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Slow Sunday Stitching the plain way

Slow Sunday Stitching: working on a circle quilt with and stitching. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Slow Sunday Stitching is here once again; I don’t know about you, but it definitely feels like the culmination of the week’s quilting for me.  It’s a point of reference where I slow down and reflect on the week’s sewing.  Sometimes I feel like it’s been a good week (however that might be framed) and things are moving forward, other times, well I’m stood standing wondering what happened!

It’s amazing to me that joining in with Slow Sunday Stitching began as a way to make connections with other quilters, but has become so integral to my ‘reflective practice’ (a very lofty term that!).  Kathy’s given us an opportunity for regular, thoughtful sharing, encouragement and support that I cherish.  I don’t suppose a quilter will often say a simple link up has fundamentally changed the way they approach their craft, but it really has for me. So much so that I’m considering a whole page devoted to Slow Sunday Stitching and ‘reflective practice’ (surely there’s a better way of describing that?!).  If you’ve got a similar ‘craft changing’ experience to share I’d love to hear it, so comment away!

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They say good things come along together: the Quilty365 sew along is another one of those good things. Again, it  started off in a simple way but has become so integral to my day that it’s changed the way I work for good.  It’s become a kind of medative ritual, so completely absorbing that I don’t notice time or anything else going on around me.

This past week’s slow hand stitching has mostly been about my Quilty365 circles (link to my latest circle gallery). After a few weeks of catching up I’m back to sewing one a day, so yesterday I decided it was time to dive in and start piecing some blocks together. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I felt I could see some themes developing that might result in two or more quilts.  The first four pictures show how the process began.

Slow Sunday Stitching the plain way - designing a quilty365 circle composition. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Working through the process of making a satisfying composition

  1. I looked through the blocks trying to decide which ones to work with that I thought had a similar aesthetic quality (literally just plonked on the easel)
  2. I then spent hours refining my choices and trying to make sense of the chaos
  3. You have to start somewhere, I told myself, so I forced myself to just stitch 2 together
  4. Then I began to feel more confident and finally, after about 4 hours, I felt like I knew where I was going.
Slow Sunday Stitching the plain way - assembling quilty365 circles. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Stage 3 – close up

I decided that a basic 9 patch format would help me make sense of the overall composition.

Slow Sunday Stitching the plain way - a quilty365 circles hand stitched with plain running and overcast stitches. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Considering the composition from all ways up

The keen eyed might notice that although there are 9 patches (in loose terms) in the picture above, there are only 8 circles. As I was working I realised that I wanted some ‘quiet spaces’, a place for the eye to rest. I’m sure there’ll be more of these as the piece progresses.

Plain Sewing

One thing I learned about working on a soft vertical surf is that although it’s good for working out your composition it’s not so good for improv patchwork that’s made up of so many pieces. As smooth as it looked on the easel, when I put the finished section on the hard floor I discovered some sections were full of ‘bubbles’ and nowhere near lying flat.

Slow Sunday Stitching the plain way - a quilty365 circle hand stitched with plain running and overcast stitches. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Getting rid of ‘bubbles’ with running stitches

I unstitched a few pieces and machined them back together on Mary (the vintage hand cranked Singer I use), but there was one stubborn section that refused to be tamed (above)! It would be a difficult section to unpick so I told myself to be creative and do it another way.  I reminded myself that what I’m really interested in exploring is ‘plain sewing’, the kind of utilitarian sewing and mending that holds things together, is strong, functional but unseen. I’m interested in making the invisible visible (there are a lot of metaphors here, but you can use your imagination to ponder what they might be!).

And here was the perfect opportunity to make the invisible visible,
out of need rather than trope.

I rolled some of the excess fabric over the adjacent seam and overcast it down (seen above on the right hand section). But the section to the right of the circle was still ‘bubbly’ and no amount of pulling the fabric around would make it lie flat. This beige fabric is slightly thinner than some of the fabric it’s stitched to and I wondered if this was the problem. I decided to stitch another piece of the same fabric behind it and see what effect it would have. Hey presto! I stitched the two pieces together with concentric running stitches, easing out the excess as I went and it worked like a dream.

dsds

Oversewn seam

There was another section where I’d managed to stretch the fabric out of shape, so I unpicked it and oversewed it back into place (above). Obviously, I’ve used a black thread and not worried about making tiny invisible stitches, so that I could make the invisible visible.

