Thursday 12 October 2023

Another finish

Some time ago I gave up trying to think of clever names for my quilts and just started numbering them, so this finish doesn't have a proper name; it is just #4.22, which is to say the fourth quilt I pieced in 2022.   At least the numbering lets me place it easily but if anyone wants to suggest a title, do feel free.

You will see that this is not a top that had to languish for long before it was quilted (unlike the one in the previous post).  I used to work steadily through in a chronological order, but now I am mixing the older quilts and more recent ones.  Some tops I am just keener to see finished than others. 

This is the second in what turned out to be a run of four quilts playing around with quarter-circles. The spikes were an addition to stop me getting bored with the piecing and represent the "why do something nice and easy if you can make it fiddly and complicated?" school of quilting.  At least I felt quite Christmassy as I was making it, both because of the colours and because the spiky circle-shapes reminded me a bit of baubles.  And also because it was actually Christmas! 

There's a lovely mix of patterns in these shirts, including the Indonesian-style one, which adds to the festive feeling for me, a slightly subdued Hawaiian one, with blue and red flowers, and that red tartan, which I had pretty much concluded I was never going to use.  Just goes to show every shirt has its home, in the end. I often fall out of love with something as I work on it, but that never happened with this top: I liked it then and I like it now.

I quilted the horizontal bars with straight lines and the photo below shows how I approached the baubles.
The backing is one big piece.  This is unusual for me but I found a few good duvet covers second-hand recently and there are so many seams in the top that it felt like a good idea not to add more on the back.  Binding is from stash.  I think it is a Charley Harper fabric from years ago. That's how the bindings go now - it's mostly a question of what's still in the boxes.  Not much left now, then I'll be making binding from shirts, I guess.
This was started right at the end of last year, round about 22nd or 23rd of December.  and piecing was finished on 15th February this year.  I have lost track of when I started quilting - some time early summer - but it was finished on 5th September.  

The wadding is organic cotton, the thread was from stash.  Next time I start a quilt I will be buying thread as I am almost out, but it's been years since I've had to do that, so it's probably about time.  

It's not the biggest quilt ever- about 60" wide by 70"long, but it's big enough to wrap up in, which is what matters most.

Monday 11 September 2023

Time Slips Away: Done and Dusted

The first of my two recent finishes. This is Time Slips Away, the last quilt I started before covid struck and the last quilt I finished in my old house. Also, thanks to covid, this is my least blogged quilt ever.  I just about managed to sew and was thankful for it, but blogging was mostly beyond me. As a result, it is a piece of work that I have generally overlooked.  When I pulled it out of the drawer to sandwich, I realised I didn't have a strong sense of it at all, but fortunately, looking at it after all this time, I rather like it.

I think this represents part of a transition phase for me - there are a few shirts (3 I think) in this, but there are also a number of pieces of proper yardage whereas now it's almost entirely shirt/recycled clothing.

The fabric that kicked this all off was a little shirt, probably from around the 1970s, with a swirly floral print (you can get a proper look at it here). When I got to the quilting, I tried to echo this by sewing overlapping circles so that I got a sort of petal effect.  This seemed like a good idea and I covered the whole quilt in next to no time. Only then I had the bright notion that I would do a second round of stitching, just inside the first.
Undoubtedly this has given me a much more flower-like feel in the end, but about halfway through I started wondering what on earth had possessed me. Who in their right mind quilts a whole top and then does it again?  On a practical note, while I like how it looks, it definitely makes the finished item ever so slightly stiffer than I am used to.  Not enough to bother me, but I wouldn't want to go any further in this direction - I prefer my quilts to feel drape-y and inviting and ready to use.  

I started piecing on 11th March 2020 and, despite lockdown and consequent home schooling, finished piecing 25th June 2020. It was the last quilt I pieced in my old house and the last thing I sewed at all until the December. I have to admit I don't know when this went into a hoop. I have been working on another one and this has taken the longer of the two, so probably since around the beginning of the year, on and off.

