Tuesday 3 December 2019

Sitting and staring

I am quilting as much as I can manage at the moment, since I have two quilts on the go.  One is still The Shipping Forecast, which is, it turns out, massive.  I get discouraged and put off going back to it, but that's no way to get it done.  I also have a lego quilt I need to get done, so I am alternating.  The lego blocks offer more encouragement since it's easy to gauge progress and I'm hoping it will gee me up a bit.

I have also been looking at this tiny pile of shirts for the best part of a week.
I had been thinking I would like to stick with the Trip Around the World thing for another quilt, but I'm not sure these are the right fabrics for that.  I have also been struggling with adding to my pile.  Eventually I came up with this:
but I know this is not enough fabric so I still need to find more.  There's also not yet enough variation in either pattern or tone to please me.  

One of the consequences of my changed buying patterns over the last 3 years is that my stash is smaller and sometimes that means I struggle to find a solution to a specific problem.  I am reflecting on this, as we belt towards year end.  I can't imagine abandoning my basic approach but either I need to consider investing a bit in rebuilding an organic stash or in holding a bigger stash of shirting.   I am wondering whether I might get some project boxes up and running, so that I could save a pile I like until such time as I find the extra it needs to progress to quilthood.  

In the meantime I will revisit my boxes one more time and maybe run around a charity shop or two, in the hope that I can find a solution.

Thursday 14 November 2019

Butterflies and flowers, done for now

It takes a while, but I get there in the end. I actually got to this point on Monday.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to go one round longer but the photos, which of course stretch things out, weren't at all helpful. Since we were in the middle of quite phenomenal rain, the washing line wasn't an option so I decided to hold out for better weather.
 Yesterday there was finally a day without a deluge so I nipped out and hung it up.  I didn't hang about though, since the grass was still soaking.
I think I'm stopping here, though am still not absolutely sure.

I am happy with the results of eking out my dark blue floral: in some places I just replaced it with one of the darkest blue shirtings and in others I used my tiniest scraps to piece squares that are partly dark blue and partly something else.  Most of these have ended up in the top right corner.  

In fact I am generally pretty happy with this (despite that tiny lingering doubt about the length).  It's not at all what I set out expecting to make but I love how it turned out.  In fact I'm wondering about doing something else along these lines.  

First though, I need to take a breath and get back to my sadly neglected quilting.

Monday 4 November 2019

I've reached the bottom but not the far side

I am back to sewing after an unexpected break, caused by events outside my control.  I am keen now to push on a bit with this one, not because I'm in a big hurry per se but just to help me regain some momentum before Christmas looms and I lose it all again.
This picture seems a bit blurry and I'm not sure why, but you get the gist of things anyway.  I know from the comments that the pink strips are not always equally easy to see, but they show up much better in real life.  I think once I get the whole top pieced and take pictures on the washing line (always seems to get the best light) then they will be clearer.

I think this is full length now but I am planning to take the width over past those little red squares you can see in the top right corner.  As always, fabric shortage becomes an issue at this point.  I have loads of blue shirting, so that's not a problem but am down to the last scraps of the dark blue.  That's a shame, but I am continue to break up the diagonals here and there and to try, randomly, a range of alternatives.  So far I think I am getting away with it!

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Up and down and up and down

I have been playing around with my dark blue squares, seeing what happens if I send them in different directions.
 I quite liked this, but for the moment have gone back to working through the orginal plan, building out the top right hand part.  As I work down from here, those blues may go down again, or they may keep going up. 
Piecing is a bit easier now as I have reached a straight edge across the bottom, so I'm going to make one more big piece and then join them, instead of dragging the whole thing to the machine every time I need to add a couple of squares.  

Saturday 12 October 2019

When in doubt, blog

Many thanks to all the commenters on my last post who suggested this could be asymmetrical.  Why that hadn't occurred to me, I don't know, but it hadn't.  As soon as the suggestion was made, though, I knew that was the answer.  That's the beauty of blogging - when your brain isn't working as well as it could, someone else can pick up the slack and give you the perfect answer.
I haven't unpicked anything, but decided that what you now see is the top left corner and filled it in accordingly.  I realise looking at this photo that you can't necessarily telling I am going for asymmetry, but hopefully by next time it will be more obvious.

