My second quilt, started in my teens, was, though I didn't know it at the time, a seriously major undertaking, and kept me at it through my last days at school, my University days and my first years living and working in Japan.
This was a design, a special offer, in Good Housekeeping, some time in the early 1970s. You sent off for a pack of transfers and a list of thread colours and stitches. It was described as a French Potager Garden, with beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers surrounding a lily pond in the centre. It still strikes me as unusual and attractive, but I do wonder how many other people ever managed to finish it!
Actually I found it quite convenient as I could put one piece of fabric with the design transferred onto it, the threads for that piece and a small pair of scissors into a very small box, so it was a very portable project. I should add that this was before I knew about embroidery hoops. I was working from one of those little booklets, probably produced by Coates, which showed basic instructions for the most common embroidery stitches, that being all we had at home on the subject apart from Mary Thomas' book.
At University I was very lonely since I was both studying a very obscure subject, at that time there were only 4 of us in the year studying Japanese, and I was from Northern wilds that I don't think many other students had ever heard of. I overheard one girl say to another, "Oh, but she's from The North, Coventry, you know". As someone who had always thought of Coventry as 'way down south' I kept extremely quiet! My little box of sewing helped me endure between-lectures breaks in the junior common room.
And it went with me when I went to Japan to a home-stay with a Japanese family and a 6 week summer school there. This family had been told such strange and alarming things about foreigners by the school (that we would not be willing to eat Japanese food or use chopsticks, and that we would expect steak for breakfast) that they were terrified of my arrival. The fact that I am only 5ft 2inches helped a bit as they were expecting some sort of giant, but what really broke the ice was when I brought out my bit of embroidery. The mother of the family was a keen embroiderer herself and if I embroidered I must be human!
I took it with me when, after University, I went to Japan to teach English in a remote northern town where a foreigner with blonde hair walking down the street was apt to have the sort of effect an escaped lion would have. If I wanted to buy anything in a shop I had to speak very quickly, before the shopkeeper got a proper look at me, or they would escape out of the back of the shop at a run!
Naturally, my skills improved as I worked so there is quite a noticable difference between the earlier and the later blocks. But eventually I got them all finished and stitched down onto a piece of green cotton. I was very proud of myself for getting it finished even if it had taken some years!