By Stephie, on Monday 30th November, 2015 at 02:05 am
My new embroidery scissors arrived on Friday – hoorah! Can you see the happy dance going on over here?
Hand made embroidery scissors by Ernest Wright, Sheffield
I lost my last pair a couple of months ago (I wasn’t heart broken: they weren’t that great!) and I’ve been using whatever came to hand instead. Often a pair of blunt 8″ shears. Hmm, not a great idea. I decided it was about time to treat myself to a pair of sensibly sized embroidery scissors. And since I make hand made quilts I thought I should support other makers and decided on a hand made pair of scissors. Just look at this video of how they’re put together:
Isn’t it wonderful? It makes my heart sing to know that my scissors were made like this in Sheffield. The company, Ernest Wright, ships all over the world, so you can support a hand made company too.
And my word are they a fine pair of scissors! Without a doubt the best I’ve ever used. They’re a lovely weight in the hand and they feel substantial. By ‘substantial’ I don’t mean heavy, I mean that they’re not flimsy and they don’t feel like they’ll twist or break at the pivot point. They’re hand cast, so are all in one piece – not like the pressed ones with plastic handles. They’re made from carbon steel and apparently that means they’ll stay sharp (if you use them as intended), but as with any steel they can rust if you don’t keep them in a dry environment. I can’t see this being an issue with your favourite embroidery scissors that you’ll keep in your sewing box and lovingly treasure for ever though, can you!
But what about the nitty gritty, actually cutting fabric? In one word: fantastic. You can even cut just a few threads with the points, they’re just so sharp. Oh, and that satisfying ‘snip’ sound? Yeah, they rock it!
Remember this abomination I showed you earlier in the week, my failed attempt at reverse appliqué on a small scale with the blunt 8″ shears? (I’m still laughing about it now!)
Well how about this attempt with the new hand made embroidery scissors, ta da:
Reverse applique motif for the Quilty #365 project with Audrey at Quilty Folk
Much better isn’t it? I think this was the 14th circle in the consecutive order of things and I’m on about 21 now. That’s a whole 3 weeks people – I’m so pleased with myself! The beauty of sewing along with Audrey and other Quilty Folk is keeping each other on track. This particular circle has taken me the longest to make, especially if you count the first effort as well. I really enjoyed stitching it though and don’t begrudge a second of time spent on it. I loved the challenge of working out how to reverse the design through four layers of fabric (and using the new scissors to cut them – did I mention new scissors again?!) and look forward to experimenting some more soon.
Front and back after basting – four layers of fabric make up the reverse appliqué design.
Cutting and basting the ‘F’ (some better ‘folding under’ is required…)
And the new hand made embroidery scissors verdict?
F is for FANTASTIC!
F before and F with new scissors
I think the difference is pretty plain to see. The ‘F’ cut with the new scissors is crisper and neater, more even. The first attempt was finished off with a blanket stitch after I’d stitched the cut edges with the usual appliqué stitch. The second time round I decided to just stitch it down with button hole stitch in a single strand of embroidery thread. It could be neater (also plain to see, ha!), but I put that down to not enough practice with reverse appliqué not the embroidery scissors!
I’m so pleased with them that I’m going to save up for a pair of 8″ shears and thread snips next!
I had hoped to show you all the circles I’ve made after the first week’s worth, but it’s been so grey and gloomy here I don’t think I could do them justice. I had to have a spotlight on to work under all week – as you can probably tell from these photos. Fingers crossed for a lighter week ahead.
By the way, what do you think of the design for this circle? There’s a story about the inspiration behind it, but I’ll save that for next time.
Apologies too for not being able to catch up with you this week my lovely friends. There just weren’t enough hours in the day (too many appointments), so I hope to visit you all over the next few days for a catch up. I feel like I’ve been missing out so I’m really looking forward to it! One last thing though before I head off into the night (aka bed – it’s almost 2am now!)…
Should I restart the newsletter?
I often come across interesting or inspiring stuff I’d like to share that doesn’t always seem to fit easily into a blog post, so last year I started a newsletter . Things were going well and the small number of people that signed up to it enjoyed the articles and links I sent once a week. Then Kim became ill and my priorities changed. (There’s only so much you can do when your child’s in hospital 70 miles from home and you’re running on empty!) So, after a prolonged hiatus I think it’s time to get the ball rolling again, because I keep coming across great things I want to share with you!
