The thing I really like about Quilt Club (apart from the lovely people) is the relative informality of it. Everyone works at their own pace and although there are group projects, no one is forced to do anything they don’t want to do. This was great for me because when I joined I brought with me a host of already-started projects that I needed help continuing. (And most of them *still* aren’t finished yet!) Until now, the only group projects I’ve jumped in on were the pre-Christmas mini-projects, which were great fun but only took up one session. The next group project, though, is one I’m going to grab with both hands because it’s Attic Windows.
Shortly before Christmas, Stefani proposed that we do a couple of smaller projects that could become Christmas presents. One was a pin board, another was a Christmas-themed fabric wreath. I ended up being a bit after the fact with the pin board and making it at home (because I’d got in a mix-up over which session we were doing it in), but managed to be in sync for the wreath (which was awkward because it was the week that pretty much all of us forgot to bring along cutting mats and rotary cutters!). Digging through my stash, I realised that I had a surprising amount of Christmassy fat quarters, though I’d bought a few more just in case. I like Christmas fabric a lot (it’s usually so sparkly!), but I also find it a real challenge in terms of design because it’s SO Christmassy. Anyway.
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.
When I arrived back from travelling, I was on quite a high. Full of enthusiasm for all the things I’d do now I was home: Get down to some dedicated freelancing. Help mum with finishing the Cowshed project. Start jogging. Go see a careers advisor and perhaps look into courses to further my education. Finish off long-overdue craft projects. But as the days and weeks passed, my bounce wore off and I spent my days slumped in a chair trying unsuccessfully to force my suddenly uncooperative brain to focus on my work. Mum kept commenting on how pallid I was starting to look as my tropical suntan began to fade.
Turns out that, when travelling and freelancing, time spent sitting in a cafe on a laptop is better spent working rather than blogging. Who knew? Anyway, I’m back home now, and may or may not update with random posts on whatever I feel like. 😉
After acquiring some roubles and managing to escape Vitebsky station via St. Petersburg’s rather lovely metro system, I headed off to find my hostel, which was not far from Moskovsky station and the top of Nevsky Prospekt. My host for the next few days would be Natalia, and she wasted no time making me feel at home – I was whisked in, fed breakfast, provided with maps and helped with train times and instructions for the next stage of my journey. Natalia also agreed to register my Russian visa for me once I explained my Moscow and trans-Siberian plans to her. Once I’d settled all my stuff in my dorm, I had a very welcome shower, put some laundry on to wash and headed out to investigate the city. Continue reading St. Petersburg, 15th to 17th of May
I had a little while to wait in Vilnius station, so I used the time to grab a snack and a drink for the journey, using up most of the last few litas that were burning a hole in my pocket in the process. Then I sat in the waiting room, alternately reading and watching the departures board. While I did so, a lady with a clipboard approached me – she didn’t seem to speak a word of English, but I grasped that she was doing some kind of tourism survey and would I mind answering some questions? Continue reading Vilnius to St. Petersburg, 14th to 15th of May