The wadding is organic cotton and as usual I used whatever perle cottons I had that were a close enough fit.  This is a habit I will have to reassess soon as my store of half-used threads is growing smaller and smaller.  The binding is a grey print from stash - again, I will have to reassess eventually, but for now there's still plenty of fabric in the boxes.  In fact, given how long it is since I bought yardage it's a bit scary how long my boxes are lasting.  I am given maybe three or four half yards most years, but given that I use them for both bindings and in quilt backs, I had expected to run out ages ago.  

My favourite parts of this are the lines created by the black triangles, the pinwheels, which happened accidentally at first and then accidentally-on-purpose, and the way I had to use teeny-tiny pieces to get to the end.  I have done this lots since but this was one of the first times it got so close to the wire and I was both relieved and a bit pleased with myself when I got to my finish.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Catching up

Not sure where the last month went.  Well, that's not true; I have a pretty clear idea of what I've been doing with my time but it's not interesting enough to go blogging about it.  Apologies to everyone whose last comments I failed to get to, I won't make a habit of it, honest.  

I have been quilting a lot, rather than piecing, for practical reasons, and have two quilts finished but am having issues with photos, again for reasons I won't bore you with.  However, before I put my machine into hibernation, I did manage to get Wild Things across the line.

I thought, way back when I last posted, that I was happy with the length of this, but when I looked again I felt it needed just a smidge more, so I added plain chunks top and bottom.  You can tell this is reaching the end, since instead of saving these few final pieces in case I want to chop them up, I am happily using them as they are. 

I figured that I could use up my last curved blocks too and laid out the long columns of stripe roughly where I thought I wanted the edges of the quilt to end up.  You can see my problem - I had a gap to fill. There were still some crosses floating about.  Enough, in fact, to get me about three-quarters of the way there, but I still had gaps.  Bother.  

So back I went to my bags and boxes and tried to find something that would do.  In the end, this black and brown check seemed to fit the bill, so in it went.

And just like that, I was done. The finished top looks like this.

I'm still a couple of weeks off being able to piece again and am feeling distinctly fidgety about it, but am trying to give some thought to what I might try next.  This is the fourth circle quilt in a row, so maybe it's time for a change. 

Monday 24 July 2023

Repeating myself

 Here I am, still short of time but plugging away when I can.

I have spent a while trying to figure out how to extend the chunk I finished last time.  Is this the middle of something?  The bottom?  The top? I have been moving and shuffling and quite a lot of just sitting and staring.  It is still the case that I like some permutations of these blocks a lot and others not at all.  This makes things simpler in some ways, but I also don't have enough fabric to make more than one or two extra now, so I need to be very sure of my decisions before I sew things together.  
After a lot of general fiddling, I decided I would extend the central line of crosses and make another piece very similar to the first chunk.  
That sounds easy, but there were many, many versions before I found one I was entirely happy with.  In particular I was trying to watch the placement of the dark blue and dark red fabrics and, more generally, to keep an eye on the spread of light and dark across the whole thing.  

This is what the two finished chunks look like together.  I'm pretty happy with this, but its not there yet as it is a good-ish length (maybe 55-60") but skinny.  Time to go wide.

Thursday 6 July 2023

A bit of progress, I think

 So, the stripes came out and the crosses went in.

And I started to play with what might happen around the edges of this first chunk.  More crosses?  More claws?
Maybe more of both. Or maybe that, plus some stripes.

Wednesday 28 June 2023


This stripe is an interesting thing. I liked that it worked as a counterbalance to the checks and little fussy prints and I thought the darkest of the blues would help echo the darkest blue shirt and stop all the mid-tones predominating. Sadly, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would once it was in the quilt, so I went ahead and took it out.  But I can see that it looks much better in the photos I shared than it does in real life and the arguments for its inclusion are still valid, so I fully intend to keep it in the pile and start adding it back in, though possibly in smaller bits.  It's not in these photos, but I reckon next time I post, it will be in there again.