Before I go bouncing ahead with all the enthusiasm of Tiggr, assuming you’d even like to receive it, how often would you like a newsletter to drop into your inbox? I’d love to get it right, so let me know in the poll below! (As usual, no personal details are collected or retained.) Make sure you don’t miss the next issue and sign up here! Thanks for your help with the poll
By Stephie, on Saturday 28th November, 2015 at 17:20 pm
Dry Your Tears and We’ll Fly Away
Today I’m sharing a textile art work from the archive. This little piece of embroidery has been on my mind lately. I made it in about 2010 as part of a mail art project (where you exchange art work in the post with another artist), but the artist gave it back to me. We exchanged pieces over several years and one day she returned everything I’d sent her (and wanted everything back that she’d sent me). I’m still not sure why, but I felt very hurt at the time. When I look at this body of work today I’m reminded of what a difficult time I was going through then. Some of the work is very intense.
Making Textile Art from Personal Ephemera
I made a number of textile art pieces as part of the project, but I think this one is my favourite.
Dry Your Tears and We’ll Fly Away
Dry your tears and we’ll fly away: it was something I wanted to do. White on white. Ghost-like.
The text and a little wren are hand embroidered onto a vintage linen handkerchief that my mum had given me a few years earlier. (I love textile art, any art really, that include pieces of personal history.)
Detail of the hand stitched wren and wren feather
I was a bit obsessed with dead birds back when I made this piece and I particularly loved this little wren that I found. It was so tiny and fragile, incredibly beautiful. Birds became a metaphor for so many things.
Detail of satin stitched legs
I drew the bird directly on to the handkerchief in pencil and the text is my own handwriting. I wanted to keep the detail of the original embroidery in the corner of the handkerchief. The padded satin stitch and drawn thread work are beautifully stitched. It always amazes me how much detail, thought and skill were put into something as everyday as this. Making it into a piece of textile art honours that in some way, I suppose.
Original embroidery on the corner of the handkerchief
I stitched one of the wren’s tiny little feathers to the linen above the embroidery. Lightweight, ethereal. Lost on the breeze.
By Stephie, on Thursday 26th November, 2015 at 01:08 am
Improv quilting goes wrong? Yup, improv quilting goes wrong all the time. Maybe you’ve experienced this too? Or do you believe that you can’t fail because it’s all about making it up as you go along anyway? If you believe that, you definitely need a rethink! Why? Because ultimately you’re still trying to create a strong design or a quilt that ‘says something’ and you can’t do that without intention.
Often it’s the last bit of the improv process that’s important: piecing together all your different elements. This is the time you might be trying to fit all your random string sheets together in the most pleasing way you can. Or you might be trying to figure out a strong layout for all those wonky blocks. Either way, the intention is to create the best composition you can (unless of course your intention is for the composition to be completely random. But that’s still an intention and one that can be very difficult to try not to control!). So when improv quilting goes wrong, it’s likely to be at this stage in the process. It’s at this point that you’re most likely to feel that you can’t do it and that you’ve ‘failed’. But this is not the point to give up.
I Made a Discovery
My first ‘failed’ attempt to fulfil a brilliant idea
This weekend I was working on my improv circle in a square (above) for the Quilty 365 sew along and I made a mistake much earlier in the process than usual.
I don’t call my mistakes ‘mistakes’ though, to me they’re ‘discoveries’.
And when improv quilting goes wrong discoveries offer us opportunities. I had a brilliant idea to hand stitch some text into Saturday’s circle with reverse appliqué. When I tried I discovered that I didn’t have the skills or the tools to fulfil this brilliant idea of mine. (And thinking about it, this is something I discover on a regular basis, haha!) Now, I could consider this a failure, that it was a rubbish idea that I shouldn’t have bothered with in the first place. But I prefer a different approach:
Just look at the state of this reverse appliqué – that ‘a’ is laughable (and I’ve been laughing at it quite a lot!)
When Improv Quilting Goes Wrong, Look for an Opportunity
In this case I saw an opportunity to buy some new tools – and I call that a result! New, extremely sharp and pointy embroidery scissors have been ordered. These’ll enable me to cut the letters out more accurately than the blunt 8″ dressmaking scissors did (when inspiration hits you’ve got to try with whatever you’ve got to hand, haven’t you!). As for the skills, I have the opportunity to practice and get better, or I have the opportunity to follow the idea through in a different way, one that’s commensurate with the skills I already have.