There are a lot  more pink strips now.  They are entirely practical - just helping match things up when I need it.  Cutting the squares freehand means that the tiny discrepancies in size mount up over a bigger area of piecing.  I could trim more but I kind of like the way the strips chart the construction of the quilt - a bit like visible mending on your clothes.

Monday 7 October 2019

The pitfalls of not planning

I'm moving happily along with this flowery trip-around-the world-ish top.  Very happily, in fact.  However, I have been focusing on the bottom half and working my way slowly up the sides but pretty much ignoring the top.  The logic has been that I will keep moving up and eventually everything will come together nicely.

To be fair, I think that is the case.  What I hadn't given any thought to until today was what size that was going to give me. If you figure each floor tile as being 13", that already gives me a length of 60" and more.  
Looks like this might be quite big by the time it's done!

On another note, you will see I have added in a couple more big squares of the red birds and that I am letting them interrupt the flow of the diagonals.  

This is now pieced into several biggish chunks.  I thought I would sew them all together but I might hold off, in case I need to lose some length somehow.  Mind you I like what I've done, so it would have to be a last resort.

Monday 30 September 2019

Quick update and a bit of musing

This is growing nicely now, but I find myself thinking again what a strange thing the improv process is.  

I could have decided to make a Trip around the World, planned it all out and not had to bother with umpteen partial seams.  I could have done it in a matter of days without checking and rechecking to make sure my blue and red diagonals were going to meet up properly.  And yet I know that if I had planned it that way it would never have been made.  

I also know that still finding a way to sneak in my blue pansy rectangles  pleases me, as does that skinny pink strip which is sorting things out when my hand cut squares differ too much in size.  
I like that in one or two places I can use a butterfly block with the dark blue fabric, which just slightly interrupts the perfect diagonals.  And I like that this musing makes me wonder whether I might want to stop counting and just let those diagonals wander off in their own directions.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Sometimes simpler is better

I'm not a pick fan of unpicking but sometimes there's really no other option.  Well actually you can always get your rotary cutter and slice straight down the offending seam, but that's a bad habit I am trying to break.  

However, going right back to the beginning seems to have worked.  I have jettisoned a couple of fabrics and added in a couple of new ones, including a lovely red bird design. I have also decided to take the dark blue fabric and make it an anchor for everything else, to try and impose some much needed structure.  

Here's my first thought, as it looked laid out on the floor.
I liked that so I kept going.  How about this?
 This is where I got to before I stopped.  
Much simpler than my first attempt but I like it a whole lot more.  I'm not sure whether I'll keep going or let it melt into something else around the edges but I guess I'll see when I get there.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Not there yet

When I am in the room with this quilt I shuffle things about, think I like something and take a picture.  Unfortunately when I get back and look at said picture on my laptop, I am distinctly underwhelmed.  

Here is one such picture.
You will see that I've tentatively added some verticals, which on several occasions have helped me get a project moving but on this occasion I don't think they add anything.  Moreover I start to feel a bit like I'm throwing the kitchen sink at this and don't have much to show for it.

What I like about this picture is (still) those patches of blue violets and the dark blue.  What I don't like is: no definition, visual mush, no sense of structure or rhythm.  I can see that if I just kept sewing I might have something quite pretty, but, frankly, I'm going to get bored way before it gets finished.  

Ironically the look I like best in my garden is ordered chaos, but clearly I need a bit more order and a bit less chaos here.  Right now I am seriously thinking about ripping seams.  

What I think I might need - or at least what I'm going to try next - is to make a better use of the dark blue.  I like how it sits against the other colours but those rectangles are doing nothing special.  I would also like to find an extra way to add contrast, either a really, really light fabric or...I don't know what right now.  I've looked at yellow-y shades, at greens, at bright pink, at a brown but nothing has sat well, except the pink I used for those wee strips, which sadly adds nothing in terms of contrast.    I think it's back to the boxes, to see what else I can find.  Wish me luck!

