My sewing has been in the doldrums for months and months – a combination of a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of inspiration and a 9 month old granddaughter (who is wonderful!).   My sewjo had gone completely AWOL!

About 2 years ago I had the mad idea that I wanted to make a rainbow quilt.  I immediately went off and bought a metre each of 7 beautiful plain rainbow colours – with no idea of what I was going to do with them. (I really bought 8 fabrics, because I could not decide on which green I wanted!)   All I knew was I had a lightly patterned black fabric that would work as a contrast.

Then these vast swathes of fabric sat in my stash for ages…. and ages.  My excuse was I couldn’t devise a pattern that I liked enough.  (Although I was probably scared of the vast swathes of fabric – that can happen to me too.)  So the fabric just sat there.  I even pre-washed everything, to take away another excuse.

[There is a side point to make here about pre-washing.

First, I need to say that all of my fabrics were good quality.  Quality of fabric is irrelevant in relation to pre-washing, in my opinion.

I admit it – I don’t always pre-wash my fabrics.  However, all these fabrics were such strong colours that I realised that, should any of the colours run, it would completely ruin any quilt the fabric was part of.  So I set about washing each fabric.

I washed each separately (that is a small lie – I put the red and orange in together!).  In each wash, I put some cheap colour catchers that I happened to have in the house, so that I could gauge the level of colour loss.   Colour catchers (whatever make they are) do NOT stop colours running – they simply mop up the loose colour that has been released into the washing water.   In this case they proved extremely useful.

I washed the blues and purples – minimal colour loss, ie colour catcher sheet very very pale blue.   Then the red and orange – surprisingly, again minimal colour loss.  Yellow washed – no colour loss at all.  Then I did the green – a beautiful, bright emerald green, which lost colour like it was going out of fashion.   The colour catcher ended up the same colour as the fabric, which was a huge shock!

As a result of the colour runs that I had noted, I used Retayne (a colour fixative) to treat any of the fabrics that I felt had lost colour.   It looks relatively expensive, but you don’t need a great deal to treat the fabric to fix the colour.  Thank goodness I had a bottle of this in the house – that green would have absolutely ruined the quilt.]

However, I still didn’t have any enthusiasm.

I was idly clicking around the internet one day, looking at free patterns on various websites, just searching for inspiration.  Then I found a pattern “Polar Compass” by Maureen Cracknell (https://liveartgalleryfabrics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Polar-Compass-Quilt-Instructions.pdf).   It was the only thing that had caught my interest for ages, so I downloaded it.

The pattern indicated that it was meant to be done with subtle, patterned fabric – nothing like the fabrics that I had in my stash! I was not even sure that I had enough fabric, but it was the only thing that I had even considered doing all through the various COVID lockdowns.

By this time (September 2021) my quilting group (Cwiltwyr Ystradgynlais / The Ystradgynlais Quilters) had restarted our monthly meetings after far too long apart – both due to COVID restrictions and our own caution.

I still couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to sew.  However, what I could do was follow the cutting instructions on the “Polar Compass” pattern and pre-cut all the fabric in preparation for sewing – that would mean that maybe I would not avoid making it!

At our first meeting, I spent almost all the 5 hours slowly and carefully cutting all the different colours.  As my enthusiasm was still low, I just worked at my own pace and tried to be as precise as possible while cutting.  By the end of the session, I had cut all the rainbow colours, after trying to work out which fabric they called A, B, C etc so that I would place the fabrics correctly for the rainbow sequence.  Part way through I realised that I had got it slightly wrong, but I had to continue, as I only just had enough fabric for each colour.   By the end of the session, I had cut all the rainbow fabrics.

I did not look at the fabric again until our next monthly meeting (again, lack of enthusiasm).  I used the next quilting group session to cut out the black patterned fabric to set off the rainbow fabrics.   Again, I concentrated on precision cutting (as much as ever I can) and succeeded in completing the cutting for the quilt.

I then realised that a long-awaited quilting retreat was due shortly, so I decided to keep the prepared quilt pieces to use at the retreat and to find something else to sew at our next monthly session.   It did not go well!  I ended up doing very little sewing that day.  Sewjo was still AWOL!  In fact, my sewjo was so seriously AWOL that, if I had not already paid for it, I might have considered not going on the retreat.   I was looking forward to seeing the people, but my confidence in my sewing was now so low that I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this.   However, I went – it was an excuse to have someone else cook for me for 48 hours if nothing else!

I travelled to the UKQU Blogger retreat and slowly set myself up in my little area.  I continued procrastinating by going around the room making contact with all my friends before starting to sew.   Seeing the projects others were working on or planning to work on started to spark my enthusiasm.

My intended “Polar Compass” quilt was constructed in quarters, so I decided to construct one quarter as a “proof of concept” or maybe I should say “proof of correct cutting”!  Also, I realised that the quilt pattern was a fundamentally simple one, so I set out to use it as an exercise in perfecting my accuracy, which has never been particularly brilliant.  I had to remember, there was no rush – it would take as long as it takes.

I successfully created the first quarter of the quilt top and was both pleased and slightly alarmed.   My cutting was correct (with a minor adjustment which I knew about because I had run out of fabric!), my accuracy appeared to be better than normal, and it actually looked pretty good too!  However, I was alarmed because I had imagined this quilt at about 55-60 inches square, and this first quarter looked HUGE!  Never mind, get on with it.

As I had confirmed that my cutting was correct, I changed to the “production line” method for the other 3 blocks, laying out all the elements on a table (the luxury of space!) and completing each element of the 3 blocks in sequence. By the end of the retreat, to my surprise, I had nearly completed all 3 remaining blocks. No rush, no panic, just keep plodding on!

Time to pack up and head home from the retreat – which had been an amazing time.

I got home and was surprised to realise that I was eager to finish this quilt top, for the first time in a very long time!  So, over the next couple of days, I continued with the production line (which was much more complex in a domestic space, but possible).  I finished the blocks and assembled them over the week after the retreat.  I was thrilled – for a change, an idea in my head looked right in real life!

I had misread the pattern though – I expected the quilt to be about 55 inches square and it is roughly 74 inches square.  The picture shows it spread on a king-sized bed!  I am delighted with it no matter what size it is.

I always like to try to work out what I have learned from situations like this.   There are a couple of things:

–  If you have lost your sewjo, don’t push too hard.   Find something simple, or find a piece of fabric that you love and make something with that.   Maybe change what you normally do – if you normally sew by machine, try hand sewing instead.  You never know, you might find a new love!

– Again relating to losing your sewjo – take your time!  There is no rush.   Even if there is a time limit for your project, do not put that pressure on yourself.  Time pressure will usually put me off completely.

– If you are working from a pattern, READ THE WHOLE OF THE FLIPPING PATTERN!  As it happens, in this case the unexpected size of my quilt top was not an issue, but it could have been.

– I have not used the “p” word once on this project – that is “p” for perfect.  Perfect is irrelevant when you have managed to finish something for the first time in ages!  Perfect is also a real sewjo barrier in my opinion.

Finally, remember that if your sewjo appears to have left you, it probably has not gone very far.   Don’t force it and it will probably come back to find you.  Be nice to yourself. xx

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