Sometimes a break from a piece of work is a good thing, because you come back to it with more clarity. That’s how I felt about my Norfolk Bricks lap quilt.
Before I began the quilting.
I’ve had a long break from it while Kim was in hospital and now I’m raring to go again. I felt a bit confused about how to quilt the bricks in the main panel: I stitched in the ditch around each brick and then started outline quilting some of the fabric patterns inside them, then, randomly, some geometric lines on some of the other bricks. Umm, no, that wasn’t going to work!
Looking at it again recently I could see how undecided I was and got out my unpicker yesterday. Gone are the bricks that outline fabric motifs and in their place will be concentric lines that outline the rectangular shapes instead. Much better, don’t you think?!
Slow summer stitching in the garden
It feels good to be picking up this quilt again after such a long time; another step on the road to getting back on track. I’ll be working away quietly this afternoon while Kim goes out with his dad. The weather’s not looking so good so I’ll retreat inside and maybe find a film on Netflix to keep me company. What film would you recommend? I really have no idea what might be good for quilting – except no foreign language films, because I can’t read and quilt at the same time!
I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching and looking forward to finding out what fellow slow stitchers have been up to, coming over?
Have a peaceful Sunday, slow stitchers, and see you next week
I’ve been out on my bike a bit this week, not far from home. The weather’s been too good to sit inside all day and I’ve needed sky and fresh air to help me back into a creative routine.
After several months of uncertainty and anxiety I suppose it’s not surprising I feel uncertain and anxious about my work too: I’ve lost my way. It’s hard to know where to pick up the pieces again. I decided the best way to overcome this block is to just do something. And do it without a bigger plan. I’ve been carrying a pocket size sketchbook around with me and here are a few landscapes that caught my eye when I was out and about.
Samphire, Devoran, June 2015
Water’s Edge (from Point Quay), June 2015
Victoria Square, Truro (from Costa), June 2015
Butney Banks, Devoran, July 2015
Butney Banks (Devoran Salt Marsh), July 2015
I’ve been feeling quite negative about these sketches: the paper kept lifting after just one layer of watercolour; my student quality paints felt slimy and dull (I haven’t used this quality paint since before I was an undergraduate, but financial constraints means needs must. I much prefer artists’ quality paint – you can find out a bit about the difference in this great short video). Eventually I told myself that ‘a bad artist blames her tools’ (in my mother’s voice of course!) and to just go with it and see what I could make happen. On reflection I don’t think they’re so bad, for what they are! I plan to carry on and make some more – I just wish I could stop being so ‘literal’ with what I draw.
What do you do when you hit a creative block? Next week I plan to share some ideas I like to try when I feel stuck, so pop by and and share what helps you too.
Until next time, have a very creative weekend!
Hello hello! Isn’t it a great feeling when a little hand pieced patchwork comes together? This octagon and square patchwork is all finished up and ready to turn into a juicy pillow – the second cushion in my Norfolk Bricks collection. Here are a few colourful pictures to brighten up your day:
English paper pieced patchwork cushion top
Quilting thread at the ready!
This cushion project passed the time on countless journeys to visit my son in hospital over the last couple of months and last week, as the piecing came to an end, he was finally discharged! I had a ridiculously sentimental thought that as I was putting the pieces of this patchwork together, he was being pieced back together too (ahem, who knew patchwork could be so profound!). It’s been a gruelling couple of months and it’s such a relief and a pleasure to have him home at last.
The anxiety and disrupted routines have really taken the wind taken out of my sails though and I feel like I’ve lost my way – getting back on track is a struggle in itself. I know being stressed and anxious all the time doesn’t help my creativity (some people thrive on it, but not me) and being eternally exhausted brings a fog that feels like it’ll never lift. But a week after Kim’s discharge things are settling down and the fog is slowly clearing. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to establish some routines to give me space to be creative again and reconnect with you all. Thank you so much for being there over the last few months, your kind and generous words have meant a lot.
Norfolk Bricks cushion covers
Before I head off today to write some ‘to do’ lists in a (probably futile) quest to help organise myself I wondered if you’ve ever tried this tip for re-using paper templates when you’re working on an English paper piecing project – I swear by it; anything to save time cutting out more templates (not to mention saving paper)!
Tip for re-using paper templates
Once you’ve removed your papers from a section of finished patchwork you’ll find they’ve become soft and creased and might be tempted to throw them away, but as long as they’re not torn you can use this magic trick to re-use them! Simply spray the paper with some spray starch and then iron them with a hot iron, eh voila! They’ll be as good as new! Honestly, it’s that simple!
What top tip do you have for English paper piecing?
I’m really pleased to be linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social this week, so pop on over and check out what’s been going on (I love Lorna’s latest patchwork in solid Kona cottons – almost as colourful as my Norfolk Bricks!).
Until next time (which hopefully won’t be too long!), happy stitching
Make it into patchwork!
