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.