Quilting to please myself

I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday – I had finished the marking and didn’t feel like doing anything very mentally demanding, so I decided to go up to my workroom and assemble a small project I have been working on for quilting.  In the end, for some reason, I started playing around with the leftovers from that project to make a little piece just for fun.  The fabric comes from a manufacturer’s sample that my ever resourceful mother got from a warehouse/shop in Leicester called Kisko.  I think it cost about £3.50.  So far this is the second mini-quilt I have used it in.  The backing is a piece of Laura Ashley wool/cotton blend that I bought years ago and made a horrible dress from, and the binding was leftover from another project.  The wadding is fusible cotton.   It is a small piece – about 13″ by 16″ (33 x 41 cm).

Those are the bald facts.  But this is in a small series I want to make about what I love about quilting.  I want to make some small quilts which will eventually go on painted box canvasses exploring my love of the craft.  So this one is a reference back to the very first quilt I ever made for my doll when I was a very little girl.  I blogged about finding the book with the instructions some months ago.

So, I started to stitch  together the leftover squares from the first project – to be completed –  with a view to making a simple quilt.  But then the spirit of Gee’s Bend descended, and I decided to do some liberated Gwen Marston-style piecing.  The quilt really fell together, and I even found a bit of the peacock batik I used in the winter quilt which I posted recently and which was exactly the right colours to fit perfectly.  Then I decided to quilt it pretty freestyle, but, of course, I couldn’t resist using my favourite motifs: the feather and the bubbles.  To even it up I did the stylised sunflower up the side.  I stitched the binding on, trying to fight off the embellishment fairy, but no, she won and out came the Golden Fluid Acrylics and I used some bronze paint.  I think it really lifted the piece:

I normally paint over the stitching as it’s a wonderful way to hide wonky quilting, but on this occasion, spurred on by the Kemshalls’ wonderful painted quilts. I decided not to and I think the turquoise stitching and the bronze sing together.  I don’t like the bars up the side much, I thought it needed something on that right hand side.  I didn’t notice until I looked at this real close-up that the paint on the flower has some sort of streak in it – it is barely visible to the naked eye (and turned out to be chalk!):

I liked the heavy quilting on it, and this is probably best seen from the back:

The wool-cotton gives it a lovely soft feel.

So, this was a very quick make – I finished stitching the binding on while watching a documentary about women in the church in antiquity with the medieval historian hurrumphing in my ear, so the whole thing was made in an evening.  But it was a joy to make.  Nothing tricky.   Nothing to communicate.   No theoretical or methodological point.  Just a little quilt full of the things I love: great prints, sparkly blues, a bit of Bridget Riley, free quilting, liberated piecing, and painted surfaces.  Even the striped fabric on the mitres on the binding matched.  When I had finished it, I sat and stroked it and then propped it up and kept sneaking looks at it.  I had a real, ‘I made that moment’ with it, which I haven’t had for a long time with the big complex pieces which take months to make.  I wonder if it was because it was made from the starting point of love – what I love about quilting, and happy times making dolls’ quilts with my mother.  I love quilting and embellishing surfaces.  I certainly don’t do it through gritted teeth, but this very simple, unambitious piece brought me real joy and delight.  The exercise of skill.

One other thing occurs to me.  I seem to be in a real phase of wanting to show my skill as a maker.  So things are being properly bound, and I am seaming panels together rather than doing raw edge applique.  I am finding delight in going back to the prints I started out quilting with.  I wonder if this is because in my job I get so much criticism – student feedback, reviewers’ comments on my research articles, gradings, ratings, league tables, stats, and the feeling that nothing is ever quite good enough.  It’s my joke that if I said I had got the Nobel prize for physics I’d be met with, ‘Oh, we were rather hoping you’d get it for economics’.  So maybe this is me telling myself that I am good at something, and that I do have real inimitable skill.  It might be quilting as consolation, or it might be quilting as identity.  Quilting to please myself.

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7 thoughts on “Quilting to please myself

    1. Yes, I love blue in all it’s manifestations. There’s a lovely book by Derek Jarman called Chroma which is all about colours and he talks about blue and gold together being a sort of spiritual combination. Maybe that’s why this quilt is so joyful for me! Thanks for commenting. Ann

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