Beating the deadline…

When I say beating the deadline, you have to understand I mean it very much in the “deadline passed, this is the new deadline” kind of way…. But I have finished the wedding quilt!!

This quilt is my sister’s wedding present.  My sister’s wedding is 3rd July, so you see how the deadline reference creeps in.  However, I am not blogging the quilt from the wedding reception. Oh no, that would be rude!  My sister’s wedding is (was) 3rd July 2004.  (Not that I behaved entirely impeccably at her wedding reception anyway, but that’s a *whole* other story….)  So I’ve beaten the 10 year deadline.  Just…

There is, of course, a story which explains perfectly why this quilt has taken so long.  In fact, there are several stories.  May I give you some tasters?  No spoilers.  Just snippets.

Sissy and her lovely husband got engaged in New York.  So when I set out to make the quilt, I thought it would be good to make one which combined a double wedding ring design with a New York Beauty design.  In 2004, this wasn’t an *entirely* stupid idea.  Mostly, but not entirely.  I had spent the last 4 years being a stay at home mummy, and I was used to having the time to implement my technically complex, ambitious ideas.  However, in January of 2004 my marriage had ended, and in May I began working full time again.  Which made the idea *almost* entirely stupid.  Because these are both technically difficult, time consuming blocks.

Not one to acknowledge my own stupidity, I ploughed on for a couple of years, trying to get New York Beauties to work.  Trying to integrate them with Double Wedding Rings.  I must have cut up, stitched together, and thrown away about £200 worth of fabric, trying to get my almost entirely stupid idea to work.  Eventually, my then boyfriend went to work and made me some templates.  It just so happened that my then boyfriend worked at Bentley.  So the templates were cut from steel left over from making Bentleys.  Kind of the Rolls Royce of quilt templates, then.  Except, more the Bentley of quilt templates.  And so, eventually, I made a successful New York Beauty.  And there it is, on the right.

Unfortunately, by this time, I had done two things.  The first was to run out of the fabrics I had intended to make the quilt out of.  Still… I’ve never been one to let a small thing like that defeat me! So I spent almost the entire holiday one Christmas, tracking down the world’s last remaining fat quarter of one particular Michael Millar grape coloured fabric.  It was in some remote and Christian part of the US, and it wouldn’t ship for almost eleventy billion weeks, but it meant I could carry on with my New York Beauties.  So I bought it, and paid over a kidney and two small children in shipping, and waited…

The second thing I had achieved in all this time (about 4 years) was to recognise that I would never have the time in my new life to make a quilt out of New York Beauties and Double Wedding Rings.  Still, I thought I could use the NYBs I had already made.  Singular.  NYB.  I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I could.

So I thought about it for a couple of years.
 
And a bit longer.

I might even have made another couple of New York Beauties.  Maybe.

But they wouldn’t ever fit together quite right, and I couldn’t make a coherent narrative out of them.  So eventually I abandoned that plan, rare fabrics and all.

Then I decided to return to triangles.  I hadn’t made a triangle quilt since the decidedly leary quilt I made my mother, right at the beginning.  So I made the granny quilt, and then thought I’d try a traditional triangle block.  I wondered about flying geese, and I began experimenting.  If you scroll back to 1 January 2013, you can see the story unfolding…

Anyway, I came up with a flying geese design, and built it around a theme of cream on white roses which echoed Sissy’s wedding theme quite well.  And piece by piece, block by block, it began to take shape.

Once I’d finished the top, I needed to get some backing fabric.  I found some in Hereford, on a visit to my lovely friend Penny.  And then I had no more excuses, so I basted the quilt.  And then it sat around for a month or two.  Which, in the great scheme of the journey this quilt has been on, was virtually no time at all!

This weekend, conscious of the looming deadline, I sat down to quilt it.  This quilt is 8′ long by 7′ wide.  Ish.  It’s big and it’s heavy and it was bastard hard to manipulate through the throat of a sewing machine.  But goddamit! I had a deadline!

