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.

Sunday 22 November 2015

It's all about the denim again today

Now that I'm accepting that I have become one of those people with multiple projects on the go, I'm going to try and be better at keeping track of them all, so...

Inner City is underway, but I'll wait until I've quilted more than 5 square inches before I start taking photos.  

My daily circles are going well - I am actually managing most of the time to do one a day, so no worrying backlog.  Currently I have this:

and this:

The days where there an extra colour sneaks in along with the blue are ones where there is something particular I want to note - either something personal or something more general that for personal reasons means a lot to me.  Hence the purple strip is for 11th November, Armistice Day, the two little black ones mark the death of the wonderful Jonah Lomu, who at his best was so great all you could do was laugh with joy. 

I am loving this project, and have been toying with the idea of running more than one version of it - so many ideas - but can't decide whether that would be overkill.  Do you like the way I move seamlessly from worrying that I have too much on the go to piling on more?

 I have also made good progress with the denim - although I am running short of threads.  Luckily I am leaving bigger spaces unstitched as I head towards the edges so am hopeful I'll scrape home.

Finally a reminder that the next Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up is this coming Tuesday, 24 November and that you can link up here or at Ann's.  What have you been thinking about this month?

Saturday 21 November 2015

Saturday photos #47

Looking at the sky this week.  Best ones, sadly, were seen as driving, but here's what was around when I was stationary. 

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Circles in squares in circles

Well, yesterday went by in a blur of broken glass.  Have you ever seen a window do this before? This is the door in our conservatory.

There is clearly a point  top right where something happened but we have no idea what (and I was in the next room when it went!)  

Next thing you know the glass fell out of the shower door.  And just like that the day was over and I had done no sewing, no blogging, nothing unrelated to glass...

But today I have made more 9 patches and cut one more arc.  I should mention that the arcs are serving a practical purpose, which is to make the smaller 9x9 patch blocks a bit bigger.  I'm anticipating each row being a different height but clearly they all need to be the same width, one way or another.

Next time I must remember not to take pictures on the cream carpet - it would show up so much better on the kitchen floor! (And also to straighten it out properly - it does sit flat, honest.)  I now have five 9x9 pieces and am most of the way to the next one, so if I just keep going there will be an end to the 9 patches.  

For a change I'm linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.

Monday 16 November 2015

I cracked!

After a week of dutifully making my 9x9s, I couldn't take any more.  So I cracked and tried something new.  I was inspired by Ann's comment on my previous post, and had grand ideas, but hit the bitter reality that if you only buy half a metre of any one fabric, you simply won't have enough to cut big sweeping curves, so I am trying this instead:

But it hasn't been all fun and unfettered cutting, I have kept the nuts and bolts going as well.

Linking up with Patchwork Times today.

Sunday 15 November 2015

New beginnings

Appropriately enough I have spent almost my whole week hand stitching, as a result of which my unblogged project is both quilted and bound (and that was a marathon).  So today is all about moving on.

Here is Inner City, and its back, ready to be sandwiched and pinned.  All I need is wadding, which should be on its way.  

And here are my first seven circles.  You will see that one of my reasons for joining this project is to improve my applique, though I should point out that the hand drawn circles I start with are decidedly not properly circular. Now that I have more time I may play around with these more, but I also like them as they are, so we'll have to see how it goes. Mostly right now I'm just trying to build the habit of one a day.

Finally, today's task is to get back to the denim, but no picture as nothing has changed since I last mentioned it.  

We stand with France

Words fail me. 

Saturday 14 November 2015

Saturday photos #46 -

Too wild and wet and windy today to do what I had planned, so here's some pretty flowers, and yes, the one in the top left corner is dead; I like dead flowers.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

AHIQ - thinking about colour

I hope you will bear with me if I get side-tracked just a little bit this week.  This may turn into a new "why don't you try this" challenge but right now I just need to jump metaphorically up and down and rant about colour.

Some time ago this blog led to me to this: an article about colour definitions in the 3rd edition of Webster's Dictionary.  Now it would be fair to say I am both a colour obsessive and possibly over-fond of the English language so this got me quite excited.  But secondhand copies of the book were expensive and, mostly, on the wrong continent, and online just doesn't inspire me: I want to pick this sort of book up and leaf through it.  

