Wednesday 28 October 2015

Sticking with the handwork

Encouraged by my progress I have decided to stick with my two handwork pieces for another couple of days - I won't see anything finished but I'll be a lot nearer an end.  

I've been adding little patches to the denim and filling in the gaps with stitching. 

This photo gives a better idea of its size.

Also, I forgot to flag it up at the beginning of the week but there is still time to link up with AHIQ to share your improv, if you haven't already.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

AHIQ - share your improv #2

Not much progress from me in the last couple of days, as we've come down south to visit large son in lovely Devon (and no photos because I failed to take big camera, forgot to charge small camera and talked too much so phone battery went too. This is very frustrating because there was so much I wanted to take pictures of, but such is life.)

Anyway, I have been thinking and talking about modern utility and incorporating traditional blocks but until Ann pointed it out I hadn't realised that my quiet quilt is doing exactly that:  it's just 9 patches...

and a freehand version of drunkard's path blocks.  

So, this time at least, I have been practising what I preached.

Sunday 25 October 2015

If this is Sunday, it must be denim

Today I'm catching up with my denim.  It has been a bit neglected for the last week or two: I am getting to a point with my unblogged quilt where I can sense the end, so have been hand quilting fit to bust.  Not there yet, of course; these things always take longer than you think.  Anyway, I've got another wee chunk of this done and hopefully time for a bit more too.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Friday 23 October 2015

Square, circle, square...

Mostly this week I've been making my smaller 9 patch blocks.  I haven't sewn any of them together, just laid them out on the floor as I went.  I want plenty to play around with and even though I am being (for me) quite efficient, they take a while to make.  I hardly ever think to do this, usually it's one little unit at a time, but with this I am trying at least to line up two or three bits to sew at a time.  Even so there's lots of fitting together, adding of little bits etc to be done.

I don't often keep making the same unit over and over - short attention span don't you know - but am persisting with these as I don't want to get over-excited andoverdo the circles. In the end, though, I'd had enough and did make just one...

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Quiet quilt: first big 9 patch

I have sewn together my first 9x9, to get one big block.

I've also been hard at work making the next set of 9 patches, which currently look like this.

Just for fun I put them side by side:

Two things have occurred to me: firstly that I might keep going with the 9 patches and make in total 9 of these bigger blocks, which would give me a reasonable sized end result.  The second was that I rather like the juxtaposition of these two sets, so need to sit down and have a think about how many of the circles I will make and how I will place them as I go. Maybe a little doodling is in order next.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

AHIQ - inspiration #2

The second AHIQ 'why don't you try this?' post was based on the idea of working with what you had/knew, so here is a selection of glorious quilts where the makers have worked with familiar elements but put their own twist on things.  My thanks to everyone who kindly agreed to let me use their images.

If you click on the picture it should take you to the relevant blog post (where there is one) but you can also use the links beneath the pictures to go to the main page of people's blogs and then explore - there's loads to see.

 Odette Tolksdorf Freeflow Greenflow

Debbie Schulz  The House on the Hill

Jill Fisher A Flannel Pancake

Lynn Harris Tealorange

Victoria Findlay Wolfe A Summer's Day, (this quilt is in Double Wedding Ring Quilts:Traditions Made Modern, Stash Books, 2015, p.60) Victoria's blog is at and her website is

Terry Aske Cool Blue Kona Modern

Terry kindly sent the artists statement that goes with this quilt.

("I love using an improv, wonky process, because it goes together so quickly – no precise measuring required! This quilt was inspired by a VMQG challenge to combine the printed patchwork fabric from Robert Kaufman’s Kona Modern Quilts fabric line with Kona solids.  I chose solids in navy blue and other cool colors.

I started with a wonky center square and added alternating printed and solid strips. Once it was about 35" square, I trimmed the edges to make it straight and square.

I quilted it with straight lines in a wonky square spiral starting from the center block.")

Monday 19 October 2015

Quiet quilt: 9x9

I have 9 blocks now: 3 circles and 6 of the little 9 patches. I am minded right now to sew them into bigger 9 patches.  I know I thought I was going to do that with the last quilt and went in a completely different direction but I am back with the idea now.  I laid them out on the floor: you can see the differences in size that result from cutting freehand!

If I'm keeping these in this formation I will have to add bits to fill in the gaps.  These are just lying on top of the bronze fabric at the moment.

