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The Lost Quilter

Craving Simplicity

There’s no denying life’s been hard of late. I just want to rest. Rest everything, from my mind to what I see, to what I do and what I feel. I want everything to be white.

Quilty365 - circle patchwork, circle 81 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Quilty 365, March 2016

It’s funny, a few months ago I was engaged in psychotherapy and I recalled a dream I’d had. I don’t usually remember them at all. But this one comes back to me now. I described going into a shed, a brick outhouse like the one attached to this house. I opened the door and was so angry because someone had filled it from floor to ceiling with stuff. I couldn’t get in and I couldn’t find anything. There was no order just a kind of chaos of broken furniture pieces haphazardly piled on top of each other. But everything was white. I took it all out so that the space was empty and the walls and floor were clear and white again. Light. I put a few things back, my things, slowly and deliberately. It was a small space. Very small, but with a window. I may have locked the door and stayed on the inside.

White Space

I couldn’t make head nor tail of the dream at the time. The therapist asked me what white spaces came to mind. Hospitals. Empty galleries. Prison cells. Institutions. Curious, he thought. He perhaps expected me to describe a calm, minimalist space. Peaceful. Now though, I wonder if the spaces I described are somewhere to retreat to. Empty. No distractions. Not places to think and contemplate in, but places to let go of everything. To be empty. To be cared for. To start again.

I’m starting again. Precariously. Moving home to somewhere I’ve not yet seen, somewhere considerably smaller with no garden: I’ve always had a garden. Two up, two down. Each of the last 4 homes I’ve had have been progressively smaller and this next one feels like a shoebox. I feel squeezed. Squeezed out. Where will my sewing machine go?

Fitting A Quart Into A Pint Pot

The homes have become smaller, but the amount of stuff has stayed the same. I’m deeply worried none of it will fit in. It’s furniture I’m sentimentally attached to. A bookcase Kim’s dad made for my birthday one year. A full height armoire we designed and made for a home we had. A writing bureau, a dresser, dining tables, more bookcases and bedside cabinets…another chair he gave me. All things we designed and made together when we ran a handmade furniture company, and lived in a reasonably large Georgian home. 14 years of our lives. If I got rid of it I couldn’t possibly afford anything else of the same quality.

So I get rid of the inconsequential. The wine glasses I never use, the umpteen mugs I seem to have accumulated, old picture frames, pieces of fabric. Things that don’t take up the space. And now I’m painting everything white. White furniture to meld into white walls.

It seems ridiculous to have such attachments. But being attached to something you’ve invested time and love in is something I’m sure any quilter will understand. They’re not things, they’re tangible stories. The story of my life. A life I feel I’m losing any grip on at all. A life eroded.

Plain Sewing patchwork quilt in progress. A circle a day wuith the Quilty365 sew-along. © Stephanie Bon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Plain Sewing in progress (currently 16″ x 22.5″ / 40cm x 57cm)

Plain Sewing‘, keeps rising in my thoughts. I want to work on it, but it’s packed away in a cardboard box somewhere. It feels lost.

I feel lost.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

Linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.

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Sunflowers and Sewing

You know what it’s like when you’re at a low ebb and it feels like nothing’s ever going to come together and all you want to do is sleep. Then something comes along out of the blue that lifts your spirits and makes everything alright again. I had one of those moments recently. A little parcel addressed to me arrived on the doormat one morning. I wasn’t expecting anything; Kim’s the one around here that gets all the parcels from his Ebay trading. I opened it, wondering what on earth it could be, and got a lovely surprise that made me smile all day.

Remember Roz? How we met on line some years ago and then in real life when she was on holiday in Cornwall this summer? Roz had sent me “a little something”.  A little something she’d made.

Sewing case sent by a friend. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

I’m not going to pretend my desk is tidy!

The Sewing Case

I was so touched when I realised she’d sent me a lovely little sewing case that’s perfect for putting in my bag with my portable English paper piecing (EPP) (follow the link to my tutorials on this technique). It has a pocket for just about everything I need, from scissors and thread to fabric and templates. The cheerful sunflower fabric will always make me think of Roz and how she made my day…again!

Slow Sunday

This Sunday has been all about slowing down and easing the stress. I went out for a walk (the first since camping and food poisoning) and a bit of blackberrying with friends this afternoon, followed by a cool glass of summer cider in one of our favourite pubs.

Friends on the village green!

The blackberries will go perfectly with a big bag of apples they gave me from the trees in their garden. Blackberry and apple crumble is one of my favourite desserts at this time of year, and the rest of the apples should make a good batch of chutney.  Or maybe I’ll pick some more berries and make jam or jelly. That’s yet another lovely and unexpected gift from friends. In return (as it were) I took them on a walk they’d never been on before, a lovely meander through the woods and creeks a few miles from home.

