Patchwork experiments

It’s been a bit hectic round here, getting all the Christmas stock pieces done and out the door to the two galleries, and I feel like I’ve hardly been able to draw breath for the last couple of months. Once I’ve got myself organised again, I’ll post up some pictures of what I’ve been doing!

Finally, now, I’ve found some time to work on some projects for myself. Up until now, all the patchwork I’ve done has been reusing clothes, so the shapes have been dictated by the material, rather than the other way round. However, I acquired an old patchwork book at the school summer fair – a 1979 copy of ‘Patchwork & Applique’ published by Marshall Cavendish – and have been itching to try out some of the ideas from it. That meant cutting the fabric to the pattern, rather than letting the fabric dictate the pattern, so I used some scrap bits and pieces from the vast stash.

I wanted to play around with some different shapes, so I drew up a pattern on a grid:

It was only when I started numbering it that I realised how hideously complicated it would be to put together – the whole thing measures 40 x 40 cm. Nonetheless, I ploughed on and cut the fabric pieces, leaving about a 1.5cm seam allowance around each piece and pinning its pattern piece onto it. In retrospect, I should have thought harder about making up blocks I could put together, rather than just working my way out from the centre.

There’s a huge amount of fiddly, small-length sewing involved here, a lot of faffing about with the iron, and a fair amount of me wondering whether mixing the textures and weights of fabric was such a good idea. It didn’t help that I figured out pretty late on that it would have been easier to get a uniform result with the angles and alignment if I’d interfaced each piece individually to hem it into shape, and attached them together afterwards. Still, the overall result wasn’t too terrible:

I do love the little silvery/pewter buttons at each of the four corners of the central square! I backed the whole thing onto a square cut out of the good end of  a slowly disintegrating antique linen tablecloth that I had from my grandmother. I *love* old linen, especially the damask’d linen. It looks fantastic and it feels glorious, with its little silvery patterns and gradations in the fabric. mmmmmmm.

Just for good measure, I put together another, smaller cushion, this time 30cm x 30cm:

I like this one better, though the irregular shapes were hellish to put together. The button in the centre is perfect!

I’ve learned a huge amount doing this – it’s a much more complex process than working regular patterns of all the same shape & size as I’ve done in the past and takes a comparatively greater amount of focus and concentration and attention to the minutest detail of technique to get right. It’s something I will work on again, trying to hone the technique to get the results more uniform, though part of what I like about these is that they’re not absolutely perfect – they are handmade, not machine perfect, and the overall effect fits in with what I do and how I work – giving a contemporary twist on traditional techniques, using fabrics that would otherwise get junked – old clothes, vintage pieces, samples and remnants, so they’re not too twee.

Now all I need to decide is what to do with them – keep, or gift them on to a lucky friend or relative?

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