Monday 16 September 2019

What hasn't worked and what might

I promised (if that's the right word) a succession of photos of stuff I haven't liked, so here you go.
First up flowery blocks alternating with blue blocks
 then with columns offset.
 Next up, a few rectangular blocks mixed in with the squares.
Up to this point there were things I didn't hate but nothing I wanted to make a whole quilt of.  Mostly I just seemed to have been producing inoffensive visual mush.  In the picture above though, I was drawn to those bigger areas of the fabric with the large blue pansy print (and yes, it was a shirt). Somehow they were interesting but restful at the same time and I need some calm amongst all that busyness.

So now I am adding those bits in on purpose, along with some darker blue bits the same shape.  Maybe that will create enough structure to keep me happy and if not, it feels like a start at least. I am also being very strict with my flowery bits and keep them surrounded by blue, rather than letting them run too much together.  Hmmm.  Whatever happens it looks like this quilt is not going to work the way I first expected.
Whatever made me think I could predict that anyway?

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Things are never simple but maybe they ought to be

So much for gathering momentum!  I have good excuses for my failure to blog, though not worth bothering you with, but I have at least been sewing.

Not that the sewing is straightforward.  It seems like a simple enough idea.  Take my existing butterfly blocks, toss in some florals and hey presto...

I even found an amazing shirt.  Can you believe that all these prints were combined in one garment?
I have played around with all sorts of variations on a theme.  I have made blocks that are more rectangular than these, I have made floral four-patches and some that are butterflies in florals.  I have a nice big pile of bits and pieces.

So what's the problem?  Well, in a nutshell, I have to figure out a way to make all those bits into something coherent and so far I haven't.  I have tried all sorts of arrangements but nothing is clicking yet.  Worse, I haven't tried anything yet that pleases me as much as the original blocks did on their own. I find myself wondering if I am just trying to be way too clever and the answer is to stop complicating things. Now there's something to mull over.  
I'm not going to let it beat me, but you might want to prepare for a series of posts detailing my failures!

Sunday 1 September 2019

End of summer catch up

Well that was the summer.  Already here the air smells of the coming winter, but I shall try to enjoy the autumn and not fret too much about the fact that in a month or two it will be unpleasantly cold and dark.

The last few weeks have not been entirely unproductive.  I learned from last year and packed myself a little kit to take on holiday, as a result of which I have another lighthouse ready to be backed.  
I have used a different bird fabric this time and opted for piecing in with other blues rather than using it in bigger chunks.  I like how this looks and it also makes the bird fabrics, of which I have limited stocks, stretch as far as possible.  
Since I came back I have also been trying to press on with the quilt currently in the hoop.  It's a bigger quilt than the last few I've done, so I can quilt and quilt and still not really seem much further on. as a result I'm finding it rather hard going but know there's nothing for it but to carry on. 

I am full of good resolutions about hitting the ground running this month, both with my sewing and blogging.  The last couple of years I have struggled to build momentum after the summer and I don't want to follow that pattern again.  Let's see how that goes!

In the meantime I'm linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching.  

Sunday 28 July 2019

Sewing too, too slowly

In fact I am pretty much grinding to a halt.  In addition to the usual summer holiday lull I am contending with a big pile of work for the end of this week, an impending trip away, chickenpox (which in the worst case scenario may spread and scupper aforementioned trip) and this:
In case you are wondering, this is Mr Sew Slowly using the dining room (aka my temporary sewing space) to store landing nets and weigh-slings and in the process completely curtail all access to table and sewing machine.  No sewing today, then.

Instead, I thought I'd do a quick round-up post, largely for my own benefit: to make myself feel like I'm doing something useful.

If I could reach the machine I might be starting work on the AHIQ flower-y challenge, which I'm going to write up in a bit and post over on the AHIQ blog.  I'm not expecting to get far with this before September, but it's nice to know where I'm starting, at least.

