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.
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…
A random marketing email recently prompted me to visit the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. I had been once before, years ago, when I was working my way through a City and Guilds in Embroidery, and thought it would be interesting to go again, this time from the point of view of a recently converted knitter. I’m not terribly keen on very busy, crowded places so I only spent a few hours there before my impatience got the better of me, but it was long enough to get round everything at least once and to be overwhelmed to the point of wanting to make ALL THE THINGS.
Rather than bombard you with words, I thought I’d break with tradition and list my show highlights.
1. Celeb-spotting: although I apparently missed Debbie Bliss on the Quadrille Publishing stand, I was apologised to by Stuart from the Great British Sewing Bee who bumped into me on another stand (although I only realised who he was as I walked away).
2. I tried not to buy too much stuff that I wouldn’t use (like I did last time, as my thread/yarn stash bears testament to…)
These were my (considered) purchases:
(a) a bundle of fabric squares as I really want to have a go at making a patchwork quilt;
(b) a skein of sock yarn as I’ve not tried socks yet (beautiful colour, gorgeously soft AND machine washable); (c) a circular needle for my current project.
3. I also bought (d) some chocolate from the one and only chocolate stand, which I somehow stumbled across almost immediately. No photo I’m afraid, as I’ve already eated it (predictable, moi?). I did share though.
4. I honestly saw a teenage boy there with hair that looked exactly like a sheep fleece. Seriously, look at these and you’ll see what I mean.
5. There were a lot of large ladies there. And I mean, A LOT. Getting around without bumping into any was, um, challenging.
6. The amazing textiles on display inspired me to pick up a needle and thread again at the weekend, something that’s taken a back seat to my near-obsessive knitting in recent months.
And the piece I restarted work on was itself originally inspired by a sampler I saw at the show the previous time I went. Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, eat your heart out.
Since being inspired to take up knitting after stumbling across Kate Davies’ blog, I’ve been reading more craft blogs, which has also encouraged me to return to sewing; not so much needlework at the moment but machine sewing. I treated myself to a new machine a couple of years ago, replacing my old Singer that was my 18th birthday present, and was thrilled with how easy the new one was to use and how quickly it would run things up. Although I’ve done some fairly mundane stuff on it – taking hems up, sewing badges on for the girls, that kind of thing – recently I’ve done a few small projects that I’ve been able to complete in a day.
A cushion for my sewing stool was the first one, the logic being that I would then have somewhere comfortable to sit while working on subsequent projects. With the same fabric I then made a Two Kates knitting bag, pattern courtesy of the aforementioned Kate Davies. Having seen the gorgeous items produced by Sarah on sazmakes, including this potholder and this quilt, I’m itching to have a go at quilting next; I did some for my never-completed City & Guilds in Embroidery many moons ago, so I’m sure I can get my head round it again.
In the meantime, my knitting obsession is still going strong, having churned out three more sets of handwarmers, two hats, a scarf, a pair of slipper socks, a jumper and the best part of a lap blanket (shamelessly
plagiarised inspired by this one) since my first foray 18 months ago. If you’re into such things, you can find most of these on my Ravelry, apart from the blanket as it’s still in progress…
I already have my next project lined up, once again a pattern by the inimitable Kate Davies, a headband to keep my ears warm on days when I don’t want or need to wear a hat. You may have noticed some of the wool peeking out from my Two Kates bag; I’m quite excited about starting this project mainly because of the colours I’ve picked. Look at that purple! And the way the weather’s headed right now, it’ll still come in handy even if I don’t finish it until the summer.
Although I am an (intermittently) prolific needleworker and especially love working with wool, I have never really been interested in knitting. My mother took it up when I was still a teenager and although I gave it a go and even produced an entire garment over the course of several years, my last attempt at an adult jumper was eventually abandoned for her to complete and I haven’t so much as looked at a knitting needle since.
However, thanks to Freshly Pressed on WordPress, I discovered a website called needled and found myself devouring page after page of posts, partly because they are so well written, but mainly because I was fascinated by the author’s talent and enthusiasm for making her own garments, accessories and even soft furnishings – some sewn, but mostly knitted. I pored over her photos of wool in diverse textures and glorious colours and marvelled at the finished items that to my untrained eye looked as professional as anything you’d find on the high street.
In short I was inspired, particularly by these posts: a blanket that a group of readers had sent her and a scarf that she made for a Christmas present. I wanted to feel the skeins for myself, spend hours browsing for the perfect wool and create something useful, not just an abstract piece that would languish in the attic for years.
So at the first possible opportunity I bought myself a basic pattern book, a ball of wool and a pair of knitting needles and made – ta da! – a pair of handwarmers. Well, you’ve got to start somewhere, haven’t you? I really enjoying doing it and was amazed at how quick it was; I completed the knitting itself over three evenings and the sewing up in another evening. Next on my plan is a hat, then a scarf and I may even attempt a jumper (can you tell it’s getting colder??). All I have to do is ignore my best beloved’s cracks about grannies and the Women’s Institute; if he doesn’t watch out he’ll be getting just a pair of socks for Christmas. Knitted by me, of course.