Thursday, 16 March 2023

Changing my mind

I don't have a lot to show.  Indeed I don't have much to say for myself, but am still struggling with rhythm, so here I am posting regardless.  I am still playing.  My bits could be tulips.

but I think probably not this time.  So I made this.
But then I unpicked it.  I like these shapes a lot but need to figure out how to use them in a way that feels like me.

Now the teachers are on strike so school is closed and I have a load of work.  Maybe next week will bring clarity.

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Still cutting curves

I had a notion that I might be making hourglass units or maybe pinwheels.  Both feel like itches I want to scratch at the moment.  But it turns out I am still cutting curves.  This time they are more like a quarter-oval shape than the loosely quarter circle-y things I did for the last couple of  quilts.  I tend to start by cutting a sleeve off a shirt I am planning to use.  It feels less drastic somehow than chopping straight into a front or back piece: if I change my mind, I still have plenty of fabric left to try in something else.  This time, I opened up a short sleeve and realised that if I cut it in half from shoulder to cuff, I pretty much got this curved piece and that seemed as good a place to start as any.  

I made a few bits.
and I quite liked them, so I kept going.

Now I have a small pile and I am starting to play.  They can make ovals
or, like this, they look like leaves, so maybe I'm making giant flowers.
It's not time for any decisions yet, but these are biggish, for me, so I won't make many more before I start thinking about where I am going.  Nice to have options, though.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

New month, new quilt

 March already!  I feel like there's no time to waste, an almost palpable sense that life is pushing me to quilt.  I guess have extended periods when that has been hard is making want to make the most of quilting time when/while I have it.  So, I have two quilts in hoops: one nearly done, the other not so much.  I also have two more, with backs made, just waiting for basting.  

I also have a new pile of shirts, and a slightly new approach.  I have thought a number of times that I would like to try and start quilts with a bundle of shirts all bought on the same day and in the same place.  I have done this once before (as the result of a happy accident rather than by deliberate choice) and it's a notion that tickles me, so I'm going to give it a go for a while.  I have a couple of suitcases full of shirts, so my theory is that I will find around 5 shirts that work well together in a charity shop, then go home and see what else I have that I think will sit comfortably with them.  I'm not going to overthink the initial stage, but it's amazing how often I see groups that I think have promise, so it should work out alright.  

Here's my first go.  I bought these shirts at the British Heart Foundation shop in Loughborough last Friday.
When I got back I dug out some more shirts, and one length of organic quilting cotton.
This is what they look like together.
This feels like the starting of something to me, so off we go again.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Maybe, nearly, almost, pretty much done for now

In a  perfect world there would be a couple of process photos between my last post and this one.  However I have had covid again.  I am perfectly fine but  have been confined to my room so can't get at the camera to retrieve my card.   I did manage to grab my box of sewing on my way into isolation though.  There isn't room to swing a cat in here but moving everything away from the wall so that I could pin my top to it kept me busy and time is the one thing I've had plenty off.

I'm trying to remember how this went.  Three columns were working but clearly not wide enough and I figured I had enough fabric to make a couple more sets of circle-y bits. The one in the top right is made of smaller pieces, partly because it let me use more of the scrappy bits but also deliberately to echo the similar piece bottom left.  

I had enough beige scrappage to run a line of triangles across the bottom and up the right hand side.  Again, this has a practical point - to edge towards a size I'm happy with - and also balances the left hand side.  No more beige left.  In fact almost no more of anything except one strip of tartan, a fair bit of the darkest red and blue stripe and some of the plain slightly pink-y red.  Ideally I would like to add a tiny bit of length, but am not sure this will give me much in the way of options.  I'll need to get back to my floor to know; if I can't find something pleasing then this will be where I stop.  

Friday, 10 February 2023

Not paying attention

You might think that for someone who finishes only a handful of quilts in a year, the moment of completion would be something to celebrate.  I certainly thought that.  Except...some time round about October of last year, I finished a quilt and completely forgot about it.  No blog mention, not even a dodgy photo on instagram.  In fact, the only reason I know when it was finished is the date stamp on the photos. Go figure.

Anyhow, here is my poor, sadly overlooked quilt, which was called In For a Penny (on account of the Coins).

Six shirts (if you want a reminder, you can see some of them here) plus scraps from my big box of random bits, pieced mostly as little strip sets, with the odd hourglass or pinwheel thrown in when I got bored.
Much of the back started life as a front, but at some point I realised I wasn't inclined to quilt it, so took to it with the scissors.  Some of it is in other quilt fronts now, and the rest has made this rather  satisfactory back. 
It was pieced between the end of November 2019 and 3rd March 2020, so it was my final quilt before lockdowns came and ate the rest of the year.  I have to confess that I don't know when I started quilting it, but it was finished on 17th October 2022, so I guess I would have started some time that summer.  

The wadding is organic cotton,the thread is perle cotton, just a random selection that seemed to go, and it is quilted with straight, vertical lines.The binding is one of the last Oakshott cottons that I have been hoarding for so long it's stopped being funny. It was just the right mix of yellow and pink tones.
It might seem, from my utter neglect of it, that I don't much care for this quilt but that's not the case.  In fact I like it a lot. I especially like the interruptions made by the hourglasses and pinwheels, the tiny bits of red and that bottom left-hand corner, which has a whole curvy thing of its own going on.  

Wednesday, 1 February 2023


Although I have decided I am going down the route of wilder rather than more structured, I find I am still laying my pieces out like this when I start to sew.  They come out of the box in a different order each time but that's okay.  I am aiming to make four long strips before I worry too much about which way round they go together.  

Maybe, once I've got that far, I will need a fifth strip.  I will almost certainly need to add something border-y to to the top and bottom to get to a length I like.  

In the meantime, each piece is having its own little internal conversations.  The one thing I am paying most attention to is how many of the horizontal red plaid strips I use.  As Doris said on my last post that fabric is rather shouting for attention.  So far, I feel that's okay; it helps to stop all the blues and darker tones from mushing too much.  But I don't want it to be the only thing you notice when you look at the completed top.

Every so often, I shuffle everything back together, just to make sure I don't lose sight of where I am going.  This is one iteration. The second vertical row in this next photo has been sewn together.  Apart from that, nothing is finally decided.  Each bauble is stitched to the rows below it, but they don't have final places yet, though I am pretty sure I'll be sewing the left hand row up soon too. 

On a practical note, I am running low on the dark blue plaid and also the batik shirt but overall it still seems like I have a fair amount of fabric.  The last bits may be dictated simply by what's left, but so far, so good.

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Piecing and playing

 I'm still working away at this, though my chunks are slowly getting larger.  

For a while I was looking at my various bits and pieces and thinking mostly in terms of separating them in some way so that they didn't feel too busy. It was that impulse that led to my previous post, thinking more carefully about the values of my fabrics.  I added some extra beige triangles into one area and definitely felt that improved things.  However, I was still wondering how I would replace my large areas of floor with a more fabric-based alternative.
Then something interesting happened: I was discussing this with a friend who challenged my assumption that I needed that space.  What would happen, they wondered, if I just let my blocks run wild.  So I tried it.
You know what?  It needs more work, but I don't hate this.  Nothing is sewn together and I won't remember the order next time I get it out, but the general principle stands.  This has me thinking about challenging the assumptions I make as I quilt: there are some types of choice I have been making for so long that I don't question them at all any more and maybe I could, from time to time, step out of that comfort zone.  Let's see how this goes.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

A bit more light and shade

Using black and white versions of my photos has helped me to figure out that if I use plenty of my light beige fabrics and the shirt with red and white plaid, I can build in more contrast without too much of a problem.  I made a line of triangles with a beige background instead of the dark blue - see how much better that is?
And here's a chunk where I have started to add in the plaid
I've got quite a few of these bits now: one bauble and some strips.  I'm playing around with different layouts but nothing is decided yet.  They look like they are stitched together, but as yet they just sit on top of each other while I see what I like.This one has some of the beige triangles.  I think that they look a bit lost in this photo, actually, but am finding that they work well when I add more of them to an area.
I am also wondering about adding in a few extra bits of the very dark red.  Lots of possibilities still, but at least now I have some sense of a direction.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023


I know Christmas is over, but these blocks remind me of baubles and it's a thought that is pleasing me on this dreary, wet January afternoon.

I am slowly adding in a number of different elements.  The strips with little red insets showed up in the photos I shared last time but I am also now making strips of blue with red triangles. Put together, it goes something like this.
I had to pause once I had several bits like this, as grouped together they were not working quite as I wanted them to (yes, I know I should have a picture, but I was too busy concentrating to remember that).  The issue, in short was that it all felt a bit busy.  I took some quick phone photos and had a look in black and white.
The thing this makes quite obvious is that I need to think a bit about how I am using my lightest/darkest fabrics, to try and build in better contrast.  Too many mid-tones here are leaving things a bit mushy.  Of course, in reality there is a measure of contrast that comes just from the colours.  Quite often I find that is enough for me, but other times, and this is one of them, you just need a bit more.  I'm not sure that I need to find extra fabrics; it's more a case of using them better.

While I let this thought simmer, I am going to change tack and write out my 2023 plans for AHIQ

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Circling the block: done and dusted

This quilt was my final finish of 2022, but I didn't get the photos done in time to post before New Year.  It was too wet to go out, so I had to wait for two people tall enough to hold the corners.  
It's not the greatest photo: once the weather improves I might try outside to get one without the ugly shadow.  One of my resolutions this year is to sort out a spot indoors where I can have a better setup for quilt photography.  I don't need anything fancy, but it would be nice for it to be more straightforward and less weather-dependent.

Anyhow, back to the quilt. it has been so long since I looked at it that it's rather a nice surprise now that it's finished.  You might say I have been looking at it all the time whilst quilting but it never really feels like that to me.  The quilting hoop breaks it down into a series of little fragments rather than a whole piece, so when it is done. I often feel slightly disconnected from it, almost as if someone else had made it.  

This was the first quilt I made after we moved and that now feels like a lifetime ago.  Maybe that's why the little houses found their way into the piecing.  They are one of my favourite bits.
I also love the slightly odd combination of the yellow-green and little pops of red, and the medallion-ish layout and the fact that I have used some of the Charley Harper fabric that sits in my boxes and looks at me reprovingly.  So it's all good.

I started this on 9th December 2020 and finished piecing on 11th February 2021. The starting point was the AHIQ Positive Thinking challenge. I'm not honestly sure when it went into the hoop but I know it came on holiday with me in early August, so let's say the beginning of that month.  I put in the last stitches on December 26th.

It measures somewhere around about 80 inches long by 70 inches wide. I used 6 shirts and the rest is yardage. Since this was finished I have hardly used any proper quilting cotton at all, except on quilt backs, so with the benefit of hindsight this seems like a transitional piece.  Although I like it, I can't imagine using so many commercial fabrics in a piece again.  

It's quilted with perle no. 8, in a random assortment of colours, and the wadding is Bosal Katahdin Organic Cotton.  

As the stash gets smaller and smaller it gets trickier to find bindings that work well, but in this case a muted blue/reddish/brownish stripe from an ancient Oakshott haul has done the trick.  I guess at some point I'll have to figure out what binding made from shirts looks like, but I confess it's not high on my list of priorities.