I wanted to free machine an excerpt from the reading I read at the wedding.  It’s a beautiful reading – an American Indian blessing – which, because of my own recent separation, I found ridiculously hard to read, on the day.  The whole blessing reads:

“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May happiness be your companion and may your days be good and long upon the earth.”

Obviously, I couldn’t get all of that on the face of the quilt, so I chose selectively…

After I’d wrangled that through the machine, my back and shoulders and hands were tense and sore, and I wasn’t wild about the idea of doing much creative wrangling, so I finished the quilting in a stitch in the ditch grid, across the sashings of the flying geese blocks.

And then, dear reader, THEN I discovered I’d run out of that lovely Everton blue, and couldn’t do the binding.

Buggery bollocks.

So I traipsed all the way round Oxford (via Google) and I found Masons in Abingdon (which I had found before via said famous Penny) and I found a blue fabric of very nearly the same shade and type.  Very nearly, but NOT BLOODY QUITE.  So I bought an elegant sufficiency and took it home, to work out what in the name of all that was holy I was going to do next.

I hit upon a very elegant solution, if I say so myself.  A very elegant solution indeed.  I bound the quilt entirely on the reverse, as you can see here if you squint very carefully.  Here I am, demonstrating the reverse of the quilt in the grounds of my very lovely workplace, and coincidentally pointing to the reverse binding.  And the New York Beauty.  Both of which are worthy of your attention.

So I took an emergency afternoon off work, and I stitched the binding on, on the 1st July.  And here I am, still in the very elegant grounds of my very lovely workplace, showing you the front, with it’s eternity-pool style, unbound edges (and I shoe-horned the ‘eternity’ word in there because although you can’t see him, the quilt is being held aloft by an extremely accommodating Professor of Mathematics who is the tallest person in the world and who doesn’t believe in numbers.  Particularly big ones, and double particularly eternity).  If you look carefully, you can just see his red shoe poking out from the bottom of the quilt.

Then, on 2nd July, I bundled quilt, children and all into my car and I drove like a demon to my sister’s house, and I handed over the wedding quilt.  And Sissy duly shed a tear, and the children played football with their small cousins in the garden, and we went to Wagamama for dinner, and later in the evening, my sister sent me a picture of her wedding present, in its new home.  (I say she sent it to me.  Really, she posted it on her Facebook and I have stolen it from there…)

And that, dear readers, is the gripping tale of how I delivered my sister’s wedding present in less than 10 years.  Comprehensively beating the deadline, as I’m sure you’ll agree. 

The moral of this story is: never let over-ambition and the unattainability of your goals prevent you from spinning a good yarn to explain away your own persistent crapness.  It’ll all come right in the end!

Asterix

A friend of mine is moving into his own house, for the first time.  It’s – y’know – one of those complicated situations.  It’s a lovely house, but he’s renting for a while and it won’t be his forever home. I don’t think.  Anyway.  I decided to make a housewarming gift.  Some time ago, my friend was helping his mother clear her attic, prior to selling her own house.  Amidst much excitement, he came across his childhood collection of Asterix books.

When I was in Brussels, fairly recently, I went to the Asterix museum.  I have to admit that, up to that point, I had rather forgotten that Asterix was even a thing.  He’s never been my particular hero of choice.  As a youngster, I was more a Tintin person.  These days, I’d take Lucas North over almost any other.  But when I was wondering what to make my friend, Asterix came to mind.

I had a number of bits of jumper left over from Josh’s quilt and I decided to use the same technique.  Only, I’m not an Asterix expert.  Did I mention?  So I wasn’t sure whether there was/is a definitive image of the snotty little upstart. gallic superstar.  I did what any sensible layabout would do.  I asked Twitter.  Well.  You know what they say about opinions, right?  They’re like ***holes – everyone has one.  I got lots of definitive pictures.  This is the one I went with (or my interpretation, anyway), found by Kitty (@TheCatsDaughter).

