Speeding up… slowing down
This time of year is almost schizophrenic. We are all speeding up—overloaded with extra tasks to prepare for the holidays. Will Aunt Mary like the gift we selected? What plate to bring to Jane’s party? Are the accommodation reservations confirmed? How awful will the traffic heading out of Sydney be? Oh My GOSH… how could I have forgotten cousin Margaret’s gift? Ooops! Those parcels heading overseas will never get there in time! How many house-guests for how many days???? Who is going to look after the cats/fish/dog/chickens?
For many of us, our anxiety levels are through the roof.
We were talking about this very same thing at Textile Therapy last week. Textile Therapy. Yes. What a great moniker. I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t even get the blog done. Well, my anxiety is down and I can finally get this, the last blog of the year out the door, so to speak.
Anyway, back to my session with my beautiful therapists: Annette, Karen, Sandy, Megan, Cherise, and Sue. We got to talking about how stitching by hand, or “slow stitching” can be so calming and help get us through those times when our minds are racing with lists of things to do or worrying about our lack of control over, well, life the universe and everything. Well, this is the end of a long road for me.
I have many very fortunate, I might say, friends who do yoga. Apparently, they can bend themselves in marvelous ways in a calm and serene environment either at home or in a class. Well, I have to say, I’ve tried that. When I’ve tried that at home, I’ve pulled out my mat and started by downward dogs or warrior pose, or what ever. Last time I taped the poses chart to my lovely, rather large, window over looking my beautiful bush setting on Scotland Island. As I worked through my routine (say, got to pose #2), I started noticing the tiny cobwebs in the corner of the window, a smudge here and there, the dust on the window sill. I bent my head to the floor and turned it to look UNDER THE BED!!! That was it! I was done. Why on earth was I doing yoga when my house was in such a shambles!!!
Then I thought I would try classes. I mean, really, how could I get stressed out if I wasn’t looking at my own house. Put me in a room full of very bendy and serene people…. It won’t go well. I haven’t touched my toes since 1964. I was the one in the back row falling over and giggling. The only exercise I got were my sides that were in stitches from laughing so much at myself. I was (only a teeny bit) remorseful about disrupting some very serious people’s serenity. I did get a few superior glances from the more serene. Sigh. I know where I don’t belong.
Ohhh!!! Woe is me in the ever elusive route to calm.
Enter…. ‘slow stitching’
I have only recently been made aware of this concept (though it has been around for centuries!!!). In this fast paced world of digital technology, hand held devices, fast cars, and so on, there is a movement to just slooooooowwwww it all down.
This is not too dissimilar to the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century that was a response to the rapid industrialization and mass production of the industrial age. Begun in England and most often associated with designer William Morris and ceramicist William De Morgan, the movement spread internationally. In England , furniture, jewellery, household items, ceramics, hand-decorated wallpapers and textiles, gardens and even entire houses were produced in the Arts and Crafts style
It was during the Arts and Crafts movement that Englishman Aurthur Lasenby Liberty opened his shop in 1875. Liberty of London fabrics include designs by William Morris—the famous “Strawberry Thief” being one of his most memorable (perhaps because of the Liberty distributer of the same name!). Gerri has the most amazing selection in the shop.
In the United States, iconic architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and the bungalow styles of Green and Green are emblematic with that movement. While there is so much attention to Wright’s homes, I really love his stained glass designs. I mean, really, how quiltable is this??
THEN I found this beautiful Quilt on the blog from Quilting42. She goes through the entire process from inspiration to design and quilting. It is truly amazing.
Oh my gosh… I have totally transgressed. So, let’s bring it back to today. It seems to me that the slow stitching movement has a lot in common to the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th Century, but perhaps a bit different. We are now living in a digital age where we are increasingly separated from each other by digital technology and busy lives. When I ride the bus, everyone is stuck on their iPhones not talking to each other. We can sit amongst friends who constantly check their messages or text.. not really being present.
Nevertheless, when we slow down and hand stitch, we come together, chat and create. It is a conscious or semi conscious response to isolation, text, and simply frittering hours away with nothing to show for it.
If you just pull up #slowstitching on instagram, you’ll find over 50,000 tags. Earlier this year, Gerri hosted Lisa Mattock of Forage. The class was overflowing with beauty and enthusiasm and creativity.
This is my last blog for 2018. I’ll be back in January with a project that will take us from the A to Z of sewing… we’ll start with “A is for Applique”. Looking forward to next year. Have a happy holiday season to all.
Taking an Element
A few weeks ago, I started making hexies from some scrap fabrics left over from the Christmas bunting that I made for my sisters in law. I needed a project for my bus commute to the city. With all the hoopla about English Paper Piecing (EPP), I gave it a shot. I learned a few things in doing this.
