Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Eyesight


My sister told me this morning that she was anticipating a blog post from me today as I'd been most unforthcoming on that front over recent days. This criticism is very true, but hand-quilting is a slow business, which does not yield new makes several times a week, nor does it allow any time for typing. It is greedy, both in terms of the attention it requires and in terms of physical commitment. I realised yesterday that one of my non-thimbled fingers is now so well-worn that it had become painful to type on my phone's touchscreen, so I'd subconsciously begun avoiding it (which is perhaps why I've also been absent from Twitter and Instagram).
 
 
Don't take this to mean I'm not enjoying it though - I find it so addictive that it's an effort to tear myself away from it to do anything else. I still don't feel I've perfected my stitches: they are smaller on the back than the front and while I can pinpoint why this is, it doesn't seem to help me to consistently correct this. Having said this, they are for the most part pleasingly even on the front, so I'm happy to work this out over the course of the quilt and I've been stalking the videos on YouTube which reveal the hand-quilting rocking motion in glorious 3D allowing one to pinpoint the elements required for hand-quilterly perfection. As a collection of videos they reveal that every quilter achieves this in a slightly different way, with some merrily stabbing at their own bare thumb with each stitch, seemingly unflustered by the potential for bloodshed over a white quilt and reassuring their audience that spearing yourself repeatedly with the needle is just one of those things you have to accept and endure about the rocking motion. I guess it's just about finding your own idiosyncratic route to whatever produces good results.  


It's also opened my eyes to a number of products which appear in the course of these videos. A Clover desk needle threader has gone straight to the top of my wish list - does anyone know if they really do thread a relatively thick cotton through the tiny eye of a needle successfully? Additionally, I've seen a solid latex thimble that I'd like to try on one of my other fingers and I'm thinking more about whether my current lighting is sufficient to save me from blindness before my fortieth birthday (which is just five short years away).
 
 
In Diana Boston's wonderful biography of her late mother-in-law, Lucy Boston, she shares one of her letters in which Lucy writes to a friend: possibly a friendship quilt can include old crone's sewing when you consider that I can't see:- the eye of the the needle, the thread, the edge of the material, the point of the needle, the stitch I have made and that in my agony of blindness I even sewed my dressing gown skirt into it.
 
Reading of Lucy's life and seeing her beautiful quilts hand-pieced well into her nineties made me realise how desperately I do not wish to curtail the potential for life-long quilting fun by damaging my own sight - I tend to do most of my hand-sewing in the evenings, so any recommendations for lighting would be gratefully received. Both of my local fabric shops sell something called Purelite, which looks effective, if somewhat upsettingly clinical and as though dental treatment could be about to be administered at any moment. Some of these lights comes with built-in magnifying glasses - I don't know enough about vision to know if using a magnifying glass unnecessarily over long periods could actually weaken eyes, rather than relieve the strain on them or how easy it is to actually spend your entire time peering through a lens?
 
 
The Patchworks of Lucy Boston, by the way, was a book recommended to me by Vivienne in the comments to one of my posts several months ago and it's a book with which I've fallen utterly in love. Not only does it contain photos of Lucy's stunning work, but it left me with a great fondness for Lucy as a person and a quilter and she is often in my thoughts when I'm hand-sewing. If it isn't a book which you own, I'd recommend it hugely - it's a warm patchwork of photos, letters, construction methods, Lucy's practises for fabric acquisition and how her quilts were patched and repatched to extend their lives. It's quite unlike any other quilting book I've come across.
 
 
Oh, and just in case you're interested in seeing the back of the quilt, I've included a photo of it above. All that is left to quilt are the large side and top panels of plain white border fabric...which sounds as though I am on the precipice of completion, but no. My plan is for these borders to be so densely quilted that my fingers may well be only tiny stumps by the time I've finished. Stark white fabric can quickly look grubby (most especially when one recklessly wears a black jumper which leaves tiny flecks of lint all over it) and I've noticed that the areas with dense quilting seem to suddenly look very neat and finished and not at all like their unquilted counterparts.
 
Florence x

17 comments:

  1. Wow, what a labour of love! Good luck with stitching the remaining sections. I can sometimes feel the same with knitting. You think you;re nearly there but you're not! It's always worth the effort you out in

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    1. Definitely - and I don't actually feel any pain while I'm doing it - it's only when I stop that I realise how sore my fingers are!

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  2. YES! To the needle threader. When I finally broke down and bought one I was amazed at how much frustration (and time) it saved.

    Your quilting is lovely and a most pleasant sight to begin my day.

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    1. It's so lovely to have a personal endorsement for one - thank you for stopping to say that they are indeed wonderful - I think I will now buy one!

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  3. Your quilt is coming along great! nice stitches

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  4. Wow your hand quiling is beautiful, it's going to be stunning. I can relate to the slow, sometimes painful (to the fingers)process, I have just finished hand quilting a cot quilt. Here's the link if you would like to see http://sarahashford.blogspot.com/2012/10/vintage-india-quilt.html#comment-form
    Keep going, it will be worth it!

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    1. It's beautiful! Thank you so much for leaving a link. x

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  5. Your quilt is beautiful. you are right hand quilting does take its time but in the end it is truly worth it...even though the blog posts aren't so frequent

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    1. I really need to get another piecing project on the go as it's wonderful for when I'm at home, but not overly portable for sewing whilst out and about!

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  6. This quilt is progressing at a rate of knots, Florence! And looking so pretty. My lighting's not ideal either; I've been thinking of putting a daylight bulb in my old Anglepoise lamp, which can be pointed at my machine on the desk or at my spot on the sofa. It'll make a very cold-looking light (because we're so used to the yellow of ordinary bulbs) but perhaps it's worth it. Still, it'll be no substitute for bright sunlight, alas!

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    1. Yes, a cold light is an odd thing to get one's head around, isn't it. We tend to use some bulbs made by Philips which looks like one of the old-fashioned tungsten lightbulbs, but actually have a halogen bulb hidden within. They give a really lovely light and could probably be used on a standard lamp as well as ceiling roses.

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  7. From what I understand, dim lighting or squinting isn't what causes your eyesight to fail - it's the muscles which focus your eye that need exercise to stay limber and effective.

    So if you look up into the distance for about 20 seconds once an hour, that's supposed to keep you from becoming near-sighted. Looking out a window is most effective because it's also brighter so your iris will get a little workout too - and things outside tend to be further away.

    My eye doctor told me this because I work at a computer screen all day and felt my vision was getting blurry - turns out screens make you forget to blink. I still have excellent vision but he suggested the above exercise to keep it that way (in addition to blinking, haha).

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    1. That makes perfect sense and also bears out something I've noticed about how much more relaxed my eyes feel when I quilt while watching something on iPlayer when one is reminded to look up occasionally!

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  9. I have an old vintage repro needle threader- it like magic when as it threads the tiny needles. For lighting- I thoroughly recommend this http://www.rnib.org.uk/shop/Pages/ProductDetails.aspx?category=floor_lighting&productID=DH23801 I sew in a cosy dark room and this is my salvation for evening sewing- my most productive time in the winter.

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    1. Thank you so much for the link, which suddenly made me realise that I have a very similar looking lamp in my son's bedroom which was given to us a wedding gift...which he may agree to swap with me for something...

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x