On Refashioning Dolls’ Clothes

For years a collection of dolls in national dress from around the world adorned a shelf in the children’s bedroom. Then the girls grew up and left home and the dolls collected dust. During a spring cleaning spree these dolls were packed into a box and nearly discarded. Luckily nostalgia stopped me and the box of dolls was stored in the attic, to gather more dust. Then along came COVID and lockdown and the community stitch challenge (thank you TextileArtist.org) where I was inspired by textile artists who have repurposed old linens and vintage stitch work into new and exciting pieces. Then I remembered this collection of dolls in folk costumes, and retrieved the box, undressed the dolls and washed the clothes with the idea of using them to make similar textile pieces.

It took a while to decide how to repurpose the traditional costumes. At times it seemed like a silly thing to do, but the idea kept percolating and, when I saw how Jennifer Collier uses old postage stamps in her paper-based collages something clicked into place. Why not use a particular country’s stamps as markers for the origin of its folk costume, I thought. So I unearthed my childhood stamp collection, dusted it off, and started assembling the collages pictured above.

I laid the clothes onto a calico background and hand stitched or pinned them into place. The calico is backed with a thin layer of flannel followed by a piece of sturdy canvas, to make up the three layers traditionally used by quilters. Once I was satisfied with the layout of the clothes that make up the outfit, I added postage stamps. [I confess to some ironic and quirky choices. As I examined the images on these old stamps I realised that they tell a (not the) story of a country’s history that can be uncomfortable. I wonder if academic theses have been written about this.] The stamps were lightly glued into place. Then I overstitched the whole assemblage.

A full view of the piece (25 x 33 cm)

The size of the works is based on the A4 or A3 format and the black stitched line in the above photograph matches the A4 size (21 x 30 cm).

Once I had decided on the layout of the piece, the stitching went quickly and smoothly. The background stitch is done in rows and I use the wavy zigzag setting on my Bernina, with the stitch length set to 1 and the stitch width to 5 (the maximum). After finishing the Dutch costume I decided to stitch down the Native American folk costume as it also fitted neatly into the A4 format. I inserted a leather needle into my trusty Bernina, held my breath, and started stitching. The needle went through the leather and the fabric layers like butter and, despite the extra thickness of the needle, did not tear the comparatively fragile paper of the postage stamps.

I was not happy with the way this turned out and was all set to unpick the bottom section (the leggings) after the overstitching was done. My friend the artist suggested I could save it by turning the legs into a more abstract design by overlaying black strips and adding a central strip of leather. Thank heavens for friends with a good eye.

Then I tackled the South African based costume of a long dress, apron, shawl and doek [head scarf] sometimes worn by African women. The outfit would not fit into the A4 format, hence the expansion to an A3 size. I also had a large collection of this country’s stamps that I could use.

A quick snap taken at the early stages of laying out the collage. Below is the finished work, to show the effect of the overstitching. It measures 35 x 45 cm.

There are still quite a number of traditional costumes from the doll collection and I will slowly stitch them down. At this stage, I am not sure if I will make one large piece or frame each of the outfits separately.

When I began writing this post I did not know what collective term to use for these clothes and so, of course, checked on google where I found the terms traditional dress, national dress, folk costume, and national costumes are all used. I also came across this informative article, if anyone wants to have a look at it.

Solving the mystery

Slowly but surely my blocks for the Good Hope Quilters Guild mystery quilt are taking shape. Every Friday a new tutorial becomes available and the photograph below is the result of nine weeks of following the instructions. Only three more to go. The quilt is designed by Diana Vandeyar as an introduction to modern quilting. Her instruction sheets are crystal clear and I have learnt a lot about the joy of precision piecing from her. I am very glad I took that step into the dark (as it were) and started this project (see this previous post for a blog on the beginning of the process).

The Good Hope Quilters’ Guild has an Instagram page where one can see what other followers of the mystery challenge have produced.

In Memoriam

This quilt of stars was made to celebrate the life of Augusta de Jager (1 October 1957 — 9 December 2020). How does one begin to write a post about the loss of a quilting companion and a vibrant member of our small town community? With difficulty. To help deal with the harsh fact of her death, the QUOGs (Quilters of Grahamstown) made a quilt in her memory and gave it to her husband, Strauss, with our love and the hope that it would bring some comfort. This post is about the making of the quilt.