But then, my serendipitous moment: I was in a second-hand bookshop - we had only gone in because it was closing down and everything was £1 - where nothing was alphabetized; the shelves were just heaped willy-nilly which was briefly exhilarating and then, frankly, exhausting.  But for some reason Webster's popped into my mind and sure enough, there in the reference section, 3 volumes for £3. 

If you are still reading, I guess you are wondering what all the fuss is about.  So let me show you. 

Pick a colour - let's say pea green.  The Collins online dictionary defines this as a "yellowish-green colour". Websters?  Nothing so simple.  It has:

pea green: a variable color averaging a moderate yellow-green that is greener, lighter and stronger than average moss green, greener and lighter than mosstone and lighter and slightly stronger than spinach green.

And there is more.

Peach bisque (and who even knew that was a colour?) is: a light reddish brown that is redder and slightly deeper than copper tan and darker than monkey skin (and again, who knew that was a colour?)

Dusty orchid: a variable color averaging a pale reddish purple that is bluer and duller than anenome.

In fact, just under 'dusty' there is dusty aqua, dusty aqua blue, dusty aqua green, dustry cedar, dusty copen blue, dusty coral, dusty green, dusty jade green, dusty lavendar,  lilac and mauve, dusty olive, orange,peach, periwinkle blue, pink, rose, turquoise,  turquoise blue and turquoise green, not forgetting dusty yellow.

Two things I love, really love about all this. Firstly that everything is relative, every shade is described in relation to others, each tone is brighter, lighter, stronger, paler, deeper than something else.  Secondly that somehow there are now hundreds more colours in my head and I don't think it was under-populated to start with.  Now I want to know exactly what flossflower blue is, or Brittany, or colonial rose, or spray green...You see?  I could go on for hours.

Maryline Coullioud, of Mary and Patch, has a series of posts on 'Color Vibrations', based on the idea of working with numerous, closely related shades of an individual colour.  I had always liked these, but now it's gone a step further.

Suddenly a whole new world of colour, of infinitely minute but precise distinctions between shades and tones has been opened up for me and if my head weren't already buzzing, this would definitely be enough set me off.

Monday 9 November 2015

My brain's too full!!!

My head is buzzing.  I actually woke up in the middle of the night with quilty things whirring around my brain.  I don't mind too much - for some reason I am just excited right now about all the things I am doing.  I've got little circles, big circles, quilts to start, quilts to finish...

I haven't been making 9 patches today, but for the perfectly good reason that it felt like time to put what I had into bigger chunks (nothing to do with lack of patience, short attention span, just a perfectly good, pragmatic decision).  So now I have four 9x9x9 pieces.  

Now I really do have to get on with the squares.

As it's Design Wall Monday I'm linking up with Patchwork Times again.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Veering off course, but still circular

Today will mostly be about quilting, as my unblogged odyssey is nearing its end, but I will sneak in a bit of denim too.  However, rather than sharing more of the same I am going to share the newest project.  

But first, I always say I am a 'one quilt at a time' sort of person; or at least one quilt being pieced, one being quilted.    I just did a quick count and I currently have 5 projects on the go, three more that I have promised to start and another 3 quilts waiting patiently to be quilted.  How did that happen? Total lack of self-control maybe?  Fuzzy-headedness due to age?  Inability to count? 

I'm not letting it stop me though.  As I mentioned on Friday I have just decided to join Audrey's 365 Days circle-based project and have been playing around deciding on my starting points.  There are so many options: what to use as the background squares, what to use for the circles...brights, neutrals, patterns, plains...infinite variations.  

I looked at my limited stash of neutrals, the brown-y shades - nowhere near enough, given that I'm using two of these already...

the greys...more feasible maybe...

I have a lot of these old Oakshott stripes..

Looking at these now I am wavering - those greys might work...but as I have worked on the Eclipse denim piece I have been thinking a lot about circles, and already had some ideas I wanted to take forward, so I choose to think that this project coming up is serendipity and I am going to have a go at working with denim again.  If it works this will combine at least 3 strands of thought I have going on (more on that another time) so I have cut some squares (square-ish) and will get started.

Here goes today's set, should be stitched by close of play.

By the way, there was some fantastic stuff on the AHIQ link-up again this month.  People are doing great work but I am also finding the discussions stimulating and exciting - my head is jumping with ideas, so thanks to everyone who is joining in, either by posting or commenting.  You can check out Ann's wrap-up post here.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Friday 6 November 2015

Circles, and more circles

It's all about circles for me right now.

