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.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Feeling summery

I know that the process of selling and buying a house works a bit differently in the US but here, once you are on the market, nothing else can happen until you have a buyer.  So I had a plan for this hiatus and to be fair it was not a bad plan.  In fact elements of it will probably still happen.  But in the meantime I decided a bit of shirt shopping was in order.  

I found these
and, hanging all together on one rail, I found these.
It is lovely and sunny here at the moment and they made me think of ice-cream.  Not a palette I have tried before or would have thought of in other circumstances, but there they all were, calling my name.

So I took what life offered me, scooped them up and packed them into my extra-large shirt-shopping bag.  

Back home I have had a dig around in my boxes and come up with something that might work.
It's certainly worth a go.  

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Taking Flight: done and dusted

Hooray!  Just when I needed it, I have a finish and I don't know whether it's just because everything else has stalled or not but I'm really happy with this.
I like the wonky string blocks, I  like the places where the corner triangles make little butterflies, I like my blue border with its freehand vine quilting, I like those funny little leaves. Yep, I pretty much like everything about it.

Here's a peak at the back
here's the binding, which is a lovely Cloud 9 print

and here's a closer shot that lets you see all the lovely shirt fabrics properly.
The details:
I started this on 9th May and finished piecing on 4th July 2018.
It reached the top of the quilting queue on 12th March this year and was finished on 8th May.

I started with, I think, 4 shirts but also a pile of squares cut from other shirting (that's where the pretty yellow check came from) plus the Charley Harper piece with the swallows and everything else was pulled from stash.

The wadding is organic cotton and it is quilted using a selection of perle no 8.

It is 60" x 75", roughly speaking.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

A bit of binding

Today I am starting to bind Taking Flight, which feels like a big achievement right now. In fact, I shall see if I can take a couple of days over it, just to prolong that feeling of satisfaction at nearly reaching an end.  
I am also thinking a lot about piecing, but not doing any.  

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Not a lot going on here

I'm just dropping in here to say that I'm not really doing much sewing, though I have nearly finished prettying up my wee house so hopefully I'll be back to it fairly soon.  I am hand quilting still, just not piecing, so who knows, my next post may be a new start, or a finish.  

In the meantime, I've popped up a post on AHIQ, winding up my go at the Red is  a Neutral challenge.  

Also, apologies to everyone who commented on my last post and to whom I haven't yet replied - normal standards will be resumed as soon as possible! 

Monday, 22 April 2019

Progress and a sigh of relief

I have been all around the houses with this quilt, but I have finally moved it on a bit.

Since I last posted about it I have contemplated adding smaller blocks, adding a darker block, adding sashing using my darkest red shirt.
I also spend a lot of time pondering why I felt the need to do anything.  After all this is a perfectly satisfying block and a whole bunch of them just sewn together in a perfectly straightforward way look rather lovely.  Yet I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.  I needed to tinker.  I needed to make it my own in some way. 

I rather liked the smaller block (it's 6.5") but only till I thought about how many I might need to make.  The grey didn't add anything, so the red shirt seemed like my best option.  Just to be sure, I went back through my boxes and found this, mucky greeny-brown, which also seemed to be making a case for inclusion.
 In the end I have ended up with this.
I would concede that this is only the tiniest tweak and am not even claiming that it looks better than it would have done without my butting in, but somehow I feel much better and there is a lesson for me in that.

I might add a border or I might stop here. Tomorrow I'm hoping to sew the final seam on it (currently it's two big chunks) and then I'll see.  Right now I'm mostly just feeling relieved!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

At least I'm quilting

I'm still not feeling the piecing, though I have made four more blocks.  I could just sew them together and call it done but really I'd like to find a way to make myself love the end result so I'm letting it stew.  In the meantime I am fiddling about with scraps, doing a bit of dressmaking and quilting Taking Flight.  I'm well along the way with the quilting - everything inside the blue border is done, so I've just got the border itself and then one more round of blocks outside it.

I decided to try something new-to-me in the border and am drawing, freehand, a winding stalk with little leaves, which echo the pieced leaves in the body of the quilt.
 Here's a view from the back.
I wasn't sure if this would be okay but I rather like it.  Good think really since I definitely don't want to  do any unpicking!

Monday, 1 April 2019

Now I'm bored

One minute you are happily chugging along, making strip sets, chopping them up, marvelling at the new patterns they make when reassembled, next minute...I got my blocks out this morning, laid them out, as is my habit and suddenly thought, 'no, I'm over this now'.  Short attention span, see?

However, I have this group of bits, which still pleases me and I am thinking that one more row would get me within spitting distance of a reasonable size (floor tiles are 13" square, so I'm somewhere between 60" and 65" across at this point). So I will keep going, at least until I have made four more blocks.
This isn't any sort of deliberate layout and I will sew them back into squares before I worry about that (just too much of a fiddle at the moment).  I am torn between wanting to impose some sort of order and exactly the opposite.  The compromise will be to have a think about the fabric combinations that go into the last four blocks.  After that, I'm not sure.  Maybe I will retrieve my enthusiasm and end up making another 18 blocks, but I wouldn't hold your breaths!

