s book is sewn and tied. You sew a random running stitch up the center of each signature leaving a tail at each end which you then tie together to create a really quick fun binding! I am adding some little beads at the spine for a bit of sparkle too.







I’ll take some pictures of the slip case and the finished project later today when I get home from realjob!

In other book news, the artist’s book collective’s show Bound opens today in Leeds, UK. Here is a link to the work featured in the show – my blackwork embroidered binding also titled bound is included. A huge thank you to Louise for organising this group and the touring show.



Back in the saddle

* warning – this post contains a brief reference to women’s genitalia

I have finally excavated the house from under the last month’s chaos, traveling and commissions do throw you out of routine a bit! and I am finally back at work in the studio. Actually this wasn’t my plan – my plan had been to grab a whole bunch of books from the library and have a nice long relaxing break from everything reading on the porch – which was going as planned until I switched from fiction to non-fiction…

I was reading Women’s Work – The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, which was generally filling my head with a lot of inspiration for my upcoming show “tangled” (which will have something to do with weaving and threads of ideas) when I came across this image of a traditional Slavic embroidery design of the Goddess Berehinia who protects women and their fertility.

oh no!!!

If you have been following my work in the last few months you can probably guess what happened next – I thought – wow! that looks a lot like those Elizabethan blackwork designs I have been working with, and, well, yes I decided to turn her into a binding!! Here’s the diagram so far without all my notations and squiggles telling me where to go (I want to make it first before I share!). I had to change the pattern on her skirt, as the original won’t work as a binding  – but in keeping with the whole feel of the piece I have added a very traditional lozenge shape, which was traditional in women’s clothing, often they were embroidered with little curly hooks around them – a powerful fertility symbol representing the vulva. It occurs to me that she will have to have some sort of background design, which I think I will make another colour,  so the binding will be structurally sound – but I am ready to begin! I think she will be red not black as that would be the traditional colour – red invoking blood and life and with it protection from demons.

isn’t she lovely?

Suddenly all is right with the world – here is my work. I don’t know if it has any value to anyone but me, but I am its voice, so here I am about to sew. I have a feeling I am going to zip right through this, so maybe even a picture of her all finished before the weekend is through.



Here’s my submission for Bound – an exhibit being organized by another one of my online Brit friends Louise Atkinson.  It is another adapted blackwork binding. This is the kind of project that makes me wish for more hours in the day – there’s so much time invested in this little book, hours of cutting & folding the signatures (thank heavens for Sheila my intern), then two straight hours just to punch the holes in each signature! Then the whole thing was tacked together with an invisible thread to keep the tension even, otherwise I find it quite hard to keep the pages evenly spaced, the book is long and gets kind of unwieldy on the bench!. Last but not least (after painstakingly drafting each pattern – which is equal parts fun and frustration) I get to do the really fun part – sewing the beautiful exposed binding. In this case it took sooooooo many hours, not even going to tell you – but believe me when I say A LOT!! Hope you agree that the finished project is stunning, elegant, but detailed. I am in love with these!!

I love how it curls!