So what do you DO with it?

Some time ago I wrote about my unfortunate experiences with a sewing machine that had a mind of its own. The intention had been to finish a door hanger as a Christmas present for our niece. It is now February and I am ashamed to admit that the pretty turquoise/navy initial "I" is still a flat piece of Hardanger. So this Saturday I am determined to tackle that sewing machine and get to work on it – keep an eye on the Gallery where I hope it will appear by Monday!

All this answers (to some extent) the question in the title; one that is often asked by non-stitching spouses, relatives and friends. In a way it is a non-question. I don’t know about you, but I stitch because I enjoy stitching. I enjoy choosing (or designing) a chart, getting all the materials together, perhaps making changes to the colours or adding some embellishments, seeing the design take shape under my needle … Whether the finished article ever gets put to any use (be it decorative or practical) is of secondary importance. And if you find that people are challenging you about this, ask them what they DO with a game of cards they played, or a round of golf, or with a book they read or a film they watched. Unlike all those hobbies, stitching not only gives you a very pleasant time while working on your project, you also have something to show for it at the end. Taking it a step further and turning your stitching into an object for use, display, or present-giving, is nice when it works, but it’s no disaster when it doesn’t happen.

Even so, most stitchers (myself included) do like to do something with their finished projects, if only because it seems such a shame to just bung them in a drawer and forget about them. Framing is the obvious choice, although quite a few stitchers find that after a few years they start running out of wall space. And if, like mine, many of your projects are relatively small, framing may not be the best option (for one thing, it is quite expensive!)

This is one of the reasons for the Gallery – it shows some ideas for making up finished pieces of stitching. And by the end of next week I hope there will be a few more ideas than there are now!
Besides the tuck cushion door hanger there should be two other finishes, one decorative-but-not-particularly-useful, and one which you may actually use on your desk (or give to a loved one with a desk job). The former is a biscornu (basically a wonky cushion) made from the two versions of Shades; the latter is a pen holder.

Nothing much surprises my husband about me, but I think even he was taken slightly aback when I asked him in the middle of the night whether the formula for the circumference of a circle was indeed 2πr and what he thought the diameter of a toilet roll was. He kindly answered my questions, though, and I scribbled a few quick notes on the pad by my bed. The idea is to hem a piece of stitching with four-sided edging, cover a carefully measured cardboard tube with felt or paper in a suitable colour for shining through your cut areas, whip-stitch the two short ends of the four-sided edging together to make a cylinder, and slip it over the cardboard tube. The tube needs a bottom, of course, and the stitching may need to be attached to the cardboard in some way (though I hope to make it such a snug fit that it’ll just stay put), but that should make a very attractive pen holder with not too much effort!

That may be a case of Famous Last Words, of course …

An ornament saga

Remember the Hardanger fireworks idea? Well, it didn’t work. It all looked terribly clunky and not nearly fine and spidery and elegant enough for fireworks. So I now have a name hanging around with nothing to do … Watch this space, I may think of something yet!

On to what is occupying my mind at the moment, which is ornaments. I have once or twice hand-sewn ornaments. The Autumn Wreath tuck cushion is an example. But it is far from ideal, and so I felt I really ought to get, and learn how to use, a sewing machine.

Autumn Wreath Tuck Cushion

The first bit turned out to be easier than expected. Looking into simple sewing machines that would do straight stitch, zigzag, and reverse, and not much more, I found that in spite of their simplicity they would make a sizeable dent in the budget. But then the sewing machine which had resided for years in the attic (given to my husband years ago by, he thinks, a sister) and which I vaguely remembered as fiercely complex turned out to be a very nice Singer with exactly the stitch options I wanted and no more.

From then on it should have been simple. Set up the machine, do a bit of practising on scraps of fabric, sew a practice ornament using a finished piece that won’t be too difficult to stitch again should things go terribly wrong (I chose the red Frills) and then get on with creating an attractive door hanger as a Christmas present for our niece, using an initial I, a bit of ribbon and some lovely turquoise patchwork fabric. And I had well over a month to do it in. What could possibly go wrong?

Isobel

What went wrong was the sewing machine. We set it up on the kitchen table, I read the manual for a bit, then tried a few stitches on some fabric scraps, and all was tickety-boo. I turned aside to look up a particular stitch in the manual (keeping my foot well away from the pedal), and all of a sudden the machine started sewing like a thing possessed, and would not stop! In the end I had to use the on/off switch it to make it stop, and whenever we tried turning it on again, with no-one so much as breathing on the pedal, off it went again.

A manic sewing machine is a frightening thing for an absolute sewing novice, and might have been enough to put me off for life if it hadn’t been for this ornament that needed finishing. My husband managed to find a replacement pedal, so I resolved to have another go as soon as it arrived. Unfortunately it took rather longer than expected, and by the time it arrived I was in the throes of Christmas preparations and a rather nasty cold, and in no fit state to tackle learning a new skill.

So niece got a solemn promise for Christmas, and I will make use of the fact that my mother-in-law is with us for a week as she is a whizz with a sewing machine and will be able to show me the ins and outs of this one. We may even finish the door hanger before the year is out! However well I get on though, Frosty Pine will probably not be gracing our Christmas tree until next year.

Frosty Pine