Fabric book in Progress

Today, I am sharing a recent project: a fabric book in progress. The content is the 4th-century poem by Lao Tze. It is far from finished, but I think I have developed the hand embroidery enough to give my ideas form for you to see where this fabric book is going. It was started quite a while ago, as a slow stitching project. Originally, I pieced it as wall panel but felt it was going nowhere. Before it became a UFO, I decided to chop it up to make fabric book pages.

The  poem in the book reads:

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is,
we should recognise the utility of what is not

[— Lao Tze, 4th Century BC]

These are the pages I have created for my fabric book. They are very much still a work in progress but I am sure you can see where it is going.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 1The first page is made up of hand-dyed and printed fabric and commercial quilting fabric. I used some coconut beads which are large but quite light. Other smaller disk-like beads were sprinkled across the page.
Stitches used are French knots, Bullion Knots, Buttonhole wheels and Whipped Wheels. These were worked in a mix of hand-dyed silk thread and cotton perle #8 and #5 thread.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 2To print the text, I used freezer paper to back the fabric and then put it through my bubblejet printer. (For Aussies the freezer paper I used is the American sort that you can get from quilting suppliers) I then cut it up and used Mistyfuse (Not affiliated) to fuse it to the page.
Stitches used are French knots, Bullion Knots, Buttonhole wheels and Whipped Wheels.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 3The outline of the pot is worked in Chain stitch using cotton perle #5 thread. Other stitches used in this are French knots, Bullion Knots, Oyster stitches,  Buttonhole wheels and Whipped Wheels.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 4The next page of my fabric-book-in-progress still needs some work. I think I need more spillage of beads and stitchery into the text area. At the moment, this page is on my design wall so I can think about it.  So far I have used some ruched tubular knitting ribbon. Stitches used are Chain stitch, Stem stitch, French knots, Bullion Knots, Oyster stitches,  Buttonhole wheels and Whipped Wheels. I used a mix of hand-dyed silk threads and cotton perle #8 and #5 thread.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 5This page will be the middle of the book and I have not embroidered it as yet. This, too, is still on my design wall – ready to be worked on.

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page 6 I have used some ruched tubular knitting ribbon and couched down some sari ribbon. I used a mix of hand-dyed silk thread and cotton perle #8 and #5 thread to work French knots, Bullion Knots, Oyster stitches,  Buttonhole wheels and Whipped Wheels

Lao Tze fabric book in progress page The pages are constructed of a patchwork of different fabrics. Most are hand-dyed. The last page still has more work as well. The doily is hand-dyed.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek at my latest work in progress.

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35 Comments

  1. This is so totally cool!
    I love Lao Tse and also Persian poets – this is a wonderful way to illustrate words.
    I would love to see more of the shape of the book – I don’t do FB so I hope you share more this way.
    Thanks for all your amazing inspiration!

    CarolinaMagpie
  2. Your fabric book is extraordinary – beautiful. I’ve never heard of a fabric book before so am curious about the actual size and other details. Might you provide instructions at some point, or can you refer me to more information about fabric books? Love your site!

    Annette T.
  3. Sharon,
    It’s so nice to see your work displayed this way. It has such a unique style. It’s a visual playground of stitches and beads that’s so inspiring. Love the idea of adding a line of this beautiful poem to each page. Hope you share it again when you’re done.

    Patricia Neill-Lafauce
  4. This project is pure inspiration to me. I need a similar project for learning and practicing the different stitches you are teaching us and to use up the plethora of beads sitting in many containers! What you have done so far is beautiful. Could you share the size of the pages you are doing? Thanks

    Marybeth
  5. That is magnificent.. I love it. I have admired Lao Tze too.
    How beautiful to see your book after a hard day at the work face, n waiting now for the computer to turn on, with a cup of tea..
    Thank-you. I appreciate your sharing

    Julia
  6. Hi Sharon!
    I have been an off-and-on follower of your work for about a decade now! Wow does the time go fast!

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this. I feel this poem is trying to tell me something, but I’m not quite getting it; like it’s just out of reach.

    I get the wheel and the jug, but it’s the house and the ending that are elusive. I feel it might be something important so I will keep thinking on it. Thank you!

    Karen Lemonds

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