Inspiration in Norfolk

I’m on a mission: get this Norfolk Bricks lap quilt finished up by the end of the month, or else! (Or else feel like a dismal failure…)  I’ve said before that if I focus and quilt little and often it would only take a couple of weeks. Yes, well now I mean business and you’re allowed to hold me to account! There’s a queue of quilt tops beginning to build and this is not really allowed in my world.


Still stitching the bricks!

Inspiration has hit me of late and I’m desperate to move on and start quilting my recent improv quilt tops. I refuse to allow myself to start until I finish this one though.  Mind you, I’ve already convinced myself that sandwiching and basting the other tops doesn’t count as quilting, ha!

I often feel the last quarter of the year goes by very quickly and this year I really want to have a few finishes by the time I get there.  I have to concede that to do that I’m probably going to have to do something that’s anathema to me: write (and stick to) a schedule (it’s that bit in brackets I’m not so good at!).  It could be painful. Perhaps, I mused to myself earlier today, if I publish my schedule here on the blog I might actually feel more compelled to keep to it.  So, I have a plan: publish my September schedule tomorrow. Eeek!

If you have any scheduling tips for the non-schedually-minded quilter…
please share them in the comments below!

More Norfolk Bricks

Being back in Norfolk last week gave me another opportunity to look at the textures and patterns that inspired this quilt in the first place. I found the carrstone and flint bricks just exciting as I did last year. Inspiration for pattern and colour is almost everywhere.

Quilt inspiration: collage of brick wall photos taken in Norfolk, UK © StephanieBoon, 2015

More Norfolk Bricks!

We went for longish walks every day (at least one of them was 14 miles), so many in fact that my mother suggested I’d be wearing Kim’s legs away!  Old Hunstanton, a pretty village in the warm reds and oranges I love, is probably only a couple of miles away.  We ambled there one evening and sat on a bench by the duckpond (below) to watch the sun set over the church and enjoy the colours of the pantile roofs intensifying as the light faded.

Old Hunstanton Duck Pond © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Old Hunstanton. A short walk from my Mum’s home

Over the week I spent a lot of time looking for inspiration in the textures and colours of the buildings around me and had another good opportunity nearby. A famous Norfolk landmark is also made of the local carrstone (autocorrect keeps changing ‘carrstone’ to ‘carrots’, haha!) and just happens to be in walking distance of where my sister lives:

Sandringham Church, Norfolk © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Sandringham Church (Sandringham Estate)

Sandringham Church is in the grounds of the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk home of the Queen and where some Princess or other was Christened recently!

Quilt inspiration: Collage of Sandringham Church details © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Sandringham Church details

The church is a lovely building; it’s simple and rustic on the outside, but with some extraordinary decoration inside. But the inspiration for me is still in the texture and subtle variation of the colours of the stone.  I can see it seeping from my subconscious into many a future project.

For now though it’s all go with the Norfolk Bricks quilt. The clock is ticking!

Don’t forget to leave any scheduling tips below (hopefully I’m not the only one that could benefit!) and why not share what inspired your latest project too. I know at least one other quilter that’s got a bit of an obsession for walls!

Linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social and Lee for Work in Progress Wednesday and Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation this week.

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Art Studio – watercolour painting


When I was in Norfolk recently I packed a tin of paints and some watercolour paper, hoping to be able to do some painting while I was there visiting family.

Glade, Sandringham. Watercolour paint pallette and sable brush. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Birthday paint tin!

I was given some money for my birthday a couple of days before we left and I bought a travel tin for my watercolour paints. (I need another tin like I need another quilt, but it was irresistible!) I spent some time deciding which colours I might need for the Norfolk landscape, but as it turned out the only painting I did was this sketch of a glade in Sandringham woods. Not very inspiring and not a great experience: I got covered in horse fly bites!