As it is, I'll try to squeeze in a bit of quilting instead.  The Shipping Forecast has been in the hoop for a while now, but I've been lacking motivation.  I need to pull my socks up.
I think it's fair to say posts here will be sporadic for the next few weeks (what's new, I hear you say), but hopefully I will at least be able to share some progress on this one - I'm still hoping to reduce the overall quilting backlog this year.

Friday 19 July 2019

Sugar and Spice: done for now

I'm not sure I like the name 'Sugar and Spice', since I'm not especially keen on the nursery rhyme it brings to mind, but it seems to have stuck,  Maybe I'll come up with something better in the fullness of time.  For now, though, I'm done with this one.

Funnily, having been pretty downcast about this when I started piecing, I really like it a lot now. Mr Sew Slowly said, as he often does "they're not your usual colours".  I am coming to recognise that I seldom start with my favourite colours but that what sparks my interest and brings me (eventually) the most satisfaction is starting somewhere that feels a bit uncomfortable and getting to that point where I feel like I've cracked it.  I learn more this way too.

Having said which, I do love a nice bird fabric and this has ended up with more than its share.  This wasn't deliberate - I mostly pick things for variety in colour and pattern but nonetheless I have managed to squeeze feathers, magpies, parrots and elegant little waders into one quilt.

This goes into the quilting pile (note to self to get on with quilting - haven't done any for a couple of weeks and that's no way to make progress) and I shall start to contemplate making something flowery.  

Monday 15 July 2019

Not far to go

Today the good news is that I found my last strip of brown fabric.  It's not huge, (those tiles are 13" square, to give you an idea) but then I don't need much.  I could probably have coped without it, by using more of the black fabric, but it's good to have my options open.
I made this chunk, which I think is the bottom right-hand corner. 
I'm not tidying up the edges until I'm sure of what I'm doing...which might be something like this.
I need to get the position of the top cross just right.  If it's too low or too close to the central one it seems to make the whole thing feel a bit squat, though I am finding that the foreshortening that comes with taking photos on the floor makes it hard to demonstrate that with a picture.  Anyway, I know where I think it belongs so it's just a question of working backwards from that point to fill in the gaps.

Nearly there, I think.

Monday 8 July 2019

Today I took photos

Well, I have managed to keep sewing but if I want to keep up with the blogging I will have to do a better job of taking photos. I sat down on Saturday, all ready to post what I had done on Friday only to discover the pictures I was sure I had taken did not exist.  Bother! 

I have done better today, when I got this chunk sorted out.
 This is what it looks like as part of the bigger picture, so to speak.  
I am running very, very low of most fabrics now, but have a little pile of crosses done so I'm pretty sure I can get to the finish line. I will probably have to resort to lots of tiny crosses to fill in my gaps, rather than a few bigger ones, so it will be more work, but I don't mind that too much.  I've given up looking for the extra brown bit.

One a completely different note, I thought I'd share this picture of a Banded Demoiselle.  We have loads of these damselflies in the garden and never tire of admiring them, but they seldom stay still.  This poor chap had died, but I was grateful to be able to get up so close. 

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Checking in, catching up

Normal life has resumed and I am going to try hard not to take another three weeks to get back to blogging and blog reading.  That seems to have been  my pattern in the last year, pause...still pausing...slow, slow, slow return to normal.  This time I am back at the sewing, so I am now knuckling down to the blog-related end of things.

Here are a couple of quick update photos.  The first is how things looked when I first got my bits out of the box and laid them out
 and this is a smaller area, but all these bits are now sewn together.
I'm still doing a lot of shuffling around, mostly figuring out where I want the bigger crosses to sit in relation to each other.  Once I have the feel for that I am using smaller ones from my pile of ready-mades to fill in the gaps.  

