Saturday, 20 October 2018

Missing the right bits

Slow progress.

I have added to the right hand side - and am not trying to figure out what happens above and below this piece.  
Quite a lot of the bits in this picture had not yet been sewn together, so the wider blue and white strips will end up rather narrower than they look.  The bit I'm struggling with right now is the top right-hand corner.  I would like the blue to extend around it, but can't find quite the right combination of bits.  Up until now I have just been using what I already had made, but I think the next step will be to make something specifically for the space.  

Monday, 15 October 2018

A whole lot of shuffling going on.

I still like the dark blue, which is a relief.  Right now I'm doing quite a lot of laying things out on the floor, like this...
to try and figure out where I want to use the dark stripes and where I want to stick with the pale ones.  Occasionally when I like something I'm pinning bits together, so that I don't forget next time I get them out and every so often I am biting the bullet and sewing.  
I'm still trying to avoid letting everything get too 'block-y' and this sort of placement creates little gaps to fill, which I hope will help with that.  Partial seams help too (and seem to have become a habit now).

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Third time lucky

Well this has been interesting.

Having said I needed something extra, I started playing around with some different shapes.  I tried triangles
then I toyed with the idea of something circle-y, based on these vintage samples of furnishing fabric
but realistically I wasn't going to have enough fabric for this approach.

I'm not sure what led me back to my boxes, but I went furtling about in the one containing shirts and came up with this,
which led to this.
I like it, so I'm going to do a bit more and see how it goes. I'm guessing it will come down to whether I can balance the blue and the white stripy bits satisfactorily.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Fits and starts

It appears this is one of those projects that involves a fair bit of puzzling things out, though I hope my little strips are going to provide at least part of the answer. 
My issue currently is that although I like my individual pieces and the stripy fabric that is joining them together, I don't want it everywhere, otherwise each block is framed with the stripes and the whole thing ends up looking too- well, block-y.  Yes, I know that's not a word, but hopefully it conveys my problem.  If this is just a collection of big rectangles outlined with stripes then it becomes static, so I need to find ways to keep some movement.  I'm hoping the newest pieces will help with that, firstly just because they are a different element but also, on a more practical level, they are a way to stop any individual line of the stripy fabric extending too far, of disrupting the grid. 

This picture is quite a good example, even with the extra strip sets, of how easily this could feel static and lumpen. 
I think I need to add something more.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Quick update

Not much to say about this, but here's a bit of progress.  

My pile of "blocks" is growing
and I have started making these little strips too.
I am hoping these will let me sneak in some little bits of the purple and green fabrics as well as using up my smaller scraps.

A practical aside: I don't know which part of the gmail/blogger interface is to blame but comments are being emailed to me multiple times at the moment.  This means I have become hopelessly confused about which one I have replied to.  I am trying methodically to work my way through it, but will almost undoubtedly slip up somewhere, so apologies in advance to anyone I accidentally ignore.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Chinese Coins: finally finished

Phew!  I though I would still be working on this at Christmas but Chinese Coins is done.
I usually choose the binding when the quilt is finished. This fabric, though,  was in the initial pull and I have kept it floating about in my eye-line rather than tucking it back into a box because I have always been sure I wanted to use it.

There have been (numerous) times while I was working on this that I wondered what I was doing.  This little quilt seemed dull and the freehand cross-hatching seemed like a good idea gone bad and was taking longer than even I could enjoy.   I wondered if I should have ruled all the quilting lines, worried that the variations in the grid would look sloppy, at one point nearly put the whole thing back in the cupboard (something I never do: I start, so I finish).  

But guess what.  Quilted, bound, completed - I just love this quilt.  I love the gentle colours and the shirt fabrics, I love the shapes and the quilting - just love it all.  Mostly I see things I would change at this point, but for whatever reason this one seems just fine exactly as it is.  Just goes to show you can't second-guess these things.
The details

Started 3rd February 2017 as part of the first AHIQ challenge, set by Ann.
Finished piecing 31st March 2017.
Started quilting 17th June 2018.
Completed 27th September 2018.
Finished size 69" x 71".

