I like having projects on the go. I like keeping my hands and mind busy. I have come to believe that when you live with chronic pain, if you wallow in it, if you allow yourself to focus on the negatives, over time your general outlook on life will change, and not for the better. And so, I distract myself with things I am capable of doing, even on my worst days. Knitting. Gardening. Embroidery. Handwork, in particular, appeals to me, and I’ve usually got at least two projects on the go if not more.
Lately, I’ve been learning an entirely new distraction: crazy quilting.
(That’s a picture of a naked CQ block before I began working on it.)
It all started a few months ago when I came across a stunningly beautiful embroidery piece that featured a dragon profile outlined by a mess of richly detailed and thickly layered embroidery. You can see it here. This led me to a new-t0-me website, Sharon Boggon’s Pin Tangle. There, I started exploring. And lusting. And wondering… could I do this sort of thing? How would one even start?
Around this same time, B started becoming seriously interested in hand embroidery, and I got distracted into helping her learn a few basic stitches, start sewing little pillows and other tiny objects of uncertain description. Next she wanted to sew on buttons, and then beads, and so we kept busy for a little while. Somewhere in the midst of this, I printed out Sharon Boggon’s wonderful stitch definition pages, and B and I explored some more, visited other websites, and played with thread and needles.
And then I saw it.
This teeny little reference to how much fun it was to take Sharon’s sumptuous surface embroidery class. And a link, to another absolutely stunning project in progress. The sort of stunning that had me printing out the picture just so I could pin it to the bulletin board in my office and stare at it a while.
I had to learn how to do this. This thing, this sumptuously embroidered concept… I was determined it would become my latest distraction.
I have a few requirements in my distractions. They must be able to be done in small bursts, and be put down and ignored for days or even months. They must be able to be done when my powers of concentration are low and my stamina for exertion is downright nonexistent. They must be able to keep my mind busy enough that I can ignore all but the worst of the pain and the most aggravating of pins and needles. And, most important of all, they must give me a sense that I have accomplished something valuable.
The idea of having a richly detailed embroidery piece that seemed to break all the known rules of embroidery… well, it sounded like exactly my kind of distraction.
There was only one problem: Sharon wasn’t offering the class again this year.
But she was offering one on crazy quilting.
I have memories of an old, vintage crazy quilt that belonged to my grandmother, I think. Or maybe it was Mom’s, I don’t quite remember. It was old, and full of lush velvets in deep, rich colours, and it was so heavy and warm that to sit on the couch with the crazy quilt on your lap was to risk smothering in warmth and heaviness.
I have fond memories of that quilt. But make one? Me? The crazy lady who quilts with only half a clue what she is doing?
So I hemmed and hawed and hemmed and hawed and then I started googling crazy quilts, and what I found was amazing. So many of the quilts were absolutely smothered in luscious, rich, detailed embroidery and bead work. Especially Sharon’s. Her quilts stood out among the many I looked at as being intricate and delicate and thick with embroidery. Really thick with embroidery and beads and buttons and more embroidery. Absolutely encrusted with it.
And she was teaching a class called “Encrusted Crazy Quilting.”
Before I could stop myself, I had signed up.
I had no intention of learning how to make crazy quilts this year. I am not a quilter. I dabble, every so often, and make quilts for the kids, but I am not a quilter. And I am definitely not a crazy quilter.
Or so I thought.
But with Sharon’s patient, detailed, and insightful teaching, I produced these:
Six weeks after starting the class, I have two finished blocks and plans for about a zillion more. What’s more, many of the things I learned in class have started sneaking their way onto other projects, like this one:
I’m having so much fun doing these complicated layers of embroidery and beading and motifs and buttons… I just can’t stop! The blocks are chock full of little surprises, like owls and toadstools and a beaded dragonfly. To see them here, they look pretty, but in person, they are nearly irresistable. People can’t stop touching them. I can’t stop touching them either. There is something about all the layers of stuff and the multitude of different stitches and the little charms and buttons that just begs your fingers to reach out and feel your way around the block. They’re just… irresistable.
Of course, all this crazy quilting has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy, since my habitual Christmas crafting got pushed to the back burner for six whole weeks while I tried new thing after new thing and found myself completely consumed by it. So, dear family, please don’t feel slighted if you don’t get a handmade gift this year. I’ve been a little distracted. In the world of pain and pins and needles that I inhabit most days, being a little distracted is a wonderful, wonderful thing.