Slow Sunday Stitching

I’m so exhausted that this evening’s slow sewing is going to be very slow and peaceful. I plan to do nothing more than organise my lovely new sewing case and baste some EPP diamonds for next week.  What was the best slow sewing gift you ever received, and why do you cherish it so much? I’d love to know, tell all below!

Inside of a sewing case made by a friend. Pockets for scissors, needles, etc. In sunflower fabric in blues and yellows. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Putting everything in its place

Don’t forget to hop on over to Kathy’s to find out what the other slow Sunday stitchers have been up to today. Have a lovely start to the week and fingers crossed I’ll have some news about somewhere for us to live next week. Until then…

happy stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

 

 

 

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Patchwork for a Starry Night

One Crazy Month

I’ve been in a tail spin as usual, running around and getting nowhere fast. About 5 weeks ago we were given 2 months ‘notice to quit’,  i.e. told to move out of the house we’ve been living in for 8 years. It was a complete shock and I’m still reeling. And in the middle of it all I’d arranged to take Kim on a camping trip for 5 nights. I decided we should still go: two months to find somewhere to live in our circumstances is never going to be easy, so what difference would a few less days make?

Camping on Exmoor

Westermill Farm Campsite, Exmoor National Park, 2016

Peace and quiet at Westermill Farm campsite in Exmoor National Park (that’s our tent and Kim at the picnic table).

None, as it turned out: we still haven’t found anywhere.

Camping was a mixed bag of beautiful scenery, long walks, peace and quiet…and moody teenager! We spent 5 nights at Westermill Farm, a simple campsite on a working farm right in the middle of Exmoor National Park. Exmoor crosses two counties, North Devon and Somerset, with a good deal of dramatic coastline, open moors and rolling countryside to explore.

Kim’s biggest complaint? The fact that we used public transport and carried our tent and everything else on our backs. When we got to a nearby town we discovered the bus service we planned to use to get us to the campsite had been withdrawn. It was 15 miles away – and Kim refused to walk! (To be fair it was late in the day, haha!) We took a taxi. This much he coped with, but it was the realisation that he’d “have to walk 7 miles to get anywhere” that put him in a right strop. (And 7 miles was a slight exaggeration, the nearest village was only 1.5m away!) So he spent the next 2.5 days lying in the tent. We locked horns anytime he refused to go anywhere, because he specifically asked to go walking on Exmoor to take photographs. I went off on my own instead and had a wonderful time exploring valleys and villages. His loss, I told myself, but to be honest I really missed his company – there were so many delightful things to share.

Starry Night

Exmoor was designated Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve and we were lucky to be there on a full moon with a brilliantly clear sky. Even Kim couldn’t resist a night time walk. Discovering the world in the ‘real’ dark is like discovering a whole new landscape: the sky, the sounds, the wildlife, the silhouettes. It was magical and I couldn’t help wondering what life was like before light pollution.

The night-time walk worked wonders, because the next morning Kim was up with his camera ready to take a bus trip to the medieval village of Dunster. We took a walk up to Bats Castle Iron Age Hill Fort where he finally got into his groove and photographed some unusual butterflies and flora. I couldn’t take my eyes off the wider landscape.

Stephanie Boon, walking up a track on Exmoor, uk

On the wooded track up to Bat’s Castle

 

© stephanie Boon 2017. cornwall, UK. All Rights Reserved Exmoor

Watching the changing skies from Bat’s Hill Iron Age Fort

© stephanie Boon 2017. cornwall, UK. All Rights Reserved Exmoor

Blustery walk with Kim

It’s a stunning place. I share lots of pictures of my walks on Instagram, come and say hello and find out where I’be been.

Starry Quilt

Another great thing about a camping trip is the opportunity for some sewing: you can’t go camping without taking along some English Paper Piecing, it’s not allowed! There’s the time to fill on the train journey and quiet evenings in the tent too. I prepped some diamonds before I left, picking out blues from my scrap box and a couple of pieces left over from my Summer Blues quilt. Why make stars? I have no idea, I just fancied playing!

English paper piecing patchwork with diamond shapes. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Night sky?

It occurs to me now though that it was a serendipitous decision. One of my abiding memories of this trip will be the moonlight walk with Kim. Maybe I’ll call it Night Sky or Exmoor Stars (if it ever gets any bigger!) – what would you call it?

Tutorial

As random as the stars seem, it kick started me into updating my English paper piecing tutorial on making 6 point stars. The old tutorial is still available, but I’m expanding it and adding new photographs. I’ll let you know when it’s complete!