First I wish to bid Augusta farewell and thank her for the convivial memories of stitching and supping together, for the fascinating conversations and the laughter. The QUOGs have been meeting for nearly 30 years and it is ironic that COVID-19 took one of the younger members of the group. But Augusta was a determined and intrepid educator who did not hide herself away.

During Christmas time the thought to make a quilt of stars to celebrate Augusta’s life settled itself in my head and refused to go away. The group agreed that it was a good idea and we talked about where to start. The Crazy Star has long been a favourite of the group and, at a workshop some years ago, Augusta had made very large stars so that she would be able to quickly finish a quilt for a gift. The pattern lends itself to making stars of different sizes in a free and easy way by using the stack, slash, and swop method. One ends with a set of wonky stars of more or less the same width which can be trimmed and stitched into rows.

Of course there was discussion about the size of the blocks and the colour palette. But the crazy aspect won out and we all made stars from fabrics that reminded us of her, or which she had given as gifts in the past. There were no instructions to make them a set size. The contributors kindly stitched them into rows, which made the final assembly quick and easy.

We held a Saturday workshop during February where we made stars. Some members opted to make their stars at home and deliver them, others found that they already had some in their UFO stashes, and others puzzled over the instructions that had been emailed to everyone. It was remarkable how quickly the quilt grew and how much fun we had, despite the underlying sadness. It was also good to share memories about Augusta as we spent the day stitching.

The next step was to turn the strips of stars into a square quilt. Again, this happened remarkably easily. Three of us gathered for a morning and set about joining rows of the same width. Once we had strips of more or less equal length we joined the strips and, hey presto, we had a queen sized bed quilt top. I had never thought it would end up being so big. Everyone contributed with gusto.

Busy bees assembling the quilt and the final composition.

We left the quilt top in two sections so that it would be easier to quilt on my domestic sewing machine, in straight lines, with a walking foot. I volunteered to do this and Karen then bound it quickly and efficiently. We got it done in record time — just as well as autumn is drawing in and the nights are getting colder.

And so life continues. When I asked Strauss for permission to publish a blog about his quilt he sent me the text of a forthcoming column he had written for the local newspaper’s Soul Food section. His piece is about Easter and autumn and is titled “Dear Lord, may all these days be sanctified” (Guy Butler’s translation of the opening line of the Afrikaans poem “Vroegherfs” [Early Autumn] by N.P. van Wyk Louw). In the article he writes about coming to terms with loss:

As the glorious green remnants of summer fall around us during these days of autumn, may the showy and vain leaves of pride also fall from our lives. And so may all these days indeed be sanctified. In my personal walk I have come to regard the season of losing my wife, Augusta, to COVID-19, also as holy days. From the time at the end of November when I intensely prayed for her healing, up to the present time of dealing with her death, it has been one, longer than usual, autumn season in my life. The season of loss of precious, but temporary, things, also brings with it growth though, and ripening and becoming stronger.

Strauss de Jager, Dominee, NG Kerk

Fenced

This word makes one think of being constrained, hemmed in, even imprisoned. So, when it came to thinking of ideas for the March theme of ‘fenced’ for the #areyoubookenough challenge on Instagram I was stumped. Then it dawned on me that a fence also offers protection and solace, especially if it encloses a garden.

A representation of my garden in a seven-page accordion fabric book. 6 x 5″ (15 x 12.5 cm) per page

It took a while to arrive at the idea of using my own garden as the source material for the images in the book. I began by stitching a silver fence from lame (with umlaut). Thank you Asta for suggesting this. The intention was to applique (with umlaut) floral fabric behind and in front of the fence and so create a garden on the inside pages of the book. I first painted the book’s blank canvas green (using acrylic ink), then fused floral fabric and, on top of this, the fence posts along the opened up book. The fabric is Kaffe Fassett’s “Row Flowers”, my current favourite.

After stitching down the fence I decided I preferred what was originally meant to have been the outside of the book as the backdrop for the garden. The outline of the fence in closely stitched grey lines was more appealing and less obtrusive than the heavy silver lame. Turn the book around, I told myself, it’s quicker than unpicking (ha ha) or starting again. But I did not know where to begin with a new design for the enclosed garden. The skeleton of the book lay fallow for a couple of weeks while I pondered on what to do.