Number one, I really like EPP and there is something very satisfying in fussy cutting to select and place design elements where you want them to go. In using this lovely Christmas fabric designed by Jocelyn Proust, I could place festive Aussie animals where I wanted. One thing I kept in mind was the wisdom imparted to me by Miriam Jones of Sew Miriam, she taught me that things are a bit more interesting when placed off centre. I think these came out pretty well.
The other thing that I learned was that I really need a pattern or some sort of end goal for creating the hexies. I know that there are heaps of folks out there (they are all over the internet), who routinely make hexies with their scraps and put them in a box to make… something…sometime… in the future… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something along the lines of “Great idea! Make hexies whenever u have a few scraps and start a box to collect them!”
I thought that was something I could do. I imagined having boxes of neat hexies made from my scraps… But alas… making aimless hexies without a vision was simply not something that fits well with me. AND making hexie after hexie after hexie after hexie…….. sigh.
Hence the dilemma. I really, really, really like EPP, but needed a project. Enter the marvelous Megan Whitfield … she recommended that I consider “Little Miss April” by Margaret Sampson George from her book, “Take an Element | Seeing the possibilities”. This beauty is made up of hexagons with four inch sides, that are subdivided into smaller shapes to be recreated, stitched together to be made whole again. It had everything I longed for. EPP, different shapes, fussy cutting, an end goal! I promptly bought the starter pack and took it home to start my adventure.I decided that I wanted to make this an ocean themed quilt and started pulling out some of my stash a dove right in (pardon the pun!). To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t set all the fabrics out to look at them as a whole until I sat down to write this blog. I just pulled fabrics that had an ocean theme to them and figured I would flesh out the rest as I went along.
First off, I realized that it was challenging for me to imagine what the final fussy shape might look like. I had my mirror, but realized that I needed templates for viewing. I had some that I bought at the quilt show earlier this year, but they weren’t the right sizes for this quilt. So, I made my own. A piece of A4 paper, a laminator, pen and scissors. Done. Here are a few of the ones I made.
Even though I didn’t have the book yet, I just charged right ahead in starting to put this together. Hoping that I don’t go too far down the wrong path before the next Marg Sampson George class on 11 December. I searched the internet for wisdom and came across a number of helpful tutorials that talk about different ways to baste EPP. Annette and Megan and Sandy have all shown me basting with needle and thread. I took a class with Kellie Wulfsohn of Cutting Cloth at the quilt show where I learned a combination of glue and thread basting, then there was just plain glue basting without the thread and starch basting. I’ve read and heard of the advantages and disadvantages of each, but I figured I could use this experience as a way to learn the different techniques and learn for myself what works.
The large 4” hexie was actually the most daunting to consider how to baste it. I didn’t really want to glue it…. All that surface area covered in glue?? Ick. I couldn’t really get my head around tacking the corners either. Then I came across this video tutorial by Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primatives. I borrowed a paint brush from Brayden’s stash of unused art supplies and I was off. I think these two came out pretty well!
The next hexie I embarked on was the one made up of the smallest elements: 30 X one” six sided star diamonds and 12 X 1” half hexagons. Given the small shapes and the shear number of them, the thought of struggling with getting glued on papers out at the end would be the end of me, so I tacked the corners of these. Two bus trips to the city and this is where I am.
I then popped into the shop to write the blog just on the Tuesday that the TPG (Tiny piecing group) meets. I shared with them what I was up to and learned even more! Apparently, it is not a good thing to mix different techniques for basting hexies on the same quilt. Josephine explained that mixing different techniques will result in different tensions on the fabric and the different pieces may not fit together! This makes perfect sense. I can see how tacking the corners would result in a looser finish than glue basting—hence a larger shape!! Saved by the wisdom of generous, knowledgeable women!!
Four days into the project (today!) I have finally gotten a hold of “Take an Element” (Thanks, Gerri). WOW. This book is so much more than the patterns! Margaret so warmly invites us into a reflection on her journey as a quilter, an observer, and someone so full of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds all of us in everyday… even to the colours and palate of the Asian Supermarket.
What I love about this book is how to choose your fabrics… not necessarily the way I did, so I’m going to back up and start over.
She suggests finding a piece of fabric that you are madly in love with… this is your HERO. This would be my Neptunes Neverland from ‘Neptune and the mermaid’ by TokyoMilk designed by Margot Elena. Then, find fabrics that contain at least one of the colours in your hero piece, keeping in mind that they vary in scale and floral/geometric/spots and stripes. Do this again, making another row that based on the first row colours, resulting in a cohesive, connected pile of fabrics.
Now for the fun bit! She says to add in surprises, spice things up, add something different. Margaret Sampson George has just given me permission to add rabbits to my nautical themed quilt!! YAY. Maybe even cats!! Ohhhhh back to the stash!!
Can’t wait for this! Can’t wait for her class next week!