Monday, 16 July 2018

One little lighthouse...

I had a play around with some alternative fabrics
but decided to stick with the Charley Harper for this one and this is how it went.
 I've ended up with this.  
Clearly it will need a back and possibly, though I don't much fancy doing it, a zip, but I am thinking I would also like to add a little bit of quilting.  Never having done this before I'd welcome any words of wisdom!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018


I'm not sure where the last week has gone, though I know there have been detours for duck fleas, tick bites. a dead starter motor and quite a lot of sport.  There's a detour too in the sewing.  I don't want to start something new before Ann issues the next AHIQ challenge at the end of the month, so have been giving some thought to undertaking a smaller project.  Yes, I know, I'm always saying I don't like making small stuff, but here I am, for the second time this year, doing just that.  I've been asked about the possibility of making a cushion-sized lighthouse piece so I'm giving it a go.  In fact, I'm giving it two goes, since it seemed to make sense to piece two lighthouses at the same time.  

A couple of pictures, then.  The first is lighthouse number one, the second shows pretty much where I got to by end of play. I've got two half-made lighthouses, some little HST-based sea bits and vague ideas about the sky.  Not much is cast in stone yet, but it's a start.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Taking Flight- done for now

On Tuesday I added the second side and bottom borders...
 and today, by the skin of my teeth, I got the blocks for the top edge done and sewn on.  It's funny, isn't it, how long it can take to make a few string blocks.  You'll see there are more small blocks in the top, because I was using my scraps, but in fact I had more left over than I expected.  Not enough to tempt me into another round though.
That's this one done for now, so the next task is to press on with the hand quilting and try to catch up a bit.  The World Cup is helping with this, the heat is not, though I'm not complaining about being warm.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Saturday photos revisited

I used to enjoy making a weekly photo collage, until I suddenly didn't any more.  Soma at Whims and Fancies has just relaunched her monthly photo link up, Wandering Camera, so I thought I'd have a go at joining in - should be able to manage one a month!

Last week I was in a butterfly house, taking lots of photos, trying to catch the split second when the little beggars stop moving.  I didn't do too badly.  When I looked at the pictures afterwards the thing that struck me was how well each butterfly camouflages itself - there were flowers and foliage of all shapes and colours, but look how neatly they have blended in.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

What to do when you run short of fabric...

So, I decided to go with a border in the blue fabric, which has been in the original pull for this quilt but hadn't made it into the string blocks.  Of course there wasn't quite enough, as you can see below.
I cut up everything I had and ended up with enough for three out of four sides.  I did consider not adding the border all the way round, but decided to eke things out by adding some bits of the blue shirt fabric that's already in the quilt.

And then started making more string blocks.
I think I need another 22.  Not sure whether I can get there - you'll see I've started making some much smaller bits and then sewing them together to make 6" squares.  This is not so much playing with scale as trying to use every last bit of fabric.  If I run out, then I'll worry about what I do instead.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

AHIQ: new beginnings

This is the 4th Tuesday, which would usually be AHIQ link up  day.  If you are here looking for AHIQ, it now has a blog of its own here.  If you would like to join in, let me know and I'll send you an invitation.  If you have a post you would like to share, but don't want to be a contributor, you can email me and I'll happily add a link for you. If you post on instagram and don't blog, then again, I am happy to add your links.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Breaking my own rule

Some progress I think.  I spend ages fiddling around, as stated in the previous post and couldn't get things how I wanted.  My inclination was to have the brown squares spread around, and the larger blue diagonals in the bottom right corner and that wasn't feasible, since there was a brown square sewn onto the blue.   This is a good example though, of why you should question the rules you set yourself.  I always tend to look at the spread of things (shapes/colours) but what worked best for me in this case was to plonk one big brown bit right next to another one.  This is where it got me.
This is about 60" long but not quite 40" wide.  I have enough blocks already made to add one more column, which I will get on and do  Then I am wondering about some borders. And maybe one more round of squares.  Or something else entirely.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Shuffling and tinkering