Then I decided that an enclosed garden needs a gate so began there, by first drawing a rickety old wire gate inside our garden, then tracing the drawing and then machine stitching it (through the tracing paper) onto the first page of the concertina book.

It was probably at this point that I decided to use scenes from our garden to illustrate the three double page spreads in the book. And here I must pay tribute to Johanna Basford, whose adult colouring book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book also sparked ideas. On the first double spread I used fabric and applique to copy the pots of herbs on the patio. Luckily I have a box of fabric bits with fusible web backings, left over from previous projects. When I became tired of cutting out tiny chillies and tomatoes and leaves I got out my Inktense pencils, took a deep breath, and drew some of the leaves and fruit.

From left, green beans in full leaf; Habanero chillies in full fruit, sweet Basil going to seed, baby tomatoes, and a Tamarillo or tree tomato (Solanum betaceum). [Just in case you had trouble identifying the herbs and vegetables !!]

After making the first double page I began to play in earnest and pulled out the pencil crayons, koki pens, ink and paint brushes. I did struggle a bit to copy the very ornate birdbath in the garden. Until recently it was surrounded by tall garlic chives in full flower.

The final set of pages depicts the stone paved enzo in the herb and vegetable garden. There really is a bay tree with a bird house in that section of the garden (but it is planted in the ground, not a pot).

The final step in the making of the book was the overstitching. I hesitated before setting my sewing machine to the wavy zigzag stitch and then sewing all over my drawings. After practising on a sample I decided the patterning would add to the fenced theme and would also unify the images. Here I acknowledge Anne Kelly, from whom I learnt this trick.

And so I have a record of the garden in its late summer abundance. I started work on the new inside pages with three days to spare until the month ended and the deadline for the #areyoubookenough_fenced March challenge. It pretty much took up all of the three days to make this little book. Here are a set of photographs of the process and various arrangements of the finished book:

Round and round the garden

Still on the garden theme, but jumping to a different project — the Bernina South Africa round robin challenge, which runs monthly for six month. I wrote about starting this in a previous post. The instruction for the second round was to surround the central appliqued motif with joined strips of fabric. I made a garden path using plain greys alternated with the flower fabric.

On Market Days

For a while it seemed that the Saturday market days at Hogsback had come to an end. COVID restrictions caused the closing of the Butterfly’s Bistro that used to graciously provide space for the local stall holders. Towards the end of last year Peter Colyvas of The Edge Mountain Retreat offered a new venue, and the market has moved from the green grass of the bistro to the shade under the oak trees at The Edge.

FABRICATIONS and Nonsuch Woodware take full advantage of this whenever we are on the mountain for a weekend.

Some of The Woodworker’s fine woodware
The FABRICATIONS table

Maggie Verster, a Hogsback resident, wrote a piece about the market that vividly captures the spirit and ambiance of the Under the Oaks Saturday morning market. If you can’t get to this fairly remote spot in the mountains of the Eastern Cape, then at least Maggie can take you there through her words and photographs. (Just click on the highlighted words for the link to the article.)

Meanwhile, back in my workroom, I have been experimenting with a new style of pincushion. (For us stitchers, pincushions are very important). I have been selling pincushions made from the African print called ShweShwe for some time now.

A few weeks again Tierney posted photographs of her precise, paper pieced pincushions on her blog Tierneycreates. I think they are perfect and of course wanted to copy them. When scraps of Kaffee Fassett fabrics fell onto my worktable I put more than two and two together and came up with this:

This is a prototype and can be improved by a narrower side strip (that bridges the top and bottom pieced circles). I am however not going to go as far as paper piecing in order to reach perfection! The stitching is also not up to scratch as one of the joining seams was done by hand. We have had a week of load shedding (scheduled power cuts) and the electricity went off just before I had finished stitching the pincushion. Of course I could not wait for two hours to see how it would turn out, and so I stitched the final seam by hand.

