Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Decisions, decisions

Yesterday evening I thought I knew what I was doing.  Well, to be fair I seldom know exactly what I'm doing, but I knew where I was starting.  I wanted to use this pile of  fabrics, and although I'm still tweaking I'm not far off where I want to be.

I also knew where I was starting with block choice.  

But when I pulled my fabrics out today to get on with it they didn't want to co-operate.  In fact they wanted to do something else entirely.  I'm getting the urge to turn them into blocks I hadn't even considered.

Now I'm happy for the quilt to tell me what it wants from time to time, but I've never had one think it could do that before I'd cut so much as one tiny strip and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I will probably do what I'm told, but would like to maintain at least some pretence I'm in control, so am giving it 24 hours to stew and then I'll decide.  

In the meantime, I'm still quilting!  At this rate I'll get a whole quilt finished before I start piecing again.

Linking up today with Linda and Julie for Sew, Stitch, Snap,Share.  

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #20 and a new challenge

Welcome to the start of the second AHIQ invitational.  We were thrilled that so many people chose to join in with the first one and enjoyed the experience of seeing how others interpreted the theme and of learning from what was shared on the link-ups each month.  

The thing I found the hardest when I started my first challenge piece was the feeling that I had to stick to something close to a traditional Chinese Coins quilt. That traditional block felt like a constraint that blocked my creativity and I had to get past that in order to progress. If you read my posts you may remember that one of my 'a-ha' moments, which enabled me to get over myself was when I saw this post by Barbara Brackman.  It reminded me that I could tinker around with things and seemed to point out (gently and politely) that the limitations I was struggling with were chiefly in my head.  On a more practical level it resulted in the addition of pinwheels.

While I worked I kept mulling over the quilts she shared in that post,which I had found very appealing.  That thought process has resulted in this quarter's challenge which is to make a piece of work that combines/incorporates two blocksHopefully this is a challenge that builds on the previous one; you could choose to carry on working with coin-style units if you wanted, and for this reason many of the images we have collected use either striped fabric or pieced strips as one part of their design.   However, please also feel to branch out in a completely new direction if that's what floats your boat.

In fact, there are a number of different ways in which this might work, so here are some examples. (Where I've shared an image rather than a link,you can click on the picture and it should take you back to the original post).

Alternate two blocks

Barbara Brackman's examples include strips alternating with 9 patches, with pinwheels, with Shoo Fly blocks and with Single Wedding ring blocks. And here's a couple of other examples where the two blocks alternate in a pretty straightforward way.

Maria Shell's modern quilt matched strips with circles

This quilt alternates Square in a Square with stripes@ traditional, simple but striking.

Choose two blocks but play around with how you use them

Bars are used to form a border in this Amish quilt,

This fabulous quilt, from around 1890 uses pieced strips as the main component, but  combines them with HSTs and hours glass blocks

The pieced squares in this 18th century fragment play support to a selection of star motifs

And moving a bit more up-to-date, Malka Dubrawsky used striped fabric to surround her stripy square blocks and Margaret (margaret-pw on instagram) produced this lovely,muted combination of stripy squares and star blocks.

Use strip pieced blocks as a background for another design

This blue and white quilt is from the Childress Collection, (via  Quilt Love on Facebook)

No automatic alt text available.

Abandon all restraint

Of course, you might end up with something far removed from traditional versions of your two blocks.  

There are plenty of examples of this freer approach amongst African-American quilters. Here's a small selection, all from the Souls Grown Deep website.

Ella Mae Hall Pettway Nine patch and strips 
Rachel Carey George Housetop and star blocks
Ruth Pettway Mosley Housetop medallion combining a checkerboard and Monkey Wrench blocks

Of course there are examples of from elsewhere too:

This quilt made from shirting fabrics combines blunt-nosed triangles, stripes and pieced strips in a crazy yet harmonious whole.

