Stop everything

The colour red
passion drama love taking sides revolutions anger life blood heat strength stop decide make way
for here comes a Woman

Books in October designed and stitched for power and passion. Thank you to Alex and Annette for the inspiration.


We are outlived by our things

Imagine a world where the ephemera of a life is stored on a phone. Where tickets are bought and sold, receipts issued, and notes made. Where your phone becomes the hold-all of your casual jottings, shopping memos, greetings, photos, to-do lists, memos to self, billet-doux and doodles. There are the to-ings and fro-ings which made up your day.

Where is your history then? Where are the records of a life? When the phone is discarded, or the rules of access change? Where data is withheld or destroyed when a payment is missed?

Where do you go to find the shadows of a life? The ephemera that told a story? And how do those who come after us tie objects to a place and time without the written record that explains them?

We each need to hold on to ephemera: to collect ourselves, to let others know, through these things we collate and amass; to leave behind, touchable, real snatches of ourselves, to say, we were here.

Then we each need a place for privacy. In quiet moments we should formulate, think, dwell, and muse; judge and weigh our thoughts. Moments of sorrow, healing, loss, grief, love, spiritual journeying can be made public later, but not now, not for an audience hungry for spectacle and performance played to a pre-set narrative.

Our thoughts should be ours. We each need to own ourselves; to preserve what makes our lives. To live away from the digital world and know ourselves outside a digital crowd: we need an antidote to an intangible world conjured by Facebook, Twitter, and the digitised swirl of social media.

We are humans. We need to collect. Impulsively we want objects with real things touching our fingertips. We need a place for collecting the tiniest things. To make a frame which confers on our unique collations a new context and strange beauty. A place which speaks to others, when we are gone: here was purpose, value, and a beautiful flowering of wonder.

Here is an antidote to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the digital world.

Copy as sent to Woman's Hour BBC Radio 4, plus book, based about the theme of fond remembrance, possibly sent in response to an interviewer/ee saying something along the lines of 'is there an app for that?'

We women are tradition bearers, life breathers, culture handlers, mother speakers. We are beyond apps.


Seeking Imperfection

Ever seen, languishing in the 99p bin at the charity shop, one of those Indian note books, hand-bound with three stitches, covered in sari fabric, and containing recycled paper, maybe with flower inclusion, or gold effect glitter?

Why is it in the bin?

My guess is, even though this notebook is worthy and tells you all the right trade-and-aid stories - recycled materials, organised labour (and a wage) probably for women and children in a faraway land - somehow, as a note book, it doesn't work.

This book fails where it succeeds. The note book is cut square, neat, on the corners; the edges are sheared, perfectly, by machine; the fabric is gummed down, hard; the pages stare back at you, endlessly the same. Blank.

If I find one of these little books, then of course I rescue it from the bin. I usually inspect the papers, examine the cover for pieces that I can re-stitch, and the whole I study to jumble and reassemble.

I might tear the pages to free them from their sliced edges: perhaps they were originally made of rags or wood pulp, straw, or waste paper, and the fragility of a torn edge now releases some of that story to you.

The cover I'll tear to fray the fabric: the warp and the weft of that fabric tells you about the materials and the process, perhaps the fingers, that made it.

The board someone used to stiffen the cover, now hidden under the fabric and end-papers, I'll reveal to separate, stain, cut and re-stitch to allow your fingers to travel over the coarse pulp that I'll prick new by needle and thread.

The book simply needed loosening up, shaking down, opening out, to allow its own history to breathe.

What I'm seeking, with my restitching, is imperfection.

I want to do away - as much as I can - with sliced edges and neat tucks. I want tears, rags, threads and two lines that meet slightingly, not perfectly, on a corner. I want to ask your fingers to lean in, touch, to make sure, to calibrate and balance what you see and what you feel.

Imperfection like this, stitched into your book, is like wild gardening. The hidden hours it takes to maintain that loose tumble of tresses! The delicate flowers so casually falling to the path and so perilously close to your feet, for this summer's afternoon, only, sprinkling their petals into your way. Artful and artless: it makes its own boundary, it is its own uniqueness.

Time spent on such a variable outcome - possibly failing, bordering on disaster, never to be repeated - is what I do.

I bring imperfection deliberately to the book. Imperfection admits vulnerability. When you handle a Knicker Drawer Note Book, it's become so much more than a book; it's a collection of damaged parts, vulnerabilities, imperfections, dropped threads, missing stitches, maybe wrong-headedness, sometimes deliberate obtuseness, vagaries, and impulses. Sounds like a human?

