Hello lovely friends; boy have I missed you over the last few weeks! Life has thrown a curve ball over here and my teenage son, Kim, has been in hospital for 3 and a half weeks following a long period of illness. He’s likely to be there a while longer, but as the weeks have passed things have been gradually settling down and a routine falling into place. The hospital is 65+ miles from home in Plymouth (Devon) so I’ve spent a significant amount of time on the road journeying to and fro. It’s been an anxious time.
Blocks of joy
Travelling to Plymouth though has been a good opportunity to work on some small hand piecing and quilting projects and keep me focussed on moving ahead with my goal to start a small business designing and writing patchwork and quilting patterns.
I needed something positive to focus on: I was feeling swamped by the things going on around me, like everything was slipping out of my hands and out of my control, drifting away on dark clouds. I’ve been utterly exhausted, and either seemed to be travelling, attending health appointments or sleeping, with no time for anything else. But if I’ve learned anything at all recently, it’s that sometimes we just have to slow down and accept things as they are now. Assess. Regroup.
It’s not enough to just leave your goals and ambitions to chance though, nothing happens if you do. I’ve found it’s better to sit down and work out what small things you can still do to head towards them: the journey might’ve slowed a bit but it hasn’t stalled or been cancelled. Taking a pragmatic approach has given me back a sense of control. And sometimes it’s good to look around and take in the unexpected views.
Crossing the river into Plymouth
Travelling offers the perfect opportunity for some hand piecing or quilting and my needle and thread have been in my bag with me on every trip. I’m making two scrappy pillow covers that will compliment my Norfolk Bricks lap quilt – here’s the other design under way. I’ve even managed to start writing the patterns, which is probably the greatest feeling of achievement I’ve had in a while.
Passing time productively in the car
When I look at these blocks, these simple squares, I remind myself that it’s the foundation stones, the basic building blocks that hold everything up. And then I forget the ‘deep’ thinking and just revel in the joyous, glorious colour sitting in my lap and the simple, sensuous pleasure of a needle pulling through fabric. And I’m happy knowing that even these small stitches are taking me a stitch closer to where I want to be.
Still heading in the right direction
What’s the best thing you’ve made on a long or unexpected journey? Tell all in the comments below!
I hope you’ll hang in there with me while I try and get back on track, I miss you all very much and hope it won’t be so long until I have something to share again.
I’m linking back up with Let’s Bee Social today – hoping to meet up with some friends and seeing what you’ve been up to
Happy stitching ’til next time.
Keeping up with things was difficult last week and I was sorry to have missed Saturday’s Art Studio post, but I wanted to share a new quilting project for Kathy’s Slow Stitching Sunday – and as it’s already Monday I’d say I’m a little late for that party too! Still, better late than never I hope.
When I began designing and writing the pattern for my Norfolk Bricks lap quilt, it was always my intention that it would be one of a collection of patterns for adventurous beginners. This new cushion project is another small step towards that goal (everything has had to move much more slowly than I’d planned due to Kim’s health). I took inspiration for this patchwork design from the flint walls of Norfolk cottages that are decorated with brick shards.
Norfolk Cottage Wall
I’m using a fairly traditional English paper piecing design that, for me, will capture the essence of the patterns you can see there. Obviously there’s nothing traditional about the colours I’m working with – at all! The orange and pink palette is a nod towards the earthy carrstone and terracotta colours of the natural building materials, and the punctuating black squares to the deep tones of the broken flint, but I don’t like to try and replicate what I see. For me design should speak about the maker as much as the inspiration. And, at the moment, I need colour like I need sunshine!
Basting 3/4″ squares
Thinking about the layout as I baste the octogans
It’s like shuffling cards!
There is another reason to have a small portable EPP project on the go right now: it’s likely Kim will be admitted to hospital next week, in Plymouth (we’ll know for sure on Friday) – which is about 130 mile round-trip by train. I’ll definitely need something to occupy my hands for that!
Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead with plenty of time for quilting too. I hope you’ll forgive my erratic postings of late, but all being well I hope to be back again during the week, for now though I’m linking up with Slow Stitching Sunday over at Kathy’s Quilts – head on over to see what everyone’s been working over the weekend.