He’s quite big.  And none of the jumper pieces *were* all that big.  So I had to improvise. There was a grey cashmere sleeve left.   If I cut the seam out of it (carefully) and opened it out, there was just enough room to fit Asterix onto it.  Well, it was that or draw him again, but smaller.  And that wasn’t going to happen.  So careful snipping of sleeve seams it is.

Then I traced Asterix onto some Sulky Solvy, laid that on top of the Cashmere and pinned it carefully in place.  And then I stuck a couple of old nappy liners behind the cashmere, for proper stabilisation.

Some outlining, some infill.

And off we went.  I like this technique.  It’s reasonably technical, but provided you manage to remember to breathe (and that really is the key!) and keep your shoulders from tensing up, once you get into a rhythm it’s relatively straightforward.  You simply drop the feed dogs on your machine, take the presser foot off so you’re working with a bare needle (mind your fingers!); thread up the bobbin *and* spool with embroidery thread, and use the needle like a colouring pencil.  Two things: first, I use machine embroidery thread in the bobbin as well as the top thread – most books will tell you to use a plain thread or a clear monofil in the bobbin.  I don’t recommend either – plain (white) thread will show through unless you have your tension *precisely* right.  Once you’re free machining, it’s almost impossible to get your tension right, because you’re manually moving the fabric under the needle, and keeping an even pace and direction is not only very nearly impossible; but also rather not the point.  The beauty of the finished effect comes from the variation in texture brought about by changing speed and direction.  So inevitably, your bobbin thread will show through.  And if it’s plain white, that’s going to look pretty horrid.  Monofil isn’t a good substitute because it’s hideously stiff, and rather like sewing with barbed wire. Use embroidery thread. Ideally matching the top thread. The second thing is that you are manually moving the fabric under the needle. You are in total control.  You’re using the needle like a colouring pencil, but instead of moving the pencil, you’re moving the paper.  You need to remember to keep moving it, or nothing happens!   Seems obvious now, sitting here reading this, doesn’t it??  Go experiment: you’ll see exactly what I mean!

Density, texture and ‘subtle’ feathers

You’ll see from the picture above that I did some outlining before I began the infill.  This was a mistake, in retrospect.  It led to some pretty hideous bobbling of fabric in the cheek (and tip of nose in picture, right). Luckily, the embroidery was sufficiently stiff to cover this, but it would have been easier without the outlining.  If you don’t outline, work from the centre outwards, to prevent this kind of bobbling.

This is a cartoon, so it relied on block colour rather than subtlety of shading, but there was plenty of opportunity to vary density and texture – and the feathers of his helmet, in particular, gave me an interesting opportunity for subtlety (which I’m not entirely sure I achieved!)

Shading and the impression of movement of fabric across his body was just achieved by increasing the density and length of the stitch.  You can increase length by moving the fabric faster and/or decreasing acceleration on the presser foot.  Combinations of both allow you to achieve some shaping of – in this case – the belly area (left).

There was a *lot* of flesh in this piece, and I have to admit there were a couple of points when I was so bored I thought I might just leave the rest in outline only.  But I’m pleased I persevered.  It looks better for actually being finished, I think!

So, at the end, I tore off the exposed nappy liner and gave the finished piece a good soak to dissolve the Solvy.  And then I had a slightly misshapen sleeve to make my final cushion cover out of.  Did I mention this was going to be a cushion cover?   Then I needed to find something with which to make a back… fortunately there were two bits of another jumper which just about did the job.  So here’s the finished thing.

Of course, that’s not the size of any pre-made cushion pad known to humankind, so I’ve had to order a custom made pad to fill it.  Which I hope might even arrive, some day soon… but in the meantime, here’s a woolly Asterix cushion cover to feast your eyes on and keep a bachelor pad kind of homey.

She Knew The Names of Flowers

I’ve finished the Granny quilt.  It is in the washing machine as I type.

