I have been busy this last year and during the various lockdowns. I have an array of projects completed and thought I would share some of the work. All comments welcome.
2021 started slowly, I did a bit of Marie Kondo tidying of my sewing room and found joy in sorting fabrics. I wrapped small pieces of ribbon around bits of cardboard and filed everything in Rainbow order. I took time, I was working slowly and now I know that working slowly, and with purpose is good for longevity. It seems working slowly and in a focused way is good for creativity, for problem solving and for innovation. It has taken me over 40 years to learn to do things slowly. In my youth, pace was essential to success. Speed was everything, it differentiated the star performers from the averagely good. We were all told that speed, multi tasking, ticking things off lists and doing stuff mattered. Then came the pandemic and all of that changed. For example my travel list, which is still exhaustive, sits unmoved from 2019. The plays, ballets, operas remain unseen or heard.
Really, only the first two weeks of January were very slow, thereafter I embarked on the first term for several workshops. I did Contemporary Quilting, Abstract Art, Advanced Fiction, Journalism, Advanced Coaching, Creative Writing and all of these weaved alongside my work as a consultant and coach. I attended meetings, readings, and professional webinars. I worked weekends, I worked during the week from early morning late into the evening and I enjoyed most of it. When that term ended I realised I was physically exhausted and that my mind was weary. I had been doing lots of writing, sewing, painting and working whenever possible, however, a life on zoom is sedentary and sometimes soulless.
Having taken the Easter break to review things, I have decided to streamline my commitments to allow time for leisurely creativity and innovation to emerge; to allow more time for being active; to allow more time for people I want to see. I am choosing not to squander my energy, and to cherish it and to save it for the things that help to make me healthier and happier.
Sounds extreme? My lessons from the first term of 2021 (AKA Lockdown 3): I must do work that inspires me, and, that leisure activities should be just that!
How was your Lockdown?
Some of my projects from the third lockdown.
Spoken in the tone of Lady Whistledown.
My advice – and I am known for giving prodigious, wondrous, inspiring and often life-changing advice – is to find a magnificent series of books, a series of at least 20 different titles.
Use your most beautiful duvet cover and dress your bed with a glorious quilt featuring vibrant hues of colour.
Put on your favourite pair of pyjamas, wrap yourself in cashmere and get into bed. You must only get out for food or exercise!
All Zoom, Teams, Facetime and WhatsApp calls can be done from your berth.
Friends and family, video on, others, video off!
There is a small group of people who spend their life looking for new ways to work with fabric. They eschew commercial fabrics. They dye, paint, embellish and design their own fabrics. They like nothing better than an old, discoloured, polycotton sheet which can be transformed into a work of art.
These are the ‘Contemporary Quilters.’
In January, I started to learn about the contemporary quilters. They look for ways of recycling and reusing fabric. They can work with anything from an old tablecloth to scraps of thread or fabric used in the making of other items. I joined this group for an academic term to identify new ways of working which I had hoped would enable me to develop my own creative process. The term was cut short because of the lockdown, but since early October we have been meeting online for a couple of hours every week.
In January we started with paper transfer dyes. We painted designs onto A4 sheets of paper and this was then transferred onto fabric by placing paper and fabric into a heat press. I found that the transfers worked best on polycotton with slightly less success on full 100% cotton, which surprised me.
Once the fabric had colour, we applied Bondaweb and then cut it into different shapes. With Bondaweb, fabric can be reconfigured into any shape. My theme was, unsurprisingly, sewing. When I reviewed the outputs from the day, I found one colour that I really liked but couldn’t remember which colour or type of paint had been used. I was frustrated with my lack of a diligent process.
Later we continued with the paper transfers but I decided to be more methodical in my approach and created colour swatches of papers and fabrics. Now, at least I know which colour I used on a project and I have some chance of recognising and replicating it.
At home, I started to put the squares together and quilted them. I added some binding and whilst I didn’t like the actual piece, I have at least finished the project.
We moved onto resist dying and used soya wax to cover some parts of fabric. I decided to try to write sentences and my theme? You guessed, sewing! I researched sewing and quilting quotes and came up with the following:
My life is full of little pricks!
This is not a mistake it’s just a new quilting style.
Measure twice cut once, curse and do it again.
Only, I wrote ‘Measure once, cut twice’ and when I realised I had made a mistake I finished the sentence with ‘fuck, redo!’