Halfway there, I think.  I had this chunk you see all sewn together by the end of my last session and had laid out the left hand column.  I still liked it this morning, so have sewn it on (making one change which you can see in the second photo).
I'm still making blocks, but slowly now, trying to keep an eye on how many I will actually need.  And there's a lot of tinkering going on.  This is one version, though I can see lots on the right hand side I don't like.  So I continue shuffling things around, trying to balance out all the different elements in a pleasing way.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

AHIQ update: a new group blog

Today sees the launch of  our new AHIQ group blog.  Do check out Ann's first post, and also what she has to say on her own blog  here.  If you would like to be able to add posts just get in touch with one of us and we'll send you an invitation.  As with the linky party, we are relaxed about our definitions and happy for you to make whatever sort of contributions you like: you can link to posts on your personal blogs, share general thoughts, reviews of books/exhibitions, reflections on the technical side of things - the more the merrier!


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Next quilt in the hoop

Having just made an entire quilt, from first cut to last stitch on the binding, in a matter of months, I'm back to quilting something that's been waiting a year.  I'm hoping to keep myself motivated with my quilting: it had definitely slipped a bit but I'm much happier when I keep things ticking over nicely so I shall try not to be so easily distracted.  My Chinese Coins, made for the first AHIQ challenge, was top of the pile, sticking to chronological order, so that's what's in my hoop now.
I don't remember the last time I did this, but I am using actual, proper, quilting thread rather than perle or wool or variegated Sulky 30.  I had picked up a reel of a Gutermann thread in a rather lovely brown-y shade - don't remember when or why - but it seems to sit nicely with the rather muted colours of the top, so I figured, why not? 
I'm marking the pattern freehand, so it's a kind of wonky grid. The lines are mostly relatively straight,  but the size of the boxes they make varies quite a bit.  It seems to go with all the different sizes of stripe.

Linking up with Kathy, just to show that I am still Slow Sunday Stitching.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

I don't know if this is really a progress post: I am still making bits and playing around with them on the floor, sewing together long 4 patches and 9 patch sets of squares, but very few firm decisions have been made. There are lots of combinations I like, like this one.
 And this one.
On that basis, I could just not bother to post until I have something clearer to share, but a thought occurred to me that seems worth writing down.

For me, a bit part of the improv process is about looking for the rhythm of a quilt.  This is largely about repetitions of shape and colour and how you can use them both to move the eye around the quilt and to provide stopping points or pauses in that movement.  So the notes I mentioned last time were really about the elements that I thought needed to be repeated more often in order to help build that rhythm.  What I particularly noticed yesterday and want to mention is that  it also helps to pay attention to what is happening that is incidental or accidental. In this case, I laid out several versions where the brown striped fabrics ended up making wonky windmill shapes.  In all the ones you can see in the photos above, these shapes  are made from a combination of rectangular pieces and squares, so they blur the lines between those two different blocks (if that makes sense).  I didn't do this on purpose, it's just how things fell, but I like them and now that I've noticed I will make an effort to look for pieces that let me add them deliberately.

This is what I mean when I talk about a quilt having a mind of its own.  

Monday, 11 June 2018

A bit more progress

There's not much to say about this.  Looking at last week's photos I found myself jotting down a few notes - a new habit for me, but it's an improvement on thinking stuff and then completely forgetting.  "More brown strips", "more leaves on green", "couple of brown squares", that sort of thing.  Today, I obeyed my own prompts and made some more blocks with a brown strip, some more leaves, though not all on a green get the picture.
There are four chunks sewn together: two rectangular and two nine patches.  Next I want to make more rectangles and sew more chunks - I don't want to end up with loads of little blocks I have no home for.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Comes a time

There comes a time when you have to stop making bits, stop arranging and rearranging and commit to something, otherwise you just drive yourself nuts.  I had added and taken away, laid things out this way and that way and no lightning bolt of inspiration had struck yet, so I decided to give it a bit of a shove.