Glade, Sandringham. Watercolour painting on paper.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Glade, Sandringham. Watercolour and conte on paper (approximately A4)

Cambridge – painting exhibition

One hot, sunny day last week though we took a train journey to Cambridge and I got a watercolour fix I wasn’t expecting: The Fitzwilliam Museum was showing a painting exhibition Watercolour – Elements of Nature. Turner, Cozens, Constable, Cotman…the greats of the Romantic period were well represented alongside many others, from Nicholas Hilliard miniatures of the Tudor period to Cezanne in the 20th century.  All the paintings in the exhibition are from the Museum’s own collection. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many fantastic works side by side, to see different approaches and developments over time. The gallery was busy, but not like one of those so-called block-buster shows where you file through like sheep being dipped. You could take your time and spend as long as you wanted looking in detail at each and every painting. I was in my element. Kim was bored after about 10 seconds!!! (I’m lucky though, it may not have interested him very much, but he is patient and never hassles me to hurry up when I’m looking at art – he’d get short shrift if he tried!)

As part of the exhibition there were also sketchbooks in cabinets and examples of pigments, old paints and paintboxes that added to the romance of the genre.  There were even a few mussel shells on display…

Mussel shells and Pebbles. © Stephanie Boon, 2015.

Mussel shells and pebbles

What?! Say again?  Mussel shells!  They make perfect portable palettes!  (Another piece of useless information: Turner used squidged up bread for soaking up excess watercolour – nowadays we use tissue/toilet paper, or a sponge!)

Mussel shell painting palette. © Stephanie Boon, 2015.,

Innovative mussel shell palette!

When we got back to Norfolk Kim and I went for a nighttime stroll on the beach and I collected a generous handful to bring back with me. I find them on the beaches here at home sometimes, but where my parents live they’re washed up in great mounds.

Home – new watercolours

Back at home this week I blu-tacked a couple of art postcards above my desk, a reminder of the wonderful paintings I saw.  The beautiful red painting is by contemporary Scottish artist Barbara Rae. It was one of the first watercolours I was drawn to as I walked into the gallery, the red colours were almost luminous in the subdued light of the room.

Art postcards on a wall.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Art postcards from The Fitzwilliam Museum

Art postcard of a watercolour by Barbara Rae.

Art postcard above my desk of a watercolour painting by Barbara Rae

We got back late Tuesday evening and I couldn’t wait to get out and do some painting myself. I finally managed a couple of sketches on Thursday. I sat in a field about 5 minutes walk from home.  I’d spotted it before we went away, but there’s something about it that’s been in my mind for a while.

'Kea Downs' Watercolour painting on paper.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Field, Kea Downs.  Watercolour of paper (approximately A4)

Right now it’s shimmering with a crop of barley.  It’s giving me ideas.  I love the way nature does that.

'Kea Downs' Watercolour painting on paper.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Across Fields, Kea Downs. Watercolour and conte on paper (approximately A4)

I hope you enjoyed my first Art Studio post for a while.  Hopefully I’ll get it back on track to being a regular Saturday feature from now on.

Hope you’re having a good weekend so far?
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Improv String Quilt: ‘Deepening’


A strange title for a quilt maybe, but it means a lot to me.  Someone recently told me that they thought the second part of life (in which I now have a very firm foothold!) is “a deepening”.  It resonated with a lot of things in my life; not least asking myself  ‘what have I done so far that I can deepen?’. Knowledge? Self understanding? Creative practice? I think, for me, creative practice helps deepen self understanding; knowledge helps deepen practice.

'Deepening'  Finished improv string quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

‘Deepening’ August, 2015. (Quilt top approximately 58″ x 46″)

This is my finished improv string quilt top; I showed the 5 ‘string sheets’ that it’s made from in my last post.  I’ve not been able to get a photo that does the nuances of colour and tone any justice. The one above is over exposed trying to show some detail in the darker tones and the one below is a little under exposed to try and retain some detail in the lighter areas.  I think I failed. The light hasn’t been great and I confess photography’s not my strong point – the technicalities of it don’t interest me. I hope the images give you a flavour of it though.

'Deepening' Finished improv string quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

‘Deepening’ August, 2015. (Quilt top approximately 58″ x 46″)

It was a revelation to discover that I could capture a mood that was so strongly in my mind with fabric and thread (other people do, I just wasn’t sure it was my medium to do it in).  My intention wasn’t to create something ‘pretty’ or practical.  It wasn’t simply about experimenting. It wasn’t about pattern or fabric prints.  It was about using colour and line to evoke a mood to capture moments I spent sat in a field drawing earlier this year (these are a few of the drawings: Hedge, Paul Loder’s Field, It’s Complicated (Winter Birch) ). Or the way the light changed behind the bare tree branches as dusk fell. Or, more abstractly, a state of mind: the light and darks, the richness of fading colours, the dullness, the meandering lines going nowhere in particular. Rhythm.