I’m really pleased with it.  I had intended to shadow quilt across the diagonals but, as I’ve mentioned before, the strips of memory fabric were uneven widths, and so the diagonals didn’t quite line up well enough.  So in the end, I’ve shadow quilted down the columns of lemony sashing.

I worked in phrases which have occurred to me, as I was putting it all together.  I worked them in yellow thread, which shows clearly on some rectangles, and less clearly on others.  My clever friend Faye (@poppypurple) suggested it was rather like I was whispering secrets to Granny, and I like that idea very much.

The quilt is formally called “She knew the names of flowers” which always used to impress me as a small child – she could be relied on to identify a lady’s slipper from a cow parslip at the drop of a hat, which always seemed to me to be a bit akin to witchcraft (well, maybe not those two specifically, but you know…)  Some of the memories are quite general – like watching Val Doonican together (the deal was if I watched Val Doonican with her, then she would let me watch The Professionals *and* the Dukes of Hazzard!).  Some are very specific, like watching her brush her hair (it was long, very long, and blonde) and plait it ready for bed.

There are her addresses, artefacts I remember from her houses (an elephant’s foot stool, some beaded tribal stools, a tiger skin rug).  There are things we used to do: going to church on Saturday to arrange the flowers for Sunday’s services (which we never went to) and then going to the sweet shop on the way home.  Some things we did together  – knitting, crochet, walking her dog, Honey, in a field littered with bomb holes near my mother’s childhood house.  And in the border, at the foot, her name and dates.

The back is made from the lemony sashing fabric, and the green Lotte Jansdottir pictured above. The batting is a really soft bamboo – I’ve not worked with bamboo before and it worked incredibly easily both by hand and in the machine.  I marked up the locations for the memories by scattering safety pins across the surface of the quilt, and pinning them where they lay.  Each pin got a memory.

The memories were free machine stitched.  I had to take the presser foot off the machine in order to be able to watch what I was doing which did, inevitably, result in a stitch through my finger.  Inevitably.  They’re useful things, those presser feet… Unless you need to see what you’re doing!

The children have watched the quilt grow with interest.  Every so often they come and pick over it, and find a phrase, and ask me.  Some of the questions are quite funny: “Mummy, who’s David Soul?”  Funny what they don’t know… (She liked David Soul, but not David Essex!)  Freya’s favourite is the “little yellow mini”.  Josh’s is “Evelyn Nightingale and Tutenkhamen”.

The binding is a blue fabric with white dragonflies scattered across it.  It seemed appropriate.  I’ll take some photos when it comes out of the dryer.  But tonight, I’m going to take my granny quilt to bed.  It’s going to be lovely and snuggly warm!

Hung Parliament

Ha!  Do you see what I did there?!  I’m a little bit pleased with myself :-))

So, these are two little owls.  They’re made of commercial felt, based on a picture I glimpsed on a website somewhere, and I genuinely can’t remember where, but I think the person who posted them had taken the idea from the Christmas edition of Prima magazine, because I’ve seen something very similar there, too.

Apart from it being nice to sit and sew something cute(ish) in front of the TV of an evening, these have been an experiment in hand embroidery.  The blue one was my first attempt, and not terribly satisfactory.  The purple one has, I think, got a little better…. I will probably make a few more, since they only take a moment or two.

And, of course, it’s Christmas.  This year, we have unearthed our advent calendar.  The children and I made this when they were really very small.  The background is a log cabin quilt: a number of ‘shades’ of white log cabins built around a traditional red centre, with the tree made up of green log cabins.  The hanging has 24 star shaped gold buttons, and the numbers are either baubles, stars or Christmas stockings, cut out from red felt. 

