The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook: Viv’s page

When the idea of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook was first proposed, Viv was one of the first to jump on board with gusto.

Before the Sketchbook reached her, however, we lost her in July 2016. This was a great sadness on two counts; first for those who loved her and miss her still, and secondly because the Sketchbook also needs words as well as the beautiful images which have been contributed. Viv’s great skill was with words, and the lack of her contribution left something of a void.

Viv’s daughter Sally has kindly consented to allow us to feature one of Viv’s poems to amend this lack. The piece which has been selected is called ‘Conjunctions’, and discusses the importance of building and maintaining the connections between us, a sentiment particularly appropriate for the far-flung Sisterhood.

I was asked to letter and insert Viv’s poem.   I have done this in a connected way, with each verse linked to the next with paper and thread. I thought about adding some pieces of patchwork, another of Viv’s passions, but ultimately felt that her words were splendid as they stood, and needed no other adornment or distraction. I’m happy with the simplicity of the execution.

You can see my own page about the Sketchbook project by clicking the link at the start of this post. Alternatively, go to the blog created for this project by Sandra, for a different perspective.

So, I give you Viv’s contribution. She’s with us after all…

Words under pressure #22

We’re back, a day earlier than expected, but I couldn’t face another night away.

So teeth were gritted, pedal was pushed to metal, pillows were plumped, and off we set. Things were not good for several sections of the journey, and least of all when we finally got home. But everything is much better now.

Home at last

Here I lie,
clean, comfortable, clothed
in soft and waistless lawn
baby-scented, still…

Here lie I
like one laid neatly out
for the coffin-maker’s
invisible art.

All aligned:
head, shoulders, waist and hips
knees and ankles wide spaced
all ruler straight

But sideways!
My burning, punished spine
ratcheted ever tighter –
unloaded after

Days of bumps,
bangs, bends, by beds enforced
winds down like clockwork –
lies level at last.

On my side
nose gratefully buried
in softest old cotton, forehead
finally uncreased.

Words under Pressure #21

It’s been a while since my internal Words under Pressure made their insistent way out into some sort of form.

Up to now, I’ve been busy, contented, creative and only moderately decrepit for a woman of my years and past history. The last 6 weeks, however, have forced me to reconsider many things in my life, and this piece of poetry reflects the sadness and sometimes bitterness of some decisions I’ve had to make recently. Many things I’d hoped and planned for will never happen now. Freedoms I’ve taken for granted are no longer there. Certain actions have Keep Out signs posted on them, for my own safety. I don’t take happily to this change, although those shining constants in my life without which I cannot live are still safely with me, unaffected and of great consolation.

Here we go, then.

Byzantium falls

I am a city under siege.
The ramparts built to last
A thousand years now crumble;
Trees grow atop my walls.

My great donjon sways,
Its foundations sapped,
Its fabric bitten by
The winds of time.

The glorious fortress falls,
Imperceptibly; and slow,
Inexorable and bleak
The soft decay to dust.

The palaces I built
Inside this fortress of my mind
Are gone, those shining
Monuments to glory.

So too the temples,
To beauty, health, ambition –
All gone, lost, ransacked.
Marauders passed this way.

My gardens are a waste
Sown with salt and regret.
Sunlit, dappled courts
Now home to shadows.

There is still a faded trace
of Byzantium’s years of glory;
An echo of what was
And will never be again.

I live as a ghost in my own ruins
And watch my bitter dust,
The slow sift of my fabric,
Down the shafts of sunlight.

When I wrote this, I was feeling sad, resentful and sorry for myself. Normal service has now resumed and my natural optimism has reasserted itself. I’m never allowed to grump for long, in any case; there’s too much that’s still great about life to enjoy out there. Like chocolate, and flowers, and friends, and pretty things to draw and sew…  🙂

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook # 5

After Anne, who made it, I’m honoured to be first on the list to make a mark on the pristine pages of the Travelling Sketchbook.

If you’re not familiar with this project, I recommend you hope over to Anne Lawson’s blog and look at how it all came to be, links here:


It’s been a rough week or two for me health-wise as some of you will already know, but I’ve finally finished my entry, and here it is. Click on the photo for a larger, and enlargeable, image.

Kate Sketchbook page

A stitched image in fabric, a bit of loopy hand lettering and a sorta, kinda poem. The sewn fabric piece is the hardest bit of foundation paper piecing I’ve ever made, but knowing how fond Anne is of feathers, it was a challenge that just had to be met…. I’m not totally in love with the lettering, but sometimes you just have to commit to getting something down on paper, don’t you? And I like the words… Actually, I’m not even sure which way the page should go, landscape or portrait.  I think I prefer portrait for the feather, but then the words are on their sides. You decide for yourselves which is better.