This quilt, also by Margaret P_W, uses bright strings and black and white triangle units.  This started life as two separate projects but came together in a striking improv quilt.

Of course, since this is an improv challenge you could head in any direction with it.  You could create your own blocks/units rather than using traditional ones. You could begin with an idea for using two blocks and end up with a quilt that uses 3 or 4, or where only one remains by the end of the process - there are no rules, just a starting point.

If you want more ideas, Ann and I have put together a Pinterest board with lots of gorgeous inspiration, covering everything from modern quilts to Welsh antiques to African textiles.  In fact, even if you don't need the ideas, it's worth a look!

So if you are joining in,and we hope you are, let's get started and meet up back here on next month's AHIQ link up where we can share where we are, what we've discovered, and any questions/thoughts that have come up. 

If you are an Instagrammer, you can tag your photos with the hashtags #AHIQ2017Invitational and #AHIQtwoblocks so everyone can find them more easily on social media.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A home for my needles

I won a needle-case in a giveaway on Doris's blog.  Doris is a bit of a whizz at hand stitching so I thought I'd show it off here.

My favourite thing is the rows of little knots. 

It has also motivated me to sort out my needles.  I still have them all over the place, but all the ones I use for quilting are now housed in here, and that makes me feel happy.  Small pleasures.

I'm still quilting away and now that I've left the idea of tieing this behind me, I am loving how the stitching looks on denim.  As I hadn't planned to quilt this, I used what came to hand, which, as it happens, was more Aurifil Lana (earmarked for something else, but what can you do?)  I'm using a very dark blue and a lovely light sandy colour, just for a tiny bit of contrast.

I'm making good progress, but know that's mostly because I'm still not piecing. When I start again (this week) things will slow right down.

Speaking of piecing, next Tuesday is AHIQ link up time, and the launch of our second challenge theme, so do check back here then, or visit Ann to see what everyone's getting up to. 

I'm linking up with Kathy again for Slow Sunday Stitching.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Making plans

Well, I'm not so much planning as pre-planning (if that's a thing: the plans you make before planning).  While I might normally have been kicking off another round of piecing about now I am waiting for next week, when the next AHIQ invitational will get going.  

WHile I wait I am playing around with groupings of fabric.  I have two piles of shirts (3 or 4 in each pile) I would quite like to get to grips with.  One is mostly blue/turquoise and red while the other is centred around a stripe of purples, dull yellow and blues.

I've been pulling stuff from boxes, to see what I can come up with.

Excuse the blur - photos were taken on my phone so I didn't notice they were rubbish until they were on the computer and it was too late.  You get the gist, though.

Fabrics that might work with the red/blue pile:

and fabrics that might work with the lovely stripe:

I have no idea yet which of these I'll go on with; it may well come down to my mood on the day.

While I was building these piles I realised that the way I currently sort and store my fabric doesn't help me at all.  It used to be all jumbled - any mix of colours and patterns in a box, willy-nilly. Last summer I decided to be better organised and sorted everything by colour but you know what?  I find it much harder to work with now.  It takes me much longer to find things I like; it even takes me longer to find specific lengths of fabric that I know must be in a particular box.  My brain obviously just functions more happily in chaos!  So I will slowly allow myself to reverse last summer's work.  Now when I take a fabric out, I am not putting it back where it came from but just adding it to whatever box comes to hand first.  I am embracing my chaotic mind!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Next quilt in the hoop

It's denim circles next, though mostly because I am still waiting for the wadding for All at Sea to arrive.  Once it does, the circles may go on the back burner; it will just depend on my mood.  

I was certain I was going to tie this quilt.  I do love a tied quilt, admire other people's but have never tried it myself, and this seemed like a good candidate. I got as far as having a go but for some reason just wasn't feeling it.  I thought maybe I needed thread of a different colour - I should have taken photos to get some feedback, but it was just a cream-y sort of colour.  Anyway I cut it all out and tried again with a really pretty, and strong, linen thread, space-dyed in a soft green-y blue and a warm light brown.  Didn't like that either. I considered keeping going, but am not so keen on the idea of spending, say, a couple of weeks doing something I then think looks wrong.