Part of me feels ridiculous describing it like that. Pretentious. Lofty. Then I ask myself why. If it were paint on canvas it wouldn’t feel pretentious. Fabric and thread is still deemed feminine, and the feminine, it still feels, is not allowed to aspire to high art.  Instead it’s dismissed as ‘less’, somehow.

So, my thoughts are deepening. Still.

'Deepening' Finished improv string quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Detail – thin slivers

'Deepening' Finished improv string quilt top. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Detail – light and dark

Linking up with Finish it up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.  By the way, have you heard about the new improv link party being organised by Ann and Kaja of Fret Not Yourself and Sew Slowly?  I believe it kicks off next week (1st September), so head on over for details.

If you’d like to know more about making an improv string quilt using some of the techniques I employed for this one, you need Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters on your bookshelf!   I’m using some of the improv ‘scores’ she describes to help build my improv repertoire so that I can express my own thoughts and ideas more fully.  Next up is the Patchwork Doodle. I don’t know if it’ll beat my feelings of string sheet satisfaction though… This improv string quilt ‘Deepening’ has captured everything I wanted. Even if my photos haven’t.

Have a stitchy weekend!
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Improv string sheets, 5 down!

Hello lovely friends! I’ve missed you over the last couple of weeks and have a lot of catching up to do, so I thought I’d start by showing you how my experimental improv ‘string sheet’ quilt is progressing. I showed my first string sheet (the purple one below) a couple of weeks ago (then disappeared off the face of the internet in a sooner-than-expected-trip-to-visit-my-parents-where-wifi-was-terrible – more on that soon!), but have made four more since then.

A string sheet (as named by Sherri Lynn Wood in her book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters) is a way of joining narrow strips of fabric together to form a larger ‘sheet’ of fabric. Once you have a selection of sheets, you can cut them up and stitch them back together again to form multiple patterns and designs.

Improvised patchwork 'strings' made using Sherri Lynn Wood's improv techniques. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

5 improv string sheets of different colours and sizes

Sherri suggests you set yourself a set of different parameters for each sheet you make.  Here are the ‘rules’ I set myself:

Guiding Principles

  1. Aim to make a selection of string sheets inspired by some drawings I did earlier in the year (of local landscapes) and use up fabrics I’d already collected (there were 5 x 1/4 – 1/2 metre pieces in total, in pinks/purples)
  2. Use up scraps from my scrap bins to build the colour scheme
  3. Repurpose any old clothes that would fit with the colour scheme

Sheet 1: purples

String quilt being made © Stephanie Boon, 2015

My first purple string sheet

This string sheet was made from two types of purple strips: the first type was a dark ‘width of fabric’ (wof) strip cut from either a Moda Grunge fabric in Eggplant or a Barbara Brackman Civil War Jubilee fabric 8253-13. The second type of strip was made from light purple fabrics from my scrap bins joined together until they were equal in length to the dark strips. I then joined all these strips together alternating a light and dark strip. I wasn’t overly concerned by the width of any of the strips, but I guess the widest wasn’t much more than 2 inches. When I finished this sheet I loved it, but as I went along it became my least favourite!

Sheet 2: deep pinks

(2nd sheet from left in the top picture.) I made this sheet with very similar parameters to the first, but with only one type of wof strip (a deep pink and purple pattern by Lewis and Irene from their Arboretum range) alternating with joined pink strips from my scrap bins.  I tried to keep the joined strips of a similar tone to the Lewis and Irene print, but added a few lighter ones for a bit of contrast.

Sheet 3: light greys and pinks

(1st sheet on the left in the top picture.) This became one of my favourite sheets. I was aiming for a sheet that was lightish in value overall. I used several repurposed fabrics: the plain light grey is from an old pair of linen trousers and there’s a grey cotton paisley print that was once the lining of a friend’s rain coat! For this sheet I decided I’d keep the grey linen a nice wide width adjacent to narrow strips of joined scraps in predominantly greys and light purples, plus a narrower pink wof (can’t remember the range it’s from though, sorry).

