Thursday, 13 May 2021

Old-fashioned progress post

I had a happy moment this week when I discovered I had more tulip blocks than I had realised.  I had been unpicking upstairs because there was someone working on my fireplace downstairs.  When he finished I moved back down but left said tulips behind.  I think they may just be enough to get me over the line on this without having to sew any more blocks.  That would be a bit of a result. 

Here are two versions I have been playing around with.  I have been struggling with the symmetrical nature of this piece and trying to come up with a way to disrupt that a bit.  This photo is me wondering if I could add something - either one fabric or something pieced into the mix.  So far I haven't found anything that would work and if a fabric doesn't present itself this is rather dead end.
In the second picture I am just trying to use the extra tulips to move the eye around.  I think this may work out better.

Either way, I think this is not going to get much larger; I'm not going to keep going just for the sake of it and even if I haven't settled exactly on a final version, it rather feels like there's not far to go now.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Considering my options.

I am considering my options, but thankfully not in that "where's the seam ripper" way; more just not wanting to commit until I'm sure.  There is a temptation for me to be so glad this is working better than the first layout that I just sew it all together to try and get to a finish as fast as possible.  Instead I am taking a deep breath and trying to give my quilting brain space to do its thing.  Also, as so often, I can see that I won't have enough of the very dark blue fabric to just keep going like this, so I need to build that into my ponderings.

First up, the thought came to me as I got out of bed that I could reverse the two blue fabrics, stripe next to the strings, darker one on the outside.  Like this.

I like the variation and on a practical level it is using more of the fabric that I have more of.

Next up, those tulips...hmm.  They look okay sitting on the edge (last pic, previous post), but are they blowing my socks off?  Nope.  In fact they aren't really drawing my eye at all.  So maybe if I mass them together, like this, they will be happier.
This seems more effective but in turn produces things to consider.  For instance, if I offset the next round of blocks, I am going to end up with gaps to fill, so the question is "with what?"  Ann's comment last time has made me aware that I don't need to offset both vertically and horizontally, so next time these blocks are out I am going to have a play with that idea.  In the meantime, this is what it would look like if I just kept going.
The little strips of strings aren't working for me here, but it was an idea worth trying.  I have a few tulips half-made, that I thought wouldn't be needed but I am reconsidering.  It won't take long to complete them and it is starting to look like the more of them I use, the better.  Also, it will help me to counter the shrinking pile of dark blue.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021


I am still pretty happy with how my revamped string blocks are going.  Mostly I am occupied with cutting up the originals and adding dark blue edges.  I am doing all this by eye, so the coloured bits are not exactly centred in the blue and no two are exactly the same.  I kind of like that they don't sit in neat lines.   

 I am also taking a bit of time to play around.  I like the blocks offset
I wonder about adding some of the little quarter blocks from my strings...
and maybe a tulip or two.
I need to try this out over a bigger area to see if it really works but at least it feels like I am heading in a more sensible direction now.  

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Take 2

I have gone right back, almost to before where I started, if such a thing is possible.  I had in my mind's eye a half-remembered image of tiny bits of colour surrounded by something dark.  I wondered if I could use my string blocks to constitute these little bits of colour.  So, you guessed it, out came the rotary cutter again.  I cut a few little squares (a quarter the size of the original strings).  The original intention was to use each one on its own, but as I played around I wondered about reforming the Os that I had in my first attempt.  Like this.
I have log cabined around these centres, to bring them back up, roughly speaking to 10.5 inches.  The dark blue/black fabric was nearly a pair of trousers about 2 years ago, but the pattern, which had looked fine on paper, was very odd sewn up so they never got finished.  These pieces have been lurking around ever since.  It is very lovely in the flesh, but is, I think, a linen and cotton mix, so slightly unruly to handle.  Never mind.  

I liked these, so I made a few more.
And then a few more.