I sat the small children – Dan and Daisy – down with some squares of white felt, and a red fabric pen, and let them draw Christmas pictures.  I guess they were two years and one year old, at the time – possibly three years and two years, but whatever.  Then I cut the shapes out of red and decorated white felt, and stitched them together with a decorative machine stitch.  And Moo, who would have been eleven or twelve, wrote the numbers on, in gold silk paint.  We used it every Christmas from then until we moved to this house, when it got lost and I thought I must have thrown it out by mistake.  I was heartbroken to think I’d lost such a treasure.  But it was unearthed when I emptied a storage crate, earlier this year – I think we’re all very happy to see it, and it certainly feels more like Christmas, to have it hanging in the living room.

 It’s Daisy’s birthday at the beginning of December, and so we can’t start Christmas until that’s safely over (apart from the advent calendar!)  So on Sunday, with birthday festivities firmly behind us, we put up the Christmas tree.  It’s a plastic one – but the children wanted a recyclable tree (in fact, they wanted to recycle last year’s cut tree, which is behind my shed in a very brown, dead condition, but I drew the line, there!) 

Every year, I practise letting go of my control freakish design prejudices, and absent myself from the tree decorating.  Left to me, it would be themed and minimalist – perhaps no more than lights and some angel hair – but the children still enjoy loading it with the baubles we’ve accumulated over the year.  So I poured myself a gin, and left them to it… They haven’t done badly, I have to (grudgingly!) admit.

I think the fact that I’d spent the weekend on a meditation retreat at a buddhist centre in Derbyshire definitely helped with the letting go, too!

I’ve finished off the decorations, this year, with some heart-shaped fairy lights over the fireplace.  I quite like these, actually – they may stay.  I might even make more owls to hang amongst them, in the manner of bunting.  Although, of course, when I finally get round to ordering some more firewood it will probably be way too hot there for anything so meltable.

And that’s it for Christmas decorations, chez nous – I’m not a big fan of the season, and we’re the wrong faith for the celebration.  I will bring some mistletoe in on the 21st as part of our solstice celebrations (not that we’re that faith, either, but why would you miss an excuse for mulled wine and sausages cooked on the barbeque??). 

But Christmas *is* an excuse for Christmas markets.  On Sunday, I found myself with some time to kill and so I headed to the Manchester Christmas market.  We lived in Manchester for – oh, about 20 years, and so it’s a bit like homecoming to wander around the city centre.  The market there is much bigger (and better) than the Birmingham equivalent, and has German, French, craft and art sections, as well as the obligatory gluhwein and nyummy continental food!  I grew up in Germany, so always enjoy the opportunity to stock up on German delicacies – lebekuche, and gluhwein and bratwurst – just scrummy!  This year, I found a fabulous stall (from Hebden Bridge of all places) selling Polish earthenware pottery.  The shop is Polkadot Lane, and I really defy you to click on that link and not want to buy *all* of it!! I constrained myself to the mug above, and a glorious earthenware yorkshire pudding dish, decorated with forget me nots.   Tomorrow is my first morning at home since I bought the mug, and I’m sure my coffee will taste extra delicious, drunk from such a beautiful vessel!!

And finally, here’s an utterly gratuitous photo of one of the cats.  Because hell, it’s my blog and I can if I want to!!

Other stuff (odds and sods)

This is a kind of specious post.  I’ve uploaded pages about quilting, and knitting, and crochet.  Along the way, I found a handful of photos of other things, and since I’ve found them I want to put them up.  But these are things I made experimentally, just to see if I could, so I’m not going to give them a page of their own…

