Monday, 12 May 2014

The strangeness of it all


It feels quite curious that I somehow haven't mentioned here on my blog yet, the English paper piecing project that I'm currently working on, especially when I've been documenting each step in its progress over on Instagram. I try not to do things in that order, as for me, I enjoy the process of writing about making things, just as much as I do the actual sewing element. I wonder how others feel about this - is Instagram beginning to replace the need for actual blog posts for you - either as a reader or as a blogger/Instagram user yourself?


I like the instantaneousness of Instagram and also how easy it is to comment on what other people have posted, but I prefer blogs for getting a sense of the bits in between the photos. Occasionally, in the middle of cutting hundreds of tiny pieces of fabrics up and wrapping them around paper I'll suddenly be hit by a sense of 'what's it all for'. I feel slightly like an alien that's landed from Mars in my own life and am momentarily perplexed by these strange processes that I go through or the floor that is littered with carefully cut pentagons - what could be motivating them? For me, my blog somehow makes sense of this intrinsic need to 'make' in a way that the photos alone don't. Writing about it pulls it all together.

Sometimes I feel unnerved that quilt-making may lack a sense of true purpose in a modern age, other than to give the final user a quilted hand-made cuddle…but does that really require so many hours, weeks, months of work? In unheated houses, quilts were once functional things made to give warmth and it was up to the maker as to whether to go about that task attempting to also make the quilt aesthetically pleasing. Ditto clothing. But while we still need clothes to hide our nakedness, we no longer need quilts for the reasons we once did…and so there is a strangeness to the activity and I sometimes feel as though I am sewing with some unseen gravitational force from my quilting ancestors being channelled through me, because I'm not sure how else to justify the urgency I feel to spend my evenings feverishly hand-sewing or my need to fill all our over-stuffed cupboards with  more quilts, but it feels right and balancing in the most inexplicable way.

Anyway, the photos above show the beginnings of the Passacaglia quilt from Willyne Hammerstein's book that I mentioned in this post last year.


Above is just a small part of the quilt taken from her book - it's a series of partially completed cogwheels that interlock in a crazy, non-symmetrical mishmash of deliciousness randomness. Or at least it gives the impression of randomness - Willyne's pattern drafting skills leave me in total awe as I can't even comprehend how she planned this.

I think it's probably a rather long-term project. Over the weekend my son was helping me pick out some fabrics while studying the picture in the book and suddenly said: I think it's actually going to take you years to finish this. That's possibly a fair assumption when it's taken me three weeks to (nearly) complete just one cog, but that's mainly because I was paralysed by fabric indecision for several days at a time trying to pick fabrics for each new round.


The pieces you see here have mainly been fussy cut (cut so that exactly the same part of the print shows on each piece) from Tula Pink fabrics and a little bit of Anna Maria Horner. The Eclectic Maker currently have nearly all of Tula's Fox Field range in stock - I love the Sunrise colourway especially (and I don't think anyone folds a fat quarter more beautifully than Jo and Simon with their unique origami style - I love their parcels arriving!), while Annie at the Village Haberdashery is the only source of Anna Maria Horner's True Colours and Dowry ranges that I've found in England, so I snapped some of that up quite speedily too - again, it's great for fussy cutting.


I love making things that work in a round - it gives a really satisfying feeling of growth and progression each time a round is completed and I enjoy the feeling of starting afresh every time I move on to the next one.


I'll hopefully show you the finished cogwheel later in the week.


I'm really enjoying working with these fabrics. I was discussing what exactly the unique appeal of Tula's prints might be with someone on Instagram last week and eventually decided that it was the high creature usage, cleverly disguised in grown-up patternry and also how much she uses tone-on-tone colours. And also that her prints are crazily good for finding bits that can be fussy cut. I think I may have nearly exploded with the joy that was cutting out horses' heads and sewing them together into a whinnying union!



I'd love to hear your own thoughts about blogging, Instagram or whether you're also sometimes hit with a sense of oddness about your own quilt-making.

