On Starting Afresh

It is a little daunting to be writing my first post of the year, given that a new year is traditionally the time for turning over a new leaf and proclaiming one’s resolutions. Or not. Some people say that one should set achievable goals rather than those often unaccomplishable New Year Resolutions.

Resolution is a strong word that makes me think of laws set in stone. Just to double check I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary (yes, again!) and found to my surprise that the primary meaning of the word is dissolution and decay.  The definition of “steadfastness of purpose” is only ninth on the list. If one adds a dash to the word and reads it as re-solution, then this makes perfect sense. Enough musing on the convolutedness of words and their meanings and back to the ideas associated with a new year.

For me a new year brings a bit of freshness. It is fun to open out that new calendar (especially if it has lovely prints of gardens or art works) and to write your name in a brand new diary and get out your coloured pencils to fill in the year planner page.

At the start of 2015 I set myself the task of making a monthly stitchery, with the aim of experimenting with different kinds of stitches and materials.  It was a very enjoyable project and at the end of the year I made a cloth book of all the pieces.

book of stitches 1

Here are the introductory pages:

book of stitches 2

book of stitches 3

As it turned out, The Book of Stitches has became a visual record of that year because of my associations with the fabrics and threads I used. Here are a few of the pages:

book of stitches 8
Stitched during Autumn when the oak tree was losing its leaves.
book of stitches 13
And then came Spring and a wedding. The scraps of silk from the dress were used for the background of this piece.

book of stitches 16

In keeping with the new year theme, the WordPress newsletter this week asks “What would you do if you could do anything?” That’s a difficult question to answer. How about fly to the moon? My simple answer is “carry on stitching”.  Perhaps I should embroider an emblem that says “Keep Calm and Carry on Stitching” and pin it up in a prominent place.

To put my money where my mouth is, this year I intend to sew a small house each weekend and, at the end of the year, to stitch them together into a quilt which shall be named Village 2019.

 

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Poem #12

Circling the Square

A golden block of blocks

– a detail from a lovers’ quilt

in Klimt’s Partial Fulfilment  –

lodged itself on the wall behind my eye.

 

The after-image lurked,

– like the golden mean

that gives hidden form

in nature’s beauty –

until I refabricated Klimt’s painted quilt,

then circled this square of squared shapes

with rows of more blocks,

an echoing green

of browns and beiges,

silvers and pieces of gold.

 

Framed by these banded rows,

couched in an inner frame

of curved pathways that fold back on themselves,

the mounted image shines

as a clovered centre of accomplishment.

Partial fulfilment

On loose ends

With the end of the year looming it feels as if I have too many loose ends to finish off. Apart from the actual list of practical things to be done before Christmas, “loose ends” is also a nice metaphor for all those incomplete stitching projects that have piled up. As is my wont, I looked up the phrase in the trusted OED and found an interesting contradiction. While loose ends refer to uncompleted or outstanding matters, to be at a loose end means to have nothing to do or no occupation. This made me realise that it is much better to have loose ends than to be at a loose end.

Which is a long introduction to my latest confession: last week I started stitching a new (small) project, instead of dealing with those quilts that are at a loose end (i.e. unfinished). It all started with the best of intentions — I planned to list the works in progress and then consider which one to tackle first. The first step, I decided, was to turn my pinboard (mobile design wall) around so that I had a blank canvas on which to pin up my “loose ends”. Before turning the star blocks of one of the unfinished projects to face the wall, I took a photograph.

The star blocks made during and after Doortjie Gersbach’s workshop

(A while ago, my good friend Catherine Knox gave me a marvellous tip for design walls. Cover the pinboard in fabric to contain the polystyrene that was starting to rub off in little balls, and to get ride of that white glare from the polystyrene sheet.)

Okay, so now I had a nice blank slate on which to audition my loose ends … Instead I pinned up the Kaffee Fasset striped fabric that came from a kit to make a Venetian tile cushion cover. As you can see from the photograph below, I did not follow the instructions. Instead I cut these glowing fabrics into strips and had a happy time behind my sewing machine as I stiched them together.

