Got to start (again) somewhere 

On a Saturday in March I lugged many bags into a secondary school Maths classroom and wondered how my day was going to go. I’d signed up for a day-long machine patchwork course after far too long not doing any sewing. The skills I once had had atrophied. Funnily enough I’d done a cushion making workshop with the same tutor many years ago. I remembered her as very funny and straight talking. She hasn’t changed at all and is a superb teacher. I even got told off for nearly being silly, she’s that good at anticipating bad behaviour. It appears I haven’t changed at all since I was really in a secondary school Maths lesson.
I baggsied a nice spot at a table for six by the sunny window and waited for others to arrive. The room started filling quite quickly. A very quiet elderly woman set up along from me, this was fine but I fancied a fun day with lots of chat and maybe even some laugher, reasoning that even if the patchwork went badly it could still be enjoyable. I quite liked the professional-sewer look of one woman, who was settling herself at a table across the room. She seemed to have all the kit and a swish sewing machine, plus very cool coloured Liberty fabric. Then another woman came in a few minutes before the start, all of a fluster and panic: “Are you sure I should be here? You have told the others I’m a complete beginner? I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing!” Well this decided it for me; I didn’t have to be the only rusty sewer or novice there, she seemed like she’d be good fun too. So I approached her and turned to Anne-Marie too, saying they should join me at my table. I think I actually said “You can sit there, and you can sit there.” I might even have pointed to their appointed places. This is a bit embarrassing! But I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again.

By mid-afternoon Anne-Marie was saying to Tracy that she was amazed they both did exactly what they were told, she’d even moved all her stuff from her table to mine! It was a fab day, I picked wisely. At the end we all said we wished we could spend every Saturday sewing. Tracy suggested we set up a WhatsApp group and by bedtime we’d shared photos of things we’d made, more things we were trying to make and discussing when we’d get together to sew again.

I did kick myself for not getting my machine out beforehand to refamiliarise myself with how to thread it and fill the bobbin. Things could have started a little more swiftly, but it was ok in the end. I’ve noticed that whatever the course I’m always the last to finish each step, be it making polymer beads, jewellery making, intarsia or Fair Isle knitting (that was the following Tuesday. I might tell you about that another time.) It’s the perfectionist tendencies I have, whereas others throw themselves at something new, sensibly accepting their first try isn’t going to be the best. Mine certainly isn’t either, but at least I’ve tried very, very hard!

I wish I hadn’t tried quilting my piece (we had time at the end of the day to play) as my patchwork isn’t exactly enhanced by the dodgy stitching around the outside to attach the wadding. I could undo it all, but the thought is rather painful.

From that day sewing in streaming Spring sunshine, laughing, chatting and unpicking stray stitches I’ve made two new friends. They’re great fun and we are all pretty keen on sewing and, it turns out, crochet. Anne-Marie is making a cooked breakfast crochet blanket for her son, freeform style, and when we’ve met for crochet in cafes asks me random (and quite challenging!) questions about how I would crochet a baked bean, or a button mushroom? Tracy has two little grand-daughters aged 5 and 7 months, she’s aiming to make them both a patchwork quilt by Christmas. Yes, she is the flustered “I’m not sure I should be here” novice sewer! But that’s Tracy, she throws herself into things. Why waste time panicking that you don’t know what to do? You just try and get on with it! I’ve just dropped off my blocking mats so she can have a go at blocking her deceased ex-mother in law’s crochet pieces to make up an heirloom blanket for her daughter. She’s You Tubing various joining methods as I type I expect.

Anne-Marie belongs to an exclusive Sewing Group, which started about 20 years ago as the tutor found people attending her workshops said they just wanted and needed time and space to sew. Space physically, rather than clearing off the dining room table to set up (then planning meals the family could eat on trays for a few days), and time as in an allotted time where it couldn’t be put off. She asked if I could join the group and I asked if my fellow novice sewer Tracy could come too. As I told her, I didn’t want to be the only idiot there. This made her laugh and didn’t offend in the slightest. This is why I like her so much. We really are honoured as I think it’s usually by invitation from the tutor only.

