Showing posts with label deep thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deep thoughts. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Walking uphill; or, the beauty of a barn door

 I have great dreams of powering off to the gym every morning, and honing those muscles in preparation for the physically demanding tasks of basting a quilt top or casting on a legwarmer. But, alas and alack, they remain dreams - as the days get shorter, the nights longer and the mornings darker, it takes an even greater effort of will to heave myself from the warm and cosy nest that is my bed.

No quilt in sight

If I were left to myself I would spend the winter months huddled up indoors, never straying too far from the fire or sofa. But luckily I have the services of a personal trainer to keep me up to the mark.

An October morning

Several mornings this week I have tried to begin the day by sitting at my computer, thinking that I couldn't possibly go out in the cold and damp because I have so much to do, but no, there is no slacking - there is my trainer by my side, arms around me, whispering in my ear, come along do, you know it is time for our yomp, you know it will do us both good.

Personal trainer extraordinaire

She will brook no refusals, and shivering and resigned I find myself in the lane, wrapped up to the nines, wellied and ready.

The road less travelled

And she is right, you know.

Green and growing
It is the best thing in the world on a dreary grey morning to go out into the wide world to seek out the tiniest weakest gleam of watery sunshine peering from behind a cloud, to find the widest most open spaces you can, stand on the highest point you can reach in the landscape, get a little breathless, look far and near, and observe the seasons and the weather and the green growing things defying the turning of the year.

Poppies on the grattan

Nothing can match the bliss of walking out one mid-autumn morning and listening to the curlew crying and hearing the wind in the trees, the sound of far, far away traffic a distant hum, and the sound of boots slap, slap on the muddy lane the most insistent noise around.

More flowers in October

There is nothing better than this and I would wish myself nowhere else, with the soft ground underfoot and my faithful friend by my side.

Come on, keep up

There is some Welsh in her ancestry and I imagine her forebears as drovers' dogs, padding across the land, watching and listening, herding and keeping safe.


And I saw barn walls perfect for hanging quilts on, sitting waiting in the morning light, and now I am hoping that one fine day I will turn the corner and see there amongst the trees and the clouds a quilt hanging, blowing gently in the breeze, a vision just for me.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Essential tools for quilters (I)

Weekend industry
Normally on a Sunday evening I go to the gym - I know that sounds rather extreme but when a princess is powering up and down the swimming pool, I feel that a yomp in the gym with London Calling ringing in my ears is more constructive than sitting on an uncomfortable sofa in a deserted cafe, leafing through the dregs of the Sunday papers.

But today was different. I was so very close to finishing a quilt top for the sofa, just another quarter of an hour ... when the phone rang. And by the time I had dealt with that, it was time to depart into the darkness in pursuit of health and fitness. The choice was painful, but I volunteered the Head Chef for swimming club duty (a chance for him to sit down for an hour and read the papers, I said, considerately).

Dear readers, you will be glad to hear that I have finished my quilt top, and done my favourite bit, attacked it with a steam iron and beaten those seams into an orderly submission. Having started out with dressmaking, and having been taught to apply copious amounts of hot steam at every opportunity, the technique of gentle pressing without steam, as recommended in all the patchwork and quilting books I read, requires a most astonishing act of will on my part.

Unfortunately, it is now too dark to photograph the quilt top, but earlier today I was having some very deep thoughts about the tools which I find most useful for quilting, the ones without which it would all end in tears.

And so I thought I would share these thoughts with you, in the hope that perhaps one quilter, sitting miserably amongst a heap of disorderly pieces of fabric might find my handy hints of help.

Bulldogs should be colourful

So for me, essential quilting tool no 1 is a basket of bulldog clips and miniature sticky notes (the teeny tiny ones can stay in the fabric until it is safe for them to leave and they don't get in the way of the gentle pressing, but their presence will preclude you from committing aggressive acts of steam). I set out my quilt pieces on a sheet on the B&B sitting-room floor in the gaps between guests, and so they have to be gathered up again immediately (and even if we don't have guests, we have canine marauders with muddy feet and a penchant for scuffling up any textiles found underfoot).

Pin your post-its

So to avoid much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I pin numbered sticky notes (at the very least at the beginning and end of a row, to indicate position and orientation), then pick the pieces or blocks up in the correct order, and fasten the stack with a bulldog clip. (Please don't rely on the adhesive qualities of your sticky notes - go for belt and braces with a pin. [I know this from bitter experience.])

Future proof

These stacks are then windproof, dog-proof, and generally forgetting what you are about in the middle of a row proof.

I feel that it is important to have brightly coloured bulldog clips as it lends an air of jollity to the proceedings, but have less strong feelings about the colour of the sticky notes, probably because the numbers and letters give them a serious, businesslike air, which does not take heed of such frivolity.