Easter Sunday, quiet and peaceful. It’s just Kim, myself, the cats and the chickens – and Kim’s spent most of the day asleep! It’s been a blessing and has meant that I’ve been able to get on with quite a bit of hand quilting this afternoon. Losing myself in the sound of the thread coming through the layers, with the warmth of the quilt on my lap and Wuthering Heights (the black and white 1939 version!) on the laptop in the background reminds me of the quiet, lazy Sundays of childhood (a black and white film on the tv in the afternoon and nothing else to do but watch it!).
Gratuitous cat photo! Helping Lily? No!
I’ve been sat at my desk stitching with the heavenly scent of narcissi wafting in from the sitting room. And Lily has been ‘helping’.
Hand stitched nine-patch border on my Norfolk Bricks lap quilt
Time has gone quickly and I’m very happy with my progress. I’ve almost finished quilting the nine patch squares in three borders of the quilt and the texture is just what I hoped for.
How to quilt the borders
It’s very easy to achieve this look. First of all quilt the squares in the ditch. Next mark out the square quilting lines in pencil (which you can see in the photographs) with a quarter inch ruler placed along the seam.
Rather than quilting each square individually, it’s much quicker and easier to work in rows: starting on the righthand side (if you’re right handed) stitch one row along the entire length of the border bridging the gap between squares by carrying the thread between the layers at the end of one pencil line (which is the corner of a square) and the beginning of the next (the next corner of a square) (see below).
Bridging the gap between squares
Complete all the horizontal rows in this way.
Next you stitch the vertical rows using the same method. As these are much shorter rows of only three squares you can go up the side of one set of squares and back down the other without having to cut and bury your threads, remembering to bridge the gap between squares as shown above..
Direction of stitching for the short rows
It’s much quicker this way because you’re not having to turn your work all the time. You’ll soon become aware of how many stitches you need to take to cross a side of a square too (about 6 in my case on this quilt) which will help you line up the stitches in the corner of each square too.
And that’s it! I hope you’ll have a go and let me know how you get on, and of course if you have another method leave a comment below – I love trying out new techniques!
I also managed to finish up some Ocean Waves blocks during the week, which has made a big difference to my feelings of accomplishment with this quilt top. I’ve taken a few photographs so if all goes well hope to show you how I”m getting on during the week.
Today though I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching and hope to see what you’ve been up to too. Although Kim my have other ideas for this evening… we’re about to watch Interstellar together, should be fun!
Until next time, Happy Easter and even happier stitching!
Hello dear friends. I’m sorry it’s been a very empty week here on the blog and social media; I’ve missed you and missed visiting you around the internet too, but Kim is still unwell and taking care of him has been my priority. In quieter moments though I’ve managed some patchwork and hand quilting and look forward to sharing it with you – I’ve just not had the time to put it into pictures and words, but I have finally made a start so hopefully will be able to show you something in the next day or two.
Kim has obviously been very much preoccupying me so for this week’s Art Studio post I thought I’d show you a couple of drawings I made of him when he was much younger. Mostly I only get to draw him when he’s asleep! He really doesn’t want to sit still for me for more than 5 minutes, so most of the portraits I do of him end up in the bin or really aren’t very good at all. I still quite like these sketches though:
1 Year Old, 1999
6 years old, 2004
13 years old, 2011
They’re all quite different really, but each one captures something of him, for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them. Hopefully I’ll be back on Sunday for some slow stitching, fingers crossed.
Happy Easter and happy stitching.
My temples and jaw ache from clenching my teeth. All week it seems. Stress. Difficult things to address, deadlines to meet. Even quilting hasn’t helped. There’s just been no time. Instead I’ve been sewing a dress for a friend, designing the pattern from scratch. It was a pretty time consuming task alongside the all encompassing health appointments for both my son and me. I took solace in a book. A wonderful, poetic book of non-fiction. It’s the type of book I’m particularly drawn to these days: H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald.