My decision? When my new scissors arrive I’m willing to give my idea another go ‘as is’, just to see if it’s the tools that caused the ‘failure’. But if it still doesn’t come out the way I want I’ve got some other ways of expressing it up my sleeve and I’ll give those a go too.
Exploring an idea
The basic problem, as I see it, is trying to make some fairly complicated shapes on a pretty small scale (not commensurate with my skills!). I know I could make it on a larger scale without any problems, so I could just enlarge the circle, but that might affect the overall design of the quilt. And I’m not inclined to compromise that at the moment. Another thing I’ve thought about that might help is to use ‘Fray Stop’ on the areas that are particularly fiddly to turn under (in the corners for example). This is another opportunity to try something new and see what happens. And yet another opportunity that arises from this discovery is to ask you, my clever friends, what your experience is and whether you have any advice that might make my next attempt look less ham fisted. You know what to do: leave a comment below!
The point of all this waffling about exploring an idea is simply meant to illustrate that
when improv quilting goes wrong I don’t give up at the first hurdle!
And nor should you. Giving up isn’t what being creative is about. It’s about pushing something to its limits, or your limits, and if it doesn’t work out not being afraid to try a different approach.
changing course midway – once, twice, or thrice (or more) – because you can.
an attitude that allows you to not freak out when something goes wrong or off track while piecing a quilt top.
being open to the direction your quilt takes or being okay with scrapping it when you hate it
as much about the process as the product.” (Cheryl Arkison, the Dining Room Empire, 21st October 2015)
Your Elusive Creative Genius
If you’re still think improve quilting goes wrong and are uncomfortable with idea of making ‘mistakes’ have a look at this great TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) (have a look even if you’re not uncomfortable!). It’s funny, sincere and thought provoking – and might just make you think about creativity in a very different way. It could be liberating. Enjoy!
This is the week to link up your improv projects with Kaja at Sew Slowly or Ann at Fret Not Yourself. The AHIQ link up is open until next Monday 30th, so head on over!
Did you know that Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts is celebrating her 100th Let’s Bee Social post? Isn’t that fab?! Of course I’m going to link up with her there and I hope you’ll come too.
Finally I’m going to link up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for Work in Progress Wednesday, because this improv quilt I’m working on will be in progress for at least another year!
You can find some of my other favourite link ups by clicking on the button below.
Next time you pop by I hope to have a post ready for you that might be a little bit controversial! Stay tuned for that one.
By Stephie, on Thursday 19th November, 2015 at 17:22 pm
Let Nature Inspire You
Traditional winter colour schemes for quilts probably include red and green at Christmastime, reminiscent of the laden holly tree, or frosty whites that remind us of cold snowy climes. These are themes that most of us have used at one time or another, but what colours does winter really hold?
A palette inspired by a crisp winter day, with a bright blue sky fading to pink and the soft ochres of a derelict barn and bare winter trees.
Draw inspiration from the world around you and be inspired to create winter colour palettes that stand out from the crowd. Let rich rugged cliffs, or dusky pink and purple sunsets be your guide. Look to seasonal flora and fauna for inspiration and you’ll create more colourful palettes than you ever expected at this time of year!
First hand inspiration is key. We talked about this approach in the article on Autumn colour, but let’s refresh our memory:
Why is First Hand Inspiration so Important?
Sketches of a winter sycamore tree could inspire a palette of soft greys, greens and golds.
Getting outside can be a colourful, magical discovery and going for a walk is the only way to know what’s really there. Other people’s photographs can be beautiful and seductive, but remember they capture what they’re interested in and are refined and edited to reflect that. The best thing to do with them (to begin with) is to use them as inspiration to go and explore for yourself! Take your own photographs, make sketches or take notes and look closely for the unexpected.
What Does Winter Mean to You?
Think about the winter climate where you live. Is it grey and wet, or cold, snowy and stark? What do you love most at this time of year? The warmth and cosiness of a roaring fire perhaps, or a walk through the woods in your wellies? Do you love walking in the mountains and hearing the crunch of fresh snow under your boots, or spotting a special bird that visits your shores over winter? Your answers will guide you to find the places that inspire you most.
