Monday, 14 August 2017

What I found

When I dug in my bag of shirts I came up with a blue floral which, while much more sedate than the original fabric it is filling in for, will do okay, I think.

It doesn't have quite the same sparkle. but interestingly it allows some of the other fabrics to step up: that orange-y plaid in the bloc above really benefits from it.

Before I found it, I played around with the last blocks made with the original blue/purple floral.  The block at the bottom started there, then went up onto the side...

...and then ended up on the bottom again.

However it is now taking a bit of a back seat as I concentrate on trying to finish All at Sea.  

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Lettering revisited

Since Ann's post introducing the next AHIQ challenge, several people have asked about my method of printing words, so I thought it might be useful to do a quick recap.

I use this lovely set of letters, found on ebay, but there are plenty of modern versions easily available. I have often wondered about using printers letterset blocks, but the cost of a whole alphabet would be pretty steep.

Julie of Pink Doxies did a really useful post  about her exploration of surface design and as a result of what I read there I decided to try Liquitex for my  printing.  I use the inks plus their fabric medium - one measure ink to one of fabric medium.  In practice this is two or three drops of ink (the bottles have droppers) to one little squeeze of the medium.  I do it by eye and that seems to work okay.  If I know I won't have time to print everything I want in one go I count the drops of ink to reproduce the colour.  When I printed the lighthouse names for All at Sea I actually did it in three batches, and managed to get the same colour each time this way.  

I should also maybe mention that when I started I did a little sample of printing on a scrap, let it dry and then scrubbed it hard under the tap.  My printing stayed put but the fabric did not end up all stiff, so that was good enough for me.

My method is not very high tech: I mix the inks on the lid of a plastic box, apply to the letter with a paint brush (common or garden, stolen from the kids variety) and just press onto the fabric.  I did buy a couple of empty stamp pads, thinking that might be the way to go, but when you think about it, that method would use quite a lot more ink and in the end I didn't use them, preferring my paintbrush.  It's slow but I have a lot of control this way.

When I started I was lining my letters up by eye, but that proved a bit hit and miss, so now I use the edge of a ruler as a guide.  I put the stamp down so that its bottom edge just touches the top of the ruler,  like this:

And that's it, really. Nothing to it.

Just popping back here to add a note: if I think I have put a bit too much ink on, I just use a scrap and do two stampings, the first on the scrap, the second on the good fabric.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Definitely Sunday

Sometimes in the summer I find I lose track of which day it is - usual routines breaking down and all that stuff.  As a consequence I haven't done a Slow Sunday Stitching post for weeks, despite having the best of intentions.  Today, however, I am on the ball!

All at Sea is coming along nicely.  In fact, the end is in sight.  I'm still quilting, but now it's just those bits around the edges that didn't make it into the hoop.  I know this bit always takes longer than you'd think, but nonetheless there that finish is, waving to me in the distance.  I even have my binding made, ready to go.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Famous last words

I don't know whether having to clear everything into a box between sessions is always a good thing, but I do like that each time I get a project out I see it with new eyes. So the bits which sat on the left in my last post have migrated onto the right hand side of things today.

You might argue that it's all fairly arbitrary, but in this case I have figured out that I am interested in the placing of the dark yellow bits and for that reason this version feels better to me.  I added another little black strip and two sizes of bigger hourglass. 

Virtually my last thought in the previous post was that I had more of the blue floral fabric than I had thought, but it turns out that completely the opposite was true and without realising it I have used every last scrap. I was convinced there was one more piece lurking in the box, couldn't find it, enlisted extra eyes to check but have to accept now that there isn't even one tiny triangle-sized piece left.   I have a couple of sets of blocks pieced but not joined together, then that's the lot.  I have started looking at what else I could introduce to replace it but nothing seems quite right.  I revisited some of the fabrics that were in the initial pull but they all seem a bit too loud or harsh for the way this feels now.  If I can I'd like to keep things soft and gentle.  For now I'll just keep working with what's in front of me, but if I don't add something in I'll just run out of some of these others too.  Maybe there's something in my bag of shirts that will fit the bill.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A few more butterflies

At the start of each month I make myself a little list. Nothing too detailed, just a round up of what I think I might like to get done: it might just say 'quilt x, piece y'. Occasionally it says 'finish x' or finish 'y'.  I'm not overly ambitious but I do like a list and mostly at the end of the month there are little ticks by some items.  In July, I am sorry to say, I achieved almost nothing I set out to do. My mistake was to think I might finish quilting All at Sea, rather than just continue working on it. Ah well.  