This was really disappointing, but I'm not going to dwell on it right now, though I will try again on another quilt.  For now, I've just sorted out some different threads and have made a start on quilting this one. 

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, and wishing you all a very pleasant Easter weekend.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter in my garden

I know I have done collages before with my tulips, but since they are my favourite flower and this is the moment in the year when I love my garden the best I'm showing them again.  I put in new ones every year.  This year the bronze-y orange have come up for the second time, but the deepest reds, the bright orange and the ones with pretty pointy petals are all new.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Quiet Quilt - done and dusted

All finished.

A close up.


And a shot of the back, as it blows away from me.

Quilt and backing made from stash fabrics.  I can't identify them all but there is some Oakshott (that bronze colour solid), some grunge (the blue-y bits), some Lotta Jansdotter (the black and white stripe), some Janet Clare, I think some Lecien Japan...
Wadding is Sew Simple Eco Blend (70/30 cotton/polyester, all recycled), which I toy with occasionally as an alternative to wool.
Quilted with Aurifil Lana, which is a rather lovely 12wt wool thread.  It's the first time I have used this and I would be happy to use it again.  

I pieced this what seems like ages ago, between 9th October and 14th December 2015.  Okay, that doesn't just seem like ages, it is ages.

Quilting started 12th February, finished 13th April 2017.

Some of you may remember I went off this for a while and it missed it's allotted turn for quilting as a result.  Happily I like it now!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Quilting like a maniac

Actually it's hard to quilt like a maniac, what with hand quilting being such a calming activity, but I have been putting in a lot of hours and as a result I am now binding, so the end really is in sight for Quiet Quilt.

Yesterday I pin-basted my denim 365 circles.  In a moment of distraction I did this with the backing on top, but don't really mind that everything's back-to-front.  

I've also almost finished a back for All at Sea, but keep running out of fabric.  I am always surprised by how much fabric it takes to make a backing for a big quilt.  I've no idea why this comes as a surprise, especially when the top is sitting right in front of me.  Somehow I think a couple of fat quarters will cover the back of something 80"x 90". Yup, I know that's ridiculous but I keep expecting it to work that way.  

I'm linking up today with Linda at koka quilts and julie from julielou for their new link-up Sew, Stitch, Snap, Share.  

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Still quilting, and a bit of housekeeping

As mentioned, I am mostly quilting this week, letting my "what next?" thoughts sort themselves out in the back of my mind.  I clearly can't quilt for several hours at a time, the way I piece,  but am picking it up and putting it down maybe three times most days, and as a result am making good progress.

I can't quite bring myself to stay away from the machine completely though, so am trying to get a couple of backs put together.  This one is for All at Sea, and I'm also making one for my denim 365 top.

The backs are one of what I think of as my quilting chores, like making bindings and sorting scraps.  So, while I was at it, sorting some shirting scraps seemed in order.  I don't seem to end up with much left when I use shirts, but, in the spirit of using every last piece I thought I'd have a play with the little scraps.

I've admired Cathy's butterfly quilts several times over the last couple of years so I'm wondering now about using shirting to do something similar.  I've only made 2 little blocks, and this would be a slow grower, but I rather like them.

Cathy and Ann also run a link-up for all things butterfly-related, so I'm joining that this month.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

234 little squares to go

Actually, I just made 234 up.  I know I have fewer than 30 of the 9 patches in this quilt left as I only counted yesterday, but now I can't remember exactly how many.  234 is in the ball park though so I'm calling it poetic licence.

Since I've either finished, or almost finished my most recent piecing, I'm going to take a week's pause, give some thought to a couple of other projects I have on the go and try to get a good chunk of this out of the way.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Nearly there

Nearly there.

