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.

Friday, 4 May 2018

A productive week

My finishes, like buses, all seem to come at once.  Of course this is not finished, as it still needs quilting, but the piecing is done.  I learnt my lesson on the left-hand side and didn't try any clever stuff over on the right, just stuck with geese and wedges.  Since we are still in the time frame for the AHIQ playing with scale challenge, please note the change of scale, from big to small geese, and, for that matter, big to smaller wedge-y bits too. I do like to stick to a brief!
Not only that, but it is backed, sandwiched and ready to quilt.  This needs to be done by September and given that I am currently quilting slower than the slowest snail I thought I'd better let it jump straight to the front of the queue.  I've never quilted something straight after I made it before, so it will be interesting to see if I like it.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2018


One of my weaknesses as a quilter is that I can waste time trying to make something work when I know it's not really right.  So I filled in the left hand edge with gold.  Didn't like it.  Or rather, I like the fabric a lot (never could resist a bit of sparkle), but this was just too much.  
So I added in another row of geese, another little slice of wedge. 
Obviously I would have ironed and trimmed, but  I still didn't like it, so unpicked (again!) instead.  

In the end, I just went on filling in that gap as it got smaller and smaller, until it had gone. The thing I like about this is the repetition of the purple strips, which I think helps this version to sit more comfortably with the rest of the quilt.
Still tinkering, I have moved the geese that were in the top right hand corner in the first pictures to the bottom right.  Initially I had intended to run a curve of geese all the way from the top to the bottom but when I laid it out it looked too final, closed that side off, so I had to think again.  Now I'm planning to add some smaller geese, still going up but not hugging such a tight curve. Nearly there, I think.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Done and dusted: Not Speaking for Me

I find that saying out loud (ie here on the blog) that I will finish something within a given time span works beautifully.  Last week I said I would finish this and some time around 7 pm yesterday it was indeed done.  Not before time.  My hand quilting routine has changed and I need to sort out lighting so that I can quilt in the very dark living room in the evenings, otherwise I will spend my whole life like some kind of quilting hermit, sitting in the back bedroom where the light is good.  (Actually maybe I'd like being a quilting hermit...)

Anyway here it is. 
 It is called "Not Speaking for Me", which is the title of a song by a folk group called The Young 'Uns,  (sorry, I can't find the song on youtube) but everything they do is worth a listen) and was the result of  my  sense of profound alienation at the time of the Brexit vote.  It's not so much about my opinion on the result of that vote as a reflection of the fact that during the entire debate I didn't hear voices on either side talking about any of the things that mattered to me, and I found myself wondering if I even belonged here.  I'm still wondering, but making this quilt definitely provided some sort of catharsis for the deep despair I felt initially.

 I ended up binding with a plain blue, but not before I had an odd, and irritating experience with the print I initially chose, which turned out to have been printed just off grain.  I cut the first strip and saw that the linear pattern curved gently from one end to the other.  Naturally I assumed this was my error, so lined up the selvages, trimmed, cut another strip and yes, the pattern was still wonky.  When I checked with a quilters rule it was clear that it was the pattern that was off, not my cutting.  I've used very similar prints before, but never had this problem.  Ah well, now I've got several neat strips with very wonky pattern placement - I'm sure I'll find a use for them sooner or later. 

Started on 16th August 2016, and piecing finished on 21st November 2016.
I started quilting on 7th January 2018, finished 28th April 2018.

Made with fabrics from stash,and a couple of second-hand white shirts (this was the last quilt I made which didn't start with a pull from the shirt stash).  

The wadding is Sew Simple SuperSoft Eco Blend, which is a 70/30 mix, but made entirely from recycled materials.  

Quilted with a selection of perle threads, again from stash, and bound with a lovely blue Oakshott.

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching.  Now, what am I going to sew today? 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Tulips, again

I think this is the third year I have posted tulip photos, and it probably won't be the last. 
I know it's daft, but this makes me so happy I could cry.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

AHIQ - share your improv #32

I am a bad blogger.  Or rather, I am a blogger who has ignored one of the simple rules of blogging, but more of that in a moment. 

After my last post I was not particularly happy with the tight bend in the bottom corner of this piece.  I had my flying geese pieced but didn't like how they looked in the area where the curve was at its tightest.  I could have gone back, drawn it out on paper and pieced it that way, but I'm not in the mood for that, so decided to play around with alternatives.  You can see below the same geese with an extra section of wedge-shaped bits. 
I quite like this, so went ahead and added the wedges.
I  tried the geese again - still not floating my boat- and then added a larger piece of the lovely Cloud 9 gold fabric that I've used in small amounts already.  I quite like this, though am not absolutely decided it can stay.  Now to the bad blogger part.  What did I do next?  Did I take photos so that I could share what this looked like?  You would think so, wouldn't you, but no, the next thing on my camera is a photo of tulips.  In fact there are 30 pictures of tulips. 

After I came in from the garden I carried on working on the other side of the quilt.  I want another big sweep of flying geese but first am adding more curvy bits.  The little bit at the bottom here looks a bit funny, but I'm only expecting a tiny bit of it to be visible by the time I'm done. 
I must have sewed for another hour, but at no point in that process did I step back and take a picture of this in its entirety, so that left hand side will have to wait until next time. 

As a side note, I am now wondering about making some really tiny flying geese (playing with scale), which leads me neatly onto this month's AHIQ link up.