The side strip comes from a Fassett fabric that was in my stash, but the remainder are all from one of my quilting companions. She gave me a bag of her offcuts after I asked for throwaway scraps for the stuffing of the draught excluders that I make to sell at the market. I could not bear to consign these beautiful fabrics to the innards of a draught excluder. They are quite small bits, so I pieced them together to make larger bits and these seemed just the thing for pretty pincushions.

If anyone knows of a less cumbersome word than draught excluder to name the heavy fabric sausage one puts at the base of a door to stop the draught from creeping in, please let me know. I made the first one for personal use and then included them amongst my FABRICATIONS market wares as a bit of a joke. They have proved to be popular and here is my latest batch.

The casing is from African ShweShwe, which now comes in a range of bright colours and attractive designs. The innards are tightly stuffed with small fabric offcuts. Surprisingly this give the draught excluder enough weight to rest firmly at the bottom of the door.

Because circles of fabric are used at either end of the tube, there is always some left over fabric. I used this to make a new set of card holders.

There won’t be a post from me next week as I will be retreating to the Karoo for a bit.

Outstanding Blogger Award

FABRICATIONS has twice been nominated for the said award. Thank you Helen, creator of Paddy & Plunkett, of crawcrafstbeasties and Shirley of Handmade Habit for nominating me. I am proud and pleased to accept this award from two outstanding crafters. Thank you also for faithfully following and reading my blog about quiltmaking.

Acceptance of the award means I have to answer the sets of questions posed by Helen and Shirley. Then I compile a set of questions to pass on to a further set of bloggers that I have the pleasure of nominating.

So, here goes. Helen got Paddy and Plunkett (two of her incorrigible Beasties) to ask the questions.

The interview panel, who are also keen gardeners (photograph from crawcraftsbeasties.com)

Coffee or tea? (Or no hot beverages at all?)

That’s a hard one. Couldn’t do without either the caffeine of a good strong mug of plunger coffee or the refreshing taste of Rooibos [red bush] tea. I enjoy both coffee and this tea without milk or sugar. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a member of the plant family Fabaceae that grows in South Africa’s fynbos. The leaves are used to make a herbal tea (Wikipedia).

Where in the world would you most like to visit, and why?

London. To see our daughter and because there is so much to see and do there.

What is the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten, and where did you have it?

Braaied (barbecued) fresh Kabbeljou (Cape Salmon), a line fish, eaten at our kitchen table and cooked by The Woodworker.

What have you made that you’re most proud of, and why?

That’s also a hard question. I would like to think that the work I am most proud of is yet to be made. The quilt called A Full Bed of Roses, which hangs above our bed and is used as the signature photograph for this blog, marks the moment when I became an art quilter.

What’s your plan for today?

It’s Friday afternoon. I plan to spend the evening watching a Netlfix series and stitching the joining seam of a very large quilt that I finished machine quilting this morning.


Handmade Habit and FABRICATIONS were nominated simultaneously. Shirely was less tardy in responding and you can read her answers to Paddy & Plunkett’s questions here. This is a photograph of Shirley’s little doe dolls, her proudest creation.

Photograph from handmadehabit.com

These are the questions that Shirley asked.

What are 3 creative tools or supplies that you can’t live without these days?

My hands, needle and thread (as one item!) and my Bernina 1008.

When did you first start working with your art or craft medium? Why did you choose it?

I began to make quilts at the turn of the century (ha!). I was drawn to the beauty and calmness of quilt making after I finished my studies.

If you had all the resources you needed, what would your dream project be?

To make a very large piece, that I could pin up on a very large pinboard (about four metres wide and ceiling height) as I was constructing it.

What is your favourite season, and why?

Summertime. That’s when my garden grows and I do not have to wear lots of clothes to keep warm. And I can walk barefoot.

Name a place that inspires you to create.

My workspace, which has a view of the herb garden and is situated below the house’s handmade staircase.


Despite Helen and Shirley’s clear explanations I confess to being a bit perplexed until I read that the nomination and the award are the same thing (unlike the Oscars!). Back in 2014 Michelle Weber wrote a post subtitled Understanding Blog Awards.

She asks: Is there a nomination or voting process? and answers: “Not really, no. You’ll often see bloggers posting about awards and “nominating” other bloggers, but in this case “nominating” means the same thing as “giving” — there’s no real nomination process, and no voting at all. If another blogger wants to give you an award, they simply post about it.”