I think I will sew this together and maybe make a couple more sets like this.  I doubt I'll make the whole quilt like this, but it will give me some units to play around with.

Linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Friday 16 October 2015

Quiet quilt, slowly growing

Encouraged by the response to circle no. 1, I have made circles no.2 and 3.  I tried swapping the segments round this time, so one quarter of each doesn't belong with its fellows.  I'm not sure I'd bother doing it again: I don't mind it, but don't like it any better than the original version.  Having said which it's nice to have a bit of variety.  I've stuck them up on the wall with the 9 patches and, for me, now, this starts to look like something.

Looking at this post I've just realised: one more and I can make a big 9 patch out of my little ones. That's an idea that pleases me.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Quiet quilt - first circle

After a few more 9 patch blocks I couldn't help myself: the idea if circles has just been nagging away and I had to go with it.  There are several ways I could get there of course: applique or reverse applique would seem pretty obvious, but instead I went for chopping into what I had made.  I drew a freehand circle just to make sure I got the shape out of the block but only used it as a guide and cut freehand as close to the edges as I could.

Next I did this:

So now I'm pondering this.  I think maybe I will make it a bit smaller (though I have been trying to work a little bit bigger!) or might cut this into a circle too and go round again.  I know that the modern stripes don't sit quite right with the other fabrics yet, but that should come good as I repeat them in other places, but how I do that will depend on whether I keep this or not.Decisions, decisions!

In the meantime I'm going back to the 9 patches for an hour or two.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Modern utility - work with what you have

We have always been keen that AHIQ should take an organic approach, sharing and learning from each other as we go along, so this second 'why don't you try this' post springs from the developing idea of Modern Utility quilting, and from recent posts by Ann, Maureen and Julie about things they have been working on.   

If you are looking for ideas on how to start something, why not start with what you know, work with what you have?   I mean this in the broadest possible sense - both in terms of materials and of ideas.

So, for starters, how about some improv that doesn't discard all the things we already know about how to work with blocks, but retains the bits we like the best and re-imagines them - puts them with new neighbours, in new contexts? Gwen Marston's vision of liberated quilting is well known by now, and I guess for some people can seem a bit too easy, or cliched, but personally I love the old blocks, the log cabins, the stars, hst's, and I like to include them in my work.  

I do this for three reasons: firstly because I like the direct reference to what has gone before,  which I feel roots me firmly in the traditions of previous generations; secondly because they can be a good way to add a bit of structure, to stop my work from descending into visual mush; and thirdly I just really, really like how they look!  That's just me, but that's the whole point, isn't it?  

So, if you like a particular block, going improv doesn't preclude using it, it just challenges you to look at it with fresh eyes.  If you like to applique, or sash, or foundation piece, work with strings or always use a border, the same thing applies:  look at what you know and what you like, then push it a bit and see what happens.  You could do what Ann is trying and work with a traditional block in a new way, you could use made fabrics rather than yardage, you could cut free-hand, slice into blocks, add inserts...the possibilities are limited only by our inclinations and preferences.

To take this a step further,  why not start with something you already have - an orphan block, a UFO, a pile of scraps from a previous project, and go from there.  I always have little blocks that don't make it into my tops: they sit around in my scrap box looking sorry for themselves and occasionally, if they are very lucky, make it onto a back.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has stuff like this, so go ahead, dig something out and have a play! 

Monday 12 October 2015

Four times nine

I like this part of the process, when things are just starting out.  I've decided how I will begin, in this case with my scrappy looking 9 patches, and just have to keep making this units until it feels like time to stop and make some more decisions.  I'm pondering what I will do with them, but only in a vague, gentle, ho hum sort of a way, but mostly just enjoying make these bits without much more of a plan.  

I really like how these look right now.

Linking up today as usual with Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Stitching an interior landscape

Now, that may just be the most pretentious post title of all time, in which case I should apologise, but honestly? that's just what it has felt like this week.  I have started to think of this denim as a sort of map, a landscape that has evolved as I have stitched.  I have to thank some of you for helping me make this connection - all those who looked at my little circles and saw the blood moon really started something off!  

As a result I have been thinking as I sew about the connection between stitching and ritual and about the themes that preoccupy me.  This is definitely something I am growing into:  if you had asked me a year or two ago I would have said it was all about pretty, "shiny" stuff, quilting as an excuse for fabric, but now I feel more comfortable identifying for myself some of the internal stuff that goes on as well.  