When we're faced with vulnerabilities, what do we do? Exploit them to feel a power advantage? Or treat them kindly, patiently observing their broken states, reflecting on broken things. And when stuff is broken, and all exposed, then we can see which layers were too fragile to endure, and which layers remain strong.

We need imperfection in our lives. We need it so that we can be kind towards it; forgiving and accepting; finding gentler, stronger, more thoughtful ways of being.

Imperfect is our who-we-are.



First: dark charcoal grey leather cover with thick leather maroon wrap. It's the dark, edgy place with strong lighting and heavy scents. Looks great in a late-night bar with the burlesque about to start.

Second: pale dove-grey leather cover with maroon leather wrap, stud and fluff. Paper inside mix of sturdy notepaper with grey-edged recycled paper. A lively mix of bold and classic.


'Not like a stall, more like a community'

Thank you to all the wonderful, inspiring people who came to Stall 13 on the Vintage and Handmade weekend in CMK. You inspire me everyday, you shell collectors, star gazers, singers, stitchery witches, collectors, dirty diarists, dresser-uppers, and you wise, wise women with stories to tell and decisions to make. I stitch the books for you, and those narrative stitches bind us all.


Borges has a lot to answer for

When I fall into conversation about the origin of the Knicker Drawer Note Books, at some point I'm going to mention Borges, the blind Argentinian library-lover.

I have ruthlessly exploited the ideas of Borges in the design and the construction of the Knicker Drawer books. At one time, heavily under the influence of The Book of Sand, I constructed elaborate and intricate page-foldings, inserts, tucks and turns that went this way or that way to conceal and reveal: you could be surprised by your own knowledge, tucked away into the pages.

A batch of these strange page-turners were hungrily bought by oral story-tellers: one told me that the books, in their ridiculous impracticality, were ridiculously practical. When creating a story that needed a jolt of inspiration, they could go to a filled notebook, flip apart the pages, and out would pop a note, a character sketch, a moment of dialogue that set them thinking in a different direction. Maybe the donkey could get out of the valley after all, by climbing the rope? It all made sense!

Most of the time, I no longer make books with too complex folds, tucks, and layers. I used one such book myself and, like The Book of Sand, I could never find the damn page again. The one with the telephone number I'd scribbled too hastily and needed, now.

But you may have a book that bears a memory of that time. If you have pages that tuck, fold, wrap and turn, then enjoy the inconvenience to squirrel something away.

And if you cannot find it again, blame Borges.


What do you put in Yours?

CMK Handmade and Vintage September 9-10 2017. Every one of us has a book that belongs. You just got to find it. Stall 13. xx


Objects, stories, notes

What is it? The object in your book might be pinned to the felt, stitched into a page, tucked into a quiet space, hidden in the spine or folded into the cover.

Did you find it? Many of the Knicker Drawer Note Books contain objects. Perhaps they reflect the character I've held in my mind's eye as part of the process of making your book. Or maybe your object reflects my particular obsessions. Time, enclosures, layers of knowledge, imaginative life, histories, ordinary/extraordinary, physicality... (plenty to choose from).

But I want all the pieces you find to be a moment for you too, for the creative process you make, telling a story while handling an object. Because when we handle an object, we cannot help but wonder. Who does it belong to? Where would it be used? Is it precious? What journey did it take to get here? Is it something that I should value? Or discard?

We're human. When we handle objects and ask ourselves these questions, we're building stories unique and personal: we're making meaning for ourselves, telling ourselves an interpretation of the world through a physical experience.

As we turn the key, the small phial, the scrap of lace, the pin, the strange bead, we're not only negotiating a meaning with ourselves and the world. Curiously - because I must be here too - you're negotiating a meaning with the person who pinned your object there, perhaps in my own identity or while adopting the voice of another. Isn't that a wonderful form of communicative, collaborative art?

But what will you do next? Will you collect more objects in the same style? Or magpie-mix an eclectic collection? Or discard the objects you find, to start with a clean book?

Collections are not only expressions of our interests. They tell of histories, social moments, contexts, relationships, powers, values, beliefs. As you build your book, object, biography and story merge. Perhaps your objects tell of conflicting stories; resolutions or problems outstanding.

But each time your book is opened, and whenever you handle your collection of objects, you reconstruct, retell and remake your narratives. We remake our who-we-are. Perhaps your book then becomes a precious place to hold traditions, cultures, life-spans.