Made from a big pile of shirts and fabrics from stash.  
Bound with a stripe bought in the Oakshott warehouse sale about 8 years ago.  
Wadding is Sew Simple Supersoft Eco Blend (70/30, all recycled).  
Quilted, using ordinary quilting thread, with a mostly free-hand crosshatch pattern.  

Linking up today with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Remember it's a quilt...

Well I've been all around the houses with this.   None of the fabrics I showed in my last post felt absolutely, definitely, no doubt about it right.  So I went back to my boxes and tried almost everything.  I tried solids, big pattern, small pattern.  I tried variations on blue, yellow and brown again.  Then I tried green, then grey, then pink, purple, red.  I tried pretty much everything.  
This was the one I liked the best.

But when I spread the fabric out and tried it over a bigger area, I liked it less.  Humph.
All the fabric went back in the boxes and I tried to figure out why nothing was working.  In short, I wanted something that would fit effortlessly in with the blocks I had, but I could find it; all my blocks seemed to float above the fabrics I was finding.  I wondered if the answer was to use more than one choice. (As a side note, some of these fabrics may still sneak into the quilt somewhere,just not here.)
Yesterday the boxes came out again.  I considered a dark grey, an old Carolyn Friedlander with gold triangles.  Both had their merits but neither ticked all my boxes.

Then I had a moment of insight (yes, it happens from time to time).  When I started this project my note to self read 'not literal, just a design prompt: lines, shapes, repeats, spaces'. Yet here I was, thinking literally: these spaces needed to be a different fabric because they were 'roads' not 'alleyways' or 'walls'.  But this is a quilt not a map.  So I tried this.
Much better.  Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Then there were five

It's windy here.  That should have nothing to do with quilting, but I like to work with the back door open as much as possible, so spend some time yesterday just chasing my fabric around the kitchen floor.  Luckily this seemed amusing rather than irritating and I still got my fifth piece done.
This arrangement doesn't signify anything; I tried the blocks lots of different ways but in the end the photo I have used is the one with the least interference from sunlight.

I had said that once I had five blocks I would start to consider how they might be joined, so that is what I did. I had a stack of fabrics that had been in the initial pull but hadn't yet been used, so out they came and this is what they looked like.
Sadly, the one I most wanted to use (top left) is the one I think works least well and the one that I probably like the best (bottom left) is not a full half metre, so there's going to be some compromising somewhere along the line.

I probably should have got further, but for some unaccountable reason I decided that the tail end of a massive storm was the best moment for trimming my horribly overgrown front hedge...

Monday, 17 September 2018

Simple shapes and repetition

This is chugging along very nicely at the moment (now that I've said that, watch me grind to a halt!)

I'm not overthinking it, just making little units, then joining them into bigger ones, and so on.  I seem to be using two basic shapes: squares, which I'm sewing into four-patch units, and rectangles, which are just being joined into strips.

So at first it looks like this.
 Then like this.
 And in the end I have this.
Actually, I have four of these chunks now, but the sunlight, visible in the top right hand corner of the photo, pretty much wiped the fourth one completely, so I have cropped it out.  

At the moment I am thinking that I will make one, maybe two, more and then have a play and see what the next steps will be.  

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Saturday photos #92

In case any of you wondered, we went to Lundy.  You will notice that a side benefit of this was that there are lighthouses.  The two pictured here are North Light and the Old Light.  There is also South Light, which is pretty much exactly the same as its twin on the northern-most point.

Sea, sky, the granite grey of dry stone walls and a handful of buildings, bracken slowly turning from green to its autumn gold, the yellow of gorse, purple of heather and still some green on the ground. We were a mile and a half out from the tiny village and all other people and that is what we saw from every window, in every direction.  Bliss.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

I never said I was consistent

In my last post I wrote about liking routine and looking forward to getting back to mine.  What did I do next?  Abandoned my routine completely and headed off to an island without the internet, in fact without electricity (in our little bit of it at least) for a few days escape with my sister.  Pictures on Saturday.

However, I am showing a bit of discipline now that I am back and this morning completed another map chunk.  Here it is on its own...
 and with the first one.
I'm straightening the sides when I finish each one, but paying no particular heed to their size of shape.  Despite this, these two are almost exactly the same length.  