Very crease-y but otherwise okay.  This isn't a layout, of course, just a bunch of bits arranged for a photo; I will play around once I've got a few more under my belt.  I am getting 4 little bits from each of my original string blocks, so almost nothing is going to waste and hopefully this version will work better than the first, otherwise I will end up working with postage stamp-sized pieces.  ]

Will my tulips work with what I have here?  I have no idea yet and haven't wanted to jump the gun by trying them out.  For now I'm just concentrating on one thing at a time.  

Monday, 26 April 2021

Slicing and dicing

This is just not happening for me.  I don't remember when I last got so comprehensively stuck (actually, I've just looked back and it was 2015!)

Here's how it panned out.  I made another chunk I quite liked.  I tried it on the left, I tried it on the right.  Not happening.  I tried it at the top of the piece I already had.  That seemed like the best thing I had tried.  It looked like this.
I put it away for the weekend, came back to it today and realised I didn't really like it at all.  I tried adding in HST squares, half white shirt, half coloured.  Nope.  I tried using the white shirt with a centre strip, so that it echoed the shapes of the string blocks.  Now, that's an idea that I liked and that has possibilities, but it didn't work here. 

So...I took all three chunks apart.  You can tell I was fed up because I didn't even bother to unpick, I just ran my rotary cutter right along the offending seams.  I have sliced off the dark strips too.  

I don't have any idea what I am going to do next, but that's all part of the process, right?  I am choosing to be okay with the fact that my process currently involves going backwards!

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

One chunk, two chunks

I still  haven't hit any sort of rhythm with this top, though to be fair last week was unlikely to be the time when that happened.  I do however have a chunk I like.
I am now working on a second piece, using something I have unpicked half of, to see if I can revive it without more unpicking.
I don't envisage it sitting in its current position; that's just the clear piece of floor.  In fact, one of the things causing me issues with this is that I can build little sections I like without too much difficulty but I can't for the life of me figure out how to connect them in a way that pleases me.  

A couple of people have commented about the white fabric.  I should explain that it is actually a shirt with a fine dark (probably black) stripe, so is not as glaring and naked as it looks in the photos.  Why the stripes don't show up, I don't know but in real life it has a different effect entirely.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Slow going, still better than not going at all

It's slow going  here this week, but not because I'm stuck (though I'm not yet unstuck).  It's just the second week of the Easter holidays.  Last week my guys went to cricket camp, thrilled that our lockdown has been lifted enough for this to be possible.  Mind you, normally they would have been inside; this year they played cricket in both driving snow and pouring rain and, quite consistently all week, in temperatures barely above freezing.  Didn't seem to bother them though.  This week, no cricket, so I have to be more entertaining.  

I am sneaking in a bit of tinkering and quite a lot of just pondering nonetheless.  I have to thank everyone who took the time to offer up an opinion on my last post - all those clever ideas whirl around in my head and sooner or later something comes of it all.  So far I have decided to add in both a lighter light (a shirt, basically white with a very fine stripe) and some darker options.  I have also settled on emphasising the 'o' shape with the string blocks rather than the crosses.  This means that if I disrupt the pattern, I will be doing so in a more careful way. 

This is just a little bit where I have reorganised the strings and added in a couple of white squares. It's always a bit odd judging something from a small piece, given that repetition is so important, but you can get my general drift anyway.

Here are the new darks.
And this, in the interests of thoroughness, is a black and white version.  
Beyond this, I have no clue as yet, but I am hopeful that by the time I get a clear run at it again, something will have percolated through and I'll be ready to crack on. 

In the meantime, I am quilting and quilting.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Started, stopped

This is where I am at the moment, but I can tell you before you look at the photo that I don't think it's where I want to be.  

I am happy with the individual components here, but it all feels too congested.  One or two bits are sewn together; they may stay that way, although I'm not ruling out a seam ripper either (though that's not a thing I will do lightly with all those strings).

I don't often do this, but a back and white picture is instructive.

See?  Too much mush.  Of course, in colour the red pops out at you, as does the more acid of the yellows so this isn't the whole picture but I need to figure out a way to create some - what?  Space?  Contrast?  Room to breathe?  What I have so far is not huge, so that gives me room for manoeuvre and I am feeling happy that I had already stopped making strings and tulips.  Now it's time to step up and find a way to make this work just a bit better.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Starting on the bigger picture

This is ticking along now.  Here's a layout using tulips in groups and including a couple more big ones.

I have started sewing a few bits together, starting in the middle and working my way out.  It reminds me of why I don't often make so many small bits before I start joining them: I am poor at keeping track of where things have come from.  In some ways it doesn't matter, since I can always just lay them out again, but after a while that stops seeming like fun. So, if I am to keep going until an end, I need to get some bigger chunks done, to compensate for the fact that I appear to be a disorganised person with a poor attention span.

I have one more little tulip and five or six more string blocks currently under construction, but I am more or less decided that I don't want to keep going with either.  Instead, I am experimenting with dropping in squares of some of the floral fabrics that are in the pieced blocks. If I keep going like this there will be more squares and less piecing around the edges, though I might also consider a pieced border of some description.

For this particular quilt these decisions are being driven by the prompts Ann provided, my interpretation of them and, increasingly, by the contents of my scraps box.  If I want a border of any sort I may have to cut up a new shirt. I don't mind so much if that's where I end up, but I am going to have a good shot at only using what's in the box first.  

Clarelou - the tulips are improvisationally pieced; I looked at a few traditional blocks, did my own little sketch and then just did them by eye.  Nothing is measured as I sew.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021


Today I didn't sew much, although I have made a couple of bigger tulips.  Instead I alternated between shuffling my existing blocks around and hacking away in the back garden where several shrubs have  been allowed to have their own way unchallenged, I'm guessing for around ten years.  It's not a bad mix of activities.  I look and think until I am stuck.  Then I go outside, stop thinking about quilting and hey presto!  Just like that something helpful pops into my mind.
I started off in a fairly orderly way: big tulip in the middle and everything else radiating out.   Then I thought about how much I liked the photos I shared last time, where the tulips were grouped together and added the row of pink flowers.

Off into the garden where I found myself challenging the basic assumptions of this layout.  These little blocks, all being squares, seem to lead naturally towards something fairly orderly.  It's fun to lay them out like this, but was it exciting me?  Well, to be fair, it was exciting the same bit of me that likes to make lists just so I can cross things off, but that's not usually the bit I use when I'm quilting.

So now I am playing around with something more like this.
This is halfway, I would say, between the last picture and where I want to be.  I'm imagining the tulips more in groups and less in orderly rows.  That's the way I like them in the garden and it looks like it's how I want them in this quilt too.

On a side note, if you leave comments on my blog and I don't answer, I'm afraid  that means you are a no reply blogger.   If you include an email address in your comment, or send me one through my email, then I'm happy to respond.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

How many tulips make a bunch?

I have been plugging away making tulips - boy are they fiddly!  I have a nice little pile of them now, though, plus a handful that are half-made.  I decided today that I will finish the ones I have started and then maybe think about starting to sew  some of them into bigger chunks.

Mostly when I lay them out on the floor I have been thinking about using the tulips singly, mixed in with the string blocks but I also like them in little rows

and in fours.
If I kept making them for long enough this might turn into a tulip quilt with strings, rather than a string quilt with tulips.  More likely I will run out of beige fabric and that will be what decides how many flowers I end up with.

Actually, I realise that's a bit misleading.  I have two beige fabrics.  Mostly I am using shirt, but there is also a biggish scrap of what might be an Oakshott cotton.  Today I have also used the light, almost white shirt with a tiny, probably red, design (yellow flower in the top right above), plus a very, very pale yellow-y scrap and another left-over piece which is white with a little beige design.  I'm just mixing all these extras in here and there for now, but by the end they may well be all I've got.  

I reckon this is the most I've made for a quilt without sewing anything other than the basic building blocks.  It means that this still feels like a project full of potential, but I also know that if I don't move on to the next stage fairly soon I may end up making bits that are not what I need.  Not enough fabric for that, so decision time is looming.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

One big flower

Now I'm getting somewhere I like.  While I was working away making more darker tulips, it occurred to me that I might like one big one that could go in the centre of the quilt.  This would be a cool reference to Ann's inspiration quilt, so the idea pleases me rather.  So I made a big tulip.
Then I made some more smaller ones.  And some more strings.  I have run out of the original gingham but found one that is much bluer that works fine.