We’ve been twice so far and I’m hooked. There’s no teaching, it’s in a village hall like the equivalent of a Knit and Natter group. You take whatever you’re making and get on with it. You can ask questions, and the tutor will come round to each table asking if you’re ok, but you need to be fairly low maintenance. It’s really well organised. There’s a quick meal of quiche or pizza at the beginning, for those coming famished straight from work, and a cake break in the middle. I’ve subverted this by taking grapes and Tracy’s taken strawberries, as we’re trying to walk the healthy eating road. We’re both usually trying to make up for the eating and drinking of the weekend!

I already seem to be the joke of the group as I took along a Rowan Amy Butler jelly roll I got from Mollie Makes magazine (I’ve googled my own blog to find out when and where I got this!) I was thinking that I wouldn’t have to do lots of faffy cutting out and could actually sew at sewing club. Plus I knew it would help me practice sewing straight lines. The issue comes when the others naturally ask me what I’m making? I have no idea, truly. I’m just joining the strips and then again and again, as the tutor has instructed. I reply that it could be a bag, cushion, a thing or skirt. A ‘thing’ looks most likely right now…

The funniest moment so far was when the tutor asked how long me, Anne-Marie and Tracy have known each other. She was visibly shocked when we laughingly said we’d only met on that Saturday in March…

I’m going to try to join in with the Blog Every Day in May plan that knitting designer Vikki has mentioned on Instagram. I’ve never tried that before. It’s quite exciting. They won’t all be as long as this post, I promise!

New 

A night or two ago I learnt a new skill – mitred squares. I’ve been thinking about having a go for ages; then saw Angie’s photo on Instagram. They’re a good way to use up some oddments of DK. I have a lot!

I tried knitting one in stocking stitch, but it was too thin. Garter stitch is so easy and will make a nice warm blanket.  I’m really enjoying making these squares. It’s exciting to try something new.

I just picked up 60 Postcards by Rachael Chadwich at the library. I couldn’t resist it after reading the blurb: Rachael’s Mother died of cancer just sixteen days after diagnosis. Overwhelmed as her Mum’s 60th birthday approached she decided to scatter 60 postcards across a city, with a handwritten message asking the finders to get in touch. She decided to go to Paris, using the Eurostar vouchers which were the last gift her Mum gave her… Can you see why I couldn’t leave this book on the shelf? 

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. 

Cable knitting

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I’ve wanted to learn to cable to for a very long time, but have been concentrating on crochet so obsessively for the last 18 months (had you noticed?) that I put it off. I’ve also always felt that my yarn holding technique was inferior because I hold my right needle from above and take my hand off the needle to wrap the yarn. Do you know what I mean? Lately I’ve seen You Tube knitters, John Lewis demonstrators, a Mollie Makes ‘How to knit’ demonstrator on video and a knitting teacher do the same!

I learnt to knit when I was a child and found it the easiest method despite Mum telling me it was wrong (she still says I should learn to hold the right needle underneath and wrap the yarn ‘properly’.) Admittedly I do think that my Mum and Gran’s method of holding the needle underneath, sliding the hand along to wrap the yarn in a fluid movement is faster and more efficient but it seems nearly impossible to change an ingrained habit. However the knitting teacher said my method is fine, very common and is called ‘throwing’!

My tension looks fine to me, would you know which method was used?

(Upside down pic!)

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Last week I bought the latest Let’s Get Knitting and Crochet mag, which I haven’t bought for a while because I’m subscribed to Mollie Makes and Simply Crochet, but there is a really sweet cabled bag in issue 48. The problem is that you only get very sketchy instructions with LGK&C so I just couldn’t work it out.

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Last night I learnt to cable with a little help from the book that I heard thud onto the door mat as I typed yesterday: Knitty Gritty. This is my first attempt and you can see I didn’t have an issue with the technique. I’m so surprised! I always thought that cables would be very hard and beyond my skill level.

Next I want to master intarsia. Watch this space.

What new skill are you determined to master?