Thursday, 6 September 2018

A happy accident

So, here's a quick run through what I managed to get done yesterday.

I started with just the two wee bits, added one more rectangle to the shorter one, thinking I would sew them together.
I was rotating the lower piece to see which way round I preferred it, got distracted and stopped mid-swivel.
I like this better.  

What next? Fill in that gap.
This is where have the map theme has really helped me work out what to do.  I don't want to be overly literal, but have been thinking about the challenge in terms of breaking my inspiration pictures down into their component parts:squares, rectangles, strips.  If these things matter then in this piece the little plain strips mark the walls between each dwelling, the stripy strips mark the alleys.  I'm hoping that the bluer fabrics in my bundle will represent both the courts (open spaces in the centre where people had access to the communal privies) and the roads.  

I got as far as this.
Works for me.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Off and moving

I have given myself a talking to; no more fussing about the hand quilting - I just need to get on with it.  I've worked hard over the last two days, squeezing in few lines of stitching every time I got a few spare minutes. I'm making good progess but today I felt a strong urge to piece.  I'm up to date with my proper work, so I figured I could justify it.  I cleared a tiny space in the spare room (all that was possible at that moment), slapped a cutting mat down on the floor and my Featherweight in a corner and made a start.

Tomorrow I'll have more time and a better set-up but it was so, so satisfying to do even a tiny amount of cutting and piecing.
The size of my first pieces was determined entirely practically: I just tidied up the smallest piece of dismembered plaid shirt into a rectangle and took it from there.  

I was a bit concerned that I didn't have quite enough in my fabric pull and may still do a quick run to the shop to see if I can find another shirt but in the meantime I have pulled out a bag of scraps in the yellow-gold-ochre colour range and will use those to add a bit of variation.
That's all I achieved, took me as long to clear up the mess as it did to sew, but I finished the afternoon a happy woman.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Of soup pots and quilting

I guess most people will know a version of the story about the old woman and the soup pot that was never empty.  Well, I was coming  to think this quilt was like that, only in reverse.  I quilted and I quilted but it was never done.  

But the end is in side, though still not close.  I have one big piece across a corner and then just the bits around the edge.  So I am pushing on.
I have been looking at it so long I've genuinely got no idea of whether I like it or not.  

Just as I am struggling to get back into the swing of stitching post holidays, I am struggling with blogging, so I am linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching in an attempt to just get on with it.  I'm thinking that checking out what other people are doing might help me to regain some momentum.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Back to it, almost

When I was younger I liked spontaneity, impulse and the sense of freedom that they can bring, but as I have grown older I find, more and more, that I also love routine, the rhythm of ordinary day-to-day living.  I have come to understand that, for me at least, it is this regular pattern to things that allows me to keep going and to fit in the things that are most important to me.  To be explicit, I am not talking about the regular, humdrum, family life stuff, although I think it holds true there too.  I am talking about how it is that I find the time to exercise (swim Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm, yoga every possible evening at 6pm and so on), or learn a language, or sew. Not only that, but the habit then keeps me going when I might otherwise stop.

Holidays, of course, break these routines and that is a good thing, in that time away can give an opportunity to look at things with new eyes.  It can also be a pause that it is hard to escape from.  When I am in my routine I just keep ticking along but sometimes, as now, I find it hard to step back into it.  The sheer effort of picking all that up again seems too much.  So I come back from my break (if you want a tiny taste of what I've been doing you can check out the AHIQ blog) and look at my piles of fabric then just wander off to make a cuppa.  I know I'll be fine once I'm up and running, but it's clearly going to take a few more days to get there.

In the meantime, I have at least a small bit of quilting to share.  I took my individual lighthouses away with me and thanks to a particularly nasty wasp sting which left my foot too big for my shoe, I have almost completed one.
At some point soon, once my sewing mojo returns, I will try turning it into a cushion.

Friday, 10 August 2018


No sewing happening this week and now I'm taking a pause for a couple more.  Back soon!

Monday, 6 August 2018

Thinking about Birmingham

I haven't done much sewing.  In fact I haven't done any.  But I haven't been entirely unproductive.  

