Cally B.

When I started this week’s exercise, my mind was still partly in week 4 and pondering the question of half-finished work. As a project which is on the loom has to come off the loom to make way for a new one, it is quite hard to leave things unfinished, in the sense of unwoven, but of course it is possible to have finished cloth which doesn't immediately get used. That doesn't bother me in the slightest: sometimes it pays to wait and see. But I do have one unfinished task which has bothered me for years and I think it might be a candidate for the huge and/or obsessive treatment.

My godmother, Mary, was a primary school teacher. She led numerous craft clubs at the school where she taught and also produced lots of handmade items for sale in aid of the school. One longstanding project was making little cross-stitched needlecases which were sold every year at the school summer fête. I bought one of these needlecases – blue with yellow and orange stitching – when I was still in my teens and it is the central item in my sewing box to this day. After Mary retired she carried on producing and donating these to the school for the annual fête, but she was losing her eyesight and soon she couldn't manage the stitching any more.

One time when I was visiting she asked me if I could finish off the remaining pieces she had started. She had a batch production method, making the covers in stages, then lining them and then stitching the felt ‘pages’ in with a line of cross-stitch up the spine of each little book. I said OK, and took possession of the remainder of her stash. I stitched and lined and stitched and lined, and every now and then sent her batches of finished needlecases. But while I quite enjoyed the decorative part, I found the linings really fiddly and gradually got slower and slower. In the end, the stash outlived my godmother. Mary died in 2007 and I stopped sewing them.

This afternoon I have dug out and counted the part-made needlecases which remain: there are 102. Goodness only knows how many there were when I started. Of these, 20 are lined and ready for pages, 8 are decorated and 74 are still in the state Mary left them in – with hemmed edges and NEEDLES written across them.

Getting these out has made me wonder if I couldn't finish them as intended, but I know I won't. I would start with gusto, but I would still hate sewing in the linings. So are these the foundation of some other kind of obsessive making? Could I make a huge piece out of 102 partially constructed needlecases? I think I would like to put them all together somehow, although I have a niggling feeling that they truly belong to the school and not to me. Perhaps the answer is to 'buy' them with a donation. I feel quite excited at the prospect of doing something with them that is more 'me' than the needlecase production was, but at the same time is an expression of love for my sweet, kind, slightly nutty godmother.