Thursday 30 December 2021

One last finish for the year

Finished with a whole two days in hand!  The builders have left things nice and tidy over the Christmas break but the inside of the house is not what you would call picturesque so once again I braved the drizzle to stick this on the line.  It's a challenging business, since everything is kind of cock-eyed, as you can see from this unedited photo.
There is no slope in the garden - just in the washing line.  Just out of shot is a long length of drainpipe, with two pegs stuck on the top edge, which is serving as a prop for the line.  

At least things look a bit better once I crop out the wonky background!

Working up close on the quilting I had lost track of the big picture with this one, but now that it is done and I can stand back a bit, I am really happy with how it has turned out.  I can absolutely see how it relates to my starting point of maps of the back-to-backs in the centre of Birmingham in the 19th century.  

This was started at the beginning of August 2018 in response to an AHIQ challenge and I finished the piecing on December 5th.  I think maybe other quilts jumped the queue, because that seems quite a long time ago.  Anyway, I got it into a hoop in August this year and finished it first thing this morning.  In fact, I got up early specifically to stitch the last foot or so of binding.  That seems like a long time, I know, but because I mostly have two quilts on the go at the moment and both of them are now done, I think it still works out at somewhere between two and three months per quilt, which feels pretty fast to me.  

This was made out of a lot of shirts (the very darkest blue here is one of the nicest shirts I have ever used, I think) with bits from stash and a few very old Oakshott cottons in the mix.  Wadding is organic cotton and I used perle thread from stash.  I am used to cutting it fine with my fabric but in this case I nearly ran out of suitable thread.  There is one corner where everything is quilted in either white or a dark green, because that is all I had left.    
I am particularly pleased with the back for this.  The centre is made from an old tablecloth which depicts historic buildings of Tasmania.  I was experimenting with using things that I wouldn't want to cut up for a front and tablecloths have rather taken my fancy.  Not big enough to save me much piecing, but somehow pleasing nonetheless.

Finished size is about 65" wide by 80" long.
No better way to see out a year than with a last minute finish. 

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2022.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Finally, a finish

In fact, I have another quilt coming hot on the heels of this, which I am hoping to complete before year end, but for now I am going to pause and enjoy this finish. 

This was a quilt which began life as an attempt to use up a handful of little butterfly blocks I made with shirt fabrics and floral scraps in April 2017.  It's not like me to start something and not finish, so I think maybe they came from a phase when I thought I might do the Rainbow Scrap Challenge or something similar.  They sat in a box for a while but in the middle of July 2019 out they came again, with the idea that I could combine them with some pretty florals - literally butterflies in a garden.  Hah!  What I remember is that my early attempts produced some very unimpressive examples of visual mush.  Eventually, though I came up with this loose version of a Trip Around the World and things started to click into place.  

I like that this is off-centre (there's a thing) and that I have disrupted the pattern enough to keep myself entertained but not so much that you can't see what it is.  I love some of the fabrics in this, including the red birds and the dark blue floral that create the clearest lines
but also the blue pansy shirt and some of the more extravagant florals.

Here's the back.
I began this in September 2019 and finished the piecing on November 14th the same year.  I started quilting it some time this summer, but for some reason failed to make a note of exactly when.  I finished it on December 8th.

It is made mostly from shirting, and even most of the florals are shirt, but the dark blue and red bird fabrics are organic quilting cottons.  It has organic cotton batting and was quilted with perle no. 8, from stash.  

Friday 3 December 2021

Closing time

I'm putting a pin in this and calling it done.  It is a little smaller than I had thought I was aiming for, and I did have fancy ideas of what to add next, but there came a moment when I looked at it and decided I liked it well enough as it was.

I have added runs of this striped fabric...
In the middle I made two long strips and joined them with one of my shinier reds, like this.
On the edges I kept it simpler.  I had to resort to the line again, though sadly the garden is not as pretty as last time I did this and the sun is so low in the sky that it skews my colours, but it is what it is.
This will be my last serious piecing this year, though I might tinker with some scraps if I get the chance.  However I have one quilt being bound, another I am hoping to finish before year end and a new one all nicely basted and ready for the hoop, so I will still be around and posting.

Friday 26 November 2021

More doors and builders on the way

Good progress this week, I think.  I am motivated by the news that I will have builders in the house by the end of next week, which at best will slow my piecing right down and more realistically will stop me completely for a while.  I'm not complaining, since they were supposed to be here in September.  My plan is to keep on hand quilting and maybe find a very simple project that I could piece without needing to lay it out on the floor and look at it. That, though is time dependent.  

But enough of that.  I have three columns of doors now and am perfectly happy with them.

I have thrown in a couple of variations - there are a few blocks that I think of as windows and also some tiny houses.  I am not planning to make more of these now but have moved on to figuring out how they go together.   

