In 2006 we moved from Moscow to Paris. It was a big upheaval and quite an adjustment. Paris of course is a beautiful city and we lived in a charming western suburb near to the British School. The children were all in the senior school by now and slotted into life in our new enviroment easily and John was buried in the maze of a Head Office of a huge multi-national company. What would I find to do this time. Brushing up my french, of course .... but I had itchy fingers and my needles & threads had spent weeks in boxes in transit.
As luck would have it, through the school, I soon met Sylvi and Dorothy a Norwegian and a Canadian, who were both quilters. I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but a cup of tea together and a glimpse at a house full of the most amazing quilts, soon put it in my sights and I was keen to learn. I had sort of touched on it before....many moons ago as a teenager, when my mum had seen in a magazine how to make hexes, with cardboard templates. We began cutting up christmas cards and before the school summer holidays were out, I had made, what I suppose technically was my first quilt. It got so big that we weren't quite sure what to do with it and ended up simply backing it with some sheeting. We had no idea about quilting at all. The resulting bedcover holds enormous sentimental value for me as it is made up of lots of my old dresses, my mum's old dresses and even my sister's wedding dress and my bridesmaid's dress material. I used it for along time, until it became a bit fragile and now I keep it packed away because it somehow seems something from another time.
Here now in Paris, I had a chance to learn the art of quilting with two experts. Sylvi and Dorothy decided to form a beginners quilters group and from the moment I saw a rotary cutter, mat and ruler....I was completely hooked. We made a sampler quilt.
We all went up to Montmartre, the fabric district of Paris to choose our fabrics and I was totally entranced with it. I got the idea of combining lights and darks and mediums easily and was set on the way to my first quilt. A sampler quilt is great way to learn about patchwork piecing and we learned alot of shortcuts and tricks to help, as well as an introduction to quilting techniques.
This quilt still sits in our living room and is used and loved and washed and used some more. From then on...I took the whole quilting thing and just ran with it. Sylvi taught me so much and I am forever grateful to her for her inspiration and drive and for opening up a whole new world to me.
I started acquiring fabric....I discovered that I simply loved it - mixing and matching the colours, experimenting with patterns and piecing, appliqué and learning how to free motion quilt. I loved the whole process of making a quilt from start to finish... and my family loved the results. In no time I was making the children their own quilts...quilts to snuggle under on the sofa and even some that were more decorative, because they look so beautiful displayed over banisters and on the walls.
As our collection of quilts grew, it seemed to me that just about everybody loved them! Even the teenage friends of my kids loved them. One morning after a party that had been held in our house, I found a child wrapped up asleep on the living room floor, in my beautiful cherry tree quilt, that normally lived displayed over the bannisters in our rambling old french house. I came to see that they represented all the old traditional things of warmth and home and love - that are so important, but often dismissed in a modern world. They are actually true symbols of home-making - something that keeps you safe and snug and let's you dream in colours and patterns. In truth there are few things you can give someone as a gift that is more beautiful, useful or personal and I hope that the quilts I have made will become heirlooms to my family and friends.
At about this time too, there was an explosion of information the internet too....which meant that I could find information, order fabrics and see what the latest trends were. I still carried a legacy from Lydia in Russia too - to strive for accuracy and harmony between fabric and thread. It was tremendous fun as well and a sociable occupation that helped me to make friends in the area, again within the international community. I was fed up when Sylvi and Dorothy both had to move on (such is the lot of trailing wives whose husbands work for big overseas companies). Our group carried on. It kept me busy, but perhaps not quite busy enough...or maybe I just missed my embroidery.... but I started thinking about signing up for an online City & Guilds course that would give me some formal qualification that somehow rubber stamped all the knowledge I had accumulated during our time in Moscow. I had just about plucked up enough courage to sign up and had received the first modules, which were somewhat intimidating and then BOOM.....everything got disrupted. My Mum fell ill and it was bad.....
We lost her after some months and it was hard. I gave up on the City & Guilds and just tried to find my way for a while. A year later we were on the move again - this time to Stockholm in Sweden.... and here I began to feel better and it all finally started to come together - an online course that challenged me to raise my game, the embroidery and the quilting and a lot of snowy days! More about all that next time. Ruby x
PS. My boy and his new quilt...this morning!