From Bad To Worse!

I’d hoped that by the time we got back from camping I’d be feeling refreshed and ready to take on the challenge of moving home, but life never seems to be that easy! The day after we got home I was wiped out with food poisoning and then gastroenteritis. It’s lasted well over two weeks now. I seem to be over the worst of it and finally feel up to decorating and packing up our home (even though we’ve still got nowhere to go). The illness has been a nightmare with trips to a&e for morphine, sleepless nights and generally wishing I could sleep until it was over!

Last night was the first night in weeks I felt up to taking a few stitches – and had the energy to look for the quilt I’m working on under all the dust sheets and boxes! And it’s this improv quilt, On The Edge, that I’ll be working on again today for Slow Sunday Stitching with Kathy. After all the trauma of the last few weeks, some quiet stitching is just what the doctor ordered!

Hand Quilting Floating Squares Patchwork, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 http://www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Taking some stitches

What will you be working on today?  I plan to get a good stretch of this top done over the next few days, but who knows what else will come along and put a spanner in the works!

I hope to be back soon, but if you don’t hear from me for a week or so rest assured it’s not because I don’t love you anymore, I’ve probably just lost the plot!!!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

 

 

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Good Things Come in Threes

Sometimes, amongst all the anxiety and stress, a day comes along that seems so full of goodness it’s hard to believe. It’s like a beacon, something to hold on to while you weather the storm. Monday was one of those days.

When Two Quilters Meet

Meet Roz (on the left), we’ve been online quilty friends for a number of years now and this was our first ‘real life’ get together. Roz lives hundreds of miles away in glorious Yorkshire, but has come to Cornwall for a couple of weeks’ holiday. And not just anywhere in Cornwall, but a mere 3 or 4 miles down the road in St Agnes! (A lot of the photos I share on Instagram are taken around the coast of St Agnes – it’s a beautiful place to escape to. Have a look at my photos and you’ll see what I mean!) It was a rare opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

 

A photo posted by Roz Elliott (@ell55roz) on

We arranged to meet at a lovely open air National Trust cafe on the beach at Chapel Porth. I cycled there and on the way I was thinking that a few decades ago (more than I care to remember!) I’d have been full of nerves and trepidation, but today I was full of excitement. It was the first opportunity I’ve ever had to meet an online friend. And it was even more special because Roz is a quilter, and I hardly ever meet other quilters where I live.

Give Us A Hug!

I rode to the bottom of a stoney track and spotted Roz straight away, and the pair of us were grinning from ear to ear! I felt so exuberant: it was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for ages. The disbelief gave way to huge hugs and when we finally found some words I realised Roz had someone with her.

Roz brought her husband Geoff along and it turns out he’s as keen on the outdoors as I am. A biker, a cyclist, a runner, a traveller – they both had some wonderful stories to tell. And of course we talked about quilting! Roz is an awesome hand quilter and you can find her on Instagram and the Celebrate Hand Quilting group on Facebook. She’s also a keen bag maker and machine embroiderer. In short Roz is an inspiration and a most lovely person to boot. I wished we’d had some stitching with us and we could have talked quilting till the cows came home! I can’t wait to meet up again. There’s just so much to share! And luckily for me Cornwall’s a regular holiday destination for them both.

They Say Good Things Come in Threes

The first ‘good thing’ was pretty hard to beat on Monday and I planned to spend the rest of the afternoon gardening. When I got home I rode down the road to my local saw mills about a mile away. I wanted to find out the cost of the timber to make the first raised bed for my disaster-zone-garden. I was surprised at how affordable it was. I had one of those impulsive moments and decided to buy it there and then. Then thought…hmm, how to get it home?!

Making a raised bed with timber carried home on a mountain bike © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

From bike to raised bed!

I had it cut to size and strapped it to the handlebars and seat of my bike (thank goodness for bungees!) and pushed it back: ingenious, I thought. Back home I was sitting on the kitchen doorstep with a cuppa in my hand and feeling pretty pleased with myself: the second ‘good thing’ of the day had just happened.

I was enjoying a bit of sunshine when I heard a car door close and looked up. Another surprise? Oh yes: an unexpected visit from another old friend, Sally! Sally owns Coast and Country Crafts, (a lovely quilt shop) and brought over a couple of big bags of fabric scraps needing a new home.  This day was turning out to be pretty awesome! What an absolutely wonderful gift for someone who thinks scrappy quilts are the best. in. the. entire. universe!!! ‘Good thing’ number three: tick!

Magnificent Scraps!

