Not Beautiful but Special

Sometimes you make stuff and you know from the beginning that this is not going to be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever made, and yet it is somehow special. So it was with me and this dog blanket.


Made mostly from random fabric scraps and upcycled bedcovers, this was always going to look a bit random. But this little blanket was made for dogs and I reckoned that they didn’t care as long as it was nice and snug. And I needed a project to do that was simple, requiring no brain power whatsoever, and soothing.

I’ve written about my experience in a previous blog entry, so won’t go into detail here. I was looking for something that I could do while I was with my mother, who was beginning the journey that would end with her death on 25 September 2016. At first I was hesitant, but I ended up taking my hexies to the hospital with me, where I sat at her bedside stitching away.


I just can’t recommend EPP (English Paper Piecing) enough. It’s wonderfully meditative, particularly if you do something as unchallenging as sewing random hexies together. It made for a talking point with my mum. The hospital staff were curious, too, and wanted to know all about it.


And here are my hexies all sewn up. These are all fabric scraps from different projects, including some fabric from bedcovers and shirts. The shirt fabric (the blue/white/grey stripy material) was terrible to hand sew, so I won’t be hand-sewing shirt material again in a hurry. Luckily I’ve managed to use up all my remaining shirt fabric in this piece.

As you can see, I’ve had way more shirt and bedclothes-fabric than other fabric, and so it is a little bit less than random. Unfortunately, I did not have enough material for a  proper pattern.

But then that would have required planning… 🙂

Back home, I figured that the bright yellow swirly fabric would make a nice border and backing for my blanket.


And then the most exciting thing. I’d been playing around with free motion quilting for a while now, but found it a difficult skill to learn. Instead of moving the fabric around smoothly and evenly, like the lovely Leah Day manages to do in her tutorials (find here channel on YouTube), I was jerking the fabric this way and that way, my stitch lengths were varying hugely, and the overall effect was the kind of image you might have produced on an Etch-a-Sketch. When you were three years old.

But most skills can be learnt with a bit of practice, and my last practice piece was rather less terrible than my previous ones, so I figured I could try a simple doodle pattern on this quilt.


It still looks wonky in places, and I need to learn to stop and start without moving the fabric, but I’ve discovered two wonderful things: 1) I don’t totally suck at this any longer; 2) from a distance, you don’t actually notice any mistakes. Certainly your friends won’t. Result! Even though I’m not convinced that I want to be making these very complicated feather patterns (see an example here) sat at my sewing machine, I’m certainly encouraged to try more free-motion quilting. I may reserve complicated stuff for hand-quilting, which I’m far more comfortable with. And, indeed comfortable doing, as I can do my quilting sat on the sofa with my dog on my lap.

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And, voilà, here’s the finished blanket. I gave it to my dogs to try out, with predictably cute results:




But this lot already has plenty of blankets, so this not beautiful but special, bright and cheerful blanket went to Dylan’s doggy friend Rosie, the cockapoo, whose first birthday we celebrated only yesterday. Apparently she loves it.




About alycevr

Academic, translator & maker of things
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