Three Hares Quilt

Here is a project I had in mind for a few years before actually making. I explored various hare ideas, and then last summer sketched out a plan, yet it still took me until April to actually start making it – and until now to get it hung on the wall. Clearly it has its own perfect timing!

Three Hares Quilt
(Click to enlarge)

There is a lot of symbolism in this quilt; some personal, and some more general. The Three Hares is an ancient symbol seen in China, Ukraine, Iran, France, Germany, and several places in Britain, particularly Devon. They were mostly made from 6th century to 15th century and follow the old Silk Road trading route, although the majority are in Germany and England, particularly Devon. Most appear in Christian churches, often near to a Green Man, but also in synagogues, Buddhist caves, Mosques and on ceramics. Interpretations of the meaning vary widely.

I have chosen to make this symbol into a wall-hanging for our home partly because the hare is the only one of my spirit animals that is also loved by the rest of my family, but also because there are three of us in our family, all dependent upon each other. I wanted to celebrate and strengthen that bond.

Making the quilt posed a number of challenges, and used some techniques that were new to me.

The gold disc (is it the sun or the moon?) was inspired by a Klimt painting using random rectangles of gold patterns, but I didn’t want to create something that was so random it was impossible to cut or to sew. So each quarter has rotational symmetry, and there is a Brigid Cross in the centre.

The outside border was going to be more random in terms of widths, but this more equal layout seemed the simplest method for sewing. I still had a problem that the inner disc quadrants came out slightly small, something I possibly should have anticipated, while the outer sections came out wider, requiring some adjustment when joining the quarters.

The hares were made using a pattern drawn onto interfacing, cutting it out and ironing it onto the fabric, and then folding the fabric under this, as I did for the Pooh Bear Map quilt a couple of years ago. The eye holes didn’t want to fold under neatly, so I cut them out and then satin stitched the red fabric in place. The rest was stitched in place through all layers of the quilt.

Celtic knotwork is not something I have tried before in fabric, although I have drawn many over the past 20 years or so. But when I saw ready-made gold bias tape for sale, I realised that would be an ideal solution for this project. Usually knotwork is designed to fit the space available, rather than having a pre-set line width as I had, so trying to work out how many crossing points to allow made this more challenging for me. Also I needed to include the corners in the design rather than just the border, which is not something I have done before, so I had to do a lot of thinking and exploring to work this problem out. In the final corner design, based on a double triquetra, it proved unexpectedly easier to do in bias tape than to draw. I would ideally have liked a single continuous line through the whole border, but with an even number of crossing points this was not going to happen! Instead it is four interconnected lines, which fits with the symmetry of the rest of the design.

Actually making the knotwork proved trickier than I expected – not least because there are no simple instructions on the bias tape packet! After puzzling over it for several days, I found an internet tutorial which luckily explained the method to me in about two minutes – draw the complete design onto greaseproof paper, iron the tape in place, peeling off where it needs to be woven underneath. Once complete, pull the paper off, transfer to the fabric, iron in place, sew in place. Practice is of course harder than the theory, for three reasons I might improve on next time. First the design gets covered as you go so I went the wrong side in my ‘crossings’ a couple of times and had to correct them, which I don’t normally have a problem with when drawing. Second there may be better paper available than the one I used as the design stuck too firmly, making peeling off very tricky. And third, after ironing the bias tape onto fabric it didn’t stay stuck very well especially when folding the quilt into the machine for the sewing, so I had to partially pin it in place. Also there is an awful lot to sew around, with threads needing cutting at every crossing point, which I somewhat underestimated even knowing I needed nearly 10m of bias tape…

Finally, the edging. I repeatedly held different dark blue fabrics along the edge, and some gold or red fabrics, over several days. Nothing looked right. Eventually it came to me that it didn’t want a single colour, it needed several. Given I was rather short on most of the colours anyway, this worked in my favour. However, after all the days I had wasted in not doing the border when my sewing machine was needed for other things, I gave up on calculating what size to make the pieces or how many I needed and just pay attention to any intuitive messages that came. I used every piece I cut in a long strip, and had just over an inch to cut off at the end. I could never have calculated this as accurately.

