Making March: Patchwork Boats

Given the current situation we are probably all going to spend more time at home – perfect time to sew, paint or create. I have always tended to do things quickly; particularly with patchwork, if there was a short cut I’d find it. Not because I didn’t enjoy the making process but because being faced with at least five hundred, and sometimes nearer a thousand, pieces for a quilt could be daunting. I would break the process down: planning, cutting, tacking, piecing etc. Each part was enjoyable in itself but the sheer repetition involved meant I became more and more efficient without even trying. Now there is no particular merit in doing things quickly. These patchwork boats are time-consuming and, to a greater extent than other patchwork I’ve done, inflexible regarding the process. They need to be made on a relatively flat surface, with an iron handy – so no bunging a few patches into my pocket and tacking or sewing them together wherever I happen to be. That said, these boats have given me more pleasure than most of my other patchworks. I enjoy the slower making process and, perhaps because of that, I have been more pleased with the end results.

These are Boats 70 to 81 of the 100. Depending how they are laid out they are 30×30 inches or 24×40 inches; neither of which are particularly useful sizes. Also the panel with the first boat is slightly smaller than the others. So still a work in progress…..

As a final note, Al Stewart, with all his nautical songs, is a particularly suitable accompaniment to patchwork boats. Sparks of Ancient Light even has a ship on the front cover. 


Making February: Maps on Sails

I think I have come up with an idea that could revolutionise sailing: maps on sails. No more poring over charts or having to ‘go below’ to check one’s course; my plan would have the map right there on the sail, ready to be consulted at any time. To be honest, I can’t think why it hasn’t been done already (to be fair, I am not a sailor, so there may be practical hitches but, from my desk, I honestly can’t see them).

I have to admit, the idea came about by chance; I’d saved the pictures from last year’s calendar as they seemed too good to throw away and they were lying in a pile near the half-painted sails. These boats complete the bathroom fleet and hide the central light, which I’ve never liked. For those of you who are counting; they are numbers 16-19 of the second fifty.


Making January: The Beginnings of a New Fleet

I’ve made fifteen more boats. I’m using Ann Wood’s pattern, which I first tried out last November. She said the boats were best made in batches and this works for me too. I do them in batches of three or four so I can get on with something while I’m waiting for the paint/glue to dry.

For years I have saved snippets from newspapers and the collection increased rapidly when I started making papier mâché as I now save any interesting words, phrases or pictures I come across while tearing the strips. Again, following Ann Wood’s inspiration, I planned to use the words on boats. They didn’t fit on the little bunting boats but they are perfect for these larger paper ones. Each sail is painted on the front and has a word or phrase on the back – not exactly a name but something that suits the boat.

I’m not sure where the eventual fleet will hang, possibly from the kitchen ceiling. At the moment they are moored to my bookshelves. I like to think that at night, after I have turned out the lights and gone to bed, they slip their moorings under the books and sail away on adventures. Wherever they go, they are always back in their literary harbour by morning.


Making Week 25: Cushions and Not-New-Year’s Resolutions

Patchwork has got me through the last few weeks of ‘making’ and resulted in a couple of robust cushions that will make the uncomfortable garden bench positively cosy.

I have never been good at keeping New Year’s resolutions so, when I started the weekly making project back in July I deliberately decided on 25 weeks as I knew it would get me safely past the crucial time of making unsuccessful resolutions.

In fact I made a series of ‘resolutions’ on 22nd December and fine-tuned them on Twelfth Night. As far as I am concerned, once the winter solstice is passed it is a gentle slope all the way to summer: bright sunny mornings, long twilight evenings and meals in the garden.

Having roughly got the hang of papier mâché and put my patchwork fabrics into some sort of order my plan is to complete things this year. First the remaining fifty boats. Then the partly-made castle, the planned patchworks and a host of other things that are at the ‘to be started/finished very soon’ stages. I am planning to set aside one day each week for making, and ideally finishing, things. I’ll post them once a month to balance the garden posts, which I’m going to alter slightly this year.  