There may be a couple of posts in this at some point, but for this week I have contented myself with taking some photos that please me, looking at the denim like a landscape or map.

Friday 9 October 2015

A new start

It's taken a while for me to be ready to start on the next quilt.  I am hand quilting my unblogged top like there is no tomorrow (maybe I'm halfway through?), the denim piece has become a bit of a preoccupation  and I have been mulling things over but without a strong inclination to get the fabric off the wall and chop.  But today that little itch at the back of my brain suggested to me that maybe I was ready, so off the wall it came (along with the design wall, but that's another story).

To kick off I picked out four fabrics - pretty much at random.  They were next to each other when I dropped the pile on the floor and it seemed as good a place as any to start.

So far I've cut some squares:

made a four patch:

and now a nine-patch...

I have used little filler strips to bring my strips of squares to roughly the same size - cutting freehand is never exact but I've learned I like adding these little bits. 

This is an interesting start for me - not really because of what it looks like now but because I have it in my head that this will be a project about lines and circles not about squares.  But when I got down to it, squares were what I wanted to make, so I went with it.  Where does that leave the initial ideas?  I don't have much of a clue, but I'm going to roll with it for now.  (Oops, the pedant in me has pointed out that I can't roll with squares.)

As well as Off the Wall Friday (there's a link in the sidebar), I'm linking this up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict today.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

AHIQ - express yourself

Both Ann and I had a great time last week visiting all the people who had linked up for the first AHIQ linky party. Some were bloggers I already knew,  others were new to me; some people were experienced improv quilters, some were having their first go at working like this.  I loved the variety of approach and outcome, and the sharing of ideas and thought processes was exactly what we hoped for from AHIQ, so thanks to everyone who posted, and to those who visited and commented on their posts.

As we read through it was interesting how quickly a couple of themes emerged, one was (again) the thorny subject of definitions: what is 'proper' improv? Ann will be posting some reflections on this one.

The other thread concerned the way we experience working in an improv way. Several people talked about finding it not just fun but also freeing, and there was a great quote from Sandra who wrote improv was "like knowing how to walk and run, and then being allowed to dance..." Who wouldn't want to try something that made you feel like that?

From my perspective the whole thing about improv is that it's personal: everyone can, and should feel that it's okay to do their own work for their own reasons.  So if what you want is to make something lovely to look at, and that's an end to it, then that's great in my book. My most recent piece of play is just that, play. Nothing more to it. When I stop to think about it, I reckon about half of what I do is just for the fun of it, or because a piece of fabric was so lovely I just had to make a quilt for it, half has more going on.  I also have to acknowledge that sometimes, as with my current denim piece, I start off playing but the quilt acquires an extra layer of meaning as I go along.

But sometimes improv can be more clearly a medium for exploration and self expression, it can carry an emotional element that isn't always there in other forms of quilting (even if we're not fully aware of it at the time). I notice it most when I make a quilt for someone I love and feel, at the end, that I've got it right, that somehow I've captured something about them, that this quilt could only be for that person. Stephie has made several improv quilts recently (see here) and is explicit about her desire to find a way to capture a specific mood in her work.

The feeling of exhilaration when something works and we realise we have said something we needed to say is the upside of this but there can be downsides too.  It can feel uncomfortable exposing yourself in this way, putting yourself out there, because the making has become a form of self-discovery and in some cases that means encountering/expressing strong or difficult emotions.  I once tried really hard to make a quilt which became the focus of a lot of anger I was carrying.  Everything I started just looked wrong, clunky, awkward, ugly and that quilt never got made. But this is all part of the journey (as in life) and just occasionally quilting can equal catharsis. (As I was writing I read this post on expressing grief, which address just this issue).   

The best summing up of all this I have come across is  a quote  that Quiltdivajulie has on her sidebar "I am not creating something else, I am revealing who I am."  (Catherine Moore) It may not always be pretty, or easy, but it will be interesting and worth the journey.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Slow Sunday denim again

I finally got everything stitched onto the denim and have gone back to embroidery.  I've been playing around with adding extra bits - both denim patches and more wee bits of fabric.  Most of the ones around the edges in this photo are just pinned at the moment.  I wanted to see what they might look like but the exact positioning somehow comes as I sew.

For now I am concentrating on this little area in the bottom left-hand corner, just stitching what I feel.  I think there may be another moon before I finish too.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Saturday photos #42

Only four photos in this week's collage - sometimes it just happens that way.