Tuesday 29 December 2015

AHIQ - share your improv#4

Well, I am in the country and the wifi has been sporadic, which is to say that if the wind blows there isn't any!  This is mostly fine - it's not as if I was posting anyway and the catching up will be fun in a day or two.  I have been quietly quilting away, no finish yet but good progress has been made.  No photos though - I probably don't have long enough to upload them before I lose my connection.  Ann, on the other hand, is sharing a great new piece.  I'm guessing if you're here you may well have seen it already, but if not, it's well worth a look:

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Cats looking at the stars

I don't think anything has ever come together as fast as these cats.  I sewed together the blocks I posted yesterday.

Then made some little stars to fill in the gaps and added another cat and another big star to the right hand side.

Then one last star,some more triangles and the two last cat blocks and I have this,which I am pretty happy with. Now I'm taking it to back to whence it came, to see what the verdict is and what happens next.    Maybe they need a Jellicle Moon.

Add caption

This will be my last post before Christmas I think, but we'll back on 29th with the last AHIQ link up of the year, so I hope to see some of you there, and in the meantime happy holidays, one and all. 

Monday 21 December 2015

So far, so good

Jellicle Cats is moving at pace now.  I'm using simple elements that I've worked with lots of times before: a few stars...

a bit of fiddling around...

and some blunt-nosed triangle-y strips...

So far, so good...

Sunday 20 December 2015

Jellicle cats

I don't know if you are familiar with Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, but it was quoted frequently when I was young and so this cat piece has a working title of Jelllicle Cats.  It is my hand stitching for today as I have lifted the individual cats off their backgrounds and sliced into those, adding some of my bright fabrics.  Now the cats need to be reattached.

You can see my pins holding legs and tails in place.  

Jellicle cats come out at night, so there are stars too, but as they are not hand-stitched in any way I'm not adding them into this post.  

Saturday 19 December 2015

Friday 18 December 2015

Feeling festive and starting something new...

Have I said that I love Christmas?  Well I do and I'm feeling festive, so I've been working on something cheerful.  

My ancient female parent (she doesn't like being called 'mum') had some little cats that she'd made but I guess had fallen a bit out of love with.   They looked like this:

 Now they looked fine to me, but on the other hand, what's the point in taking them and then not having a play?  As they sat on the floor (not mess, I was contemplating them) they found themselves with these fabrics: 

I can see this working.  

On another note I have started sewing my Quilty 365 circles into sets of 9.

I like these too, so it's all good (and yes, a week before Christmas and all my presents are bought and wrapped, so I have been doing other stuff too).

Tuesday 15 December 2015

AHIQ - do more, do less

Today I've got some musings sparked off by Stephie.   When I issued a challenge to people to cut up their most precious yardage, (and that sparks a whole other debate on what constitutes a big piece of fabric), she responded that she only has small pieces so her challenge ought to be using a precious piece without cutting it. (See what she did here)

This has got me thinking about my own quilting journey and some of the stages it has been through.  When it first occurred to me that I could just do my own thing, without all that tiresome following of patterns and matching of points (well, more like failing to match points), I made several quilts which were pretty much just big pieces of fabric, arranged in a way that was pleasing to my eye.  I don't have photos of all of them, but these two will suffice to make the point:

Then I read a few books, including Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking II, and started thinking I could put traditional elements back into what I was doing, which made me happy, and I have pootled along doing this making it up as you go along thing for a fair old while.

I still like doing it too, (and just this morning found myself making a couple of wonky stars, which is something I haven't even contemplated since Little Elephant) but at the same time I started to wonder if there was a way to make things simpler.  The last couple of projects demonstrate where this has taken me: working with what feels like quite limited palettes and deliberately sticking to just a few basic shapes/blocks.    

So what? I hear you wonder.  I guess what I'm saying is that whilst it's no fun constantly taking ourselves outside our comfort zones, maybe sometimes we can stretch by just making one small change, or a couple and this might be an easier way to grow as quilters than trying to make huge, dramatic changes and feeling uncomfortable with them.  Cut it if you usually work big, leave it alone if you tend to go small; add something if the last few things you've done have been simple, take something out if, like me, you have had lots of fun throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.  Do more, do less.