Florence x

53 comments:

  1. Yes. Not sometimes, but often. I love making things and if the thing I am working on has no apparent purpose or recipient I don't feel good about it. I am working on just such an EPP project right now. That strangeness and guilt usually fades after a while. After all, I am working with fabrics that I love, and I am making something. The guilt about spending on fabrics remains though. Many quilters make stuff for charity projects and I am sure that makes them feel better. But you have to wonder whether it would do more good if you sent the money direct to the charity rather than buying the fabric, or gave some time rather than spending so much time sewing. Having said that, I love your project and would be disappointed not to see more of it! Keep going.

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    1. Yes, for me that feeling is only fleeting too…thankfully!

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  2. Blogging is my most loved thing to look at online because the words have personality and shape as well as the pretty things we can see in photographs. But there are many nice things to see at a push of a button (click of a mouse), so what makes the difference is the person behind it all. I love to know the processes, or just some little things behind the person and what they make. I used to hate facebook but now some people have made decent pages but I still don't enjoy so much as a good blog post.

    I never use instagram as I feel somehow excluded from how it works. It just doesn't feel it is for me and I'm not invited. So I'm sure I miss things. I do pin things and once in a while look through the pictures there. I preferred how pinterest used to look though as now the pictures are so big I can't see all of it at once. Flickr has been ruined and I now can't bear it. I tend to look at pictures and track back to find a blog if there is one.

    I think a quilt has as much a place to cheer the home and provide warmth as ever it did. It's just not the only thing now (still the best though). Fat quarters although expensive when seen as their price per metre, are affordable and collectable over time. So as long as you know your fabrics are used, iff not today then next week, next month or later, then it is a guilt free purchase. I am like this with books. I buy them, ready to read someday. Many are second hand and very cheap but the guilt and space clutter remains. I know I will read them though. I would not allow myself to build up too much of a yarn stash but I am gathering a fabric one. Much of it is recycled which isn't much cheaper than new if purchased. But it feels a good thing to do and it makes me more ready to strike should the creative mood take me. I am not a quilter, but part of my mini stash is with one in mind.

    Just think of the hundreds if not thousands of pounds people spend on handbags! Mine that I'm currently sewing,came from a vintage curtain for £3. The guilt is there but it is containable. It also gives me loads of pleasure in lots of different ways. Your quilts keep giving long after you made them Florence and the pleasure from the buying and choosing fabrics and the making mean they are a bargain really!

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    1. That's such a shame that you feel excluded from Instagram - it's horrible when something feels like a closed community. I do think sometimes it's a case of diving in - perhaps it depends which circles your focus of interest is in, but I've always found quilters to be incredibly warm and inclusive.

      I agree - Flickr no longer feels quite how it does and I haven't taken enough time to learn finding my way around it since its overhaul.

      I completely agree - I never feel like books are money wasted, so perhaps I will begin to look on fat quarters in the same way!

      Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion. x

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  3. That quilt is going to be amazing. The fussy cutting really adds another level to the design.
    I am not on Instagram, it's too limited for my taste. I blog because I hope to inspire people with what I do and I think that usually also requires a longer explanation of the process.

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    1. I have to confess to normally writing several inches of text beneath my photos on Instagram…I'm not entirely sure whether that's in keeping with the etiquette of things!

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  4. I think there's room to blog and IG. I do both fairly sporadically! I like to read about why people are making what they are, just like your amazing EPP. I's going to be so amazing!

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  5. Amazing! I'm inspired to try it, but I don't know if I would finish! I love blogs although I've heard quite a few people say they don't blog as much, but I think you can say so much more on a blog. I'm getting into Instagram it like small snippets of your day. I think they complement each other.

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    1. I think perhaps it could always be stopped at a cushion or wallhanging stage if you decide it's not for you?

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  6. I much prefer scrolling through my blog reader and coming across an interesting title and opening paragraph to then click on and dive into another creative woman's imaginative world. Instagram is good for looking at pretty pictures in the morning over my breakfast, but I do hope it doesn't replace well written and informative blog posts.

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    1. Your right - I love looking through Instagram while I'm eating my lunch or waiting for a train.