The one thing I could put a tick by was this butterfly project - the list just said 'do some more' and that is just what I have done.

They are simple little things, but seeing them all laid out like this makes me happy.  

Since it's the beginning of the month I'm linking up today with Ann and Cathy for their Kaleidoscope of Butterflies and since it's the middle of the week I'll link up with sew, stitch, snap share, which you can find on Linda and Julie's blogs.

Monday, 31 July 2017


It's a good thing I quite like making these hourglass blocks, as that's pretty much all I've been doing.  

I've sewn one column of slightly bigger hourglasses down the left-hand side of my starter piece, but other than that I've just made the three bits you can see in the picture, plus a pile of odds and ends that haven't yet turned into something bigger.

When I get tired of hourglassing I sit and ponder, and shuffle things about.  Looking on bright side of things, I am still working with the floral fabric; there was more in that blouse than I thought.  

I am hoping that I can keep going at this, albeit it slowly, and also get my head around this quarter's AHIQ challenge.  I guess we'll have to see how that goes!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Considering my words

While I plod along with the hourglass project I am beginning to consider Ann's AHIQ challenge to make a piece that includes words, so I thought I'd stick down some of my thoughts.

I love words.  I love to talk (and talk, and talk), I love to read, I love my dictionaries, I am pretty fond of a nice list. No surprise then, that I have already included words in some of my quilts.

I have realised as I made these pieces that my interest is, specifically, in using words to add an extra layer of rhythm to what I am doing, rather than to convey any overt message. I like the challenge of including text but don't want the words themselves to distract or become the main focus.  I don't know if I achieve what I am aiming for every time, but that's the general idea.

This means that the ideas I have stored away fall mostly into two categories: names and descriptions.  The lighthouse quilt is an example of the way names might work, and the quilt that became At the Edge was build around dictionary definitions of colour.

In Yellow Birds, the words I chose were intended as descriptive, but also, in the end, contributed to a quilt with quite an optimistic, upbeat feel.

Using words in this way generates loads of possibilities: I might, for example, add labels to my little butterflies (though I don't think I'm going to).  I have a favourite photo of plant labels with botanical names that I have often thought was the starting point for something; I have several dictionaries/word books which provide fruitful pickings; I have more lighthouse-related ideas I'd like to get to and then there's always the weather...

Of the three quilts I've done so far, however, At the Edge was the only one where I planned to include words right from the beginning; in the other two it was more a case of 'I need something extra, what can I do?' So the interesting (maybe difficult) thing for me will be to start with an idea of the words and then see what else needs to go with them.  I am telling myself that if this proves to be a right royal pain in the neck I can always go back to making something and seeing what words might fit, but I'd like to start with the words if I can.  

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #23

Still moving along slowly here, but slowly is definitely the operative word. 

I've done a lot of thinking, a bit of moving stuff about and made quite a few hourglass blocks, in a fairly random selection of sizes.  I have decided I'll just keep chopping up the one floral fabric and making blocks with it until I run out. While I do that I will also slowly add a few more bits and pieces into the mix, and I'll carry on making bigger bits, when the fancy takes me - you can see one taking shape in the corner of the photo. 

I am actually slightly further on that this, but failed miserably to take any pictures after this point; sometimes I am just way too easily distracted!

On another, more interesting topic than my current inabilility to get to grips with this project, it's AHIQ time again and Ann is launching the next challenge.  I'm quite excited by the prospect, and may contemplate starting something new before this one is done, just so I can join in.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Patience is a virtue

It has emerged during my quilting/blogging life that I am not the most patient of people (hand quilting aside). So at the start of a project, when I'm feeling my way, I occasionally  need to take a deep breath and remind myself that it always begins like this: with the germ of an idea but not much more, and definitely not with a clear plan.  

That's a roundabout way of saying that I am still groping around, trying things and discarding them, sewing, unpicking, resewing.  As a result, I'm not sure how edifying these photos will be, but nonetheless here they are.

I messed about for quite a while with these bits...


Finally I decided that big piece was just too much brown all in one place, so unpicked it and turned what was left into this.

I'm wondering about using the fabric on the right to fill in a few spaces.  I can't get carried away as I've only got 1/2 metre, but I'm playing around with how it might look.  

I am making the hourglasses in a range of sizes, which I like and will keep doing.  I am also slowly adding in extra fabrics. What I haven't yet worked out is whether I want to keep going like this or throw something else into the mix. If I keep fiddling then at some point it will all become clear, but until I have a lightbulb moment I'm keeping the seam ripper close at hand.

