Textile artist Karen Turner marks the passage of time through embroidery stitches. In her Intuitive Daily Stitching project, Turner adds thread marks to fabric to chronicle each day. She fills in pre-drawn circles and squares with various stitches, from a simple running stitch to more complicated French knots. The stitched days sit side by side and culminate in a patchwork of texture and color. This tapestry is an apt metaphor for the relative sameness of everyday life. While each day may look a little different, it’s all part of the same cloth collected through the years.
“As a textile artist, I sew every day anyway,” Turner tells My Modern Met, “but in the beginning I wanted somewhere separate to collect a few stitches every day on a cloth that would serve as a witness to the passage of time.” By taking 15 minutes or half an hour each day to work on this project, she makes a conscious effort to meditate on the present. “It's about recognizing each moment as precious and ephemeral, and this allows for wider reflection on the value of life and on what we choose to do with our time.”
Turner’s daily art project could be replicated on paper or with paint, but it was important for her to hand-stitch everything. “I think there is a significant metaphor for healing and repair in needle and thread, and also one of connection,” she explains. Turner makes her stitches on vintage French cotton/linen bed sheets, and in doing so feels like she’s adding part of her life to a fabric that has already had years of service. “It feels like a layering of lives. Stitching on a cloth changes its texture and makes it stronger, and I think this reflects the benefit of mindfulness itself as we take time out to rest and repair.”
The value found in daily projects like Turner’s is through the process. Because of this, she's more concerned with the act of creation instead of what it will look like in a year. “At the end of the year, the finished cloth has no function other than to be a record of time passing, a bit like an old diary; I'm not setting out to make a beautiful or harmonious object. I don't unpick anything that turns out less than perfect; I prefer to see that imperfection as an honest portrait of a day that may have been unpleasant or difficult.”
Turner began her project in 2022 and has continued it into 2023. She has a separate cloth for each year, and for 2023 she’s divided her entire strip of fabric into 12 sections. “I'm working each month on its own block,” she shares, “so that the whole strip will fold concertina-style into something like a book by the end of the year.”
If you’d like to start a similar project, you’re in luck. Turner has an e-course that will guide you through the entire process as well as templates for sale in her online shop.