We chewed the fat for a while and caught up on family life (our boys were great friends in primary school and went to the same secondary school) until Sally had to head back to the shop. I thought catching up with Sally was the third good thing of the day, but I was totally wrong! Sorry Sally but you were relegated to second place and gardening was kicked off the list altogether!

The bags of scraps she’d brought were hiding a treasure inside. There are lots of strips of fabric in the bags (perfect for a string quilt) but amongst them all were a couple of small pieces of a Kaffe Fassett fabric called Lotus Leaf. In red. I was over the moon: a score for my bunting inspired quilt ‘Fete‘! That really was the third best thing of the day. And in no danger of being struck from the list!

Fete – Growing Row by Row

There isn’t a quilter alive than can put off the excitement of using up a bit of fabric when it’s perfect for the job, so I know you’ll understand what I had to do next. I couldn’t wait to get stitching. I spent about 6 hours or more finishing up two rows of patchwork bunting for Fete, the celebration quilt I’m making for my sister’s 40th birthday.

'Fete' an original improv patchwork in progress © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Bringing in some blues and purples

Pride of place in the middle of a row are are two pennant flags in ‘Lotus Leaf’ from Sally’s scraps. The smile on my face was about big enough to go well beyond ear to ear by now!

'Fete' an original improv patchwork in progress by © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Kaffe Fassett scraps (2 large red triangles)

Monday turned out to be an incredible day, unforgettable, all thanks to Roz and Sally. And after such a crappy couple of weeks of raging anxiety it’s wonderful to have some balance restored.

Have you ever met an online friend in real life? What was it like the first time – are you still friends?!?!  Tell us your story in the comments – I’d love to know how you got on!

I’ll be back on Sunday for Slow Sunday Stitching (all being well). Until then…

Happy Stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts,  My Quilt Infatuation, Can I Get a Whoop Whoop and Fort Worth Studio

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Chicken Fete!

Cuteness Alert

Hello! Come and say hi to my cute new babies! I’ve got 3 new additions to the henhouse, and each and everyone of them was a bit of a surprise…

2 new chicks feeding with 2 hens. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Fluffy bums!

Two little chicks, less than a week old. One black and white, one brown and white. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Less than a week old

If you keep a few hens yourself you know how annoying it can be when they all become broody at the same time: broody hens mean no fresh eggs for a month or two. And no fresh eggs means no cake!

We’ve got three little mixed breed bantams, a mini flock generally keen on demolishing the garden, taking extravagant dust baths and constantly chatting away.  Bundles of feathery fun, one and all. And since they’ve taken to their nests it’s been a bit quiet around here. Then one day last week Kim went out to feed them, heard some curious cheeping and was taken aback to discover chick number one hopping about the place. Why the big surprise? Um, well…we don’t have a cockerel!! Next door’s handsome fellow had taken a fancy to our ladies, abandoning his own brood to follow them around, sadly though he was taken by a fox some weeks ago. Obviously not as long ago as I thought, and not before he’d sewed a few oats!

 

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

It’s rather lovely to think that he lives on. I wonder if those two dark chicks will look anything like him as they grow? It’ll be a while before we can tell whether they’re hens or cockerels though. Do any of you keep livestock? It’s a lovely time of year for it isn’t it?

Considering Somewhere to Grow and Sew

There must be something in the air because home-life, including my garden, has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Maybe it’s the sunshine we’ve had for a while? My garden’s a complete mess, overrun with nettles and brambles and knee high grass, and it’s such a tiny space that that means the entire garden! I gave it very little attention at all last year for one reason or another (illness, flies, the farm incursion!) and I’m paying for it now. I used to absolutely love gardening but the expansion of the farm buildings next door has made a serious dent in my enthusiasm.

Farm advancements around a small garden... the encroaching cow sheds, a new machinery shed going up and a silo just out of shot on the left of the picture. And a dying lawn! © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Farm advancements… the encroaching cow sheds, a new machinery shed going up and a silo just out of shot on the left of the picture. And a dying lawn! (With Daisy sat in the middle of it.) And a missing hedge (I think fruit and veg will need more sun and the hedge had become a straggly eye-sore anyway.)

Since it’s no longer a lovely place to sit in and the neglect’s becoming a bit of an embarrassment I wondered what to do with it. After some cogitation I’ve decided to take a radical approach, start again and turn it into a productive garden with fruit and veg. A mini allotment or kitchen garden: a space I can get dirty in and enjoy in a different way.  There’s some (not too private) space outside the house I can use as a patio to sit in. Sewing outside’s one of the pleasures of a warm, sunny day isn’t it? Not one I’m prepared to forego!