I know several things that will inform this bit of the process.  The first is that I don't want total symmetry, so I have joined two of the strips together with a thin slice of colour.  Most of it is an extremely dark blue that I haven't used anywhere else.  It is an Oakshott cotton that I only have an 1/8th of but it is the most lovely, deepest, darkest shade, so I am going to get as much impact from it as I can squeeze.
The second thing I know is that my 3 columns are neither wide enough nor quite long enough for my liking so I will need to come up with something to rectify that.  No ideas yet, but I do have one lovely shirt that I wanted to use but haven't cut up yet.  I'm thinking that will be a good place to start. 

Saturday 20 November 2021

Going up, not going out

Like some of the commenters on my last post, I rather liked the picture where my blocks were staggered, with quite big areas of empty space - ie floor - around them.  The most obvious thing to try was adding in plain chunks of colour. I did NOT like this. Here is one iteration, but there were others.  I varied the fabrics I used, cut some bigger pieces, played around with placement. Nothing was any better than this and this is most definitely no good.

Isn't it frustrating when lots of quite sensible ideas produce an utterly dull looking quilt?  Fortunately scrapping this approach doesn't entail any seam ripping, so that's a small win.

Another possible way to go at this would, I suppose, be to cave in and add something lighter.  It may come to that but it doesn't feel in the spirit of things;  I really want to find a way to work with just this dark range, if at all possible. For now, I am going with the long, skinny chunks, but have introduced a few solids to break things up a bit.

Friday 12 November 2021

Early doors

I titled this post 'early doors' but now I wonder whether that is a phrase anyone uses outside the UK.  Perhaps someone can tell me? We mostly used it in the days when pubs shut in the afternoon and reopened around 5.30.

Since I'm still at the beginning of this, I am pretty much just making doors.  This is what they look like when you have enough to start playing around.  
I like this version better - taller and skinnier and more reminiscent of the shape of the individual blocks.
To keep myself from getting bored I have also been moving them around to create different patterns.
This, in particular, has me wondering what I would put in those gaps.  It can't be something light, since that would rather miss the point of this.  I am hoping that if I keep shuffling, something will eventually occur to me that feels right.  Plenty of time and no big hurry.

Sunday 7 November 2021

A walk on the dark side

 New day, new pile of  shirts. 

A couple of weeks ago, just as I was finishing the last top, I read a piece in the paper about doing things outside in the dark.  At the top of the piece was a quote from a poem by Wendell Berry:
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark too blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings
And just like that, an idea for a quilt was born. I gathered up all the darks that I could find.  Instead of using them to extend the value range in a pile of mid-value shades, I wanted to see what I could do by using them all together.

Mostly, as you probably know, I start with a pile of shirts and not much else.  Strangely this time, I have not just the quote above floating around in my head but also was this image of a building in Liverpool, which I had saved recently. It seems to me that maybe these two ideas belong together.

So off I go, inspired by doors and the dark.  I know already that I can't make a whole quilt just of doors (remember my short attention span?) but I have started off with these.

Friday 22 October 2021

All out of fabric

This one is done now.  I added what I thought might be a final row across the bottom, to echo the triangles near the top.  

That got me almost, but not quite, to where I wanted to be. It was looking fine but it just wasn't quite as big as I like.  I eyed up my (tiny) pile of remaining fabric and figured I could go round just one more time.  I didn't do anything fancy, because the more cutting and piecing you do, the less fabric you end up with.  Instead I used up my left-over, previously pieced, odds and ends and then just cut wide strips from the remaining shirt fronts.  As is often the way, this practical decision pleases me from an aesthetic point of view too.

Here's the finished top, blowing in the wind.
Now I plan to quilt like a mad woman for a few days and let my brain settle, then it will be back to the beginning again.  

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Happy accidents

I definitely feel like I've hit my stride with this now.  I added another chunk down the left-hand side, then more of the black and white bird fabric at the bottom.  

Then, in a most satisfying development, it turned out that the things which looked best over on the right-hand side were those little blocks based on flying geese. They were a happy accident: I made the geese, left them lying around, looked down and they had obligingly arranged themselves into the pairs, with one facing each way.  I love a bit of serendipity.
Almost there now.  I have, I hope, enough fabric for one more round but no more than that.  

Friday 15 October 2021

The rules, roughly speaking, are as follows...

No sooner do I think I know my mind than things change.  Those triangles, which didn't look at all right down at the bottom, were somehow the best fit when I came to working the next row across the top.  Go figure.  
The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that although this is now, broadly speaking, a medallion quilt, I am not being entirely consistent about working in rounds.  More a 'mostly medallion' quilt, I guess.  
I have been thinking about trying to articulate the 'rules' that I feel emerge as I piece.  It's not entirely easy, since I seldom think them through, but looking at this I can see that, loosely, I am not putting two sets of wedges side-by-side, or two long runs of plain strip (except where there are coping strips).  The black fabric is only being paired with orange, and most strips are cut so that they run vertically.  There is probably at least one exception to each of these, but I did say they were loose rules.

