Thursday, 1 February 2018

Don't Poke the Bear...

When the word 'Nature' was drawn as the subject of our first Endeavourers Quilt theme, I was more than a little daunted. My impulse was to try to make a small quilt that would somehow encapsulate a sense, or a least an aspect, of the natural world as a whole and yet it is so vast!

And I really wanted to make something inspiring and uplifting (or at least cheerful) for this first reveal (and I apologise to my fellow Endeavourers for failing in that because because this first reveal seems like the most inopportune time for a sad post) but, truth to tell, although I love being surrounded by countryside and the starry owl filled nights and the ever changing seasons and the antics of the wild creatures, Nature as a whole, with its current mass extinctions and the degradation of the natural environment, fills me with concern.

How this led to a bear baiting analogy is something for which I can't altogether account but some recurring thoughts that kept coming into my mind were an image of the world in photos taken from space, the phrase 'Don't poke the bear!' and this stanza from The Burning of the Leaves by (Robert Laurence-Binyon)

"They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring."


So I decided to make a bear as globe-shaped as possible using some map print fabric and I originally considered having some people with a stick to suggest that when provoked to a point Nature can be expected to roar back.

But too much of the story was missing in that, even if Nature can roar at us (metaphorically) in storms and tsunamis and floods and droughts and suchlike, it overlooked the enormous and irreplaceable loss both to individual species and habitats and to diversity. So I decided to leave out the people and have the bear floating alone in space. And that was when I chanced upon the saddest video I have seen.

And I added a tear for the albatrosses.

For the albatrosses themselves and for all that suffer similarly and for Nature as a whole that we have come to this.

I hope that one day I will be able to make a sequel to this quilt with a happier bear...and I'm sure my future Endeavourer quilts will be happier as I'm really not in the habit of making sad quilts!

Making the Quilt

I hand quilted my background from the back using the stripes in this fabric as a guide and using ordinary sewing thread.

I used a piece of black lined from and old dress for the front and the quilted gave a subtle textured effect.

For the bear, I cut a head and a body shape in scraps of Soft and Stable and basted my print fabric onto them. This was an experiment and seemed to work quite well but the flatness and print made the bear-ness of it very indistinct.

So I marked with a frixon pen and stitched over the features in thick lines with two strands of dark brown embroidery thread. Then I slip stitched it to the background adding more stuffing and, finally, went around the embroidery with some lines of needle sculpting using using a thin cream sewing thread. The tear is crochet using six strands of embroidery thread.

Thank you to everyone who is joining in with this challenge. Although my offering, this quarter, is not very cheery, I'm very happy that we are all sewing along together and I'm very much looking forward to seeing all the other Nature Quilts and, of course, to the next theme, Janine :)


  1. Janine, what a heartfelt interpretation! I love to hear how you contemplated the meaning within our world, and thank you for sharing your whole process. While I can't comment on the rest of the world's situation, our little part is becoming far more wild than most of us remember. We see eagles regularly, coyotes, of course, but wolves, and bears are all coming back to Ohio. We had a bear walk through our city park just a few years ago in the middle of the day. It's making life very interesting here. We seek a delicate balance.

    1. We see a lot more wildlife these days too. I attribute it to housing and industrial developments taking over their habitat. Though, our area has also seen Eagle nests near the St. Joseph River where they have never been seen before. The Nation's wildlife suffer at the hands of progress.

  2. Janine, this is excellent commentary on your thought and design of your piece. There are a lot of aspects to nature and hard to select a theme. Your thinking went in a totally different direction. A sad post for sure, but informative and totally creative.
    xx, Carol

  3. You absolutely brought the message home with your quilt - it's a beautiful image and it's so poignant it made me want to cry!

  4. What a heartfelt post Janine, and a fitting tribute to your thoughts.

  5. A wonderful post Janine! Loved your quilt, but you made me very sad today!
    I had tears watching the video! It’s so frustrating how mankind is still manufacturing, using and throwing away things that will kill like this, and what happens when all that plastic does break down?! It’s going to be in our water supply for sure! Well, I guess it must be already!
    Barbara xx

  6. I think you captured an aspect of Nature that we all had in the backs of our minds while we were considering this project, our concern that she be allowed to continue. I love how you made the specific represent the universal.

  7. Very powerful. It's great that you tackled this as a topic and expressed your thoughts so perfectly. Like Gwen's comment above you have brought light to thoughts we have in the back of our minds and definitely those around the upsetting side of nature that it's too easy to shy away from.

  8. IN reading the Endeavorers blog, I knew yours the minute I saw it--a perfectly told story in an image. I love your tale, the cautions inherent in that tale. And even though currently we are living in a nation with a leader who is blind to the effects of humans on nature, I'm happy to say I live in California, where we still are trying to lessen our impact. Thanks for this!