I have taken to pieces the shirts I'm using for this quilt.  Sometimes they have already been prepared and are sitting in the box in nice neat rows but not always and not this time.  The dress/tunic/shirt thing was quite pleat-y and though I didn't think it looked very nice as a garment, it has yielded an encouraging amount of fabric. 

I have also been playing with my piles (photos below) and doing a lot of thinking.  
Here's where I've got to.  I think a lot about place/belonging/journeying.  This is a consistent preoccupation for me - what makes us feel like we belong? Is it people? Or a connection to the land, to a specific location?  Is it history? Can it  be a choice, a conscious decision?
Clearly I can't expect one quilt to answer all those questions for me so I tried thinking about specific times/places in my life.

When I was studying for my PhD I lived in Birmingham and was researching and writing around particular areas of local history.  Looking back I would say that understanding the city, knowing its past, the way it had grown, the ideas that had shaped it, were a big part of my sense of belonging.  I liked that I could stand on a nondescript street, just at the back of the city centre, waiting for the number 45 bus to take me down the Pershore Road, knowing the names of the roads that had been there a hundred years previously (though they had all been cleared to make way for the railway station).  I knew what sort of people had lived there and in what conditions, where they had come from, what they did for a living.  In some cases I knew their names, their family relationships, their ages. 

I am thinking that I will use maps of some of these areas as a starting point.  I'm not undertaking a literal translation of a map into quilt form and as yet only the vaguest idea of where this might head, but that's enough for now. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Here I go again...

I'm mulling over the notion of maps.  Like Cathy I don't make art quilts, so am thinking about how to go at the subject in a way that fits with my natural inclinations.  Fabric always help me think, so today I pulled this pile.

Three shirts (well, actually two shirts and something that may be a blouse or may be a dress; sometimes these days I honestly don't think there's a difference).  And a pile of things that seem to go with them.  Ideally I'd like more shirt in the mix so may go looking for another one, but I know I haven't got anything that fits the bill so that will be shopping rather than just digging in boxes.  This will do for now though.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Saturday photos #91

Prompted by my resolution to join in with Wandering Camera, I went into the garden.

Mostly it looks like this

but I managed to find some colour too.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Last but not least

This is the third lighthouse and I'll be stopping for now, though I've found making these smaller pieces much more enjoyable than I expected. 

It's not quite finished.  You can see that it's still in two pieces and  I will probably add one more strip at the bottom.  The lighthouse in this one is quite squat (based on South Foreland) so the balance isn't quite right at the moment, but I think that just that extra bit below the lighthouse will sort it out.

I've pieced the sky to try and stretch the bird fabric - there's barely a snippet of it left now, but it's done three lighthouses, which seems like pretty good going.
So two more seams then I'm off to contemplate maps.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

AHIQ challenge day and a bit of an update

First things first: the new AHIQ challenge can now be found here and Ann's come up with something really interesting.  I would normally put up a post on the AHIQ blog too (this being the 4th Tuesday) but it seems more appropriate this time to let the challenge post to be the focus, so I will content myself with urging you to go and check it out.

While Ann has been dreaming up new vistas for to explore, I have been pootling along making my little lighthouses (and arguing, endlessly, with BT - for those of you in the UK).  It has occurred to me that if I sort out some wadding and backing these would be the perfect thing to roll up and stick in my holiday suitcase, since Mr SewSlowly tells me very firmly that I can't take a whole quilt with me (and we are flying, so I guess that's fair enough).

I have finished no. 2
 and made a start on a third.
In case you are wondering the strange state of my cutting mat is due to having stencilled on top of it without remembering to put down newspaper. 

This will be the last one for a while, as I want to take a run at the new challenge.

I am still quilting too, every day, with dogged determination.  Why is it that some quilts seem to be done surprisingly fast while others take forever.  I swear that after a week of quilting I have barely dented the amount still to be done.  Ho hum.  Nothing for it but to keep going.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Repeating myself

I liked making one little lighthouse enough that I am persuaded to go again...
I've just noticed, too, as I enlarged this photo, that all three of the little seagulls in the water are tilted at the same angle, which is funny given the random nature of my piecing.  I'm hoping to sneak enough time over the weekend to get the top on this.

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.