The power of hand sewing

Well, hello there,

Just about got over the jet lag and so much to tell you about our travels in the Massachusetts & Rhode Island.  But I need a 'mo' to sort through my photos and my memories of all that we saw and did, so in the meantime, I wanted to show you something that I actually took with me and worked on while we were in the US.   You may remember that I was somewhat enamoured with Venice, when we visited in May and came home inspired to make a quilt to encompass all the elements that make up this amazing city - the  wonderful colours, the architecture, the water, the history and the whole aroma of this romantic place.   I raided my stash for fabrics that I thought met this brief and then set about thinking what exactly might such a quilt even look like.

Not easy.   So, I decided in the first instance to think about what sort of techniques I might like to use and I chose a completely alternative route for this project.  Everything will be hand sewn.  Venice should be about 'embellishment' and 'embroidery' and glorious, glorious stitching.   I thought too, that perhaps I should stay with plain fabrics on which to embroider and that a quilt made out of solids could be quite striking.  I also decided that it would be a quilt without wadding in the middle and perhaps it would veer towards more of a wall hanging in the end.    Thinking about the design,  I looked towards a few different sources.  One of them was a lovely book of pencil drawings about architecture in Paris that my daughter bought for her art projects.   Another was the idea of reverse appliqué and the use of beads, courtesy of the totally amazing Natalie Chanin (  I also liked the idea of each block being like a stitched postcard from Venice and so I shall use my photographs as the main inspiration.  Mash all that together and it came out like this.....

BLOCK 1 - The Bridge of Sighs.

I think I chose a straight forward subject for the first block.   


It's a famous landmark - just the sort of postcard you might send.    I set about with my two colours, ivory and aqua.  It is a 12" block and the only machine work is the zig zag edging to prevent it from fraying and to secure the two layers together.   I drew the outline free hand with a pencil and then I assembled an assortment of threads to make my fingers tingle with excitement - perle cotton #8, aurafil 50 & 12,  fine silk thread and strong hand quilting thread.


I used 'reverse appliqué' to set the idea of the bridge over the water and I have to say that I think this technique is much 'under' used in stitching these days.  I like it so much that I think it will become the focus of the quilt, enabling me to create all sorts of shapes with some depth to them.

The embroidery  just sort of took on a way of its own really.   Hand sewing is not just therapeutic and relaxing, but it gives you the power to be so precise with your stitches and to change the look of a line, by adding in and twisting and knotting different threads.   The beading too, gives a more decorative and luxurious feel to the block, which seems wholly appropriate to Venice.


The thing about this kind of project too, is that I am not trying to create a masterpiece or an exact image of the photograph, or a piece of modern art.  Just something pretty and textural and representative of the subject and a block that will become part of a larger piece.


Adding in interesting touches here and there, should produce an eye catching look to the overall piece - I am planning 9 blocks.  Perhaps these edging details will link the blocks, perhaps not ... we shall see where my needle takes me.


Once the block was finished, I was amazed at how the hand stitching had added strength and stability to the pieces of fabric and thought this was interesting in relation to perhaps embroidering clothing.   I suppose it is how the earlier quilters made such durable bedquilts and actually, I am surprised at how solid it all seems.  I know this is only one block and you are perhaps wondering what on earth I am doing....but I have a vision now and the next subject will be the 'Quatrefoil' shape that I found everywhere in Venice and the colour - coral and ivory.   Hope you will come along soon and see how it is going.   Meanwhile, next week... all about Boston.   Toodle-ooo for now, Ruby x