Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Social sewing

Before sewing there was knitting.  I taught myself to knit about ten years ago with some metal needles, cheap yarn and a simple book.  In no time I was hooked and knitting accompanied me everywhere.  I have photos of me knitting at the top of the Empire State Building, on mountain summits in the Alps, as well as at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  But knitting also accompanied me on train journeys, in a waiting room, in a traffic jam and at some family gatherings, much to some relatives' disdain.  I still love knitting and always have a pair of socks on the go so any moment of inertia or waiting can be made purposeful.

Knitting also allowed me to meet people who I otherwise would not have.  In Sheffield we have a local knit night on a Tuesday in a pub.  It started off as an opportunity to share a hobby with like-minded people but now it's more about meeting the people and the fact we have knitting in common is just a bonus.

I knew sewers and I admired their work but I just couldn't imagine putting down the needles to learn a new craft.  Also, knitting is the perfect hobby to take with you anywhere.  As I knit mainly socks all I need is a ball of wool, four double pointed needles and my counter and off I go.  When I got the sewing bug I was worried that the cumbersomeness of the machine and the paraphernalia needed for sewing would mean sewing would be private and not something I would do in public.

But at our Tuesday knit night there is a revolution taking place because last night (and for most of the past few months) I was sewing in public.  English Paper Piecing, especially hexagons, are ideal for social sewing.  It's extremely time consuming compared to machine sewing but there is always a wow factor from hexagons because of the beautiful patterns and tessellations.

I've been working on this quilt for a few months on and off.  I know it's not a quick project but piecing these hexagons together is deeply satisfying and can be done with little fuss and whilst talking to others.  Hexagons are to sewing what socks are to knitting: repetitive, meditative, simple.  You also don't need much stuff; fabric, hexagons, scissors, thread and needle.  A little bag keeps all these things together and sewing suddenly becomes more portable and sociable.

The fabrics here are Briar Rose by Heather Ross for Windham Fabrics.  These fabrics were out a while before I came across them.  I think they are absolutely gorgeous and love the mixture of bright colours and pastel shades.  Spending a long time on a project is no problem when the fabrics are so mesmerising and enchanting.

Look carefully at the quilt, however, and there is an irony here.  Today I've spent this post convincing people sewing is as great as knitting and yet this one little bee is knitting away.  The bee doesn't agree!  Clearly the fabric is reminding me that sewing is fun but so too is knitting.  I think working on this project for a while will send me subliminal messages to get out the socks again.  I don't suppose it's a competition.  Some days I want to knit, other days I want to sew.  Aren't I lucky to have two crafts to enjoy?

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