"The only way is up, baby, for you & me now"
- lyrics from 'The Only Way is Up', by Yazz
At the end of 2020 I thought that things had to be on the up. We were in the midst of a new pandemic, & both of our adult children were working in hospitals throughout it; I'd had an ambulance ride, an ED admission & subsequent surgery; & a much loved family member had become suddenly ill & died very soon after, leaving us in shock. It had been a lot, so I was looking forward to a new, better year.
I was mistaken. 2021 was no better. A full year of life amidst the ongoing pandemic, & our home city of Melbourne was determined to set the world record for lockdown days. A few more trips to surgery for me, while a close family member had worrying months in hospital after major surgery & complications, & then another beloved family member became very unwell. It was a lot.
And 2022, well, it feels like I've hit the mountain climb after a very long, very tiring bike ride. We're out of lockdown life, but the Covid-19 numbers have escalated significantly & it seems that everyone has someone who has just had, or has, the virus. And then there's life that continues to unfold aside from the pandemic. The beloved family member who was diagnosed in 2021 passed away in February, at the very same time that we learnt that my Dad has cancer. He became very unwell, very suddenly at the start of the year, with what we now know to be a late stage, very aggressive cancer. My focus has since been on supporting my parents & advocating for them when needed. It has been hard, it will continue to be hard, but I feel privileged to be able to support them in this way.
A couple of months ago, feeling somewhat exhausted, I found myself waiting at an intersection near to home, dwelling on my dislike of how much heavier the traffic is now that we're all out & about again. A fleeting yearning for lockdown life popped into my head. But little did I know that the very next morning my son would test positive for Covid-19 & we found ourselves back in our own little lockdown. This unexpected week of enforced isolation gave me the respite that I think I needed at that time. I relished the opportunity for some me time, & also to hit pause on some of the "shoulds", because I simply couldn't.
What did I most want from a week at home? More calm, more quiet, more simple, more creating. I cleared my sewing studio, pulled out my sewing machine & tipped out the contents of my scraps bin. I wanted to make a quilt along the lines of my "Everything Goes" quilt - fun sewing, simple to make, no fuss, using a lot of different fabrics. A quilt to immerse myself in. It was a week of colour, creativity & sewing satisfaction. I was reminded of the importance of making time to create & making time for me.
I had been thinking for sometime about making a quilt that was some version of a rainbow, ombre-styled pattern, so I began by sorting my scraps into colour groups. At that stage I gave no thought to the rainbow being a symbol of hope. Then, as the quilt blocks came together I could see a pattern emerging - that they all seemed to "need" to point upwards. It was how they felt the most "right". As I sewed I began to think about quilt names that included the word up & I landed on the phrase "the only way is up", which led to the 80's song "The Only Way is Up". Upon looking back, it seems that in making this quilt I was reminding myself, & also wanting to remind others, that regardless of all that life throws at us, there is always hope. It is not always glaring, or obvious, but it is a glimmer - we just need to remember to look for it.
"Things may be a little hard now, but we'll find a brighter day"
- lyrics from "The Only Way is Up", by Yazz
About the actual quilt
My quilt features an array of different designers - Kaffe Fassett Collective, Alison Glass, Cotton+Steel, Amy Butler, Tula Pink, Libs Elliot & even some Liberty lawn prints (they were teeny tiny 3” scraps that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away!). It truly is a great scrap buster. Using so many different fabrics across a range of block types kept the making process interesting & fun. Picking & choosing between my scraps was an enjoyable challenge – seeing what worked & what didn’t.
As I knew that I was going to make my blocks in colour groups, I began with a fabric pull from my scraps bin, finding any pieces bigger than 2” square in the colours I wanted. As I pulled the fabrics, I sorted them into clear plastic bags – one bag for each colour (this made it much easier to see what I had for each colour & helped control what would usually be a big, scrappy mess). A mix of small to medium scaled prints works best for this design. I then topped up my scraps with pieces from my actual stash.
Once my quilt top was complete I had it quilted by Kobie Conlong of "Quilt a Quilt or Two" in Coldstream (not sponsored, just a very happy customer). Kobie is meticulous in her work - every thread is trimmed upon completion, the edges are all trimmed & ready for binding, & the quilt is lovingly laid out for inspection upon collection. I chose a dancing butterfly quilting pattern - the soft curves worked well with all of the angles in this design.
I used a Tula Pink wideback called "Saturdaze" in a Pineapple colour, & it sure has some eye dazzling pop! However, I found this backing fabric to be tissue thin - too much so for my liking:
Finally, I chose one of Tula's new Tiny Stripes for the binding. The colour is called Clarity, which is a royal blue with a fine green stripe. I felt that this binding sat well against all of the other colours in my quilt & framed them all nicely:
Will there be a Quilt Along?
I have decided not to host a Quilt Along for this quilt - hence this blog post. Given the situation with my Dad I have decided that hosting a Quilt Along would be too much at the moment. We are living in constant state of change, not knowing what to expect from one day to the next. This makes it very difficult to commit to the regular blog & social media posts that a Quilt Along entails.
However, a great way to interact with other "Only Way is Up" makers is to consider doing what I always prompt in my Quilt Alongs:
follow the hashtag #onlywayisupquilt on Instagram
say hello to other "Only Way is Up" makers & comment on their posts
use the hashtag #onlywayisupquilt on all of your posts so that other "Only Way is Up" makers can see your posts too
use the hashtag #thesecleverhands & tag me using @thesecleverhands on all of your posts so that I can see them, comment on them & share them.
If you're looking for a fun make to immerse yourself in & to lift your spirits, then I hope you might consider my "Only Way is Up" quilt pattern. You can find it here.
From These Clever Hands, to Yours...