If you are one of those people that creates things with your hands, you really are very lucky.
Apart from the calming effect that handwork has, using your hands to do meaningful tasks benefits both your physical and mental health. I know that it benefits me, curbs depression and boredom, gives me purpose. It definitely calms me and as I mellow with age it tends to make me so laid back that I am almost horizontal. Nothing wrong with that and I feel real sympathy for those that have not discovered the joy of handwork. We all know them – those that say that life is boring (how can you ever be bored I ask, with tears in my eyes), those that look for their kicks at the bottom of a bottle or those that spend their time mall-cruising munching on medication. Sad, really.
For those of us that have discovered handwork and, in particular, those of us that discovered it early in life, the chances are we’ve tried the lot. I have. From watercolours to miniatures, dressmaking to felting. And everything in between. The only thing I have never tried is pottery. The idea didn’t grab me, bit messy. But needlework, done with my hands, no machine involved? What can I say? In reality, I have devoted all of my spare time and much of my life to it.
I think it would not be unfair to say that most hand-stitchers have tried all of the different arts associated with their passion. Quilting, beadwork, lace making, embroidery, patchwork. They’ve probably also enjoyed crochet, knitting and tatting. But seldom do they combine these different arts.
Some years ago I started building a doll’s house. One twelfth scale, everything made with my own hands and a few simple tools. It gave me the opportunity to use every craft that I had ever learnt. From wood carving to gilding, stitching to moulding with polymer clay. I was in my element and, particularly because I was forced to be innovative. I was so pleased with myself when I worked out how to make a wooden floor that looked like the real thing, using a roll of oak strip that kitchen-builders use down the sides of cupboard doors and a carton of wood filler.
In my mind, crazy patchwork is the needlework equivalent of that doll’s house. It is an opportunity to use every kind of needle art that you have ever learnt.
When I stitch, I spend some of the time thinking up what I am going to do in the future. A few years ago I had this thought that I would like to embellish crazy patch in such a way that not one thing is bought and stitched on, nothing should come out of a stash and, definitely, nothing that decorates it should be a machine-made applique or strip of lace. Everything that forms the embellishment should be made with nothing more than a needle, a thread, some beads and my own imagination. I tucked the idea behind one of my ears for future consideration.
It was still sitting neatly behind my left ear when my fabulous publisher and I were sharing far too much French Red in Paris a few years ago. She asked me if I could write a book for quilters. I said no, I’m not an expert on quilting. Then suddenly, fuelled by Bordeaux and Beaujolais, this crazy patch thing came screaming out from behind said ear. And that was it. Or rather, this is it.
Two of the projects in the book include crazy patchwork panels that have been put together with a sewing machine but, other than that, everything has been made by hand with a needle. What you might call ‘crazy patch from scratch’.
That necessarily means that there are a lot of techniques’ galleries in the first half of the book. These include embroidery, bead embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, beadwork, tatting, needle weaving and needle lace techniques’ galleries. That’s for the embellishment. There is a techniques’ gallery for crazy patching and also simple quilting techniques for finishing off. We decided to count the number of techniques the other day and it came to something in the region of 160, depending on how you count it. For that reason alone, we are hoping that the book will be of interest to all sorts of needle artists from quilters to embroiderers. Even if the actual projects are not necessarily something they would want to do.
However. I had such fun working up the projects. I was barely restricted by lines, I could use every technique that I had ever played with and I could invent different ways to use them.