Remembering the Crazy

It’s been 20 months since I finished the Giant Quilt of Craziness, and the memory is perhaps beginning to fade a little. I thought about it a lot this last week, though, as resuming work on the Rose Quilt (moderately giant & definitely crazy, albeit not a crazy quilt) convinced me that now was the time to make the Hussif of Perpetual Remembrance, crafted from the leftover materials of the GQC.


This hussif is not only going to save me a world of trouble (in carting about a needlecase, scissors, thimble, pin container and reels of thread), it is also going to remind me of a Very Important Lesson.

Small is Beautiful.

Small is elegant, well-designed, pleasingly executed. Small is, in fact, Sanity.

Even the process of making the hussif has been a revelation. The careful planning and exquisite care of a small thing well done is infinitely more satisfying than the ambitious blaze of a Big Thing Begun followed by years of procrastination, dutiful slogging and regret.

Not that small things are guaranteed to go well, of course, and something going less than well in an enormous ‘just get it done’ project is probably less distressing than something going badly in a project which was, until then, Just Dandy. (Do not click for larger images unless you want to see some terrible stitchery.)

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Mad ambitions aside, it appears I still have some lessons to learn.
Stretch + Non-Stretch = Frustration, for example. Physics is (are?) non-negotiable. Except you can finagle a little when you’re dealing with fabric – but only a little. Except for stretch fabric, which finagles itself whether you want it to or not. Ditto slippery fabrics such as satin.

Other lessons include: always check carefully that the line of stitches you are snipping and unpicking is the line of tacking, and not the line of intended permanence; and always assume that everything will take longer than you expect. (Try to enjoy this.) The lesson about proper needle-thimble interactions I will spare you; and don’t worry, it doesn’t look like I’m going to lose the nail.

I am considering this as a working toile: something which you do for practice and to see how it works, but which can also (hopefully!) be used as a thing in itself. Which takes the pressure off a bit: every time the reality fails to connect with the beautiful dream in my head, I remind myself that I can make another. (Without stretchy or slippery fabrics.)

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Who knows? Perhaps when all this is finally done and dusted, I will make another one out of the leftovers from the Rose Quilt. That sounds a bit more cheery than this one of black and grey and purple: the colours of Victorian half-mourning. Rather than refer to it as the half-mourning hussif, or the Hussif of Perpetual Remembrance, I am using the less mellifluous but cheerier title of the Butterfly Hussif.

As you may have guessed by now, I did not make much progress (translation, any progress) on the main projects this week. But I did make (and finish!) a useful tool which I trust will make me more efficient in future.

Consider this a sort-of-progress report; your Gargoyle Chips for the week. Rose Quilt 0, Curtains 0, Hussif 1.

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The Ambition of a Potato

I am not, by nature, an ambitious woman. (Aside from those mad visions of grandeur which rise before the eyes of every writer when the work is going well.) In fact, I have all the ambition of a potato.

Let us take a moment, therefore, to consider the potato’s ambitions.
The great ambition of the potato is to be productive. The sole aim of its existence is to produce more potatoes. (In this we differ slightly: I don’t want to produce more writers, but more writing.) The potato is content to sit in its little hill, getting on with the magical business of turning potato (singular) into potatoes (plural).

Of course, this means that the potato does not get out much (have you ever seen a potato out at a nightclub?), but a busy social calendar does not appear on the potato’s list of ambitions.

Another ambition that does not appear: being terribly decorative. The potato does not waste its time trying to look pretty. Even its flowers are fairly straightforward and plain. I myself do not wish to look like a potato, exactly, but neither do I go in for gilding.
On which note, while couch potatoes are practically icons of unhealthiness, potatoes are not, particularly if you eat a healthy range of varieties and don’t cut off the skin (the best bit).

La Pomme de terre
Unloved potato skin being taken up to heaven

The potato does not aspire to be cool – it doesn’t faff about trying to adapt itself to fads. Can you imagine a potato trying to be low-carbohydrate? No. The potato is what it is and it doesn’t try to change to suit the buzz of the moment. You could say it has a healthy self-esteem. (On which note, watch Rhod Gilbert on the subject of potatoes if you are ever in need of a good laugh.)

Nor does the potato dream of being ‘the new caviar’; a status symbol available only to the elite few with deep pockets. But nor is it an inverted snob. Rather, it provides good solid food for all classes, ranging from fish-and-chips to pommes de terre duchesse.

Despite the potato’s unashamed back-yard stay-at-homeness, it isn’t an ethnocentric vegetable. It is known and loved all over the world, from its South American origins to aloo gobhi to latkes, to… well, have a look here. The potato translates well.
I Make a Good Soup - Says Potato Pete Art.IWMPST6080
Internationally recognized, happy at home, endlessly adaptable, endlessly productive, secure in itself and content with its lot – is it any surprise that I have the ambition of a potato?