I still like the notion of separating my curvy claws with something, so I have had a go with the crosses.
This seemed to be worth persisting with, so I kept going.
Of course nothing is carved in stone, but right now I think the six blocks on the left will be staying as they are.  The right hand bits are more by way of an experiment.  I am playing around trying to work out how symmetrical or asymmetrical I want to be, taking into account that in some versions I like how the blocks interact a lot, and in others I do not like them one tiny little bit.  I don't feel like I'm stuck, just playing still, but it does also feel like these blocks might turn out to be a bit contrary.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Trying stuff out

I am moving slowly. After a few false starts, I decided that one of the issues I was having with my group of fabrics was that there was something rather similar about them - a preponderance of small, busy prints - that was making them hard to work with.  I dug out a much paler shirt and a nice stripe, to see if they would help.
I haven't found anywhere yet that the pale one looks at home, but I had a go with the stripe. Here are a couple of versions.
This definitely reminds me of claws, now that Yvonne has pointed it out, and I am now thinking of it as "Wild Things" but it is also reminiscent of the spiky teasles in my garden. Using the strip between the curves accentuated this and I quite liked it, so I kept going.
You will see that I got bored of just making curves and started making crosses as well.  I like the crosses still, but as of today, I have started taking the stripes out, in the places where I had done actual sewing.  I have been trying to put my finger on why I decided to do this and the closest I can come to an explanation is that they pull my eye too much toward them, so I see the stripes but the curves are fenced off from each other.  I'm not sure I want strips of old pyjama to be the star of this particular show, so out they go.  Of course I may revisit, but for now the crosses are staying, the stripes are going.

Monday 12 June 2023

Off we go again

This is the next bundle of shirts. All bought one day in late March from an Age UK shop in an upmarket suburb of Nottingham. 

You can't tell from this photo, but the gingham-type check at the back is a pale purple.  the rest are pretty much as they look.

A first pass through my drawers resulted in a few options to bulk this out: a nice navy with a tiny white dot, a mid-blue with a Hawaiian vibe and some scraps of dark red.  They really are scraps, though, so while I'm not putting them away just yet, I won't be counting on them for much either.

My calculation is that I am a couple of shirts short, but that's fine. I'm going to make a start and worry about what else a bit further down the line.  

Not wishing to hang about, since sewing time is hard to come by, I ignored my original thought, which involved pinwheels and/or hourglasses and decided instead to go for something fiddly and time-consuming.  There's just no accounting for the way my mind works. 

Hmm. I'm not loving these right now.  I am okay with the general idea, but someone, in passing, said they look like dinosaur eggs and I just can't get that image out of my head.  I'm not going to give up though.  I am hoping that a little rejig of the proportions, otherwise known as a sneaky trim on one side, will sort things out. Let's see how that goes.

Wednesday 31 May 2023

And done...for now

 All finished and heading off for the pile of tops still waiting to be quilted.

This is how it went. Lots of bits were not sewn at this point, because I was  trying to figure out that top left corner and the right hand side simultaneously.  When I laid out the bits on the right, I thought I was right down to the wire, in terms of remaining fabric.  I was hoping to be have enough squares and pinwheels to fill in all my spaces, but was still trying to keep an eye on how things balanced across the whole top. Lucky for me, I  found one last, biggish piece of shirt big enough to cut several chunks from and that presented me with a much quicker solution in that top left corner. It is a note to self - sometimes I only use a small amount of a fabric, because it seems to me to be having an oversized effect on the quilt as a whole.  That's fine, but I should really keep better track of where I put the left-overs! I would have been pretty fed up if I had only found that fabric after I'd finished piecing.

I also dug out one last curved piece which fitted in over on the right.  These two finds between them gave me just enough to stretch to a finish.

In the end I am very pleased with how this has turned out and that it ended up being what feels like a respectable size to me (roughly 60"x70", I think)

Sunday 14 May 2023


I am closing in on a finish now and have reached a point where my decisions are being driven mostly by the fabric I have left. In this spirit, I used a left-over quarter-oval to complete the big shape bottom right, but won't be making one for the gap on the left-hand side.  Cutting a big curve like that would be too wasteful of the fabric I have left, so I'll have to fill in the gap another way. 
Using a combination of pinwheels (made from my tiny scraps) and squares cut from any bigger pieces is, mostly, pleasing to my eye but is also a practical way to get the most from the fabric.  I'm so close to the wire now that I'm not losing any scrap into a seam allowance if I don't have to.   I have a couple of fabrics there is more off (the pale green and the darkest red stripe) but even those are going down quickly now.  In aesthetic terms, it doesn't seem to work if I have too much of that green in any one place so there is a constant juggling to stretch my fabric far enough without having to do something I find unpleasant to look at.
My current theory is that I will use more of my lighter bits top and right and concentrate the darker leftovers bottom and left, though of course there is a lot of crossover.  I think that I want to add a row of pinwheels top and bottom as well as on  the sides but will have to see if I can stretch that far.  

