I hate throwing stuff away. I’ve always liked the idea of recycling fabric from clothes – it seems very true to the origins of patchwork, when cloth was precious and needed to be used and reused for as long as possible. When I was a teenager, I used to modify my straight-legged jeans by unpicking the outer seams of the legs up to the knee, then sewing in triangular inserts cut from worn-out old jeans or offcuts of velvet. I also like charity shops – it’s amazing what you can find in them (and the high streets seem full of charity shops these days…). Over the years, I’ve bought quite a few clothes from charity shops, some of which have been as new and some of which have been silk.
If there’s one thing I love more than fabric, it’s probably beads. I’ve been collecting beads for about as long as I can remember and I have a large plastic storage box full of my eclectic selection. Unfortunately, as with fabric, I usually buy beads I like without any real plan to make them into something. I’m also terrible at buying findings, which means that I almost never have the right findings to finish a project. But I’m trying to be better!
I have a terrible habit of buying fabric that I like just because I like it, but with no specific plan in mind. (Actually, I do that with a lot of craft materials. Hi, my name is Heulwen and I am addicted to craft materials.) Because I’m aware that I do this, though, I try to limit how often I go into fabric shops or ebay looking for fabric (my bank balance thanks me for this).
Shortly after I got back from travelling, in the middle of a bloody freezing March 2013, I decided to pick up where I left off with some my craft hobbies.
Long before I set off on my epic train trip, I’d declared an intention to make a wedding quilt for my sister and her husband (who got married in 2011 – better late than never?), but realised that the one basic patchwork class I’d been to way back in 2005 was unlikely to be sufficient training for such an undertaking. I had a collection of assorted fabric (I LOVE fabric), including a strip roll, and decided to start a “practice” quilt – a generously sized Bargello in a dizzying rainbow of colours, on the basis that the best way to achieve good 1/4 inch seams would be to do a LOT of them. I dedicated a number of evenings and weekends to sewing my rainbow together, carefully alternating the sewing direction for each strip to avoid the dreaded “banana effect” – one of the few things I remembered from that class of ’05. Eventually I got my Bargello strips prepped and cut and started sewing them together, but kept finding that the fabric walked and crept and generally refused to stay lined up along the whole length. I could see I was not doing it right, but did not know how to correct myself. After 7-8 wonky strips, I gave up and concentrated on packing up life as I knew it and getting ready to go travelling.