Sheet 4: mid greys and pinkish reds

Improvised patchwork 'strings' made using Sherri Lynn Wood's improv techniques. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

4th (and largest) string sheet

(Pictured above.) More repurposed fabrics for this one! The mid grey is another pair of old linen trousers that has a lovely texture.  There are also strips made from scraps as well as wof strips cut from more of the Barbara Brackman Civil War Jubilee and Moda Grunge in 2 colour ways. Again I kept the grey linen strips nice and wide and made all the other strips narrower by comparison.

Sheet 5: black and purple

Improvised patchwork 'strings' made using Sherri Lynn Wood's improv techniques. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Black and purple sheet (with a few of the greys from sheet 4 thrown in!)

(Pictured above.) At this stage I decided I needed a sheet that would provide a much deeper contrast.  A rummage about in my scrap bins revealed that the amount of blacks I had would make a pretty small string sheet: my rule became to use up every black scrap I had! (I’ve lightened the picture above so that you can see how many small and different types of black I  sewed together.)  There are scraps of plain black corduroy and linen as well as cotton, all interspersed with prints on black backgrounds plus some of the grey linen from sheet 4.

Finished string sheets!

Improvised patchwork 'strings' made using Sherri Lynn Wood's improv techniques. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

The finished string sheets laid out on the floor

Ready to go!

At this stage I was really pleased with the outcome and enjoyed the process enormously. Right from the beginning I had a definite idea of how I wanted the finished quilt top to look, which influenced the way I cut and assembled the string sheets throughout the process.  All my strips were cut with scissors aiming for slight curves and variances in width along each strip.  As each sheet grew they naturally distorted and bowed, so every now and then it was necessary to roughly square up a section before adding on the next strips.  These intermittent ‘checks’ made sure the fabric lay flat too.

Looking at these new pieces of fabric you might think you can run them up pretty quickly, but don’t be fooled! If you’re constantly considering the next stage (cutting them up again to make a quilt top), not only are you considering any technical issues, but also how the thing you’re creating now will contribute to the final composition. It’s this next stage I was getting really excited about, join me in my next post when I’ll show you my finished quilt top!

If you’re interested in other ways to approach making a string sheet pop over to Fret Not Yourself and check out what Ann’s been doing as she works through The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters too:

I’m linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social (if you don’t know Lorna’s designs, she makes the best motif-style quilts around – perfect for kid’s quilts!)

Until next time, happy stitching!

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A New String Quilt Begins

Is it really Wednesday already?  I’m not sure where the beginning of the week went but I have started something new that I’d love to show you: the beginnings of a string quilt.

String quilt being made © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Strips for a string sheet

After finishing the Floating the Squares quilt top I made recently, I’m moving on to the next improv exercise in the The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: a string quilt.  String quilts (or strip quilts) are nothing new, you can find pictures of them all over Pinterest for a start. But this approach is a little different.  The commonest way to use up your scrap strips in a string quilt is to make a log cabin patchwork or something similar. And the established ‘improv’ way of doing it is to make a ‘wonky’ log cabin.  However,  a deliberately ‘wonky’ block doesn’t tell you anything about the maker. They’ve become so ubiquitous they’re pretty unexciting to look at.  If I’m going to work in this improvised way it’s because I see it as a way of developing my own language to communicate something new and personal.

String quilt being made © Stephanie Boon, 2015

First string ‘sheet’

A Different Approach

Sherri Lyn Wood’s approach to making a string quilt requires making a new piece of fabric from strips and then cutting it up again to whatever shape you want.  The new pieces of fabric (or ‘sheets’ as she describes them) are quite large; the first one I’ve made is probably 1/2m by the width of fabric. In the exercise she describes she suggests making a minimum of three sheets (enough to cover the area of your desired finished quilt), each with a different set of parameters that you give yourself. The parameters can be very simple, such as ‘I’ll use a plain fabric next to a patterned fabric on the first sheet; I’ll use a narrow string next to a wide string on the second sheet and I’ll use 4 different colours on the third sheet’. You then combine all your sheets in a personal way to create your improv quilt.