I really love crisp, clear days when the sky is a bright blue but fades to a soft pink. Atmospheric sunsets behind silhouetted trees are my favourite and probably inspire me most at this time of year.
A winter sunset can provide inspiration for a colour palette tinged with pinks and golds.
Imagine wrapping yourself up in memories of a dusky country walk or a quilt that reminds you of the soft colours of a nearby winter beach…
Winter greens – a palette inspired by a field of dying cauliflowers under a covering of snow.
Now’s the time to go out and explore!
Soft sands, deep greys and bright blues inspired by cliff walks and winter beach combing
Take a notebook, a camera, a sketchbook, binoculars – anything you might need to record the details. Look carefully at the colours around you and ask yourself questions. What plants are there, what colours catch your eye? Exactly what colours are the wet stone walls, the cliffs, the pebbles on the beach? Is there anything you can collect to take home to remind you?
If looking at an entire landscape feels overwhelming don’t forget to look at the details.
If winter means the warmth of real fires to you but you don’t have one at home try and find somewhere else to experience it. Perhaps they have one at the local pub, or a friend’s home. Take notes of the colours of the flames, the wood beside the fire, the coal and the copper skuttle…
Finding Inspiration Out of Season
Imagine you want to make a quilt for the winter months, something with a seasonal feel. But it’s high summer, so what are you going to do? This is where sketchbooks come in really handy. Dedicate one for the colours of each season and as you go through the year fill it with your first hand notes, thoughts and photos. You could collect things too, like feathers or leaves. Remember to make a note of the month and place, so that you can go back again another year if you want to.
I love to have my inspiration around me where I can see it. It’s the best way to absorb the colour mood and it’s easy to swap things around to see different effects. I add fabric samples, objects, inspiring text… and images from magazines or postcards! As long I have my first hand inspiration up there too, I feel confident I’ll capture the mood I’m after.
Just go for a walk! Really enjoy the colours of the surroundings: take photos, write notes, collect things that remind you of it. Create a mood board with your source material and when you’re happy it captures the right mood, try and identify the three main colours that sum it up. Now find some fabric in your stash or scrap bin to match up to them. To make a larger palette you can add in lighter and darker variations of the three colours and some neutrals too. Follow these links for a refresher on value,proportion, neutrals and colour matching.
Play about with your palette by swapping colours in and out and take photos of any changes you make. Keep your photos with your notes.
Please Share With Us!
A great way to keep notes is in a sketchbook or scrapbook and Pinterest is the digital equivalent. Pin your favourite palettes inspired by your walks, photos and even pictures of your notes. That way you’ll have everything together in the perfect place to share! Leave a link below and we’ll come and visit.
If you have any questions, tips or advice feel free to start a discussion in the comments – hopefully we can inspire each other and help each other along.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on creating a seasonal colour scheme I’d love it if you’d share it with your friends via the links below and hope you’ll join me again next time for designing a seasonal colour scheme for spring.
By Stephie, on Wednesday 18th November, 2015 at 09:53 am
365 Blocks? Here are the first 8!
Quilty 365 with Audrey over at Quilty Folk is gathering pace. More quilters are showing off their first week’s progress – and it’s inspiring stuff! There are so many different takes on such a simple idea, from hearts to monochrome. I’m sharing my first 8 circle blocks with you today.
Quilty 365 – 8 days
Details (click on the image to enlarge)
I’ve got 10 x 365 blocks finished in total, with another one to make later on. The pile seems to be growing quickly. (I could get to really like this!) I’ve been making them at about 10 o’clock every night, which I thought was a bit late at first, but actually a little bit of hand stitching before bedtime’s very relaxing. And it gives me a chance to reflect on the day.
I’m already fretting about one thing though: the thought of stitching 365 blocks together all at once is a bit overwhelming! It wouldn’t be a problem if they were all the same size, but it’s going to take some serious thinking to piece 365 different sized ones together – I can feel my brain aching already! I need to take the potential stress out of it, so I’m thinking maybe I’ll make 9 patch blocks as I go along, what do you think? I’m not fussed about chronological order anyway; that’ll make the composition too random for me. Have you thought about how you’ll stitch yours together yet, or is it just me that’s jumping so far ahead?!
