Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Final circles done and dusted

Isn't it amazing what a little application can achieve? This is the last of the quilts that sprang from last year's Quilty 365 challenge (you can see the others here and here).

The back is pretty simple.

I started making one circle a day on 28th May 2016 and finished putting it together on 14th December 2016.  Quilting started on 8th September and I finished today, October 18th 2017.

It turns out to be the smallest I have made, at 50" square. I did spend a while thinking about ways to make it bigger but it felt done, and I'm still okay with that decision.  It's made from a pile of Oakshott charm squares and another pile of old shirts, wool wadding, hand quilted using a Madeira Lana variegated blue thread.  

Monday, 16 October 2017

Repetitive action

Now that this is the only top I am properly working on, I am hoping to make some progress, though of this morning things looked like this.

I realise that if nothing changes I am going to be making a lot of HSTs.  I will try not to post lots of pictures which all look the same, but it's a fair bet that any regular readers need to tighten their seatbelts and prepare for some whinging.  It's a question for me to ponder: why do I commit to projects which require me to make lots of bits the same when I know full well that this will make me bored and grumpy somewhere down the line?  Maybe when I get bored enough it will be the impetus to change things about.  Who knows?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

No excuses

This quilt still isn't finished and there's no excuse for it.  About three weeks ago I thought "one good week and I'll be done", but then what happened?  I didn't quilt at all, evening after evening.  I've got a whole heap of justifications for this, some pretty good and some pretty blooming poor, but I don't really know why I didn't just get on with it.  

I figure if I put it up here and say out loud that it could be done in literally one or two days, I might drum up some motivation.  I have just one round of little squares to get through, and some of those are already done, then a binding.  

So I am linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching and publicly announcing my intention that by this time next week I will, at the very least, be stitching down a binding.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Hourglasses done for now

It's amazing how being short of time can concentrate the mind.  I looked at this first thing and wondered if I even liked the HST-ish blocks I was adding around the edges.  But I knew that I might not get another good run at it this week and decided to keep going.  Now I'm pleased I did: I like how they look and the top is done for now and heading for my quilting pile.  

Normally I'd take a wee break from piecing now and just quilt for a week or so, but since the next project is already underway I am thinking I'll just move seamlessly (!) on.  

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Saturday butterflies

Ever since Ann and Cathy started their Kaleidoscope of Butterflies link up I have been trying to take pictures of butterflies, and with pretty poor luck, it has to be said.  While I was in France I got two great shots and then,naturally, completely forgot to link them up!  I've remembered now, though; better a month late than never.  

Thursday, 5 October 2017

No geese, but a solution of sorts

I must have tried twenty fabrics this morning, in an attempt to find something that I could use as a wider border for this piece.  I realised that what I really wanted was more of the black floral, but I didn't have nearly enough, and am too stubborn just to order more.  

Then I tried the flying geese again, then various other permutations, and nothing was quite right. Though I really, really wanted geese to be the solution I was looking for, this quilt wasn't having any of it. Finally it occurred to me that since what I wanted was more black, I should find a way of using what I had left, and started cutting black triangles and adding them into the mix.  I have also laid them out as squares, so that they echo the units already in the quilt.  

This is just a tiny section, to give you a feel for things without exposing the enormous mess all around; it is possible to take warts and all photography too far!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Really, really slow sewing

It's been one step forward, two steps back today.  I added black borders on the last two sides, and am happy with how they look and the way they seem to bring the centre into focus.  

But I'm less happy with my next steps.  My initial idea was something triangle-based, on account of how I've got lots of triangle-y leftovers so it would be an efficient use of precious scraps.  I wondered about a  flying goose border, then something like the arrangement in the picture below (okay, they're all just slapped down willy-nilly, but you get the general idea).  Somehow though nothing is really grabbing me.  

