Mabon Quilt

Quilt for the Autumn Equinox / Mabon.

Here is my quilt for Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox. This quilt is about harvest, not just in its ripe fruit colours but in the fabrics themselves, for which I think I counted 19 in total. Some are from previous quilting projects, such as the three tree series I made, giving a nice link to the harvest of tree fruits (apples and plums in particular). Several squares were cut from scraps leftover from dressmaking, some of them clothes I made for M which are now too small for her but also one of mine which I still wear. And finally the music fabric, leftover from a ‘baby quilt’ and saved for quite a long time because these small pieces were all that was left. It represents another joy in my life right now, to play with the morris dancing group. Again, nothing has been bought new. So to look at this quilt brings happy memories. (To me, it is all the more remarkable because the difficulties I had actually sewing it were beyond anything I have done recently, as since August I have been suffering from a very sore hip and leg and at times can barely sit or stand. Sewing was done in very short bursts, left-footed. But that is a story for another time.)

Since both equinoxes are all about balance, I have also been testing an urban myth that has been puzzling me since I discovered it last Spring. There is a much repeated story on the internet that it is possible to balance an egg on its end at the equinox. I tried this, and failed. Then I read it was at the moment of equinox. I have no idea if the Earth is acutely aware of the moment of equinox or not, as with the moment of solstices. There is however a moment when the tides turn, which are of course affected by sun and moon so I didn’t just dismiss it out of hand. So since I missed the right time last time, and it was quite a convenient time this time, I thought I would have a go in the spirit of scientific enquiry. This time I also invited company.

What we proved is: some people can balance eggs. Duck eggs, chicken eggs, they will apparently all stand on their ends for as long as is required of them. The equinox makes no difference to those capable of balancing an egg, as the trick was quite happily repeated the next day. I, however, am still incapable of balancing an egg on a smooth, hard surface, no matter what time of day. Although I can have fairly good results if I use a non-flat surface…

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Lughnasadh Quilt

Continuing my series of quilted display cloths I have been making, here is my finished quilt for the beginning of August and the colours of the grain harvest.

Lughnasadh Quilt


The design is still based on squares, as I did for Litha, but this time I did not have so many suitable fabrics available to me so decided to make some of the shapes bigger. This made it quite entertaining to sew together, since I could never follow any regular pattern!

I have deliberately used some of the same fabrics as for Litha, and would like to make that a passing theme through the year: that each quilt has a relationship to the ones either side through sharing some colours, as well as having some that are unique to only that quilt. In this case I am unlikely to use the brightest yellows for anything other than Lughnasadh, but I used the gold prints for the Litha quilt, and will use the darkest red / orange fabric for Mabon and also for Samhain if I get stuck with a lack of other suitable fabrics.

It is now forming part of my display as we prepare for the coming festival, and has been adorned with candles, flowers, and some corn dollies we made last year. For the first time we have some wheat in the garden, sown by M at school as part of her ‘Spring Garden’ and transplanted here in April. We will be able to ceremonially cut it on the day and place it centre stage.

Finding the Excitement

Last week I wrote about my difficulties of shopping for fabric. I was fortunate to get a second opportunity to go shopping again this week, thanks to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire having different half terms, so having been frustrated and appalled by my previous incompetence, I thought I would have another go!

I spent some time considering what was still needed fabric-wise, with the benefit of knowing what was (hopefully!) available, and what surprised me was to realise how nervous I was about the whole thing. Yes, shopping makes me uptight. I rarely find what I want, frequently come home with something that is nearly but not quite wearable, am in danger of going into into shop after shop and coming home with nothing, and given current restrictions, am likely to end up with a tired and grouchy little girl and a parking ticket. (How people are cheered up by going shopping I have never worked out!) In short, my whole attitude was defeatist before I even started. So I meditated some more on the kestrel.