I treated myself to several pots of silk dye in colours I love. Using the fabric which now had the soya wax writing, I applied different colourways. The results were okay for a first attempt, but I need more practice writing with the various tools. I ended up with four panels I had no idea how to use. At that point, I didn’t have the courage to cut them up so I packed them away in a plastic bag while I procrastinated. A few months later, having moved the bag around my sewing room several times, I took the plunge and I cut them. I then added some commercial fabric to make a quilt top. I think it’s okay and I can’t wait to see it after it has been professionally long arm quilted.
On the course, we continued to use an array of techniques for dying, but I always came back to silk dyes and 100% cotton. I made a few squares which I used in a log cabin design adding fabric a friend had brought back from India. I really like the end result. It needs quilting but at least the patchwork is finished.
Like most sewers, I have lots of scraps; bags of them, even tiny squares get saved. Our tutor suggested weaving our scraps. She provided us with a home made frame – an iron hanger shaped into a square. I was able to use some fabrics from the collage stash and I love the results. I am now a bit addicted to weaving my scraps and have started a new project with commercial fabric scraps. I will be using all of these squares in a hanging.
I have often been told I have a mind like a butterfly; it’s not meant as a compliment! The hardest part of any sewing project is deciding on a theme and then sticking to it. So this term, I am enjoying learning about design and how to build up a piece using a theme. I am still exploring themes and fabric designers such as Lucienne Day
The greatest thing about Contemporary Quilting is that if you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter. You can applique, paint or even paper over the offending error. Contemporary quilting embraces, at its core, sustainability and reusability.
For now, I am a sponge learning just as much as I can from amazing people. I wanted to share some of my work with you and have included some other projects in a gallery below.
So, on Friday it was seven months since Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown.
Seven months of fear, isolation and uncertainty.
Seven months of shopping for essentials, as if conducting a procurement exercise.
Seven months of trying to avoid people, as I walk along the tow path.
Seven months of reading books, as if it were my new work.
Seven months of worrying about friends and family.
Seven months of self dying and cutting my hair, which I am told looks okay!
Seven months of learning via zoom, teams, google classroom and Webex.
Seven months of limited work reaffirms how much I love working and engaging with others.
Seven months of making new friends, in virtual spaces, who I may never meet in person.
Seven months of learning to live in very close proximity with my lovely husband.
Seven months of spending time in my garden, my new vacation spot.
Seven months of obsessively watching the news, BBC, Sky where they repeat the same inward looking stories all day long.
Seven months of watching Aljazeera, to find out what is going on in other countries around the world.
Seven months of limited impulse buying on a Saturday morning.
Seven months of Amazon, Hermes and DPD deliveries, so many, I now know some of the driver’s family stories.
Seven months of fretting every time I cough, sneeze, feel bunged up.
Seven months of hoping for a vaccine, which may mean I can travel again.
Just to be clear we are the lucky ones!
So, today I am thinking of people across the country, across the world who are not so lucky. Thinking of people who are being pushed to the edge. Wondering what I could do to help make things a little better for at least one person.
My first overseas holiday was a long rail journey to Austria where, with my school mates, I stayed in the beautiful town of Kitzbuhel. Fast forward to 1979 and I moved to Paris to study and work. I lived in the 16th Arrondissement, in a place called Port de St Cloud but I spent every possible free moment walking the streets of central Paris, visiting museums and sitting watching people from the seats outside Deux Maggots which was near my school.
Since the Seventies, I have travelled overseas most years. Its always fun doing the alphabet of countries and I can normally find somewhere visited for every letter, with the exception of L, Q, X and Y. Qatar is the only Q and who knows I may get there one day. Yemen is the only Y and I am unlikely to visit. ‘L’ has a few options and I may decide to visit at least one of them at some point in the future. No country or sovereign state begins with the letter X.
2012 was, for us, a significant exception to the overseas travel rule. I refused to leave the UK, it was an act of defiance, of rebellion and it came at a time when I was still grieving for the loss of my mother. I refused to leave the UK until my husband agreed to an adventure. It was a withdrawal of willingness to go back to our usual haunts.
So, when foreign travel was off the agenda, I took a flat for a winter rental from 3rd January 2012, luckily for me the rental was extended to the middle of May. The flat overlooked a pebble beach and I could watch the sea coming in and going out.
It was the therapy I needed. It was the place where I started to write fiction. It was also the place where we planned our travel bucket list. We had different perspectives on when we should embark on our adventures: My husband assumed it would all happen when we retired; I felt strongly that we had to do it while we were still working and young enough to climb onto ribs and endure the hardships of some of the journeys we were considering.
Top of that list was Antarctica and in 2013 we undertook a most amazing journey which included a trip over to Easter Island. Fast forward and we have seen and done way more travel than we ever expected.
We had plans for last year including a trip to New Zealand but those plans were put on hold because of family illness. We also had lots of plans for this year, but they will not now happen. We wonder if we will ever travel by air again; we hope for a vaccine.
So, for the second time this summer, we travelled to spend a week in a flat over-looking the sea. We fell asleep to the sound of waves lapping or crashing onto pebbles. We walked the beach from Bracklesham Bay to East Head or vice versa. We sunbathed on a tiny balcony. We had a Chinese takeaway!
We started to think about future adventures and we agreed that for the next couple of years these adventures may need to take place in the UK. Re-engaged with our love of sailing, we considered the possibility of sailing around the UK. We realised that even though we will not be flying anywhere, we have many options and the only thing that holds us back from experiencing more adventure will be our own hesitation.
Once again I am grateful to East Wittering, the beach, the sea, the holiday agents for organising accommodation, and the people working in the shops and restaurants for providing for our every need. It seems that East Wittering is, for me, an inspiring place. Its a place where my husband and I engage in important discussions and it is where we seem to take important decisions.
Now, we will work out exactly how to make our plans a reality!!
In the meantime, I have decided to sort my photos into alphabetical country order so I am sharing my travel alphabet below. I am really interested to know where others have travelled, so, do message me.
My Travel Alphabet
A = Africa, Argentina, Antarctica, Austria, Antigua, Australia and Ascension Island
B= Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Belize, British Virgin Islands and Barbados
C= Chile, Capo Verde, Canada, Cuba and Cyprus
E = Egypt
F= France and the most amazing Falkland Islands (how did I miss this off the first time I did the list!)
G= Germany, Greece, Grenada and Guatamala
H – Holland, Hong Kong
I – Ireland, India and Italy
J = Jersey and Japan
K = Kenya
M = Mexico, Mustique, Martinique, Montserrat and Moldova
N = Nigeria and Norway
O – Oman
P = Peru, Paraguay and Poland
R = Romania (This is a bit of a stretch, Moldova was once part of Romania!)
S = Spain, St Lucia, St Martin, Senegal, St Kitts, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Sri Lanka and Switzerland.
T = Tanzania Tunisia Turkey Trinidad and Tobago
U = United States of America United Arab Emirates and Uganda
V= Vancouver Island, Virgin Islands (US) Vatican City
W= Wales (this doesn’t come up in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s list of countries, but I am including it anyway!)
Z = Zanzibar
“The ocean was one of the greatest things he had ever seen in his life—bigger and deeper than anything he had imagined. It changed its color and shape and expression according to time and place and weather”
On 10th July 2020, I sought, and I found freedom by the sea!
In fact, I fount it living next a small flat, in a simple English coastal village.
My freedom is glorious, wondrous, magnificent and inspiring.
The daily news deterred me from booking a holiday, but the draw of the sea became all consuming. I thought that I might just go berserk if I stayed cooped up in my London home for much longer. A bit of googling and my husband found a property with availability.
“The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.”
As we are preparing to leave London, we ask each other countless questions such as: Is it too early to leave the confines of our home? Will there be crowds of people? Did the people who rented the flat last week have Covid? Will my cleaning remove any trace of the virus from the sink, door handles, bedside tables, crockery and cutlery? Have I forgotten anything that will mean I have to go to the shops and engage with people who may have the virus? Will we be able to park outside the flat to unload the car? Will people look strangely at me wearing my mask around the place?
The answer to the last question is, yes, people look strangely at me and my husband wearing our masks. We only wear them in shops or when passing large groups. One man told his family not to cough as I walked past, they all fell about laughing, a bit like the robots in a very old Smash advert! Others whisper to each other and point at us. Its not like my part of London, where people are often seen wearing masks. It feels disagreeable and I feel conspicuous.
