My husband is a brave man: he married a woman who sews in bed. One night, as I was stitching, he asked "what does that say?" I didn't know what he meant. "Oh, I thought those were letters." I was sewing small buckles under cloth, which he mistakenly thought they were letters. And a light went off in my head: yes, they do look like letters!
Strata Markings (17" x 17") was the one I was sewing in bed. The vertical line on the right side was what he thought were letters. I loved the idea that the small buckles, buttons, pins and hooks (which were ubiquitous in my grandmother's generation) could form their own hieroglyphic language.
Domestic Markings (32"h x 20"w) In this one, I was trying to suggest a gray stone tablet with writing. The gray background (barely visible around the edges of the frame) matches the gray dyed damask cloth. Look closely at the top, and you can see the pattern woven into the damask.
Domestic Markings #2 (23" x 23") In this one, I'm presenting the linen napkin of embedded letter-shapes (with just a tiny bit of the black wool underlayer showing) as a specimen on a substrate (which has it's own suggested writing stitches).
On Domestic Markings #3 (23" x 23") I veered off from the embedded letter-shapes, adding thermofax-printed text and images of the letters on children's wooden blocks. Not a great success, but it has one really cool feature that I want to share: the implied lettering on brown wool background. An artist in Maine - who makes hooked rugs- taught me this trick. You take 2 different colored pieces of wool and wrap them tightly together. Then you simmer them in water for an hour or 2. Pour in a cup of vinegar, and let the whole pot cool overnight. In the morning, some of the color will have transferred from one piece to the other. It's like slow-motion tie-dye for wool. So, in this version, I cut small pieces of dark wool and sewed them onto the lighter wool, then simmered and waited, and when I cut the small pieces, off, I had little markings (to suggest writing).
Sewing Strata (18" x 18") I think I made this one just before Strata Markings... we could consider it a pre-literate version. I do remember that this is the first one where I tried a really big gamble. After doing all that hand sewing, I painted on just a little discharge paste* and ironed off some color. It could have ruined the whole thing. And then, of course, I had to rinse it all thoroughly, and dry it between towels, and set it up with a barrage of fans to dry it. But it worked, I mounted it on a frame, and I used the same technique on Domestic Markings #2 to highlight some of the shapes.
* FYI: discharge paste is a noxious gelatinous substance that can be used as a controlled form of bleach. It will sit harmlessly on your cloth until you hit it with a hot iron...then it will give off disgusting, dangerous fumes, and removes color. If you touch the iron lightly, it takes out a little color. More heat= more color loss. After ironing, you must rinse out the cloth thoroughly. I only use discharge paste on my front porch, with a strong fan. In the winter, this is quite a joy.