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Time to Sew

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Since giving birth to the CUTEST baby girl on the planet, I’ve had to sort of….renegotiate…my relationship with time. There’s not much of it for quilting projects right now! Luckily, she now normally takes a good nap in the afternoon, and can sometimes be persuaded into an evening nap, which has meant that I’ve been able to get some quilting done. Huzzah!

Emily with baby Elizabeth

Even more luckily, I have a Juki straight stitch that sits on a quilting frame that I can assemble and disassemble in about 5 mins (no joke, it’s so easy even my husband can do it for me, without an instruction book!). This comes in handy because my quilting space is the dining room, and when dinner needs serving or people come round, the quilting projects, alas, have to go away. When you’re using a space in multiple ways, the ability to switch purposes quickly is a must. Because it’s so easy to assemble the frame, and I can keep my projects on the poles while it’s disassembled, if I find I have a spare half an hour I can get the frame onto the table and get quilting!

This Van Gogh project that I’ve just finished has taken me around 5 sessions to complete – 3 really good sessions of around 2 hours each, and two more sessions of around 1 hour. Oh, plus plenty of procrastination time.

This project has been on my mind for SO LONG. Ever since I did Starry Night by Van Gogh, I’ve wanted to reimagine more of his works in thread. The idea percolated in my head for a couple of years before I got the opportunity to start the project at the end of the summer just gone, when I finally got organised enough to measure my dining room table to see if my quilting frame would fit on it. It did – just!

I then sat down with a printed out image of the Wheat Fields with Cypresses that I wanted to work on, and matched the threads to it. Superior Threads were kind enough to sponsor the threads for me, and little did they know, but they set me an excellent challenge! They sent me the 500yd spools of King Tut, and I normally work with the larger top wound cones – when your machine runs 1500 stitches per minute, you need the thread to come off the top so that your tension is good. Below is a picture of the solution I found, which let the thread run off the spool quickly without affecting my tension. I thought it was rather smart!

Making do with the smaller 500 yd. King Tut spools.

I completed a base layer in a cream Magnifico thread, which helps me to figure out where everything is going to go and it has the added benefit of helping the material to lie flatter. Then I started filling in with colour! The King Tut range of threads is just stunning, and the colours are so rich that it was a total joy to work with them on this piece.

Sketching out the design with the cream base layer.

The first bit of this piece was slow going, because when I started it, I was around 8.5 months pregnant, and everything is a herculean effort at that point in the game! The frame then got put away with the arrival of little E, and it wasn’t until around 3 months later that I got it out again. It always feels a bit nerve-wracking to come back to a project after being away for a while – I always find myself questioning my ability (Will I be able to finish? Will I have lost the creative streak? Will I mess it up? etc.). Once I get into the flow of things though, I always calm down. Quilting for me is a bit like what running is for some people – it clears my mind, makes me forget everything else in the moment, and then brings me great satisfaction after I’ve finished!

Adding layers of thread to recreate the Van Gogh Wheatfields painting

I love adding all the layers of thread, one of top of the other, and seeing how it slowly builds into the detail of the image. I also really enjoy using fleece on the back of my projects, as this tends to let the material warp slightly with all the layers. I’ve been told I could stop that from happening by using different materials, but I honestly really like the way it gives an extra layer of texture to the whole thing.

Van Gogh’s print alongside Emily’s thread painting. Below you can see the quilting detail on the cypress trees.
Almost finished
Adding the red poppies to Emily’s version of Wheatfields with Cypresses has finished it.

People have asked me if I miss being at work now that I’m on maternity leave, and my honest answer is NO. I love being little E’s mother, it’s so strange and wonderful to watch her grow and learn and think and smile and do all the amazing things that babies do. I’m so very glad that I have quilting to turn to in those quiet moments of the day though, when she’s asleep, or having time with her daddy, and I am beyond thrilled to have a quilting frame and sewing machine combination that lets me get my projects done quickly! With quilting projects to work on at home, I don’t have to leave the house to feel like I’ve had a productive day.

I’m so glad that I can engage in creative pursuits along side the demands and joys of motherhood. Stitching this Van Gogh Wheatfields and Cypresses thread painting will spur me on to make sure that I find time to sew.

Emily used the Art Quilter 4-foot version of the Machine Quilter frame. It’s powered by our Juki straight stitch sewing machine and simply clamps to a table. Together they’re like a little long arm without the fuss.

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