Wednesday, May 05, 2010

In which Great Britain is not a roundabout

In my mind there are two mental lists of preparations for the baby.  The first starts with useful things like a cot and a car seat and encompasses a lovely long list of knitting that I'm optimistically thinking I can get done by mid-August to be on the safe side - well what else is maternity leave for?

The second list is more contemplative; the things that I want to teach this little one: all about our faith, how to knit and sew, the tools that he or she will need to grow up happy, content and confident. These will be repetitive if not constant lessons to cover many many years.  But then there are some other things that we're really going to cover sooner rather than later.  You see the boy is from Yorkshire, with a Liverpudlian mother and a Glaswegian father; I'm from Devon, and we live in Warwickshire, all of which have some fairly unique local dialect, and all of which is assimilated into our general conversation.

They're the words that you never even think of as strange until someone gives you a funny look of complete incomprehension and I'm sure that the rest of the UK and the rest of the English-speaking world has all of their own quirk words.

If you fancy a challenge see what you make of these:
~ Sunday was dreek;
~ Longbridge is an island, in the middle of a land-locked county;
~ Warwick has several grockle-shops and many many grockles (particularly during the summer);

I'm thinking I'll need to write an English-Family Bear dictionary!

I've had plenty of time to ponder all of these things because we took the long bank holiday weekend to completely ignore the top half of the 'things we need for the baby' list and curled up to relax instead.  H went to the gym and sketched out a few possible paintings of Ullswater from the photos we took last week and I tailed him into his studio (formerly our conservatory/junk room, newly reorganised) and curled up on the old flowery sofa we have in there with different colours of cotton and a little gentle hand quilting.
May 040

So far in my embryonic quilting career I've always preferred to make up my own colour combinations, usually throwing together as many different colours or patterns as I can, and with the exception of jelly rolls, I've avoided anything too matchy-matchy.  It turns out that only lasts as far as the matchy-matchy is not the epitome of cute and the perfect colour to match the baby's room; I fell for Moda's Love U range and in particular the baby quilt panel:

May 031

I did very little to make this; the panel stayed as is and the end of the bolt of the white ABC fabric was just enough to add the side panels. Even the dotty border is from the same range, all of which came from Quilter's Den in Warwick.

I machine quilted the central border in red and then around each little alphabet square in blue.  The rest of it was my first foray into hand quilting; around the tree, the central letters, the birds, butterflies and the tortoise in blues, red or green.  For the alphabet letters I've picked out just the letters that spell H and my names.  As we aren't called ACEGIKMOQSUWY or even BDFHJLNPRTVXZ it isn't an even distribution but as I've found with most of my hand quilting, you can't see it a mile away, it's only when you get up close and run your fingers over the surface that you can feel the texture of a quilted bit; the blue leaves that I picked out in the tree or the feathers on the little red birds.

There is a different pace to hand quilting and although I think I will probably stick to machine quilting, certainly for the larger quilts, it is very therapeutic, sitting and chatting and gently outlining in pretty thread.  I'm going to hand quilt my block of the month quilt because I'm doing quilt as you go and I can spin and turn the blocks quite easily.  I found I really struggled with even a small lap quilt when I wanted to turn corners quickly and I couldn't reach the middle of the quilt easily.  Long straightish lines are great though.

My other discovery, or rather, something that I need to discover is a thimble that works for me.  I have a little metal thimble that I wear when I'm sewing on a binding but part of my thimble technique is that the loss of feeling makes me move onto another finger and protects by essentially taking it out of action.  It works for binding but a weekend's worth of hand quilting has left me with dimply and slightly bruised fingertips from pushing the needle through.  Please, all you quilting maestros, take pity on my sore, hot little fingers and tell me what wonderful gizmo you've found that might help.


  1. With thimbles you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince. My favourite was a leather one with a metal top, I'm sure that it is in a safe place somewhere.

    You have to have the car seat or you can't get them home from the hospital but most of the baby things you think you have to have can wait for a week or two. I can't know remember how I quilted my son's first quilt, except that there were hand quilted dinosaurs in the border.

  2. Baby bear's quilt looks beautiful! I'm still searching for the perfect thimble as I find them difficult to use. When I was hand quilting for first sampler quilt (single-bed size) I tried a variety and ended up taping my fingers with masking tape whilst quilting. A bit unorthodox but it worked for me. The tips of my fingers on my sewing hand seem to have toughed up with the handsewing I now do.

    I like the idea of a family dictionary, my own children speak with a slight West Country accent with a hint of Geordie thrown in which often confuses people (much to their amusement).

  3. Sometimes a beautiful panel is the perfect way to go - I LOVE your little quilt!

  4. As a new Grandma, may I advise that to start with, you will need a very big car! Everything is bigger than it used to be, and heavier too.

    On the thimble side of things, I now have one of the new rubber, with metal tip clover thimbles. Pretty comfy, and no metal against the finger to rust from my little sweaty finger.

    Your quilt just says it all. Clever Mummy Bear.



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