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A little bit of stashing

I may not be buying much at all in the way of yardage, but I still stock up on good shirts when I see them.  Mostly that means plaids/stripes in colours I find pleasing, but look what I found this week. Three lovely shirts and not a plaid in sight.
Ironically I was only in the shop to drop off a big bag of books and dvds that son number 2 had told me I could clear out but I'm glad I checked out the rails.

Also new, though not from a charity shop, are these lovely little stamps.
I don't have any particular plans for them, but how could I resist? 

Friday, 22 March 2019

The questions you ask yourself

I have been surprised by enticing I have found these blocks.  I think it's the sense of unpredictability; try as I might I can't look at a strip set and imagine how it will look when it's cut up and reassembled, so each time I do it it's almost like magic.  

I have been aware, somewhere at the back of my mind, that they are very tidy blocks (for me) and that usually I would look at all these straight lines and feel slightly uneasy, want to tweak things or mess around.  That I have kept going without fiddling is definitely due to that sense of wonder I get from making these (maybe I'm easily pleased, but it's a fine feeling).
I am also influenced by the fact that I will be selling my house shortly and expect not to have a good sewing space for a while.  Not sewing at all feels like a bad option, so I am thinking that working in a more block-based way may be a temporary answer.  This piece might be seen, then, as an experiment in that direction.  

However, Soma commented, quite fairly, on this uncharacteristic neatness and now she has me wondering.  Here are my questions: am I happy to keep these going, with just little changes in the individual blocks to keep me happy; should I try the same block but deliberately be less neat; might I leave these as they are but add something in? Pros and cons and no answers here at the moment.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Short attention span

So...I liked the chunky strip sets I was making last time, but they didn't keep me interested for very long and I found I was doing that thing of unintentionally cutting pretty straight lines, which was giving me very orderly-looking chunks at that.  Thoughts of triangles and circles were whirling about my head so I decided 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' and started chopping.

I made some triangles, then put them back together into these.
For some reason I find it very entertaining to make all those crosses and concentric squares in this way, so I kept going.
When I get bored of doing this, I'll figure out what next, but for now I'm having fun.

Friday, 15 March 2019

When life gives you plaids...

Sometimes life just doesn't play nice.  Off I went to the charity shops, looking for dark, dark reds and some pattern that wasn't plaid. What did I find?  Nothing really dark, no patterns, but a whole pile of lovely plaids and stripes.
I have taken this as a sign and am going to work with what I have.

I think that if the plaids and stripes dominate my reds, they will balance all the plain and plain-ish fabrics I have in my pile of other colours.  I've started by making some sets of strips - wider than I would normally use but I'm trying to apply some of the lessons from Playing with Scale and not always start with the skinniest options.  Here's an example.
I'm planning to make a pile along these lines and then figure out what next.  I might use them as a version of Chinese Coins, might cut squares from them, or triangles or...who knows?  At least I am handling my fabrics and getting a feel for the colours and how they work together.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Playing with Scale: done and dusted

I may be (still) behind with a lot of things, but my quilting is going just fine and as a result I have my second finish of the year, which makes me feel a whole lot better about everything else.
It's quilted with wonky concentric diamonds, largely following the shapes in the piecing. 
As usual you get a better idea from the back.
The binding is a black and white print - random letters, I think it's an old Cloud 9 print.
And the details.

Finished sized 65" square.

Pieced from a pile of shirts (you can see where I started here) and fabrics from stash.  The wadding is an organic cotton, new-to-me option.  There's been a wee bit of bearding showing on the black fabrics as I quilted, but it's pretty much settled down already so that wouldn't put me off using it again.  The quilting is done with perle no. 8 - I just pulled out everything in greens, browns, black, white, that I had in the box and got on with it. 

This was started on 30th January 2018 and the piecing was finished on 13th March that year.

I started quilting on 3rd February this year, finished on 9th March.

I feel like I met the challenge, to play around with scale pretty well, since I worked with much bigger units than I normally would and also used that large-scale black and green print.  And I made my first string quilt into the bargain, so all round I'm pretty happy with things.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Still pulling and pondering

I am behind.  Behind on my blogging and behind on my blog reading.  Not so much behind on my sewing, which I guess is the most important thing, but I will be happier once I catch up properly.  

Mostly I am quilting, trying to get Playing with Scale finished, but I am also, still, playing around with options for Red is a Neutral.  

It's a tricky thing to get your head round, on some levels.  I find myself a bit overwhelmed by all the red, though I have been happy enough to work with it in the past.  However, I came across an explanation of why red works as a neutral that is helping me.  The gist of it is that a neutral is any colour that shows off the colours it is paired with to their best advantage; conversely, any colour can shine when paired with red.  