It definitely feels like I am in the swing of it now and I am much happier.  In fact I am coming to like this slightly odd mix of colours a lot.  My only minor frustration is that I know I have one more strip of the tan/brown fabric somewhere: I came across it, realised it would be needed, put it somewhere safe, but not, unfortunately, somewhere obvious.  So I am spending a fair amount of time in unproductive searching. In the meantime I have switched to other fabrics, since every last inch of the original fabric has gone.  

In quieter moments I am also considering the next AHIQ challenge, which is up and running, for anyone who wants to join in.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Tiny crosses fill my days

I am not expecting to piece much next week, so am pushing hard to make progress while things seem to be working.  I am reminded that there is always a big gap between that moment when I think I know what I am doing and how I will get to an end and actually reaching that end.  In this case, the space in between those two points seems to be filled with tiny little crosses.  

This big chunk was sewn together today. I added a bit above the smaller black cross, to drop that section down, and filled in a lot of spaces with my little crosses.  I'm pretty happy with how this is coming now.
Here, just for my own satisfaction, is a close-up of a section, just to give a better look at some of the fabrics that are bouncing the light back in most of the pictures.
I am keeping an eye on the green and brown and black as I go, since they seem to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but mostly it's just me, my machine and cross after cross.  Isn't it funny how I think I have a short attention span (I do) but then I'll sit and do something utterly, tediously repetitive for literally hours if the end result seems to justify it.  There is, as they say, nowt so queer as folk.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Keeping track

There's not much to be said about this right now, but I'm posting just to keep track of progress.
Again, this is not the final layout but I am playing around now with how the pieces fit together and won't be making more of the bigger bits unless I have a specific space for one. Instead I'm thinking about how to use the small, smaller, smallest blocks to hold everything together.  There's a bit of the bright green sneaking in, and little squares of black and tan.  

Using all these light fabrics is making this piece hard to photograph - lots of the detail in the prints just isn't in this picture at all and the blue and green shirts are virtually indistinguishable. I think it's because it's so very dark I've ended up using the flash and the light is just bouncing straight off it.   I'm hoping that when I finish and hang it on the line the light will work better. If it ever stops raining I may try some line photos anyway, but right now there's no prospect of that, just water, water, everywhere.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

More like it

I have made better progress in the last couple of days and the addition of those extra prints is definitely helping to take this (and me) to a better place.
Once I get a fair number of bits I like to lay them out every time I am working.  They are different each time for a while, but I know that eventually I will look at some particular combination, two blocks sitting next to each other and think, 'yes, you'll do' and those will become one bigger piece.  It is also helping me to think about what I need to do next.  I can't just go on making bits without any clear idea of whether I need them.  Well, I could, but it would be a bit of a waste and just leave me searching around for an alternative to replace the fabrics I had started with.  

Looking at this (and knowing that I have another of the big black crosses almost finished) I am thinking that I need some more of the medium-sized and smaller blocks and that at the moment there are not enough bits of the tan fabric.  I will  make extra black/tan/green crosses and also see how many squares I can cut out of  my remaining magpie fabric.  Once I've got  these extras I can start looking at the bigger picture and thinking how the different colours are moving around the top.

There's a long way to go, but things are starting to click.  I might even be starting to like those ice cream tones again.

Friday 7 June 2019

Going backwards to go forwards

I feel like I am finally getting somewhere, though I am mostly unpicking what I have already done and reworking it.  Both the bigger pieces here have had changes and I like them better for it.

These bits are now all fine by me.
I have quite a pile of spare parts, all sweet, now waiting for pairs that will keep me going in this direction.  I plan to make more of the smallest size blocks, and still have fabrics that need to be added, but for the first time I am pretty sure I will be carrying on with this.

In conversation with commenters on the previous post I have realised a couple of things.  The first is that although I often see quilts made with solid fabrics that I very much admire, in my own quilting I am less comfortable with lack of pattern.  It seems to add an extra layer, or set of options, that pleases my eye, to add some depth and movement.  I wonder why this is.  

