My sister told me this morning that she was anticipating a blog post from me today as I'd been most unforthcoming on that front over recent days. This criticism is very true, but hand-quilting is a slow business, which does not yield new makes several times a week, nor does it allow any time for typing. It is greedy, both in terms of the attention it requires and in terms of physical commitment. I realised yesterday that one of my non-thimbled fingers is now so well-worn that it had become painful to type on my phone's touchscreen, so I'd subconsciously begun avoiding it (which is perhaps why I've also been absent from Twitter and Instagram).
Don't take this to mean I'm not enjoying it though - I find it so addictive that it's an effort to tear myself away from it to do anything else. I still don't feel I've perfected my stitches: they are smaller on the back than the front and while I can pinpoint why this is, it doesn't seem to help me to consistently correct this. Having said this, they are for the most part pleasingly even on the front, so I'm happy to work this out over the course of the quilt and I've been stalking the videos on YouTube which reveal the hand-quilting rocking motion in glorious 3D allowing one to pinpoint the elements required for hand-quilterly perfection. As a collection of videos they reveal that every quilter achieves this in a slightly different way, with some merrily stabbing at their own bare thumb with each stitch, seemingly unflustered by the potential for bloodshed over a white quilt and reassuring their audience that spearing yourself repeatedly with the needle is just one of those things you have to accept and endure about the rocking motion. I guess it's just about finding your own idiosyncratic route to whatever produces good results.
It's also opened my eyes to a number of products which appear in the course of these videos. A Clover desk needle threader has gone straight to the top of my wish list - does anyone know if they really do thread a relatively thick cotton through the tiny eye of a needle successfully? Additionally, I've seen a solid latex thimble that I'd like to try on one of my other fingers and I'm thinking more about whether my current lighting is sufficient to save me from blindness before my fortieth birthday (which is just five short years away).
In Diana Boston's wonderful biography of her late mother-in-law, Lucy Boston, she shares one of her letters in which Lucy writes to a friend: possibly a friendship quilt can include old crone's sewing when you consider that I can't see:- the eye of the the needle, the thread, the edge of the material, the point of the needle, the stitch I have made and that in my agony of blindness I even sewed my dressing gown skirt into it.
Reading of Lucy's life and seeing her beautiful quilts hand-pieced well into her nineties made me realise how desperately I do not wish to curtail the potential for life-long quilting fun by damaging my own sight - I tend to do most of my hand-sewing in the evenings, so any recommendations for lighting would be gratefully received. Both of my local fabric shops sell something called Purelite, which looks effective, if somewhat upsettingly clinical and as though dental treatment could be about to be administered at any moment. Some of these lights comes with built-in magnifying glasses - I don't know enough about vision to know if using a magnifying glass unnecessarily over long periods could actually weaken eyes, rather than relieve the strain on them or how easy it is to actually spend your entire time peering through a lens?
Oh, and just in case you're interested in seeing the back of the quilt, I've included a photo of it above. All that is left to quilt are the large side and top panels of plain white border fabric...which sounds as though I am on the precipice of completion, but no. My plan is for these borders to be so densely quilted that my fingers may well be only tiny stumps by the time I've finished. Stark white fabric can quickly look grubby (most especially when one recklessly wears a black jumper which leaves tiny flecks of lint all over it) and I've noticed that the areas with dense quilting seem to suddenly look very neat and finished and not at all like their unquilted counterparts.