Not a big shove, more of a nudge, actually, but I did sew a couple of bits together.  To be precise, I  sewed 9 bits together.
This  barely made a dent in the pile of string blocks scattered over the kitchen floor, but I felt better for it.
Then I sewed together 4 more.  The 9 blocks on the right are just laid out, so you can see I went back to playing after that, but I think more of those rectangular bits are the order of the day.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Mixing things up a bit

Going slowly on this one.  I've made a few more leaf-ish shapes.  I like how they look but have been sewing like a dunce, so I'm not enjoying the making.  And I do mean like a dunce; not the occasionally little pucker that I needed to unpick, but sewing on entire extra piece I'd picked up by mistake, or sewing the two sides of the leaf together.  Nevertheless I persisted, though you can see I was so fed up that there wasn't a lot of pressing going on.  It was more a case of sewing then chucking it on the floor!
I've also made 2 new versions of the string block; one using a whole page of the phone book.  The other uses the 6x5 bit that's left after I take a 6x6 square.  I'm adding a strip to make it up to the 6x6 size.
This starts to feel like something I could work with, though it's not quite there yet.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Done and dusted: The Birds of Findhorn Bay

I had been aiming to finish this by the end of May, but 1st of June is good enough. It turns out I didn't mind moving straight from quilting to piecing and there is definitely satisfaction to be had from finishing something in the same year as it was started, which doesn't happen all that often round here.

Inspiration taken from images of Findhorn Bay and the list of bird names recited by my friend Sue as she was describing it to me. 
Flying geese, the rays of the sun, the spread of a bird's wing.

A close-up carefully selected to include one of my grey hairs!
I have to say, I am very, very happy with how this has turned out.  I love the shapes and the colours and generally feel jolly pleased with it.

41" square - small for me, I know, but just this once, for special people...
Started piecing 20th March, finished 4th May 2018.
Started quilting 5th May, finished on 1st June 2018. 

Made using a selection of shirts, plus fabrics from stash and the scrap box.  The purple is an Oakshott cotton and the gold is Cloud 9.  The binding is made with leftovers from one of the shirts.

Hand quilted using Aurifil and Madeira lana threads, and the wadding is So Simple SuperSoft Eco Blend.  

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Too square, too straight

I'm not working on this project much - still hand quilting most of the time - but I have been thinking about it a lot and once or twice I've got my bits out of the box and shuffled them round.  It turns out this has been a useful approach.  

Here are the blocks I had made, laid out randomly.  
I've now taken out those yellow squares.  The yellow was one of the things I liked about my original fabric pull, but it's not working for me here.  Maybe it will be back, but not in this form.

I've played around with adding sashing of some description.  This photo is probably my favourite shot of this project, but clearly ten wee blocks and one little strip of sashing don't add up to a quilt.
 I've played around with adding an extra shape.
But then it hit me: the problem I have with this (and I had it last time I worked with strings too, so I should have figured it out sooner) is that it is all too square, too straight, too tidy.  I haven't been too fussy about the size of  my foundation squares and have cut my strips freehand, but things still come out looking pretty neat.  Of course I know that a big mass of string blocks look quite different from a handful and can acquire their own glorious mad energy, but right now this is all a bit static for my liking.

So at least I understand my problem; now I just have to figure out what to do about it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

AHIQ - share your improv #33

Not much piecing has gone on here in the last few days, though there has been plenty of other sorts of sewing.  I am taking a brief pause from the current project; I like it well enough but keep having an urge to shove in something really unexpected, like huge swathes of pink, so I'm leaving the poor thing in its box until I've got myself under control and have some sense of what I'm doing.