Now I am thinking about different layout options.  I wondered briefly about something along these lines
but am more inclined to go  in this direction.
It's not very big yet and there are lots more tulips to make (which is fiddly and a bit boring) but I think I am getting somewhere.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Still fiddling about

I'm still not quite there with this, but think I'm making progress, albeit one tiny step at a time.  I have been adding strips of the beige-y fabric from the tulip blocks into some of my string blocks.

I hadn't done many when I took the picture below, but to my eye they help pull the two sets of blocks together so they look more cohesive.  
The more I add, the better they do the job.
What they can't do, though, is address the fact that some of these tulips are such a similar tone to their backing that they become largely invisible.  They look lovely on the table or in my hand, but from a distance they are just little squares of pale mush.  The red one at the bottom works much better so I'm making more stronger, darker, brighter variations.  Hopefully I can slide the pale ones in amongst them too, but I definitely need to use them sparingly. 

This is not my planned layout because I don't have one of those yet.  It is just the most useful way I found to photograph this for the moment.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Propelled by sheer obstinacy

 Yup, that's what has kept me moving with these tulips this week.  Here's how it went:

1.  Decide to piece your tulips.  Do a little sketch.  Decide the piecing will be too fiddly and that you need to make these blocks a bit bigger.  

2. Use a dodgy string block to get a feel for what the pieced flower might look like.  

3. Accidentally drop the flower on top of another block.  Like how it looks, with the tulip in the corner, so make a couple like that.

4.  Check these flowers with your string blocks.  Spot the not-so-deliberate error.  Two sides might work, the other two will merge into your strings in an unpleasant mush.  Also, larger gingham makes everything way too busy.

5. Not giving up.  Pull apart blocks, go back to your drawer full of shirts and look for a new background.  Find a lovely taupe shirt, recently acquired (but sadly way too big to wear).  Yes, that looks good.  Remake blocks.

6.  Check these flowers with your string blocks.  Hmm.  Like the strings, like the flowers but they look like they belong in different quilts.

7.  Maybe this would help?

8. Remake blocks adding little extra strips which, as it happens, add a slight leafy effect.  Better.

9. Check these flowers with your string blocks.  They look too big and a bit top heavy.  Decide they need to be smaller.  Try not to think about step one.

10.  Cut them down.
I'm not there yet, but feel like I get closer with each iteration.  To be fair, I only made a couple of the initial test blocks, so there are not horrific amounts of re-sewing going on.  in fact, the thinking probably takes more time than the actual stitching. 

A side note: this kitchen floor is doing nothing to help.  It is scheduled for replacement and you can be sure that I am hoping for something that does as good a job in quilting terms as the dark grey tiles at the last house.  

Sunday, 7 March 2021

More strings

 More strings. 

Since I'm not entirely decided where I'm going with this project yet (more musing on this here, on the AHIQ blog) I have decided I will just keep making these until I get bored and then tackle the tulips.  Of course this won't take long, given my low boredom threshold but I reckon I've got at least another couple of  string-making sessions in me before I need a change.  

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

I love a tulip

Hmm.  I have been itching to start  Ann's AHIQ quiltalong.  As regular readers of this blog may remember there are few things I love as much as a good tulip, so a tulip-y quilt felt right up my street. It is especially welcome since I have moved house since last spring.  I have already put some tulips into the new garden, but nowhere near enough.    

However, this has already presented me with a few challenges.  Not a bad thing, but maybe this wont' be quite the simple sew I thought.  First up, I wanted to use scraps, since the only properly scrap-based quilts I have made were both lego quilts (and much as I admire Julie's many variations on this theme, I'm not inclined to go there again).  Turns out my current way of quilting doesn't generate masses of scrap.  This is my entire collection

and there are quite a few bits in that box that are big enough for me to consider including them in a top, so they are not really scraps for this purpose.