Monday 11 October 2021

A game of fits and starts

One step forwards, two back.  Or sometimes one back and two forwards.  That's the way it's rolling around here at the moment.  This is mostly, I reflect now, because I wasn't listening to the quilt.  This had, quite early on, a medallion feel to it, but I had just done a medallion so I tried everything I could think of to avoid working in rounds.  Some things I tried were okay, but nothing fantastic emerged.  Still reluctant to give in I toyed with idea of building out on just two sides.  But you know what?  When I stopped thinking like a fool and just sat and looked, it was quite clear to me that this quilt wanted to be, if not a medallion proper than at least a fair imitation of one.

Amongst the bits I have made but rejected are these pointy triangles
and some Flying Geese which turned into these bits.

I rather liked those but sadly they looked too busy and didn't seem quite right there.  I'm keeping them though, on the offchance.  In the end, I settled for something simpler
The very pale strips were added in an attempt to counteract the distinct curves this has developed, due to a combination of some denim that I'm pretty sure had a bit of stretch in it and my habit of cutting every last bit of fabric from a shirt, on the bias if that's where it needs to be.  I quite like them though, so it's all good.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Photos, what photos?

There is a reason I can't build up a backlog of posts, to be published at times when I'm not sewing.  It has to do with my ability to keep track of where I put things.  Today is a case in point.  I had a couple of sessions worth of work done on this project but hadn't had time to blog.  Now that I come to write a post, do I have the camera card with the necessary photos?  No, I don't.  So I will have to ask you to imagine the steps between the previous post and where I am now.  
I know that those steps involved at least one piece being sewn on and then removed again and experiments with both flying geese and a pointy kind of triangle.  Those bits are still knocking around and may still get pressed into service, but for now they were not what I want.

I am much happier with how this is working now, though it is definitely still at the 'groping for something that works' stage.  More things are being tried and rejected than are succeeding. I would be able to demonstrate that, if only I had the pictures!

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Off we go again

Kicking off the next quilt.  I pulled these shirts, just because they pleased me.

I have it in mind that I would like to try adding some denim into a quilt and these seem like they might work.  Three shirts, though, isn't enough for a whole quilt, even with a load of denim added in, so I found a few more bits.

I started with some random wedge-y bits.  This was my first go at putting them together.  Don't like it much.  Correction, I do like the individual chunks,(3 of them) but not the way they look here.  I added the scraps of black floral and while I think they will do a job for me, the piece across the bottom is somehow too heavy and lacking in movement.  Luckily it will be easy to separate them again.
I should probably have made more pieces before I started sewing things into bigger bits, but I just wasn't feeling very patient.  I have learned my lesson.  On the bright side, I do like how they work with the denim.  It's early days, of course, so some wins and some hiccups is neither here nor there.  I shall just keep going and see what comes of it.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Done and dusted: Sugar and Spice

All this time quilting is paying off, as I have another finish.  This is a quilt that was pieced in 2019, so I am definitely catching up with myself, albeit slowly.  

I had a song-and-dance trying to get photos.  No prop for the clothesline, as previously mentioned, and no indoor options, so in the end I got creative with a length of downpipe and some clothes pegs.  (The builders are coming in October and once they're done my priority will be an indoor wall set up for quilt photos.  Something not weather-dependent.)  

Once I had things set up I took quite a few photos, trying to get the colours right.  I find these light pale shades don't always photograph so well.  I think some of these are okay though.

I like this picture of the back too, because the quilting shows up nicely.

I too-ed and fro-ed with this while I was piecing it: it pleased me very much that all the shirts came from one rack, in one shop.  When I saw them all neatly lined up, with their sugared almond colours, it felt as if they were calling me to take them home and turn them into something.  On the other hand, once I had started I was nearly overwhelmed by that very same sweetness and, briefly, came almost to dislike it.  Once I had figured out what I needed to add in to balance the sweetness, though, I came to love it.  I love that it has not one, not two but three different bird fabrics in there, that the magpies, which I had held on to for ages, found a home and that they let me to the little sparks of emerald green.  I love that in the end nothing about this felt predictable to me, but everything felt right.  

The details  

Started on 15th May 2019, the piecing was done by the 18th July.  I started quilting round about June this year, and finished on 12th September.