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  7. Dear, it's so cozy and gorgeous! I think I'm falling in love. English paper peacing to give opportunities to do quilt and wonderful quilt. Congratulations for it!
    Regards.

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  8. I read an article a few months ago about how blogging is being replaced by other forms of social media which people find more immediate. I barely have the time to blog these days, so Twitter, Instagram and the like are just no use to me, but I have a feeling that in the end it will come full circle and all the disparate elements of social media will evolve into some new kind of blog.

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    1. I hope it does - to me, it would feel a shame to lose blogs entirely. I think they're a calmer space that feel less as though it's a medium fostering a short attention span in us!

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  9. I find at the moment, especially as I runt he social media accounts for work as well as my own stuff, that I find writing, even a tweet is overwhelming. Perhaps not quite the right word, but sometimes feels like it's too much to effort to come up with a line or two that means anything. Instagram feels this void, pictures speak more to me, I am incredibly visual and not always very confident writing. Tutorial writing for the blog or for magazines takes a lot out of me. And yet, the discipline of a weekly blog post does make me stop and think about what I have done. I remember details that might have been overlooked if I haven't taken a photo....okay, think I am waffling a little (been a long day!) The point is, I think we all worry about what we might not be doing on social media or blogging and forgetting that its down to the individual and whatever feels comfortable at the time.

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean about the details - sometimes I refer back to a post from a few years ago and it's really nice to remember some of the tiny things about a day that I'd forgotten.

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  10. Also forgot to say, I love following your instagram feed, and the progress of the quilt. It's exceptionally beautiful and is inspiring me to try new paper piecing 'shapes'.

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  11. I agree that instagram makes it so easy to "micro blog" which also makes it so easy for followers to not comment on actual blogs as much. I'm definitely guilty of it sometimes but I'm confident my blog will always get my most passionate focus. As far as quilting, I know very little about it so I really enjoy watching your process right down to the fabric decisions and fussy cuts. The cutting especially since garment sewing uses such gigantic chunks of the designs in comparison, so it's really neat to see fabric broken down like that. It almost looks like an entirely new print! Your love for quilting is similar to my love of vintage, I think. It's a big love of creating mixed with a fondness for nostalgia. It just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and there's nothing wrong with that :)

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    1. I love your rationale for it - you're right - there could be nothing wrong with something that makes you feel like that.

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  12. I have often felt the existential angst you describe when considering the place of the quilt in the modern age. I console myself by viewing my quilting as my method of self expression and that is enough in and of itself.

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  13. Such an amazing project Florence, your fussy cutting is exquisite!

    I have been thinking about blogging a lot lately. After the Easter break I forgot I had a blog and that I followed any for quite some time. Instagram and Pinterest have replaced them for me, for me it's all about the visual and I love the feedback on IG. Increasingly it feels like I am talking to an empty room with the blog, which is really disheartening after writing a long post about something special, there's no sharing. So I'm thinking of alternatives that suit me better, there's just so many more new ways to share now since blogging started.

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    1. And then just a few days later, it appeared! I love the alternative you've found.

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  14. As a reader of your blog but not yet ventured onto instagram, I will obviously vote for blogging! I only follow 2 or 3 blogs as I'm not on the computer much.
    Absolutely desperate to see your finished quilt as I am also making the Passacaglia (I'm nearly 5 cogs in). Everyone's will be different but yours looks to be far more colourful than I would attempt to pull off. Totally love it so far.
    Incidentally, I've just seen an article in the paper listing completely pointless museums. Included in their list is the pencil museum in Keswick (a brilliant museum - I am offended) and the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York - a place that I am now really really wanting to go.
    The article backfired!

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    1. I'm really flattered that mine is one of the blogs you follow - thank you! I would absolutely LOVE to see some photos of your Passacaglia in progress if you have any and am feeling slightly envious that you're so much further along with your cogs - that must be such a good feeling to see them coming together.

      That sounds like a really awful article - it's easy to mock things that seem like niche interests.

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  15. I am a terribly sporadic blogger/Tweeter/Instagrammer (is that a thing?), but I read constantly and love blogs for the thoughtfulness and commentary. To me, they're very different things - Twitter and IG are more like noticeboards, while blogs are like articles in magazines. I think and hope there's room for both.