I got off to a bit of an enthusiastic start and cut down a hedge as soon as the robins flew their nest. I decided the only way to get rid of the nettles and unwanted grass was to use a weed killer, something I’ve never used before as I hate chemicals in the garden. I can see why – everything’s dying right back in a matter of a few weeks. And now the weather’s turned. And so have I – back inside until the rain’s passed!

Fete

Which is handy really, because I’ve got a quilt top to be getting on with! I seem to remember the plan was to have it finished by the end of this month, so that I’ve got 6 months to hand quilt it. I best get my skates on.

Patchwork quilt in progress, displayed on a design board (easel). © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Fete on the easel (design board!) and Lily on the table…

Patchwork quilt in progress, 'Fete' inspired by bunting. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Four or five rows of Fete!

I’m enjoying putting this one together. It’s all about the challenge of creating movement. It looks like an exercise in improv patchwork, but to get movement you have to impose some rules and it’s probably more controlled than it first appears. The improv bit is about technique, working out how to fit the pieces together so that it captures the essence of what I see in my mind’s eye. As I’m working I’m constantly shifting and evolving that idea guided by the discoveries I make along the way. And I get lost in the process for hours!

The self imposed rules are fairly straightforward:

  • the colours in the negative space (the background triangles) will be the lightest value
  • the background colours will move from greys to blues (inspired by a cloudy sky)
  • the positive colours (the foreground triangles) will have very limited amounts of white, preferably none
  • the main prints will be contemporary with large motifs (nothing too ‘ditsy’ in the foreground)
  • use as much fabric from scrap bins as possible.

Did you spot any of the ‘rules’ in the quilt top before I listed them? (And if you didn’t can you see them now?!) I don’t want them to be overly noticeable in the finished design so if I have to break the rules to make that happen I will!

Next up is making the transition from grey to blue in the background and from reds to purples in the foreground. It goes without saying that this might change along the way!

Choosing fabrics for a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com,

Considering colour transition

What’s Going On

I feel like I haven’t had anything interesting to share for ages: all I’ve been working on, quilt wise, is this one and Summer Blues (which I’m sure you’re sick to death of seeing by now). Hand quilting the borders of Summer Blues is coming together and I’m more than half way through the third one now. A finish feels pretty close. And, I’m getting quite excited by the thought that I can finally stick it in the washing machine after all these years, haha! I’ve also been plugging away at making this blog part of a bona fide website, but it’s a slow process. I’d love to know what you think of the new (almost finished) ‘take a tour‘ page – it’s meant to help new visitors find their way around, is there anything you’d add?

I’m heading over to say hi to Lorna and everyone else at Sew Fresh Quilts for this week’s Let’s Bee Social – Lorna’s got a great giveaway going on, have you seen it?

Righto my lovelies, see you at the weekend for some Slow Sunday Stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

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The Neglected Needle

Truth be told, everything’s been neglected around here of late. Kim was given an extension for his photography assignments, which meant another week of stress. This past week I’ve been de-stressing with extra sleep and a bit of time out doors. Today looks like a day of catching up with the very neglected housework and then, finally, the neglected needle will be put to some good use.

Hand quilting a flying geese quilt border. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

A few stitches

I’ve managed to grab a few minutes stitching here and there and the flying geese border on Summer Blues is slowly but surely getting there – and I’ll be slow stitching plenty more this evening! I’m still enjoying it and love the quilt, but I can’t wait to put this one to bed and get on with quilting some other things. I will remain firm though: no more quilting other projects until this one is done! (You have no idea how hard that is!)

Getting Rid of Your Old Needles

If you’re anything like me you’ll go through a hundred needles in the blink of an eye. Blunt. Bent. Snapped. Blunt needles are the bane of my quilting life – I can virtually see the points disappearing before they even touch fabric. I regularly pull one out of the pin cushion only to stick it straight back in again, because it would be a better garden dibber than quilting needle. My pin cushion looks like a porcupine and I pull out each and every needle to inspect under a strong desk lamp. I stick each one back in turn and finally give up and use the only needle I can find with a point, which happens to be an embroidery needle. Great for threading, not so great for hand quilting.

I have a large collection of blunt needles littering my work place, they’re in glass jars, hanging around on the base of a lamp, stuffed in pin cushions, loose in a little box of bits and pieces I keep on my desk. I even found some on my bedside cabinet the other day! Since the demise of the film canister I’ve run out of ideas on how to dispose of them safely. Sometimes my needles come in a plastic package and I can stuff a few back in there and bin it, but it seems to be slow going and my pile of rejects continues to grow. How do you get rid of yours? I ask, of course, with all the impending housework I have in mind!

