Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vous avez dit patchwork? Pourquoi pas...

About two years ago I took up patchwork. Not because of some unquenched thirst for this kind of stuff,  not even on a whim, but simply because there was a patchwork group in my workplace and a colleague I was fond of encouraged me to join in the fun. I was at first pretty daunted, for I saw patchwork as tricky business, the prerogative of Super Housewives and Sewing Fairies. Here are a few basic facts that told me I wasn't born to do patchwork: 
1.       I have two left hooves instead of hands
2.       I have the patience of an angry swarm of wasps
3.       I’m more of the tomboy kind than the girly-girl’s
4.       I am was full of prejudices (i.e. patchwork is for old ladies)

Now let me dispel the myth: you do not need to be skilled to do patchwork (sure, it does help to make GREAT patchwork, but if you're not in for a masterpiece, you're fine). Left hooves are okay. You can do patchwork as an absolute beginner, and the result of your efforts will not only look good, it will be deeply satisying.  If I can't convince you, this book will and help you along the way too; for inspiration, you can have a look at the V&A’s webpage on patchwork and quilting too.

So how does one get about doing patchwork?

Step 1: find your fabric. Look into your stash of old cothes you no longer wear but liked all the same for fabrics with ‘history’. Shirts are great for patchwork (I've ripped a few of my husband's appart). Ask friends if they have unwanted pieces of fabric. Or buy some samples in specialist shops. I’ve now taken into the habit of buying one or two samples of fabric when I am travelling, so that each fabric is associated to a memory of the place.

Step 2: find a pattern. (there's a good resource here). As I said in the previous entry, I rather ambitiously undertook to make a double-bed spread, using the composition of the Grandmother’s Flower Garden,  made with repeating rosettes, each made of 7 hexagons.

Step 3: cut paper templates and sew fabric around them.

Step 4: assemble your hexagons together to make rosettes

Step 5: once you’ve got quite a few, assemble the rosettes together. I find that it’s a good occupation when I watch an ‘easy’ programme that doesn’t need much concentration.

Remember to remove the paper from the back of the quilt every so often because if you leave it to the end if will be a long and potentially frustrating job to carry out. The back of a patchwork also looks rather lovely.

I’ve suprisingly taken to 'patchworking' and have found that I am actually much more patient that I would ever have imagined. I find it a soothing activity after a long and stressful day.

Downsides? Well, perhaps a double bed spread is a tad too ambitious as a first project. Two years on, that’s how far I’ve got, partly because I just get bored with working on the one same thing all the time and I keep dropping it from my mind.

So I’ve embarked on smaller projects, partly because one sometimes need the satisfaction of a job done, so I made the cushion cover below, from a huge stash of gorgeous samples for suit fabric a generous friend of mine gave me:

But the best thing about patchwork is that it is actually quite nice to offer to loved ones: the time and care involved in patchwork, but also the attention required in chosing the right fabrics and patterns for the right person, makes it a thoughtful present (if indeed the recipient likes patchwork, that is). So I made this strip patchwork cushion:
Now of course, hand-sewn patchwork takes forever and one doesn’t always have the time for it. So for Christmas, I made a few patchwork cushions, again made out of nice tweed, wool and cashmere samples of suit fabric, but this time machine-sewn. Here are some of the cushions I made. Quick, easy and actually not that bad looking!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Here's to 2012

New year’s day is the time of new resolutions, often foolish, sometimes inspired, mostly not kept and all too quickly forgotten as the year unfolds. Well, I’ve been thinking about resurrecting this blog for a while now (although, browsing through older posts, I’ve found myself shifting between mild-to-severe embarrassment) so here’s to 2012 (resolution no. 1):  after 4 years and a half, I’m back with an emphasis on arts and crafts, because Yours Truly has been attempting, for now some time, to domesticate two left hooves into becoming nimble fingers, and This Year Is The Year I Kick My Own Butt And Really Try And Make Some Progress (resolution no. 2!).

So, how far have we got till now?
For my wedding, I made flower brooches. The official reason was that I wanted our guests to wear these instead of having cut flowers all over the place. The proper reason, really, was that I’d use any excuse to procrastinate instead of working on my PhD.

A couple of years ago, I made the apron below, meant to be used for any new crafty undertakings, but I now realise it’s sat in my desk-drawers since then. I also made one for each of my two nieces (a 3rd niece has now come into the family, but she’s too young still to wear apronsl), and was delighted to find out that they were using theirs!
A little later, I got into patchwork, and started a hand-sewn bed cover. The thing is far from finished, and I’ve made close-to-zero progress in the past 12 months. So here’s a picture of the thing to date, to motivate some more effort on my part.
Admittedly, a double-bed cover is a rather ambitious undertaking for the unexperienced (and lazy), so I also embarked on a couple of smaller, more manageable patchworks,  namely, cushion covers both hand-sewn and machine-sewn.

Then, most recently, I’ve had a stab at the more arty sides of craft, with a short introduction to etching course in November, and some other endeavours I’ll discuss in coming posts.