A little more than five months ago, I left behind my well-tricked-out quilting studio in Columbus, Georgia, and traveled to Oxford, England, where I would for six months serve as site director for a student residence. In terms of sewing equipment, I brought with me only my thimble, a seam ripper, a generic walking foot, a darning foot, and a small stack of cotton fabric that I’d hand-dyed. Within a couple of days of my arrival I went to the nearest big-box craft store and purchased a bottom-of-the-line Singer sewing machine, some pins, and a few spools of thread. I’d already found a decent pair of scissors here in this British house. You can read a more thorough explanation, and see some images, in an earlier post.
I had hoped that this minimalist experience – this return to basics – would be good for me creatively. And I think it has. More about that later.
What I did not anticipate, though, was how this experience has helped me to focus on what is important, and what less important, in my studio back home.
Here’s what I missed most:
Design wall – I rigged up a make-do one, but it was far from ideal. I did not have the space here for a good design wall. And that gave me pause. Big pause.
Rotary cutter and mat – Okay, I admit it. I went out and purchased these two babies. Couldn’t live without ‘em.
A long straight-edge. I had a two-foot ruler here, but no straight-edge that was longer. And I needed one BAD!
Tables with cut-out for setting in the machine – Big issue for me. I just cannot do my best work – piecing, walking foot quilting, free-motion quilting, any machine work– with the needle plate surface of the machine several inches above the surface of the table. I just cannot. Maybe others can, but I cannot. In fact, I felt so crippled by this issue that I refrained from quilting one of the larger tops I pieced while I was here. I want to free-motion quilt it, and I know that I cannot do justice to the top with this less-than-ideal set-up.
Simple six-foot rectangular folding tables with matte-finish tops. Oh, my lord I did not know I loved my regular ol’ folding tables so much! Here at Spencer House I worked (or tried to work) on the two formal dining tables. Neither is rectangular, and their tops are slick as owlshinola. I had to constantly fight with my fabric to keep it from sliding off the table. Finally I resorted to working on top of tablecloths, an act which, obviously required diligence less I cut into the cloths.
Do you notice what is NOT on my “missed most” list? Answer: My expensive sewing machine. Now, I did miss it – sort of. And were I at home I’d be limited, I guess, by the fact that the el-cheapo machine I purchased and used here will not sew on canvas. But I managed just fine with this little hundred-dollar Singer. Just wish I had had a table with a cut-out for setting her down into.
So, I find it interesting that the most expensive item, by far, in my home studio is the item I missed least. And some of the far less expensive items in my home studio were the ones I missed most. Hmmm. I’d been thinking of investing in a second expensive machine. Maybe now I’ll give that notion some more thought.
Okay – Below are some photos of the pieces I’ve made since I’ve been over here.
But first! I almost forgot! Big shout-outs to Village Fabrics in Wallingford, UK, where I traveled by bus several times to buy batting (They call it wadding.) and thread. The folks in Village Fabrics were not only friendly and helpful, but they hooked me up with a new kind of batting that I really love – Hobbs 80/20. I’d used Hobbs wool before, but I didn’t even realize Hobbs made this very nice 80/20. I wound up using both the fusible and the non-fusible and found both of them mighty fine for both machine as well as hand quilting.
Okay – For real now the photos of my quilts, minus bindings (except for the first one) which I choose to do after I get home (mainly ‘cause I used up all the big pieces of my hand-dyed fabrics and am going to have to dig into my home stash to find appropriate fabrics for bindings). And, obviously, I haven't started quilting the last two.