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!
Yes, I believe you’re right. The time up ’til Christmas is a wonderful time to rediscover those things we loved to do as a child.
For me, I am rediscovering crochet. When I was a little girl, I made prom dresses for my barbie dolls in pearl cotton. I crocheted them directly onto the dolls! They had scalloped skirts and criss-cross straps and always an accompanying flower on their hair. Because I didn’t “know” what I was doing, I just kept crocheting until I had what looked like a dress and then stopped when it was done.
Now I am endeavoring to create a winter scarf of many, many crocheted flowers in the colors of pink, orange, turquoise, orange and yellow with accompanying leaves of leaf green and lemon green. I divined this project myself, after spending hours looking at patterns and finding none that fit what I had in my mind’s eye. The one that is emerging under my hook is playful and very accommodating to my current ideas about myself.
I also love quilting, though I never endeavored to hand quilt. I was always fascinated by Eleanor Burns’ work in strip piecing, followed by machine quilting. Creating the quilt top was always my favorite part, so machine quilting quickly finished the quilt so I could go on to create another top! But what you say about the joy of hand sewing strikes a cord with me and makes me wonder if I am missing something. I should probably give it a go. Maybe something small, like a Christmas ornament.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Pola, you should definitely have a go with the hand quilting! Have a try at a cushion cover, though,because then you have a bit of space to work, and you can actually have the satisfaction of seeing the runs of stitching and the difference they make. I’ve almost finished the stocking now, and it looks great. I am so pleased with myself, and with what I’ve made, and there were no tears before bedtime because it was so ridiculously easy! I love the sound of your crochet doll dressed, they must have been miniature wonders! And the scarf sounds brilliant – its grea that you have the confidence to just go at it without a pattern, just do what you want and like. That is true creativity. Thank you so much for sharing!
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