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.  

Tuesday 25 July 2017

AHIQ - share your improv #23

Still moving along slowly here, but slowly is definitely the operative word. 

I've done a lot of thinking, a bit of moving stuff about and made quite a few hourglass blocks, in a fairly random selection of sizes.  I have decided I'll just keep chopping up the one floral fabric and making blocks with it until I run out. While I do that I will also slowly add a few more bits and pieces into the mix, and I'll carry on making bigger bits, when the fancy takes me - you can see one taking shape in the corner of the photo. 

I am actually slightly further on that this, but failed miserably to take any pictures after this point; sometimes I am just way too easily distracted!

On another, more interesting topic than my current inabilility to get to grips with this project, it's AHIQ time again and Ann is launching the next challenge.  I'm quite excited by the prospect, and may contemplate starting something new before this one is done, just so I can join in.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Patience is a virtue

It has emerged during my quilting/blogging life that I am not the most patient of people (hand quilting aside). So at the start of a project, when I'm feeling my way, I occasionally  need to take a deep breath and remind myself that it always begins like this: with the germ of an idea but not much more, and definitely not with a clear plan.  

That's a roundabout way of saying that I am still groping around, trying things and discarding them, sewing, unpicking, resewing.  As a result, I'm not sure how edifying these photos will be, but nonetheless here they are.

I messed about for quite a while with these bits...


Finally I decided that big piece was just too much brown all in one place, so unpicked it and turned what was left into this.

I'm wondering about using the fabric on the right to fill in a few spaces.  I can't get carried away as I've only got 1/2 metre, but I'm playing around with how it might look.  

I am making the hourglasses in a range of sizes, which I like and will keep doing.  I am also slowly adding in extra fabrics. What I haven't yet worked out is whether I want to keep going like this or throw something else into the mix. If I keep fiddling then at some point it will all become clear, but until I have a lightbulb moment I'm keeping the seam ripper close at hand.

Linking up with sew stitch snap share today.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Still quilting

I'm thinking it's about time for an update on All at Sea.I'm still quilting, though to be honest I'm going through one of those phases where I'm easily distracted.  There is progress though.  I'm maybe 2/3rds of the way through, possibly even a little more.  It feels like time to knuckle down a bit now.

Friday 14 July 2017


It's going to take me a while to figure this quilt out, I think.

Here's what I've been doing.  First I made enough hourglass blocks to make a block of 9 and a few extras, then I started to play around, 'what if-ing'.  I'm happy for some parts to be kind of blurry, which is to say that the soft colours run into each other a bit, but also need some definition.  So I tried the floral (which I had been pretty sure was out of contention) and that darker blue stripe.

It didn't blow me away, but I thought I'd keep going for a bit, so added the extra row at the bottom and the strip down the right hand side.  You may notice I've added in that mucky yellow colour.  It looks a bit out of place now, but once there's more of it I'm pretty sure it will work.

I liked the yellow, but after a cup of tea and a think I didn't like the floral and blue strips at all, so out they came and I tried again, this time using striped shirting instead.

And got to here.  You can see a tiny strip of the floral sneaked back in.  This was largely because I wanted to make the original group of 9 just a smidge longer, so that things would fit together nicely.   It's only about 1/2 wide and I think if I keep to skinny bits like this it might do the job.

This is where I stopped, after my two steps forward, three steps back kind of a morning, but I'm feeling okay about it. I am thinking about possibly making some larger hourglasses (the ones here are probably 5"-ish); adding something to the top of this chunk; maybe making several bits like this and floating them on a more simple background, though I'll probably end up complicating things.  This is  literally just a brain dump though, so anything could happen next.  

Wednesday 12 July 2017

A tiny start

I have decided to start with my floral shirt (well, blouse actually) and a simple shape.

Monday 10 July 2017

A bit ho hum

Sometimes things just don't go quite as easily as you would like. 

I spent an hour this morning pulling everything that might conceivably go with my bundle of shirts out of the boxes and spreading the results out on the lawn.  Leaving aside the fact that it promptly decided to rain, I have been left feeling slightly underwhelmed by what I found.  The whole lot looks like this (except that the colours in this first photo seem a bit washed out compared to real life).

Some of these clearly go, others are more of a stretch.  The two florals in the top left corner I put there because I was trying to find something to balance all the plains and stripes, but I'm not convinced by either of them.

Put together in smaller groupings, they work a bit better.

Obviously pictures like this don't deal with proportion (so that very bright blue in the last photo would be used in tiny bits, not blooming great chunks, for example).

Nothing for it but to  make a start and see how it goes.  Some things will end up in the quilt, others are headed back to their boxes, but honestly, right now, I have only the faintest of ideas which ones are going where.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Stewing and twitching

The idea of a bit of a break from piecing was to push on with my quilting, but to be honest that's not happening.  It's ticking over just fine but I haven't managed to give it much more time than I usually would. No harm in the pause, though, and I have been using it to have a bit of a think about the quilts I have been making recently and the idea of Modern Utility.

I now have six quilts I have made using a combination of recycled clothing (mostly shirts) and fabric from my stash.  In each case I started with the bundle of shirts and then pulled extra fabrics that seemed to fit. Here they are.

The most obvious issue, for me at least, is that shirts come in a wide range of blues, reds, browns, greys, but that it can be harder to track down more interesting options.  I sometimes find one pale green shirt, or one peachy tone, but what I really want is three or four that will work together.  Probably I need to apply myself more to the search, but on the other hand you see a lot more men wearing blue shirts than peach ones.

It is also much easier to find appealing stripes, checks and tone-on-tones than, for example, large scale florals.  Well, I hear you say, what did you expect?  And that's a fair point.  It is also, for me, where the stash fabrics play their part, allowing me to build a wider palette, introducing extra colours and a ore varied range of pattern.  It's a balance I find visually appealing and searching out the stash additions can be lots of fun.

Then there's the issue of quantity: even an XXL shirt contributes a finite amount of fabric and, unlike yardage, when it's gone it's gone.  At least twice in making the quilts above I started off thinking there would be some sort of pieced border and then reached a point where I had to acknowledge that wasn't going to be an option.  On the other hand, I don't think either of the quilts suffered from the omission.  

The plus sides?  

I have used some colours I might not otherwise have chosen; sometimes the balance of stripes/plains/plaids seems to push me towards a certain feel or approach and I quite enjoy that.  

I like that I am using fabrics with a past life, carrying an extra bit of meaning into the quilt. 

There's something very liberating about chopping up an old shirt - I think maybe it's easier to be brave: after all it's only a shirt so if I don't like what I've done, it's not that big a deal.  I have also learnt to be both more relaxed about the prospect of being a bit short of fabric and more resourceful  in eking out my bits and pieces and in finding substitutes when I need to.  

Finally it seems to me that these quilts want to be used - they are for sleeping under, sitting under, wrapping around yourself (or at least they will be once they are quilted).

But enough of this...I have been stewing but I am also getting a bit twitchy.  Must be time to pull another pile and start chopping again.

In the meantime, since this happens to be Wednesday, I'm linking up with sew, stitch, snap, share with Linda and Julie.