I have pinwheels on three sides now and definitely don't have enough for the fourth.  

I do have a couple of the smaller pinwheels that I found lurking in the bottom of the box and some scrappy bits and pieces.  After the weekend I'm going to have a play and see if I have the makings of something to go down the 4th side, though actually I like how it looks now, so it's fine if I can cobble something together and fine if I can't.

Linking up today with NinaMarie for Off the Wall.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #19

Nearly there with this now.  I had the idea in my head that I wanted to do a round of pinwheels to finish it off, but to make them bigger than the little ones I've used in the body of the quilt (they are 3.5" square).  First off I thought this wasn't feasible as I had nowhere near enough left of the brown fabric that I had used for the little ones.  Then I wondered if I could use what was left of my shirts instead.  So this morning I did a first pass - making just a few so that a) I could see if I liked how they looked and b) I could get some idea of whether I would have enough scraps left even for this approach.  

Here's what the first few looked like.

This was working well enough for me to keep going and by the end of the morning I had done 19.  

Nothing's sewn yet.  I know I've got enough fabric to get around three sides, though I have more of some than others.  Where I don't have enough to cut a whole square at a time I am cutting individual triangles (no scrap goes to waste).  It's slower, but worth it, I think.  I will probably go around all 4 sides if I have enough but will reassess after the first couple and decide how much further to take it. 

Monday, 20 March 2017


Strictly speaking I'm no longer stuck, rather than unstuck, of course.  

I'm short of time this week, but snatched a couple of hours this morning and did pretty much what I said I needed to do, ie added a bit of blue and put some verticals in where I had a horizontal.  I'm pretty happy with where I have got to. 

And it works from all angles, I think.  Here's a different view.

As it stands this is now about 60" square. There is a chance I'll stop here, but am toying with the idea of going round once again, if the fabric will stretch to it.  I am now completely out of the pink shirt as well as a couple of the other fabrics.  I have added a couple of new ones in the outer pieces but may still not have enough for what I have in mind.  I guess I'll just have to give it a go and see what happens.  

Friday, 17 March 2017

Getting stuck...

Well, this has been a slooooow week. I've been well and truly stuck, though I think I've got myself sorted out now.

What seems like ages ago I added the chunk at the bottom here...

 then swiveled things around... 

...and added a couple more rows.  Then everything came to a grinding halt.  I tried all sorts of things, including  going back and making a load of extra strips, but nothing pleased me.  So I put it all back in its box and let it stew for a day or two.  

In that time I came to think that maybe my strip sets needed to be a bit longer. I was still making them the same sort of size that I had started with, but now that the sides are longer it all ended up looking too bitty.  Luckily I could just add a bit to some sets, though I've run out of two fabrics, so anything using those will stay the size it is.  

Here's a less cropped view than usual, to show how it looks when I'm working. Mess all over the floor.  Ho hum.

I'm working on two sides at once now (left hand and bottom in this picture).  I want to manage how I use the remaining fabrics and this lets me juggle things more effectively I think.  As always, looking at the photos gives a useful perspective.  In the picture below I can see too much brown in the bottom left - I need to add some blue, I think, and maybe sneak in a bit of green too.  I'm also thinking I might shunt things over to the right and let the vertical lines from the side carry on down.  

For now though, it's back in the box for the weekend.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Still doing what I'm doing

I'm just quietly stitching away, trying to get a bit of quilting done each day.  Having said I would be able to keep track of exactly where I was, by counting my squares, it turns out that's not as easy as I thought, so I haven't bothered.  I can say I'm about twenty big 9 patches down, so that's still 60-odd to go.

I'm also making slow progress with my Alabama Chanin-style piece.  This is going slower than I would like, because it turns out that if the light isn't good I'm finding it hard to tell the difference between the stenciled bits and the fabric.  I wanted the stencil to be close to the base colour, but hadn't though this might be a catch.  With the benefit of hindsight I should have chosen to go just a shade or two lighter, but it's a bit late to worry about it now, so I just stick with doing it in daylight.