First off, I kept diligently plodding away making my 9 patch blocks until I had four complete sets.

Then, frankly, I just couldn't stand it any more and had to make another circle. Just the one.  I'm not stockpiling them, so will only make them when I have a set of 9x9  ready to go.  I'm happy with how this is looking, so this is my way of keeping to the task in hand, instead of veering off and making way more circles than I need, just because they are fun to do.

I have been thinking about placement too and wondering why I so often start in either the upper or lower left hand corner.  Is it because I am left-handed?  Or just set in my ways?  I have also, more usefully, been thinking about the next step, when I start to put these big blocks together.  Given that there is quite a marked discrepancy in sizes, I have to think about filling the gaps again - the story of my quilting life.  

I need to decide:
  • whether I  arrange them so that all the fillers go on outside edges or with fillers in the body of the quilt
  • what to use for the fillers.  They could be just pieced strips of fabrics already included, or I could sneak in an extra row of squares here and there, or possibly more of the bronze, though I don't want to overdo that.  Alternatively I could use something new: maybe one of these:
On a different, though still circular note, I am going to join in with the Quilty 365 project just starting at Quilty Folk (button on the sidebar). A circle a day, every day for a year.  Now I just need to make some initial choices and get on with it!

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Just squares and a little self-control

That's right, no going off course and making lovely improv circle-y bits today, just focusing on the 9 patches (and feeling self-righteous about it - can you tell?)

There is, of course, no telling how long I will be able to keep this up!

Tuesday 3 November 2015

AHIQ - Serendipity

Today I'm just going to talk about something that's been on my mind this week, which has been brought into clear focus by this great post by Monica.

For me part of the fun, the thrill of improv is in not knowing exactly what happens next. I might have an idea of what I want to achieve, colours I plan to use, shapes I'm going to focus on, something I hope to say, but because not everything is planned there is always room for happy accidents.  

A couple of examples.  My current WIP started with a serendipitous moment when I was scrolling through the black and white fabrics on a fabric website and found these two next to each other.

I wasn't looking for a starting point for a quilt, but there it was and it niggled away at me for three or four weeks, until I went back and ordered both fabrics.

The next example is from the same WIP and this is something I just noticed yesterday.  This is in essence quite a simple idea: 9 patches and curved blocks combined in a way that pleases me and relates, in my head at least, to the photo I took as a starting point - not much more to it than that.  But, as I add strips to my starting squares, to make them fit together, I am creating little secondary patterns. Look at the darkest square in the right hand section here - see the little rust coloured 'L'?

Now that I have spotted this I will think a bit more carefully as I add my filler strips, to start, sometimes, doing this deliberately rather than accidentally.  For me it is picking up on these little themes or motifs that emerge all by themselves and incorporating them as I go along that often gives a piece much of its rhythm.  Serendipity creates these elements but it is up to us to spot them and use them.  Sometimes they work quietly away in the background, sometimes they change the way everything looks.  This quote from M Mueller (from Joe Cunningham's Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, p.47) sums it up well:

...even though I may make a plan in the cutting and the laying out of the pieces, it is more like writing a short story; I can fill it in and if there is a narrative element that kicks that outline awry, I can go with the new narrative element.

As an aside, sometimes when I write this stuff I half expect someone to pop up and tell me it's all a load of bunkum. If I start producing nonsense, do feel free to let me know!

Monday 2 November 2015

Back down to it

Before the quilty stuff a quick, but very large cheer for the mighty, mighty All Blacks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Back to my machine today, and I started off trying to be disciplined and making more 9 patches, laying them out on the floor as I went.  Then I got twitchy and made another circle...

and then I  cracked and sewed a whole second set together.

I have two observations about this: first off, the  strips I am adding to make things fit sometimes make everything look quite different by the time the 9x9 blocks are done.  Secondly, this bigger block is quite a bit smaller than the first one.  I thought about adding extra bits now to bring it up to a comparable size but have decided to wait. I think this will leave me with more options.  Right now I'm not at all whether these will even be adjacent to each other by the time I'm done, so I like that room for manoeuvre. 

On another subject entirely, if you haven't checked out the bloggers who linked up with this month's AHIQ on Tuesday, do have a look at the post below and follow some of the links - there are some really interesting posts and some pretty cool quilts too.

I'll be linking up today with Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday.