Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Thank you, Wendy!

 Last week my quilt group had a talk by textile artist Wendy Dolan.  Talk about inspirational!  Dive down the link and have a look at her lovely work!
She was very generous in sharing how she worked - the steps that she took to create textile art works, often using architecture as a start point.
Its a subject matter that I enjoy too, although I've never really been able to represent it well in textile pieces.

Inspired by Wendy (and clutching a copy of her book) I decided to start a small piece whilst my head still held some of the ideas that she was sharing.
 I used her genius tracing paper idea to try and put colour blocks (using torn paper) under where I wanted them to be in the thread sketch.  Then splodged the paint onto the prepared 'canvas'. 

If I'd have been more patient I'd have practiced a bit first, which would have taught me to dilute the paint more as I would have preferred a lighter blue!
 Next I stitched from the back through the tracing paper from earlier (which was the main lines from a photo - I've learned that I need to edit these lines more carefully when I'm at the tracing stage).  This gave me my basic lines for the picture.
 Finally I added more detail, some coloured thread to the main suspension lines of the bridge, and tried to resolve the 'under bridge' kerfuffle of lines on the right hand side.
Finally, the piece was trimmed and put into this frame that I had to hand.

There are many areas where this 'sketch' can be improved (paint density, thread line weight, resolving which bits I want to show and how, reducing the size to within the frame on a background, changing the colour of the frame...)  but on the whole I'm pleased with this as a first attempt at Wendy's technique, so, 'Thank you, Wendy!'.  As it can be used to produce relatively recognisable objects (for anyone who lives locally, this is Teddington Lock footbridge) by someone who has no art skills, I'd really like to try this again from a picture of my house and perhaps some other local landmarks.  All good fun!

Meanwhile, hand stitching the binding on my 365 challenge quilt continues - nearly there!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Flaming Good Progress!

 Can you see the flames?  OK, they are going from side to side rather than up and down, but they were still quilted as flames!  These were the last parts to be quilted on my 365 quilt - the top and the bottom of it.

Much as I enjoy quilting, I was quite pleased to finish this stage of this large quilt.
 With this photo I'm trying to show some of the different quilted areas from the back.  You can see the flames on the right, the swirls at the top left and the bottom centre, and within the 'L' made of those, the meanders and feathers of the next border in.

Not easy to make out, perhaps - but it's all quilted now!

Naturally, the next step is the binding!  The fabric is chosen and is shown here when I was joining the strips together.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Kew Trip

 No sewing to show today - but a glorious trip to Kew Gardens to share.

Creeping up on a peacock - who didn't seem to mind that our approach wasn't subtle.
 Fabulous cherry blossom, fittingly on the edge of the Japanese garden.
 Proud as a peacock -  a handsome chap who stood for photographs very patiently.
 This blossom makes me want to start a camellia quilt straight away!
The earliest bluebells.

So much colour and life as spring comes to West London.  I feel very privileged to live so close to Kew.  Within five or ten minutes (with the help of DH to drive me there!) we can be behind the wall and enjoying the different themes and spectacles of the gardens.

I hope that you have somewhere that you can access to give you 'time out' and inspiration too.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

More Progress!

 The bunting that I made last week is up!  It reaches all around the kitchen (or at least, the half with the table in it!).  I'm pleased with it - and more importantly, so is the birthday girl!
 I spent a day baking.  There was a four layer birthday cake (four complete cakes - chocolate, lemon, orange and coconut).  There were 96 vanilla mini muffins.  There were 96 double chocolate mini muffins.  There were 36 lemon cupcakes.  That was a lot of cake!  Should I confess now that actually I'd got a bit muddled in my head and that I didn't really mean to make 96 of each flavour of mini muffin, but 96 in total?  It all worked out OK though.  The girls at the party only left about 70 cakes, which I palmed off on a neighbour (thank you Sarah!) who took them to a cake sale to raise funds for Red Nose Day - a complete win-win situation!
 To tired for much sewing, but I've made progress on this representation of Hounds Tor on Dartmoor.
I have to be brave now and add figures to show my family, and perhaps a bit more stitching to describe some of the fault lines in the rocks.  I would also like to add some grass / ground but I'm not sure quite how to do that.  I might try some grass coloured stitches....
 I also spent a little time quilting spiraly things in the next border on my big quilt.  Unfortunately I think that I should have left it alone, as it's becoming even more of a 'what not to do' catalogue!  Not only tucks in it, but that big puffy bar between the two areas of border quilting.....  must do better!
Even worse?  This side wasn't well basted, obviously, and I didn't realise that I'd folded the edge of the backing under until I'd quilt a chunk of it!  You have to laugh, don't you?

Needless to say I will spend a little time with the unpicker before I make any further progress on this!

