A Kindness of Quilters

I have dropped the military this post in favour of one of my other passions  – quilting!

I love patchwork and quilting, it satisfies so many of my creative itches, it has colour and in has order and symmetry. I have never been one of those for whom creativity is winging it or free expression, I didn’t even colour outside the lines when I was a child, in fact I found people who did unnerving and slightly disturbing, I like the certainty of straight lines and carefully measured angles.

I’m a bit the same with writing, while the plot might be a road I travel to find the end, I can’t have characters without purpose, I don’t do spear carriers, at least not willingly, every person and every event I create must have a reason, they must be a part of a complete pattern. I might get into a mix of shades like a Log Cabin block, but in the end all the blocks must come together to form one cohesive quilt.

I belong to several sewing groups, Market Street Quilters is fairly large, about fifty of us. I go here for talks and classes and for exhibitions, we have one every three years to show off what has been made since the last one and to raise money for a charity. The next is in 2020 and I will share tales of organisation, exhibits and rising panic another time, here I want to talk about the two other less formal groups.

I guess you can divide them into Sewing Sisters – hand sewing and Stich in Time – machine stitching, but all variations are welcome and all types of fabric craft as well. I want to talk about them not just because they are both made up of a bunch of talented women, but because they are also truly lovely women.

As some of you know I have recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’ve been becoming more and more disabled over the last couple of years and now I am awaiting referral for a wheelchair, which will be a necessity in the near future, In the mean time I wobble about on two sticks.

Sympathy is all very well and sometimes I feel sympathy is often nothing more than curioustity, but kindness is another matter and the women who make up theses two sewing groups are some of the kindest and most companionate people I know.

They take care of me, they bring me coffee and biscuits, they pick up anything I drop. When we go anywhere, a quilt shop or out to lunch, they make sure they get me as close to the destination as they can and they always find me a seat. They carry stuff for me, be it my sewing machine or a purchase, one of the bugbears of two sticks is not being able to carry anything.

And they do all this without making me feel a nuisance, in fact, just the opposite, they make me feel wanted and valued which for someone like me with the self worth of a discarded sandwich wrapper is a bit moving and makes me want to have a little cry every now and then. I’m pretty sure I’m a pain in the neck, but they never allow me to feel like one.

I could name them, but I might miss one and I would never want to do that. And probably none of them will read this, not having my taste for soldiers or for the sort of books and stories I write, but in case they do….THANK YOU….love Bev.

The picture is from the last exhibition, my first and possibly last king sized quilt.

 

 

 

Teatime with a Zombie

One of the best things about writing books and short stories is doing research about stuff you need to know in order to convince a reader you aren’t as thick as a bucket full of day old porridge.

When I wrote “A Solemn Curfew”, the biggest story in “A Solemn Curfew and Other Dark Tales”, I did loads and loads of work on mushrooms and how to cook them. I discovered varieties with really great names like Black Trumpet, Scarlet Hood and Amethyst Deceiver, you can eat those three, and Lilac Bonnet, Brown Roll Rim and Panther Cap, all of which will kill you faster than you can say “cook quickly in hot foaming butter”

Currently I am working on a couple of projects, over and above the Scots one (see previous post), one which involves toxoplasma which I will leave for now as it is making even me go “yuck” and the other is about zombies.

As most of you undoubtedly know, zombies come in two types, there are the shuffling, infectious, brain devouring types…socially difficult, not good at dinner parties, but probably very amiable once you get to know them…and the Haitian sort who don’t eat brains, usually speak very good French and while being a little bit dead, don’t hog all the nibbles at a buffet.

For the purposes of my project, I have decided the first sort won’t do for London in 1934, but the second type will fit in perfectly. If nothing else, they won’t notice the weather, which might limit their conversation, but does mean they won’t complain the rain.

The research has been fascinating, you wouldn’t believe how much of the internet is devoted to zombies…one second thought, you probably would, it s not as much as there is about cats of course, but it is a fair chunk. BTW, I have been forced to introduce a damned cat to my Mrs Lillicrop stories. What is it about cats? They manage to slide themselves into any situation where there is a big sign saying “no cats.”

I’m not anti cats, we are currently allowed to be of everyday service to Fitzwilliam Big Chief Paddy Paws Our Cat Allen, an elderly Birman of uncertain temper and an addiction to the contents of a “Goody Bag”. Today’s favour choice is Mixed Grill which is okay, but I have been made aware that the absence of “seafood Cocktail” is not what he has come to expect and someone had better get down into the town and buy the right sort asap.