Back in 2003 (or somewhere around then), I did one year of a two year City & Guilds course in patchwork and quilting.  I didn’t finish the course for two reasons, both of which took equal weight (in my mind, if nowhere else..)  First, I went back to working full time and didn’t have time to spend Thursdays at college.  Secondly, the first year assessment package required me to design and make a box.  Out of fabric.  A box!  It’s not that I couldn’t, if I didn’t want to.  It’s just that I couldn’t imagine *why* in the name of all things sacred, I would *want* to.  I didn’t want to.  I designed and made just about everything else the assessment required – a wall hanging, an accessory, a quilt, a book of patchwork samples, another book of quilting samples, a cushion – oh, the list goes on.  But really!  A Box???  Anyway.  These three pictures I totally haven’t talked about at all are the City & Guilds wall hanging I made.  It’s based on a picture of a wave at Sennen Cove, and is made using the bargello method.  This is a brilliant, if slightly technical and complex way, of making waves in fabric, and I loved doing it.  In order to break the wave up and give a breaking water effect, I left the seams exposed.  I then couched some unspun merino top, woven through with silk waste, over the circle to give the crest effect of the wave, and adding some murano glass beads for the sparkle of the water.  So far, so good.  I then rather spoilt the whole thing by quilting it really crudely.  One day, I have it in mind to unpick the quilting and do something a bit more sophisticated.  But it’s been 8 years so far, so nobody should hold their breath…


 This is the accessory I made for the City & Guilds.  It’s a handbag based on a picture I found of a Moroccan mosque.  The fabrics are all hand dyed.  The blue edging is an upholstery weight linen, dyed using Dyrect dye from Omega Dyes.  The front and back are made from layers of cotton dimity, fine linen, silk, and silk velvet.  All were dyed in the same batch of Dyrect, but each fabric took the dye with a different intensity.  The fabric was stitched onto a linen backing, quilted into grids, and then slashed in different directions.  Each fabric, at a slightly different colour, breaks through the slashing, giving a depth and movement to the colour.  The velvet and silk also give a slightly chenille effect.  If I had slashed on the bias rather than along or straight across the grain, this chenille effect would have been enhanced by the way the raw edge would have frayed.

The edge, flap and handle are made from leather I got in a bag of scraps from Croft Mill, who used to do a marvellously eccentric catalogue selling roll ends and odd bits of stuff, which they now seem to do online: result!  You should totally read it – it’s full of treasures you’ll not find the like of elsewhere.  I never use this bag – it’s really not my thing at all, but every once in a while I stumble across it in a corner of a wardrobe, and I have a happy moment, simply stroking it.  It does feel utterly lush!

If my sister ever stumbles upon this blog, I am a dead woman.  In which case, it’s been lovely meeting you all – albeit briefly.  I’ll explain: this block is a New York beauty.  It’s a traditional American patchwork block, reputedly based on the Statue of Liberty’s crown.  The central and corner fabrics are Japanese geishas, and the zig zags are – um – something else I can’t quite see.  I must have made this block – and a few others like it – in 2004, when my sister got married.  Only it’s fiendishly technical (involving both curves and the points of triangles) and I moved jobs and houses and counties, and somehow that quilt never got finished, and Sissy never got a wedding present.  I am a *bad* sister!  But look!  Isn’t it lovely!  Wouldn’t it have been beautiful?? I’m sure I’ll finish it one day… maybe sometime soon after I unpick the wall-hanging…

This is a cushion I made for a very lovely friend.  We saw one a bit similar in a shop window, and he admired it.  So I made him one to celebrate a new job.  It involved applique, piping, machine embroidery with the feed dogs and free machine embroidery based on my own drawing – combining some of my favourite things with some of my least favourite things.  But that’s what friends are for, right?

And the next two pictures are… well… pictures.  Painted pictures.  These are recent – made within the last month.  I’ve never really done painting before, but after a stressful meeting, I found myself at home, drawing on the hall wall in precisely the manner which would have earned any of my children a resounding, heartfelt scolding!  I was making a mural.  When you’ve never done anything before, tackling it for the first time without thinking about it, in a place where it’s immediately visible to anyone who walks through the front door, isn’t necessarily the best plan… but once I’d started, I rather had to carry on until I’d finished.  And I have to admit, I like this tree.  A couple of people have commented that the colours are very Orla Kiely, and I guess I see that – but it wasn’t intentional at the time.  I don’t think it’s startlingly original, but actually I quite like the finished piece.

