slow stain

I’ve finally started the project I’ve wanted to do for over fifteen years.  A quilt made from stained linen.  I mentioned this in a post last November, and was encouraged by readers to get to it.  I heard you.

This is probably the slowest cloth I’ve ever engaged in.  It’s been percolating so long.  (And because there seems to be some question people have debated about what “slow cloth” means, I’ll say in this case, for me, it means not only time, but full attention to nuance of material, process, object.  I think that may be sort of what Elaine Lipson means too.)  Some years ago I had tried using a traditional cathedral windows pattern because interesting stains could be framed as a natural part of the design.  But I just never liked how that looked.  Now I’m attempting a more organic approach, and one that encompasses a broader range of human stain-making.  First, of course, there’s the story implied by stains on linens.  You could say the stains are mark-making byproducts of human narrative.  But then there is deliberate mark-making as in something intentional and expressive, the object being ‘art’ or ‘craft’.  The difference between unintentional and intentional mark-making seems small to me.  No doubt there are many who would argue with that, but I’m combining the two in this quilt because I believe human agency has a continuum of expression.  And besides, so far, I like how it looks together.  “I know what I like when I see it.”   The basis for human discernment, art or accident.

first piecing of stain quilt

The dotted-pattern piece is obviously a print, though it too is stained.  I really like the way the regularity and understatement of the dots play against the organic stains all around it.

early piecing of stain quilt, 2010

I’m including some pieces of by-product from a first bumbling attempt at walnut dyeing. And some beet-stamping without mordant that became “merely” stains after laundering.

MT initial embroidery detail, stain quilt, 2010

little damask blocks, stain quilt, 2010

These little damask blocks are approx. 1.5 to 2 inches square.

early stain quilt detail, 2010

15 Responses to “slow stain”

  1. jude Says:

    this is wonderful. the only thing better than stains, are holes. my friends have been sending them to me for years. one of these days i will make something. i love this, it is just grand.

  2. caro Says:

    Ah yes, I know what you mean about holes. Some of these stained pieces I have also contain wonderful holes, and best of all, repairs of holes. I love those repairs especially.

  3. Deb G Says:

    What a great project! I have to admit to a fondness for stains and holes since I seem to collect both.

  4. caro Says:

    Holes present a different kind of situation in textiles, don’t they? To remain holes as such they have to hold emptiness or else they are boro or frames for what’s under them, both something other than holes. I suppose you could think of lace as holes. And if you get close enough to any textile there are “holes.” But that’s not what we’re talking about. Holes as “damage” to an existing cloth….maybe pieced together and hung at a window to allow the negative space of holes to remain? I wonder why fabric holes so often appear roundish when the weave is square. Must be what laundering does to the broken threads. Or does all weaving simply undo itself organically?

  5. jude Says:

    that’s a nice evolution, squares into circles. i like that.

  6. Nancy Krampf Says:

    whoa. i gotta have some dream time with your beautiful work.

    am so wide eyed with the concept of embracing stains, holes and fraying. the direction fiber art is taking also coincides with my own aging process, my own stains, holes and fraying. 🙂
    i am one with the imperfection of this human existence.

  7. deb Says:

    This looks beautiful! So subtle. Can’t wait to see where it goes. Thank you for sharing.

  8. jeanamarie Says:

    this is wonderful! stains put together so beautifully. I especially like the damask squares – something about the woven design gives the stains that extra bit of dimension…lovely

    (I came over from jude’s link)


    • caro Says:

      thank you! But you are doing beautiful work with linen yourself. I love the way your log cabin block turned out. Such character!

  9. Heather Says:

    Mmmmmm, I like this a lot.

  10. Jill Says:

    this is just wonderful and so inspiring…. just beautiful, thank you

  11. sandra Says:

    I really love this, stains can be beautiful!

  12. Another Take « Zen Cloth Says:

    […] Marie Blankert is from Australia; see what she is up to on her.  Her blog is her  notebook.    Caro writes about her use of stained […]

  13. caro Says:

    Thank you all for coming by and letting me know you like this beginning. I will definitely keep posting as it progresses.

  14. India flint Says:


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