Linking up with sew stitch snap share today.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Still quilting

I'm thinking it's about time for an update on All at Sea.I'm still quilting, though to be honest I'm going through one of those phases where I'm easily distracted.  There is progress though.  I'm maybe 2/3rds of the way through, possibly even a little more.  It feels like time to knuckle down a bit now.

Friday, 14 July 2017


It's going to take me a while to figure this quilt out, I think.

Here's what I've been doing.  First I made enough hourglass blocks to make a block of 9 and a few extras, then I started to play around, 'what if-ing'.  I'm happy for some parts to be kind of blurry, which is to say that the soft colours run into each other a bit, but also need some definition.  So I tried the floral (which I had been pretty sure was out of contention) and that darker blue stripe.

It didn't blow me away, but I thought I'd keep going for a bit, so added the extra row at the bottom and the strip down the right hand side.  You may notice I've added in that mucky yellow colour.  It looks a bit out of place now, but once there's more of it I'm pretty sure it will work.

I liked the yellow, but after a cup of tea and a think I didn't like the floral and blue strips at all, so out they came and I tried again, this time using striped shirting instead.

And got to here.  You can see a tiny strip of the floral sneaked back in.  This was largely because I wanted to make the original group of 9 just a smidge longer, so that things would fit together nicely.   It's only about 1/2 wide and I think if I keep to skinny bits like this it might do the job.

This is where I stopped, after my two steps forward, three steps back kind of a morning, but I'm feeling okay about it. I am thinking about possibly making some larger hourglasses (the ones here are probably 5"-ish); adding something to the top of this chunk; maybe making several bits like this and floating them on a more simple background, though I'll probably end up complicating things.  This is  literally just a brain dump though, so anything could happen next.  

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A tiny start

I have decided to start with my floral shirt (well, blouse actually) and a simple shape.

Monday, 10 July 2017

A bit ho hum

Sometimes things just don't go quite as easily as you would like. 

I spent an hour this morning pulling everything that might conceivably go with my bundle of shirts out of the boxes and spreading the results out on the lawn.  Leaving aside the fact that it promptly decided to rain, I have been left feeling slightly underwhelmed by what I found.  The whole lot looks like this (except that the colours in this first photo seem a bit washed out compared to real life).

Some of these clearly go, others are more of a stretch.  The two florals in the top left corner I put there because I was trying to find something to balance all the plains and stripes, but I'm not convinced by either of them.

Put together in smaller groupings, they work a bit better.

Obviously pictures like this don't deal with proportion (so that very bright blue in the last photo would be used in tiny bits, not blooming great chunks, for example).

Nothing for it but to  make a start and see how it goes.  Some things will end up in the quilt, others are headed back to their boxes, but honestly, right now, I have only the faintest of ideas which ones are going where.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Stewing and twitching

The idea of a bit of a break from piecing was to push on with my quilting, but to be honest that's not happening.  It's ticking over just fine but I haven't managed to give it much more time than I usually would. No harm in the pause, though, and I have been using it to have a bit of a think about the quilts I have been making recently and the idea of Modern Utility.

I now have six quilts I have made using a combination of recycled clothing (mostly shirts) and fabric from my stash.  In each case I started with the bundle of shirts and then pulled extra fabrics that seemed to fit. Here they are.

The most obvious issue, for me at least, is that shirts come in a wide range of blues, reds, browns, greys, but that it can be harder to track down more interesting options.  I sometimes find one pale green shirt, or one peachy tone, but what I really want is three or four that will work together.  Probably I need to apply myself more to the search, but on the other hand you see a lot more men wearing blue shirts than peach ones.

It is also much easier to find appealing stripes, checks and tone-on-tones than, for example, large scale florals.  Well, I hear you say, what did you expect?  And that's a fair point.  It is also, for me, where the stash fabrics play their part, allowing me to build a wider palette, introducing extra colours and a ore varied range of pattern.  It's a balance I find visually appealing and searching out the stash additions can be lots of fun.

Then there's the issue of quantity: even an XXL shirt contributes a finite amount of fabric and, unlike yardage, when it's gone it's gone.  At least twice in making the quilts above I started off thinking there would be some sort of pieced border and then reached a point where I had to acknowledge that wasn't going to be an option.  On the other hand, I don't think either of the quilts suffered from the omission.  

The plus sides?  

I have used some colours I might not otherwise have chosen; sometimes the balance of stripes/plains/plaids seems to push me towards a certain feel or approach and I quite enjoy that.  

I like that I am using fabrics with a past life, carrying an extra bit of meaning into the quilt. 