Monday 14 December 2015

Quiet quilt - done for now

I have to admit that I fell completely out of love with this quilt as it went along.  I love the fabrics, like the idea, but those 9 patches took all the fun out of it for me, even though each one was different. It's a lesson for me: I'm just not cut out for too much repetition - I made myself do it, but it's not a road I will be walking along again in a hurry!  

But enough whingeing, it's done for now and I quite like it, but no more than that.  Maybe by the time I come to quilt it I will have warmed to it a bit more.

At least, to finish on a cheerful note, I tried something new with my fabric choices:  I have definitely enjoyed this quieter palette and think I will consider turning to these tones again at some point.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Inner City update

I feel like I'm progressing well with my hand quilting.  Clearly the end isn't in sight, but the middle might be, which is about as good as it gets.  I am using one, variegated thread for this and it leads me to reflect that, much as I love using perle and changing my colours to match the fabrics, it does involve a lot of starting and finishing, whereas with one thread I can just keep going.  Time isn't an issue, and I'll go on making these choices based on how I want a quilt to look, but it is interesting to consider how much these little things all add up to.

Anyhow, the black and white fabrics don't really show the quilting so well, and the back is patterned too so not much better, but here's a couple of shots.

PS If you didn't see Wednesday's post and like a giveaway, here's a link.

Friday 11 December 2015

Practical or pretty?

I am so close  to a finish now but not many photos.  Here's why:

Yup, I'm currently working in a space which just doesn't allow proper photos once you go beyond a certain size.

It did eventually occur to me that I could venture into the (unheated) conservatory; not something I am normally keen to do at this time of year. Actually, thanks to the ridiculously mild winter it was not too bad and I managed to get one photo of the bottom two thirds - though I had to hold the camera at arms length, above my head, and just hope for the best.

The tricky thing with putting this together has been that while the bigger curves came into being largely as a way of making the smaller units larger, and hence are entirely there for a practical purpose, I want some control over where they sit within the quilt as a whole, so that they look right to my eye.  I've too-ed and fro-ed and have added one curve that isn't at all necessary (not visible in this picture) but am reasonably happy with the piece in the photo.  I thought maybe the large curve on the right hand end needed to be moved, but am waiting to see that it looks like when the top row is ready before I do anything drastic.  

With a fair wind this will be done by the end of today.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Going organic - a giveaway!

I've never run a giveaway before, but I was recently contacted by Vishruti Dev, to ask if I was interested in reviewing her fabrics, which she sells through etsy at EcoFabricStore. I have been thinking on and off about the environmental cost that is attached to quilting cotton and when I find them am keen to use fabrics that are organic and ethical, and these fit the bill, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

All Vishruti's fabrics (which include Organic Cotton, Bamboo, Hemp, Soyabean Protein, Banana and Ahimsa Silk.) are eco Friendly and earth friendly. The yarns are natural and are hundred percent biodegradable. Better still, they are made with natural dyes, like turmeric, onion, myraballams, madder, kesu flowers, dhavadi flowers, natural indigo.  This not only prevents water pollution caused by petrochemical dyes but links back to Indian textile tradition - indeed to all ancient textile traditions, which appeals to me.  Apparently this is art as much as a science:  for instance the rainy season makes it hard to get dyes to dry and high humidity issues cause certain pigments to coagulate, meaning certain colors cannot be prepared in certain seasons.  But I like parsnips in the winter and salad in the summer, so I'm all for seasonal.  

So, the fabrics.  I received a parcel of small samples - some prints and some yarn-dyed checks (clearly I didn't pay for these, but there were no strings attached, no payments made etc).  Having checked out the etsy shop I was pretty sure I would like the prints and I do.  The fabric is soft and light, in indigo and beautiful muted browns and ochres.  It reminds me of Art Gallery fabrics, or Kaffe Fassett shot cottons in terms of how it feels.  My favourites are the indigo ones and the taupe (?) chrysanthemum print.  Can you believe, I own a three volume dictionary for its colour defintions and still find myself want to say 'the light, dull brown-y one'.  I hang my head in shame.

