Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Category: Needlecraft

Give a girl a staple gun!!

I have been away from this blog for a good while. I’m not sure why. I think I found myself vortexed into my computer whenever I started writing from here. And that was disorienting me. I have this desire to be less and less digital as the pandemic wears on. I don’t know if it is related to COVID or not—maybe it’s just where I am in my life. It isn’t about writing. I write by hand (nearly) every morning and get great satisfaction from thinking on the page. It was the idea of sinking myself into writing one of these personal essays—content creation, research, photos, editing, telling a coherent story. I would have an idea and I’d want to write about it but I would often be in the middle of something else—something with time restrictions like making bread or getting plants potted or watered. There simply wasn’t the time to stop and just jot something down off the top of my head, because that was never the actual process.

Today is a little different in that I started with a couple of projects that were supposed to take much longer and then… didn’t. And I have my new staple gun to thank!

This is not my first staple gun. To my recollection I have two somewhere between the tool shed and a box or drawer somewhere here in the studio. But after a couple of days of searching I decided to stop at Flynn’s hardware on my way to do the grocery shopping and just get ANOTHER one. If all goes the usual way, I will find one of the other (or both) staple guns any day now.

Bilious plush seat cover fabric

For some time now (decades!) I was planning to recover two things—a sewing stool that was my grandmothers and a small chair I had picked up somewhere with an appalling gold-green-brown plush seat cushion—a color found in nature but usually associated with the result of a night of guinness and enchiladas. The chair was against the wall in the dining room as a spare for when we had a crowd. It is narrower than most and light to carry. The sewing stool was frequently used as a piano stool. Actually, both the chair and the sewing stool were called into service when we had the whole family for Thanksgiving. Maybe, because this is Turkey week and a very strange one at that, recovering these two seats became something of a mission for me.

That I’ve been thinking of recovering these seats for about 20 years means that I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’d like to have for the finished product. However, nothing ever caught my fancy sufficiently enough to get me going.

That changed when I decided I needed to cover my new work area. The work surface is MDF and could be painted, but not until we have a really nice, long, dry, day so I can do it outside. That won’t be until May if past experience is anything to go by. I needed something durable, water resistant, and nice enough to make it a pleasure to see, and I needed it now.

In sorting through the many boxes of stuff I had collected and stored over 39 years and then shipped to Ireland, I found about 3 yards of oilcloth in a Newgrange triple spiral inspired design I bought some time in the mid-1980s. I remember buying it in Ireland on our family kitchen table, an oak trestle table made by Colleen Miller (of Montana) that could comfortably seat a crowd. With four kids, it needed a bit of protection. However, as is often the case with material I buy, it was stored away and never used—but it was perfect! I measured off the length I needed and I had some left over. And, there, just below the work area was my grandmother’s sewing stool.

I set to work on cutting a piece of the oilcloth, pressed out the wrinkles and folds and went to work with the staple gun and voilà! A lovely rebirth of a family heirloom.

Carried on by waves of excitement and the thrill of having achieved something on this gray, dull, rainy day, I looked at the little chair with its bilious seat cushion.

Years and years ago, I had a book of oriental carpet patterns for needlepoint. (I would love to find it now but I fear it has gone missing in all the moves.) I remember doing a motif in needlepoint for a pillow that, while the tapestry piece itself was finished, the pillow never got made. I found the tapestry in a UFO (Unfinished Objects) box with a few other needlepoint and cross stitch projects that also were awaiting finishing touches (my personal “Isle of Misfit Toys”.) It comes as no surprise to my family that the needlework itself is where I get my pleasure—more than a few projects are to be found in that box. The pillow tapestry was just the right size for the chair cushion. Sometimes things just fall into place.

The piece needed work. It was all askew and had to be blocked so that it would lie straight. I thought it would take days. I would need some kind of board I could pin it to. I would have to wet it and stretch it, and what if the colors ran!?! And then I thought of my trusty steam cleaner… and didn’t I have an extra IKEA shelf that would be about the right size? And some of those map pins that I use for sticking up all kinds of thing? Usually, any one of these things would be a set back—a barrier to getting something done when I actually felt like doing it. But today, it seemed as if I was meant to get this done. The shelf was just the right size, the steamer worked a treat and, before the steamed, straightened piece of tapestry was dry, I was able to stretch it over the seat cushion and staple it into place!  I am so pleased with the result—20 or 30 years in the making.

Girls with tools… it’s a beautiful thing 🙂

Update: Traveler ‘Round the World

I spent my quilting time this week getting this project done—just the top and the back prepped for staging on the frame. I think I will need to get batting and I wouldn’t just order that online without actually seeing it and feeling it. A poor quality batting will take all the pleasure out of finishing the project. Staging it will wait until the nights come earlier in the evening—sometime in September, fitted in between the harvesting and  winter planting.

Robbie loves this quilt and wants it for his study so the pleasure of quilting it is doubled. I’ve always felt like that about finishing my projects. It’s as if making the patchwork top is an exciting creative puzzle. The magic happens on the ironing board as I press the seams of the fabrics I have just sewn together creating a new and different patterned fabric. I’ve been known to stay up late into the wee hours of the morning working on putting blocks together, watching the magic happen at the ironing board—the kaleidoscope of color and shape changing under my hands as each block and row come together. It’s a bit like gardening, putting flowers and plants together in colorful combinations that, thanks to mother nature, are not the same as any other garden bed in the world. But patchwork is so much quicker!!

But putting the whole thing together and finishing it requires the intentionality of “gift” for energy—who is it FOR. If there’s no one, the project tends to languish in the UFO box… Un-Finished Objects.

I’m going to use the same Traveler ‘Round the World method to do a quilt I promised to my grandniece Ella two years ago when I was quilting a baby quilt for my neighbors’ new baby, Emma. I’ve been thinking about it a good deal and even ordered a couple of yards of fabric that might complement what I already have. It will be a smaller quilt — a bed topper or something to wrap up in while reading a book or watching TV. I’ll start that in a couple of weeks.

For now, I’m going to use the strips of fabric I have left from this quilt top to make a table runner. I’ve been musing about it all along… and I can use some scrap batting for it. I’m excited about it and will have itchy fingers unwilling to wait for a rainy day to work on it. I might even start today!

Traveler ‘Round the World in COVID Time

At the same time as folks have been making 9-Patch quilt blocks and reusable face coverings, I’ve also been messing with the mountain of fabric scraps and remnants I have, putting together a fun scrap quilt based on the Traveler Round the World pattern. Instead of using the same eight fabrics throughout, I based the fabric choices on the shades, from light to dark, of basic colors (black, blue, violet, brown, red, orange, yellow, white). The piece didn’t need t be all of that color, but rather contain something of that color in the fabric — and maybe a little of its contiguous colors. The result has been startling and quite harmonious. I’m nearly done the blocks and am trying to decide how the layout from the central diamond will go. Leaning toward “barn raising”.

Here’s what that would look like (based on tessellating an image of one block)

Problem is I only planned for 32 blocks — don’t know why. So now I have to go back through the scraps and find four more blocks worth of strips. Happy days!

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