Friday 19 December 2014

Merry Christmas to all

and to all a goodnight.  My broadband router has died, so I am taking this as life's way to telling me to give it a rest until the New Year.  

To close 2014, here's someproof that my poor, much maligned camera can still do okay if given just a bit of daylight.  5 minutes of frost, first thing in the morning.

Thanks for reading, hope to see you again next year.

I'll link up for one last time with Nina Marie for Off the Wall Friday.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Charley and the blues

First off, a progress report on Charley Harper.  I am nearly there (although of course that probably means two weeks off, or four, given the time of year).  He is out of the hoop, and I am working on all the bits right around the edges - my least favourite part of quilting.  After that, the binding, another job I'm not so keen on, but I am keen to see him finished, so I am trying just to relax and keep stitching.

The next piece of denim is started too.  Machine stitched together again this time.  It began life like this:

but this time I have added a couple of little scraps of colour:

and started stitching:

As we rush headlong towards Christmas stitching time is diminishing, but I have a day of sitting around in a hospital on Wednesday (not for me; I'm the moral support), so am hoping that this at least will get some attention this week. Otherwise I have a lorry load of food to organise before large children descend, plus all the stuff everyone reading probably has to cover too, but I have my Christmas cds out now, plenty of tinsel and I'm comfortably in my Christmas groove.

Joining Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching - one of my favourite linky parties.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Saturday photos - pink and orange

Five minutes just before sunrise on Wednesday morning.  The most amazing colours everywhere.  The world was literally frosted pink and orange.

Friday 12 December 2014

Running out of time in the city

As the rush towards Christmas continues, quilting time seems particularly precious.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, love the return of family, the decorations, the same old Christmas songs on the radio, the silly traditions (oh, and the food).  In another week I will happily sign off until the New Year, but right now the thought of going cold turkey is a bit scary.  Of course I won't stop altogether: nothing wrong with quilting quietly in a corner, but the piecing will have to be put on hold.  So for now, I'm savouring the time I get.

Another chunk of the city quilt is in place:

I'm not going up any further, so once I've got the right hand side filled in I'm going to look at the left and bottom.  I have an idea that at some point I might put in a simple border, and it's literally just come to me that maybe I would like a grey that heads towards blue, like in the city fabric.  Not sure I've got anything that will do though. Off I go to root about in my boxes!

Linking up with Off the Wall Friday and Monday Makers.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Big city back in focus

The answer, for now at least, to my blurry photo problem appears to be 'borrow a better camera'.  I don't really know why I didn't think of it before.  The fancy Canon coped fine with the low light in my kitchen.  

I have added to this on three sides today - top, bottom, and a bit on the right. Quite a lot of what you see is not attached right now, but probably will be, though looking at the photo I can see a couple of things I want to tweak.  It's funny how different things can look through a lens - but sometimes it gives me the distance I need to look clearly at what I have done.  

Having said which, I also notice that some of the lightest prints read almost as plain colours here - look at that strip right in the middle at the top - that is actually made of three quite different light fabrics, but here they all look pretty much grey.  This bit looks better in the flesh than in the photo.

I'm linking with Lorna for Let's Bee Social today.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Got the Sunday blues again

Second denim sample finished.  

I unpicked the pocket ( which can be added onto another piece at some point) so that the unfaded denim underneath would show, and I love how this works, though might go back and stitch over more of it.  

I find I am looking at jeans altogether differently now, thinking about the selvage, the colours of the stitching, the details inside the waistbands, and how they would look if I leapt at them with a pair of scissors.  I am telling myself sternly that this project should encourage me to mend and wear old jeans for longer, not to hack up things that are still perfectly wearable.  Of course I won't do this, but the thought does cross my mind...

Next up I am going to try adding some little patches that are not denim.  I'm hoping to get one, maybe two more bits done before I have to stop any meaningful stitching over the Christmas period.  

Linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts and Anything Goes Monday at Stitch by Stitch.

Friday 5 December 2014

New York: another block

I'm not sure if the double meaning of block in the title of this post counts as a quilter's joke - if it does I should probably apologise.

Photos still rubbish, though I have a plan now at least, so just one little photo, of one little block stitched together for now.  

I will be sharing this tiny offering at NinaMarie's Off the Wall Friday.

Thursday 4 December 2014

New York: slow progress

I am still playing around here - no huge progress.  I added the next black and white stripe across the top (though it's not sewn yet, just lying on the floor) and one down the left hand side, and have been thinking about using more New York fabric working sideways as well as vertically, hence the piece on the far right.

I was looking at this

which, let's face it, is just a bit of a mess, when I realised that I am trying to work with too few bits. What you see here is pretty much everything I had sewn  and, frankly, it's nowhere near enough, especially at this relatively early stage.  Quite often if I can't get something to work how I want it's because I have the wrong pieces and I'm trying to force them to go together: going away and making new stuff  adds to my options and usually leads to a solution I'm happy with. 