Out and About

I’ve had some great walks this week and have been sharing some pictures on Instagram (come and join me), here are a couple of my favourites. I love the little Dexter cow I met on a walk over at Mylor yesterday. I used to live in the village, but now I live about 10 miles away so I cycled over on my bike, met a friend for a walk around the creek and some lunch at the pub. A soft mist hung in the air all day, but it was warm and sticky and felt like summer’s on the way.

 

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

Pond in one of the fields I cross regularly on my local walks. #pond #hedgerow #tree #skies #reflection #field #buttercups

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

This cow may have the shortest set of cow legs I’ve ever seen!!! #cow #dexter #noseycow #walk #mylor #cornwall #kernow

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on


I wonder if I can squeeze in another walk today…dare I forego the housework again?!

I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching and hope to see you there.  Happy Sunday everyone!

PS let me know what you think of the layout of the new blog/website design so far, still lots to do but I’d love your feedback – thank you!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

 

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Slowing Down The Stress

Stressful Times

Hello lovely friends! What a stressful couple of weeks it’s been, so hectic that I’ve barely had time at all for any (much needed) slow sewing. If you’ve had teenagers going through exams I’m sure you’ll understand! Kim has got so far behind with his AS level assignments (due to illness earlier on in his course), that the closer his deadlines loom the closer my blood pressure is to exploding. He, of course, is so laid back and leaving everything to the very last minute hoping mum (aka The Biggest Nag on the Planet!) will help him pick up the pieces. There’ve been at least two 4am finishes this past week alone. I’m a zombie. And there’s more to come: he’s just been given another week’s extension, aargh!

Sheep and lambs in a rainy lane near Truro, Cornwall. Photograph © Kim Gentle-Boon 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Kim’s photos taken a couple of months ago.

The thing is, if he hands in his assignments ‘as is’, he’ll get a pass, but his tutors say he’s ‘very talented’ (especially in photography) and if he can get it together (in time) he’ll get a much higher grade. Every mother wants their child to reach their potential – even if they don’t seem bothered! So, what are you supposed to do?  How many of us wonder when their child will take responsibility for their own actions; how do you know when to step back and let them get on with it, no matter the consequences? Kim is just 18 – going on 14. I gather it’s a common issue with teenage boys! It goes without saying I love him to bits, but boy this parenting business is ruddy hard work at times. If you think a toddler’s behaviour is a nightmare to deal with, brace yourself!


Refresh and Rejuvenate

When I’m this stressed I need to get out; over the years I’ve learnt that vigorous exercise is the only way to get it out of my system. And this week proved to be the most wonderful time to escape the house. Along with the glorious sunshine has come some spring warmth and an abundance of rejuvenating colour. I’ve walked and I’ve cycled and every time I’ve been out I’ve seen something that’s stopped me in my tracks.

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on

A photo posted by Stephanie Boon (@dawnchorusstudio) on


I’m so lucky to live where I do, I can’t imagine how I’d centre myself in a big city. I’m a country girl all the way through, despite (or because of) growing up in London (lots of open spaces there then though, that aren’t there now).


So, Onto Sewing!

I’ve managed to spend an hour or two stitching in the evenings, which is the perfect way to wind down, as I’m sure you all know! I’ve managed a few more Quilty365 circles, a little bit of hand quilting in the borders of Summer Blues and the odd bit of hand piecing half square triangles too.

Hand quilting a flying geese patchwork border. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.om

Summer Blues border

Hand pieced patchwork pinwheel blocks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Pinwheel Block (repeated three times!)

I’m planning on updating my tutorial for hand piecing half square triangles – it seriously needs some much better photographs. It seemed like a good little project to work on when I could grab a moment in the evenings. I love the way these blocks have turned out, what do you think? The large floral is an Anna Maria Horner fabric, but I don’t have a clue where the little rose print is from – it was just something from the scrap box. I’m going to have to make something with these blocks, they’re too pretty to leave languishing, but there aren’t many of them, so, something small; what would you make?

I hope you’ve all had a good couple of weeks and your projects have been moving on as you’d hope. I’m aiming to try and catch up with everyone over the next week, but just in case I don’t make it you’ll know why! And if I don’t, there’s only one more week of stress to go and then I’ll be back to ‘normal’!

Happy Slow Sunday Stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

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Hand Quilting with The Durrells

Another slow Sunday. I tried to take it a little quicker, but pulled a muscle in the process: I’ve just been for a run. It was a very short one because my legs turned to jelly after about a mile, I struggled on for another mile or so and pulled a calf muscle in the process. Can it still be too soon to exercise after the flu? I’m going try hot yoga tomorrow. At least the vertigo’s finally gone…

Gravel piles that look like grey mountains under an intense blue sky. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

These piles of gravel caught my eye as I hobbled past. Great colours and shapes.

