Friday, 5 October 2012

Bookshelf Cushion for Linda

For all of you that thought yesterday Mum was being mean about my sewing efforts (which I promise she never is) in one respect recently she definitely was right about my sewing.

I think most of us strive to be the best we can creatively and often, in the face of so much talent, find that our work is wanting. I am not by nature a perfectionist. I do want my sewing work to be as good as I can make it and sometimes I get frustrated when it's just not as good as I want it to be.  It's why I like to keep this blog real and you do hear about the mess ups and the things I wish I'd done differently.  I don't want to be one of those bloggers who appears to have the perfect life and only makes perfect items.  Anyway, back to the point of this blog post...

Back in April I logged onto Facebook (as I often do when I'm online) and in my news feed was a letter to followers of Author Linda Gillard.  (You may remember me telling you when Linda was kind enough to send me fabric for my hexie charm quilt and when I was moved to have a go at a bit of art quilt work having read one of Linda's novels: Untying the Knot.)  The letter from Linda informed us that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to have a mastectomy.  Linda has always been frank about mental illness issues and the difficulties she's faced with publishing her novels. She has always appreciated fully how helpful this frankness is to people in similar circumstances.  With announcing her news she also informed us that she would share with us what she was going through, in the hope this would help other people in her position and create a wider understanding for those of us fortunate not to be facing this battle ourselves.

I remember feeling really dazed when I read these words.  Despite knowing other women who had battled breast cancer over the years, I couldn't really imagine what Linda and her family were going through, or about to go through.  It still felt like something that happened to other people not someone I had become friends with, after meeting Linda through Bookcrossing and our shared love of quilting.

The more I thought about it, and it was on my mind a lot, I wanted to do something to make Linda smile. To let her know that she was being thought about and immediately I turned to fabric.  I decided to make a cushion for Linda:  A bookshelf with books on it - not just any books, but Linda's books:  Emotional Geology, A Life Time Burning, Stargazing, House of Silence and Untying the Knot.

Bookshelf cushion WIP
The books pre-embroidering of titles.

I used mainly fabrics by Anna Maria Horner for the books and some Joel Dewberry wood grain fabric for the shelf. I decided I'd sash it in some texty Sweetwater fabric to link in with books/text theme. I tried to pick fabrics I thought complimented the themes in the books, but also worked nicely together. I read through this tutorial by Don't Call Me Betsy, to give me ideas on construction.  It came together really well. I've always fancied making a quilt full of books on shelves. I thought I'd use up the last of my fusible fleece and then straight line quilt around the books and the sashing.  That's when disaster struck.  I discovered the same problems I'd experienced trying to quilt The Colour Brick quilt had not purely been down to my trying to quilt a larger than normal quilt. There was something not right with my sewing machine and it produced teeny tiny stitches when feeding layers of fabric.  They were too small even to attempt unpicking without damaging the design. I set up the Brother for some free motion quilting (only my second attempt at stippling) and set about filling in the white negative space with free motion quilting.  Unfortunately as I'd already straight line quilted in some areas the fabric didn't smooth out as well as I'd hoped and I was not happy with the results. I could have unpicked, but without unpicking the teeny tiny straight line stitching I thought I'd get the same problem again.

So what did I do? I put the cushion top on a pile of fabric and covered it up. My Mum had seen the work in progress and liked it. She must have nagged me constantly about when I was going to finish Linda's cushion and send it to her. Every time I was sewing something else she'd remind me I had to finish The.Cushion.For. Linda.  She was usually met with the sort of comments you'd expect from a sulky teenager, like: Linda will think it's rubbish - she knows about sewing and quilting. She won't want this. or  I don't want to send it Mum. I don't want Linda thinking: Oh great I get cancer so people sent me crap presents. I think not looking at the panel again I'd let the flaws in my head grow out of all proportion to the reality.  Mum kept saying it's not really as bad as you think. It's clever. Linda will appreciate that you just wanted to make her smile at a time when life isn't giving her loads of reasons to smile.  In the end I agreed I'd finish it when I got a new machine.  It was the first thing I completed when I got my machine last week.


It took me so long to complete this Linda had already e-published for some months her 6th novel: The Glass Guardian.  This is probably why my Mum offered to take the cushion to the post office for me as I struggle to get there at times.   I think she thought Linda would have probably written another cushion's worth of books by the time I agreed to actually send it!

Yesterday, I heard from Linda it had arrived and Mum had been right. Linda did like it. It had made her smile. My fears suddenly seemed very silly.  I am going to strive to not be to precious about what I make in future and accept I will make mistakes or not be happy about things. But that's OK because I'm learning something new with every make.

All of Linda's books have been published for Amazon Kindle (At really affordable prices so Kindle readers have no excuse not to snuggle up under a quilt and read them and I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't enjoy them myself.).  You can find out more about Linda's work on her website here or join her Author page on face book here.


  1. The cushion is amazing and how lovely you areHope you manage to get lots of sewing done this weekend xx

  2. that's a really thoughtful and beautiful gift. You should be proud x

  3. What a great post - the cushion looks brilliant, glad you got it finished in the end x

  4. You are a ninny Jan! We all are! Lovely pressie - I am sure it will be treasured but you'd better start the next one now...

  5. I was thrilled to bits and very touched to receive this wonderful gift. Jan & I go back a few years now and she's been a support to me creatively and personally. I loved the textile she made that was inspired by my novel, UNTYING THE KNOT (& I've featured that on my website). I loved my bookshelf cushion too. Thank goodness Jan's mum persuaded her to finish it.

    But I do understand how we lack confidence in our own efforts. I'm just the same. Of all the quilts & wallhangings I've made over the years, I'm only happy with one!

    But as the Amish say, "Only God is perfect." ;-)

  6. What a wonderful gift for Linda, it looks fantastic

  7. That is a brilliant cushion Jan, I am glad it brought a smile to your friend at a difficult time.Sums up the spirit of quilting I reckon.

  8. Well done for finishing it; I think we are all too critical of our own work, and othersr really do only see the good. Its perfect x

  9. What a great idea for your friend, although I've made a couple of these blocks, I've never actually had real, live books to put in :o)

  10. Oh it's wonderful! we are so much harder on ourselves then we need to be. The most important thing is the thought and love that went into it.

  11. Wow! It is perfect. Really, I mean that. Of course your mom was right. I read the house of silence on your recommendation and liked it very much. I need to start reading (something other than blogs) again. Linda will be in my thoughts.


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