Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Child's drawing to Mini Quilt

Warning - as well as sharing a Mini Quilt, this post has a philosophical, parenting slant!

I was lying in bed the other night after not managing to post anything here for the day, drifting off to sleep and wishing there had been more hours in the day to squeeze in the time to have written here. And also half bemoaning (silently!) the fact that I don't just blog about our everyday life and happenings. Instead,  I felt, I have to squeeze two lots of time out of the day - for the making as well as for then writing about the making. How much easier would it be to just write about our ordinary, every day happenings, and then it would only be one lot of time I'd be trying to squeeze?

But then it hit me yesterday that, actually, the making is so ingrained into not just my life, but the children's lives as well, that in fact I am really just trying to write about our everyday life and happenings.

Does that make sense? My example yesterday was a small present I was trying to make for the wonderful lady who 'founded' our beloved, local Montessori Pre-school. It was their last day today and Maria and I went along, to say goodbye and hand over the quilt we made for Maria's favourite teacher. But, because they are so sadly closing, I really wanted to make something for the original pre-school leader to remember 'Little Oaks' too. She was there with both Theo and Venetia, and, though her role had changed and moved out of the classroom, she was still very much involved when Maria was there as well.

I started off trying to make a small, machine embroidered mini quilt version of the larger quilt. Time was a little limited, so I decided I'd try using paint as well as fabric and thread. Maria sat down with me, drawing and painting alongside me. Helping Maria with her work meant my time became more and more limited and I used a pen rather than purely thread for a lot of my detail.

The little girl and quite a few leaves were sewn, then I switched to pen - although eye, nose and mouth were in pen as well.

Maria loved using the proper water colours that I dug out and painted very happily with them. My painting didn't go quite so well. I misjudged how much 'bleed' I would get from the wet paint into the fabric.

I carried on, trying to work the 'bleed' into the design a bit...

This is when it was quite wet still, it dried a little less blotchy but not wonderfully even.

But I really wasn't happy with it. Next to me though, Maria had quietly started creating her own version of a little girl throwing up leaves. I persuaded her to draw it directly on to a piece of fabric instead...

She used my special pen which can be removed by ironing the fabric, and she thought this was amazing. To the point where she drew quite a few things just for the sake of getting me to magicly remove them - like the words above! Happily in her final version of her drawing the little girl had wellies rather than all those toes to sew (I may have just mentioned that those toes would be a bit cold outside without boots!).

I just started sewing a red stripe before I remembered to take a photo!

The stripes had remained and Maria wanted rainbow stripes. Here's how she finished up.

I added the writing (really not my best, Maria had run off with my pen at this point and I did it 'blind' which was a bad idea!), popped a piece of wool on the back, quilted a simple oak leaf to hold it together and then it just required some binding.

I had used the middle of an old, vintage, embroidered table cloth for the main piece of fabric, and I found an old, cross stitched table runner which toned in really nicely with it for the binding.

It took a good few hours to make, from start to finish with the original failure too, but most of that was with Maria working alongside me. It was very much part of our day together.

And as well as helping me realise how much making is 'every day' for us, I also realised, anew, how much Maria, and all the children, are influenced by what I do. Not just in the subject matter that she chooses to draw or paint...

Here's a 'Thank You' card she came running in to show me as I was making the Kite Mini Quilt.

But just in the fact that she loves to create. More than that even, she sees creating things as something natural and every day. Just as eating 3 meals is natural and every day. It's not something we make time for whenever we get a chance, it's something we do every day. Just as she sees that I love books and love reading, again that's an every day occurrence here, not just a 'have we got time for it today?'. It's the things that are 'every day' for us that are ingrained habits. And, I know it's obvious, but I realised it's not what I tell them to do or encourage them to do, that counts the most. It's what I do that counts the most, what they see me doing not just saying. It applies to so many different areas - the best way to get them to spend time outside is to spend time outside yourself, you want your children to eat everything, you eat everything (I fail big time on this one!)... Of course, it's not completely fool proof, I'm sure there are lots of parents out there who happily eat everything and have fussy eaters, but it's a start and I think the main step. So many of us would look back on our parents now and realise how much they influenced us with their actions.

It's a thought that has cropped up in other areas of my life recently, not just parenting. 'Doing' is so much more important than just the words. And I'm trying to think of an elegant phrase for it - put your money where your mouth is? Actions speak louder than words? Are there any better ones out there for this? Whatever the exact phrase, it's a creed I'd like to live my life by.



  1. How about 'show, don't tell"? Firstly that's a gorgeous little quilt and a wonderful memento of somewhere that sounds like it was a keystone in your children's early childhood, but more importantly I completely agree with your parenting philosophy - I think it's wider than just creating or reading, or at least it can be. I think the most important thing I can teach my children is to have a passion for something and then help them find it. And if that's creating things or reading obsessively or photography or blogging or anything they see me do then that's great, but it's the urge behind it that matters as much as the manifestation if that makes sense.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. Our children imitate us, especially in the first seven years, and how we live is reflected right back to us through them. It is kinda magical, at least I think so, even though there are times I don't particularly like what is reflected back. But that is part of the learning and growing, seeing both the best and the worst of ourselves in our children.

    Beautiful quilt. I am sure a wonderful keepsake.

  3. Wonderfully said, Sally. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and philosophies regarding parenting with us.

    The quilt is lovely, and I'm sure the recipient will appreciate it greatly.

  4. Beautiful! Both your work and your thoughts. I think watching a child's creativity develop is one of the biggest joys in life.

  5. Set about doing something similar many years ago when Diane was about 5. I began embroidering her art onto blocks to create a full size quilt. I regret it to this day that I gave up overwhelmed with the amount of time it was taking. You have come upon a fabulous solution!!!

  6. Lead by example. You can say all you want, but children are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. Your choice of binding is delightful, as is the mini quilt. I don't see your tree painting as a fail at all, but then I love water colours BECAUSE of their tendency to bleed and do interesting things! Perfection in imperfection. :-) I'm so glad that making is an integral part of your life. It's always interesting to see what you (and the children) get up to!

  7. What I love about you, and your blog, is that everything you do, and write about, comes naturally. There's nothing forced or made up. You see the beauty in simple things and creativity in the everyday objects we hardly notice. You not only lead your children by example, you also lead us, and it's a joy to learn from you and follow along.

  8. You 2 work so happy and beautifully together! Love the embroidered binding!


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