So I spent the rest of my time this morning making some more log cabin blocks and a few more strips, not even thinking about where they are supposed to belong.  Next time I'll see if something will come together.

Linking up today with Needle and Thread Thursday.

Monday 1 December 2014

Things I've learned # 4

This one might seem obvious, but I figure it's worth stating anyway: if you do something once, do it again, then do it again.  

So, if you use a colour, or fabric, once, repeat it. And by extension, if you combine two colours the more times you repeat the combination, the better it will work.  

An example:  when I started Two Hungry Birds I wasn't sure about this brown striped fabric.  I thought it might be too strong a contrast, might jar.

But I decided to stick with it but made sure that I kept looking at how often it was occurring as the quilt grew. I think if you kept the level of repetition right then it acquires a kind of internal logic (if that makes sense), so that almost anything works if you do it just often enough and no more.

When I was making this quilt I had no red at all in my initial fabric pull.

The child for whom it was made requested the red birds in no uncertain terms, so I included it, and then added in the other fabrics with red.  Use it once, use it again.  

I tend to follow the same rule when I'm piecing.  So, if I slice a strip up and add a little bit of something else, then I'll keep on doing it.  If I add a star, I'll probably add another one somewhere along the line.  Annie's quilt is a good example of this.  The first time I put a little slice of red or orange into the vertical turquoise strips it was just a pragmatic way to join two bits and make them long enough, but I went on doing it the whole way through the quilt.

The same thing applies with the stars, the little log cabin blocks, the blunt nosed triangles.

Like I said, do it once, do it again.

I'm linking up with Anything Goes Monday at Stitch by Stitch and Lets Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Sunday stash #9

This week it's all about the grunge.  These came from the closing down sale at Pink Chalk, where I exercised significant levels of self-control (though the hit on the postage plus the VAT as the parcel enters the country help with that).
I like to use them instead of plain solids sometimes, just for a bit of added oomph.  No reason for these particular colours, they are just the first ones that caught my eye.

LInking up with Molli Sparkles for Sunday Stash.

Saturday 29 November 2014

New York in a fog

Not really a fog, but my frustration with my photography has reached new heights - or maybe plumbed new depths - this afternoon.  I must have taken 20 photos yesterday, and I have just had to delete more than half!  Blurry, blurry, blurry.  It is driving me nuts.  I will have to do something about this soon.

But enough whinging.  The quilt itself is making slow progress.  I have, I think, got over my vertical/horizontal dilemma. I am going vertical, but not in great big chunks.  I've sliced and diced again and am now working with chunks more in line with the first pieced section.  Like this:

And this:

Linking up, better late than never, with Off the Wall Friday.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Playing in New York

I've just been playing around the last couple of days, waiting till I know what to do next.  So I've made some log cabin blocks

and some other bits and pieces.

I've been playing with my other bits of the New York Fabric too, trying to see whether they're going to work better vertically, like this

which was my first instinct, or horizontally, like this...

For now I've left it like this

but no decisions have been made!

As an aside, I am finding as it gets darker that I am struggling to get good photos.  I'm only using a point-and-shoot, but either the exposures are longer and I am wobbling, or the flash is turning things dodgy colours or the daylight comes in from one side, so half is washed out.  Bear with me, I'm going to show a blurry one if it's all I've got to illustrate my point, but I'm taking loads of extras in the hope that I'll get something in focus!

Linking up with Blossom Heart Quilts for Sew Cute Tuesday, with Sew Fresh Quilts for Lets Bee Social and with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Still sewing the blues

This week I've been sporadically stitching away at my second attempt with denim.  This time I tried making a more traditional sandwich, with a backing, batting, denim.  The back was a scrap, the batting is a 70/30 cotton/polyester, made entirely from recycled materials. 

For those of you who have been asking about sewing through denim, this was way harder than my first go.  So hard that after an hour or so I cut the backing fabric off, which made it a much more pleasant experience.  I think if I wanted to back it again I would look for a fabric with a much looser weave; the stuff I used is pretty stiff and dense - bad idea.  

Without the backing this is much easier, especially since it's machined together, so there's no overlapping of the denim to deal with. I'm not sure if these photos show the slightly more raised surface you get with the batting underneath, but it does make a difference, honest.

I could stop here - I've learned what I need to from this, but will probably go on stitching until it's all pretty, just because I like it.

Linking up with Slow Sunday Sewing again.

Friday 21 November 2014

New York under the knife

Last post I said I thought I knew what I wanted to do next with this, so here's what happened.  I realised that although I love the New York fabric, I was treating it with too much respect. I felt that in one piece like that it looked, well a bit lumpy, which is to say like it had been dropped in amongst the other bits I was playing with but didn't really want to be there.  Not dynamic enough I guess might be another way of trying to describe this. 

Looking closely at it, I saw that it is effectively made up of hundreds of different, tiny grids - that's right, they are windows (d'oh).  These are not great photos, but see what I mean?