String quilt being made © Stephanie Boon, 2015

String sheet and deliciously scented sweet peas

I think these string sheets will work quite well for something I’ve had in mind for a while and I’ve restricted my colour palette accordingly.  I won’t give details now as I’m sure things will change as I go along. I’ll share my thoughts and process as the piece builds though, but at the moment I feel the first sheet has got me off to a good start.

If you’re interested in this method of improv piecing also check out Ann’s blog Fret Not Yourself where you can follow along with her progress too.  Have you made a string quilt?  What did you think, was it fun, were you pleased with your quilt?  (I’ve really enjoyed it so far!)

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and for the first time with August Scraptastic Tuesday at She Can Quilt.  I’m going to be social and pop over and check out what you’ve all been up to this week, see you there!

Happy stitching.

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Slow Stitching Sunday in Summer

Beside the Sea

Slow Stitching Sunday in the sunshine is a bit of a treat around here lately.  When you see the sun it’s wise to grab the opportunity or there may not be another one for weeks.

Slow Stitching Sunday - Janie by the sea knitting.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

A sunny slow stitching spot beside the sea

This is Mylor, a small village in an idyllic location tucked away near the more famous town of Falmouth.  I met Janie for our usual Slow Stitching Sunday lunch date in a bustling cafe that overlooks the marina. We sat outside under an umbrella swatting away wasps and watching boats come and go for an hour or so. Lunch was particularly delicious; summery delicious (simple Greek salad for me and a rosti and poached egg concoction for Janie).

When it was time to get out the sewing we decided to head for somewhere more peaceful.  Just a short walk along the coast we found the perfect spot and out came the picnic blanket.  We settled in for a while lying on our backs cloud-watching, like children. I’m not one for lying in the sun doing nothing for very long, so I lazily stitched some half square triangles for my Ocean Waves quilt. It seemed pretty apt, as we sat overlooking the sea.  I thought about how the memories of this afternoon will be stitched into this quilt, a kind of synchronicity.

Slow Stitching Sunday - boat in the harbour.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Love the name of this fishing boat!

I lived in Mylor for about 5 years and after Janie left I decided to take a favourite walk.  It goes along the coast and then heads back down towards the marina along a woodland track. I loved living there; I could literally step outside my front door and be on footpath in minutes, a world away from everything.

Slow Stitching Sunday - marshes on the Bissoe Cycle Trail.  © Stephanie Boon, 2015

The ride home on Bissoe Bike Trail

When I got back to my bike it was beginning to cloud over. The ride home was 11 or 12 miles and I took a short stretch of it on a trail that wends its way through an old tin mining area. It’s marshy here and can look pretty barren and desolate in winter months, but today I was in love with the reds and greens of the landscape. All I could think about was capturing the colours and saving them in my mind, sealing them away for future inspiration. I have so many ideas for quilts, but not enough fabric – and I fear not enough slow stitching Sundays to get them all finished!

Where’s your favourite outdoor place to sew? Do you ever sew beside the sea?

PS If you’d like to have a go at hand piecing triangles like me have a look at my tutorial here.  It’s such a satisfying way to get some slow stitching done when you’re away from your sewing area that I barely leave home without some!

Linking up with Kathy for this week’s Slow Stitching Sunday and looking forward to seeing what you’ve been up to since last week.

Happy stitching.

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Improv quilting is calling my name!

Floating the Squares

Hello! I’m glad you’re here today because I’m excited to show you my finished quilt top! (It’s the first one I’ve made following an improv quilting ‘score’ from Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn . . . → CONTINUE READING: Improv quilting is calling my name!

Who needs a deadline?

Norfolk Bricks lap quilt, work in progress, © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Slowly but surely this quilt is heading towards a finish…but if I don’t crack on soon I’ll be showing it to you every Work in Progress Wednesday well into the next decade!

Hand quilted texture

It was fascinating reading your comments about deadlines . . . → CONTINUE READING: Who needs a deadline?

Hi, I'm Stephie!

I'm so glad you've alighted at my creative space! I'm an artist and pattern designer and if you're a quilter that loves colour I hope you'll love it here too.

Be inspired, find helpful things, join the conversation! x

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