Roy Lancaster has started a new series in The Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society’s monthly magazine, called Through my Window. I spend a considerable time looking out of the window, both intentionally and when I am meant to be working. Unlike his, my garden is tiny and, also probably unlike him, I do very little actual gardening between October and March. The lack of space means I can’t rely on trees to provide year-round interest and the same lack means I can’t afford much space for ‘winter-interest’ plants. Summer is when I spend most time in the garden (gardening and sitting) so it is then that most of my plants need to look their best. But I look out of my windows all year and I’m convinced that I always have something, however small, to look at. The following posts will see if this is true. For the moment here are some wafty grasses, winter jasmine flowers and someone who knows she is not meant to trample through the window boxes.


Childish in Chalks?

Occasionally one produces something that bears no relation to one’s intentions. A few weeks ago I decided to use chalks on blue paper for two poses of our faithful model, Kathryn. What I’d hoped to do  was obtain a few delicate flesh tones. What actually happened was the brightly coloured chalks produced an effect like a small boy’s vision of a naked lady before the age of the internet. It was strangely successful, without having any pretensions to art, although I have a curious feeling that Prince Andrew might refer to it as “a harmless bit of fun”. 


Brush and Wash

We had a life drawing session a couple of weeks ago and I had a go at using water soluble black ink and a fairly fine brush. The two drawings below, though far from brilliant, were among the more successful images that I produced. We had rather a good model, Kathryn, who fortunately possesses a sense of humour. If nothing else it was a pleasant evening.






Making Week 23: Waylaid by a Poem

Gyles Brandreth’s new book Dancing by the Light of the Moon is in the Hatchards catalogue so, for some time I have intended to look at it properly. The Hatchards review is accurate but based on a quick read and a skim which gives me an idea and feel of the book which is all I need for the sixty or so words I am meant to use for each review. Most of the ones I really want to read have to wait till later.

The premise of this book is that everyone would be better in every way if they learnt poetry. A nice idea, I thought, but never one I would put into practice. By the second page I was intrigued, by the fourth, completely hooked. My plan, written here so I stand a faint chance of implementing it, is to learn a poem each week next year. 


Salute to Paul Henry

Not having posted anything I made for months it seems a good opportunity to catch up between now and the New Year. This one, oils on canvas as usual, was inspired by the Irish artist Paul Henry who died in 1958. It’s not actually a copy, and certainly lacks the skill of his brushwork and gradations of colour, but is very much in his manner. No-one who hasn’t been to the West of Ireland will ever believe the hills and mountains are really that blue, but I absolutely promise they are!



Making Week 22: Having a plan for the bad times

This is a direct quote from Ann Wood but anyone who writes about the 100 Day Project stresses the same thing – you need a plan for when things don’t go well. My problem is that although I’ve been back from Edinburgh for nearly two weeks I haven’t got back into the boat-making routine. I’ve got lots of excuses: Christmas, work, writing, etc. but that’s all they really are – excuses. And at the moment I can’t see anything improving as one thing I have learnt is that to make the boats I need to be very focused, which I’m not at the moment. I can pick up patchwork for twenty minutes and achieve something; the same cannot be said of the boats. So the plan is going to be that I shall do patchwork for the remaining three weeks. Then, in January, I can decide what I’m going to do for the remaining fifty boats that I still need to make.

In the meantime here are eight miniature patchworks. I still haven’t got a clue what to do with them but I hope that, in due course, a plan will reveal itself.  



Making Week 20: Holiday Sewing

I have been in Edinburgh this week so it was time to revert to portable patchworks. I now have five completed mini quilts and four partly stitched ones. And still no idea what to do with them. On the plus side I’m using up lots of scraps but while I was in Edinburgh I visited Fabric Focus, which is one of my favourite fabric shops and came back with this:

It’s all bound to be useful one day……