If I take this idea to its logical conclusion then it shouldn't matter what else I choose to add in to my pile of shirts.  I've started by pulling out some of the colours I can see in the plaids - blues and greeny blues but also yellows and a bit of brown.
 I like these, but when I look at them with the reds...
I feel like I'm not quite there.  Ideally I would like something much darker - navy, charcoal, black - and one or two more prints.  The fact that they are not there reflects my dwindling stash: I have hardly bought any fabric for nearly 3 years and this may be the point where I need to address that.

In the meantime, I'll do another pass at the charity shops and see if that yields anything encouraging.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Night Birds: done for now

Not much sewing got done last week, but I got off to a quick start this week, largely thanks to notes I had made on my phone.  Just before it all went into the box I had climbed on a chair to get a good look and seen a few things I wanted to tweak.  The notes read "replace bottom with dark, replace top Carolyn Friedlander with dark and make thinner to room for strip under wee star." 

So my first step was to look again and see if I agreed with myself,  which I did.  Here's the before and after.  

Then a column of stars and geese and just like that I was done. Now I am going to have a cup of tea and feel pleased with myself.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Low level multi-tasking

I may not be able to work on more than one quilt at a time,but at least I can occasionally work on several different bits of that single quilt simultaneously.  I am now playing around with the last 3 columns of this.  Correction, the last 2, since the right-hand end is pretty much done.
I've got plenty of bits and bobs so it's just a question of shuffling them about until I like where they land.
I've got a lot on this week but am hopeful this might get done in the next fortnight, since I'm itching to have a go at the current AHIQ challenge, Red is a Neutral.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Reaching for the stars

Actually it's more like reaching for the fabrics to make the stars.  I've run low on my geese and stars, so time has to be spent replenishing the piles.  I don't mind this: cut a bunch, sew a bunch, no stress, no brain strain.  Sometimes it's a fine way to spend an hour or two, especially when you can pause occasionally to pop into the garden and hack back a shrub that's got too big for its boots.

While I get on with that, here's a pic of progress to date.
I'm happy with this.

Monday, 11 February 2019

What if?

I played around with breaking away from the columns I've been working in.  I was pretty sure I wanted to stick with them, but sometimes it's good to ask the question.
I liked how the bottom of this version looked, but couldn't find a satisfactory way of organising the upper half
 So I went back to my original plan.  

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Out of sync with myself

Habitually, I sew, blog, sew, blog.  Works just fine.  But every so often I forget my camera, or the sewing seems so unremarkable I don't bother to blog it and then I get myself into a bit of a pickle.  That's where I am right now.  My sewing got ahead and then I couldn't figure it all out, so here's where I am right now.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

New quilt in the hoop and a lesson

The next quilt up is the one I tend to refer to as "Playing with Scale" though really that's about as dull as a quilt name could be. I think it's jumped the queue, but it came to hand and I couldn't be bothered to overthink, so just got on with sandwiching instead.

I was keen to maintain momentum this year.  That's just a fancy way of saying that I wasted a lot of time in 2018, just fiddling and faffing and browsing online, with no one to blame but myself but this year I want to do less of all those and more quilting again.  Well it didn't work quite like that.  I found a new-to-me batting that I fancied trying out and ordered some as I was binding the Hourglasses. Ten days later and I was twiddling my thumbs and feeling rather grumpy, so I rang to check the status of my order.  It had gone out the previous day and was with me 24 hours later.  

Now, I am not telling you this to complain about slow service.  Rather it gave me pause for thought.  We get so used to things happening so fast nowadays that it becomes an expectation.  But lots of things I need come from small, independent shops rather than huge concerns and it's not always possible for them to be as quick.  One pair of hands can only do so much in a day, after all.  I shall try to be more patient next time, or plan further ahead!

The batting, by the way, is lovely and soft, slightly flatter than the others I have used but none the worse for that.

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching

Monday, 28 January 2019

Getting stuff out and changing my mind

Not infrequently I wish I had a dedicated sewing space, where I could leave stuff out rather than having to pack everything into a box at the end of each sewing session.  If I want to remember how my pieces relate to each other I have to pile them very carefully and occasionally I pin them together.  More often though I don't bother with that and trust either that I will remember or that the best way to use the bits will emerge, even if it's not what I had before.

With this quilt I have had a plan almost since the beginning and had been working on the basis that I would have 3 columns of birds and two wide columns using my wonky stars - like this:
Today, though, getting it out of the box, I changed my mind.  I now think I will have four columns of birds and three, narrower, ones with the stars, more or less.  
For now I am concentrating on this side of the quilt - nothing going on over on the right hand side - and it now looks like this.
You may spot that I have found a place to use a few of the paler flying geese I was playing with last time and also that the stars are creeping in all over the place.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


I am making progress, though I haven't done much more actual sewing.  Instead I am getting the feel for the new bits I made last time and working out whether/how they will fit into what I have already.  Here's a little sample.

As it happens I am going to stick with the darker geese in this spot, but the more I play around with the lighter ones, the more likely they are to end up with a place somewhere in the quilt.