In short, these bloggers awards (and there are quite a few) are a way for bloggers to support and acknowledge one another. Isn’t it Lovely? says Michelle. And yes, it is.

Now it is my turn to nominate and ask a few questions. I would like to nominate the following because I learn from and am delighted by their writings. (To the people I have nominated: please don’t feel obliged or intimidated. There is no obligation to take up the challenge of answering and asking the questions.)

letting nature back in — nature and nurture in suburban spaces

tierneycreates — a fusion of textiles and smiles

Pieceful Thoughts of My Quilting Life

Laura Bruno Lilly — The road ends, but the journey continues

Chela’s Colchas y Mas — Quilting, embroidery and more

Claudia McGill and Her Art World

Zippy Quilts — modern quilts with a twist

The questions:

  1. For how long have you been writing a blog?
  2. What made you start?
  3. Why do you continue to blog?
  4. Have you ever met any of your fellow bloggers face to face? If so, how did it feel?
  5. Do you write regularly? If so, why?

If you do decide to pass on The Outstanding Blogger Award, this is the drill:

  1. Answer the questions
  2. Nominate up to ten other writers of blogs
  3. Compile a set of up to ten questions (the hardest part!)

On Sewing in the Dark

Not literally. But I am blindly following instructions from two sources to make quilts that will be a surprise. I have no idea what they will look like in the end. It’s an interesting experience. It has also made me realise that, while a quilt can change its tack in the making, I generally have an idea, lodged somewhere in my brain, of what the final outcome will be.

The first is a “mystery block of the month” being run by the Good Hope Quilters’ Guild that happens weekly. The design is called Cape Wildflowers and is designed by Diana Vandeyar. The instructions are beautifully clear. I have done the stitching for the first three weeks and am looking forward to downloading this week’s instructions. They become available every Friday (which is today). First I must write this blog, I told myself.

In the first week I made half square triangles and joined them into a short and a longer strip, both with a central square. The second week involved making a pile of HSTs of a larger size. And in the third week I made five snowball blocks (first time ever). Given the beautifully clear and illustrated instructions it was much easier than building a snowman.

In the introduction Diana Vandeyar warns that we will be dipping our toes into the modern quilting pool. She both explains this concept and at the same time reassures that it will not be formidable experience. For example, she says:

In this quilt we will explore a few “modern quilt” elements: large minimalist blocks, negative
space (just a little, so not scary) and high contrast between the units. This quilt is designed as
a two colour (two fabric) quilt with a dark background fabric and a light, high contrast main
fabric. Though this quilt has “borders”, they do not function like those in traditional quilts which
generally frame the central section. These “borders” provide a negative space which allows
the central design to float on the background fabric. (from http://www.goodhopequiltersguild.org.za/downloads/2021-GHQG-Mystery-CapeWildflowers-Introduction.pdf)

I have previously written about Diana Vandeyar’s generosity in sharing the patterns for her inspiring designs. You can find some of them on her WordPress blog.

The second “mystery” quilt I am making is an individual round robin that is being run by Bernina South Africa

Perhaps I need a break from stitching to my own tune but it does seem serendipitous that my good friend the artist and quilter alerted me to both of these challenges. A further coincidence is that I had been reading about Wendy Tuma’s stay at home round robin on her blog and was feeling quite envious at the fun she was having and the lovely quilt that she created.

The Bernina round robin started in February and runs monthly for six months. This challenge was designed by Linda Venter and the instructions are also beautifully clear and detailed. If you would like to know more, click onto the link to the Bernina Quilt-For-All-Challenge. One has to register in order to participate. Once this is done, you post photographs of your process and your block onto a group Facebook page. This evokes a feeling of community and you can read and see what other quilters have done with the challenge.

The first set of instructions from Bernina explained that a round robin quilt is traditionally made by a group of quilters, where each member makes a central block and then passes it on to another quilter in the group to add a border. This is in turn passed onto to another member, until everyone in the group has added a border and everyone in the group also gets a friendship quilt. So, the more members, the larger the medallion quilts that are made. (This method has been adapted to become an indvidual round robin project, probably because of the isolating influence of COVID).

