Book review: Slow Stitch 2015 by Claire Wellesley-Smith
In the 21st century, when life seems to be lived at an increasingly fast pace, it is refreshing to see a book entitled ‘Slow Stitch’. Look inside and you will be encouraged to take a more considered and leisurely approach to your own creative technique. The slow movement, which started in the 1980s in Italy, initially related to food; this book takes the same principles of balance, connection, sustainability and rhythm and applies it to textile processes. Part of a series of textile books published this autumn by Batsford, it has their signature cloth covered cover so is a joy to hold and leaf through.
The author, Claire Wellesley-Smith, is a textile artist living and working in Yorkshire, UK. She teaches extensively, working in adult education, schools, community projects, museums and galleries. Her workshops involve sustainable stitch, repurposed cloth, and traditional techniques.
Slow Stitch 2015
The book is divided into four parts and throughout it is beautifully illustrated with photographs of both Claire’s own work and the work of a variety of artists from around the world. There are lots of ‘close up’ details of the work, something I always enjoy seeing, and the sensitivity of the stitch really shines through. Some of the artists are familiar to me, some less so, but all the work shown has wonderful quality to it.
What’s in the book – chapter by chapter
- Part one gives us the background of the Slow Movement and how it relates to textiles. Claire explains her own low impact approach to working, in which the discarded is given a second life. She also details the value of using local resources such as cloth or fibres, plant dyes, and water for dying, encouraging place-based making. Claire tells us about the importance of seasonality and how the cycles of nature play a large part in her own practice.
- In part two Claire focusses in on materials and techniques, describing the use of repurposed materials which Claire refers to as ‘carrying their own slow stories’. She also shares her ideas on up-cycling and the reuse of old projects, and how and where to source both old and new materials. There is a fascinating section on slow dying, using plant materials and kitchen waste, and outlining the results you can expect from this. Advice is given on which simple equipment to use and how to get started with your own hand-stitch rhythms, with ideas for exploring the process and how to develop your stitches.
- Part three looks at cross-cultural activity; universal traditions, and our relationship with cloth. Claire examines techniques such as Kantha, piecing and patching, and mending, clearly defining the processes and their origins and there is an absorbing couple of pages describing Japanese Boro which I found particularly interesting.
- Part four is called ‘Contemplative’. Stitching by hand is, for me, a rhythmical and therapeutic process so this is an intriguing part of the book for me. Claire describes this feeling so well in the section entitled ‘Reflective and Mindful Practice’. Here you will find some great advice about how to begin a daily stitch journal. ‘Stitching, Walking and Mapping’ reflects on the role walking plays as part of Claire’s practice, shows us the ‘stitch sketches’ she makes on location, and how she ‘finds’ and collects colour.
Finally Claire tells us about how she has observed the relationship between mindfulness and making through several of the community based projects she has been involved with and how these projects have helped the well-being and mental health of the participants.
To conclude in Claire’s own words: “ This book is not designed to provide a blueprint for projects, but to act as an overview of some of the ideas I see as central to slow, creative textile methodologies.”
Who is it for?
This book is the antidote to the chaos of modern life and would be perfect for anyone who is interested in slowing down the pace of their own practice. It would make a great reference book providing both inspiration and instruction, for those studying textiles, whatever the level. Claire’s writing is sensitive, intelligent and moving, so it will also appeal to the non-practitioner who has an interest in the value of slow cloth. An enjoyable read from cover to cover.
Product details Slow Stitch 2015 by Claire Wellesley-Smith
Published by Batsford – 128 page full colour illustrated hardback book.
Product Dimensions: 27.9 x 22.4 x 1.5 cm
Book review by Sue Stone
Which other textile books inspire you? Leave a comment below to let us know.