Tag Archives: four elements

Elemental Quilt

I often take my workbag out and about with me, so that I can work on personal pieces during the ‘in-between’ times – waiting for children whilst they do their various out-of-school activities, train journeys, and so on. It always surprises me how many people will come up to me to have a look at what I’m doing and to have a chat about it … but what surprises me most is that the comment I’ll get from almost everyone is ‘it must be so therapeutic’.

Sewing as therapy?

I’d never really thought of it in those terms … it’s just something I love doing. But I’ve been reflecting a little bit on those comments this week, because it’s been a tough one. It started on Monday, when a regular visit to the dentist turned into an injection+filling nightmare that left me numb, sore and semi-conscious on the sofa for most of the afternoon, and got followed up with the start of a heavy cold (or possibly intense hay-fever) during the early hours of Tuesday morning. Between a thick head and exhaustion (sleeping is hard when you can’t breathe), I’ve not had much energy for anything, and have felt myself retreating firmly into my comfort zone.

Which has mostly involved picking up again on the Elemental Quilt, and starting to lay down some of the embroidery for the four corners – the four elements – in the kufic script I wanted.

And as I’ve been going along, it’s struck me that sewing is kind of therapeutic – in that, for me, it’s a refuge when things get tough. It’s where I go to get away from it all – a mini retreat, if you like. There are a lot of different pieces I want to do banging on the inside of my head wanting to get out, but when I’m actually working on something, all that disappears. So does the day-to-day to-do list, and all the other concerns and aggravations and worries that, individually, aren’t a big deal, but, taken together, threaten to become overwhelming.

Nothing matters but this stitch. And when it’s set, nothing matters but the next stitch. And on, and on, and on, until the piece starts to come together under my hands, and I can see the traces of my thoughts in the work I’m leaving behind. It doesn’t matter how long this is going to take to finish, because getting it right matters more. It doesn’t matter what else is happening, because this is what I’m doing NOW. When I’m sewing it’s just about the only time I’m fully in the present, in the moment, and not with half a mind on what-else-must-I-do – the process absorbs me.

It’s funny where the process leads you. Arlee Barr posted a fabulous tutorial on her blog, some time ago now, covering raised stem-bands (or raised buttonhole stitch), and I said at the time I’d seen a similar stitch, but with chain stitch, and that I wanted to use it …. and so when I was looking at translating the script into stitch, and knowing that I needed to use a surface stitch to show up on that blond chenille I auditioned several different stitches, but it was the raised chain stitch that won – the texture is just perfect both against the chenille, and for the character of the quilt overall.

Here we are with the ‘scaffolding’ in place to anchor the stitches – a fairly widely-placed row of buttonhole stitch, running in both directions to turn the corner.

And a finished section of the script.

It is a slow process, setting down that level and size of stitch across such a relatively large area, but speed is unimportant. The quilt is all that matters, and it will take its own time to finish.

Four Elements

Sometimes, when you can’t find exactly what you want, you need to make a choice – either compromise, or create what you want yourself. Or find someone who can create it for you.

Which is how I ended up with these four gorgeous little panels of kufic script, representing the four elements – from left to right, earth, air, fire and water.

I knew I wanted them, but dithered for a long time about whether or not to do this – after all, commissioning a piece of work from someone is a big decision, and feels somehow extravagant and vaguely decadent, but, ultimately, home is where I spend most of time, and I like to be surrounded by objects and images that mean something to me, and give me pleasure when I look at them.

It just felt like the right thing to do.

And so I commissioned them from Rani at Arabic Calligraphy For You – and the whole process was an absolute pleasure. I’m so pleased with the results. They came as .jpg files, and I had them professionally printed onto canvas. The deep crimson is just perfect …

They work so well in my living room, exactly as I’d envisaged – they sit quite happily between a couple of Indian textile pieces, but don’t look out of context with the bold marimekko print above the fireplace.

Slowly but surely, I’m making marks on the blank canvas of our white walls, exactly as we intended when we first painted them.