Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Long Time Gone [Week 1]

It's now a well-known fact that I am a sucker for a quilt along. Here's the next one I've joined in with. The host is Angie @ Gnome Angel - who is just a dreadful influence on anyone trying not to start new projects; and the pattern is 'Long Time Gone' by Jen Kingwell. This was a block of the month originally, but this quilt-along steps up a gear as a block of the week - and some weeks, that's a lot of sewing. This is going to be intense.

But Angie's a good 'un and has given us advance warning of the running order and I've been doing some preparation! There's no other way I could make 16 foundation-pieced, 37-piece, pineapple log can blocks in a week!

I decided to join in this quilt-along as I was finishing up my My Small World quilt. And I wasn't allowed to join in if I hadn't finished that quilt. You may remember my journey with that quilt. I really, really enjoyed piecing it, but once pieced I didn't like the scrappiness of it. And then as I quilted it and bound it, I fell back in love with it. So I'm going to take the same approach with this quilt. My whole stash is up for grabs and I'm not over-thinking the fabric choices, and I'm not trying to be matchy-matchy. I'm looking forward to using some of the fabrics in my stash that I normally find difficult to use - too busy/too many colours/funny shade of blue (normally it is blue that I struggle with). I'm fully prepared to not like it at some points in the process, but I'm hoping that at the end I will have a quilt I love!

These are the first two blocks - nice and easy to start with!

Monday, 20 March 2017

#1yearofstitches [week11]

It's amazing to believe we're already 11 weeks in and I'm still happily stitching away a little bit each day! After last week's light-bulb moment, I've enjoyed myself this week, building on that idea and trying out some new stitches!

Monday. 13th March: Basque Stitch: the first of the new stitches. I used a blue thread to create a Basque stitch wheel (bottom left).

Tuesday, 14th March: Aqua twisted chain stitch: I extended the line across the top of the hoop, under the line of double blanket stitch and swirled it round. It took me a couple of goes to get the swirl right...

Wednesday 15th March: Guilloche Stitch: another new stitch. This one is quite involved. It starts with two rows of evenly spaced stem stitch (in coral). You then add columns of satin stitch at regular intervals between the two lines. I actually used running stitch to create the same effect - 5 stitches in each column. The final act is to weave a contrasting thread through the columns - I used green. (top right-ish).

Thursday, 16th March: Needle weaving in yellow. I think that's what it's called - it's certainly what I did. I used it to fill the centre of the Basque stitch wheel.

Friday, 17th March: Chain stitch in lavender to echo the swirl in the top right.

Saturday, 18th March: I returned to the woven spider web. This time I made it smaller in lime green. It's turned out a bit scruffy round the edges! (top right).

Sunday, 19th March: And my final new stitch for the week: Mountmellick stitch. This is a stitch found in traditional Irish whitework. I chose bright green and worked a row in the bottom right. It took some concentration but was quite straightforward once I found my rhythm.

One of my tasks for this week is to tot up how many different stitches I've used so far!

#1yearofstitches #jenniesthreads1yearofstitches

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Ice Cream Soda [Month 1]

I know - another new project. And another EPP one at that! But I just get so tempted with things I see on Instagram... This is another block of the month programme, this time from Tales of Cloth, an Australian shop. Normally any kind of monthly club from overseas would be unjustifiable in terms of postage. But at just 10$AUS a month including postage, I just couldn't say no when I saw pretty blocks popping up all over the place.

Each month I'll receive papers for 8 blossoms (or equivalent) and in the final month, the setting shapes, to create a lap quilt. Easy. And they are. I love the Dear Jane blocks, which I shared yesterday, but they are very fiddly - lots of small pieces means lots of easing to make the pieces fit together. But these blocks go together like a dream. I also have to say that these are the nicest little parcels - such pretty labels and paper! Whilst I'm working on a couple of projects right outside of my comfort zone, it's nice to have this on the go as well - like an old friend,

I was a little worried when I first opened my little package, as the papers are cut from lighter weight card than I am use to, but I've noticed no difference when piecing. I'm moving out of my colour comfort zone with a totally scrappy any-fabric-anywhere look. The only rule is that the centre of each blossom will be a solid. And lots of contrast between the rows - there's no point doing all that hand piecing if you can't see the seams! At the moment, my own personal challenge is resisting the urge to include green in every blossom!

As you can see, I've made the first five blocks and all of the papers are prepared for the next three. I need to get a wriggle on as the next set of papers have already been dispatched!