The finished quilt size is just under 18” square. I was able to use several scrap fabrics for the quilt, but around half were purchased new, leaving more for my stash. Such seems to be the cyclical way of my quilting.


Walking Barefoot and Remembering

I wrote a little over a year ago about my rediscovery of going barefoot, and how I discovered it helps to keep me connected and open to Mother Earth. Life flows when I am in touch with the Earth, and stops when I cut myself off.

A year on, and I am still suffering from the practical point of how to keep my feet warm enough. Wearing socks around the house seems to be a good compromise for me, but except on rare occasions I have been unable to go barefoot outside. Until last week.

The sandy beaches of Northumberland called to me, and I took my shoes off. A wonderful feeling. I stood in the sea, letting the waves run around my ankles, and had a huge feeling of knowing I had been there before. In that place on Bamburgh beach, hundreds of years ago. I looked out and knew the place, knew it was right that I had returned. Thanks to the protection of the Farne Islands, and Lindisfarne in particular, it had changed less with the passing of time than many other beaches to the South, although I think the castle and certainly the lighthouse had been built since. I knew then, if I hadn’t fully known it before, that it is time for me to start remembering who I was in previous lives so that I truly know who I am now and what I am here to do.

There have been a number of aspects to this remembering and reconnecting, but this was the first that really spoke to me so I’m writing about it first. More may follow as it feels appropriate. Ultimately my aim in remembering past lives is to know the lessons I wished to learn from them, so that I may fulfil my purpose in this life. I have long felt that this life will be my last. As part of this, I have found it interesting to realise how my remembering that area of Northumberland makes sense for several of my interests – a fascination with eighth and ninth century English history, a draw towards Celtic parts of Britain and their later history and myths, and particularly Celtic writing and knot work such as forms my Sorrel leaf image. I have also had a huge amount of discomfort towards Viking and Anglo Saxon history of the same period…

Bamburgh beach felt like somewhere I had been pleased to reach, having lived elsewhere and travelled East to greet the sea. A pilgrimage possibly, for which reaching the beach was an achievement but not the end of the journey. It reminded me of my own wish to walk the ‘Wainwrights’ in Cumbria.

Later in the week I was barefoot on another beach less than five miles away, and was amazed I had none of the same feelings of recognition. Lovely beach, almost identical sand and waves, but not remotely familiar to me.

My other discovery however was finding that I could carry M for miles in the carrier, barefoot along the beach or in the sea, with far more ease than I normally carried her with my shoes on. We were part of the same Earth that I was connecting with, who supported us fully and completely. She was part of me, and we were both part of the Earth.

Crafting a blog…

You will see that my blog finally has its own picture. I said a month ago that I couldn’t really draw… Well it is amazing what you can do with a pile of photos of animals off the internet, some celtic knotwork to link them together, and a lot of help from my spirit allies!

This idea has been a little while in the making, ever since my original photograph plan was scuppered by the Rowan trees back in May. (See Best Laid Plans, May 23.) I said then that various animals asked to be included – I had moles jumping up and down in front of me making little piles of soil all over our grass verge until I added them in. After that they vanished again… Last year I watched a young badger rooting around the undergrowth for ten minutes or so in mid-afternoon, from a distance of 4 feet. It was my birthday and while I have always had a soft spot for badgers, it seems we go forwards together. Blackbirds are the only birds I have ever seen learning to fly; just like the crazy pair in the Peanuts cartoons! They nest in our hedge ever year without fail.

Not all of the animals wish to be discussed here, so I won’t, and my main power animal did not wish to be included at all. But I must explain that the drawing of Dragon is as I first saw him, curled up in a cave and peering at me out of half an eye. I sketched him out, and then seemed to be guided towards the necessary corrections over a period of a few days. He is a truly magnificent creature, who I do not feel I am able to do justice to, but he says it will do for now. (He is the most wonderful steely-blue colour, and is covered with metallic scales.)

This is not intended to be the final version – I would like to do it as a lino print, but so far am having a steep learning curve! However, I decided that as this blog is about crafting, then this rough sketch was one step along the way of my path. At some point it will be replaced, but until then it can remind me of the process I have been through.

