Big stitching

When it comes to stitching, I have a penchant for small things. I love tiny EPP projects, foundation piecing little Artist Trading Cards, making tiny appliqué mini-hoops, crocheting adorably small crochet animals, making tiny mini-quilts and sweet little pincushions.

Tiny Liberty hexies
I’m currently stitching up these tiny 1/4inch hexies.

Given the choice I would always choose to work on some tiny stitching project rather than a huge ambitious quilt.

There are a couple of problems with all this tiny stuff… I get super-tense about making sure each tiny stitch is at least in the right place. This results in gripping the fabric and needle for dear life, and the joints in my hands get really sore, and my shoulders feel like I have been working at the coalface all day! I have to remind myself to relax and breathe on a regular basis (maybe that’s not such a bad thing – a topic for a future blog post there!).

Hoop swap work in progress
My other, ongoing, stupidly small project is this teeny appliqué for the Very Berry Mini Hoop Swap.

And then there’s my eyesight. I use reading glasses and and a magnifying lamp which helps a lot, but when I settle down for an evening of relaxation, I absolutely don’t want to be sitting there with my reading glasses perched on the end of my nose and the bright light of the daylight bulb affecting my ability to go to sleep later on!

So, my head, hands and eyes are telling me I need a break from all this close up work, and my heart seems to have recognised this, because I’m constantly being drawn to quilting and sewing styles where the focus is on big stitches, texture, improvisation and fun. Quiltmania, my favourite quilting magazine, has been a great source of information and inspiration on this. It was there that I first read about the kantha quilts of India, and more recently I saw the fabulous work of Akiko Ike (here’s a little introduction to her work), read about the style of stitching that she calls Chiku Chiku (aka Crazy Sashiko), and from there started to spend ages scouring Pinterest and blogs for pictures of Boro and Sashiko stitching which influenced her. I won’t go on about this – but if you are interested, the fabulous Susan Briscoe has written a blog post which serves as fab introduction and there’s a fabulous description of her meeting with Ike-san and her introduction to Chiku Chiku just here.

This is a very long introduction to telling you about my current project! Hidden away amongst all the gorgeous treasures at Beyond Measure (my new favourite online shop for stitchy gratification) there are the most wonderful bundles of wool tweed fabric (which are amazing value and top quality wool).

Beautiful pile of tweeds from Beyond Measure
Gorgeous wool tweed! I love all these, but the one with the square spirals (second bottom) is my absolute favourite.

When I was lucky enough to my hands on one (kindly contributed to my stash by lovely Grace who is the brains behind Beyond Measure), I knew what I wanted to do (influenced by this beautiful Boro-inspired bag, and this one, and many more!). Here are some pics of my progress – I’m making it up as I go along, as you can probably tell.

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure further away

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure closer up

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure close up

I am making two panels for the bag front and back, quilt as you go style. I’m still working on the first side, and the great thing about knowing that I will be making the other side is that I can put what I learn into practice. I am going to end up with a bag with two very different sides!

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure furthest away

I’ve used quite big pieces so far – but will probably add some smaller pieces (maybe circles) on top, further down the line. I am really enjoying the improvisational nature of the project, and my decision not to worry about whether I am breaking any rules (mainly because I am not sure there are any…).

Can’t wait to show you my further progress and what I am learning. And if you skipped over all those links back there – do go and check out Susan Briscoe’s lovely post about her meeting with Akiko Ike, it’s so nice!

Thanks so much again to Beyond Measure for the lovely lovely fabric. If you are feeling inspired, here’s the link to the wool tweed again, and they also have some wonderful Sashiko needles too. And if you fancy a day out, there’s a Beyond Measure Open Day in fabulous Todmorden on April 1st

Book review & Giveaway: 101 Organic Gardening Hacks

It’s spring (well, not quite officially, but almost…) and my mind is turning to gardening again. I had lots of plans for garden projects over the autumn and winter period, but unfortunately have managed to proceed with only one of them (to get a hotbin composting system up and running). So I definitely needed motivation to get out in the garden and feel enthusiastic rather than feeling like I am already behind! The sunny weather we had earlier in the week definitely helped, but browsing through 101 Organic Gardening Hacks – Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve any Garden by Shawna Coronado (published by Cool Springs Press at £12.99) has given me a much needed burst of enthusiasm, and also a reminder that there are lots of economical and simple ideas to put into practice whilst you save up for the more ambitious stuff!

In the introduction – Coronado describes her gardening motivation:

Hacking is the concept of breaking traditional rules to discover a creative way to accomplish something – a clever trick that saves cash for the thrifty or solves a problem elegantly. Whether the hack is for gardening, computing, cooking, or anything in between, ‘hacking’ your way through your daily challenges is fast becoming a new lifestyle choice because the best hacks are easy, smart and economical.

 

It all sounds very modern and zeitgeisty, but actually, there’s plenty of knowledge here that would be very familiar to an older gardening generation. Hacking is definitely an evolution of the Make Do and Mend philosophy, and interestingly, Coronado says that, when it comes to gardening, her grandmothers are her biggest influence.

So the book is a great mix of old-fashioned garden wisdom and thriftiness and fun, sometimes quirky, new ideas, and considering there’s 101 hacks, I didn’t find the ideas at all repetitive.

Practical and quirky – the sign says “Emergency Tools for Zombie Apocalypse”.

 

As with all kinds of hacking, there’s an open-minded approach to problem-solving. So we get veggie growing in the front garden for people who really want to max out on food growing, or don’t have the right conditions in their back gardens:

Then there’s growing a living wall for colour, insects and edible plants, making the most of the very small gardening spaces which many people are limited to:

And for those of us with a bit more space – how about growing a ground cover patio – this has got to be my favourite project in the whole book, it’s so beautiful:

 

There are ideas for veggie growing and for growing ornamental plants (not mutually exclusive obviously!) and also for supporting wildlife in your garden, there’s loads about saving water, gardening for the benefit of the community and gardening economically and ethically. There are tips for beginners (there’s lots about composting and also growing from seed etc.) but there’s also lots here for people who have been gardening for years who would appreciate some fresh ideas.

A reminder of the importance of planting spring flowering perennials to support insects early in the growing season.

Some hacks are quick and easy, others are more complex and involve some DIY skills, but all the projects seem to be clearly outlined with lists of the equipment that you need. I love this idea for making sure you can keep your seed packets organised. I can see how this can be adapted in all sorts of ways as a basis for a gardening diary:

I should say, if you are based outside the USA, a tiny proportion of the hacks won’t necessarily be relevant to you (I won’t be bothering to plant to attract hummingbirds to my garden, for example), but – I can count these on the fingers of one hand, pretty much, so don’t let that put you off, there is so much good stuff here.

Giveaway…

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment on this blog post before 10pm (GMT) tomorrow to be in with a chance of winning. As always, happy with a ‘pick me’ or you can tell me what you have been up to in your garden this weekend (I did some MUCH needed tidying up and weeding). Happy to post overseas!

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