At the end of March 2020 I was told by my employer to ‘stay at home’ due to the escalating Corona Virus pandemic. Because of the nature of the work I do it was impossible for me to work from home. But as I work for a local authority I was still on full pay. So I’ve been full time at home for 3 months now – and still counting. But what have I been doing to keep myself sane during lock down?
Apart from doing a little light housework –
I sorted out the Craft Room
We moved to a larger house last spring. It’s a 1930s semi-detached, and like most houses of its type it has two reasonably large bedrooms and a much smaller box room, barely big enough for a single bed. The third room was designated as my ‘craft room’, somewhere I could store my stash of fabric, ribbons and other equipment in one place, without things being all over the house.
When we first moved in crafty type things were put here with no thought for organisation. As additional belongings were brought out of storage (otherwise known as the in-laws house!) these were put in the room any old how.
Organising this room wasn’t a massive job, - just rearranging a couple of book cases and storage units, and giving everything a really good clean. I’d still like to find some better storage solutions, but I did get the sewing machine out of its box and set up, which meant that I could move on to my other projects.
I made masks
Unfortunately not black velvet half masks as seen on elegant 17th Century ladies in Hollar’s engravings, but functional masks which cover your nose and mouth – as advised by the UK government and now a legal requirement when travelling on public transport. These really were an essential make, as after three months of working from home, my husband has now returned to work in the office two days a week. I’m also waiting for an imminent summons back to work in the next couple of weeks.
The masks were pretty simple to make – yes, I did sew the elastic loops inside on one mask, and I didn’t pre wash the fabric so they shrank the first time they were washed. I used some odd bits of calico I had lying around and some pretty striped quilting fabric from my stash.
Hubby’s verdict is they are breathable, soft against his skin and a lot better than the disposable masks he’s been given to wear at work.
I finished the patchwork cushions
I started these about 18 months ago, in anticipation of moving into the new house. They were to go with the two new settees we had ordered.
I felt really motivated to start with. By June last year I had made two patchwork fronts and completed 90% of a third. Then they were put away in the Craft Room whilst I tried to keep the rest of the house tidy as we had what seemed like an almost constant stream of visitors wanting to stay at chez Thompson over the summer.
With the sewing machine all set up and plenty of time on my hands, there was really no excuse for not finishing these cushions. And now they’re done they look fab! I love everything about them – the French General fabric, the harlequin inspired patchwork, the red ticking backs, and especially the big, squishy feather filled cushion pads.
I still need to make another cushion so we have two on each settee. I have the fabric and I have the time. So there’s really nothing stopping me.
I learnt to make needle lace
I’d wanted to have a go at making needle lace for some time. One of the biggest obstacles in my way was the almost complete lack of information about making early needle laces out there. There are one or two books but they’re all written in Italian, which I don’t understand.
I follow Matthew Gnagy’s Modern Maker on Facebook and out of curiosity thought I’d check out his website one day. He has written several blog posts about making period appropriate needle lace and there’s a video clip of Matthew actually making lace. Just like Matthew I was now inspired. After further, mostly fruitless, searching I came across Grace’s Lace website and this answered pretty much all my questions about making this type of lace and had a series of short, step by step videos on the process.
Needle lace is pretty easy to make. You need to master a couple of basic techniques and how to apply these to different patterns. The main skill you need to possess is patience – which luckily I have in abundance. It takes a long time to make even a couple of inches of lace.
I’m attempting to make Reticello/Punto in Aria. Basically, foundation threads are laid down on a pattern attached to a temporary backing of fabric. You then cover the foundation threads with lots of little button hole stitches and picots.
My first attempts were disheartening. My stitches were messy and the lace fell apart when it was removed from the fabric backing. But this is a learning process, and you hopefully learn from your mistakes, so I stuck with it. With practice my work started to get neater and the structure held once I’d finished. I graduated from using the crochet cotton I had no other use for to the more authentic linen thread. I’m now confident in my technique and have just started on my first lace which I intend to use on historic clothing. I’m keeping things small and simple to start with. Let’s see how I get on.
And, last but not least...
I made a website and blog
Again, something I'd been meaning to do for a while. Lockdown gave me the time to devote to finding the right building/hosting site. I'd already written a lot of the content, but I needed to edit and play around with structure and layout. I need to get some good images of my 17th century clothing - I feel a dressing up session coming on. I'm still learning the ropes, but I have a long list of subjects I want to blog about, and things I want to share with you as I make them.