If your favourite shirt is sadly past its best but you can’t bear to part with it, why not give it a new lease of life and incorporate it into a patchwork quilt that you can use everyday! Just one shirt and a piece of co-ordinating fabric would be more than enough to make a pillow, add in a couple of other shirts and some fabric from your stash and you could have enough to make a lap quilt, or a cosy quilt for your bed.
It’s a wonderful feeling to reuse something you love, but how do you know whether your shirt is suitable and what do you do with it if it is? Read on to find out!
Repurposed shirts make a great patchwork pillow!
What is it made of?
This is important because you want to know how it behaves with other fabrics and how to care for it. For example you don’t want to mix silk fabrics with cotton fabrics, because they need to be cared for differently. They also shrink and stretch at different rates, which can make sewing them together fiddly. It’s easier to mix polyester-cotton and pure cotton fabrics together as they behave in similar ways – but you’ll need to remember to iron them at a lower temperature suitable for the polyester content. However…
I prefer to stick with 100% cotton shirts, then I know that once I’ve cut it up and added it to my stash it will be safe to use with my quilting cottons.
- So, step 1. is to check the label to find out what the fabric is made from
Check the labels
Which bit shall I cut first?
- Step 2. is to cut open the shirt to get single layers of fabric:
The first thing to do is cut off the sleeves. Lay the shirt on a flat surface, right side up with the sleeves out to the sides. Cut either side of the armhole to get rid of the seam, as shown in the picture below.
Cut either side of the armhole seam
Next cut off the cuffs and then cut either side of the sleeve seam so that you can lay it out flat. Cut off the placket as shown below.
Opening out a sleeve and cutting off the placket
Cut off the collar next, then cut the shirt into three pieces by cutting off the side seams followed by the shoulder seams. Cut off the button plackets from the two front pieces. If the back (and/or front) piece has a yoke cut this off too and remove the seam, this will potentially yield two pieces of fabric – providing the inner yoke doesn’t have any iron on interfacing (discard it if it has).
Cut off the collar and check to see if any parts are salvageable (see section ‘Which Pieces Shall I Get Rid Of?’)
If the shirt has a yoke cut it off and separate the pieces
If the shirt has any pockets cut them off around the seam as shown below. Separate any layers and discard any with iron on interfacing. Don’t worry about removing the seam from the main piece just yet.
Cutting off the pocket and salvaging any useful pieces
Which pieces shall I get rid of?
- Step 3. is to check over your pieces to mark any imperfections and discard unsuitable pieces:
Once you’ve cut out the shirt there will undoubtedly be areas that aren’t suitable to use for patchwork , usually due to wear, staining, or the construction of the garment:
- The button plackets (these will usually be too narrow to use) – although don’t forget to cut off any buttons to save for future projects!
- Pieces with iron-on interfacing attached (check the collar, cuffs, pockets and yoke)
- Worn or stained areas – pay particular attention to the elbow and underarm area, hems, collar, cuffs and pockets – highlight with tailors’ chalk
- Faded areas – you might find some areas are particularly faded and although this might not be a problem for some projects (providing the fabric itself is stable) you might want to keep these pieces separately
Highlighting stains on the back of the shirt with tailors’ chalk
Step 4. is to decide how to store you fabric:
At this stage you can press the pieces you’ve decided to keep and fold them up neatly to add to your stash, or you can cut them up into patches for a project. If you decide to cut them up into patches you could cut them into regular shapes and sizes that you use often and add these to your stash, or you could cut them to size and shape for a particular project. Once you begin cutting patches ensure you avoid any of the worn or stained areas that you’ve marked with tailors chalk, or any remaining pocket seams.
Cutting patches to size for Ocean Waves blocks
Storing shirt pieces
The picture above shows how I store my shirt pieces: I cut a few patches to size for a quilt I’m working on and store larger pieces in a plastic tub with other shirtings. I store narrower strips together with other odd strips to save for a potential string quilt like this one. I found out the hard way that it’s best to store my nicely pressed strips in a tub like the one above, which is actually sold for storing pencils! Previously I’d put them in a basket and discovered it’s really easy for them to get screwed up and then have to spend ages ironing them again – not my favourite job in the world!
What will you use your shirt for?
Check out these great links for more help and ideas:
Before I sign off…
I’d like to thank the lovely Ann of Fret Not Yourself for the idea for this tutorial – check out her amazing quilts, she has great style and colour sense and is so prolific I’m in total awe!
If you’ve found this information helpful feel free to share it on Pinterest by hovering over one of the images above and clicking the Pinterest link, or use one of the links below to share it with friends on your favourite social media sites!
Linking up with Lorna over at Let’s Bee Social – have a look at her fab houses quilt…hmm I can just imagine that in old shirt fabric!
Thanks for reading and happy repurposing
Sunday afternoon. There are a few minutes to spare before your friend arrives to take you out for a walk. How do you spend them?
