My list of things to do is varied. I know that I seem to have a reputation for wanting to take part in scary adrenaline fuelled activities (I can’t imagine why!), and I do love doing wacky stuff like that. But actually there are lots of things on my list that can be done sitting down. Ahhhh sitting down. One such thing was to make my own cushion cover. Simple, maybe. But something that actually I thought I’d never do.
I have made a cushion cover before. A very long time before my list was written. I was at school, quite early on at secondary school; we all had to make one for our textiles project. Mine was a thin beige cushion cover onto which I stitched a felt pattern. It was a mess. I couldn’t use the sewing machine. I couldn’t sew by hand. I certainly couldn’t thread a needle. I found the whole experience quite upsetting. I simply could not see the cotton against the material – and I wasn’t allowed to use contrasting colours because I was told that wouldn’t look right. I was defeated. Everyone else in the class – boys and girls alike – seemed to be creating wonderful things. I knew what I wanted mine to look like, I have always been quite creative and even a bit artistic and I have the ability to see images in my head (I often refer to it as thinking in colour), but I had no skill in making it happen like I imagined. I was not proud of my cushion. I wish I’d not bothered trying in the first place. It put me off sewing completely.
Over the last few years my list has grown into something that helps me try new things, learn things and achieve things. One afternoon I thought I should be adding things that I’ve tried before and failed at… and this was one of those things. I was sure that one day I would conquer this thing. Such a simple thing.
Very soon after updating my list that time around a friend came and spoke to me saying she could help me with my cushion cover. I explained about my eyes and my difficulty in seeing cotton, and that I had been defeated previously, but she said it would be no problem, she would show me how to make a cushion cover myself that I would be proud of. So I went over to Fenland Textile Studios one lovely Saturday morning with my Mum and Sister (moral support!) to have a go.
This is Fenland Textile Studio based at Unique Cottage Studios. Set in the middle of rural Lincolnshire, just outside Spalding, it is surrounded by flat fields growing tulips, potatoes and lots of other distinctly British things. Angela, a lovely and very talented lady, loves to work with materials – she quilts, sews, dyes (using natural things like indigo, tulips, and other similar things), and teaches. She runs classes and taster sessions at her studios and for groups and schools around Lincolnshire. She invited us in and, wearing her gorgeous red Dr Martens as used in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (how did I not know they re-paired up those red and blue Docs and sold them?!), began to explain what we were going to do.
Our cushion covers were going to be made using a man’s shirt. This meant we didn’t have to worry about a zip or button holes – the front of the shirt would become the back of the cushion cover, providing an easy way to stuff in the cushion pad. We had two choices – either a patchwork cover or a appliqué pattern. My mum, who has been known to make dresses and other clothing (she made LincsGeek’s waistcoat for our wedding) went for the patchwork option. My sister and I decided to go down the appliqué route.
We started by making our pattern and cutting out the front and back of our cushion from the shirt we brought with us. Next we designed the front of our cushion and cut that out of different material before using iron-on stuff (I didn’t write down what it was called so now I can’t remember!) to fix that to our cushion so we could more easily stitch using the sewing machine. I used both a manual (gorgeous antique Singer) sewing machine and an electric one successfully – using black cotton meant I could see it against the light coloured material I’d chosen, and I think my flower design looks great with the black outline. I even managed to sew the front and back of the cover together without supervision. Go me! Ok so my line is a bit wobbly in places, and a bit too close to the edge on one part of the flower, but who cares – it’s home made by me and I love it!
Angela was great. She calmed my nerves and had a teaching style that made me feel totally at ease. She gave instruction without being patronising in the slightest and in a way that made me feel like I knew exactly what I was doing all the time. She showed us how to do things, demonstrated, and gave us every opportunity to chat with her and ask any questions we had. The three of us has such a lovely day in her company, and the results (and our smiles) speak for themselves.
I know it probably sounds like nothing but I am ever so proud of my cushion cover. My very own home-made textile project is now sat on my chair in the back room where I sit and day dream. You never know, I might even attempt another one sometime; I have gained so much confidence from this experience and am very grateful to Angela for helping me achieve this.
Find out more about Fenland Textile Studio on Angela’s website, on facebook and on twitter. I like the look of the Indigo Blues workshop and the Cake and Make sessions, and will be going back to get my craft on soon.