This week has been all about the patchwork! Regular visitors to my little corner of the web will remember that I had a birthday the other week and, as guilt free shopping is always good, I was given a couple of Amazon vouchers. I have a rule that birthday money should always be spent on presents for yourself, and not on anything practical like new washing machines or cat food: therefore, much of my crafty wish list found its way into my basket!
Throughout furlough I have been really enjoying patchwork – starting with the mini charm quilt and the Attic Window quilt that had been in the UFO pile for years, and then working through various charm packs and fat quarters that were lurking in the stash.
Like most people who sew, I end up with lots of remnants. Prior to lockdown, I used to take all my cotton/polycotton remnants to work where they would be used to dress the thousands of peg dolls children made every term, and in April I gave a lot of fabric to a woman in the village to make masks from as she wasn’t charging for them. Since then, the pile has been building up again.
One of the presents I bought myself was ‘Use scraps, sew blocks, make 100 quilts‘ by Stuart Hillard and it’s been a bit of a game changer. I had a couple of books of traditional quilt patterns already, as well as Quilting for Dummies, but as they are all in black and white I found it hard to get inspired by them. I always enjoy Stuart’s column in one of my sewing magazines, so this seemed like a good book to buy. As you can see, it’s already bristling with sticky notes! Every time I look through it something else catches my eye.
It’s a very practical book – suggestions for organising your scraps by cutting them to useful, regularly-used sizes before you chuck them in a box, or for cutting a strip off every fabric you buy and adding to your patch pile might seem obvious but as a newbie patcher I really hadn’t thought of that before. Having this sort of hoard also means that you see how colours and prints work together in a way you might not have expected.
The instructions for piecing together are very clear, and Stuart has simplified the cutting process for each block (I love his quick half-square triangle method!) to make them feel less daunting for newbies. The virtual quilt illustrations are really useful alongside the photos of the gorgeous finished quilts and make me feel as if I could actually make one of these artworks.
On Stuart’s advice I bought a 45mm rotary cutter and a proper transparent quilter’s ruler – I had a larger 65mm cutter that I don’t use much, probably as it’s blunt, and normal steel rulers, but the quilting rule has angles and centimetres. I wish it had inches as well, but there we are. I felt ready to put all these top organisational tips into action , so I wandered up to my shed and sorted out a pile of remnants to cut into nice tidy pieces. I did make a start, honest…I cut up some Japanese florals and Kokeshi prints into 6″ squares to go with a set of Totoro panels, and then I got distracted. Again.
One of the pre-cut charm packs I discovered in the stash was a set of 4-inch squares with florals, ladybirds and butterflies – I think I bought it at a stitch show years ago as I find it hard to resist anything with ladybirds on! In the remnant pile I found some cream polycotton left over from making the Colette Sorbetto top, and it looked as if it would pair nicely with the charms. I ended up making half-square triangles and then spent several days playing with patterns.
How do you choose which patchwork design to use? I moved things around on my drawing board, and every time I chanced on another layout I loved it just as much. I ended up taking photos of every block and posting them on Facebook, and asked my friends what they thought at block and layout stages – quilting by committee! Some of the layouts used the prints randomly, others put them together, and I even tried putting two different blocks together to create something quite chaotic. Opinion was divided – some people liked the same pattern together, others preferred the mixture of patterns, but the clear winner was the pinwheel or windmill block (centre bottom).
I went with the majority vote and I am soooo pleased with the outcome. It worked well as a stashbuster, which just goes to show what a good investment the book was! As well as the cream print in the triangles I made the bias binding myself from the remnants of the backing fabric from the red quilt from a few weeks ago using this tutorial, and this quilt top is backed with a cot sheet that I had kept from when the kids were little. I used a double layer of batting, as it’s the 2oz one and I wanted a puffier effect, and I quilted in the ditch along the diagonal lines. It’s not a huge quilt, coming out at 33″ x 26″, but it’ll be a good baby gift.
There will be more patchwork in the future, I suspect! This week I am going to try and be good and finish chopping remnants into organised scraps, and possibly have a go at the Morgan jeans if the fabric arrives. I’m still working on the two commission dolls, which just need to be given hair and clothes, and yesterday I managed a whole round of my virus shawl while queuing for the Co-op and the post office.
This week my annual pension statement arrived from my previous job and reminded me that I have another 20 years of work to go (on current reckoning, anyway – who knows what the next two decades have in store?) on the same day that my eldest, Thing 1, decided to go Goth on me. She is 14 this week and looks so grown up – it doesn’t seem that long since the ridiculously hot summer of 2006 when she arrived, and I wanted to take her back to the hospital as I really didn’t feel capable of being in charge of this little being. I’m told this is quite normal!
There’s still days when I’m not sure I’m ready for the responsibility, but it may be a little late to change my mind now. One of the wonderful things about furlough is that I have had time to spend with the three of them that – as a working parent – I wouldn’t otherwise have had. These months have been the longest time I have had away from work since my last maternity leave (in 2011!) and while I love my job and wouldn’t want to give up work, I do feel lucky to have had this chance to enjoy my children now they are a bit bigger. Maternity leave is great, but it’s also a lot of hard work with a tiny person and a lot of overwhelming emotions, especially if – as I found – post-natal depression comes into the mix. It’s a cliche but your babies don’t stay little for long!
I also ventured further from home this week than I have done since lockdown started – a whole five miles, in order to make my 21st blood donation over in Theydon Bois. It was all very well organised, with triage as you enter and no waiting around. The worst part was when my Kindle crashed about a minute into my donation – nothing to read!
I started giving blood in 2011 after my brother in law suffered a heart injury which left him in hospital for several months and with permanent impairments. My youngest child was still tiny and I couldn’t be with my sister as much as I’d have liked, so donating blood helped me feel a bit more useful. I love getting the texts that tell me where my blood has been issued to! Only 4% of people who are eligible to give blood actually do, so I try and encourage friends and colleagues to visit the vampires – it’s an hour out of your day a few times a year, and you get a drink and a biscuit afterwards. Orange Clubs, if you’re lucky – so go on, head to http://www.blood.co.uk and find out where you can donate.
This week’s cover photo is of a field between North Weald and Tawney Common, where the farmer has left a wide and beautiful border of wildflowers around the field. My phone camera doesn’t do it justice but the butterflies and bees were loving it!
Next week is the end of term: no more home learning till September, and hopefully we’ll be back to some form of normal by then, at least in terms of going back to school. Thing 2 is having a socially distanced leavers’ assembly this week in the school playground, so please wish us good weather!
See you on the other side of week 17…
What I’ve been reading:
‘Use scraps, sew blocks, make 100 quilts‘ by Stuart Hillard
V I Warshawski series – Sara Paretsky
Poseidon’s Gold (Falco series) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)
and if you want a couple of film recommendations, head on over to Amazon Prime Video and check out Adult Life Skills (with Jodie Whittaker – I wept) and The Great Unwashed.