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Breaking my own rules

I'm still rotating this, still adding bits and pieces.

In the normal course of things I avoid putting two pieces with the same fabric next to each other, but today I broke that rule.  You can see there are two strips of the biggish check next to each other in the bottom right corner above.  I tried every other fabric I had next to the inner one of the two but couldn't come up with something I liked.  I don't know why I stuck the second strip down, but I did, and then I decided that actually I didn't mind it there and it could stay.  It may be a slightly sad reflection on the rest of my life that this felt a bit risky when I did it, but the more I look at it, the more it seems just fine, and not really risky at all.

After adding those bits I decided I wanted to work in a slightly bigger chunk, rather than just swiveling with every addition and ending up with a log cabin.  I like the log cabin feel to it so far, but just don't want to get too predictable.  So you can see I'm working on a section at the bottom (of this photo, not necessarily of the quilt).  It's not all stitched together yet but I'm there or thereabouts.  Then I will swivel again.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Buying organic fabric in the UK

At the start of January 2016 my New Year's Resolution was to change my fabric buying habits, with a view to 'greening' my stash.  I wanted to focus on organic/fair trade fabrics as much as possible.  Fourteen months later I'm still shopping this way, but it's not always easy.  The positives about it for me are:

  • my hobby is now much better aligned with my habits in the rest of my life
  • I buy less and the more I stick to my principles, the easier it gets
  • I spend less time aimlessly browsing fabric stores online.  No point looking if you are not going to buy.
  • There has definitely been an impact on my quilt-making.  I have turned to recycled shirts as a way of adding the texture and variation I miss in the organic ranges and am learning to mix reclaimed fabrics in with quilting cottons from stash.  Turns out I love this way of working.
The biggest down sides are the obvious ones:
  • Much less choice, especially if you are not looking for feature prints.  
  • Some things are harder to go without than others. For me, it's Grunge, Carolyn Friedlander, Janet Clare,  that I miss the most. (I should say that I'm not rigid and do occasionally buy something non-organic, but I am finding myself less inclined to do that as time goes on).
I know that for quilters in the US there is a good selection of organic fabrics available, but often I see something lovely, try to track it down and sadly come to the conclusion that it isn't available over here.  The solution used to be saving up the pennies and ordering from American stores, but  the current exchange rate has scuppered that .  So I have been gathering together a list of all the places I can find organic fabric in the UK.  Most have relatively small ranges, but there is plenty out there if you know where to look, and I have also learned to check everywhere before I buy as prices can fluctuate quite significantly - some are a bit steep but there are also bargains to be had.  

Anyway, here's my current list.  If you are in the UK and minded to try a bit of ethical shopping, do go and check them out, especially some of the smaller sites.  

Quilting shops

Shops specialising in organic fabrics (they are not specifically aimed at quilters, but there are fabrics suitable for quilting.)

In addition to the larger ranges, like Cloud9 and Birch Organics, its worth looking for Daisy Janie, Monaluna, Saffron Craig, and small organic ranges by  Amy Butler and Robert Kaufman.

I am not claiming this is an exhaustive list, just that it's what I've found so far.  If  you know of  any other shops, please chip in with a comment and I will update the list.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Just stacking coins

Nothing earth-shattering going on here, but some steady progress.  I've spent a fair bit of my time just making coin strips and little pinwheels, but every so often I've stopped,had a bit of a tinker and added a bit somewhere.

Firstly, on the left-hand side, which got straightened up in the process..

Looking at this I realised that I had come to think of that mucky green strip as the bottom of the quilt, but when I started this I said I would go for something that worked whichever way round it landed, so I rotated it before working on the next additions (which went on what are now the left-hand side and the bottom).  

