Connected Threads

Early in the Spring 2022 a group of members (and one now former member) got together for a few evenings to stitch a collaborative piece reflecting on the invasion of Ukraine. We wanted to share our complex feelings and work together on something positive. Five members of the group sent me their pieces in the summer and I’ve recently assembled them together and had photographs taken. 

The theme was Connected Threads, things that bind us together. We chose an earthy colour palette, thinking about displacement and having to leave the ground that we live on. Each participant wrote about their stitched pieces and the care that they wished to convey.

I’ve connected the pieces into an accordion folded cloth book. This piece will soon be auctioned with proceeds to Choose Love. 

Left: Carole Gelker

“Connecting Threads” is a project inspired by using scraps to tell the story of both loss and connection in the present.

Using materials from the past that tell their own stories, the vintage quilts and recycled materials, are torn and cut often leaving the stitching by the original maker. These scraps (linen, cotton, velvet), and my hand stitching is a way I represent the importance of being grounded in and supported by community. The raw edges of the scraps, random stitches and open space reflect the trauma of the abrupt loss of place and the need to re-establish connection with others.

Right : Ruth Singer

Ruth: Connected threads for me meant looking at the connections, the threads between the 2022 invasion of Ukraine and my own grandmother’s escape from the same region a hundred years earlier. The similarity of stories then and now has been very poignant for me and this project inspired me to start working on something about my grandmother’s journey which has been brewing for many years. The stitched piece I made has a winding yellow path of stitches representing a difficult journey made on foot. This is overlaid with a heavy wool fabric obscuring most of the route, hiding most of the story in the way that my grandmother’s story is shrouded in secrecy and fear and mostly unknown to her family.

Left: Eva Cantin

I stitched this collection of scraps during the weekly chat sessions, in response to the disruption and disconnection of that period. My selection of the scraps, threads and stitching was instinctive, but carried out while reflecting on these issues and my own family’s stories connected with them. At the time it did not seem to make much sense, it was an intuitive, semi-automatic making of something which soothed my agitated brain.

Then I read what another group member said about her own piece and it helped me identify my need to reach out and connect with others through stitch. The stitching is partially therapeutic, it helps me to put aside my negativity, like a hot chocolate or chicken soup for the brain. Sharing the process and our thoughts about our work brings a sense of connection on a different level to other social contact

So although the little piece looks scrappy and grubby it was important to me at that time, when my mind was full of other people’s problems and my own current frustrations. I’m grateful for the peace it brought me, I wish others could find that too.

Right: Marianda Twydell

Connecting Threads… a collective making project bringing together fragments, creating connection and community. 

My piece used fabric dyed in one country, is stitched in another, thinking about people having to heave their homes, travelling and making a new life, somewhere else. Just One Bag – what would you take with you? Paper fro the UK Big Issue Magazine. 

Above: Susan Oliver Fennell

This “page” or piece that I’ve stitched was created during a roughly 6 week long series of stitch sessions. A group of women gathered to simply stitch as a response to whatever was on our minds. In this moment, it was the war in Ukraine. We also began with the suggested idea that we consider home.

In my case, the base cloth for the piece was dyed in persimmon tannin that reflects the color of the North Carolina clay that I view everyday from my sunroom window. Tall pines grow on the edge of the property that attract deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and a variety of birds. Their colors are also reflected with thread. 

There are, however, other aspects in the central image which was my main focus. That image, to my mind, reflects a sunflower, it’s the image that stayed with me throughout the stitching process. I had seen (via the news) and read the story about the older Ukrainian woman and her confrontation with Russian soldiers involving her “gift” of sunflower seeds. During that time I became aware that the sunflower is the national Ukrainian flower. Serendipitously, the previous summer, I had been to several gardens where the flower was grown and that memory also stayed with me as I stitched.

Other things that came to mind during this making process:

The circle – the universality of its meaning & significance.

The sun, daylight, a new day, hope The sunflower being heliotropic

Enso – the Zen circle of enlightenment

Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds (each one representing 1 person) – I recently read his autobiography.

The word “phytoremediation”

– how the roots of the sunflower removes toxins from the soil.

Building up of the motif’s form:

I felt like I was painting with threads.

The building or layering up of the pattern created form.

Thread color – changing from the “clay of home” to elements of the sunflower and kinds of sunflowers.

The shape is an imperfect circle. Circles have many universal and significant meanings around the globe, but my first thought was of the sunflower – bright and bold. Last summer I visited a park in downtown Raleigh (North Carolina) where the flower was grown in a large field. Informational signs were posted in various spots around the beds. I took photos. At the time, each flower seemed to take on anthropomorphic qualities – as a person standing with his/her face to the sun. Sunflowers do “follow” the sun, as heliotropes.