Lost in stitches
Being a quilter, of course I picked up my latest English paper piecing project and set in the last few triangles to finish off the centre panel of the cushion I showed you recently. It’s almost there now, almost at the end of its journey. Which is really apt: I’ve been sewing this on my journey up to see Kim (my son) in hospital in Plymouth over the last 6 weeks and as I come to the end of the piecing journey Kim is coming towards the end of his inpatient stay. He’s been doing so well lately it looks likely he’ll be home in a few more weeks. So exciting! The hospital has a gradual discharge policy, to help him settle back in at home while he continues with therapy, so he was home for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon he was visiting friends, so I grabbed the opportunity to catch up with one of mine.
On the final stages now
The morning’s rain began to clear while I waited for her to arrive. I sat in the kitchen in my favourite grandad chair under the open window, taking a few stitches, clearing my head as the clouds passed. By the time we got to Cubert we were basking under warm blue skies.
Before we headed off down a steep hill towards the sea we stopped for lunch at the Smugglers’ Den, a quintessential English pub, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I love this place; in winter the wood burners are lit and the low ceilings and low light make it a warm and cosy place to retreat with a good book, on a day like Sunday you can enjoy the fabulous views over the countryside.
Geraniums growing in the hedgerow
Inspiration was everywhere. These beautiful geraniums growing wild in the hedgerow remind me of a saying my mum was always quoting as I was growing up: ‘blue and green should never be seen without a colour in-between’. This photo proves her wrong entirely, haha! And it goes to show that the best place for colour inspiration is the nature around you…not what your mother tells you at all!
Walking towards the sea
The footpaths crossed fields full of buttercups and flag irises, lazily drifting across the landscape towards the dunes. Footpaths we hadn’t followed before. Belinda and I agree that finding new places, new paths, close to home is as exciting and inspiring as finding them anywhere: we’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful place and have all this on our doorstep. But we didn’t quite make it down to the sea; we had to turn back so that I could get Kim ready in time to go back to Plymouth. No matter, it’s something to look forward to next time.
Back in the car again on the drive to Plymouth I have my slow stitching in my lap, and a lighter heart.
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I don’t know about you, but I find carrying a heavy camera around with me everywhere I go a right pain in the bum! Enter the camera-phone. Lightweight, discreet and pretty good pictures. Sometimes. But the trouble with snapshots is that they’re just that: a quick click of a button and you move on. What do you really look at, really see? A better way of looking is to carry a sketchbook and pencil in your bag. Add a small palette of colour (watercolour, coloured pencils, etc) and you can come home with a much truer picture of the things that catch your eye.
I’ve had my head down for so long though that I haven’t been looking around me with any real focus. But recently, when I’ve been out walking locally, I’ve felt the need to drink in the landscape and have rummaged around in my well-worn rucksack to find my tiny, not-quite-A6 Moleskine sketchbook (it’s 3.5″ x 5.5″) and 7b pencil. There they are at the bottom of the sack in a clear, scrunched up plastic bag with a rubber (eraser) and a (useless) pencil sharpener. Probably lighter than an iPhone. Definitely more creative (for me anyway).
Misty Hillside, Coosebean. Pencil and wash.
View over the Cathedral. Pencil.
Thrift. Coast Path, Porthtowan. Pencil and wash.
Some sketches get finished, some, like the Oak Tree (below), don’t. Sometimes you have to move on too soon; it doesn’t matter. With more regular practice you can train your eye to see/draw more quickly. This particular sketchbook has some pretty rudimentary stuff in it. Embarrassing really, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do any regular sketching. I’ll get back into it. In the mean time, I’m not worrying. It’s a sketchbook, so who’s going to see it except me? Oh, and you of course – but I’m only showing you some of the ‘best’ bits!
Oak Tree, St Clement. Pencil.
‘Best’ is a matter of opinion. It doesn’t even matter if you think you can’t draw: take a sketchbook and a few coloured pencils or watercolours (watercolour pencils are great too), look at something closely but don’t try to draw it representationally. Just draw some squares and fill them in trying to capture the colours you see. For example, you could look at a rose in a hedgerow – what colours are there? The petals won’t be just one shade of pink so try and fill your squares with the variety of pinks you see. There might be yellow stamen, but what sort of yellow are they? Gradually you’ll begin to build up a picture of the rose by colour. You could photograph it too, to stick in later. Write notes. It’s a great way to design a colour scheme for a patchwork quilt.
Snatching a few minutes here and there for drawing has been fulfilling this last week or so. Kim’s health is slowly improving and my concentration has improved along with it. Looking through this sketchbook reminds me of that; but I wonder if maybe it’s the walking itself that’s helped with concentration. I find it quite a meditative process, especially over longer distances. A couple of times this week I’ve walked between 10 and 13 miles and that’s when I really start to lose myself. I’ve been thinking about hiking a lot lately. Getting itchy feet. I’ve got a strong desire to head off into some hills for a while, or out on the coast path at least. But it’s raining, pouring in fact, and I don’t have any shelter. So, for now, I’ll have to take day hikes. And remember to pack a sketchbook.
What do you do to help you concentrate?
Back soon with something stitchy, until next time, have a great weekend.
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.