There's something very liberating about chopping up an old shirt - I think maybe it's easier to be brave: after all it's only a shirt so if I don't like what I've done, it's not that big a deal.  I have also learnt to be both more relaxed about the prospect of being a bit short of fabric and more resourceful  in eking out my bits and pieces and in finding substitutes when I need to.  

Finally it seems to me that these quilts want to be used - they are for sleeping under, sitting under, wrapping around yourself (or at least they will be once they are quilted).

But enough of this...I have been stewing but I am also getting a bit twitchy.  Must be time to pull another pile and start chopping again.

In the meantime, since this happens to be Wednesday, I'm linking up with sew, stitch, snap, share with Linda and Julie.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

AHIQ: share your improv #22

I'm done!  

I'm very happy with how this has turned out, especially given that it has caused a few headaches along the way.  I know I set this challenge, but it didn't really feel like that as I was working on it - there were definitely one or two moments when I wished I'd suggested something easier, or hadn't felt the urge to make those big log cabin blocks. But sticking with it was good for me. Working with the bigger pieces took me a bit outside my comfort zone, and figuring out how to combine them with the triangles taught me a lot: who knew that the triangles would read as the quiet spaces?  

Now I just want to quilt it, but there is still a backlog so I'm going to take a week or two off piecing (mostly), mull over possible new projects and put in some extra hours with my needle and thread.

A quick general note about these challenges: we have working on the theory of one every three months, just because that seemed manageable.  But, and I can't emphasise this enough, you are welcome to link any (improv) project at any time. I know some people are still working on the first challenge and that's fine. Others have already done a piece for the second challenge and that's fine.  Still others have improv pieces that are not a response to a challenge at all and that too is fine.  If you've done something you want to share, just go ahead and link.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Retracing my steps

I am making slow progress with my hand quilting.  A combination of hot weather (gone now) and the usual distractions of family life has meant I've lost that habit of doing a bit every day; my quilting times seem to have been used for other things. That's fine, and I'm probably halfway through this anyway, but I'd like to give it a bit more attention.  However, I think I'm about to take a break from piecing for a week, maybe two, so I'm hopeful that I will be able to catch up a bit.  

Since I last posted, I have gone back and added a bit to the first couple of lighthouses I quilted.  I wasn't quite happy with the light beams - too much unquilted area in the middle of them.  Here's one I haven't tweaked yet...

...and here's one with an extra line down the middle of the beam.

I like this better.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Nearly there

There was just one wee gap left to fill...
 ...and I had quite a few bits and pieces waiting to be used... I made a few more, tinkered around a bit and filled it.
I've even made on sewing all my bits together.  I think I have an order that will work, though there are lots of partial seams ahead.  The first few went without incident, so fingers crossed.  All being well I am on track to finish in time for next week's AHIQ linkup on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Quick update with no waffle

I am still making triangles, and making progress. There's not much more to say about it right now, so I won't waffle on, but here's the latest bit all filled in.  

I rather like this one!

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

Friday, 16 June 2017

Storing up trouble

As promised I went away and made more triangles, and refilled the gap up in the top left-hand corner.  This time I just used triangles instead of including a little lob cabin block.  I can't quite decide if I like this or not, but if I change my mind it's easy enough to rework.  I think once I've got things straight on the other side, though, that it will look fine as it is.

And here's a quick look at the bigger picture, so to speak.

As yet I haven't sewn many of these chunks together.  That's because what is pleasing to my eye will be a bit of a nightmare to piece - lots of partial seams and so on, but I am trying not to think about that yet, since I really need to get the whole lot done before I can work out the best order to sew in.  There may, though, be a week of blog silence at some point soon while I go off and bang my head against a wall somewhere.

In the meantime I've gone back over to the right-hand side of things and am playing around with this.

Since it's Friday I'm linking up with NinaMarie for Off the Wall.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

I brought this on myself!

Ho hum, I'm still plugging away at this but one of the results of deciding that the triangle strips are functioning as the quiet spaces in this quilt is that I am spending ages, and ages, and ages making endless wee triangles.  Strangely I don't seem to mind this too much, despite my generally short attention span, though I do get a bit demob happy when I can stop making the strips and actually put together a chunk of quilt.  

After lots of tinkering I filled in the gap (bottom right in the picture below) that I had been puzzling over...

so that the left-hand side of things was looking like this.

But no sooner was that done than I decided that little piece was exactly somewhere else - down on the bottom right, in fact.

So I moved it.  The bottom right now looks like this and the top left has a neat rectangular gap, which I will have to fill in again.
But before I can do that, I need to make more triangles.