That was my cue and this is what happened next.

Yup, I chopped it up and sewed it back together again.

Linking up with Nina-Marie for Off the Wall Friday.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

New York, New York

That's not the name of this quilt (which for once I know already) but I had to get that post title in somewhere: On the Town is a favourite movie and that is a great song.

I've been playing around with inserting a stripe of some sort between the city fabric and the strip of rectangles.  Tried light grey, very dark grey and a black print with a bit more colour.  Didn't like any of them, but here they are anyway.

This I did like:

I made another strip, but smaller.

And now I don't like it again, but this time I think I know why and I'm pretty sure I know where I'm going next...

In the meantime I'm linking up with Lorna for Lets Bee Social - go and visit for Blogathon Canada, there's some great giveaways and a whole load of new blogs to check out. Also with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

Monday 17 November 2014

New York city, first pass

A quick update on this one.  I had in my head that this would be a pretty straightforward make; I have been imagining something based on Chinese coin quilts - simple rectangles in greys,black and whites.  First cut of the New York fabric looked like this.

Then I started on the rectangular chunks.

Of course these things are never simple, so I don't much like the side bit right next to the city fabric - I'm off to try putting something between them and see what that's like.

Linking today with Anything Goes Monday.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Stitching round the birds

I haven't got much to show this week.  Charley has moved on a fair bit, but I'm not sure if you can tell...

When I started I wasn't quilting around the birds, but I have seen the error of my ways and am both doing them as I go and using my little odd bits of thread to go back and quilt the ones I missed. They look much better with their stitch-y outlines.

I have also machined together some bits of denim, and sandwiched them with batting, for my next experiment, but no stitching yet so currently it looks like this:

Not the best photo, but it's been so dark I need the lights on and then my poor wee camera is not too happy. Grey damp days: great for stitching time, not so good for pictures.

Linking up again with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching - there's some great stuff there, so do pay a visit (if that's not already where you've come from!)

Saturday 15 November 2014

Saturday photos

I went for a lovely walk in Calke Abbey, one of my favourite places, as I've said before (here).  Usually I take about a hundred tree photos (yes, every time) but this time I started looking at all the  walls. I've added in one photo taken there a couple of months ago - yup, it's the one with the flowers.  

Thursday 13 November 2014

Starting something new

After a week of hand quilting and playing with my denim bits (still ongoing) I felt ready yesterday to start piecing again. This is going to be for my oldest son and I started with this piece of fabric:

He's a city person through and through, so New York felt like a good starting point.  Here's my first run through stash looking for black/grey fabrics. (Sorry for blurry photo!)

The little squares are from an Oakshott charm pack and I think I'm going to use them to sneak some colour in.  Apart from them I'm going monochrome - he decided black and red were his colours when he was about 6 and nothing much has changed since then.  It'll be interesting to see if I can restrain myself and keep to this palette or whether I crack at some point down the line!

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Things I've learned #3

Strictly speaking I think the next one in this series should be "always put the cover back on your rotary cutter" (I know, I know) but that is pretty much self-explanatory, like "don't run with scissors" so I shall move swiftly on to "don't decide too much too quickly". This applies, for me at least, to both colour choices and to design decisions.  

So, pick some fabrics, but keep an open mind; sometimes you need something unexpected and you can only see this as you go along. Equally, even if you have an idea of how you think your quilt is going to look, be open to things changing. I usually know when I start roughly what I think I'm doing but the finished quilt sometimes bears no resemblance to where I started.  

Some examples:

In Two Hungry Birds the flying geese only occurred to me about a third of the way through;

In this one I had a pile of beautiful, carefully chosen reds and purples, but added in the little scraps of turquoise from stash;

 And when I started this, the little elephant was going to be the centre of some version of a medallion quilt.

I guess the gist of what I'm saying is that if everything is planned and decided up front, you know what you are going to get, but for me part of the fun is to let the quilt tell me what to do as I go along, to watch what is happening, think about what is missing (or surplus), keep changing the plan, and to trust that the end result will be satisying.

Linking up with Show and Tell Tuesday at i have to say.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Quilting the blues # 1

When I posted the beginnings of this piece here, I said that it was the start of an ongoing project, collaborating with my sister.  There was no pressure, no hurry as we are not getting together to look at the next stages until Christmas.  But then I got a bit carried away.  I had meant to spend this week quilting my Charley Harper top, but it has languished untouched because I have been having far too much fun doing this.

This is the finished piece - I'll need to think at some point about the unfinished edges, but here I've just layered them over each other and stitched them down however the fancy took me.  Practical questions aside though I'm very happy with the look of it.

Linking up with Kathy's Quilts for Slow Sunday Stitching and ayliN-Nilya for Monday Makers.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Saturday photos

I'm still feeling autumnal and this year am definitely going through an orange-loving phase.  Actually it's blooming cold today and probably more like winter but I'm going to put that thought out of my mind for as long as is reasonably possible.