The Travelling Sketchbook is even now on its way to Sandra (Lady Red Specs – see the link below), so remember to check her blog to see what she’s going to add. I can’t wait to find out – the additions are going to be widely varied and fascinating. I’m going to save myself the trouble by Following the lot of you!

Below is the list of participants and links to them, so you can keep track. Maybe later participants could save a bit of time by cutting and pasting the info? You can track its progress on an interactive map miraculously conjured up by Chas Spain, here.

and finally, back to Anne herself in Melbourne, Australia

The Sketchbook's route The Sketchbook's globetrotting

There is an envelope containing the Sister-hood list with contact info and addresses in the back of the Sketchbook, so do make sure if you’re a contributor that this travels along too. Anne has also made a map where we can record the Sketchbook’s travels, and I hope the others will also update and show this when they publish their contributions, in addition to following Chas Spain’s proposed interactive version (for more on that, jump over here and read up on what she’s planning – it’ll be awesome!).

If anyone reading this would like to join in, please contact Anne about it via any of the blog posts listed at the top – we may need to either add more pages or start Volume II…

So far, the Sisterhood is living up to its name, but the odd Brother would be welcome too, I’m sure….

Update: I’ve now added a Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook page to this blog, which records the background, the story, and the additions, page by page, as they are made. You’ll find it in the bar at the left, under the More Information heading.

Words under Pressure #20

Our current trip has once again reacquainted me with the beauty and variety of this wonderful country I have chosen to come and live in. And since I’ve been on the road for days, I have no sewing to show you, and my camera is staying safely in its bag, out of the rain, so it’ll have to be words again.

Someone asked me the other day if it hadn’t been really hard to give up everything and everyone I had in England to emigrate to Australia. Yes, of course it was hard, I was dragging up my whole self by its roots, but it would have been much harder not to come here. I fit in here better than I ever did there, I feel more at home here than I ever did in England. I was drawn, as if by a magnet… It wasn’t ‘brave’, more inevitable!

Immigrant’s Song

Far will I travel over strange lands,
Touching none, seeing none.
Called, pulled by my heartstrings
To a new land, a new home.

Many millions will I pass,
Unguessed, unknown, unmet.
Gladly passed, gladly left,
For my new land, my new home.

Straight as arrow flight
Will I go, eyes ever ahead,
Passing marvels unmarked, undesired.
Towards my new land, my new home.

I have not left the ones I love.
They are all gathered up.
I carry them in my pocket as I walk
In my new land, my new home.

It took a while to adapt, but now you couldn’t pay me enough to get me back. My roots are down deeper here than they ever were there.

Words under Pressure #19

Two posts in one day? Well, sometimes you just have too much to say. And Words under Pressure need to be let out…

There’s nothing like taking up a new(ish) and dangerous sport when you’re old enough to know better…

I do get a few stares of disbelief when I talk about careering around the country on the back of a large and powerful motorbike. At 54 I suppose it’s not really surprising, but I’ve had a love affair with motorbikes for much of my life and now I have the Husband to share it with. We have no children or other dependents, we’re reasonably careful and law-abiding, and we do want to have some serious fun before we’re too old and decrepit. And boy, do we have fun….


I voyage for delight,
Venturing into the unknown
For the joy of discovery,
And soul’s refreshment.

Into the strange
I plunge, delirious, laughing.
Thoughts riotous,
My heart expanding.

I have broken out
Of my scribed circle,
The slow, sick spiral
Down into dullness.

See me fly!
I have seized the slipstream
And travel on the high winds
That circle the earth.

Envy me, earthbound.
I have launched myself at
The far places of the world.
I stride on clouds.

Are we having fun yet? Are we ever!

Words under Pressure #18

For many, perhaps most of you out there reading this blog, Spring is coming, a welcome relief from arduous weather conditions and the start of gentler things. For me, Autumn is on the way, offering its own relief as the weather moderates, cyclone season passes, and cool mornings remind me of my childhood.

Screen shot 2014-11-24 at 5.05.17 PM6.00am

Do you know that rush
Of powerful, heady happiness
You get on mornings in Spring,
When your blood is green?

Do you know the singing
That lifts the top of your head,
The scent of sunlight,
Prompting unreasonable joy?

Do you feel the miracle
Of daybreak, after good sleep,
And your skin fits –
Though your heart is the size of the world?

I am older now, but I still long
To run like the child I was
In the hill’s blowing grass,
Clean, whole and hopeful.