It struck me that the key thing about the kestrel was its golden colour. It was truly beautiful. I wasn’t being at all golden in my attitude, seeing shopping as going into a battle where I was likely to be only partially successful at best, and could come away with a hole in my wallet and few spoils of war to show for it if I wasn’t careful. This had to change. I meditated some more, and suddenly realised that I was looking at everything the wrong way around. I should be excited about having the opportunity to go on a shopping expedition, with my little girl, to buy fabrics which would offer the potential of new, fun projects and some good clothes for us both to wear. I had to be open to new things, allow my intuition to speak and tell me what it liked, instead of my logical, negative mind trying to judge the suitability of each item. I didn’t quite reach excited state, but I was able to go with a much more positive and open frame of mind.

Did it work?

Replacement fabric and last week's pink mistake

Replacement fabric next to last week’s pink washing mistake

Yes! I bought the fabrics I had remembered liking, plus saw some others, and found two remnants of those I wanted for a fraction of the price. I bought an amazing eight fabrics, a total of around 18m of mainly natural fibre (cotton or wool blend) cloth for just over £60. They should keep me going for a while yet! (And yes I do have a use planned for both of the fabrics in the photo.)

However, the best part was realising how it is possible to bring excitement to activities, instead of ordinariness. I have bought a bird feeding station for the garden, and in another meditation seen how to redesign the whole of the back garden putting nature at the forefront. I am almost terrified at the size of the project it has exploded into, yet tremendously excited at the same time. I’m sure I will be writing more about it here.

My aim is now to wake up every day excited by the potential it holds. I had never come close to imagining it was possible to feel this way until now, but how amazing would it be to greet each day with such joy? And yet nothing has actually changed except my attitude and way of looking at things.

Kestrels and Clothes

I am not very good at identifying birds, being generally hampered by poor eyesight and their tendency to fly away before I have seen them properly, but kestrel is one that I can usually get. It flaps about like a fat golden pigeon, until it suddenly hovers and dives – at which moment you realise it is something very special.

I was out cycling again this week, enjoying the milder weather and feeling very unfit. (Walking at M’s speed is great for fresh air, but not for exercise!) I had a particular problem to ponder, that of clothing for M and me. I have never been much good at clothes shopping, so thought it would be easier and more fun to make some things we need now that M and I have stopped changing size as fast as we were. Great in theory, but I hadn’t anticipated some of the problems I have experienced trying to put this into practice.

Patterns for women’s casual clothes tend to be those that are easy to sew, rather than being well fitted. (I’m not after dresses or office wear right now!) So shirts are often simple, untailored shapes, trousers have a zip at the back, and fleece or sweatshirt jumpers tend to be few and far between – unless unisex will fit. Not much is good, practical, warm clothing for this time of the year. Children’s patterns have different problems, with most being variations on a theme already available in supermarkets – or sundresses. But there are always some exceptions, so after spending some time searching internet catalogues (no time to stand and look in the shop!) I picked out some I thought might do. Of course I failed to realise that child patterns frequently feature a child older than the pattern is intended for, so one is too small, but it was half price and I can make it a size bigger. I already make my own patterns so this isn’t a problem, but it all takes time and pattern making time adds to the project time.

So finally having got the patterns and considered what fabrics I might use, we went shopping. I then have the problem of a busy market stall, hundreds of fabrics all crammed in, and nothing that quite meets my expectations. (Quilting and home furnishing fabrics make up most of the market.) So I revise my ideas and try to keep an open mind over what might work, and find a couple I like. They come in a different width than the length I had written down, so I have to guess the quantity, trying to ensure I don’t end up spending more on fabric than I could have paid to buy the finished article. Some fabrics I would like to hold up to see if the colours work for me, but of course there is no mirror. I would like a second opinion, but M is more of a hindrance pulling random rolls out to look at or knocking them over. It gets to my turn, so I buy the four I have identified and plan to return next week for the other two or three I need.

I bring the fabric home and wash it in two batches, one of them bleeds red dye everywhere so what was going to be a cream, red and blue nightie for M will now be a pink, red and purple dress. I rethink yet again what fabric I still need to buy.

So I was pondering all this when I saw a kestrel dive down onto the grass verge just next to me and fly of with its prey. Kestrels take an expansive view of the world, they wait for the right moment and then strike. They know when to act, and when not to. They have mental concentration, a good level of intuition, and ultimately accuracy of movement. I will try to bear this in mind next time I manage to get to the shops!