The second is that it is all about combinations.  If you can find the right partner(s), any colour can be made to work.  My usual method is to pull out literally everything and just keep auditioning until I find something that I like, then to build on that (looking for similar colours/tones but with variety of scale, pattern etc).  It would probably give some people a headache to work this way but it usually gets me where I need to go and definitely comes up with better solutions than deciding I know up front what will work. 

Monday 3 June 2019

Possibly, maybe...

Possibly, just possibly, this is going somewhere okay.

I spent a week away from the ice cream colours thinking, basically, that this was a big fat no.  Too sweet, too mushy, too much like hard work.  Blah.  But somewhere along the line I decided to see if I could track down a green I liked and when I found one (in a shop, not a box, I have to admit) I found some other things I thought might work too.  Since I went organic I haven't really done this, but these are all organic so I placed an order.  My thinking was that the black and white prints needed a bit more help; I wanted just a smidge of that green that's in the magpie print but also a few bits that had more pattern to them.  All the shirts have stripes or a check, but they're all so subtle they might as well not be there really.  

Here's what I got.
I pulled apart one of the chunks I'd made already, ripped out a couple of the pastel shirts and added in a bit more variety.  Like this.
It's not that big a difference (see below left for an untweaked block) but I like it a lot better.  It is genuinely a coincidence that I am adding in an extra bird fabric - bought because the colours were right and it was on sale.  Now I think I just need to get more iterations with these new additions, so that I can start to develop a bit of rhythm.
That's the theory, anyway.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

A lighthouse moment

No movement on my sugar and spice quilt, but I finished the last of the cushion (or pillow) covers that I started last summer.  Or rather I thought I had finished but now that I look at it on the screen I am thinking I'll go back and add some stitching to the light.

My intention is to make some more of these; I have at least one more lighthouse quilt in my head, but I rather enjoy picking a single lighthouse - this one is South Foreland.
The back is a shirt.
It all needs a good iron, but of course I don't know where my iron is.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Melting ice cream

Putting my blocks together on the floor it became pretty clear to me that I don't really want them touching each other - they just blend into an overwhelming mess of sweetness, a bit like a pool of melting ice cream.  In fact, the more I looked at them like that, the less I liked them and as I went to bed last night I was wondering about sticking the whole lot in a box and hiding it at the back of the garage.  

However it's not in my nature to let myself off the hook, so today I got on with adding a bit of something more, to see if I could get to somewhere I felt happier with.  The black print seems to work well
and, digging in my boxes for something with that emerald green from the magpie fabric (didn't find anything) I came across a white-based print that also seemed to fit. 
I have been playing around with combining the sweet colours and these two and don't mind the result, especially when I up the quantity of bird shirt I'm including.   At the moment I don't love it but I don't hate it either.
It seems a bit bloody-minded to buy a pile of ice-cream coloured shirts and then complain that they are too sweet, so I will stop doing that now, but I'm thinking that I may still need an extra something...

Monday 20 May 2019

Sugar and spice

I started off thinking I might keep this quilt really, really simple and used scissors to cut some square-ish bits. I let the size be dictated by the magpie fabric - this was as big as I could get before I started hitting another bird.
 I used this as a rough guide for some more.
At some point, still just cutting squares and not making any decisions beyond that, I noticed a couple had fallen on top of each other.
So I followed that thought, which got me here. 
I should add a disclaimer at this point, to the effect that no fabric was ironed in the making of this block.  I would iron, if only I could remember where the iron had been tidied away to.  Ah well.

I made some more.  I am cutting with no attempt to keep things straight/neat for the moment.  At some point I will probably add strips and wedges to square up before I try joining any of these together.
Now, I like these but a whole quilt would be too much for me.  Too much sugar in one place.  So I need to find some spice, or contrast, which means either a slightly mismatched colour, possibly, or some choices which extended the value range.  I have added in the bird shirt I bought a few weeks ago, but need something dark now.  Obviously I have the black fabric with the flowers but I haven't figured out yet how to use it.  It could just go into the mix with everything else or I could use it in some other way.  For now I'm just mulling things over, as there's no great hurry.