A Maker's Journey - The Project

The 1980s Baby Blanket Cover

The original title floating in my head, while I spent most of March getting familiar with the seam ripper, had simply been the 1982 Baby Blanket – not just the cover. However, as the days and evenings went by were I slowly unpicked and then diligently re-assembled the work my mother had completed decades ago, any thoughts on running ahead with an easy project disintegrated like the frayed pieces of fabric I had pulled from the blanket. 

Only a few weeks into the journey I had to accept that I wouldn’t complete the blanket in time for this first letter from the road, let alone the top cover, ultimately forcing me to reconcile with a much slower pace than my enthusiasm had hoped for. 

Still, it seems fitting to have started this journey, which is about creating with care and frugality in mind, with a mend instead of a new make. Therefore, I’m grateful for opting for the repair of the oldest piece in my fabric collection: the baby blanket my mother had sewn for my arrival on Earth. (Interestingly the only piece of fabric, I can think of, my mother and I ever agreed on. We have a lot of things in common, but taste is not one of them. Clothes shopping with her in my teenage years was generally an exercise of eye rolling on my part and shoulder shrugging an hers as she pulled frilly dress after flowery blouse from the racks to present to her plain jeans and printless t-shirts wearing daughter.)

Yet, I couldn’t help feeling at times greatly mislead by the simple design of patchwork squares and sometimes crooked stitching that suggested the work of a beginner and therefore a straight forward fix. Instead was faced with a conscientious make and probably 100s of meters of thread, as my mother had taken great care of not only sewing the pieces together but sealing all edges of the small squares with zigzag stitches. Not to mention the cursing that ensued once I realised my underestimation of the fragility that nearly 40 years of use and love would bring to probably any object. As I began the tedious job of stitching it all back together and more than once had to undo a thread and re-sew the patches as their frail edges had disappeared into the sewing machine or worse found my darning needle in the later stages widening a hole rather than sealing it.

A timely reminder then to not only fully apply myself with care and consideration to this project, but also show myself grace and compassion in the face of my crumbling (literally) aspirations.
Words from Elizabeth Gilbert came to my mind in the midst of a particularly seam ripper intense phase:
‘I didn’t promise the universe to write something good’, she wrote in her bestseller Big Magic. ‘I only promised to write.’

And thus I realigned my tools that day and reminded myself that nope, I never said I would make anything good – particularly in the beginning – I just said I would make and write about it.

Thankfully for the salvation of my ego, it’s not like I haven’t anything to show for the past few weeks. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve replaced all torn pieces with new cotton squares and stitched most of the smaller holes back up, reinforcing the particularly delicate fabrics in the process.
For the replacement fabric I have landed, after much consideration, on some home-made naturally died scraps in plain green, grey and light blue from my stash. Which I once, a few summer ago, had made myself, when I figured natural dyeing could be my thing (I’m still undecided on that one). Rather than trying to hide the mend I wanted the new patches to be complementary to the existing ones without erasing the historical changes. 

For the repair of the smaller holes, I originally chose to darn them. However, after the first two holes only got bigger by my attempts to close them, I moved on to reinforcing the perforated patches instead, tacking some backing fabric to them with sashiko-style running stitches in colour matching embroidery thread. Nearly 5 holes down, there are only about as much to go. Before I can finally sew the cover and back together again, refilling the blanket with some lovely cotton batting.

And yet it is, given the tender state of things, still not without hesitation that I’m uttering the hope that I will soon be able to present a completed mend. Until then I shall get comfortable with the new pace of things around here and probably keep the seam ripper close by.

A Maker's Journey - The Project

The Pile

The Englishman’s scepticism is palpable as I get my camera out. In front of us, framed by the hawthorn hedge, balances a precariuosly but hopefully photogenicly stacked pile of fabrics on a kitchen stool. It’s unclear wether the eye roll is aimed at the structural soundness of my arrangement, why I had to haul it up here to the allotment for a picture or the entire endeavour that drives this photoshoot. 

Whichever, I can’t say I haven’t earned it. The pile itself is a physical testimony to my track record of unfinished, failed or forgotten projects. It consist of about four baskets and two bags of textiles. Scraps, remnants of past sewing projects, never-attempted clothes repairs and fruitless intentions manifested in over 20m of yet to be used bought or gifted fabric.

Thankfully despite all the visual evidence of my lack of success, my enthusiasm for new projects never seems to seize. Which brings us here to the hawthorn hedge. Where me and this pile of fabric are about to embark on a journey together. A voyage of making and writing; and I’ve lugged the boxes and bags up here to take a final picture before our departure.

Our destination is not quite clear yet. There is no map to guide us. Just a few travel rules and a vivid picture in my imagination of a clear home studio space and a blog full of words.

It’s a sunny place in my mind. Freed from all the fabric that has accumulated around me over the past 10 years and freed from the mental shackles that keep me tied to my past ideas.

I’ve often longed for a life where I make meaningful things and write meaningful words for a living. It is the very reason why this blog was originally created in 2016 and why time and again I bought fabric and accepted donations that might one day become something. Everything was always driven by a desire to somehow earn a small living with my words and hands from the comfort of my own home.

This time, however, I’ve taken money out of the equation. Neither the pile of fabric nor the blog will be about making a living anymore. They will be about the way I live. The rules for this project, therefore, are simple: Make and write about it.

Yet, in some respect it’ll be much harder than that. For one year, starting from today, I challenge myself to prioritise something that won’t potentially earn money yet will take time away from my responsibilities as a mother and home keeper.
Using my resources for other things than the immediate comfort of my family has seemed utterly indulgent for the past years. Hence the Maker’s Journey is quite the daring invititation to myself to become an intentional maker and storyteller simply because I long to be (although it undoubetly will benefit my family as it asks me to make beautiful and useful things for our lives with the materials at hand, practicing creativity and frugality).

So, while that pile might stand for my past failures it also proves that if nothing else, I do dare. And so accompanied by a last shoulder shrug from the Englishman, I hunch down, the camera shutter clicks and the journey begins.