Second up, I can't quite relinquish all control, so wanted some sort of limited palette to play around with.  Hmm again.

I almost put the scrap box away and started again.  In fact I pulled a lovely assortment of blue and purple shirts that would make an excellent starting point for a quilt.  Maybe they still will, but in the end I stuck with the scraps.

This is where I got to at the end of the first session. You can see that I have already had to start pushing at the edges of my limited colour range but they seem to hang together alright.  

Now for a few days of nice, straightforward sewing before I have to start mithering away again.

Friday, 26 February 2021

A finish

This feels a bit like cheating - posting a finished quilt without having shown any of the work that went into it, but that's the way it goes sometimes.  I started this some time last spring (again, no blogging means I don't have a proper record of dates), worked on it on and off, through homeschooling and house moving. Now it is done, and has gone off to its home so I can share.
I  started with the moons and a colour palette (rich greens and blues and a little bit of mustard yellow/gold) and the rest followed from that start.  There are several shirts and a big piece of dressmaking remnant in amongst the fabrics, some (I think) easier to spot than others.   In several cases I have used both sides of a fabric in different places; those are not so hard to find, on the whole. 
I had been mulling over various ideas for tops using very pointy little triangles for quite a long time, originally inspired by a CD cover that I liked  a lot, and it made me very happy when I realised that they would be a great match for the moons in this.  They are fiddly to make but I love the way they look.  In this quilt they look a bit like trees or mountains, I think, so that the whole thing has a feeling of landscape about it.  That wasn't something I planned, but it happened as I went along, which for me is how all the best stuff happens.
I used organic cotton wadding, which is my current preferred option, and quilted it with perle no. 8, in a variety of shades, mostly ones I already had.  The quilting comes out in concentric circles from each moon. 
The back is a combination of left-overs from the front and bits from stash.
It is bound with what I believe to be an Alison Glass sunprint, from stash, with a couple of little inserts that came from the quilt scraps.
This is my second finish of the year so I'm already ahead of the game.  Let's see if I can keep it up!

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Done circling for now

This one is done for now.  I added one last row and then one tiny column up the right-hand side.  It looks slightly lopsided in the photos because the child holding up the left hand side is taller than the one on the right, but the quilt itself is a little more regular.
I am really very happy with how this has turned out, so feel I have ticked the Positive Thinking box very nicely.  

I have also finished the unblogged quilt, which will be packed up and posted in a day or two, so hooray for finishes all round.  A brief pause, then on to the next one.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Not one, but two

One row, one column and so close to an end I can smell the finish line.  Only now it's half term, so we'll have to see how it goes next week.

I knew I wanted triangles across the top, so that bit was easy, but the strip that is with them was one I had already made specially for the bottom left corner.  I'll have to rethink that, I guess.

Then, although I don't need more width, I had to come back down the side.  I know, I know, it is my quilt and I could abandon the medallion at this point and just add across the bottom.  Only I've come this far...

so I've added just a wee narrow piece to get me back down to the bottom again.  Most of it is the same fabric that I used in the wee houses.  I'm very happy with how it looks; I much prefer it to finishing with the sharp yellow on the edge.  

I'm also nearing an end with my current quilting project.  It's not one I've blogged, which always feels odd, but I'm no more than a week off a total finish, with just a couple of days of quilting and then binding to go.  Like buses, my finishes are all coming at once.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

You name it, I tried it

 And up the right hand side I went.

This column took flipping ages.  I had houses at the top, birds at the bottom;houses at the top, birds in the middle; birds at the top, no houses; no birds and no houses; you name it, I tried it. This is what I settled for in the end.

Of course the irony is that any one of the other solutions would quite probably have looked fine if I had persisted with them.  I wonder what would happen if I just stuck with my first decision every time and didn't do all this tinkering.  Would it make much difference?  Maybe not, but tinkering is what I shall continue to do.

This is probably wide enough now, though not long enough yet, so I only have to add more columns if I fancy it.  More tinkering ahead, I guess.