I do know that I want to use more of the deep yellow, both because I like it and because I've got a fair amount.  Looking at the photos now I don't dislike the arrangement as much as I thought, so maybe I'll stew on it for a few days and then look again.    Or I could stick with the HST squares I've already used.  See?  Completely undecided.  

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #25

I guess if I say I'm still printing it won't come as much of a surprise, but just look at how many different ways I can cross things off one list.

Luckily the second page has less on it.

I've also been slowly building up the other bits and pieces that I hope will go into this, and at the moment my piles look like this.

Before I started, what I had in my head was a bit like this: the printed strips interspersed with water-y hsts.

But as I printed and printed I  started to wonder if it might be more interesting to add in an extra element, like this.

As you can undoubtedly tell, nothing is sewn here, bar the lighthouse.  I am just laying bits out on the floor to give a feel of what I've been thinking.  Of course this means that once I start proper piecing everything may change, but this is where my head is for now.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Ticking over

It was the hourglasses turn today, and I've made some good progress.  It is now the desired rectangle shape (not as long and skinny as in the pic - that's just the camera angle).  

Next up is a skinny border - first bit on already at the top and I'm playing around with the other 3 sides.

 After that I'm going to lay out all my leftover bits and see what I can do with them.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Keeping time

I knew that if I tried working on too many things my brain would start to overheat and that's definitely what's happening.  I thought I would keep it simple and only work on one project on any given day.  The problem with that theory is that it would mean I didn't finish printing my words until 2018. Honestly, it would have probably taken more time if I had decided to hand embroider a prolonged rant about the state of the universe (and don't think the thought hasn't crossed my mind) but it would be a close call.  So I am trying to get a bit done every day.  As a result my poor hourglasses are a bit neglected and when I do look at them I am finding it hard to remember what I thought I was doing.  

However, I made a bit of progress this morning.

These two bits have actually been sewn together, but the sun came out and all my photos featured a large white diamond of light plus darkness all around - not much use at all.  I also need to point out that the curve between the two bits is just a feature created by my slapping stuff down on the floor willy-nilly, rather than the shape of the pieces.  

I know that I want to make it a bit longer next, and have a random selection of hourglasses sitting in a pile, but when they are used up I am out of the purple.     

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Quick quilting update

Just in case you thought I wasn't quilting at the moment, here's a quick shot of the latest quilt in the hoop.

This is the last of my Quilty 365 tops from last year.  It nearly missed its turn, as I was a bit unsure about how to quilt something that already had embroidery, but in the end, as you can see, I just decided to keep things nice and simple.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Saturday photos #85

It's been ages since I've done one of these posts but here's a peek at the piece of the French coast we visited this summer.  The little huts are for fishermen  (and you can probably guess how many photos I have of them) - if you look carefully at the top right you can see the net, which is raised and lowered with a crank. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Not forgetting the shirt

I'm still stamping.  It's a big job, but I'm aiming to do the whole forecast; if it doesn't all fit on the front of a quilt, then some of it can go on the back.  In the meantime I have been thinking about what will go with the words.  

First off, I have not forgotten my aim (which I think I have said out loud) to use recycled shirts in every project this year.  Now, that doesn't sit quite so well this time, as my starting point is the shipping forecast rather than just a bundle of fabrics that takes my fancy.  But I am not going to give up that easily so have dug out this lovely number.

I recently fell in love with a top Tonya Ricucci was sharing on instagram.  When I made All at Sea I spent ages wondering about different ways to get a the feel of waves but nothing I thought of was as good as this.  So I am thinking I will try something similar, and mix it up with bits from this shirt.  Might look nothing like the sea, but it's working in my head so that's my starting point.  In the meantime, though, more printing...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Time is flying past

Back to the hourglass quilt,having not looked at it for nearly a month, one way or another.  As usual I laid it out without much regard for where things had gone previously, but all I have at this point is several biggish chunks.  I moved them around a bit and went from this... this.

