Tuesday, 8 April 2008

In the Beginning

I suppose I have nearly always known about patchwork. When I was small, say 5 or 6, Mum made a couple of patchwork cushions. They were made using English paper piecing hexagons and the cushions were also hexagonal in shape. The fabric was left over from dressmaking and there was no design as such at all, just whatever fabric came out of the scrap bag. I helped by tacking the patches onto the papers and I remember having little go at sewing hexagons together. Those cushions have long since gone to the great couch in the sky.

My next go at patchwork was when I was about 10 or 11. A new craft shop "The Old Bakehouse Gallery" was opened at O'Connell. It was housed in the old bakery next to the pub. Mum contributed some bits and pieces for sale and I made four patch potholders. This was in the mid seventies and would have been bold primary colours and probably more dressmaking scraps, lined with woollen fabric or flannelette scrap and bound with bias binding. I was probably more confident thenwith sewing on the bias binding than I would be now! I probably only made a few, but they obviously sold.
I didn't do any more patchwork for quite some time. I concentrated on making my own clothes and doing a bit of knitting and embroidery. After I left school I started working at the Bank. Sue, one of the ladies I worked with started going to patchwork classes at Tech. This was back in the days when you could study non-vocational subjects at Tech. She kindly loaned me her notes, which I meticulously copied and I traced all the patterns. I still have them all somewhere. I remember Mum and I going to the local Art Gallery and admiring all the sampler quilts that local ladies had created during the year's Tech course.

Mum and I went to Sydney on one of my Rostered Days Off and we went to "Home Yardage" in the city and I bought some patchwork fabric. This was real American patchwork fabric. I bought 25cm of a few co-ordinating fabrics. (I am still using some of them and just used the last of one on my latest quilt.) I then made a patchwork cushion using one of the patterns I had been given. Looking back, Sue would have been taught the American way of hand piecing, but in my ignorance, the only method I knew was English paper piecing, so I made my cushion using that method with tiny little stitches. I still have the cushion. It is very faded and should probably join Mum's hexagonal cushions but I just can't throw it away.

After my initial success with the cushion I made a patchwork coathanger cover. I had seen one similar somewhere, so worked out the dimensions and created my own version, although I changed the shape of the patchwork pieces, so I suppose this was my first go at designing some patchwork. Once again, it was made from dressmaking scraps. One of the fabrics is also included in the Wagga that my grandmother made in the early 50's, but more about that later. I did cheat and used some plastic tubing over the hook rather than fabric. I still use the coathanger all the time and recently made another one for Mum for a gift. Sew Sisters, the patchwork group I am in saw me working on it, so I wrote up the pattern and did a mini workshop, which was fun. I'd never taught anyone before. The range of colours and looks that were achieved was great. I wish I'd got a photo. They were mainly in country colours, not at all like the ones I had made, which were both pretty much the same.

That was the last patchwork I did for about 15 years. I got married, we renovated an old house, did up old furniture, then built our current house, so didn't get back to it for quite a while. It was one of those things I always admired but just didn't get around to.

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