And one last little thrifty hint - write on those little tickets in pencil. It allows for mistakes, and you can reuse them for the next quilt. Presuming that there will be a next quilt, but of course there will be because these handy little tools for your quilting will increase your productivity no end, and you won't be stomping around with a seam ripper trying to find someone to blame for sewing the pieces together in the wrong order, and not noticing until you have nearly finished the quilt.

{Your eye may have been drawn to the most excellent velvet pincushion. This pincushion was one of the very first things I made with my very first sewing machine (before you go ah, how sweet, bear in mind that I was about 30), and I gave it to my grandmamma for Christmas. Along with the rest of my family, she was most surprised as I hadn't shown any signs of creativity beforehand. Things had changed by the time her house was being cleared and the pincushion (long-forgotten by me) was given to me as the stitchy one in the family. So now when I sew I have by my side a lovely remembrance of my dear departed grandmamma.}

And before I go, I must say hello to some new followers who have come on board: Naturally Carol who has just done a lovely post about gratitude, Poppy at Poppy's Frugal Life (being frugal), Rosie at Old Magnolia Tree (who needs some advice about fashion and knitting), Chey at The Other Side of the Pond (just starting life in the UK), Sharon Souter at Sharon's Sunlit Memories (who designs the most wonderful paper dolls), and Tammy Chrzan at My Journey. Please go and say hello and welcome too!

 I would love you to tell me about your essential tools for quilting (or sewing or knitting) - especially the ones which prevent family discord. Next time I will give you a hint about the non-violent use of seam rippers, so watch this space.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Anxiously and impulsively covering up

I fear that this post may be in the nature of a confession, a baring of the soul which reveals a deeper truth about my nature. Or then again it may not, but that is for the reader to decide.

So I take a deep breath and reveal that I have a penchant, perhaps it may even be termed an addiction, certainly a compulsion, for filling my life with notebooks. And please note the plural - this is not one modest little notebook deep in the recesses of my bag; this is notebooks lined up on my desk, a notebook by my bedside, a large notebook in my filing tray, and spare notebooks waiting, in case of emergency, on my shelves.

In the past I have been quite free and easy in my choice of notebook, and was particularly attracted by pretty covers, but then in a fit of sophistication I moved onto a flirtation with black Moleskines in the hope that I would benefit from the Chatwin/Hemingway association. However, I began to find the weight of tradition, not to mention the weight of the notebook in my bag, a little oppressive.

Then I discovered the Moleskine cahier, and such is my enchantment with the wonder of the Moleskine cahier I am sure that I am not exaggerating if I term it an obsession.

Their infinite variety is most beguiling: they come in three different sizes (small, large and extra large) which I find a useful correlative to purpose. And with lines or squares or plain pages, depending on whether one feels literary, mathematical, or artistic - needless to say that I have dallied with all three. Cahiers also come in packs of three, which is strangely comforting (rather like having those mega packs of loo roll in the cupboard, it means that the chilling prospect of running out in an emergency is averted).

A nice little pocket at the back

But I must admit these notebooks have one drawback - the buff cover has a sort of minimalist, even scholarly, appeal, but they do not look quite a pretty as I would like when lined up on my desk.


Luckily Michelle and her patterns have come to my rescue - Michelle does a pattern here (called a Swatch Book Cover) which is for a really easy to sew cover for the small and large sized Moleskine cahiers, and I have been running up pretty covers for all and sundry (it is an excellent pattern for last-minute presents it is so quick to make up).

You don't need a lot of fabric, so it is a great way to use up fat quarters, or left-over pieces from other projects.

And Michelle has also put me out of misery at my uncovered extra large cahier - she has just released a pattern called an Idea Pouch which fits the extra large cahiers (as well as iPads, but sadly I don't have an iPad) and joy of joys, it has pen slots and buttons on the front. You will not be surprised to hear that I have bought this pattern and am in the process of making the all-important fabric decisions. But first my Book of Recipes for a Frugal Housewife needs a cover - I feel that this combination looks suitably culinary. What do you think?

And before I go I will just leave you with a very deep thought. A renowned French philosopher and cultural theorist by the name of Jean Baudrillard took it upon himself to write about the significance of covers in the domestic interior. He uses the word redundancy, and sees such 'overworking of signs of possession' as indicating not only the 'intention to possess, but to show how well one possesses' in 'an anxious compulsion to sequestration'.* As I anxiously go to count my doilies and refold my tablecloths, I wonder at what point domestic coverings become redundant. Are patchwork quilts allowed, or is it irredeemably bourgeois to sleep under anything but a solitary, scratchy grey army blanket? I feel sorry for Mrs Baudrillard - I bet she wasn't allowed flowery notebook covers on her desk.

*Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981)


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