Sunday evening. So quiet all I could hear were the cows lowing in the sheds. No music, no radio, no traffic. Just the pull of thread through layers of blue cloth.
Working in the borders
The end of the hand quilting feels close now as I move into the second border. I’m hoping I don’t run out of the thread I started with. I know I’ll have to buy more online if I do and I don’t want to have to wait for it to arrive. But it’s what happens when you choose a ‘use u what you’ve got’ approach. I’ve used three close shades of bluey/grey perle cotton, so it won’t matter if I have to use a different colour or different dye batch. But still, it’s the idea of having to wait that irks. Which is odd, considering that time disappears as I quilt, there’s no feeling of rushing or wanting it to end.
The back with appliqué
It looks a bit puckered, I muse to myself; I’ll have to get the iron out. But it’s just the back, so I’m not too fussed really. It’ll be better next time if I carry on using a hoop. Or so I tell myself. And the soft, wrinkly texture reminds me more of summer rain anyway.
My border templates
Summer rain has become winter rain without me really noticing. The rain drops on puddles are just as mesmerising.
Linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching with Kathy.
Remember this, my Christmas in July pillow?
Earlier this week I finished it’s counterpart, version two, affectionately named Medusa the Reindeer – a Scandinavian inspired appliqué motif gone a bit awry, haha!
Medusa the reindeer is finished!
Version one, definitely my favourite, has been purloined by my son Kim. It’s been sitting on his bed for a couple of months already! He says we’ll have to have Medusa decorate the sitting room over the Christmas period instead. Hmmm, I may have other ideas!
Big stitch quilting
There are some aspects of version two that I really like – the shape of Medusa’s body (no, not her antlers!) for example (especially her well turned legs!). I think I got a better shape because I made the needle turn appliqué in several pieces rather than just the one piece as I did in version one. I think the heart background fabric works better in version 1 too. And, although I like the needle-turn appliqué motifs of hearts, birds and flowers in the border of Medusa, I think the stars in the first cushion are much more effective and festive.
Not that I mind – it’s the way I prefer to work: make something, refine it, make it again, refine it… If I had time I’d make a third version just to see if I could make it any better, but the big holiday seems to be creeping up on me a bit quicker than I’d like! How are your Christmas makes going?
I’m still working on the needle-turn appliqué tutorial for The Sewing Directory, although it’s all written, the weather’s been too dull to take helpful photographs as I mentioned yesterday – so frustrating I could scream! In the mean time, if you’d like to try your hand at some needle-turn appliqué, like I used for both these cushions, take a look at my top 10 tips for keeping it neat!
So happy to be linking up with Finish it up Friday this week, woohoo! (It feels like ages since I actually completely finished something!)
In the newsletter
Keep your eyes peeled for this week’s newsletter dropping in to your inboxes later today! There are links to some small sewing projects perfect for last minute gifts, a blog hop, podcast…and of course much more! You can subscribe here and it will magically appear in your inbox every Friday (in theory!) until you decide you don’t want it to do that anymore! It takes no longer to read than your average blog post, but it’s full of inspiration, colour and other stuff you don’t want to miss out on, so what are you waiting for?
Until next time, happy Christmas quilting!
This week things have been a bit more lively in the studio (you know that’s my kitchen floor? True fact.). This mini quilt sampler (it’s about 22″ x 23″ at the moment) is going to be the first in a small series inspired by the carstone and flint walls and the red brick buildings around the area my parents live in Norfolk (very different from the granite building stones here in Cornwall). I’ve been doodling in my sketchbook, but over the last day or two ideas have been coming thick and fast.
I showed you a page or two from my sketchbook recently, a few starting points really, and this quilt has developed from there. Rather than just thinking about the shape of the bricks and building materials and how I might be able to translate those into a patchwork pattern (which is a fairly straight forward process I think), I’ve been thinking more about how those shapes and colours could be used to convey feelings, thoughts about who I am, how I fit into this world. It sounds like pretentious rubbish, but that’s what my fine art has usually explored, so I don’t see why this process should be any different. Different aspects of the quilt can be understood as different metaphors, or not be considered at all – that’s down to the viewer I think.
A couple of thoughts that came from looking at the buildings:
- Fitting the irregular into the regular
I never did fit into a grid and it suddenly feels very freeing to be able to express that in an abstract way. We’ll see how it goes; I’m looking forward to making the next quilt.
Before I disappear with that thought though, I’m sorry about the photo, and that there’s only one – it’s been so miserable and dark here for ages that it’s been nigh on impossible to photograph anything well (and I’m miles behind on lots of things because of it). There’s more detail in the borders than you can see here, even though it was lit with a natural daylight bulb. Time to make some light stands perhaps.