I’ll carry on making collages of my weekly progress, like the one above, and keep those as a diary record instead. And, talking of diaries, is anyone writing a 365 journal as they go through the project? I’m scribbling a short paragraph or two each day, just to remind me what I was thinking about when I made the block. I guess I’m hoping it might help me see patterns, a visual language developing in stitch.
Short daily notes
Paris Beirut Iraq
There are many quilters paying tribute to the shocking number of people killed by IS in three separate attacks over the last week, and some 365’ers have done it in stitch. Sometimes there are just no words. But with this daily project you don’t need them. We’re lucky to have another creative way to express ourselves, literally at our fingertips. It reminds me of Civil War quilts and feels like a positive way to commemorate.
Here are just two touching 365 tributes I’ve seen this week:
Both are worth popping over for if you haven’t seen them already.
I have real difficulty trying to imagine how harrowing the next 365 days will be for the victim’s families and friends and I tried to capture my own thoughts in an abstract way on Saturday:
Thoughts on last week
I was thinking about the large, dark hole that must be left in so many people’s lives, so I made this particular block in reverse appliqué. I cut a hole in the pieced red fabric and stitched the dark brown behind it. The three groups of grey and red seeding stitches feels like scattered and shattered lives. I wonder if I might actually make it less metaphorical and embroider some text? Something to think about over the next day or two.
Take care everyone and keep your loved ones close at heart.
By Stephie, on Sunday 15th November, 2015 at 23:18 pm
Can you help?!
Spot the problem
Dear hand quilting friends,
I need your sage advice:
The quilters knot is giving me grief.
My Summer Blues quilt is coming along well, but since I’ve begun quilting the nine patches I’ve noticed an unsightly knotty problem, which you can see in the picture above. At first I thought it was blunt needles, but then I realised it’s actually the quilters knot that’s causing small ladders in the fabric.
This is expensive Rowan quilting fabric, so why should my quilters knot be laddering it? (For those that don’t know, the quilters knot is basically a French knot that’s used at the beginning of a row of hand quilting. The knot is embedded in the wadding and anchors the thread very well.) If I wrap the thread around the needle twice it simply pulls through the fabric and doesn’t anchor it at all. So I usually make my quilters knot by wrapping the thread three times, but sometimes, on these particular fabrics, as I pull the knot down into it it creates these ugly flaws. I rub my nail over the area to try and minimise it, but the damage is often still visible…what am I doing wrong? Is there another way to anchor the thread? Have any of you ever had a similar problem, or is it just me not knowing what I’m doing?! I’d be very grateful for any advice you might be able to give.
Yours most sincerely
A Frustrated Hand Quilter, Cornwall, UK!
PS I’m using Gutterman Hand Quilting Thread.
In Other News…
I’m delighted to say that my quilters knot hasn’t caused any problems at all in this mini sampler quilt and I managed to finish up the centre section this afternoon.
Hand quilting the centre
I headed out in the mizzle today to meet my friend Janie for lunch and a bit of stitching. This quilt was still in my bag, so after a particularly delicious tomato and goat’s cheese omelette I put in a few more stitches.
I’m quite pleased with the way it’s come together, but I couldn’t help laughing at some of the wobbly quilting:
A bumpy ride!
Perhaps trying to quilt on the bus earlier in the week wasn’t as good an idea as I thought it would be?! I decided to leave the wonky stitches in to remind me. You might also have noticed (how could you not?) that the arcs aren’t remotely evenly spaced and not particularly shapely curves…obviously I didn’t mark them first. It seemed to fit with the improv vibe when I started, but on reflection maybe just a few guidelines would have helped!
Well, it makes me smile!
All I plan to do now are a few rows of quilting in the border and then add a binding. What I’ll do with it after that is anyone’s guess!
I hope you’ve had a wonderful day of slow stitching – and if you have any ideas about the quilters knot, please let me know below!
My Favourite Link Parties
I’m linking up with the lovely Kathy as usual for Slow Sunday Stitching, don’t forget to come by and say hello to all the wonderful slow stitchers gathering there today
For more link parties click the picture below.
By Stephie, on Wednesday 11th November, 2015 at 22:20 pm
Another new project on the go!
Audrey over at Quilty Folk should probably be in my bad books! Her recent invitation for anyone to join her for Quilty 365, a brand new sew along, was an opportunity I felt I shouldn’t miss, despite my ever growing list . . . → CONTINUE READING: A Quilty 365 Days – The Journey Begins