The only downside to so many EPP projects is that I've had to stock up on glue. I think this should keep me going for a while!

#jenniesicecreamsodaquilt #icecreamsodaquilt #englishpaperpiecing

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Dear Jane [Row A]

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post with that in the title, hasn't it! I started my Dear Jane adventure back in 2013, made 39 blocks. And then I moved on to other things. I think part of the reason, was that I had decided to hand-quilt it using a quilt-as-you-go method, and I hadn't got on with the quilting. It has all sat in a project box in the cupboard ever since. I actually found it the other day!

At the end of last year I saw that Paper Pieces 2017 block of the month was going to be a paper-pieced Dear Jane. I got very excited. And even more excited when Simply Solids chose to offer it. I got my first delivery of paper pieces in January and decided that I didn't like it with a light background any more. I wanted a black background. So that's 39 orphan blocks, 9 of which have some fairly dreadful quilting on them!

Let me say at this point, that some of the pieces are TINY. And the first task is to take the bag marked A1-A6 and work out which piece is for which block. My husband thought I was mad!

And then I started sewing. I am glue basting again, and there are a lot of pieces where the seam allowance is far bigger than the piece itself! The basting is going very smoothly, except on the sashing strips, where things like to move and unglue!

It took me longer than a month to get all 13 blocks stitched up and sashed, so chances are I'll fall behind. But I don't want to skip the sashing step otherwise I'll never finish the quilt if I have to do all of this at the end! I'm also making a conscious effort to remove the papers once a block is fully sashed - another step that could be hell if I leave it to the end!

I'm planning on a rainbow Dear Jane with the print fabrics used only in one block. To keep me on the straight and narrow I'm creating a little chart with a 12 piece of each fabric in it's position. At the end of the project I'll add black satin stitch on all the joins and have a nice little mini Dear Jane!

Month two is sorted and the fabrics have been picked - you can have a sneak peak at my fabric choices in the photo above. I can't promise a monthly update here, but eventually I WILL have a finished Dear Jane eventually.

Monday, 13 March 2017

#1yearofstitches [Week 10]

Another week and I have to confess I was struggling with where to go next. Until yesterday evening, when my mother-in-law had a look at the hoop and made a suggestion. And now I can see so many possibilities!

Monday. 6th March: just a simple line of lime green backstitch heading out west.

Tuesday, 7th March: I totally stole this idea from @tumpeduck o check her out on Instagram) - half a button-hole wheel in orange. I think it looks a bit like the setting sun...

Wednesday, 8th March: A few dark red cross stitches right in the centre.

Thursday, 9th March: My own little constellation: a star and some French knots in yellow in the middle.

Friday, 10th March: I tried a new stitch - narrow rope stitch in coral. I don't think I'm a fan. It's a variation on chain stitch but it loses definition. It lies horizontally on the far right.

Saturday, 11th March: Twisted chain stitch in purple/pink running vertically down towards the bottom of the hoop.

Sunday, 12th March: so that line of purple that started on the left hand side a few weeks ago, now dips under the line of coral and peach and joins up with the dark blue. This idea of overlapping (and underlapping) was the light-bulb moment! This dark purple is Portuguese stem stitch.

Friday, 10 March 2017

My Small World [A Finish]

I LOVE this quilt.

But I didn't always. Regular readers will have heard the story before, but I'm going to tell it again anyway! This quilt first appeared in an issue of Quilt Mania back in spring 2015(!), and a friend managed to snag me a copy. There was a little bit of a quilt along going on Instagram and, well, you know me! I decided to replicate the original feeling of the quilt - totally scrappy. This was a new look for me: all the fabric all over the place!

First up was the sky. I forget just how many 1.5" squares I needed to cut, but I multi-tasked: I cut it out the same week as I cut the background for my pixelated heart quilt. So whilst it took a long time - a ridiculously long time - at least I was killing two birds with one stone. And despite the size of the pieces, the sky area came together quite easily.

I struggled more with the "city" - trying to get a good balance of colour. But I really enjoyed the freedom to use any fabric and the variety of piecing. The section surrounded by green was a tough section: whereas the rest of the quilt was regular piecing, the odd bit of foundation piecing and a few appliqued petals, this section was a whole other story. New York beauty arcs, appliqued arcs, tiny hexies. I used all the resources of the online community to do them in the easiest way, but there was still a lot of thinking required to get them sussed. And it turned into my favourite section.

