Lately I’ve been rediscovering sewing. In a fit of madness, I offered to make a Christmas stocking for my dear guide daughter, Lottie. I bought some of that lovely fabric, where the stocking is printed on the surface, and all you have to do is cut it out and sew it together. So far, so simple. But then I had the bright idea that it would look lovely quilted. I had some batting and calico at home, so that could be had free. Why not?
I haven’t quilted properly in years. To be really honest, I haven’t done proper quilting since the winter after my dad died in 1982, when my mother and I made a quilt for my bed. We sat through the winter evenings with the quilt over our laps, sewing together. It was one of the most profound and loving ways we found to survive our grief.
I still have that quilt. We have voyaged through life together, through college, university, adversity and marriage, my quilt and me. Now it sits, pride of place on the futon in my study, ready to wrap around me when I’m reading on a chilly afternoon. It is a bit threadbare now, the cheap cotton we used almost see-through. But it still gets used on our bed on cold nights, and I’ll occasionally patch it up if it develops a hole.
For me, quilting is an emotionally important skill.
It is not really hard, just running stitch. You just have to make sure you get your needle through all three layers on each upstroke and downstroke. Of course, you can make it more complicated than that, but I don’t.
I’m really enjoying my simple running stitch work on this stocking. I’ve finally finished the first side, the one with Father Christmas’s sleigh. There were lots of fiddly bits on that one, and I began to realise the wisdom of a lady I once saw demonstrating Durham quilting at a quilt exhibition. (For more about exquisite Durham quilting, try here.) She was using a frame to hold the fabric layers taut while she worked. You have to with Durham quilting because it is incredibly detailed. I always fancied doing it, but it was one of those crafts that I got all the books from the library about, but never had the guts to have a go.
When I was a kid, not having the guts would never have occurred to me. If I didn’t have a book or a pencil in my hand, I had a needle. I made all kinds of things, but mainly dolls clothes. As I got older, a branched out into making historical costumes. Tudor and Elizabethan ones particularly. I spent hours researching the historically accurate way of dressing, the different layers required. I dressed my Sindy dolls in bead-encrusted gowns, each bead sewn on with my own hand. I even made ruffs!
I loved doing the tiny stitches. I still do, it turns out. That’s why I’m now addicted to quilting again. I’m so pleased with my little stocking. Its so satisfying to see the work develop. I had forgotten that simple running stitch could be so enjoyable. And I know that Lottie will enjoy her stocking when she gets it, and in years to come, I hope that she will regard it as an heirloom, just as I do the pink quilt I made with my mother when I was a teenager.
What crafts did you used to enjoy when you were a child? Did you love pottery, felt crafts, beading? Did you make things with matchsticks or balsa wood? Did you put together plastic models, or build go-karts?
The run up to Christmas is a great time to remember those simple activities you used to enjoy as a kid, and maybe have another go. Maybe, like me, you can rediscover a new outlet for your creativity. Because, let me tell you, when I’m finished with this stocking, I’m going to try some Durham quilting. Nothing is going to stop me this time!