Some of the considerations driving me now are practical: things were getting very square and on balance I prefer to end up with a rectangle; I'm trying to think about the spread of my fabrics and don't have masses of the strong purple left now.  At the moment I could easily turn this into 50" square, but am aiming to get to 50"x60" and then maybe see what I can do by way of borders.  I probably need to use more of the dirty yellow and have lots of the black floral and a fair range of scraps, but I'll fill in up the side and across the bottom first and then see where the fancy takes me.  

Thursday, 7 September 2017

All at Sea: done and dusted

The good thing about not being quite able to get all your binding stitched down before you go on holiday is that you're really, really close to a finish when you come back and pick up a needle again.  All at Sea is finally finished, probably two months after I first thought the end was in sight, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

This is a long quilt and I nearly despaired of getting a picture of the whole thing in one go; even my trusting washing line wasn't quite up to the job.  The two best shots I've come up with are on kitchen floor,

and this one, behind which lurks a husband, balancing on a stepladder and telling me to hurry up because his arms hurt.

Here's the back...
...the binding...
...and a couple of close-ups.

48"x 72".  
Quilt and backing made from stash fabrics.  I think most of the prints that leap out at you are Janet Clare (some Hearty Good Wishes and some Nocturne).  As a side note, Janet Clare is one of the designers whose fabrics I particularly miss while I'm just buying organic.  

Wadding is Hobbs wool.  Handquilted using Aurifil Lana (again) but also Madeira Lana, which was new to me and is pretty much like the Arifil but came in a couple of pleasing variegated threads.  I'm not sure anyone will notice that, but I know and it pleases me.

I pieced this between 9th May and 22nd July 2016.  

Quilting started 14th May, finished 5th September 2017.  Now that I see those dates I am thinking, 'blimey, this one took me ages' but the previous quilt got done really fast, so I guess it all balances out in the end.

I should also mention that this quilt would never have been made without the inspiration of Julie's book, 'The Free Pieced Barn Project.  It has it's own blog, so if you want to learn more, you can check it out here.

Linking up today with NinaMarie for Off the Wall Friday and TGIFF at Devoted Quilter.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Quick start

More like a slow start, actually.  I wanted to participate in Ann's AHIQ challenge to make something incorporating words and since time is running out, I am going to try doing more than one project at a time.  A few of you may remember that last time I let my projects proliferate I ended up feeling like my head was going to explode, but hopefully this will be manageable.

As a result, instead of getting out my piecing this morning, I set to work printing the words I want to use.  After a couple of hours I have made some progress, but there's still a heap to do.

When I can't get to sleep (which is often) I listen to Radio 4, and then, when it goes off air, to the World Service. Between the two comes the shipping forecast and that's where I'm getting my words for this project (here's a link which will take you to today's forecast).  There's a lot to be printed, but I've made a good start and at least I have a good idea of what I'm going to try and do with them. Having said that, I don't remember the last time something worked out the way I expected!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #24

I'm very much afraid to say that I have nothing to offer this month.  In fact I'm not even here but am brought to you courtesy of scheduled posting.

I thought I would have a finish to share, but opted for a thoroughly clean house instead.  This would not normally be my priority but I hate coming back from holiday to dirt or mess so there was nothing for it but to roll up my sleeves.  So, no finish and I'm also sorry to say no progress on the AHIQ challenge, though something has been simmering at the back of my mind all the while and I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm going to do - or at least how I'm going to start.  

I would, though, like to offer a thought/suggestion for those of you who have been saying you can't decide how to approach this one.  If no words/phrases are leaping forward and demanding that you make them into a quilt, how about making it simpler and have a go at working with individual letters like this great quilt  from Nifty Quilts or these by Kathleen Loomis.   You could even  make letter blocks and mix them in with something else, so that they are a design element rather than the entire focus of things.  Ann is sharing the link to a word/letter-based pinterest board this month too, so there's lots of inspiration there.

I'll be back and fully functioning (!) in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime hopefully others will have been a bit more productive than me, so you can have fun visiting their links and seeing what they've been up to.

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.