If, like me, you ever have problems photographing your quilts because of dull light, this great easy to read and understand article by Holly Knot might help you out. This article on We All Sew is also really good, but essentially, we’re not going to get anywhere without some decent lighting! Oh and a tripod. Of course.
Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Work in Progress Wednesday – I’ve been discovering some great new quilters over there, who have you found lately?
Until next time.
Take care and happy sewing!
Remember this little embroidery pattern for your Christmas quilting projects last year?
Gingerbread man quilt label
Updated for your 2014 Christmas projects!
The pattern now comes with the design in two sizes to save you the bother of scaling it up or down; it comes in black and white to make it much easier to trace; the date has been updated (of course!) and the heart is also a new improved shape.
And as with the 2013 version it also comes with suggestions for simple embroidery stitches to use. What do you think, are you ready to give him a go? I think he’ll make the perfect finishing touch for your projects, I hope you do too!
Download the FREE pdf pattern here or by clicking on the image above! Also available on my free downloads page or my Craftsy Pattern Store.
If you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, you’ll have already seen the updated version of this pattern, but this week, amongst other news and inspiration, there’s also the sad news of the closure of the Quilt Centre in 2015. I think it will be a great loss to quilters everywhere. Sign up for the newsletter here to receive copies in your inbox or to check out previous editions.
Linking up with Marelize today, check out some fabulous work at the link-up!
Norfolk flink and brick
The week has been ticking by slowly, frustratingly. I seem to have lost focus. I’m trying to drag myself out of this mini-slump, be kind to myself. So I’m letting my mind wander. For now.
How’s your week going?
Linking up with Let’s Bee Social and Work in Progress Wednesday, hop on over to see what else has been going on this week.
The fourth issue of the Dawn Chorus Studio newsletter will be dropping in to your inboxes tomorrow! Issue 4. Already? Some interesting news and an update of a FREE pattern this week – make sure you don’t miss out and sign up here.
Thurdsay. The day of the week I meet my friend Janie for a pub lunch and a bit of hand crafting. Janie knits, I sew. Over the last few weeks I’ve been hand piecing half square triangles (also called ‘hst’s’ – if you’re just learning to quilt you’ll soon notice just how often acronyms are used in this stitchy world of ours!). They’re for my Ocean Waves quilt that I’m making from old shirts – one of which I was wearing when my son was born!
Half Square Triangles (HST)
They’re so easy to take along, all I need are a few squares of fabric and my needle case, which also holds a reel of thread, a pair of embroidery scissors and a thimble. I made the case a few years ago and I still love it. And, bonus, it hasn’t fallen apart!
Little pockets in the front and back hold just what I need for some portable sewing
I’ve finished up a lovely pile of HST’s this week – 60! (When you’re slow stitching, that counts as a finish, believe me!) Enough to make 6 more Ocean Waves blocks, which I’m quite excited about for some reason. I made some of the other blocks by machine when I started, but I’ve really been enjoying the hand piecing and will probably carry on with it. On Thursday afternoons anyway.
I can’t recommend it enough. If you’ve got a project or two on the go that you started by machine but got left by the way-side in favour of other things, taking a few pieces out with you to hand piece will really move the project along without you feeling like you’ve actually done anything! Start with a simple component, like these hst’s for e.g. They’re just two squares joined together by a diagonal line of running stitch. Most of us could stitch them while we’re talking with friends, or on a journey somewhere, so why not?
Another thing I finished up this week is a little tutorial on how I make them. Follow the link for details and join in the slow stitching movement in your quiet moments. It’s more productive than you’d think, honestly.
Linking up with Finish it up Friday and Let’s Bee Social – hop on over to see what’s been happening this week
Until Sunday, happy stitching!
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Half Square Triangle Unit
Half square triangles, or HST’s as they’re known for short, are the building blocks of so many quilt patterns that you can’t do without them. Hand piecing them is perhaps the simplest way of making them there is, but why would you make them by hand when they’re so quick to make by machine? Because you can take them anywhere with you – and because half square triangles are so easy to make they don’t take too much concentration, which means you can sew as you chat with friends or watch tv, or even take them on a journey with you. And no, you won’t look crazy sewing in public: according to my teenage son “you look a bit weird, but it’s not embarrassing”!
Hand piecing notions in a handy needle case
What you need to pack for your portable project:
- Needle (I prefer a short one, like a quilting needle)
- Thread to match your fabrics
- A thimble
- A couple of pins
- A small pair of embroidery scissors
- Light squares of fabric cut to your preferred size, marked with a fine diagonal pencil line from corner to corner on the wrong side
- Dark squares of fabric the same size (one light square and one dark square will complete one half square triangle unit)
In this guide I’m using 3″ squares, which will give a finished HST of 2.5″.