The surprise of the package for me, though was how much I loved the yarn dyes.  They are a very slightly heavier weight (I think they are termed medium weight, rather than light weight) and again are muted earth tones, dull reds, pale blues.  These would definitely be my pick!

There are loads more fabrics in Vishruti's store, so it's well worth a look, and if you want to win a yard of any fabric of your choice from the store, then this is your chance.  Just leave a comment saying what you would choose if you win, and fill out the rafflecopter thingy.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday 7 December 2015

Losing count

Not really!  In fact I am constantly aware of where I am with this one.I have just completed my 8th 9x9, and I have two of the next set done too, so only seven more...

I have also done the circle for this set, but there's an electrician in my  room right now, fixing the light, so no photos. (The last couple of weeks I have had to stop when it got dark, which some days seems to be straight after lunch!)

I am also making a circle for the last set of 9 patches, as this is all I have left of the striped fabric.  Once the circles are made I can use the last scraps for filler strips without worrying I will run out.

And, since this is Monday, it's Design Wall time over at Patchwork Times.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Rounding up my circles

Just for Audrey's link up, here are all my circles so far.  I am loving this project - it's a relatively painless way to sneak a little more sewing in, and it gets done even on days when nothing else does.  Not to mention the fun of seeing what lots of other people are doing with the same idea.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

AHIQ - take a cut

Thanks again to everyone who participated in November's AHIQ link up.  I am loving link up week - I'm finding it exciting, inspiring and stimulating; such a range of styles, of ideas, and of techniques, and some great discussion post too. 

One of the things I have been reflecting on it that it seems often to be easier for people to work in an improvisational way when they are using scraps; cutting into yardage is somehow harder. I am as guilty of this as anyone - in fact one of my sticking points is often that I am trying too hard to preserve a fabric when I should be thinking about how to cut it. 

Mostly I find this applies to large prints; smaller prints, spots, stripes, tone on tones, these don't create the same issues.

Inner City is a good case in point.  Look at these three pictures: the uncut fabric, my first try and the final version.  I love this print of New York and didn't really want to cut it, so was very cautious too start with. I don't know about you but it just didn't work for me.  It felt too heavy, too static.  I was respecting that fabric just a bit too much.  It looked much better it was when I got over myself and sliced it up.

There are always fabrics that deserve to be the star of their own quilt. It doesn't have to be complicated; I  am often happy to  use them in sizeable pieces, but they could also become - let's say - the centres of circles, a good big border, the choice that enlivens free pieced birds or houses or pretty much whatever takes your fancy. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Let's face it, if they don't get chopped up, they end up living in a box somewhere (the garage in my case).  With this in mind, the challenge this time is a simple one: pick up a piece of fabric you love, that you are saving for just the right time, and make this that moment.  

You don't have to go overboard and reduce it to 3" squares but look carefully and see if there are options that naturally occur to you, understand what it is you want to preserve and think about ways you could do it.  I believe that if we become more comfortable starting without a hard and fast plan but with faith in our instincts, we can eventually feeling okay slicing into quilts that are already well underway.  (And I know that this is not for everyone, but like precision piecing there is a place for every skill, I think).

Now pick up your scissors or your rotary cut, take a slice and see where it leads you.

Monday 30 November 2015

Taking a calculated risk

Still plugging away at the 9 patches, but this morning it got too much for me, as you will see.  I did finish my next big 9x9 - here it is lying in its place.

The interesting bit of this is definitely going to be in how all these bigger bits fit together.  Cutting freehand means that the sizes of these blocks varies quite significantly.  Take a look at the difference between the middle row and the two on the bottom.  See what I mean!  Unless I really can't come with anything better I don't want to trim the bigger ones down so the challenge will be in what to add to the small units.  I reckon this is a pretty good example of the excitement/frustration of this way of going about things.