I fell behind the quilt along, and put it away for a while. Then there was a second quilt along, and that was the push I needed to get it pieced. As I posted more and more pictures on Instagram I got loads of likes and positive messages, but once I'd finished the piecing, I just really didn't like it. I even contemplated giving it away to another quilter who would love it. But I know that quilting can change a project. Very early on in the process of making the quilt, I knew I wanted to hand quilt it. And every stitch  I added, I loved the quilt a little bit more.

The texture the hand quilting has given the sky is absolutely my favourite part of this quilt. I just love it! Love it!

The quilting of the city is much more varied: sometimes I've echoed seam lines, sometimes I've gone right across a piece; most of the quilting is in a thread that matches the fabric, sometimes a pop of colour was what it needed (mostly where I didn't have a matching thread!). But as with all my projects, this was put back on the shelf at the end of last year as Christmas stitching and other projects took over.

I joined the APQ resolution project at the start of this year and the first project from my list was this one. I spent a good deal of time on it during January and made a big leap forward when I decided to baste it before I finished the quilting. I got some questions on the Facebook group as to why: I would only ever do it on something that is already partly quilted, and I would only ever do it on projects I was hand quilting: the quilt gets a lot of handling and by finishing the edges it's more protected from that handling. I'm not sure whether I would have done it with a pale binding, but the black Architextures cross hatch I chose wasn't going to show any grubby marks! I've been plodding away at the quilting ever since.

This is also a Finish Along finish. You can find my original list here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole [Month 1]

Following on from yesterday's post where I talked about moving out of my comfort zone, here's the second project with that in mind. It's still a quilt with monthly instructions, but it's a medallion style. It started with a Dresden and plenty of applique and that theme is continuing into month 2, so this is a definite challenge for me.

I'm even moving out of my rainbow comfort zone and using a slightly more restrictive palette: I loved the Christmas tree skirt I made, and decided to use that as my colour scheme, as it isn't Christmassy at all: aqua, purple, pink, green, white and black. I took full advantage of the post-Christmas sales and bought three metres of black from Modern Background Lustre. I got a 1.5m of a black with gold crosses and 1.5m of a black with what I'm describing as gold paint splatter. I'm going to alternate these two background fabrics for the borders. I also placed a cheeky order with Fat Quarter Shop in the US. I needed to get the backing fabric for my #365 quilt (Tula Pink Free Fall - yummy), and a few extra fabrics accidentally fell into my cart. Most are Moda Grunge - I love the bright, saturated colours, with a touch of lightness to them. I also picked up some metallic arrows from Michael Miller. Other fabrics came from Simply Solids - some yummy Alison Glass mostly, and I got some fabric at Christmas that works perfectly too. I haven't even shopped my stash fully yet! I'm going to use those fabrics in a scrappy manner through the quilt, so if I had to add in more if I run out, it won't be too obvious.

For month one, released on 31st January, we're starting right in the centre. A circle made up of 40 wedges, cut using templates. Not my favourite place to start any project. I could have ordered perspex templates from Sarah, but I'm too tight. So I made my template from an old Cornflakes packet. It didn't go too well. In order to get my circle to lay flat I ended up adding in four extra wedges. I know my seams were pretty consistently a scant quarter inch, so I presume it was my cutting and template usage that caused the trouble. But you know what, no-one will ever know unless they hang my quilt right next to a perfect one. I also know I'm in fairly good company in the "Extra-wedge Club"!

The down side of four extra wedges is that my circle is 2" bigger than it should be. I don't want to trim it - I would only mess it up! So I've had to make two further changes to this section (so far):the centre circle, to cover that hole in the middle, will need to be bigger when we get to it; and the flowers that will go around the circle: in the pattern, they were all one size. I'm making mine in three different sizes - the original size and two smaller. This way I can still fit the same number in the same area.

Part 2 of the January instructions was bias applique. Sarah has a technique for making bias strips that uses nothing fancier than a ruler and a hera marker. I tried it. Twice. I really did. I just ended up with very narrow and uneven-width bias tape. Back when I first started quilting, I made a sampler quilt with a bias applique celtic knot block, and I loved it, so I bought a Clover mini iron and bias tape maker. And I haven't used them since. So I pulled them out and had a go. And my bias tapes were so much better. Sorry, Sarah - I really did try! Tacking down the bias tapes was a bit of a faff, and then I appliqued them, which seemed to take a long time!

This month was a challenge. Next month is more applique - and I've got to make circular circles! But I'm enjoying trying new things and having a go. Based on how long it took me to sew down the stems, I might finish the next part about Christmas!