I spend a fair bit of my time wishing ill on the UK Border Agency, but I suppose it deserves some credit, because I never would have learned to sew if not for its maddeningly obtuse and discriminatory policies. I moved to England in 2010 for my partner’s work secondment and because of a tedious visa process that punishes people (like me) who choose not to get married, I was not allowed to work while my application was pending, nor could I seek work as it was unclear how quickly the visa would be forthcoming. So I signed up for a sewing class, and then another and another.
They weren’t quilting classes, they were sewing workshops where you brought whatever you wanted to work on and the teacher would help you along. I had a terrible time loading the bobbin (Wait, you need to hook the thread of this thingy here? That only took me a month to figure out) and had no control over my speed or over straight lines, but after a few weeks I produced a couple of decent items.
Clothing peg pinnafore || Pattern from One Yard Wonders
First attempt at patchwork
When I finally did get a visa that allowed me to stay on the island, the first thing I did was to leave it. I flew to Toronto to visit my parents and got to play in my mom’s sewing room. A good friend was pregnant at the time so I got some tips from my mom on how to make her a baby quilt. It was a basic affair–just one piece of top and backing fabrics and diagonal straight-line quilting. The binding was wonky and I poked myself with a needle and bled all over it without noticing it until I’d finished, which brought about a mild panic attack, but turned out fine (Blood just washes away. Who knew?)(My sister did).
With that ever-complicated project done, I decided to scale things up and to make a massive European king-sized quilt as a wedding gift for my partner’s ex (as you do)(yes, really). That quilt was a hot mess, but apparently, non-quilters (amusingly referred to as Muggles by Off-Kilter Quilter) are even less aware than me about quilting screw-ups, so I managed to get away with it. It was a very simple design with very large pieces (inspired by a quilt made by Bijou Lovely, who now sells the pattern so if you don’t want to melt your brain with math like I did, go buy it!). The piecing wasn’t too difficult, but nothing lined up and the straight-line quilting was a nightmare since the quilt was huge, the batting was cheap and high-loft, and my machine is tiny. I don’t have a good photo of the finished quilt, but this is it right before I started basting it. That’s my entire dining room.
The quilt that ate Berlin.
When I’d finished, my first thought was, “never again!” My next thought was that I’m totally doing this again, so for the past two years I’ve been a quilter.
Funnily enough, I couldn’t wait to find work during my first bout with the UKBA, but now that we’re entering our second round (I had my passport with visa stolen and the dirty evil bastards are making me REAPPLY FROM SCRATCH), I’m kind of hopeful they’ll make me quit my job so I can spend all my time sewing.