[Book Excerpt] Gathering Colour, by Caitlin ffrench: Stitching Walking Ritual

13 March 2024
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My walks take me throughout the city to strange and wonderful places. I like to explore alleys, laneways, and roads that take me to areas I don’t experience in my regular life. I wanted a way to memorialize these daily experiences that elevated them and made them a part of my ritualistic art practice.

Excerpt from Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You, by Caitlin ffrench. Nine Ten Publications, 2024.

Pre-order now, or ask your local bookstore or art/craft store to order it for you.

Order the companion Field Notebook.

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Inspired by my partner, Arlin, I came up with an idea. Arlin is an avid cyclist and tracks his rides using a GPS tracking app. He turns on the app before he leaves the house and then heads out on his bicycle. When he gets home, he lets the app know he’s done, and it generates a map that shows the GPS tracking of his ride. In his art practice he translates these line maps from the app into paintings to tell the stories of where he has been—and the shapes they make are energetic. In the past few years he has performed these cartographical paint stories at various artist residencies with the goal of riding the full length of every street in the city or town the residency is in. He has done this in a number of towns and cities now, and the painted works he has produced from them are inspired.

We are going to do something similar, but instead of cycling and painting we will be walking—or rolling—and stitching. (Please note that when I say “walking” this can be read as any way you make your way through the world. If you use mobility aids to get around, or wish to cycle instead of walk, those are great ways to participate in this prompt.)

 

What You Need

  • Phone or device with GPS capabilities
  • Strava app or any app that can capture where you go in map form
  • Embroidery floss or string (this is a great place to use the silk thread from the eco-print bundles we created earlier in the book!)
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Woven fabric to embroider onto
  • Pencil to transfer your map onto the fabric
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Instructions

  1. Turn on your app and go for a walk! If you finish the walk where you started then you will end up with a closed shape; if you end somewhere different than where you started, you will end up with a meandering line.
  2. When you finish your walk, open the app and look at the shape of the path you’ve travelled. I want you to freehand draw this shape onto your fabric with your pencil. Don’t worry if it isn’t a perfect representation of the lines, this is an exercise in letting go of perfection—a time to meditate on the slow nature of walking and stitching.
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  1. Thread your needle with a length of embroidery floss or string and tie a knot in the opposite end.
  2. Stretch your fabric into your embroidery hoop.
  3. Stitch overtop of the lines. You can use any method of stitching you wish. I like to use a running stitch because it is easy and I like the way the lines look, but I encourage you to use what stitch makes you happiest.
  4. Continue stitching until the line is completely stitched, and tie off the other end. You can now use this stitched fabric as a wall hanging in the hoop if you wish, but there are a few other interesting ways to honour it in your life or home. You can stretch the fabric over a small frame or board, staple it at the back, frame it, and then hang it on your wall. You could adhere fusible interfacing to the back of it and use it as a patch on your clothing or a tote bag. Make many of them and stitch them together to make a quilt. The options are endless.
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All images by Caitlin ffrench

Copyright © Caitlin ffrench except as indicated.
Caitlin ffrench headshot

About Caitlin ffrench

Caitlin ffrench is an artist living in East Vancouver. She works with wildcrafted pigments from the land bases she visits and she uses string to make all sorts of magical things.

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