Just like buses, no posts for ages, then two come along at once, albeit a short (blink and you'll miss it) one. Here's one of my makes in Pretty Patches magazine, if I get it back in time, I know just who to give this to for Christmas. If not, I have a new bag!
I've been too quiet here recently, but I've been busy elsewhere. The lovely people at Sewing World magazine asked me to write a series of articles for them, the first of which appeared in their September issue, with 5 more to follow.
The series is all about encouraging slow, creative sewing and covers subjects ranging from using recycled fabrics, telling stories with stitch, to learning about composition and colour to making the most of simple stitches. The articles have enabled me to have fun with trapunto, mola, pojagi and boro style sewing but I'm saving my current favourite technique of needle lace for last.
I was flattered to be asked to contribute as I genuinely rate the magazine highly. There are the usual crafty makes and practical tips of course, but what really sets Sewing World apart from other magazines is that it is so far-reaching. It looks at sewing and textiles in general, both from a trend-led point of view and the history of the subject, and every month includes a full-size pattern for a garment – this alone makes it fabulous value for money!
PS: With one article left to submit, the Knit & Stitch show over, and work generally calming down, I should soon be able to get back to my own slow stitching and blogging about it too.
I'll be teaching a few workshops at the K&S show this year. It's the third or fourth time I've done it and the nerves are still as bad as ever. Most of my workshops are booked up but do say hello if you're passing. In the meantime, here's a little animation to whet your appetites for what's in store.
There has been progress on my blue and white quilt, I've put the sandwich together and have started hand quilting. This will take forever, as it's the sort of task that only gets done when a) there's no other sewing to do, and b) when it's cool enough for me to sit under a mound of padded fabric without melting. So far, I've managed 11/2 square foot of quilting, which is about a tenth of what still needs to be done. I'm aiming to get it finished by Christmas but I'm not saying which one.
For my motif, I've chosen an abstract acorn pattern as the house is not only surrounded by oak trees, but the estate is named after them. Shortly after we moved here, all the acorns fell to the ground (not in protest at our arrival) which made walking treacherous and had a huge effect on my choice of footwear, clogs off, sturdy boots on. I wanted to suggest a similar look to a floor covered with acorns, and, rather conveniently, my quilting hoop proved to be the perfect template for an oversized acorn pattern—how's that for luck*.
When I first took up patchwork, I had a go at free motion quilting but didn't get on with it, I like the look of it but not the doing it. Likewise, it would be churlish of me to pretend that I don't admire exquisite machine quilting (the sort that reminds me of patterns on custard cream biscuits) because I do. Again, I just can't do it. I would have to spend so much time practicing to reach any kind of level of competency that I'd be happy with this would leave no time for anything else. So a hand quilter I shall remain!
Which brings me to the title of this post. I have sewn for a very long time and yet I know diddly squat about needles and thread. I am not a tech head and couldn't care less about the type of steel my needles are made from or the carding process for thread.** I fail on so many technical levels and am driven mainly by aesthetics, sometimes they coincide but usually it's by accident rather than design.
So, when I realised that thread can be loosened from a reel of cotton (like the one in the photo) simply by twisting its head, it was as if I had discovered penicillin—this is technical stuff don't you know! The second thing I learnt is what a huge difference quilting cotton makes. Out of habit I use it, but I've never really questioned why, I just blindly use it because I was told to. Yet the other day I sewed with what I thought was quilting cotton but the end result wasn't the one I was used to—no lovely puckers where the sandwich is pulled together. When I turned the spool round to read the label I realised this was ordinary sewing thread, not quilting cotton. The realisation that there really was an actual difference astounded my Whinnie the Pooh like brain.
What can I say, I'm a slow learner. What some quilters learn on day one of quilting has taken me many years to absorb. But it has made me think: maybe I should try experimenting with different needles for a comparison of their technical attributes instead of just choosing the one I can shove the thread through. Maybe there is a corner of me that is hungry for technical knowledge after all. Maybe?
* I swear it was this way round: idea first, followed by a stroke of luck that the hoop was the ideal tool to realise it, and not, what can I do with the hoop as I'm too lazy to work out another pattern!
** However, I did see this great video on youtube.
I'm the kind of person who normally wouldn't dream of asking a stranger where they got a shirt/bag/pair of shoes. Something inside me thinks it's just plain rude. But I was sitting behind a woman on a bus a few months ago who was wearing the most amazing coat—Joseph's very own would have paled into insignificance beside it.
I tried to sketch the coat in my notebook, however, my solitary black marker couldn't capture its beautiful embroidery and colours, so eventually I plucked up the courage and nervously asked where it was from. The woman wasn't the friendliest of sorts (this is another reason I don't ask strangers where they shop—fear of refusal or general snarkiness) but she brusquely informed me she'd bought it from the V&A museum shop. This told me, as if I didn't already know by the woman's tone, that I couldn't afford it, besides, as I later found out, it was no longer for sale.
I managed to track down an image of the coat, but it really doesn't do it justice. Each circle appliqué is a different fabric, and the blanket stitching holding them in place is a rich multitude of coloured threads. The over all effect is one that carefully tows the line of looking both rustic and expert at the same time—something I absolute love and aspire to emulate. The increase of size in the circles as you scan down the coat creates the illusion of flare, when in fact, it is quite a fitted garment—so you get the impression of swishiness without the bulk.
I briefly thought about making a similar coat for myself but as I limit clothes making to basics I don't think my seamstress skills would have been up to the job—not to do it justice anyway. Maybe one day I'll make a simple skirt that incorporates some similar embroidery around its hem, but for now I've made do with a project bag. I cut out scraps of patterned silk that I had in my stash and sewed them to a raw silk background with blanket stitch. I used lots of layers of blanket stitch, a) for a homespun look, and b) to stop the edges from fraying. Then I added seed stitch between the appliqués. As you can see, the bag itself is a simple drawstring affair with printed cotton on its reverse side.
The dumpling work bag has since fallen to bits.
It may not be a technicolour dreamcoat but I am quite fond of my new work bag, it is also extremely useful as it holds more than my dumpling bag which is sadly falling apart.
Patrick doesn't always comment on my sewing, but he said this reminds him of William Scott paintings. Perhaps he's right, we spend a fair bit of time in Hastings and usually visit the Jerwood Gallery when there. Scott's paintings are among the Jerwood's collection and they held a major retrospective of his work a few years ago, which featured many of his pots and pans canvases.
So be it pots, pans, or a fabulous coat, inspiration can be found anywhere.
Where do you stand on asking strangers where they shop?