    On the quilting side, I absolutely agree with Chris about it being a method of self-expression. If the activity was watercolours or woodwork, I don't know if there'd be such a question mark over it. But somehow things like quilting or knitting have to be justified, even though they're just as much of a creative process as 'art'.

    Actually, the art/craft split is something that really interests me. There's an Amanda Vickery documentary on the iPlayer at the moment, all about female artists. In the second episode, she talks about how when the Royal Academy was formed, they specifically drew up a list of things that weren't to be considered art, and therefore weren't eligible for inclusion. These were mostly the female arts - embroidery, clothwork, etc. Before that, it's strongly implied, these sorts of things were considered skilled art forms. A friend of mine has a strong dislike of the word 'craft' for that very reason, and I tend to use the word 'maker' rather than 'crafter'.

    Your work is absolute beautiful, and I would definitely call it artistic. You have the urge to make, and your chosen medium is fabric. For me, there's no further justification required :)

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    1. Thank you so much for leaving such an interesting view of it - that sounds like a fantastic documentary - I'll try and watch it before it leaves iPlayer. And yes, I do know what you mean about the word 'craft'.

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  16. I love Instagram, but fear it has made blogging seem like a bit of a chore, which sucks the joy out of it somehow. I also feel that nobody really has the time to read/comment on blogs as much now and that has resulted in blogging feeling a bit without the community it used to have.

    One of my boys commented the other week though that he loved my blog, because he could watch himself growing up there. Which alone is reason enough to continue.

    I wonder if there is a quilting analogy - Instagram is the chain piecing and blogging is the fussy cutting. Room for both?

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    1. That's partly my motivation for doing it too - although my main focus on here is sewing, I do feel it's also documented my children growing up and that feels like a good thing.

      I think ultimately, because of how time consuming it is, a blog has to feel like something you're driven to do, irrespective of other people's will to comment on it, doesn't it - I feel confident from my stats that people are reading and so try to understand that, like me, many probably just don't have the time in their day to comment, especially when it's so fiddly to do so from a mobile phone, so I accept that much of the interaction element comes from Instagram or Twitter instead. But I do still really love it when people do comment!

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  17. HOW do you match up all the pieces so perfectly?!?! That's amazing! I'm so impressed!

    I love reading blogs and read way too many, and while I love blog posts, I really enjoy Instagram, too. Something I like about Instagram is that it often gives a window into more of someone's personal life since the photos can be their neighborhood, pets, family, gardens- more than just works in progress or finished garments. For me, it has helped me to develop more friendships with folks online. I don't think it replaces blogging, but it supplements it, in a way.

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    1. I think I'm going to do a little tutorial on fussy cutting next week :)

      I'd never thought about Instagram from that perspective, but I totally agree, it's really nice to give people more of a day-to-day context and oddly engaging to know what there hallway/cat/walk to work looks like.

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  18. Being creative is the reward itself. No artist ever asks it their art serves a purpose. We create because we need beauty in our lives. in our case we also end up with a wonderful warm quilt.
    Leah
    Noidlehandshere.com/wp/

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    1. Well that told me! Sometimes I do need telling! x

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  19. I vote for blogs! I love to read about the creative thoughts that go on behind a creation. Viewing is enhanced by context.
    We use our quilts to keep us cosy - it helps with the heating costs too. Especially at this time of year when it can be chilly when you sit down in the evening.
    My young people (children!) love to snuggle under a quilt when they return home. They can remember the stage in their life when that quilt was being created (bits of fabric all over the house!) and it anchors them to home. This is especially true of the quilts we use at Christmas.
    I am with William Morris, beautiful or useful, best if it is both.

