Recently I’ve been getting back into sewing, having knitted almost exclusively for the last few years. I don’t know if it’s the creative vibe around these parts, but I’ve been experimenting with machine embroidery and patchwork as well as more traditional needlework. I’ve been picking up a few projects that have been hanging around for aeons as well as starting some new ones that have been in my head for aeons.
The patchwork was inspired by a visit to a local art centre where there was a fantastic exhibition of art quilts by a couple of well-known textile artists. There were some pretty big concepts behind the quilts such as evolution, the origins of the universe and quantum physics, but what I particularly loved was the way the artists used bold colours in their work. Something about the neatness of the patchwork piecing also appeals to me; even when used in a contemporary way it retains a certain orderliness.
The first experiment was some machine embroidery over a printed upholstery fabric (you might recognise it from here).
This one is a project I had in my head for quite a while and started a couple of years ago; it was one I kept picking up and doing a bit of then would put it away for months at a time. I finally finished it the other day, although as with all my completed projects I now don’t know what to do with it.
I loved the patchwork so much that I went straight home and had a go myself; this is my attempt. While happy with the sewing itself it made me realise my fabric stash is woeful in terms of colour, something I hope to rectify in the near future.
And this is another one that had a very long incubation period; it’s made from those annoying ribbons you have to cut out of clothes when you buy them and which I kept for literally years with the vague intention of making something with them. And yes, it does sound a bit weird when I say it out loud.
Ooh, look what else I found in my drafts. This must be one of the last things we did before turning our backs on city life – the Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden. Amazingly, it’s still on; extended due to popular demand, apparently. And if you’re remotely a fan of Bond, or even just cars, you should definitely go. We all loved it, and our levels of fandom varied wildly right down to the girls who haven’t seen a single Bond film.
I know I said we were taking a sanity break between bathrooms, but it really wasn’t that long, I promise. In fact, we started and finished the en suite well over a year ago. It’s just that we sold the house practically as the last tile was being laid and moved to a cottage in the countryside about three months later. And no, that wasn’t in the plan at all.
So here’s the en suite we waited ten years for and enjoyed for less than three months. It was almost enough to make me think twice about moving. Almost.
A couple of years ago I mentioned that I may possibly have something of a builder fetish. (No, not like that for goodness sake. Get your mind out of the gutter.) It’s just that we seem to be unable to go more than a year or so without doing something major to the house.
This year it’s the turn of the bathrooms.
Ok, that sounded rather more ominous than I intended. Although it is pretty serious; our family bathroom and en suite are in such a state after ten years of relentless use (and let’s face it, they weren’t great to start with, having apparently been constructed in somewhat of a rush by our house’s previous owners) that we are completely gutting them and starting again. In the case of the family bathroom, this also involves reorganising the (frankly shit) layout to give ourselves enough space to move around in the room and changing the door around so it opens inwards instead of outwards into our very narrow landing, where it blocks access to one of the bedrooms.
Currently we are at the halfway point, having completed the family bathroom and decided to take a sanity break before embarking on the en suite. So I thought I’d show you the progress so far as I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out, especially as
most some of the best ideas were mine.
A couple of weeks ago we visited my dad for the weekend. It’s always hard to get a date in as they’re so busy at weekends, but this time we went for the ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ strategy and arranged to meet them at Chippenham Folk Festival, where he would be dancing with the Icknield Way Morris Men.
I’m fully aware that at this point you’ve probably either rolled your eyes so far up in your head it’ll take a crowbar to get them back out or fallen off your chair from laughing uncontrollably at the very mention of morris men. Either way, no one is left reading this post by now so I’ll feel free to wallow in self-indulgent nostalgia.
You see, a fair amount of my childhood was spent trailing in the wake of my parents’ involvement in the folk scene; bands, ceilidhs, folk festivals, morris dancing, men with hairy beards drinking from tankards, the works. While I found the music and singing a lot less interesting than the lemonade and crisps I would be allowed in the pub gardens where these events usually seemed to take place, the morris dancing is my most sentimental memory so I was looking forward to it even if Nick and the girls weren’t quite as keen.
Half-term holiday traffic meant that we didn’t arrive until the team’s last ‘set’, but it also meant we missed the heavy rain they’d had earlier (and satisfied my reminiscence just enough without testing its limits too far). We even had some time after they had finished for the day to wander round the craft tent (I’ve always been a sucker for a good craft fair), that requisite element of any self-respecting folk festival.
I really have to tell you about my new favourite .. well, thing. It’s lunch. At work. Don’t shake your head at me, you will understand when I tell you.
Specifically, it’s this book:
It’s rilly, rilly good. Like, every-one-of-my-work-lunches-has-been-a-recipe-from-it-since-I-got-it good. That was three weeks ago, in case you’re wondering. (Given to me for my birthday, from my awesome husband who wins at present buying every single time.)
And let’s face it, it’s exactly my kind of recipe book; I mean, over half the recipes involve no cooking whatsoever, can be made in the morning before you go to work and are mostly vegetarian (still claiming that title despite eating all forms of pork, the occasional duck and sometimes even fish). It’s even entertaining to read, with gems like this:
Spread everything out on the tea towel and turn on your desk lamp. Pretend you’re in a pub garden.
Bat the inevitable probing forks away from your plate.
and who doesn’t relate to this at some level?:
Fight the urge to eat the sandwich for breakfast.
I’m not even going to tell you any more. Just go and buy it, ok? Trust me, you won’t regret it.
On my recent visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show I impulsively bought what I now know is called a charm pack; a pack of pre-cut fabric squares for quilting. For some time I’ve had the vague idea that I’d like to try sewing a quilt (by machine, not hand – I’m not a masochist), probably firstly inspired by another WordPress blog, sazmakes.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the internet and of course that was my first port of call when researching how to turn those little fabric squares into something that could grace a (toddler-size) bed. Dear reader, the internet is truly a wonderful thing. It held my hand every step of the way and gave me the confidence to produce something so much better than I thought I would. I probably didn’t quite do everything the way I should have done, but nevertheless I’m rather proud of the result.
The pattern itself is fairly straightforward; diagonal stitching across the squares of fabric, which I sewed together in rows, then sewed the rows together. I decided halfway through to add a border and used the same fabric for backing the quilt. Not having bound square edges before I played safe and used ready-made binding, although if I made another I think I’d have a go at making my own. A bit of research came up with a way to machine stitch the binding so that it looks like it’s hand stitched from the front, and another search showed me how to deal with the corners. You can’t really see as the binding’s too dark, but those are rather neat mitred corners if I do say so myself!
I really enjoyed making this quilt and plan to do a more complex one at some point – that is, once I’ve finished all my other projects in progress of course…