Although I am having to be so careful this quilt is sparking lots of ideas, so it's a satisfying process, figuring it all out.  I thought I might be done with curves for a bit by the end of this, but not I'm not so sure.  Maybe I will go again.

Monday 8 May 2023

Progress report

First off, I want to apologise to all those whose blogs I visit.  I have not been managing to look at/comment on much, but am hoping to get back to it soon.  The cricket season has started.  If you knew my family, you would understand that everything else now takes a back seat until September and that the sport will expand to take up all available space.  It's fun, and a bit mad, but I scrabble around to fit my stuff in.  I'll get it sorted though.

I have chugged along with this where and when I could.  I added the little pointy bits top and bottom.

Of course that doesn't help me make things wider, but I like them.

Then I turned to the sides.  I wish I had read in time Patty's comment on my previous post, which suggested using the same shapes but in a different colourway.  I think that's a fabulous idea and shall be tucking it away for future quilts.  Instead I have been working away with the few curved pieces I had left over and pinwheels.
Where I have big enough scraps, I am cutting squares instead of sewing them into the pinwheels: it breaks things up but is also the most efficient use of what I have left.  If I have enough fabric, I am going to do one extra row of squares/pinwheels top and bottom, but that will have to wait until I'm nearer the finish line.  

Sunday 30 April 2023

Fun and games

The title of this post is ironic.  My laptop died so I have wasted a week of good sewing time figuring out what to replace it with and ordering said replacement.  Then the delivery company thought they had delivered it - well they had, just not to me.  Their driver had given it to a random builder working on a house somewhere else in my village!  So then he had to come back, retrieve it and redeliver, only this time to the right place.  Now it's up and running, but the photo software I used to use (which was basic and idiot-proof) is not around anymore and I can't find an alternative that both sorts and stores and lets me do simple editing all in one go.  Oh my, the range of complicated options out there is slightly terrifying!  I have just had to find two tutorials, one to straighten my image and one to crop, which just seems ridiculous.  If you have any recommendations, please add them in the comments.

In the meantime, I have got as far as this piece, which I am generally pretty happy with

except for the dimensions: it is about 60" long, but probably only half that across, so very long and skinny.  I have played around with things I could try on the sides with limited success.  There are photos but I lack the tenacity to turn them into useable images right now.  Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.  

Thursday 20 April 2023

View from the kitchen floor

Things have been coming and going this week.  I have a few photos but also took loads of duds (for simple, technical reasons that were my own fault).  It went something like this. 

Pinwheels reinstated, more pinwheels made.
I don't think they belong there, though.  What about this?

Nope, that's not working for me either.  I'm trying to concentrate on this one area - so how about moving those quarter-ovals around a bit? I know this looks like a hot mess, but it is a good example of how it looks most of the time when I'm working.
Hang it, let's ignore what I just said and do something right up at the top and on the other side...
Now this, I'm happy with.  

For those who are interested, the thing I have struggling with is the balance between still and busy in this piece.  Also, I have been thinking about the straight sides of my ovals: if they sit on their own, instead of in sets of 4, what happens on those edges?  I have some ideas but things that seem possible often aren't pleasing me.  Just to be contrary though, I do like the row of pinwheels butting up to the quarter-oval in the top right corner.  Now, my brain was pretty sure that wouldn't work, yet my eyes don't mind it at all. We live and learn.  

Thursday 6 April 2023

Making my own problems

One of the things I most appreciate about blogging is that sometimes people say really, really helpful stuff. A big thank you on this occasion to Yvonne and Julie and Ann for their comments, which have, I think, stopped me from getting bogged down. As a result I have been thinking about using some of my quarter-ovals in other configurations, though I haven't reached any firm conclusions.  In the meantime I started making extra bits, to use up the scraps I have made in cutting the curves. I am making more of the strips with tiny triangles, but also some pinwheels.

