Over the years I have travelled to many places for work and for pleasure. I started to buy fabric and patchwork squares in different places, and to make small patchwork projects.
The first project was done with my friend Susan, when I visited her in California. She is very good at patchwork and quilting so it was natural for her to take me to her local fabric shop, where I was overwhelmed with the deliciousness of the fabrics on offer – the colours, the designs, the possibilities…. we got fabrics with patterns of things like chillies, sweetcorn, wine, cartoons, woodwork tools… and Susan helped me make a patchwork curtain for my artist husband’s studio door.
On a technical note, using a small number of very big fabric squares to make the curtains made learning easier. Susan encouraged me to concentrate on a small number of new skills, for example using an overlocker machine (serger) for the first time, and to keep the project simple.
back home, the next project was to make some more curtains in patchwork, this time for the Kitchen cupboard instead of having doors. I got myself an overlocker machine for making patchwork, to use alongside the sewing machine. They are both good little machines, but I get myself in a tangle when using them; slow and steady work is best or I end up in a flurry of broken threads and confusion. The interlocker is particularly difficult to rethread and some sessions with it I seemed to spend more time puzzling over how to set it up than actually using it.
For the kitchen curtains, I decided to make the pattern more complex, still square pieces but smaller, using symmetry to build the patterns in the piece placement. Also it seemed important to make the symmetry imperfect so that the curtains were similar but not identical. I needed 3 curtains.
The method is to decide on the placement of the materials, looking at colour and pattern, then cut the squares all to the same size using a straight edge, set square and cutter blade. Then place the materials again to recheck the pattern. Press the pieces and sew into strips, then press again. The strips are joined together, press again. And voila! Curtains.
If only it was that easy in reality… Well, it is easy, I just made it difficult for myself. I made several mistakes such as sewing the piece in the wrong order, putting the pieces together and realising I had seams showing on both sides, not managing to do a straight line on the sewing machine and interlocker… These mistakes were caused by a mix of absent minded carelessness, not rechecking at every stage, inexperience, gung-ho overconfidence and misunderstanding instructions / guidance gleaned from the internet and books. All the mistakes required me to unpick the seams and start again. Each time the lessons were the same: slow down, check every step, don’t try and skip things. Eventually I got the curtains made and hung. They have lasted well and survived the washing machine too.
Those early projects gave me confidence to start on the big quilt.