I am now a solid nine months into my Buy Nothing year and I thought you’d like to know how I was getting on. People keep asking me how I’m doing, perching their heads to one side as you do with those suffering from a life crisis. But I’m absolutely fine, haven’t once been tempted to break the No Buy rule when I’ve been out looking at clothes (which I do a lot) and it’s really changing my attitude to what I wear (more on this in a later post).
I must fess up to having had a couple of presents for my birthday (in August) that were clothes, from Middleagdad and my sis. I was in a blither about what to do about this but rationalised that it would be daft to refuse and treated them as acceptable treats for getting half way through.
But I have missed the joy and interest that new clothes bring to a wardrobe, so to bring back some buzz, I started to sew again. I have drawers full of fabric bought over the years (I bet I’m not the only one here) for projects I’d do ‘later’, so what better time to start than now? I have made a shirt, two pairs of trousers (SO easy!) and while pinning and machining, I was reminded of the pleasure sewing my own clothes used to bring me.
As a teen, I made loads of clothes, because as mentioned many times before, it was the only way to own a pair of paisley print loons or a patchwork Laura Ashley maxi when you had no high street and no money in the 70s and 80s. You don’t forget how to place a pattern on the straight of grain, or to leave a bit more seam allowance than instructed in case the pattern is too tight (often).
Bolstered by this sewing renaissance and while Kondo-ing my forgotten fabric trunk, I pulled out a project I’d started 27 years ago before having eldest son. Heavily pregnant on my last days working at Liberty, I’d popped into the fabric sales office to see them packing up their fabric swatch books for the passed season. They didn’t want them so I asked if I could take some.
I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll make a patchwork quilt out of them, I’m off having a baby so I’ll have plenty of time to sew.”
I know. I blame it on the pregnancy hormones.
Can I also mention at this point that I intended to sew the whole thing BY HAND. Using a traditional quilting technique of covering each geometric pattern shape – cut out of paper – with printed Liberty fabric, tacked down and then hand stitched in a complex pattern of squares, double quilt size.
I must have been bonkers.
Unbelievably, I kept at it through three babies, goodness knows how. I have one lovely memory of sewing in front of the fire with a eldestson in his rock-able car seat, but after that it’s all a blur and I have no idea how I had the motivation to keep going. Eventually, when all three sons were infants, I gave up and shoved the half finished quilt into the sewing trunk and it has hardly seen the light of day since.
When I recently found it again, covered in decades of dust, the quilt was more finished than I remembered. After a wash it just needed all the papers removed (a job that took me two solid weeks and at least four box sets, I’d advise NEVER making a quilt like this) and a backing fabric applied. But during the process I was reminded how calming and grounding it can be to sew, all that repetitive in-and-out with the needle and the touchy-feely physicality of being surrounded by lovely fabrics and prints.
The quilt pattern, although delightful and an amazing documentation of every one of Liberty’s 1990 prints and colourways, are now not my thing at all, they are too twee for my current mid-century-chic design ethos.
So our regular craft contributor and all round fabric expert Julia advised daylight bleaching (sticking it outside on sunny days), which worked to give the quilt a more vintage look and backing it with an indigo shade of linen, to make it more modern. I also left the edges distressed and frayed and patched on a small embroidered vintage hanky bag that turned up in my sewing basket, just because i thought it looked sweet.
After about a month of attention, it was finally finished, 27 years after I started it. The sense of completion is enormous. The quilt has given me a sense of who I used to be and I’m amazed at my younger self’s ambition in terms of the scale of the project. Every time I smooth the patched pieces I see those tiny stitches, sewn quickly in briefly caught moments of quiet in the maelstrom of family life. My feeling is that I’d never have finished it if I hadn’t been finding other things to do than buying clothes.
The quilt sits in the spare room now, and works nicely with a Welsh blanket in similar colours.
Obvs, boosted by these huge feelings of satisfaction and I’m planning new sewing projects to use up the remaining fabric and because when I look at those square blocked trousers and jackets in COS currently, I think to myself ‘I could make that’.