Shropshire Star

Writer completes embroidery journal documenting 2023 with stitched icons

Martine Ellis, from Guernsey, completed the year-long project on December 31.

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Martine Ellis and journal

A writer from Guernsey has documented her 2023 by making an embroidery journal, complete with a stitched icon for each day of the year.

Martine Ellis, who is also an educator and consultant, started making the circular journal – which is around 12 inches in diameter and split into 12 sections to represent each month of the year – in January 2023.

She said she feels “really pleased” to have completed the project, with the last symbol stitched on December 31.

Embroidered circular journal
Finished embroidery journal (Martine Ellis/PA)

“It’s not so much the final project I’m excited about, it’s more the process of having done it that I’m excited about,” the 45-year-old told the PA news agency.

“It’s really personal. I went through a process and managed to consistently do something creative, and that feels really positive.”

It took Mrs Ellis five to 15 minutes to complete each icon, depending on the complexity.

Stitched icons
Martine Ellis started the project in January 2023 (Martine Ellis/PA)

She would often stitch multiple icons at a time around twice a week, which equated to her having a stitched icon to represent each day of the year.

She said: “I knew I wouldn’t have time to stitch every day, so thought, what can I do to make this achievable?

“I would think of a word that sums up my day because that word ultimately would become an icon.

“When I was thinking of a word, I was thinking it had to be something that was sketchable and stitchable, and that was the thing I did every single day.

Mrs Ellis’s spreadsheet where she planned her icons (Martine Ellis/PA)

“I kept that in a simple Google sheet and every couple of days I had a reoccurring task that reminded me to update my embroidery journal.”

Some of the icons include the Guernsey flag, which is in the May section of the journal, and a T-Rex in the August section.

Mrs Ellis said the app Hevy she uses for weightlifting tells her the total weight she has lifted per workout; and on the day represented by the icon, she “lifted a T-Rex”.

She added: “It is also one of the more complex from a drawing perspective and I completely free-handed stitched it.

“Normally with the icons, I have this water soluble blue pen that I would roughly use to scribble an icon and then stitch it.”

Stitched icons
The T-Rex symbol stitched by Mrs Ellis (Martine Ellis/PA)

On the Guernsey flag icon, she said: “Liberation Day is May the 9th and that is the date we have a bank holiday because that is when we were liberated in the Second World War from the German forces.

“There’s lots of nature orientated ones because last year I got into my garden a little bit more and I started growing a few things, so there’s vegetables dotted around and lots of leaves and flowers.”

Many festive icons pop up in December, including a mince pie, and symbols for toast and soup, represented by a ladle, feature in October – since Mrs Ellis had to “live on” these foods when she was ill with gastric flu.

She said the “most positive thing” to come out of the project is the lessons she learnt along the way.

Stitched icons
The Guernsey flag is one of the stitched icons for May (Martine Ellis/PA)

“The first was the need for processes if you want to consistently do something and having set this as a goal for myself in 2022, it felt really good to have smashed that goal,” she said.

“One of the positive things from a creative practice side of things is that you can’t be a perfectionist when you do a project like this, and I am a perfectionist.

“It really taught me that you have to just go for it and get it done, and that was a big learning curve for me.

“The back looks horrible and some of the dye has run in some of the threads and some of the icons look ridiculous, but I don’t care – it’s mine.”

Stitched icons
There was a festive theme to the icons stitched in December (Martine Ellis/PA)

Having been inspired by someone called The Stir-Crazy Crafter – who teaches people how to make embroidery journals – Mrs Ellis said it is “really cool” to be inspiring others to create their own.

“I don’t have a massive social media following, but people have been really positive about it and cheering me on on social media,” she said.

“People were really looking forward to me sharing my little monthly updates and would message me saying: “I see you’ve stitched what looks like a pan – what is that about?”

More information about Mrs Ellis’s project and other work can be found here:

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