The Bernina quilt for all challenge began with a central block, with four further challenges, complete with guidelines for a specific technique for the adding of borders. The final challenge (no. 6) will be to machine quilt the piece and add a binding.


Through signing up and doing the first month’s challenge, I have been inspired to try my hand at machine applique (with an umlaut) and then to decorate the outside of the appliqued flowers with a longer version of machine blanket stitch. I also learnt an easy way to make a square within a square. This month I will be adding a set of vertical strips at right angles to the central square. The Kaffe Fasset fabric I had been hoarding was just right for this project.

finishing line

This week I finished close quilting, by hand, the hexagon cushion cover I started at workshop with Yolande Bowman. To recap: the hexis were joined by hand, but not using the EPP (English Paper Piecing) method. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this piece and am using it as a table runner (albeit a square one). The second photograph is so that you can see the reverse side of the piece.

On The Rule of Three

It is done. And, with the permission of the artist who commissioned A Traveller’s Quilt, here is a photograph of the finished work.

A Traveller’s Quilt. 218 x 236 cm (86 x 93 inches). It is wider than my longest lathe, hence the gathers at the top of the quilt in this photograph.

It is the first quilt that I have made this year. Although I was pleased to finish this big, queen sized bed quilt, I must confess to a wrench when it went to its proper home. After working on it for more than a month I became fond of the luscious, exotic fabrics, collected mostly in South East Asia. That said, I was also pleased to be done with them, because some of the textiles are loosely woven and therefore were difficult to stitch into neat submission. Talk about mixed emotions!

The biggest joy was the reaction of the quilt’s owner. It is good to know that it will be appreciated and enjoyed. I confess that I hung onto the quilt for a few days after I had finished the commission. During that time I took a number of photographs of it, but forgot to photograph the back, which would have shown the organic machine quilting in slightly wavy lines in varying shades of teal. You will just have to imagine it.

The artist who commissioned the quilt gave me carte blanche in how to use the fabrics she had collected on her travels.

I must thank my good quilting friend, Karen Davies, for her inspired suggestion that I accentuate the bright turquoise and gold fabric by using the blocks that contained this fabric for a the central X-shaped design. At the pin-up stage I had been struggling to blend the turquoise blocks in with the rest of the colours. Karen’s keen eye saw that this was going to be impossible and saved me from my metaphorical block. I am mixing my metaphors (I think) by referring to writer’s block, where one loses inspiration and cannot continue writing. In my experience this also happens to quilters, but what would one call it? A quilter’s block just won’t do, will it. [For any non-quilting readers, a block is a rectangle of pieced fabric, often sewn to a set pattern.]

Perhaps you noticed and were perplexed by the title of this post. In a previous post I made a passing mention that I was quilting the piece in three sections and promised two observant readers to explain in more detail how I did this. One of those readers recently posted about the magic number three in music. So the number three is on my mind. The rule of three is, inter alia, another writing term. According to a Wikipedia entry:

The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. The audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information conveyed because having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern. It makes the author or speaker appear knowledgeable while being both simple and catchy. Slogans, film titles and a variety of other things have been structured in threes, a tradition that grew out of oral storytelling. Examples include The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Musketeers. Similarly, adjectives are often grouped in threes to emphasize an idea. The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.

https://en.wikipedia.org/

While checking up on myself via Mr Google I came across the statement that “three is the smallest number needed to made a pattern” in a fascinating fact-filled article called “What is the mysterious ‘Rule of Three’?”

Here follows a step by step guide on how I joined the three sections of the quilt so that it looks seamless.

The machine quilting was done in three sections to make the stitching more manageable. I used my domestic sewing machine and a walking foot and did not quilt right to the edge of each section.

Step 1: Trim the edges so that the excess batting and backing is flush with the raw edge of the quilted section. Step 2: Make sure that you are joining the correct edges of the quilt sections (you will curse if you inadvertently join the two sections upside down to one another).

Step 3: Pin the two quilt tops together, to match the blocks.

Step 4: Sew tops together, making sure to fold back the batting and backing as you sew so as not to catch either the batting or the backing fabric in the seam.

Step 5: Fold open the backing and batting and press the seam. Then lay the two sections on top of one another and free up the batting of one of the sections. Cut off half an inch of the batting on one side of the seam. Be careful not to nick the batting with the rotary cutter.