What’s in a name…

I have spent some time this week creating a ‘gravatar’ for myself, the one you now see on my profile, based on a Sorrel leaf.

Before creating my blog, in fact at intervals over the past few years, I have had reasons to consider what name I should use publicly. I could simply use my own name – but that might not be fair to others who share my surname but not my beliefs. I could have used my ‘spirit’ name, my ‘magickal’ name as some would term it, but it is too personal and too easily abused, given the power that lies in a name. I save it for conscious communications of the spirit kind. So I needed a new name, one to use for writing. And if it was to be a public name, it needed to say something about me, and to have the right kind of energies associated with it that I could use to help me with my writing.

I explored several ideas, and was surprised how many potential names were already in use by other pagans. But then as so often happens on this path, everything just came together one day and felt right – the blog name and a writing name, and neither were in use by others as far as search engines could reveal. The simple meanings are given in my profile, the deeper meanings will become apparent over time as they gradually reveal themselves.

Just to be sure, I checked the names using Chaldean Numerology, my preferred system. Sorrel = 22, the same as my own name, and the same as Dragon. Creator and Doer. Pen adds 18, or 9, the Spiritual number. 22 + 18 + 22 = 62 / 8. Theme of Balance. Under a rowan tree = 60 / 6. Theme of Love. As a group of numbers they expressed very well what I wished to create with my blog and I felt these energies should serve me well.

So I had a name, but I didn’t yet have a symbol or image to use.

Having considered and rejected various ideas, I read an interesting passage in ‘Summer with the Leprechauns’ by Tanis Helliwell, where she learns about various spiritual symbols or insignias. The leprechaun for example has a four leaf clover, symbolising control of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water. (What we sometimes interpret as luck, they see as manifesting what is wanted.) Her symbol is a rose, a seeker or keeper of spiritual truths; enlightenment. The elements each have their own symbols. What was my symbol I wondered, and could I use it for my blog?

The easiest way for me to find out would be to journey. (I say easiest, but nothing is easy when you have a small child as a constant companion. The journey was done with a drumming CD and M sleeping half on top of me. No wonder most traditional shamans are male or over fifty!) As is my usual way, I started at a familiar hollow oak tree, about half a mile from here, found my cloak and staff where I had left them, and stated my question to the guardian of the doorway. Oak likes to challenge me with my question before I journey to otherworlds, knowing that I am wont to set off without having properly considered first, just because I have a rare opportunity to do so.

Knowing my question, I thought I was well away today; I knew what I wanted to find out, and I hoped I would find a simple answer. But Oak stopped me in my tracks (not for the first time) by telling me to be sure I knew what it was I was asking, as I would have to look deep within myself for the answer. Also that when I add more names, I was adding more layers of secrecy, confusion, conflict, and potential. Make sure I do it consciously and by choice.

He was not wrong! The experience of having my symbol shown to me was both revealing and unsettling, and I learned more about myself and who I was and where I was going than I could ever have anticipated. Like having a deep truth brought out into the open, one that just felt right and comfortable, but was formidable at the same time given the expectation contained within the truth. However when I asked if this was an appropriate symbol to use, the answer was no. Sorry folks – I won’t be sharing any details just yet! I asked what I should use, and was told I needed to look within myself for something appropriate for the blog. What kind of an answer was that?

So the symbol I have chosen to use, as I said above, is a Sorrel leaf. The heart shape is very like an alder leaf, that of a watery nature with the drop bouncing back up, but tripled like a trefoil or a triskele which I generally interpret as being of three worlds. Very green, so it is aligned with the heart chakra in colour as well as shape. Celtic knotwork is not something I have done much of recently, but it felt appropriate here – one line, connecting all. Following it as I drew and coloured became a meditation of its own, much like walking a labyrinth, considering what it meant and what I hoped it would bring. The fact that it took three attempts to before I was satisfied only deepened my connections. And so my ‘gravatar’ brings alive the craft part of this blog at the same time.

I knew I had got it right. And I also know that had I simply been told what to do it would not have been half as rewarding as working it out for myself.