My Year of Stitching

Yesterday was the last day of a watershed year and I thought it would be appropriate to write a last post to bid farewell to the strange year of 2020.

But it did not get written. It somehow seemed flippant to review my year of happy quilt making when the same year has weighed so heavily on so many people. Then today I read Laura Bruno Lilly’s injunction to keep on singing (see Bye, Bye, MMXX). And it made me decide to ‘sing’ about my uninterrupted sewing time during this lockdown year.

The year’s highlights have been the stitching of kantha samplers; my first quilt commission; taking part in the TextileArtist.org community stitching projects; and winning a prize for my quilt Garden of Delights.

A detail from Waiting for the Rain, the first quilt made in 2020

As I write this on a misty, cool, wet, green first day of a brand new year I remember how last year started brown and dry from the long drought. When the rains finally came in January and the brown earth magically turned green during the course of the month I was inspired to record this in Kantha style stitch on a sampler. And so began a monthly challenge to make a sampler to mark each month and at the same time to experiment with this ancient and versatile stitch form.

I recall writing at the start of 2019 that I wanted to make a big quilt that year. I did indeed accomplish that during hard lockdown in March when I stitched a queen sized bed quilt. It was a marvellous distraction. It also helped me to bond with my walking foot as I did not want to hand quilt another large quilt. (One uses a walking foot attachment in order to machine quilt on a domestic sewing machine, FYI if you are not a quilter).

(BTW I have hand quilted six large double bed sized quilts over the years and each time, on finishing the quilt, have said I will not tackle another one. Ha ha.)

The quilt is called Hufflepuff and while it is big in size, it is not the big quilt that I want to make. I will continue to dream about and plan for the making of this elusive magnum opus.

To continue to brag, I have stitched 46 pieces this year: 16 small works, 18 quilts, and (nearly) 12 kantha samplers — hence the title of this post. Many times during the year I thought how lucky I was to be able to stitch my way through the days of uncertainty and boredom.

When the South African lockdown was extended for a further 21 days from March into April I marked this with the following kantha sampler, which is my favourite one.

Kantha sampler for April 2020

The tutorials offered by various artists through the TextileArtist.org Stitch Club were excellent and stimulating and experimental. I produced many practice pieces and my favourite is this rendition of a succulent called Crassula falcata. It was inspired by Merril Cormeau’s workshop.

A high note was getting third prize in the Brother competition. The theme of the challenge was ‘my favourite things’ and I entered a quilt about gardening. The forked trowel depicted in the quilt was first created at a Stitch Club workshop led by Sue Stone.

Garden of Delights. (Photograph from the Brother website)

It is good to know that the pair of quilts Day Tree and Night Tree give pleasure to the ones who commissioned their making.

The South African group of textile artists, Fibreworks, currently has an exhibition at the Tatham Gallery in Natal. I am proud to say that five of my pieces are hanging there. The exhibition spurred me on to complete a Kantha style piece called Full Lotus.

It is a companion piece to the following work, made earlier in the year and called Half Lotus


My year ended with the sad and terrifying news of the death from COVID of one of my close quilting companions. The statistics are no longer just numbers for me…

31 thoughts on “My Year of Stitching

  1. Oh Mariss, I’m so sorry that you have lost a friend to Covid. That is, indeed, sad and frightening. I’m sending my sincere sympathies, along with prayers for peace and comfort. Thank you for letting me enjoy your concert of quilts through 2020. How lovely they all are!

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  2. So sorry you lost a friend to this terrible disease.
    I’ve enjoyed following you on your stitching journey this year so I am certainly pleased that you were so productive!

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  3. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.
    With deepest sympathies, as you remember your friend.
    You have had a very productive year of beautiful creations.
    I look forward to your posts, as they are always so inspirational.

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  4. So lovely reading about all of your wonderful creations. I’m sure they brought an air of sanity to your year …

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  5. Dear Mariss
    I have just realized that the comment I left on your post yesterday for some reason has disappeared.
    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and stitching companion – tragically Covid is touching all of us and these are such sad and worrying times. We all try to find solace and comfort even in the face of the pandemic to bring us the strength we need, and I can see how stitching and all it entails can bring that. It was good to see your year in stitching and the April Kantha stitch sampler is a wonderful emblem of some of what we have been through.
    Sending love xxx

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  6. You have made a lot of wonderful creative works this year. I think a lot of people had more time to be more creative. For me, art helped me get through the isolation and the stress. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend.

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    1. Thank you for finding my post and for your encouraging comments, Shasta. Yes, thank heavens for being able to lose oneself in making quilts and art.
      I love your label. Do you live on High Road, or have you taken the high road, I idly wonder.

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  7. I too am sorry for the loss of your friend to this dreadful disease rampaging still as we enter 2021. I’ve only just started to “follow” you – so it’s pleasing to see what you have created over this past year. I love the Kantha stitching that you have been making and I also love the “trowel in the garden” quilt.

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  8. Wow, when you see everything you accomplished in 2020 it’s an incredible body of work! Beautiful pieces, every one… I hope you’re glowing with pride. I’m sorry to hear the news about your friend though – as you say, the statistics become more than numbers when they include a loved one. Hopefully 2021 will bring us all some better news 😊

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  9. These are incredible. I cannot choose a favorite, but if I had to, it would be the “waiting for rain” one.

    Is this something a total novice could do?

    Do you have any posts dedicated to new quilters/stitchers? I have some fabric (some…. fat quarters?) but I do not know where to even begin! I don’t have a sewing machine, if that says anything. >_O

    Going through your posts helps me feel calm.

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    1. Thank you! It is gratifying to read that my posts make you feel calm — stitching keeps me calm and it is nice to know that that radiates out from the work.
      Anyone can do anything and you can always stitch by hand. It just takes longer than sewing by machine. While I do try to explain methods used to make quilts in my posts, I think a new quilter would benefit from more detailed tutorials. I have learnt from attending workshops over the years, but there must be tutorials on UTube? Good luck with starting your career as a stitcher. Be warned, though, it is highly addictive!
      A stash of fat quarters is very good place to start. Assume you have needle and thread? (ha ha)

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