With the kids back at school and the end of the holidays seemingly a distant memory (even though it was only a few short days ago) this week has had a strange feeling about it. Social media has been full of smiley faces in new school uniforms and shiny shoes as opposed to the busyness of holiday time where the smiles reflect the adventures being had at home and away.
The nervousness of a new term is something I am fully aware of as a primary school teacher. At some level all involved are nervous; the teacher who worries about settling their little charges in and making them feel secure and happy so that the exciting learning journey can being with gusto; the children whose natural sponge capacity and inquisitive nature can disappear into the background a little while they get used to their new surroundings, new routines and the new expectations put on them as they grow older; and last but by no means least the parents, nervous as they let their little ones hands go and send them into school to be someone else’s daily companion.
Smiles on the first day back from my gorgeous niece and nephew x
The end of the summer for my sister in law and her two little ones has brought more nervousness than usual with worries about the new term being overshadowed by the impending surgery their mummy is about to undergo the following week. After suffering for all of her adult life with the debilitating disease endometriosis she has made the difficult decision to undergo surgery to remove her womb and enjoy a future where she can be happy and pain free everyday with her ‘miracle’ children, who she never expected to be able to have.
For my gorgeous niece and nephew who have had a wonderful holiday with their mummy this nervousness is no surprise. Parents like teachers are in their eyes invincible, people who don’t get ill or need looking after by others. I can relate to this feeling, as a child I remember feeling scared and worried every time my Mum had a migraine and had to lie down in a dark room without any disturbances, until it passed. It was with the knowledge that these feeling would arise that my sister in law approached me during the summer break and commissioned me to create a free motion textile piece for her to share with her little ones before she goes in for her surgery.
Seven weeks of smiles and adventures…
The theme of this piece was to be London and reflect some of their favourite places to visit particularly along Embankment. After a few quick sketches, a basic design was decided upon with the key features being the iconic and familiar London landmarks of the Eye, the Gherkin and the Houses of Parliament. I was excited to begin this project, not only because the reason for its commission has so much meaning but also because the subject also reflects a part of London that is close to my heart and always at the top of the list when we head into the big smoke.
The real work for this piece began with turning my scrappy little sketch into a more defined and detailed drawing. As with my seaside inspired pieces from earlier in the summer, the finished piece would be a cushion and so this determined the size it. It is at this stage that I really got a feeling for the design as I created a to-scale image from which I then made templates for the final textile piece.
From scrappy initial sketch to detailed design
My excitement grew as I surrounded myself with my many fat quarter bundles and ever growing collection of fabric scraps from various projects. I am very much of the mind set of waste not, want not, keeping almost every last piece of fabric however small with the determination that one day they will be needed for a project. Whilst happily sitting in this sewing squalor (thank goodness Mr B was at work and didn’t witness the creative chaos) I set about choosing fabrics for the individual features of the design. I had been trusted with choosing this aspect of the design without any further consultation and I had decided upon a mainly funky modern feel for the iconic buildings with a more muted tones for the river itself. After a thorough rummage through my fabric collection I had found a good selection of materials which fitted this bill and was ready to begin the best part.
Sitting at my sewing machine ready to begin is probably the post nerve wracking part of the whole process as it is the moment when you are committing to the design and your fabric choices and there is no turning back. For me, as well, with only a few projects under my belt and with my skills still developing, the nerves are ever present as I hope that it will turn out how my imagination intended it to. The process of free motion embroidery also means that unpicking any mistakes is costly and time consuming which it is best to avoid.
As the piece progressed it organically took its own path, even as a self-confessed perfectionist and planner, I enjoy the fact that sometimes ideas develop whilst working on a project and this was certainly the case with this one. After completing the Eye and Gherkin I began work on the Houses of Parliament. Apart from the grey fabric, I had not decided anything else about this part, but once the other two landmarks had been completed finishing Big Ben and detailing the buildings with blue and pink thread and fabric seemed like the obvious and only choice.
Finally it was time to complete the river aspect of the design and although to an idle passer-by these features are just incidental in comparison to the main attractions already completed, these are some of the parts I am the proudest of. I wanted even these features to be recognisable and had studied images of the railings and walls along the river and tried to include these in my design. I probably spent almost as long completing the railings at the bottom as I did on both the Gherkin and the Eye put together. Each railing was completed individually, cutting the thread after each one!! Whilst being consumed in this repetitive process my reel of thread ran empty, thankfully I had some to replace it (a small miracle as I do not have many thread colours at present!). The lamps on either bank followed and last but by no means least it was time to create the stick people. Although stick people are probably one of the easiest things to draw, using a sewing machine to draw one is not quite so easy so it was with trepidation that I approached this task. I initially only intended to have a family group on the top pathway but after practising on some scrap material and to my surprise finding that I was able to reproduce my little people I decided to create a busy riverside scene more reminiscent of the real thing, with wooden benches, a bicyclist and a mother pushing a pram along the bottom pathway. To be honest this is probably the part I am most proud of as it really brought it to life and added that little something I didn’t know it needed until I reached the end.
Probably my favourite part of the piece x
Having reached the end of the free motion embroidery work, creating the cushion cover itself happened in a flash and the piece was complete, with a complementary London themed fabric from My Fabric House used as the back cover, a lucky find which really finished it off nicely. Completing this piece has probably been some of the most satisfying sewing I have done to date, I love the process of designing a one of a kind piece and am learning to allow a piece to grow as it is being created. I have to admit I am sad to see it go but am happy to think that its recipients will get as much joy from it being theirs as I have from creating it. The fact that it will help to ease a difficult time in their lives and be a lasting reminder of their one of their favourite places, I couldn’t be happier to send it to its forever home.
Finished and ready for its forever home xx