Last time I said that I would write about knitting next but when I thought about it I realised that first I would have to say something about my patchwork history.
Casting my mind back I cannot remember exactly when I started doing patchwork but I think it coincided with the beginnings of Laura Ashley. In the late 1960s and early 1970s it was possible to buy bags of offcuts in the shops – not tidied up fat-quarters but real offcuts from dress patterns. I began to make patchwork from these and from material left over from my own dress-making efforts.
As I remember it I learned the technique of making patchwork by hand from books and at that point I was not aware of the possibility of using a sewing machine. I bought metal templates, made paper patterns (often from the stiff paper of Laura Ashley carrier bags), cut material freehand from those patterns and then tacked material to paper and sewed the patches together using very small blanket stitch. I found hexagons most congenial and made ‘flower’ designs which I then appliqued to cushion covers and other items including a tea cosy.
Most of what I made was given away and I have very few photos but this shows two cushions from 1979 [and a rather lovely baby]
In 1977 when I had my first child, Julia, I made a ball for her out of pentagons. The material I remember was recycled from a book of furnishing fabric sample swatches. I embroidered the letters of her name on five of the patches using different techniques as you can see in these photos, although in the 30 years since then the felt which I appliqued for the J has perished and been removed.
I stuffed the ball with kapok and in the centre put a bell in a plastic cage, which worked up to a point but was not very practical as the whole ball was not washable! Eventually it became more of an ornament than a toy which is perhaps how it survived!
As the children grew up I put aside my patchwork, always meaning to take it up again when I had time. I never attempted any large projects and I had not tried to quilt anything I had made. So when I retired, four years ago, I knew that one of the things I wanted to develop was my patchwork.
I read magazines and websites and found just how much temptation in the shape of beautiful fabric was out there, but I remembered how I had started – with offcuts. Although many of my old clothes had already been given to charity shops there were still several bags-full in the loft. I also had a lot of material bought hopefully over the years and never made up. More recently I had acquired, after the deaths of my mother-in-law and mother, stashes of their material and some of their clothes. I resolved to use what I had before I allowed myself to buy more material (although I do allow myself remnants from time to time) and set about converting garments, all of which brought back memories, into fat-quarters, sorting them by colour and storing them in a craft cupboard.
By this time I had read more about machine-made patchwork and especially the log-cabin pattern which seemed made for that technique. Again I started small with motifs for Christmas cards then in 2007, still using log cabin as a basis, I decided to construct a fabric and use it to make notebook covers to be given away as presents. I also decided to experiment with quilting this fabric.
These photos are of the one book still in the house but I made another in dark shades, one based on red and one in shades of beige and peach.
I stitched the quilting between each strip of material but also outlined some elements of the pattern. As well as quilting I also embellished the lighter coloured covers with beads and sequins but that development I will follow up in another post.