I wondered about something like this
But decided against it and instead sewed my bits together like this.
Of course this was just downright silly, though it seemed like a reasonable step at the time.  Looking at it the next morning it clearly wouldn't do.  I seem to be having the same issue with this quilt over and over, which is to say it tends towards the static and I am doing very little to help things.

There followed a period of denial, when I just looked at other areas and ignored the offending piece, hoping it would sort itself out.  I had a cup of coffee and a biscuit.  I had a chat with my sister.  I did a spot of weeding.  Eventually though I gave in and started unpicking and resewing.  

I did not have a lot of fun over the next hour. I was unpicking several seams and at one point realised I was working on dismantling something I could have left alone.  Oops.  Then I had to cut off a section, replace it and match the curves, using the cut-out piece as a template.  That would have been enough right there. but I managed to slip and nick the piece I wasn't doing anything to, this adding in a self-inflicted repair job. Fortunately the adding-a-bit-and-sewing-it-all-back-up stage went better than the unpicking otherwise the whole thing might have been shoved to the back of a cupboard.
All that work and I am pretty much back where I started, but I'm happier with this now so I guess that's progress.

Friday 31 March 2023

Ifs and buts

Back to the current piecing.  I have spent a lot of time staring at the floor and shuffling things about but progress is slow and I am not necessarily moving in a straight line.  In fact, sometimes I am going backwards.

I have realised that what both fascinates me and frustrates me about all these circles and ovals that I've been playing with recently is that a circle is a closed shape.  Four quarters makes a whole, but there it ends.  This can be pleasing but it can also make for shapes that feel quite static; the trick is in trying to find a way for them to interact with each other.  If you don't get it right, it feels a bit like a room full of children all glaring at each other from opposite corners but refusing to play.

I tried adding in extra elements: the green strip on the left and the dark piece (actually a black and brown check) with tiny triangles.  
Nearly works but the green just felt a bit off, so I unpicked and tried again.
Better, I think.

I am thinking I might run the ovals diagonally, like this.

Already, given the size of my curves, I am wondering what I might do when I run out of bigger pieces of fabric.  No conclusions as yet and not much actual sewing things together, just a lot of ifs and buts.  

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Brief pause for a finish

It's always nice to step away from tricky piecing for a moment or two and remind yourself why it is that you bothered in the first place.  

This quilt was made in the summer 2021, as my attempt at the AHIQ Symmetry/Asymmetry prompt.  As regular readers may have spotted, I am mostly, if not entirely unsymmetrical in my approach to quilting, so I took up the challenge of working in a way that felt comfortable but still produced something broadly symmetrical. 

Turned out, this wasn't as uncomfortable a process as I anticipated, though I did have to take myself in hand once or twice. The medallion layout helped a lot, I think, and I sneaked a few little twists in to keep myself happy.  
When I finished the piecing I liked this well enough, but it has turned out to be one of those quilts where the quilting makes all the difference, because now I love it.  The colours are maybe a bit prettier and softer than I would normally go for and there's a lot of flowery stuff going on, but the prettiest, softest, floweriest bits are all from shirts and somehow feel just right. The non-shirt contributions come from a very old Oakshott cotton, which I used for the dark teal strips and some dress-making scraps (the glazed cotton right at the top and bottom).

I decided to quilt triangles shapes right along every strip, echoing the pieced geese.  There were moments (see those little skinny blue strips) when I wondered why I ever thought that was a good idea, but I stuck with it and by the end was jolly pleased that I had.  They don't photograph well, but all those outline geese have added a whole extra layer of movement and texture.
I started piecing this in July 2021, though the central section came from this quilt top, made in 2019.  Finished piecing 9th September 2021.  I started quilting in July 2022.  That seems a long time ago, but I have two quilts on the go and this was the back-up quilt for a while rather than my main focus, so I'm okay with that.  
It was quilted with perle no 8 and the wadding is organic cotton.  The binding is from a bundle of organic fabrics my kids gave me - only 1/4 metre cuts, so I used two different prints, but I like how that looks.

Feels good.  But now I have to stop patting myself on the back and get back to puzzling out my current project.

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.