Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wednesday's Workbox (2nd May)

I stitched this applique centrepiece for our dining table when our cubs were wee - quite a few years ago! It was something I could pick up and work on now and then in a few spare minutes, whilse simultaneously keeping an eye on them as they played or worked at their assignments, as it was easy to put down whenever they needed my attention and pick up again later (knitting is not so easy to do this with - especially if you are working on a complicated pattern! But crochet blankets were another project I could do in this way - and still do today).

Like the crochet blankets I work which use all my spare bits of yarn left over from bigger knitting projects, this piece of stitching designed itself! It is made up of left over bits of fabric from garments and home furnishings that I have sewn over the years, together with some pieces of felt fabric that Little Bear used when she was learning to sew, and odd wee notions and bits of habadashery that I had in my sewing box. I used a large piece of undyed calico as the backing, and blanket-stitched it all round to prevent it from fraying with red embroidery floss. I then cut the heart shapes freehand, using the first one as a template for the others. After that I was able to work on each heart individually, creating designs with the odds and ends that I had. I remember really enjoying this part of the work - I could sew each heart in about an hour, and I worked several more in matching pairs, which I then stitched together and stuffed with wadding to use as decorations at Christmas. Little Bear was also inspired to sew some of her own - small shapes like this are ideal for a little girl to learn her stitches and to make into a manageable and rewarding project of her own. I recommend felt fabric for younger girls to sew with as it is extremely easy to work on - being stiff but flexible, it is easy to cut, and it doesn't fray either. It has a good texture for beginner sewers to sew with as it holds the stitches well and is easy to handle, but its major drawback is that it cannot be washed (although we use this piece of stitching as a centrepiece for the dining table, it is removed when we actually sit down to eat, for this reason. I also like to drape it over the radiator in our hallway sometimes, as it looks pretty hanging there and brightens up an otherwise quite plain area of our home). For other little girl projects such as dolls clothes, that will need to be washable, I would use a medium weight brushed cotton, which is thicker and therefore easier to handle than ordinary polycotton or cotton fabric, and seems not to fray as easily either.

Piecing the hearts together on the large block of fabric was a bit like making up a patchwork quilt (something I have only ever done once - when I was expecting Little Bear. I created a beautiful cot quilt for her in floral greens, peaches and creams, edged with the prettiest cream cotton lace - very feminine, so it was just as well our first baby was a little girl!) - there were only 9 hearts, but I enjoyed taking time to switch them around until I had a combination that I really liked. Then I pinned and basted them on using an invisible stitch, and it was done! It was so easy, and I was so pleased with the result that I remember having grand ideas that I would make a cover like this for our bed, but not using felt - but other projects became more important, so that is another one still on my long, long list of sewing to-do's!

Applique is fun to do because unlike patchwork, it doesn't need to be measured precisely. It's a bit like making a collage out of fabric - your imagination is the only limit to what you can create. This is a really simple example - if you look on the internet or in craft magazines or books, you'll see some really wonderful designs - ones that look like landscapes or sunsets, or exotic animals with layers of texture and colour to create their coats. Art galleries are another source of inspiration for creative needlework like this - and they're often free to visit, too! Using up your spare bits and bobs of fabric like this is a great way to be frugal as well - and you fetch up with something lovely for your home, or to give as a gift, as the end result too.