Thursday, 25 February 2016

Patchworking...Part 1

My Granny, who was registered blind but had a small amount of vision, loved being creative. She was a talented and self-taught flower arranger, a needlewoman and an artist. I do wonder sometimes if I get my creative genes from her through my mum (who is also a talented, self-taught flower arranger and needlewoman). When I was a teenager, Granny tried her hand at patchwork - by which I mean the hexagonal version. Grandpa would cut out the paper hexagons for her and rough cut the fabric and she'd tack it to the template before stitching the hexagons together. Somewhere in my keepsakes stash, I still have the patchwork bag Granny made for me, to keep my knitting in...

Anyway. I decided, as an eighteen year old waiting for my A level results (after working only two weeks in the egg pickling factory, but that's a story for another day!) I would make myself a patchwork duvet cover.

I finished it just before I went to uni a year later (those first results didn't come through quite as I'd hoped, so I retook) and would you believe, it's still in occasional use today?

My room at uni - with the duvet cover on the bed

And just for a laugh; a 19 year old Squidge in that same bedroom...

Hours and hours it took, every bit of it: hand sewn. Even down to stitching the black onto the back - though I was too lazy to sew press-studs on so ended up with tapes instead!

Single duvet size, in case you were wondering.
And the hexagons are approx 4" across their widest point

Still proud of the teeny even stitches...

The reason it was hand sewn was pretty much because I hated sewing machines. Why? Because in secondary school, the Bernina electric machines frightened me silly! The way the needle whizzed up and down and pulled the fabric through at high speed...I could never quite believe that it was safe to get my fingers anywhere near the working area. In needlework classes (oh, the agony of neatening seams and tying off the ends of threads!) I always opted instead for the hand-cranked Singers.

Yea, you read that right. Hand. Cranked. I suppose you could argue that's as close to mechanised hand-stitching as it comes...and the beauty was that it would only go as fast as I was comfortable cranking.

There was also the issue that, being petite, I had to alter every pattern going to fit me (not that that was ever explained properly) or make something to the pattern and waste hours of effort on something I'd never wear. So me and sewing machines? We never really got on.

Until the other weekend.

I was invited to a memory quilt bee - an event where friends and family could sew a patch for a quilt that would be put together for a friend's Big Birthday. (Happy 60th Birthday, Pam!) I said I'd go, but wondered how I'd get on, as hand stitching wasn't really an option. I arrived, was given a simple quilt piece to make - literally just straight lines and squares of fabric, all pre-cut - and pointed towards a sewing machine which I approached with my heart in my mouth.

The machines were, I imagine, the Rolls-Royce of sewing machines; their price tag was just shy of £1900. They were rather wonderful to operate. They had a button to pick the foot up or drop it down rather than a lever...handy guide lines for seam allowances...the needle seemed less hostile... I loved using it! And in just over an hour, I'd pieced my quilt square together in a pattern called... 'thrifty', I think it was.

All of which set me thinking...

Years ago, I promised myself a rainbow patchwork duvet cover. But it's such a big project, I've never attempted to begin, because hand sewing that would take years and years and years, and I don't have the benefit of long hot summer holidays to take advantage of...

The ease of using the sewing machine...the straight lines... set me wondering whether I could finally think about getting on with a bigger project if I was prepared not to hand stitch?

To know what I did next, you'll have to wait for Patchworking Part 2!

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