For me, it’s mostly small and obsessive. I did make a very large quilt to go on a wall a couple of years ago – around 2 metres square. I don’t know what got into me, but I decided I had to do it and just went for it and got it finished very quickly considering it was hand-quilted. But usually, I’m working on a small scale because my work is mostly hand-stitched, densely-embroidered, pieces and anything much larger than 30 x 30 cm just takes too long. Besides, I like to work small and dense. Working this way has practical benefits; for example, I can take the work with me when I’m travelling and it’s easy to pick up and put down again if I have only a few minutes to spare. I think this attitude may to some extent be a leftover from when I had a full-time job and small children. The only bits of time I could release were tiny snippets, so that’s how I worked, and it’s probably become a habit.
On Thursday last week I decided to spend a morning stitching something, instead of, as planned, getting on with a piece of work that I need to do to earn money. Because I’ve been working in white recently (a good constraint) I decided to continue on that theme. I’ve not done any machine stitching for a while so I hauled out the machine and got busy. The detail pictured is from a small piece of pre-felt, which I find to be a very versatile material (it’s around 22cm x 30cm or 9” x 12” if you’re in the USA). I decided to work 50 lines of stitching into it, using Bernina stitch #66. This is one of my favourites of the standard stitches because it creates a little hole, so over a wide area you get a very attractive lacy effect. 50 lines was enough to cover the whole of the area, fairly densely.
The point, I suppose, is that I really enjoyed doing this simple, but quite obsessive task. It took me a couple of hours during which I didn’t feel I was obsessing at all – just enjoying the feel of the fabric passing under my fingers, the monotonous thrum of the machine and the occasional curse when the thread broke. The older I get, the more I appreciate the pleasure in small things, and this was just such an occasion. It made me recall just how much I appreciate engaging with the material world and how important it is to feel and to be tactile.