I’ve had several hobbies over the years … Mum taught me embroidery and tried to teach me to knit, I learned cooking and dressmaking at school, a friend finally showed me how to knit when I was 19 … and I never looked back! Knitting was my passion for many years. But when I followed the fad, as we all do, and took up cross-stitching, I didn’t have much time for knitting any more. My needles are all still in the cupboard, but really, they’re just taking up space …

I was at a country fair when I saw someone making bobbin lace … a 12year old! I reasoned that if a 12year old could do it, so could I – and I have a ‘thing’ about keeping old skills alive – so I had to have a go. A friend, who had been with me at the fair, bought me a pillow and some bits and pieces, but I couldn’t make head or tale of the instructions … so I found myself an evening class. Once I’d been shown the basics, I found it quite easy to progress, so moved quickly on from Torchon (a basic, geometrical lace – the word torchon is from the French for dish-cloth!) to Bucks Point (a finer lace, also geometrical but on a different and variable grid). I loved it. I didn’t need to go to classes for more than two terms, and instead found a lace group to join. Trouble is, I’m not really a ‘lacy’ person … I don’t wear frills much at all … and once I had other demands on my time (ie getting married and having children) lace-making was eventually set aside for other things (I’d been making lace for about 6 years by then).

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When my elder daughter was 6 or 7, I gave her a candle-making kit one birthday – I don’t know why, because I was really nervous about letting her use hot wax, but we managed! An elderly friend gave us the left overs of a kit she’d been given, and when member of our local church heard about this, he gave us a bag of wax pellets he had around the place – nearly 5kg weight!  I thought them sufficient to experiment beyond the limits of the kit we had, so bought a couple of moulds and some wicking … and then some more wax … and some wax dyes … and then a book about candle-making … by which time I had so many candles I had to take a stall at a local Christmas fair! I can’t say I made a profit over the next few years, but I covered costs and expenses, selling at school and church fairs and clergy wives’ events.

The children moved schools, and the church fair decided to only have charity stalls, so once my outlets began to dry up, I could no longer justify the expenses of buying in wax, so that hobby too is now mostly packed up and away …

I recently tried making lace again (I have everything stored in the same cupboard as the knitting needles) … I needed a bit of a refresher, but it came back to me easily enough. Only, while I was sorting through the cupboard, I rediscovered a basket of patchwork hexagons I’d cut out and began to sew over 20 years ago (with some left over dressmaking scraps) … I took them all out, and had a play with some colours/designs, and decided to finish off a small blue quilt, just to get it out of the way, out of the cupboard. It didn’t take long, but the question then was how to finish it … how should I back it? I’ve never done any quilting before. I had enough fabric scraps to cut out some squares and sew them together quickly on the machine, add a backing of an old sheet and some wadding, hand quilted some lines and it wasn’t too bad. A friend suggested using fleece and no wadding, so I made up another quilt of squares with fleece (by the ‘bagging’ method, and tying the quilt – I love the internet, you can find out how to do anything!), then decided to try one more, this time with fleece and wadding with a bound edge, but I was bored of squares, so I adapted an Amish pattern, hand quilted the lines and I’m really pleased with the result:

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Now I knew what I was doing, I decided to back the blue hexagons with fleece and wadding (remember, that’s what this was all about in the first place) and hand-quilt them with small stitches, and that’s still ongoing, since I need to clear the dining room table to lay it out, and I rarely have the time to set it all up. I had loads of scraps left after making the Amish quilt, so I ran up another piece – same patches, different colours and layout – so that is waiting to be finished too, along with the hexagons.

Mum came to stay for Christmas, so the spare room had to be packed away, and I’ve been asked to make some candles to sell at a clergy wives conference (I made and sold cloth bags last year – quite successful, but not repeatable year after year) … so everything is on hold just now. I’m using candle ends for the candles, so they need melting down and the wax cleaning before I make quick and easy chunk candles for the conference, but I had to buy some clean wax for the pour, and I know I won’t cover the cost of that from one event, so I need to keep an eye out for an opportunity to sell some more (and a stock in to do so with little notice, folk don’t really think about how long it takes to make up a supply of candles sufficient for a sale rather than a demo … ).

I’m aware that in any skill, I reach a satisfactory level, a plateau, and don’t really have the dedication or patience to progress any further (it was true of my music, too) which makes me a jack of all trades and master of none … but I’ve had a lot of fun along the way, and have found, as I hope you have too, the variety really interesting …

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