And so it goes on.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #18 and some Chinese Coins

Now that I've got a better grip on what I am doing, I am enjoying this challenge.

Out of the box today came this piece

and good assortment of coin strips and little pinwheels. I have been making bits and pieces for the past few days but didn't have the space to lay stuff out and have a good look until today.  

After playing around for a bit I decided that I'm not going to stick to the vertical, but will add in horizontal strips if I fancy it.  Like this:

So I filled in the gap down the side to get this:

It doesn't look too bad in most of the photos but I am finding that one of the things about using every last bit of a shirt is that quite a few pieces are cut on the bias (sleeves especially) so sometimes there is quite a lot of stretch.  It's not too much of a problem.  I could keep trimming everything to keep it even but have decided to roll with it, making little adjustments where I can,  until a particular area is running out of control and then I will piece in wedges to bring it back to order.   

Of course this may not work and the whole thing may run wild, but I'll worry about that when I have to and  not before.  In the meantime I will just keep going.  I am enjoying this a lot, and definitely learning stuff too, which is the whole point isn't it? 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Yellow birds, done for now.

A productive morning! The bottom border went on quite quickly, though to be fair I was halfway there already.

Then an extra row along the top, just to bring it up to a nice, square-ish size...

and bob's your uncle, I'm done.  So off to the quilting pile this one goes.

Linking up with Off the Wall Friday and TGIFF too.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Not before time

I finally got the left-hand end of the yellow birds finished and sewn on.  

This leaves me with something about 60" wide, but only about 50" high, so I am going to add on to the top and the bottom, until it is nearer to square.

I am going to use up some of the extra flying geese units, and a couple of pockets, and little bits and pieces to get things all the same size.  

This gives you the general idea, though obviously I need to level off the bottom and the orange-y strip isn't sewn on at the top, so it won't be quite that wide. Some of my geese are much smaller than others, but rather than wasting them I am sewing them into pairs and then adding scraps across the bottom - the two in the left-hand corner are trimmed down already.  I think this will all look okay once it's done.

Monday, 20 February 2017

If at first you don't succeed...

...give up and start again!

I should have been working on my yellow birds today, and got it all out only to realise that I had completely failed to print the one extra word I needed.  I had a whole week to get this done and somehow it had completely slipped my mind.  I was extremely ticked off with myself.  

However, tomorrow is a new day and in the meantime I thought I'd do an update on my attempt at the AHIQ Chinese Coins challenge.  Not straightforward here, either.  But the reason we take on challenges is to learn and grow, I tell myself, so here's what I learned.

After a week or so looking at the first coins I cut I decided they just weren't doing it for me.

Why?  Several reasons, first of which was the colours - with the benefit of a bit of reflection I think they were too same-y, sort of mid-tones, nothing stood out except the very strong pink, which was rather too much.  

The second thing wrong was that I had cut them all about the same size.  I know, I know, that's what you're supposed to do, but the way my brain works things just aren't meant to be all the same size. I love it when other people do it, but when it's staring up at me from the cutting mat I'm just not inspired.  I have to thank Sue for making me realise this.

So, back to the drawing board.  This time I pulled a load of shirts and then dug around in stash to see what I liked with them.  One of two of the original fabrics are still there, but most have gone back into their boxes for another day.  I can see that these fabrics too are similar in tone, though the checks/prints/solids maybe create a bit more variety but this time I like how they work together.  Go figure.

Next up, I have started cutting coins.  Bearing in mind that Ann is working with smaller sets, to give her more room for manoeuvre I am taking a leaf out of her book.  

The last aha moment for me was the realisation that I usually mix things up a bit more than this.  I read a great post on Barbara Brackman's Cloud of Quilt Patterns, on quilts that mixed up two blocks.  Inspired by this I have started making little pinwheels, to go in with the strips.  

This may not look like much, but in my head it has started to make sense, so I'm going to roll with it, give thanks for the connections the internet has helped me to make, and see where I get to.