Place one light square and one dark square right sides together and pin across the diagonal pencil line. Begin your running stitches in one corner (on the pencil line) with a very small knot and a couple of back stitches. Make small running stitches to the corner opposite. Each stitch should be as small as you can make it, ideally a couple of millimetres. You can take several stitches on the needle before pulling the thread through. Remove the pins as you go and finish off with a couple of backstitches. Trim your thread.
Continue stitching all your pairs together as the next step will need to be completed back at home!
Once home, you can prepare for the next stage: joining HST’s together.
Setting the seam
Press the stitching across each pair of squares to set the seam (it can help to use a light spray starch, if you want). Next you need to cut off the excess, so using a fine pencil, mark a quarter inch seam alongside your line of stitches and then trim away with sharp scissors (you can obviously do this with a rotary cutter, ruler and mat if you have them, which will make the process quicker).
Cutting off the excess
Open out the unit and press the seam to the dark side. (Really, I’m not pretending to be Darth Vador right now. Not at all.)
A finished unit from the back, seam pressed to the dark side
Using a pencil and ruler mark a quarter inch seam down one edge of the light fabrics on the back.
NB: It’s important to make sure you mark all your seam allowances with the diagonal seam going in the same direction. So, in this example the diagonal seam is going left to right and I have marked the pencil seam allowance on the right. I would mark all of the units the same way.
Marking a quarter inch seam on a finished unit.
Now your ready for the next bit, which is portable again!
When you join your Half Square Triangle units together, put two units face up on a surface in front of you with the central seams running in the same direction.
Lay in the same direction side by side
Now place one on top of the other, right sides together (as if you were closing the pages of a book). Fasten the two units together with a pin so that they don’t slip. Put another pin or two through the seam allowance to hold it in place. Stitch along the pencil line as described above.
Stitching 2 units together
Carry on in this way until you have joined enough units to create a row (how many you have in a row will depend on the block or pattern you wish to create).
The next step will need to be carried out at home again!
Set the seams and then press them to the dark side again as described above.
Pressing the seams of joined units
If the rows you’re making are short enough, you might find they’re still portable and would like to join them together when you’re away from your sewing room.
Mark a quarter inch seam along the top and bottom of each row with a sharp pencil. The pencil line should go through the points of the triangle seams. Place 2 rows right sides together, ensuring that each row is running in the correct direction according to the block or pattern you’re making. Pin the rows together matching up the vertical seams as you go (it helps to put a pin through these junction points). Stitch and press as described above.
You can use your units to make traditional blocks like these for an Ocean Waves design, Jacob’s Ladder, Churn Cash and so many more, and of course it’s a well loved unit in modern quilting designs too. Take a look at my Pinterest board for more inspiration.
Ocean Waves blocks
Birds are singing, but I can’t discern one song from another. Sunday ticks by quietly, the peace broken now and again by the hum of a light aircraft passing. The sunshine comes and goes. My rocking stitches are becoming more even. In a while I put down my hoop and go and make makeshift repairs to the chicken coop.
Mabel strutting around the coop
I have three chickens, Mabel, Willow and Heather; little bantams with big personalities. They come to see what I’m up to, what the hammering’s about. They stick close by, probably hoping for more food. They’re out of luck.
The coop door finally bodged back together, with nails that are too long, I head inside and think about baking. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like cooking anything out of the ordinary. I turn on the oven and begin to make pastry for mince pies. The kitchen feels warm and the rich smells fill me with nostalgia for the long dark evenings, an open fire and quilt over my lap.
Like rain on a puddle
I take two pies, hot from the oven, back with me to my favourite quilting spot and pick up the hoop again. I’m working on the border now; the centre panel’s finished. In the border I’ve decided to quilt overlapping circles that remind me of rain drops on water.
Becoming more even on the front
I’m sticking with the rocking stitch, despite my uneven stitches and the fact that the back leaves something (quite a lot) to be desired. I’ve got the technique working at last and I’m not going to perfect it if I don’t keep practicing. I tell myself I might as well practice on this quilt because it’s wonky enough already!
Well, at least I’m actually making some stitches come through to the back this time round!
That’s fine, I’ll just remember it as ‘the quilt I finally got to rock”.
How’s your Sunday? I’m heading over to Kathy’s Quilts to see what other Slow Sunday Stitching has been going on this week. Hope you’re coming too.
Have a lovely evening, happy quilting.
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