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  20. Florence -- I just wanted to say what a privilege it is to be able to read to read your blog and follow you on Instagram. Instagram is fun, but you have such a gift for writing that your blog will always be my favorite. But it seems these days we recipients/audience are becoming lazier and lazier about commenting, which must make it a rather frustrating, too-often one-way conversation for you. That's not fair considering how much of yourself and your creativity you put into your blog, by means of your writing, but also your sewing projects, your photography of same and of the places that make up your world, your ruminations on becoming a surprising dog-lover and creativity and the love for your children and husband and on and on. Given that you have extended to us this privilege of taking pleasure in your writing, photography, and creativity, we need to be better at keeping up out end of that conversation, and first and foremost at saying THANK YOU and glad you are "in" our lives!

    You always have an interesting perspective and this post is only the latest example.

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    1. Thank you so much for your incredibly lovely comment - I really appreciate it.

      As I was saying to Ali in one of the comments above, I really love it when people comment, but I also try not to mind when they don't as, like me, their lives are probably sometimes just too busy to actually stop and write something at the moment they're reading my post - I know I don't always have time to comment on the blogs of others, even though I appreciate them and feel inspired by them and have found what they've written engaging and so I try to keep this in mind. But ultimately, of course, I do love it when a conversation like this one starts.

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  21. I know what you mean about patchwork quilts. It always seems a bit wrong to me to buy whole pieces of fabric then cut them up when quilts were devised to use up every scrap of left over fabric. But I do love the process of making a quilt and am now resolved to try fussy cutting. I went to a blogging seminar last weekend and there was a lot of discussion about blogging vs Instagram. Many still felt that their blogs were the hubs of what they do but that the place to interact with people and make comments is moving to Instagram. I am lagging behind, have only just begun to use Instagram and am finding it fun but I will always love blogging best - I like putting together a whole story with words and pictures. Instagram is much more of a sound bite medium.

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    1. Blogtacular? It looked fantastic - lucky you.

      For me, I feel my blog pulls everything together - it's where I sell my patterns, host my tutorials, as well as go into the nitty gritty of sewing problems or triumphs. It also feels like it's documented the backdrop to my children's childhoods in a small way, which always draws me back to it - I now feel there's too much of my life with them invested in it to abandon it. And I also just love writing - Twitter just doesn't offer the kind of space I want, even though it's a good exercise in self-restraint!

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  22. I love sewing so much that I haven't really stopped to question whether it has a true purpose - since becoming ill and losing my job (and therefore a large part of my identity), I've had to find other ways to feel useful and productive and this is one of them. Hand piecing and quilting suits me down to the ground as it's a slow method which allows me to contemplate what I'm doing, without leaving me exhausted (which machine sewing tends to do) and I can do as much or as little as I'm able and still see progress. I find it very relaxing and mindful and don't know where I'd be without it. I feel the same about blogs - I don't blog frequently but when I do I like to write a lengthy post with lots of photos and love the connection it gives me to quilters around the world. I'm not on IG (no smartphone or tablet) but can really understand the appeal. I don't think it will ever replace blogs, for me at least...

    I love your latest project and know I'm going to enjoy watching it grow!

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    1. I agree - hand-sewing does feel like a very meditative, restful place - it's so nice that you have it as such a solid thing in your life at a time when other things have felt uncertain. x

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  23. Wow! I've wanted to learn how to quilt but to be honest I'm a bit too scared, and so I stick to playing with paper. Seeing your designs makes me realise just how intricate it can be, and makes me believe I'm right in thinking that I wouldn't be able to do even the most simple of quilting any justice.... I shall be following your blog with interest... and envy! Well done! ~x~

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    1. I'm slightly horrified to think I've put you off - everyone has to start somewhere and, like you, at one point I knew nothing at all about how to make a quilt, but it's amazing how quickly your skills grow when they're propelled by enthusiasm and a love of doing something creative. Even if your first quilt has mismatched seams, puckers and wonky stitches, you will learn so much making it - and would hopefully gain so much enjoyment from doing so - that it's really worth just diving in and making the mistakes!