I'm still excited about it.  These swirly borders are the outside edges on the sides, so I really feel that I'm making good headway on the quilting now.  I shall make as much progress as I can before the school holidays start.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Bits and Bobs

 On Saturday (happy International Quilting Day, by the way!) I went to a workshop with Janet Bolton, who produces fabulous hand sewn applique pictures.  My head wasn't in quite the right space when I arrived - and I'd forgotten to think about a subject or taken any 'starter' images with me, so rather than producing a completed piece of work I worked on two 'canvases' instead, using 'rules' and suggestions from Janet.

This first one is all about Dartmoor with uncertain weather, and will be finished with Hounds Tor and perhaps, if I'm feeling brave, my attempt at representations of my family climbing it, as they did at half term.
 This second 'canvas' carries the aqua dot fabric forward, and I'm hoping might be a chance to show one of the Dartmoor ponies that we saw.

I really like the idea of carrying another fabric from this one into another 'canvas' too - but I need to think about what the subject will be.

It was interesting to find that even though I'd started with different proportions / dimensions, both these pieces ended up at almost identical sizes.  Obviously that was the size that I fancied on Saturday!
 Two more tiny projects this week.

A 'new home' card for a friend.
And a cup and saucer for a birthday card.  The fabric scraps are from the bunting that I made with a vaguely 'vintage' feel to support the tea party that my elder daughter will enjoy for her birthday.

I might even show the bunting next week, once it's been hung for the event!

I'm still making (slow) progress on the monster quilt too - but I got quite stiff so have had a few days break from it!

This week will be more about cake baking and decorating than sewing, but I'm still hoping to make more progress on the quilt!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

More Quilting

 This is what my sewing area looks like with the monster quilt all ready for quilting.  Everything that's usually behind or to the left of the sewing machine and the extension table has been moved.  In fact, with the benefit of experience, everything that is usually under the (clear) extension table has also been moved, otherwise there is a chance that it will be jiggled out of position when I'm wrestling the quilt!
 The border of meandering gave way to a border of oyster shells.  Of course, I hadn't really thought through that although the patterns I was choosing were nice and simple, each round is considerable larger than the preceding one, so it is taking me longer than I'd thought to quilt it!
 Outside the oyster shells I'm attempting a round of mixed feathers and meandering - all quite random!  It really feels as though its been a long time since I've attempted feathers and they aren't the most beautiful of their type at the moment.  I'm hoping that I'll improve as I go round, whilst still refusing to do any mark marking on the quilt so they are VERY freehand, if you know what I mean!
 The same corner shown above from the back is shown here from the front too.  It's not great quilting, but it feels great to be doing some after several months without quilting!
Of course, other life goes on, and I was struck by this 'tufted tartan' pattern at the weekend, observed at a local ploughing match.  First furrows made perpendicular to last year's maize crop and judged before the competitors got back to work ploughing their sections with care (and sometimes careful measurements).  Fascinating to watch, whether it was tractor, rotavator or horse ploughing.

I hope that you are getting inspiration from life around you too!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Exciting Progress!

 I've completed my 'flimsy' for the 365 challenge!!

Here it is shown with the second dark border.
 And here it is once I'd added the light top and bottom strips (I had to double each of them to take into account that I wasn't adding any light blocks to the edges of the quilt, to try and get it to match my wall space).

I have to confess that I didn't quite get the block count right the first time, so I thought that I was going to have more blocks left over than I actually did.  Luckily I still had enough to make the top that I wanted!
 It's too big for me to be able to show you the quilt in one shot, so these are the best shots that I have showing each side of the quilt.
 You can see that it's nice and bright - just like I wanted!

You can also see that the scale of the middle medallion is slightly at odds with the rest of the top.

I pondered what action to take to give it more oomph whilst I was basting it over the kitchen table.
I decided to try and address this by adding extra interest with the quilting.

Can you see here (from the back!) that I've completed a block of 'graffiti  quilting'?  The added bonus is that I've quilted the centre of the quilt, so I will have an ever decreasing amount of quilt to squeeze under the arm of the sewing machine for the rest of the quilting!
 I made it easy for myself by quilting the next round with a medium size meander stitch.

I've got a plan of what quilting patterns I want to use on each of the next four borders.  Nothing else quite as time consuming as the graffiti section!

Although I've started the quilting, I haven't fully basted the quilt yet, as I didn't have quite enough wadding - I'm about 8" short at one end!  Although I have other bits of wadding, none of them are the same type as the main piece that I've used, so I need to order some more.
We had a brief trip to Kew Gardens this week - we are lucky to live so close.  It was the final weekend of the Orchid Festival, and whilst I won't bore you with my shots of the flowers, I thought that this orchid model of a peacock was so striking that it should be included.

Hope that you are enjoying some stitching or crafting this week too.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017


At last!  I've finished making blocks for the 365 challenge!

These six are the last ones that I made.