Or maybe that object already worked itself loose and fell away, a long time ago. Now there's just the book. And you can say, the object that came to mean so much? It must have existed, because here, in this book, you made notes.


Books for Time Travellers

See you at the Asylum, Lincoln, Westgate trading, this August bank holiday 2017. xx


Found: Notebook

Busy stitching note books for the 2017 Steampunk Asylum at Lincoln. And now I have a lovely new research project! Weaselling references to notebooks in late Victorian literature.

Here, from Jules Verne, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth (version 1864): we learn that Professor Lidenbrock keeps notes, very precisely, in his notebook:

'my uncle drew from his pocket a small notebook, intended for scientific observations. He consulted his instruments, and recorded: Monday, July 1. Chronometer, 8.17 a.m.; barometer, 297 in.; thermometer, 6° (43°F.). Direction, E.S.E.'

Axel, his nephew, and a traveller on the journey into the earth, is also a wonderfully attentive notemaker:

'I took out my notebook, from which under the most desperate circumstances I never parted'

I want to get hold of these notebooks, so I can read the jottings such as the calculations of their depth into the earth:

"Calculate away, my boy."
"Nothing easier," said I, pulling out my notebook and pencil. "Nine times one hundred and twenty-five feet make a depth of eleven hundred and twenty-five feet."
"Archimedes could not have spoken more geometrically."
"Well, according to my observations, we are at least ten thousand feet below the level of the sea."

Now, who wouldn't want to hold a notebook composed on a journey to the centre of the earth?

Contains the jottings: Chronometer 8.17 a.m; Barometer 297 in; Thermometer, 6° (43°F). Direction, E.S.E.

Bears the name, Professor Lidenbrock.


Your Antidote to Facebook and Twitter

The more we're forced to live in this online, digitised world - under pressure to display our every thought while persuaders convince us that ownership of things is so old fashioned - the more I want to flee to a different world.

I want a world where physicality and sensuality matters; where I have the moment in my day to handle those small objects through which I can tell myself stories of the world. A key, a ring, a fragment of a letter in another hand. I want a private place to rest, to remember what's important: balance myself, consider why I choose the way I do. To think.

I want not to tell the world those moments. I want not a world compelling me to constantly account for thoughts, desires, beliefs, mistakes. I want not a world which tells me then to improve, behave, reorder, re-create to another, better set of rules.

I want a world that can be mine, just for me, for that quiet moment, privately.


Otherwise known as 'Writer'

Time Sharper: One who watches, records, guiles observations to cash. In recording behaviours, traits, common parlances, the Time Sharper provides chronicles which repeat and re-loop time. Time Sharpers are thus capable of disturbing the mind-temporal balance. Sought after in some looser societies and regulated in others. The Time Sharper's Note Book is an essential tool of this problematic trade.


Book of the Day

Bone Doxy: Lady Archaeologist. Bone Doxy's Note Book for field and river scrummaging, last night discovered, waiting collection. With bones.


Steampunk for your who-you-are

I don't know about your dressing-up moments, but when I put on my Steam clothes, I become the Bookbinder. I make the book for your soul. Regard me both with suspicion and recognition.

This year, will your book be bound and waiting?

From my workshop: books for Spies, Conspirators and Secret Agents; Magickians and Alchemists; Reporters and Photographers; Governors, Buzzers, Skinners, Rogues, Urchins, Dilletantes and Ne'er Do Well's; Merchants and Occupations of Market (to wit: Dressmakers, Star-map makers, Writers, Artists and General Goods Handlers etc etc); Detectives; Engineers; Airship Commanders, Aeronautical Naturalists and Fairy Collectors; Lady Botanists, Lady Explorers, Travellers and Nomads; Antiquarians, Collectors, Purveyors of Junk and Librarians; Poets and Scholars; Pirates of Land, Sea, and Air; Scientists (mad and sane); Noble sorts from Lord and Lady extraction; Officers and Gentlemens of Diverse Armies and Navies; Tea Duellers; Time Travellers, Lost Adventurers, Raconteurs, Inventors, Artisans and Rebels.

If you'd like to throw in your who-you-are, let me know at

Looking forward to seeing you at The Asylum 2017.


Kingfisher Day

Here's the brief: Red is important! As are the Impressionists, walking in the woods, photography, saving the little things. A special birthday. Us. What love there is, always.