When I was small I had a little denim pinafore dress with five fabric coloured pencils coming out from the bib pocket. The satin stitched pencil leads were so shiny and in such glossy, vibrant colours that they always felt rather magical and their loveliness has stayed etched in my memory. I told my daughter about this dress a few weeks ago and mentioned how well I thought the idea would work for a pencil case and then the idea was forgotten.
Then one morning last week, my daughter came into our room and eyed the little stack of Liberty fabrics left over from my scrap challenge tutorials on my chest of drawers and, walking her fingers gently over the folds of material and sighing at their loveliness, said: when you get time, do you think you might be able to make that pencil case for me with the coloured pencils on that you said about? Unbeknownst to my daughter, for no apparent reason I'd actually woken feeling rather useless and Eeyore that morning. I hadn't vocalised any of this, it was more just an in-head feeling of gloom that gently rumbled like low-level thunder clouds overhead casting dark skies in my brain (do you ever get this?). And after she'd gone to school, I realised that when I felt so very gloomsome and lacking in ability to be effective in doing very much of anything that I perhaps should be doing, the idea of absorbing myself in making a completely unnecessary pencil case (as I only make a new one for her in September each year) for someone who was guaranteed to be delighted by whatever I'd managed to produce by the end of the school day suddenly felt like the only thing I could imagine doing.
And by mid-morning, as I lined up reels of cotton to match the fabrics I'd chosen for the coloured pencils I was feeling altogether happier and entirely grateful to my daughter having set me this task in her sweet, unassuming way.
I practised sewing the pencil leads a few times before I began. I have an entirely mechanical machine, so these had to be stitched with one hand guiding the fabric, while the other hand attempted to slowly change the stitch width dial from 0 to 5 as I travelled from tip to base of the pencil lead. It's a method that doesn't yield perfect results every time and would probably be far better done on a machine with a digital display capable of being programmed for such a thing, but there's something wonderfully satisfying when an even-edge to these satin-stitched shapes is achieved.
And the lettering. I love that too: slowly following the lines of my pen with the machine requires an enjoyable level of focus and concentration that always leaves me feeling slightly disappointed when the last letter has been stitched.
So on the reverse of the pencil case, I wrote her name in the same italic script to prolong the enjoyment of sewing in this way and appliqued flowers cut from her favourite Liberty prints to go around it.
It has to be the most time-consuming pencil case I have ever made, but by the end of the day I felt entirely happy: my equilibrium was restored by the fabrics, the sewing, the hum of my machine and the background chatter of Desert Island discs, and it ended with friends visiting unexpectedly, cake-eating and chatting on the sofa...it's always lovely when a day transforms itself like that. I didn't show my daughter the pencil case until our friends had left that evening, but I could tell from her face that out of all the things I've ever made for her, this is definitely the one which she's loved the most...and it's possibly one of my favourite things that I've ever made too.
I won't see this again until July's end of term now: it's always a shock to see these pencil cases when they return home at the end of the year, both familiar and foreign with all the grub and pen marks accumulated from being so well used each day. I'm already hoping that she requests an identical one next year, because it was so much fun to make. But in the meantime, she's already dreamt up several other things she'd love making if I find myself at a loose end again. She's found these Liberty fabrics as inspiring and lovely as I have and has gone from wishing to have her bedroom in several shades of white, to saying how very lovely it would be to have an entire bedroom of Liberty prints.
Ps. If you're interested in making something similar, but are yet to master applique or the satin stitch used to outline the pencil fabrics and their leads, it's all covered in my ebook here. Many of the scraps of Liberty print used in this pencil case came from Jo's shop, for I have to admit that after she sent me the scraps for my challenge, it fuelled an addiction and I returned only a week later to buy a handful of fat eighths for myself. The linen used for the main body of the pencil case is the same Ikea Aina linen which I mentioned in yesterday's post.