English through and through

What seems to be confusingly called ‘English paper piecing’ in blogland, and in many books, was always just plain patchwork to me as a child. My mother used to buy pre-cut hexagons from Laura Ashley and a metal shape to cut out newspaper in the right size. The little pieces of England were then smuggled back to Switzerland, careful mementoes of a lost world. She pieced cushions and table cloths. Her last project was never finished, and ended up in a drawer for about 20 years. Recently rescued, it is on my sewing table right now, awaiting inspiration to be finished. I guess her moment of enthusiasm passed, but somehow, something was transmitted. My own little Miss R, sitting on my bed tonight, sewed her first two paper-pieced pieces together, beautifully. How lovely to live in a family of creative women. How incredibly lucky.

Meanwhile, reflecting new ways of transmitting crafting skills in the 21st Century, I received a lovely book on the subject (“Quilting on the go“), after months of reading a blog by the same author. Since I read it on the train last week, on my way to the Ticino and back (In a day! 11 hours! How daft is that?), I have been sewing little hexagons attached to paper.Photo on 2013-05-26 at 22.08I have got a bit fed up with the large Rose Star blocks I have been working on, and just love the total portability of these little hexagons. The paper shapes come from Japan, picked up at the Quilt Festival. The real breakthrough for me was discovering, thanks to Miss E, the magic glue for basting: it’s called Sewline, is a dashing shade of blue, and works a treat. Like a sort of mini-sized glue stick, it fixes the fabric to the cardboard, and allows you to peel it off quite happily once the hexy is sewn in place. It apparently then washes out — that is the stage I haven’t yet tried… But it means that you can start sewing in two ticks, rather than endlessly basting shapes. I’m not sure purists would approve, but it certainly appeals to my pragmatic streak! I’m all for sensible shortcuts.

Photo on 2013-05-26 at 22.08 #2So what can this become? A little red and white cushion, perhaps? It would be perfect work for long academic political meetings, if I ever dared. And believe me, this end of term looks like being full of them. Dreadful.

On another tack, my teaching workshop on Saturday in Lausanne was lovely: a happy bunch of folks sewing blocks by hand, in a rather badly-lit corner of a beautiful neo-gothic Church. I think Miss E and I made a great team, ably assisted by two very small assistants passing round supplies with great enthusiasm. Miss L, maker of 1000 perfect quilts, even claimed to have sewn her first (perfect!) block by hand. It was fun to teach — but I think I make a better lecturer in obscure social science topics than in quilting, frankly. But worth trying once.

Happy sewing (by hand, perhaps?)! JJ

About pragmaticpatchwork

Academic and quilter
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2 Responses to English through and through

  1. Wonderful, Lynnepusscat! I think you should take lots of needles, and convert /enroll / exploit your girlfriends during your holiday, as well as anyone else who looks bored! Discovering you needn’t cut hexagons, but instead can do fine with squares for the piecing, was a major breakthrough for me. Have a lovely time!

  2. lynnepusscat says:

    Oh dear, now I’m back working on my hexies too, after seeing your beautiful work on Saturday. I have just cut 366 pieces of white fabric to make the setting hexagons for my ‘flowers’ and a similar number of papers will be cut out tonight, to help me while away the 9 hours back from Naples on the train at the weekend….. R has calculated I need between 500 and 600 white hexies to set the flowers, so it’s going to be quite a long term project, but in the meantime eminently portable 🙂
    PS I remeasured my first ever sewn-by-hand block when I got home, and it’s about 1/8″ out at one of the corners – quelle horreur!

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