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  24. I too love to read blogs as it is so interesting to see the whole picture - the project, the process, the reasoning behind it all and the emotions and opinions of the blogger.
    I have never managed to work out instagram - maybe I should try a little harder.... :-)
    I really love your paper piecing project Florence.... the colours and positioning of the motifs are so pretty. And I too have that odd feeling when doing patchwork... "what is this all about? what is this all for?" I have enough quilts - my family and friends have the quilts I have made them... how many more can I make? I do like to make them for the wall as well as the bed and so I plod on... I cannot NOT do patchwork and quilting - I love it too much... but I do get those guilt feelings and I keep wondering why I am doing it all.
    I have just had quite a long (for me) break from sewing... several months... and I have felt the joy go out of it... but (and back to your first point :-) ) - blogs such as yours are inspiring and encouraging - and so I am off on the sewing trip again....
    Thanks for your lovely posts Florence - and I for one am very happy you write a blog.
    Kind regards
    Helen

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    1. Thank you so much, Helen. And I share that sentiment - I can't not make quilts!

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  25. I've been blogging for about 18 months and though I still really enjoy diarising my sewing exploits, my greatest pleasure is the reading of other blogs. I love reading how people have made their various sewing choices and how their skills have improved.
    As for quilting, I've become really interested in them in the last 6 months or so and would love to be able to do amazing paper piecing projects like yours! I often think about the "what is this for" but have decided that life really is too short to analyse too much, and just sew for the enjoyment on it. I consequently give lots of things away to friends, family and/charity shops, but I always enjoy the making process.

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    1. That's what I love about sewing - there are so many areas of it to explore - it's lovely to find something new and begin experimenting, isn't it.

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  26. This is is a very interesting discussion. I used to blog quite frequently, mainly about art journaling and then for various personal reasons stopped. I joined IG at the beginning of the year and had have found the quilting world very helpful and supportive. I found that when I enjoy seeing pictures of something on IG I go to the blog to find out more. I have blogged one or two posts recently but don't feel I have a blogging voice at present whereas I used to be happy blogging. There is a place for all social media and I think it depends on what you want. It can be dispiriting writing a blog with no feedback whereas IG gives more instant feedback but then I remember I began to blog as a record of my crafting.
    As to the quilt I understand what you mean and have given work to charity and there is also the issue of the practical needs for quilts, however, I have been surprised by my older children and various friends who all,value a quilt because it is handmade with love.
    I return to your blog, especialy your posts on epp as I am just exploring this type of quilting and find your posts very helpful.

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  27. That's so lovely to hear that your older children do place a value on it!

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  28. I've just stumbled on your blog and it is gorgeous! I also recently stumbled upon Willyne Hammerstein's quilts on display near my house. They are breath taking in real life. I hadn't heard of her before - and was obviously missing out on loads of inspiration! Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

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  29. Florence I'm so with you on your 'need to blog in order to make sense of it all'. That's exactly my thought process too! I like the idea of documenting my creative projects too, sometimes I read through my older posts from years back and think how far I've come…

    Oh, and your fussy cut EPP project is just so gorgeous!! I love seeing your pics pop up in my IG feed. I'm wanting to try the Lucy Boston; Patchwork Of The Crosses quilt, have you heard of it? x

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    1. I'm so pleased you find that too.

      Yes, I know exactly which quilt you mean - it's beautiful! I've only ever seen it made up in very traditional fabrics though, so I'd love to see how you approach it. Have you read The Patchworks of Lucy Boston by Diana Boston (I think Diana is her daughter-in-law, from memory)? It's not a pattern book, but rather a biography of Lucy's sewing life, her approach to her patchwork and how she went about sewing until very late into her life - it's interspersed with incredible photographs of her quilts. I fell in love with it when I read it a few years ago and it's one of my absolute favourite sewing-related books - if you haven't read it already, I think you'd love it. x

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  30. I agree that instagram seems to be taking the edge off blogging, maybe because no one has the time to read all the blogs they follow? But I still like to write in more depth about projects even if they get 'trailed' first on instgram. As far as why we are quilting, firstly you may not feel the physical need for quilts as warmth givers any more but try living in Scotland and you might feel a bit different!! And also I just think having an out let for your creativity is SO important and not to be under estimated. Being creative makes as humane, happy and healthy! Also I LOVE you kaleidoscopic EPP in Love P & Q! It's great to see a thoroughtly new take on hexagons - well done, that tech issue was obviously a lot of work!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x