Made from that lovely shirt pull (yellow, deep coral, blue, green, pink and the print with little parrots on), plus a small selection of organic prints from stash, including the Charley Harper magpies. The batting is organic cotton, which is pretty much my favourite right now and the quilting was done with no. 8 perle cottons, again from stash.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

This one's done for now

Like buses, my finishes are all  coming at once.  I have a finished quilt waiting to be photographed and this top too has gone as far as it is going to go.  It is a fair size - I think about 65" - and , more to the point, I am down to tiny scraps and in some cases there's not even that much left.  

Indoor pictures skew things, but my enterprising sister used the prop for the clothes line to mend a shed, so this is my only option until I acquire a replacement prop.  In reality it is not so wonky, just marginally longer than it is wide.

These colours are still much prettier than those I am normally drawn too but overall I nonetheless rather like how this had ended up.  The touches of much deeper red, burgundy and blue are enough to lift it for me, so I'm feeling pretty happy with it in the end.

Now off into the drawer it goes and I have to start thinking about the next project, though first I have a quilt to sandwich.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Going round again

As is so often the case these days, I seem to have trouble getting back to blogging.  Best of intentions and all that.  However, I had a lovely break in very beautiful places, swam lots in unfeasibly cold water and saw some much missed friends and family, so I do feel refreshed and ready for action. 

I have pulled the symmetry project out of its box and added a couple more rounds - not far to go with this now, I think.  Practically speaking I am down to scrabbling about in the odd shaped scraps for most of these fabrics, and although stubbornness might sustain me for a couple more sessions, that will be it.  
I am managing to vary things just enough to keep myself interested, although I have also been considering taking another run at this challenge but approaching it differently.  I often make a lot of chunks and then shuffle them about until the arrangement pleases me; I think I could make the chunks symmetrical but not worry so much about the overall arrangement.  However, there are other ideas calling me too, so who knows what next.

Occasionally I add a note here to thank all the no-reply commenters.  On my last post I had a particularly lovely, generous comment from Tawa, and couldn't respond directly, so I am hoping you might read this - thank you so much for taking the time, it made my day.  I am grateful, of course for all the comments I get, and if there is an email I always reply.  If you don't get a response, it means you are 'no-reply'.  If you feel inclined, you can add an email address in your comment, or send it to me separately.  

Friday 6 August 2021

School's out.

School's out here, so my sewing is slowing right down.  I'm not complaining.  In fact I'm pretty fed up that our summer break now lasts just over four weeks - it's just way, way too short.

We're off for a couple of weeks tomorrow too, so piecing will stop and probably blogging too, though I am travelling with quilting.  Last year I took a quilt and a hoop but left the box with thread, scissors, needles, thimble behind.  Fingers crossed I do better this year.  I am not expecting much by way of internet for the first week (going on last year's experience) but may try to stick up some pretty pictures at some point.  In the meantime, here's where I'm up to.

Tuesday 27 July 2021


I wasn't planning to go awol, but last Sunday my kids got the message to self-isolate for ten days, as someone in their class had a positive Covid test.  So without warning we were house-bound again, and all my sewing was out of reach.  Never mind, we have come out the other side unscathed and they are back at school for the last two days before the summer holidays finally begin.  

I find it discombobulating to step away from a quilt for a week when I'm in the middle of things;  I guess that's why I only work on one thing at a time.  What happens after a break is that I mostly don't like what I see.  So I got this out of the box...
and knew straight off that I wanted to take off the big triangle borders.  To be fair, I probably would have made the decision after a 24 hour pause too, but when you've been itching to sew it is particularly peeving to spend your first half hour unpicking instead. 
I feel slightly shame-faced about the wrinkly state of things here, but I seem to have abandoned the iron almost entirely these days.  

I thought I would do two columns of geese next but when I put them in place they got rather swallowed up, so I added a round of the grey and burgundy print instead.  Next time round they still didn't look quite right, only this time I remembered to take a photo.
See what I mean?  I rather wish I had a darker red in the mix, but I'm working with what I had so instead I think I'm going to try this.
I might go looking for a darker red or failing that add in something in a different colour., just something to make things a little bit less - I don't know - predictable?

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Out with the old, in with the new

Symmetry.  Hum.  It took me a little while to figure this one out, but I've made a start.  I don't know if you remember this quilt top.
Initially I quite enjoyed making these blocks, but got bored pretty fast and as a result didn't love the final quilt.  I have been sorting through my piles of tops recently and  decided I need to get a bit ruthless and occasionally just decide that something didn't merit the time quilting would take.  So, grasping the nettle, I pulled this out and started cutting it up.  I used some bits to make a new block.
It may not be perfectly symmetrical, but it's as close as I am ever going to get.   The colours here reminded me of this shirt:

A quick dig around turned up these extra shirts.

It occurred to me that this might be a good time to have a play around with a log cabin-y kind of thing. So I did this.
and this.
I'm pretty happy with this start.  And, so far, it is symmetrical.