However, as the breed was probably unknown in London in the 1930’s and Fitz doesn’t require anything to further inflate his ego, I have chosen a black and white one. He was supposed to be just an ordinary moggy, like my very first cat Tim who came to live with us when I was four, but…of course…he promptly promoted himself to Chief Secondary Character II, named himself Hezekiah and looks a lot like this.

Back to zombies…see what I mean about cats, one second you are having a very reasonable discussion on a subject of cultural interest and the next second you are ankle deep in fuzz and fur…the important question I needed answers for is “can you invite a zombie for tea?” and if you can, should you ask him home or to a suitable venue.

If it is home, what do you serve? Would Gentleman’s Relish on toast be too salt, apparently you can kill a zombie with a salt sandwich. Are meringues acceptable? Would a Victoria Sponge be just a bit much for anyone who used to have some French blood running through their veins?

Come to that, what do they eat in Haiti? I see more research is required.

 

On a much more mundane, but important note, a certain very important small person has reached the amazing age of three and as such requires a celebratory quilt. In honour of this, I am have way through a “Cat in the Hat” one which I will post pictures of once I have sorted out the half square triangles whose points have failed to meet quite as well as they should. And I’ve done the quilting of course.

If you feel you can, please click the “follow” button and let me know if you want to hear more about what is going on in my writing, cooking, quilting world.

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Glass Tulips

After all the stuff about the new book and soldiers and muskets, I thought I would show you a bit more of what I do when I’m not writing.

My husband says I was probably attracted to quilting because of the toys…so many things with sharp blades and steely points where always going to be right up my street.

Ignoring him and moving on… I went to a show on Sunday where the quilters had done a class I had done, Stain Glass Patchwork with Gail Lawther. you can find her and the wonderful things she can do here

http://www.gaillawther.co.uk/v3/workshops/

I wish I could say my skills are up to her standards, but I did my best and I was not displeased with what I produced. Here is my version of Tulips.

Quilts Are Love

A surprising announcement perhaps for a writer like me, but there you go, I really believe and I need to do something in between conjuring up stories about…okay let’s skip my weird writing ways and talk quilts.

A hand made quilt starts with the pleasure of picking fabrics. Either you raid your stash or, after a five second struggle with your conscience, a trip to your local fabric shop. I love this bit, the feel of cloth under my fingers and the colours and the designs.

Then there is laying out what you have chosen on the work table and deciding just what you are going to make. Sensible quilters obviously start with a pattern in mind and fit fabric to that, I on the other hand, have no resolution and no moral fibre, can be seduced by fabric and then need to find a pattern to fit what my fancy has found. Then, of course, I have to go and buy more fabric to match what I have just bought in order to have enough to do what I have now come up with.

Now comes the beginning and the pleasure of the rotary cutter slicing through cloth and a buzz of the sewing machine as you piece.

And once the top is finished, there is quilting to be done.

Then the binding.

I love all of it (except perhaps the basting, but I don’t know a quilter who loves basting), but once the quilt is made, it is time to spread the love.

We all start making quilts for those who are nearest to us, our family and friends, but very soon that isn’t enough and quilters start looking further afield and they begin to make quilts for people beyond their immediate circle. They make them for strangers who need a little love.

I know people who make quilts for wounded soldiers and for victims of disaster and violence, people they will never know, but for whom they send their skill and their love.

They make them for teenagers who have been shown the door and who now have nothing.

They make them with lots of textures and accessories and trimmings  for those suffering with dementia as touch therapy.

In my group we make quilts for Project Linus

http://projectlinusuk.org.uk/

And we make little quilts, 16 inches by 20 inches for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at our local hospital. Tiny quilts for tiny babies made with love and given with our love.

Here is one I made for my godmother who lived and worked in Africa. Made with love for someone I loved.

 

 

 

Why I’m Not Writing

At the moment I can’t concentrate.

Why I hear you cry.

Because, in a moment of total madness I said I would organise our next quilt show. I think I’ve done it, more or less, but as a famous general once said, no plan survives its first encounter with the enemy.

Done it or not, its keeping me awake at night. And I don’t mean tossing and turning, I mean laying in the dark staring at the ceiling. I usually get up when the birds begin to warble.

However, judging from what contributions I have seen so far, the ladies of Market Square Quilters have done me proud and there will be some glorious quilts on show.

This year’s charity ( we raffle a full sized double bed quilt made by us, its the one in the back ground of the picture. Made from American Civil War reproduction fabrics) is Living Paintings.

http://www.livingpaintings.org/who-we-are/history

Not a famous charity, but check out what they do, I think you’ll be impressed.

If you are anywhere near, come along and see us…okay, I know its a bit far for you lovely followers in America and India ( love you guys), but should you feel the need to jump on a plane and come, there will be cake and I’ll buy the tea.

Keep watching quilt lovers, because once the show is over I will posting pictures.