Summer Blues

Quilting’s been pretty slow over the last few weeks, but I’m pleased to say I’ve made a little progress with Summer Blues. I love the way the sashing is looking so far; putting in the extra time has given this quilt a whole lot more texture and character. It’s definitely been worth it.

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Outlining the sashing

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

It’s coming together

You can see how much I’ve done in the picture above and how much there is still to go in the one below.  Progress hasn’t been too bad considering – though I’m making no predictions about how soon I’ll get these last four rows finished up!

Summer Blues - patchwork quilt, hand quilting in progress. © Stephanie Boon 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Only four rows of sashing left to quilt

I definitely have a sense of coming to the end of the road though; it won’t be long before I’m quilting up the borders. I mustn’t get too far ahead of myself (as if!) – I’m still looking forward to some quilting in the sashing this evening, with another nostalgic episode of  The Durrells playing in the background no doubt. I did some catching up with the lovely Mrs Durrell (Keely Hawes) and her unruly brood last night, after a friend recommended it to me the other day. It’s such a wonderful series and really makes me dream of warm sunshine, warm seas, kumquats and Greek olives! Have you seen it? If you like Greek Islands, mad English people trying to cope in foreign climes and rather a lot of unusual animals, you should definitely give it a go. What will you be watching or listening to when you’re doing some slow stitching today?

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, see you there!

PS Is anyone planning to enter the Festival of Quilts this year?

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

 

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Why I Hated Sewing

Man Sewing

We all know by now that ‘man sewing’ gets on my tits (as opposed to the sewing and quilting the rest of us (with aforementioned appendages) do).

It’s International Women’s Day, so naturally the topic of man sewing/men quilting has been on my mind again. But let me be clear right from the start, it’s not men that sew or men that quilt that get on my nerves, far from it, it’s the appropriation and masculinisation of sewing and quilting to make it acceptable to other men (and some women) that gets my blood boiling. Man sewing? What a load of…tosh!

(If you’re a new reader, you might enjoy the post ‘Luke Haynes, Quilter: That Gender Question‘ – there’s some good discussion in the comments about ‘man sewing’ and gender and quilting in general.)

A Short Story for International Women’s Day

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’d publish a story today, for International Women’s Day. I’m going to tell you why I hated sewing, why I could barely bring myself to admit that I sewed anything at all. It’s why ‘man sewing’ drives me nuts.

Why I Hated Sewing

A hollow intermittent noise vibrates through the chipboard floor to the room below, the ‘front room’ as the family call it. The noise is coming from my mother’s bedroom. If you go up and look through the door, as I often did when I came in from school, she’d have her back to you, barely noticing you’re there. She’s sitting facing a wall, head bent at a cold, stark grey machine: it has all her attention. She’s surrounded by cheap white nylon lace in organised piles that she’s chain piecing. Eventually she’ll sew them together to make over-the-top frilly dresses for little girls. Old fashioned Shirley Temple affairs. It’s piecework and she’s paid a pittance for the number of pieces she makes. A man turns up on dark winter evenings with black bin bags filled with more little bits. He hands my mum some cash and she gives him the black bags she’s filled with her hours of work. They make a few jokes and smile, then he heads off into the dark again. I don’t like the idea of a stranger being in my mum’s bedroom.

I grew up in a working class home where making ends meet was difficult. I remember my stepdad  having periods of unemployment and I imagine the money my mum earned helped them get by. But not much more. The first and only job she’d had outside of the home, soon after she left school at 14 and a good few years before I was born, was in a factory where she sat with other women on grey machines piecing away who knows what. I remember other times when my mum sewed for the home; curtains, a patchwork for my brother’s bed, made from the scraps of her piecework.

I hated it: sewing for a living represented drudgery to me. I never wanted to wake up and have to look at an industrial sewing machine in my bedroom. The trouble was, I was good at it. Before my teenage years I was learning to make my own clothes at school and my mum helped me to use a domestic sewing machine at home. As I became a teenager I learned to design my own clothes and cut patterns. I loved the creativity of it, the fact that I could wear clothes that no-one else had. I made some weird stuff, but I was often complimented too. My school teachers were keen for me to study fashion design but I resisted with the stubbornness a mule would be proud of, determined I wouldn’t end up like my mother. And, there was another factor I was becoming acutely aware of: sewing was ‘women’s work’, domestic, demeaning and vilified. Worthless. Publicly admitting I enjoyed sewing made me feel worthless. And it wasn’t just men that I felt belittled by, some women made me feel I should be doing something more worthy too, whatever that was. These were women I was coming to hold in high esteem: second wave feminists demanding equality. The domestic was eschewed and sewing for money was something poor women did in crap conditions for next to nothing. But there didn’t seem to be any move to change attitudes to that.

