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Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Patchwork Project from the Past

One of the projects I took to Bali with me was a bag of patchwork I began in the 1980s. I can't be sure when I started it, but it was somewhere between 1983 when my grandmother died, and 1987 when I went to Gepps Cross Girls High School as principal. The bag this project has been stored in forever belonged to my grandmother and the materials all came from dresses I made for myself in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I stopped making clothes for myself when I became principal - no time left.

I remember reading up on patchwork-by-hand, buying the templates, cutting out the tissue diamonds, cutting out the fabric and tacking the tissue into the fabric.

The fabric was mostly silk - left over from dresses I had made myself - a couple of 80s Kalder prints, a teal blue Italian silk my mother had bought me around 1980, a dusty blue Thai silk evening skirt, a deep red Thai cotton print from a long dress, both made in the 70s,the yellow lining of a 1960s yellow wool skirt and jacket and, for good measure, some red dupion from a bridesmaid's dress made for me in the late 60s by Ruth Ford - the local dressmaker in Botany, where I grew up.

I hadn't got very far with the patchwork - nowhere near the Joseph-like coat that I think I originally had in mind!

I thought this would make another good travel project - nothing much needed except needle and thread and the bag of bits.

I didn't do a lot of it in Bali but I did get my head around it, discard the rusted pins and tack a few more tissue paper diamond on to the already cut fabric.

I also reflected on the development of fabric technology in the last 25 years. Iron-on interfacing would make this all much simpler if starting it today.

I was sufficiently inspired to keep going when I returned home - I really like the incentive of finishing!

I added all the diamonds I had cut out. As I added them, I played with the shape of the overall piece and went from a coat to a waistcoat to deciding there were enough diamonds to shape into - you've guessed it - a bag.

It was a lot easier once I realised I could stitch the pieces together on the wrong side.

I then found a piece of deep red skirt lining to line it with, sandwiched a piece of batting between the two layers and began the really interesting part - hand quilting.

I began by following the lines of the diamonds, but soon worked out it was more interesting to stitch around the shapes on the printed fabric and mirror these shapes on the plain fabric diamonds.

I used black and red DMC thread.

The effect inside the bag was quite good.

I added a couple of pockets inside. The handles are a couple of circular ones I had on hand.

I am very pleased with the result. It is a useful bag - whether for my knitting or for a handbag. I learned a great deal doing it. I can't believe what a difference quilting made. It turned it from a lot of raggy scraps into a firm, usable and attractive piece of fabric.
I have a bright, solid bag full of memories - and a huge amount of satisfaction at finishing a project that has been going for at least 25 years!

Would I do it again? For something no bigger than this, yes. I have, however, lost any yearning for my own coat of many colours!


Jillian Cheek said...

That's what patchwork ought to be. You ought to make notes on where the fabric came from, and add pictures of the clothes, if possible, in case it survives as an heirloom. You could make a book to slip into one of the pockets, and that would fascinate the grandchilren in the present. (Mind you, it looks so gorgeous you'll probably wear it out, but still...)

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that after 25 years or so you have come back to it and made it into something totally different than originally intended. It is very cheerful and its always nice to have something special to store things in rather than a boring plastic bag with no character! Paper piecing has changed a great deal since then too and although it might not have worked with the silks there is a special fabric watersoluable glue pen available to make the basting almost non existent. I have used it to baste my entire hexagon quilt which is almost at binding stage and for the other one I just started. Hexagons are addictive at the moment as they are great for sewing in the car while wating for the girls to get out of school. Dont need to think to hard either LOL