The wind was battering my bedroom window this morning and I decided to hibernate, stay under the covers the day long. It was the first day with no commitments for what felt like an eternity. Between bouts of deep, headache-inducing sleep I read. I read about a bereavement and the ensuing depths of depression of a woman who retreated from the world of humans and lived for and alongside, even inside, her goshawk. I recognise her fall into blackness only too well and I wonder how far I am heading into the gloom now.
I think about today’s Art Studio post, this post, and what I could possibly show you. I’m not in the mood for joyous colours today and the book has woken a memory of my own obsession with a bird of prey in 2007. I found a dead tawny owl. I found scores of dead birds and drew them, identified with them. I was enduring another interminably long episode of chronic depression and the obsession seemed to be the only meaning I could find in anything.
Here are a few of the owl drawings I made. If you don’t like to be confronted with death, maybe you’d prefer not to look, but for me there was a strange beauty in it that I couldn’t stop searching for.
Pen and ink
Conte and charcoal on paper
Conte and charcoal on paper
Conte and charcoal on paper
This wasn’t the first time I’d drawn dead birds. I think the first time I was at art school, it was about 1984. I found a robin and painted it in watercolour. I remember the fascination and the overwhelming pathos of holding the tiny bird in my hand. Since then there have been goldfinches, black-caps, blue-tits, wrens, more robins… But I’m sure you haven’t come to a patchwork and quilting blog to find a load of dead birds! So I shall leave it at that and if you’re on the look out for a good book highly recommend H is for Hawk to you: part nature writing, part biography of TH White (The Sword in the Stone), part memoir, an utterly absorbing read.
And tomorrow? I shall stitch. And reply to all the wonderful, much read and appreciated comments you’ve generously left during the past week. What will you be doing?
I’ve been slowly hand piecing my way through my half square triangles for my Ocean Waves quilt and today I decided to layout the blocks to see how they’re coming along.
It’s not a good feeling when you’re way behind where you thought you were, haha! I console myself with the realisation I have enough hst’s finished for another 7 or 8 blocks though. But today I’ve been unpicking some of my stitching because I’d set a few triangles upside down as I pieced the rows together. You might wonder how I managed this, one word: talking! I spent a couple of hours stitching away with my friend Janie on Thursday and obviously took my eye off the ball. Or triangle.
It wasn’t the only time I’ve been sewing away from home this week, making the hst’s has been a great way to occupy myself as I sat in waiting rooms waiting for my son at one health appointment or another. Time passes more quickly and calmly with something to occupy my hands and it’s surprising how even just one hst here and there quickly builds up to enough for a block (10 in each block).
I’m considering ‘cheating’ now though. I may enlist Mary to help me along with assembling the blocks. Well, it still counts as slow stitching I tell myself, she’s slow enough.
Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching. What have you been up to today?
I pack up my beloved Unison Pastels and gather together things I think I might need or want once I get a mile and a half or so down the road to where I plan to sit in a cold field and draw. I never find it easy. I never know what I’m going to see so don’t really know what medium will suit my needs. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t have what I want went I get started though. Going on past experience. Get on with it. Make do. It’s what being creative is about.
Got everything? Umm, no…
And it’s never just about what you might need to draw with, or on. Hats, scarves, gloves (all plural), coffee (as much a hand warmer as a drink), waterproofs, wind proofs, something insulating to sit on, a filthy, pastel-covered old coat to cover the good one when I get there (so that I don’t look entirely like a tramp on my journey down the road), plastic bags, bin liners – stuff to cover my legs so the pastel doesn’t become ingrained in my waterproofs, a head torch because it’ll be dusky on the unlit roads when I trudge back home, wet wipes to clean my hands (I forget them today. Irritating.)…and a day sack to pack it all in.
And all of that for one small sketch I’m not sure about and a bigger half started/half finished one. The light fell fast and I could barely see; maybe I’ll go back tomorrow and finish it, but maybe I won’t. I managed to splash water over the one below. Don’t ask, but it’s dried now and there’s no trace left. I wonder how I’ll feel about it in the morning. Right now, I feel pretty flat.
Pasel on A3 paper.
I hope it’s been a good start to the weekend for you and look forward to some slow stitching on Sunday – what have you been up to?