It is the 11th of the 11th 2011 and I am in commemorative spirit; yesterday at Heart Space Studios we made the beginnings of a series of commemorative crazy patchwork pieces. After the last Crazy Patchwork workshop one of the participants Jane, asked me if I could help her make some more patchworks using the beautiful tweed jackets that had belonged to her husband, she could not bring herself to throw them away after his death, but now saw a way that she might be able to use them to make gifts for their children.
I was very pleased to be asked to conduct a one-to one session with her to help cut into the jackets and organise the patchworks. I knew it would be really difficult so I volunteered to cut into them for her , suggesting that she make a start by unpicking and when she arrived she had carefully unpicked and pressed them all; 3 beautiful tweeds in soft shades of beige, grey and brown and she also brought some club and military ties that she had been unable to part with, and a piece of her husband’s Scottish clan tartan.
This is what I find so compelling about many old and used fabrics, the story behind each piece; “Make, Do and Mend” is not such a simple statement when applied to projects like this. The first thing to do was to cut the cloths to make a sample piece of patchwork. I wasn’t taking any chances with such valuable fabrics.
The little sample would tell us what size patches would work best, which fabrics worked well together and what the ratio of ties to tweeds was best. The clan tartan turned out to be the right size to make backings for 3 cushions….so only the ties and tweeds to be organised
But the most important thing of all for the success of the project was selecting the colours of the embroidery yarns, they had to be chosen and tested. I had brought several types of woolen yarns for Jane to sample, the usual tapestry 4 ply and some crewel wools that can be used singly or in multiples, very useful for developing colour combinations. Looking at the colours embedded in the tweeds it was a real pleasure to try to match them ..and at first the pale turquoise crewel yarn seemed the best choice
But the colour that really delighted and just kept calling to her, was a zingy hot pink – not what you would imagine for this soft and hazy set of fabrics, but it demanded to be used, Jane kept laughing every time she picked it up.
We also discussed putting a message or an initial onto the piece, and I explained how in the Crazy tradition there are lots of written messages..so she is writing her husband’s initials on a corner piece of each cushion, but has just emailed me to say that her daughter wants her to just write ‘Dad’ on hers.
The use of the crewel yarns in the different tied herringbone stitches makes it easy to combine colours to soften and blend the brightest yarns.
Now Jane had to get brave and cut up enough to make a whole cushion square to take home with her – we distributed the tie fabrics between the tweeds…quite a bit of work ahead …
the last task before she left the studios was to machine stitch everything into place ready for the decorative stitches that are the true embroiderer’s delight in making Crazies.
During the workshop Jane explained that she had taken tailoring lessons to make her husband a coat from some tweed he had bought from Scotland, she now wondered what she should do with it – my suggestion is to combine the left over tweeds from the jackets and use them to make a huge throw or blanket using a strippy quilt design….so she is now happy that she does not have to throw it out but most importantly, when I wrote to ask her permission to use her ‘story’ she replied that she now felt that the jackets had “still got a life”. That is why I really appreciate using old and loved textiles to remake and recycle.