A good distraction from 'real life' where Storm Doris  blew down my favourite tree in the garden - a beautiful large Acacia tree which had just come into bloom.  The garden looks very bare with it lying on the ground, mostly in our neighbours garden.  I'm keen to replant, but we might change the tree type as we haven't been very lucky with Acacia's in that spot - we lost the last one that we'd planted there to frost!

 The colours in this photo of the two blocks is closer to what I see - the one above has made the colours a little harsher than they appear to me.
 Since finishing the blocks I've spent a little time working out what layout I'm going to use for them.  I've come up with something that will be 72" x 102" and which will use most of the blocks.

I've also started playing with the bits and bobs that are left over as scraps from the year.

These little pincushions were the result of my first play time.  The two smallest are just 2" finished.
Plenty  more leftovers to play with though, so I'm back to pressing and trimming again.  I think that I'll make a mini quilt with some of these (and perhaps a couple more pin cushions along the way!).

Next I want to start joining some of the blocks up, making progress towards having a finished flimsy. 

I've ordered some wide cotton fabric for the backing.  Plain white as that was the most economical, which is OK as I'm not planning on spending much time looking at the back of it!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Small Step Forward

I knew that it might be tough to get many blocks made this week.  It turns out that this was the only one that I made.

I might have made a couple more, but I slipped over on our long weekend away and it's taking me a couple of days to get back to normal - in addition to being tired from half term and our short holiday!

Not to worry!  I've got an appointment with my splendid osteopath tomorrow, so I should be sewing with gusto again by Friday!  I'm still hoping to finish the blocks by the 28th February!

Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Block Bonanza!

 Nothing as tricky as last week's Twenty T's, so I actually made more blocks than I expected to this week.
 Of course, they aren't all mistake free, but I'm not going to worry about the 'unexpected design outcomes' as my friend Benta might call them!  A phrase that she shared at our Quilt Guild meeting last night, which I shall borrow shamelessly, thanks, Benta!

Thanks to her too for a stack of batik charms - in case I needed a little extra to get me to the finish on this project.  Very sweet, and if they aren't used in this, then they will team very nicely with some other charms that I have and will make a cheerful little quilt - something fast and fun and quick to finish as a breather after this one, perhaps!
 I was pleased to manage 14 blocks in between a little card making (well, it is Valentines day after all) and having my DD's home for half term.

Of course, as I'm typing this I realise that I haven't set a single stitch since they broke up from school..... oh well, there will be plenty of time when they go back next week to make more forward progress again.
 I'm still revelling in having my blocks either made or cut out up to 25th December - so the end of the block making is definitely in sight!
But which was the quilt that won my heart last night in the 'timeless treasures' trunk show?  This one - just part of it shown here - which was a Canadian Red Cross quilt.  Made in WWII it was sent over from Canada and went to a family who had been bombed out of their home three times.

There is a fabulous use of fabric.  Not a scrap turned away - whatever type of fabric it was, it was included.  No fabric trimmed if it could be helped, so as little as possible was wasted.

The quilting stitched were erratic, but there is clearly a cable pattern quilted across it.  It is a wonderful vibrant piece, that seems to embody all the best of people crafting for utility - and to show that it doesn't have to be perfect to be used and cherished, which is the message that I wanted to take from it this week.  It is also another bell ringing in my head to remind me to get back to making for Project Linus.  There are still people around who need something to wrap them in a bit of love and I love the chance to be one of the people who is lucky enough to be able to spend some of my time making for unknown recipients, just like a Canadian, or group of Canadians, in WWII.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sew, Press, Trim, Repeat!

 This block - "Twenty T's" - has been the most time consuming so far, I think!

Any block instructions that start off with making 88 half square triangles of just 1" square should come with some sort of health warning.  I enjoy piecing but didn't really look forward to trimming all these pieces!  Still, block complete.
 In addition to that particular one, I made six others.  Some of them simpler than others. 

 These were all straightforward, though!
I'm just about to make the 11th December now.  Just 20 more blocks to make - and 20 days left in February until my target date for completion of the quilt top.  With over a week of half term, including a few days away, it's going to be touch and go as to whether I'll make it, but I'll be giving it my best shot!

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Good Progress

 Are you fed up with just seeing progress on one project?  It feels like it's been a bit of a long time since I've worked on anything else!

Another 14 blocks this week.  I'm up to the 4th December, which is great!

I also tidied my table top this week and found some lost blocks, so I'm confident that I've got all the dark blocks in one place ready for when I get to assembling the top.
 These blocks are all 6 1/2" square - and all 'bright' blocks.  Nice and sunny to compensate for our grey days this week.
 I've been working through these - some easier than others to piece.
This is quite an exciting stage of a project - speeding towards the end of the piecing!  Then there is the fun of the layout and sewing the sections together, following by the basting (probably my least favourite part of the process, even with spray baste) and quilting  - but that's all in the future.  This week will be another week of  piecing!