This painting is a canvas.  Which I bought, and left lying around in the hall until I was so irritated with it I had no choice but to throw it away, or bloomin’ well paint it.  So I painted.  Using a mixture of textured acrylic gesso, dulux matt emulsion, Windsor & Newton acrylics, embossing powder, silk paint and…um… no, I think that might be it.  Mixed media, then, I guess.  Again, this isn’t necessarily something I’d buy in a shop – it’s a bit twee – and about a fortnight after I finished it, I noticed that the gilded cage is wonky.  I’m going to pretend  that’s deliberate.  It’s a metaphor, you see, for the assymetrical injustice of entrapment.  Or something.  Anyway, what do I like about this?  The effect of light on the hanging heart.  The gold of the cage.  The sparkle on the wings of the flying heart.  Some of the density of movement and light on the background.  I’m not sure, yet, whether I like the whole thing, but it fills a gap on the spare bedroom wall…

And that’s it.  My forgotten photographic discoveries.

And now I’m going to make some felty things based on some half remembered pictures I saw while browsing for links to  put on some of the other pages.  There will be pictures…

Jumper Quilt

My son has decided he wants a quilt for Christmas.  Only, he wants a jeans quilt, and I’m more than a little bored of making jeans quilts, having made two or three, now.  So, having flicked through issue 7 of Mollie Makes, and seen a jumper quilt, I thought I’d give that a go.

I didn’t quite trust the Mollie Makes method, which was simply to cut jumpers into squares and stitch them, leaving edges unfinished.  I’m sure they’re right that the edges *wouldn’t* fray.  But what’s the point in owning an overlocker, right??

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. My first challenge was to find jumpers.  I asked colleagues, friends and even Twitter to donate old, wool jumpers.  I got two remnants of jumpers from an old friend.  And I trawled charity shops in Hereford, Rugby, Coventry and Birmingham.  It’s surprisingly hard to find woollen jumpers – acrylic, or cotton, or nylon aplenty.  But pure, unadulterated wool?  Dream on…

Eventually, I found enough jumpers, in enough non-girly colours, to put a quilt together.  I whizzed the squares up in the overlocker, using a cherry red woolly nylon thread, to contrast.  I deliberately arranged the jumpers so that some were displaying the right side, and some the wrong side (the reverse of cable knit is often quite interestingly textured).  I have included seams, pockets, buttons, cuffs, ribbing from edges and cowls.  Some are hand knitted, some are machine knitted.  Some are thick, some are thin.  Some are harsh and scratchy like jumpers from my childhood.  Some are luxuriously soft and strokable.  As I stitched them together, I left some seams on the reverse, but exposed some on the right side of the quilt, where the red thread provides some necessary brightness to the otherwise masculine colour tones.

I was trying to think of a theme to embellish – my son is at an age where he enjoys video games, but little else, and I don’t know enough about video games to be able to reproduce anything other than pacman, or perhaps Sonic the Hedgehog – neither of which would be greeted with more than a blank.  I was rescued by a wonderful colleague who suggested Tank Girl, whom my son adores.

So I copied a Tank Girl image onto a nappy liner, pinned it to a pale grey cashmere block and carefully stitched round it with plain, polyester sewing thread, leaving a faint outline on the wool.  Then I tore the nappy liner off, ironed some fusible facing to the reverse of the block, put some dissolvable stabiliser over the top of my design, dropped the machine’s feed dogs and let rip with the embroidery threads.

I’m really pleased with the result!  The expression isn’t quite the same on the quilt as it was on the drawing, but it’s a credible expression, nonetheless, and there are, if you scroll in close enough, individual eyelashes, and a little frown.  And look at that ear!!!

The quilt will be backed with white microfleece, and each block will be loosely hand quilted with a red sock yarn. 

Finished images to follow, at some point, hopefully.  I hope he likes it: but if not, it will no doubt find a home on the back of a sofa…