Anyway I was having a tea break and contemplating my little pile of scraps when I found a tempting piece and an idea struck me.  Forget about the 9 patches - I decided to do this.

And then this.

One of the good things about the 9 patch construction is that if I hated it, I would only have lost 3 little squares, so could reconstitute things quite easily, but as it happens I like it.  I like that it's a slightly different way of adding this fabric, and its an efficient use of the limited quantity I have and I like that it's the reverse of the one on the left; I like that it's another way of adding a bit of width/height.  I also like that chopping into something feels less scary every time I do it!

Linking up with Patchwork Times again today.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Small bits, slow progress

This week's circles.  I think I'm going to start sewing these together as I go, probably by hand, so that might be a Sunday job.  They seem very basic compared to others I've seen, but I am sticking with it.  

And Inner City has progressed a bit. It's not huge so it feels like it is going fast, especially when the last two I have quilted have been really big.  Experience suggests, however, that in reality there are probably months of quilting this ahead of me.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Going backwards

This is cheating a bit, I know, to post some of the process after I've shared the finished quilt, but I thought I'd just share some photos of Small Pleasures at various stages of construction.

The brief was just in terms of colours "all pinks, from baby pink to burgundy, pistachio greens, duck egg blues" and I knew straight away I wanted to use the teacup fabric, which I have had for quite a while and that I wanted to keep it in fairly big pieces.

So the journey went something like this:

First pull:

Bought some other fabrics, softer versions of the same shades, mostly Tilda, including another tea cup fabric, and made some economy blocks

then realised I needed teapots.

Then I got stuck, looking at the pale and pretty and the stronger, brighter fabrics and trying to work out how they sat together (though I never really questioned that they would, if I got it right).  Started to play and build out from green teacups, like this

And eventually got to here (I have about twenty photos which are effectively different versions of this - me moving blocks about trying to find what works).

And this is where I really got stuck.  This was pretty enough, I thought: I liked it but I didn't love it. Somehow it wasn't quite doing it for me.  This were where I realised what an important part of the process blogging has become for me: having to articulate what I like/don't like and why really focuses my mind and helps me to move forward.  I wasn't blogging this, so I really wallowed around for a while.  In the end I had to email a photo to my sister and my son's girlfriend - as soon as I started to explain to them why I wasn't happy the whole thing became clearer: it is pretty, but almost too pretty.  I needed something to break up all the pink.  Enter some blues at the stronger end of my colour range.  I actually cut back into what I had already done in order to insert blue strips - you can probably see where.

After this I got into the flow and it came together without any more major headaches, but I will be very reluctant to quilt and not blog in the future.

The whole quilt is on yesterday's post, so I'll finish up with one or two more details.


Tuesday 24 November 2015

AHIQ - Share your improv #3 and a finish!

I thought I'd kick off today by sharing my hitherto unblogged quilt, which was a long time in the making but was finally finished last week.  This is Small Pleasures.  



And a few wee details.
Here's the nitty gritty:
82" wide by 92" long; 
28 different fabrics on the front; there are Oakshotts, Kaffe Fassetts, some old Lily Ashbury lines I've been saving for the right moment, some Tilda, some Kona, and goodness knows what else;
the back is mostly made with the leftovers;
Hobbs Tuscany wool wadding;
hand quilted with four different variegated Sulky Blendable 12wt threads, two pinks, two blues and greens.  

The first fabric pull was done on 23rd January, and I sewed the last stitch on 14th November.

Monday 23 November 2015

Six down, three to go

I love a productive morning: 50+ tulip bulbs in the ground and one more 9x9 under my belt.  

Just three to go.  I lay them out on the floor to keep an eye on where I think the circles should go, but every so often I shuffle things around.  Right now I think these bits will go where they are lying, but tomorrow who knows?

Last reminder too, that the next AHIQ linky kicks off tomorrow - all welcome.

As usual I'm sharing this at Design Wall Monday.