And so here is another loose end to add to the (unwritten) list of other unfinished pieces. Or is it? The plan is to use this as the background for an appliqued Christmas tree. There, I have put this in writing, so now let’s see if I can do it. Afterall, it is a small piece and there are ten days until Christmas.

Poem #11

Centrepiece #2: Friendship Quilt

Not a traditional friendship quilt

where memories and blessings

are stitched into squares

by a circle of quilters,

 

but a tribute to friendship itself

through the gifts of fabric,

rich-hued and stagger-striped,

from a circle of quilters.

Centrepiece 2

On crochet

Earlier this year I wrote about the remarkable Doortjie Gersbach, South Africa’s travelling quilting teacher, and the inspiring workshop she gave in Grahamstown on how to make star quilt blocks. Well, she also produced from her bag of tricks (travelling shop) a range of beautiful yarns and the pattern for the Sophie’s Garden crochet square.  I pounced on it as I have long wanted to crochet a Sophie’s Garden. It was quite a challenge, but very satisfying to decipher and produce the fairly complicated pattern.  I made two squares and incorporated these into a bag.

This bag came about because of a chain (pun!) of serendipitous happenings: first the Sophie’s garden pattern, then the finding of a book on crochet on the shelves of bookstore in London, and the discovery of the Stylecraft website. Patterns from all three went into the making of the bag. The front and back are the Sophie’s Garden square, the gusset comes from that book I had to buy and the construction method from the Stylecraft website.

The book is by Leonie Morgan and is called Beautiful Blankets, Afghans and Throws (published by Search Press, 2017, and available in America as 40 Colorful Afghans to Crochet.)  It contains a treasure trove of blocks and stitch patterns and has so inspired me that I can’t stop crocheting. Apart from being a clear and useful guide to different crochet patterns, it is also lovely to look at. There is an easy to understand glossary of terms, with clear how-to diagrams. My favourite part may well be the ideas for different and quirky edgings at the end of the book. 72 people have reviewed it on Amazon, with most of them giving it five stars. So, I am not the only one who is enthusing about this book.

beautiful blankets

To make the gusset of the bag, I crocheted onto the existing Sophie’s Garden squares, but without increasing at the corners, using the pattern for bobble rows from one of Leonie Morgan’s squares.  I decided to crochet from both sides towards the middle and hope you can’t spot the row where I joined the two sections.

There was another intervening serendipitous event. The bag is quite big – about 60 x 40 cm – and looked like a big, colourful deflated balloon once the gusset was in place. A cardboard box that was used to pack the week’s supply of fruit and vegetables was the exact size of the bag. I taped it closed, opened up the side of the box, and slipped it into the bag where it fits like a glove.

Finding the (free) pattern for Frida’s Flowers Project Bag on the Stylecraft  website (https://www.stylecraft-yarns.co.uk) was the last bit of luck that went into the making of the bag. I used Frida’s directions for the top edge and the handles of the bag and will also use the pattern for the lining. The Stylecraft website is a real find. There are other mouthwatering patterns nestling behind the crochet tab at the top of the website’s home screen. The site also has exciting knitting patterns.

Frida's flowers.jpg

He-who-shall-not-be-named was heard to say “What, another bag?” but had the good sense not to add “What are you going to use it for?” But, unlike some of the other fabric bags I have made just for the pleasure of the project’s process, this bag does have a designated use. It will store my stash of wools and yarns (which is not very big). I keep reminding myself that I am actually a quilter.

Now that the Sophie’s Garden Yarn Stash Bag is finished, the leftovers of the balls of yarn are calling to be used. There are also those other lovely patterns in Beautiful Blankets, Afghans and Throws waiting to be tried out. I made this small bag for my cellphone. I plan to make a few more, for the fun of it and for sale at the Christmas Market at Hogsback.

cellphone pouch

There is a Wikipedia site on crochet that is full of interesting information and history on crocheting. But I have gone on for long enough. Perhaps on another day I will write a bit more about the joys of crochet. Meanwhile I remind myself again that I am actually a quilter. Here’s my latest small quilt, finished last weekend when we went away and I only took my sewing bag with me. It’s called Tree on Velvet and is entirely hand stitched.

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