On Friday mornings in November I am inviting people to join me to stitch a giant patchwork map as part of the Stitching Stories programme of events. We had our first session last Friday and the stitching was beautiful, but it was the richness of the conversation that was really inspiring.

We are working on scraps of recycled cloth; old bed sheets, clothing and other household scraps, which have all been dyed an indigo blue. The group are piecing these together, repairing tears and patching holes. There is a long history of mending and repurposing textiles due to necessity in all cultures; patchwork quilts, Japanese boro, Indian kantha to name a few. Although the stitch is usually functional in holding the layers of fabric together to strengthen them it also became decorative and a creative outlet for those producing them.

We are beginning by stitching our own ‘maps’ as a way of securing these layers, using the patterns and symbols from conventional cartography as inspiration, which translate so well in to stitch. We looked at a variety of maps to get our ideas flowing: atlases, OS walker’s maps, historical maps, hand drawn maps…

These resources sparked all kinds of interesting conversations about places travelled or unexpected connections. In our small group 3 of us had links to a northerly Norweigen town called Narvik, which seemed uncanny; but it is what being involved in Stitching Stories is proving time and again, that we have more in common than we know at first glance.

People’s stitching depicted a trek up Alpine mountains, London childhood neighbourhoods, holidays in the Channel Islands, native Norway and adopted Britain, and river estuaries. The stitching an opportunity to share these places dear to us and to meditate on them through the unhurried action of hand stitching.

We had a range of stitching skills; from professionals, a textile conservator and a seamstress, to a novice who hadn’t stitched in 40 years but who was inspired to get involved after stitching a tree on a chance visit to the City Space.

We are still working on our ‘maps’ and we will be there again this Friday 10th Nov and again on 17th to continue stitching and the conversation. The sessions are free and all materials are provided – places are limited – if you are interested in joining us call the City Space on 01962 873610.

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