Step 6: Lay the quilt flat and smooth the batting so that the two edges lie flush. Pin through all three layers. Step 7: Fold under a quarter inch on one side of the backing. Lay it over the other, raw edged side of the backing. Pin down and slip stitch by hand.

Step 8. Machine quilt over the unquilted area alongside the joined seams.

The final step is a little tricky as one has to manhandle a large amount of quilt through the small space under the arm of one’s domestic sewing machine. So have a good strong cup of coffee before you tackle the final push.

The Redder the Better

I am feeling a bit rusty after not writing last week because there was nothing new to report, despite being busy at my sewing machine, quilting the large Traveller’s Quilt (which is almost done) and making another book.

This week’s post was nearly given the title On Seeing Red, but I thought that might be tempting fate. There is a lovely Afrikaans saying “Hoe rooier hoe mooier” [the more red it is, the more beautiful it is]. Since I am lucky to have overseas readers who would not understand Afrikaans, I opted for a loose translation of the idiom for the heading. It is also a couched warning that a lot of red photographs will be popping up onto your screen. The theme for this month’s #areyoubookenough challenge on Instagram was red. Hence the red book. As it was being constructed I surprised myself by making it redder and redder, until it was completely red.

Now for the story behind the red book. I do yoga with a marvellous teacher, Ruth Woudstra, who not only gently encourages us to stretch our bodies, but also to stretch our minds a little when she introduces us to some of the philosophy behind the ancient practice of yoga. Early in February, when I was pondering on how to interpret the theme of red for the book challenge, Ruth referred to the root chakra, the muladhara, during a yoga session. When she said it is represented by an inverted red triangle I knew I had found the subject for the February Are You Book Enough challenge. The word muladhara comes from the Sanskrit of mula [root] and adhara [support or base]. (Not in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, so thank you Google.)

Ruth has given me permission to mention her name and if you are interested in trying one of her gentle online yoga classes (via zoom) you can contact her at mottache@gmail.com.

The front cover of the book

The more I read about the root chakra, the more excited I became about making a little book about it. There is an enormous amount of information on it on the internet. In brief, it is the first of seven chakras in the body; is situated at the base of the spine; and represents safety, survival, grounding, and nourishment from the Earth’s energy.

A stitched version of the symbol for the root chakra, copied from an image found on http://www.yogiapproved.com

There are also a large number of graphic representations of this chakra on the internet. I honed in on the simplest one and used it on the back cover of the book. The upside down triangle is the alchemical symbol for Earth, or grounded energy. The square represents rigidity and stability and has a foundational energy (think of the foundation of a house). The circle in the diagram is a representation of infinity and the cyclical nature of energy. Finally, the diagram is surrounded by four lotus petals. Whether one believes in these arcane symbols or not, it is still a pleasing graphic image and I had fun copying it and stitching it.

The format is the same as the one I used to make a book about shelter for the January Are You Book Enough challenge. To recap: the base of the book is a torn strip of canvas folded into a concertina, or accordion, to make the pages. There are eight pages that measure 6 x 5 inches (15 x 12.5 cm) each. The first and last pages form the covers and there are three double page spreads inside the book.

After I had torn the strip of canvas to size I folded the book into an accordion and appliqued (with umlaut) the inverted triangle, square and circle shapes onto each of the double page spreads. Then I backed the strip with a loosely woven red fabric from my stash and overstitched through the layers with red thread. The dense stitching gave a nice solid feel to the book. The red stitching against the white canvas was very stark so I got out my red Inktense block and thought long and hard before I painted over the cloth.

Unlike my first book for #areyoubookenough, which was entirely hand stitched, this one was made on my sewing machine. It therefore has a different look and feel to it. The advantage, of course, is that it took much less time to make it. The final touches were to stitch a holding cord along the back cover and to make a secret pocket behind the back cover into which I have slipped notes on the muladhara chakra.

It seems I have found my monthly challenge for 2021. The theme for March is “fenced”. Whatever can I do with that? But it would be nice if, at the end of the year, I have a set of 12 little cloth books all of the same size. Perhaps The Woodworker can make a neat box in which to store them. But I am getting ahead of myself… Fenced? Mmm