I hope Spring comes soon for you all…

Worldwide Friends: full steam ahead

I’m getting there, and a little faster than I expected/feared.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 6.40.39 pmI have the bottom strip hexies complete and assembled. It’s amazing how a bit of slightly panicky focus can result in a massively increased output! Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll have the front finished.

All this industry has been greatly assisted by care packages of more fabrics – I had enough in yardage terms, but the range was getting very limited and I was very reluctant to spoil the effect from lack of choice. Thanks to the contributions from Nanette and Cath (which I’ve written about in earlier posts), that’s not going to be a problem.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 6.41.20 pm

Spot the moon. Time for some gold paint, I think!

I’ve also decided that the crescent moon on the rabbit fabric has to be gold too. It’s a bit, well, discreet at the moment, and after my success with the lettering, it seems an obvious progression.

Before I assemble all the front sections into one giant piece, I’ll tackle that job, otherwise it’ll be a huge, cumbersome thing to manage. The haiku will make a bit more sense if the moon is shining!

rabbit dances on
the moon’s straight and shining path
along lake’s bright ripples

On a completely different subject, I’ve had some rather trying news. It appears that I’m now lactose intolerant as well as coeliac. I’m used to managing my diet, so it’s nothing new. The real disaster, of course, is that the very few mainstream brands of chocolate which were gluten free are also now out of reach… 😦  There’s only one left: Whittaker’s. Their Dark Ghana 72% and Dark Almond 62% have the ‘may contain traces…’ disclaimer, but I reckon lactose levels would be minute and I refuse to take that into consideration. I mean, seriously, how am I supposed to get through life without chocolate?

I wonder if it’s possible to make your own Nutella…. any ideas?

Dancing rabbits

I’ve been doing some research around Japanese legends and imagery.

Screen shot 2014-12-06 at 4.45.04 PM

It was all sparked off by the furoshiki I’m using as a centrepiece for Worldwide Friends. It features hares or rabbits bounding across waves under a crescent moon. I’ve seen many examples of Japanese textiles which show rabbits below a moon, in conjunction with flowers, grasses or waves, and I wanted to know why… It’s an unusual juxtaposition to a European eye.

There’s a lovely legend about a rabbit which offers a supreme act of kindness and self sacrifice to a stranger, and is rewarded by being taken up to the moon when the stranger turns out to be a deity. The Japanese consider that the shape seen in the moon is a rabbit and not, as Western eyes see it, a man. Historically, moon gazing festivals were held in Japan to behold the beauty of the full moon in the eighth calendar month of the year, and there was a great deal of rabbit symbolism associated with this, including ceramics of moon-gazing rabbits, and rabbit shaped sweet treats.

I find the idea of the simple, generous rabbit lovely, and his frolics across my quilt centrepiece made me want to add something else, in text rather than fabric. What else could it be but a haiku? The rules for haiku are simple: 17 syllables long, in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables each, expressed in the present tense and about a natural subject…

Here we go:

rabbit dances on

the moon’s straight and shining path

along lake’s bright ripples

Meanwhile, the stitching continues.  A corner of the centrepiece frame has come together.

Maybe I’ll put the haiku on the label. It’s not much good, but I enjoyed composing it!

Words Under Pressure #17

Every migrant knows that no matter how wonderful the new life, the new home is, there are some things which still tug at the heart’s memory.  Here are some of mine.

And I Miss…

English spring mornings, fresh and green,
The first primroses, honeysuckle blowing gusts
Of lavish perfume under my night-time window,
The triumphant morning song of blackbirds,
The tender baby-gold of new oak leaves,
The promise of release from daytime darkness.

Ease of body on warm summer afternoons,
The haze of bluebells in the cool scented woods.
Wild roses and raspberries in the hedgerow,
Pimms with strawberries and cream.
Sun without scorching, dry without drought,
Endless childhood summer days.

Blackberry baskets loaded, then jars of jam,
Late apples picked from September trees,
The shouting, glorious gold of beech trees turning,
Squirrels in the walnut tree, starlings swarming,
The high V of geese heading south, distant honking.
Nature tucking herself into bed.

Christmas in wintertime, log fires, apple scented.
A sleeping world snug under a thick white blanket.
Flannel pyjamas, cosy woollen socks.
Stark-black trees laced with frost against grey sky,
Deer running in car headlights, early lambs.
The sun at rest, the world restoring itself.

Tomorrow, we’ll be on the road. I’m taking the new camera in the hope that something in the next 6 days will be worth a photo or two, but I’m not holding my breath, the weather’s a bit sordid. Anyway, I’ll post again when I get back.  Meanwhile, I’ll be eagerly reading your posts, so get cracking!