Tag Archives: sewing

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.

Brick Wall Quilt Block

Started work yesterday on the first of the blocks for my project … Brick Wall (or Brickwork, or Old Garden Wall).

I’m going to need four little blocks to make up the ‘Trip Around the World’ pattern, and I’m working pretty small – each block is a titchy 15cm x 15cm, as the whole cushion is only going to be 30cm x 30cm.

Trusty ruler and scrap paper into action, to draft the pattern … with a little not-too-taxing maths thrown in to get scale and proportions correct.

I’ve numbered each of the blocks so I know what order to work in, and so I know where each of the different fabrics goes – the shading on the edges is so that I know where the join goes, so I don’t sit there at the end of the process scratching my head trying to remember what goes where 🙂

Time for a rummage in the scrap box … I’m having a real ‘colour’ phase at the moment, and the brief was hot, reds, oranges, with black contrasts, and I thought this selection fitted the bill pretty well …

From right to left:

1 – remnants of a dark crimson shot silk

2 – vivid orange indian calico with embroidered detail

3 – dark crimson indian cotton with embroidered detail

4 – remains of a silk dress left over from another project!

5 – red and black lining from a suit jacket

6 – dark crimson wool upholstery fabric – I like the colour, and though I like varying up textures, I’m suspecting that it’s going to be too heavy for this little piece … we shall see

On to the cutting and stitching … working from the centre outwards, cutting out the piece from the block draft, position on the fabric, cut fabric, allowing approx 1/2 cm seam allowance, baste over the block.

remembering to do nice mitreing in the corners …

Right sides together on the basted pieces, and overcast to join them together ….

I am handsewing everything, mostly because I enjoy the process of pulling needle and thread through fabric, and partly because it’s such a small block. It would be perfectly reasonable to use a machine basting stitch for the piecing, and join them together with a little zigzag … if I wanted to go faster, and the pieces were larger

It all joins up quite nicely, progressing in colour sections across the block …

And because it’s so small, it’s come together quite quickly … the first block is done:

The piecing papers and basting are still in place at this stage … they’ll come out later. A little unevenness on the bottom edge, but I’ve got enough in seam allowances to straighten that out when the papers come out.

And I was right to have reservations about that upholstery fabric … it’s far too heavy for this little block, and actually, the colour isn’t right either. That’ll be coming off this afternoon, to be replaced with … I’m not sure what, yet …

I’m off for another rummage through the scrap boxes to see what I turn up. I think it needs to be a cotton, or something of similar weight to the other fabrics, but we shall see what turns up 🙂

Now you show me yours!! Post a comment with a link to your block … can’t wait to see them 🙂