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My current quilting project



I started doing surface embroidery when I was four or five, much as Amy would have done, by embroidering tray cloths and dressing table sets. When I moved to patchwork and quilting a few years later I became fascinated by redwork, which is very little more than backstitch over pre-marked lines. What I love is the sense of history about so many of the designs I use. The quilt in this picture uses one of a set of historic 'block of the month' flower designs set with a very simple quilt block called contrary wife. If you fancy having a go, then you can find instructions here http://www.straw.com/equilters/library/quilts/contrary_wife_quilt.html and a bit about redwork here https://www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com/redwork-embroidery.html . I designed and made this quilt in the first lockdown summer back in 1920, and it seemed to want to be quilted to show my solidarity with Ukraine. (Please note, I also donated to a charity; which is far more use!)



Many of my heroines sew, mainly because the mechanics of hand quilting give you time to think. It's also pretty unique amongst traditional women's occupations because someone doesn't immediately come along and undo all your hard work. You think that's harsh? Think about it. I cook a meal, which I like doing as long as I have time to do it. Someone promptly comes along and eats it; and, being fair, I'd be annoyed if they didn't. I wash clothes, enjoy watching them drying on the line or fret about having to use the tumble dryer if we get unexpected rain, and people go and wear them so I have to wash them again. I plant plants and... well, the least said about slugs and snails the better, and the same goes for cleaning the house.


But when I make a quilt and give it to someone I love I know that they will wrap themselves up in it when they're feeling cold or sad or in need of comfort. For that moment, they'll know they're loved, and some of my quilts will outlive me and let people who haven't been born yet know that I lived and loved and sewed. Seeing the old quilts and reading the old books about sewing always reminds me that we are all links in a chain from the past to the present to the future and that all those women had troubles and joys, just as you and I do now. They sewed through war and depression; bust and boom and made the best of what they had and generally recycled and upcycled back when it was called 'make do and mend.' Their motto was 'use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without' and it strikes me that it's still a pretty good one in these uncertain times


And before you say I'm soppy, just remember that I write cosy fiction so being soppy is practically in my job description!

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