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.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

The Shipping Forecast: done and dusted

A few weeks ago I said I was closing in on a finish or two.  Here is the first.  It's hard to believe but I started this in September 2017!  It took a long time to piece but even longer to quilt.  I started it last year but fell out of love with the quilting process, not helped by the Covid blues and only came back to it after several months of looking at it and muttering under my breath.  It is big, which didn't help!  However I have stuck to it this time and now it's done.  Big sigh of...relief?  There are a lot of things I like about this: I like the shipping forecast that I printed and I like the feeling of waves that all those little triangles give.  I like the lighthouses.  It's a shame I didn't love every step of the journey, but maybe that's in the nature of these strange times rather than a reflection on this poor old quilt. 

I quilted it with a wavy sort of pattern, not planned or marked, just made up as I went along.

The details:

Started piecing September 2017, finished on 30th January 2018. It is 93"x72"

Started quilting 1st September 2019, stopped and started, finished 30th June 2021.  That is by a country mile the longest it's ever taken me to quilt something.  

This is made mostly from scraps and shirts.  The wadding is organic cotton and it is quilted with a mix of threads, mostly variegated Sulky 12wt, though there are some bits of Aurifil wool thread in there too.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Done for now

And just like that, it turns out this top is finished.  I thought I was going round again, or maybe adding more of the solid gold, but when I laid it out and looked at it today I thought again.  I think I'm happy with it just how it is.
This is the first quilt I have made where every single last scrap of it was shirt.  No additions of any kind.  

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Locking, locking

No blogging from me for over a week, because every time I turned my laptop on, I got about 30 seconds and then the screen would tell me it was locking.  It's pretty tricky to fix something if you can only do it in 30 second bursts.   Funnily enough my car charger went on the blink at the same time.  Turns out the way to fix that is to turn off the power, unplug the ethernet cable, wait 5 minutes and plug it all back in.  Sound familiar?

Anyhow, just as inexplicably as it started to play up, the laptop has now decided to behave, so here I am again. Turns out I've been doing plenty of sewing, though I can't quite remember how it all went, so here are a few photos, probably in the right order, to bring things up to date.

So far, so good.  

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Looking at things from more than one angle

This is progressing ok, I think.  I added the blunt triangles to both sides of my favourite block

and then to both ends.
Since then I have made more long rectangles and more blunt triangles, just accumulating bits really.  
I added extra triangles, at the bottom just because I like them and at the top because it made the long pieces fit better.
And a little band of the gold-y fabric.  Then I put it away.  When I got it out again this morning, it landed on the floor the "wrong" way round and guess what?  I think maybe I prefer it like this.
That's a bit of a surprise, but I am rolling with it for now. 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Long rectangles, blunt triangles, a possible way forward

The sun is shining and I am mostly in the garden.  I am sewing a bit though, as a respite from the weeds.

I am trying out a few more blocks similar to the rectangle I liked last time. 

These are all made from shirt arms; their size is dictated purely by the size of the fabric.  It results in slightly bigger pieces than I tend to,which is not a bad thing.  I'm sure given enough time I'll figure out a way to incorporate some little bits.

While these were in their box I mulled over all sorts of possible directions for them, some complicated, some less so.  For now I am just trying this.
My thinking was that the blunt-nosed triangles would belong with the block on the left, but looking at this picture I don't like that as much as I did this morning.  I can, however, see a way forward, so all is good.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Warming up

Starting a new quilt is a bit like getting ready for a run (though I don't run - dodgy knee).  I can't just sprint straight off from the front door, I have to do a bit of bending and stretching, cutting, tinkering and looking before I get properly underway.  

This time round I don't have any idea of where I want to head, so I have started by cutting some simple shapes and seeing how they feel.  

I wondered if I might make some nine patches, so I cut some squares.
The strong colours in this plaid might make this tricky to get right.  I'm not saying I won't, but cutting these few squares made me think twice, at least.

Then I thought, maybe another Coins variation.  These two fabrics sit nicely together.
Then, for some reason, largely to do with dropping one piece on top of another and liking what I saw, I made this.
This last piece is my favourite so far, but mostly I'm just figuring out how the different stripes and plaids relate to each other.  Some, all or none of these may end up in the quilt, but they are mostly biggish pieces so if I don't keep them as they are, it won't be too wasteful to find new configurations for them.  

Friday, 28 May 2021

Here I go again

A week of quiet quilting and I am ready to go again.  I wanted a week of gardening but it has been wet, wet, wet, so instead I quilted.  I currently have two quilts, in two hoops, in two different places.  Neither is far off being finished, so it has been time well spent.  When my hands needed a break I made piles of shirts and shuffled them about.  This is the one I have decided to use now. 

This is just shirts.  My usual practice is to pull some fabrics from stash to go with them, but I don't normally have quite so many shirts in my initial pile.  There are ten here, so I am going to start with just these and see how it goes.  When I get stuck or feel that the quilt needs something else, I can head to my boxes for help.

Interestingly, after all these years of only buying organic quilting fabric, my stash is much smaller than it was.  This hasn't been a deliberate policy, but obviously the choices are much more limited.  My shirt stash, on the other hand is now quite substantial!

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Tulip Mania, done for now

 And just like that, I am calling this one done.  I spent a fruitless but relatively enjoyable morning yesterday shuffling my bits around, trying different placings for my tulips and trying to figure out how to fill the gaps that result from staggering the square blocks. In the end nothing I did had a significant impact so I just got on and sewed my blocks together.  

I am happier with how this has ended up than I expected to be.  One of the things I have learnt from this is that asymmetry definitely pleases me more than symmetry, so I started liking it more as soon as I figured out ways to break the pattern up a bit.  I like that the string centres are not exactly in the middle of their blue surrounds, so that they dance around rather than lining up neatly and I like that the little strips disrupt the lines of blue.  Mind you, I also really like that central block of tulips, so I guess, as always, that it all comes down to balance.  

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.