In the Cooperative store, a young woman who attends the till, gives me good advise about how to stop my sunglasses steaming when wearing a mask, Apparently you need to put soap on the edge of the mask, just where it touches the glasses. It does actually stop the steaming! She, at least, was grateful that I wore a mask when she was serving me. That one conversation and her kindness at my obvious embarrassment, made all of the other sneers and whispers insignificant.
There is nothing exciting about this village; a pub that spills over into the road with people holding plastic pints. A Tesco store which is in chaos, not sure how to handle social distancing,. An array of bric a brac, charity, and cake shops, but I have no interest in visiting any of them.
The place we are renting is not luxurious. The flat is basic, clean and minimalist. Its minimal in a way that means the owners did, just enough, to make it habitable for a week or so. But, and its a big but! This flat has a dual aspect Seaview!
“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
So, I found freedom in being able to watch the ebb and the flow of the waves, the sunrise and the sunset, the tide coming in and then going out.
My freedom comes from experiencing the energy of the sea, inhaling the ozone, and falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping or crashing against a pebbled beach.
Over 100 days ago I had my last ‘normal’ day: I saw a client, went to the hairdressers, did a bit of random shopping and joined friends for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Washing hands on arrival and even part way through the meal, elbow bumping our friends and the restaurant owner. The day was ‘normal’ but even in early March we both felt a little uncomfortable with the proximity of so many others. We had a great meal, lots of fun and frivolity and it was a memorable and super evening.
The next day we celebrated my husbands birthday, at home! We haven’t really left home much since then. I started a video log that day and have recorded six or seven videos to remind myself of the journey we have taken these past few weeks.
I wanted to do something to help others but was scared to offer to work at a supermarket or volunteer in a hospital. Quite quickly I volunteered for the NHS responder service, I have been on duty most of the time but have never been called. I offered free coaching to friends on Facebook to help people who may be worried about their careers. I had a few requests and I have loved the contact and working with those people.
I worked from home for a couple of clients for about a month and then things stopped. It started up again a few weeks ago and I hope it will build from here. It seems that the life of a freelancer is going to be a bit bumpy over the next year or so.
When the full lockdown was called I found I had to divert my energies to other tasks like cleaning. In the early weeks I also did a lot of clearing, but the clearing soon became problematic because I didn’t have anywhere to store things. The dump and charity shops all being closed meant that my garage got full quickly. I soon stopped sorting and started rearranging things.
Workshops started to appear online and I signed up for a few of them. Not all of them worked for me but I was grateful for the people putting in the effort to deliver content. I now have a few things I do regularly. I find that I benefit from this new way of connecting and learning.
Sewing is a passion and I continued to work on some of the projects I started at college. Different to the quilts I usually make with commercial fabric these projects are made with home dyed fabric. Sheets that would have been dumped got a new lease of life. I learnt to use scraps, no use to anyone, to weave new pieces of fabric and I am really pleased with the results. A fellow student started a coronavirus quilt project and I was eventually able to contribute a piece to his work. Sewing and knitting, as I say some of my passions, have been a bit of a struggle in lockdown. I realise that both sewing and knitting are good community activities and isolation makes it harder to focus.
A couple of weeks into lockdown I was invited to join a local bookclub which would meet every two weeks to discuss selected books. Its organised, on Zoom and everyone who participates is passionately interested in discussing books. Some of the books have been daunting like The Heart’s Invisible Furies, controversial like American Dirt, or fun and inspiring like Sweet Sorrows by David Nicholls who joined our group for the last half hour to take questions. He was a joy and it was so inspiring to hear him talk openly about his writing practice. Our local book group continues online and that is a lot of fun with a mix of books including the magical The Binding. The local group is also about friendship and support and has been invaluable.
My garden has always been a place of refuge and never more needed than in the lockdown. I can’t decide if the hot weather in London is a blessing or not but it does mean that I am noticing things more. For example, this morning I saw the sun rising at 04.45 and last night I was able to sit in the garden until very late with the sun setting at about 21.20.
Its hard to believe we have now passed midyear and that the days will start to draw in. I wonder what the next stage of the Pandemic will bring for me and John. My heart goes out to everyone who is shielding and to those people who live on their own. This has been hard for the grandparents stuck at home alone who can’t see their children and their grandchildren
I don’t have any big revelations or advice to give anyone. I am truly grateful for friends and family who contact me or respond to me, you make my life joyful. I am writing this post to acknowledge my over 100 day milestone.