On ‘torturing’ fabric

Detail of Pre-Raphaelite panel from Body Shop Quilt
Detail of Pre-Raphaelite panel from Body Shop Quilt

In an idle moment last night when I found myself wandering around the web instead of going to bed, I came across a website with prompts for bloggers with writer’s blog.  One of them suggested writing about a book that you would recommend to other people, and this in turn prompted me to think about a conversation I had with my grate friend Ceri (as Molesworth would say) at St Andrew’s Quilters, our quilting group, on Wednesday evening.  We were talking about Gwen Marston’s book on liberated quilting which is currently going for £127 on Amazon.  I got mine years ago and paid nothing like that for it.  I did spend an amount I am not prepared to disclose for The Whole Cloth by Constantine and Reuter which makes proper textile artists go weak at the knees, and which I subsequently found had come from a library sale so probably cost the crafty vendor under a fiver.  However.  The point of this post is not to have an informal quilters’ book group.  I want to talk a bit about torturing fabric.

So, when I went to Gwen Marston’s weekend workshop I went to the show and tell and sat next to a fantastic, committed quilter who does traditional work wonderfully well.  As we were chatting she said to me, ‘I do hope we’re not going to see a lot of tortured fabric.’  My heart sank, because both pieces I had taken along, and which I shall endeavour to find photos of, were prime example of such practices.  The piece at the top of this post, which is also my header photo is another example of exquisite cruelty to cloth.  In the case of the photo above, the fabric was attacked with a soldering iron.  Not even Quentin Tarantino would stoop to that.

The Pre-Raphaelite Panel, Body Shop Quilt
The Pre-Raphaelite Panel, Body Shop Quilt

When quilting magazines occasionally poll well-known quilters on which piece of equipment they could not bear to lose, I sometimes think it would be my hot air gun.  This beauty actually came in very useful recently when our pipes froze.  My charming husband was up a ladder thawing them out most effectively.  I can probably also use the leftover lagging to print with at some point as well, so the morning was not entirely wasted.

But, there are some of us who work in textiles who just cannot resist the quick zap with the heat gun over chiffon or IKEA curtain voile which melts back beautifully or this lovely sample of Italian furnishing voile:

Body Shop Quilt, filler panel detail
Body Shop Quilt, filler panel detail

I love those big baroque flourishes in quilts where there is the space.  I also love the nerve it takes to put the heat gun over the quilting you have so lovingly worked on for an afternoon.

The quilts will have their revenge, though.  I spent ages stitching voile over some exquisite squares of very choice fabric set out like mosaic, got the hot air gun out, turned it on and waited for the magic to appear.  And waited.  And waited.  And noticed a smell of burning.  The voile my mother had supplied me with from her curtain making contact was pure silk and had no intention of burning.  And that is why you should always make samples.  And thinking through what had happened and how this made me realise that you must respect the integrity of your materials suggests to me that perhaps after all you shouldn’t make samples after all.

For info: the stunning beads on this panel come from Anita’s Beads (www.anitasbeads.com) which is worth searching out at the Festival of Quilts just to meet the wonderful Clive.

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