I left home soon after my 19th birthday and went off to study an undergraduate degree in fine art, 250 miles away. I loved art with a passion; creative expression was (and still is) everything. And I got to use my brain. The probability of sewing frilly dresses for the rest of my life felt like a million miles away. But people began to notice my clothes, asked me where I got them. You could pick out an art student around the small town with no trouble at all. We were a tribe, a subculture coming out after dark in our DM’s and charity shop clothes, which no-one else would ever wear. It seemed odd to me that a few other students were even remotely interested in what I was wearing. They asked me to design and sew them things too, made to measure skirts, a coat, trousers. I said no at first, but caved in with the badgering. After a while I was seriously fed up with it: making clothes for others took any pleasure out of making my own clothes and had become the drudgery I was desperate to avoid. People constantly nagged me to hurry up, to change this or that. And for what? A bag of sweets or a bottle of wine. Because that’s all my hours of time and skills were worth. Nothing but a glib word of appreciation and a cursory trip to the supermarket. This is what ‘woman’s work’ was worth. And I vowed it was not the sort of work I’d ever do again.

I picked up patchwork again when I was about 21, after a few experiments I made as I was growing up at home. This was private sewing, something I could do at home that no-one would see and no-one could make me feel worthless for enjoying. I made small things, cushions mostly, on an old hand-cranked machine. I loved tiny strips of Liberty fabrics in traditional log-cabin designs, that eventually became threadbare from constant use. I tried my hand at English paper piecing and loved hand stitching. I did embroidery and experimented with textile art, I had a go at knitting lace. I went on an embroidery course. Around that time I bought an old second-hand BBC book on patchwork (from 1977), produced after a tv series, and I’ve still got it now. I have fond memories of trying out the patterns – and laughing at some of the frankly ludicrous things you could make with them. I’d be absorbed for hours in my own private world.

Man Sewing? Nope, this is a 1977 women's patchwork waistcoat from a BBC beginners patchwork publication.

One of the ludicrous things I decided I’d never make in a million years!

As the years went by I taught myself to make things for home, designing hand stitched, thickly lined curtains and blinds and yes, more cushions! I made myself clothes from time to time, but any pleasure I’d got from it had long since gone.  I was slowly drawn back to patchwork, one of my first textile loves, and today, thanks to the internet, I’ve found a community of like-minded people where I feel at home. I feel valued here and began to feel that what I do is valued too.

Not much more than a year or so ago, someone asked me the usual “what do you do?” question. I replied “patchwork and quilting” and then described a few of the things I was working on, this blog and the many talented people I’ve met here. He looked at me with disdain and said in a voice laden thick with sarcasm “well I suppose we need more cushions in the world”. This man, only in his 30’s, is a primary school teacher. This man is entrusted with nurturing young people’s sense of self-worth through education. Lots of young people. Class after class, year after year. And this man and his sexist, demeaning attitude is fairly typical. Decades after I made my sewing and quilting activities a private affair, one comment from one crass individual could still crush me to an inch high. But I decided to revel in the ‘feminine’, I believe in it and I own it. It’s mine and yours. It has a long and valid history and it’s with a needle and thread that we can and have expressed ourselves despite of, or because of, limited, controlling attitudes like these. This is why Luke Hayne’s asinine ‘gender issue’ and ‘man sewing’ gets my back up. This is why International Women’s Day is important. With attitudes like this, fair and equal pay for people in traditionally female roles will never be achieved. This is why women’s labour is exploited across the world. This is why we have to celebrate the feminine as well as the female, because the feminine persists, it’s tenacious despite being actively pilloried in patriarchal societies, by people of both genders. It’s why I don’t like the ‘I’m hiding my fabric purchase from my husband‘ jokes: they just perpetuate the idea that the feminine should be behind closed doors, and controlled by men.

Not funny, sexist joke about quilting and housework - "Sure, bring the family over! Barb's working on a quilt so you'll want to bring your own food and dishes...and a folding table if you have one.'

Because Barb (presumably his wife) is obviously meant to do the cooking and washing up…which is obviously beneath him.

Some people laugh these ‘jokes’ off as ‘just a bit of lighthearted fun’, that’s up to them, but we all know that what lurks behind the smiles of some is the knowing smirk of others. And so, I’ve made up my mind, I’m never going to feel belittled for doing something perceived as feminine ever again. And ‘man sewing’ can do one.

Have you ever felt belittled by someone because you sew or quilt? What did you do about it?

#pledgeforparity.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com