In the meantime though, I am quilting for all I'm worth.  Another week, maybe two, and my little Findhorn piece should be done.  
I had forgotten how quickly a small piece seems to move towards completion - I rather like it!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Bigger, smaller, quieter

Today I decided that I'd make some blocks with less contrast.
And here's what they looked like mixed in with my first batch
I'm not making big decisions, but I like to lay stuff out when I've been sewing for a bit and have a play - sooner or later I'll like something enough to keep it.  This version seemed a bit too regular, so I had another go.
I wanted to make one or two bigger blocks, but haven't for the entirely mundane reason that the phone book I am using for backing papers has really narrow pages and I couldn't find anything else. So I made a few smaller ones, just for the heck of it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

First decisions

Well, this is not going to be what I first thought, which was (possibly) something incorporating log cabin type blocks.  I did like the little block I mocked up for the previous post, but there were several things wrong: the first was that it just felt a bit predictable; the second, that cutting my fabric to make squares or rectangles would be quite wasteful, if I wanted to preserve the swallows whole; and finally it made the assumption that the whole quilt was about that one fabric - I think I want to try and find a way that it plays equally in relation to the other choices but doesn't hog the limelight, if that makes sense.

Anyway, since this was the fabric giving me pause for thought, I wanted to get the first cut over with.  Once I sat and looked at it properly, it seemed to make more sense to cut on the diagonal (picture included here so you can see what I mean), which has led me neatly back to string blocks. 
So what I am trying, for now at least, is these little blocks (6" square).  Some with three strips, some that just have one corner replaced and some that are a single fabric.
I'm using the swallows up first, but adding in the other fabrics as I go along. 
Of course this may be no indication at all of what the final quilt will look like, but it's where I'm starting.
(An interesting aside, is that the fabric I am least comfortable with so far is the one that comes from the same range as the swallows, which is designed to co-ordinate perfectly.  Probably says more about me than it does about the fabric!)

Friday, 11 May 2018

I love a nice shirt

I don't know if it's something to be celebrated or lamented but  where once I had specific clothing shops I loved (in the days when I visited bricks-and-mortar shops for clothing), then favourite online quilt stores, nowadays it's the British Heart Foundation second-hand shop gets my heart beating that wee bit faster.  In short, there's little I like better than a nice shirt and more specifically, a nice shirt that I can chop up.  

Yesterday morning I went hunting for something to throw into the mix for this latest quilt-to-be and this is what I found. It's hard to tell in the pictures but the second one is a pale grey-blue with a nice sandy stripe and the third is almost exactly the same shades of mint and brown as the shirt I had already pulled.  
The bronze one on the left may or may not fit into this quilt, but I like the colour a lot, and honestly, when it's only £3 for a whole shirt, why would I leave it behind?

So now I have to focus on where to start.  A lot of the ideas that have been floating around my head recently have been circles/curves again, but given that the Charley Harper fabric has big dots I'm thinking this might be overkill, so I'm playing around with other possibilities.  I don't want to be too uptight about it but would like to stretch that print as far as possible, without cutting every swallow in half, so squares or vertical strips make the most sense.  
For the moment I am just looking at things on the floor, but eventually I'll have to take the plunge and cut something.  Maybe on Monday.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

New beginning

Off I go again. Though I am trying to prioritise the hand quilting and some non-quilting stuff, I have squeezed in half an hour to play with fabric.   I had in my mind a very pretty pale green and pink combination that Audrey has been working with, but my stash didn't yield anything very helpful.  I did find these two shirts, which my sister gave me for Christmas (yes, for chopping up; I wouldn't be so churlish as to cut into them if they were meant for wearing).
So I've got mint green, but no pink.  Then, rooting through my boxes I found  some Charley Harper.
Now it felt like I was getting somewhere.

So back to the boxes, to pull out things in the right colours: browns, greys, ochre, sand, and more minty greens.
 Here's a different view.
It's often the case with my first pulls that they are very pleasing on the eye but a little bit too nicely matched, and I think that's true here, but that dark brown with the little flowers introduces a little touch of a much deeper blue, which might be the answer.  Here's the same pull with a big piece of that deeper blue.
This, to my eye, has much more potential.  This is more yardage-heavy than I would ideally choose, so now I am going to let it stew for a day or two and maybe have a hunt around for one or two more shirts in the meantime.