Dreams in white


how white dreams look on black

Dream Fragments, 1992

a rack full of gorgeous crepes, including a deep blue jacket
on an ice floe, some are designated swimmers
a jewelry maker – silver, moss agate – I wrap her goods by folding them up in a display cloth
someone hands out bundles of electricity
between the floor boards — treasure!  loads of quarters and some wind chimes
walking through the woods with Warren Beatty


top lighting


back lighting


Vertical dream-strip piece

To me there is something powerful about ‘whitening’ a chunk of personal narrative.  I’m not sure why.  It may have to do with aging away from drama.  It may speak to the non-linear qualities of memories – how they can be rearranged, fragmented, or removed from the frame altogether.  Or, it could be that the ordinary domestic process of stitching fragmented stories back together reenacts a healing process.

All that may be so, but right now, the power lies elsewhere. Working with  fragments of a life (my life) in a manner truly lacking any ‘charge’ (in fact, in a process akin to mindless doodling) gives me a kind of casual dominion over these journal entries. I’m not studying them. I’m not trying to read them forward or backward.  They are just there. They are just there in a way that I might like to just be here.

So it’s not that the meaning has been mostly stripped out that lends this exercise its freeing potential, but the fact that the meaning remains and I am not reacting to it.  How liberating to employ an artist’s eye, viewing snippets of my life as abstract rectangles of cloth! No judgments in sight. Even as I read “Will I go all the way? With Warren Beatty?!!”


Square dream-strip piece

I am not sure I am making any sense.  Or whether this is even a good thing.

But, here I am.

And here are a few practice notes.  Using a Pitt pen, I scribed seven dreams from a 1992 journal onto two pieces of nicely pressed muslin — one swatch bleached, one swatch unbleached.  Unlike the last time I used scribed strips, this time, I wanted at least some of  the phrases to be legible.  The five dreams were composed into a vertical piece (with no batting) and two other dreams were composed into a square piece (with the traditional three layers of top/batting/backing).

First, I applied a grid of machine stitches to adhere the muslin in place.  Stitch, stitch, stop at an end, pivot the needle, travel a short distance to beginning of next row, and stitch, stitch, stitch a parallel line. Foot up.  Foot down.  Clap. Clap.   Some variations were generated when introducing the perpendicular grid.  Pivot.  Foot down.  Foot up, pivot.  Rhythmic machine stitching in front of a window, alone in the house.

Square dream-strip piece

Square dream-strip piece


Square piece – with running stitches begun

Then I stitched by hand.  White thread, or off-white thread.  I had some loose rules as I did both of these things (tracking lines in parallel, avoiding stitching over a penned letter, stitching out bumps) which enhanced the relaxed approach, as few decisions were required.

I’m almost done with the square one.  The vertical waits for hand-stitching.

Lastly, here is a teaser — this also was stitched this week.  I am using a similar process on this antique silk Japanese sleeve (more on it later).

first a grid, then free-motion

first a grid, then free-motion

17 thoughts on “Dreams in white

  1. Michelle in NYC

    What a boon to me this post is—My dream notations in the journals sometimes are used to start, and sometimes to finish, poems. But to convert some of them with pit pen to cloth is just the ticket for the current What’-ffing work! YAY. I have no machine but am using glue stitch and weaving cloth to make “little cloth canvases” as Jude called them, later to be arranged together on some larger cloth. This post of yours has just shot me into the more personal area of inclusions. I love wondering if you would go all the way with Warren Beatty, and your thought process in the working of the pieces. Thanks!

  2. nadia

    Enjoyed seeing your process here–it’s so free and free-ing. I love seeing the mix of stitching and text. The last picture has beautiful stitching. I saw a monster fish in it, a deep sea creature. Certainly not a sleeve!
    best, nadia

    1. deedeemallon

      Nadia. Ha! A deep sea creature?! Wait’ll you see the ‘back side’. It looks like a map of Manhattan.

  3. patricia

    so glad to read this here and get more insight into your process. i love this idea of writing on fabric, ripping it up, rearranging it. stitching it down again. and i guess this process could go on and on and on. your description of non-attachment is also very nice to hear. i like this work a lot. may have to scribble on some cloth myself–but my handwriting at best is rarely legible–guess that could be viewed in some ways as a good thing.

    1. deedeemallon

      Patricia! It could go on and on, couldn’t it? Varying text, varying the level of disclosure, varying how much white.

  4. saskia

    so many threads here (ha) I love the idea that the words mean something and at the same time don’t, being cut up ( in a way a bit like the tree trunk prints/writing) that helps give you the author distance, and me the viewer room for my own dream/story….and I’m curious about your story!
    also like the combination of strict lines and free hand stitching,
    I’m with Nadia here on the sleeve: I see a huge whale like creature

  5. gaile

    i just love this, i have thought about writing prayers on strips of cloth and making a prayer flag for outdoors, but never followed through. so i am glad you shared this. its awesome!

  6. shishi

    Dee-I have been visiting your blog for an hour or so and I’m missing my stitching gals at Jude’s. I was too late for this last class.
    Your work is just amazing!!! The whites are so pure and vibrant at the same time. I’ll be checking in to see your progress. Wow

    1. deedeemallon

      thanks for stopping by shishi! sorry you missed the window, but there’ll be more, and anyway, so many of those stitchers have blogs now…

  7. deedeemallon

    I’m wishing that I could ‘like’ peoples’ comments the way you can on FB (even though there’s so much I don’t like about FB), or that I could reply directly under a visitor’s comment, like on typepad…. which is to say, thanks gaile, saskia, and nancy – glad you came by…

  8. boronoragi

    that’s the word that comes to mind
    i like this a lot. like the rhythm of the posting, the tearing, the dreaming
    feels really good to read, see and
    contemplate. Thank you for this


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