Sunday, March 11, 2007

Old work, new work

With the purchase of all that new fabric lately, I really needed to tidy up a bit, and you know what happens then, don't you? Of course: all those UFOs appear! I'm not talking about extra terrestrials or anything weird like that, but those pesky UnFinished Objects that have been lurking in teetering piles of stuff. What I found this time was a lot of stitching. Five pieces in fact! They were all finished as far as the stitching went, but needed to be framed or finished one way or another.

This sampler is from an embroidery class I took a while ago and is full of French Knots, Lacy Daisies, Seed Stitch and Bullion stitch – a nice way to try out all those stitches and keep them for easy reference later. I found a floater frame at a sale, which I thought was just perfect and decided to stretch and mount the piece myself. It turned out that the frame was too big, but after considering it for a while I ended up cutting the mounting board to the size of the back-opening in the frame, cut another, larger piece of mounting board to stick to the back of the frame to hold it in place, and covered the holes for the screws with buttons. I’m quite happy with the result!

This kitten was stitched during a long summer of convalescence three years ago. A serious infection in my leg left me fairly immobile for the whole summer and in between hobbling to the loo and to the kitchen to get drinks of water all I could do was read and stitch. I have never finished a cross-stitched piece so fast before, but once it was done and I was back on my feet again I couldn’t stand the sight of the poor thing. Now, when I came across it again, I realized that it was quite sweet and really deserves a space on my wall somewhere.
I also had two pictures of cat’s eyes (one domestic and one wild) lying about. I had thought that because of the dimensions of these I would have to have mats and frames made especially and that would be quite expensive, so I hadn’t worked up the courage to inquire about it yet. However, at the same sale as the first one I found two photo frames I decided I could use. There was not enough fabric around the stitching, so I stitched a strip of green leaf fabric and a strip of black fabric top and bottom of each and used that to stretch around the mounting boards, and it worked out quite well. Ideally the frames should have been wider so there could have been some “air” at the sides of the motifs as well, but I decided to go with what I had, and now the pictures are up on my walls instead of lying unfinished in my workroom. There is one piece yet to go, a blackwork picture of five cats (Why on earth have I been buying all those cat patterns?), which will become part of a small quilt for a friend. I have just the right fabric to go with it – hmm; maybe I should get started right away…

On to an entirely different subject: My mother and I visited an exhibition of the designs and drawings of Alphonse Mucha last week. I loved the drawings, but what really floored me at this visit was the colour of the walls! I have been looking for this exact shade of subdued blue-green for ages, but not been able to find it. Seeing it on the gallery walls and seeing how well it worked both in direct sunlight and in areas with more shade was great, and I knew that it would be perfect on my living room walls. I phoned the gallery the next day, and they were ever so sweet about it and came back to me later in the day with the colour reference number for the paint, so now I know how I’ll spend my days off at Easter!

Monday, March 05, 2007

True Granny squares

There has been a lot of talk about granny square afghans in Blogland lately. Thought I'd share mine. Crochet is not my kind of thing, I must say I prefer quilting, and I have come a long way from my very first quilt, which can be glimpsed in this picture.
It doesn't bear further inspection, as I knew nothing whatsoever about quilting when I made it! I had seen a small photo in "Better Homes and Gardens" or whatever, of a bedroom with a quilt on the bed, and decided to make one just like it (the best way to learn a new craft is to start with an enormous project, right?). The quilt part of the photo was about a square inch, so I had to do a lot of guesswork to find out how the blocks were put together. Then there was the challenge of finding fabric. Not the right kind of fabric, just any cotton fabric at all - it was that scarce. Eventually I had rounded up four different fabrics and set to work. Precise measurements and even seam allowances were totally unfamiliar expressions, and I ended up with no two blocks the same size. But with a bit of pulling and ruching and creative use of language, I managed to get them together into a quilt top anyway. I had worked out that there needed to be some kind of batting, but thought I couldn't add a backing fabric to the equation at this stage, 'cause then the stitches would show on the back... duh! So with a quilt top fastened to the cheapest kind of polyester batting with tiny pins I fought my mother's sewing machine all the way and managed to stitch in the ditch along most major seams, while scattering pins all over the room. I then added a backing fabric and tied it to the top at intervals with crochet cotton before rolling the edges of the batting into the outer border and slip stitching it to the back. I still remember the feeling of double knotted shoulder muscles when I was done, but I also remembered the pride of the achievement. It took many years before I attempted another quilt though, but when I did I had picked up a few tips along the way, fabric was more easily available, I found a guild, and the rest is history.
Talk about getting distracted - I was going to talk about that afghan! Well, I can't take credit for it, that's for sure. But while I was struggling with that quilt, my grandmother used all my leftover yarn (she probably realized that I would switch from knitting to quilting...) and made lots and lots of granny squares. She did a lot of crochet and embroidery in her time, but this was her last ever project, before she became to feeble to do any hand work, and she made it for me, which is why I treasure it so much.
I have made lots of quilts, but most of them for others, so I have never got around to making a new one for my bed. This old one is way too short (somehow it ended up much smaller than I had planned...), so I usually drape the afghan over the edge of the bed to hide that fact and to remind me of my grandmother's love.
So there you go - that's why I'm not going to make a granny square afghan - I've got the one my granny made for me :-)