When I look back to my childhood days, I can’t remember a time where my grading wasn’t pivotal. I won a scholarship to a school of excellence - they literally celebrated the grade ‘excellent’ by summoning you onto the platform at morning assembly when you achieved your quotient for the week. And I lived for that accolade, as I did any other prize I could garner. Marks of distinction were my daily bread and I greedily amassed them without any consideration of their real value. I boasted many a high card flush but all I remember are the falls from grace - those isolated incidences when I failed to live up to my promise. 

It’s taken me decades to discover an enduring sense of wellbeing cannot be derived from an external source. That the measure of my days is not reflected in a number. And yet, old habits burrow deep and can sneak up on you masked as passion. Considering the time at my disposal, my sewing output over the last couple of years has been prolific. I’ve set myself target after target, single pointedly pursuing each goal to completion. It’s only a heightened sense of awareness and a hollow feeling within, that’s stalled me in my tracks. 

Through the on-line sewing community over on Instagram, I’ve come into contact with people who sew their values - @thatwendyward@sewingwithkate and @inthefolds to name a few. And as a result, I’ve had cause to examine my relationship with this all consuming pastime and consider where I want to travel. I have a magpie eye for melding fabrics with patterns and could continue knocking these out for the show and tell, simply because I can. But in the words of the song so artfully rendered by Peggy Lee, I know I will keep coming back to the question ‘Is that all there is?’

Which brings me to this month’s Minerva make and an attempt at reducing the stash I never intended to amass. I’ve been on the lookout for gift worthy projects for some time and this Butterick Sewing Pattern (no 5368) caught my eye with not 1 but 12 scrap busting ideas. I was instantly drawn to the Wall Organiser, Travel Sewing Kit and Pressing Ham - opportunities to refine my continuous bias binding skills and use up the remains of this Black Denim Fabric, Indigo Denim Fabric and Cotton Poplin Fabric

I kicked off with the sewing kit which was a fairly straight forward ride and would have been even smoother if I’d transferred the pattern markings a little more accurately - every millimetre really does add up and the width of the pleats on those pockets in miniature are not close-up worthy. Attaching the elastic was a little tricky and it’s at stages like this that I discerned a paucity of instruction compared to my beloved indie patterns. I burnt the elastic edges to deal with wayward threads, got out my calculator to translate the distance between placement dots into percentages and applied these to determine the slack between each point.

The instructions call for fusing the front and back piece with webbing and I utilised some Steam-a-Seam Lite with mixed results - a hot iron caused the imprint of the pockets to transfer from within to without. I also came a cropper when attaching the bias - for all my slow sewing aspirations when it comes to fiddly jobs like this, I take the low road and live to regret it. I did tack it on first but my efforts were shoddy and didn’t facilitate a clean machine finish. Suffice to say, if this was homework returned, it would be covered in a teacher’s red scrawl. 

Onwards to the wall organiser which again features pleated pockets and layers of fabric encased in a bias sandwich. I was particularly taken with the way the pocket pleats are created - it’s ingeniously simple and a technique I fully intend to steal in future. Having learned the merits of tacking, I dutifully basted each row of double and single fold binding before machining but don’t be zooming in - there’s still a significant margin for improvement. One aim for this project was to find ways of incorporating the image of my dismembered doll’s head - Maude - and her presence on the back hanger pocket pleases me greatly.

Finally the ham … which was a pure pleasure to sew and murderous to fill. Again I would have benefitted from some hand holding when it came to stuffing techniques. A poor first attempt sent me down a google rabbit hole where I came across these excellent instructions - thank you Jennifer … you saved my bacon.

I enjoyed making these sewing related accessories much more than I anticipated. The wall organiser is a gift for my sister and I literally beamed whilst making it, thinking of her reaction on opening. I also derived immense satisfaction from the fact that these items were fashioned from scraps.  In the space where I live, I’m surrounded by functional artefacts of those now departed. The excitement of repurposing trash to treasure has been long-held and I’m only just appreciating how this might translate to my craft of choice. Like the Johnny Flynn anthem I’m hearing the call of ‘the rubbish dump and the bins at closing time’ - move over new and shiny - ‘leftovers is what I want’.