I’m so thrilled with the way this is working out!  I realise I’ve been preoccupied with plain sewing for some time (things take a while to make their way to the top of my wee brain!) and it’s been surfacing in the collages I’ve been making for a while. As this piece grows I’ll be much more aware of it and when I do some more slow Sunday stitching this evening I’ll be encouraged when I need to make adjustments with visible hand stitching. In fact, I’m thinking that this piece might be the start of a series called ‘Plain Sewing’.

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Taking some stitches on Ocean Waves with something to watch on BBC iPlayer

Taking some stitches on Ocean Waves with something to watch on BBC iPlayer

Slow Sunday Stitching tonight

Now I’m up to date with my circles (and believe it or not I even cleared my work table last night), I’ve been taking some regular stitches on my Ocean Waves quilt. My plan for this evening’s Slow Sunday Stitching is to spend a couple of hours on it while I watch/listen to something fairly mindless on the BBC iPlayer (well until the finale of the BBC’s adaptation of War and Peace comes on when all attention will be firmly fixed on the Napoleonic wars in early 19th century Russia!).

It makes me so darned happy to be taking several things forward, and on reflection this has definitely been a good week!

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, and looking forward to seeing what everyone’s been up to this past week.

Finally just a reminder that my latest newsletter’s out, with lots of inspiring stuff for you: you can find it online here and if you like it (and why wouldn’t you?!?!) you can subscribe by clicking the tab at the top left of the newsletter page.

Until next time happy slow stitching!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

25 replies
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      I love the way this piece is coming together Maureen. I keep saying that I want my artwork and quilting to come closer together and this feels like it’s almost there. The colours, stitching and thoughts I have as I’m doing it are very similar to the aesthetic and thoughts in my smaller collage pieces. It’s exciting!

      Reply
  1. Karen Goad
    Karen Goad says:

    love your circles Stephie – I don’t think I would have found you except through the Slow Stitching link up and then you joined the circles too – it is a great way to find like minded quilters and we are all doing our circles so different – you have quite an artistic bent to it!

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thanks Karen. It’s wonderful isn’t it, that even though each of our quilts might end up looking very different we all have so much in common that we can share. Some people seem to have the notion that you can only like one type of quilting, maybe hand quilting, antique style quilts or modern designs, whatever it might be. I think that’s really limiting, it’s so much more rewarding to appreciate and encourage each other – and you never know what you might learn in the process! Not to mention the lovely friends you make along the way 🙂

      Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      I’ve been stitching on top of art work for years now, but for some reason I’ve never really thought to do it with a quilt before! I suppose I thought that quilting has the quilting on top! It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to these stitches once the quilting actually begins – hopefully it’ll be a really interesting texture. I’m wondering about making the sandwich with something quite thin, a flannel maybe, especially if I decide it’s going to be a wall piece. Still we’ve got at least 8 months to decide!!!

      Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thanks Deb. I don’t know why the quiet spaces idea came along, but it did and I’m really happy to try it out and see what happens. I think it might be interesting to vary the scale of the circles too. I know they’re all different sizes, but they’re all fairly similar – I’ve been imagining what it might look like with some teeny ones, or some that are twice the size of the large ones. I can feel some playing coming on!

      Reply
  2. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    I love reading how you are doing things. I have been inspired to get creative by yourself and some people I follow on Facebook. Spent yesterday discouraging, hot foiling, stamping and colouring. And last week I made my daughter a fully reversible tote bag that she uses when she goes out with little man.
    Over the next few weeks I will be sorting fabric and making more bits and pieces. I will also do more playing with paper/ card and colours!! 😀

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      I’m so glad you’re feeling inspired Lynne – that’s music to my ears. If I’d hoped for anything from writing this blog, inspiring others to get creative is top of the list 🙂 Have fun sorting your fabric and playing. The cold weather’s a good excuse to stay inside and get messy!

      Reply
  3. Kaja
    Kaja says:

    I think that beginning to blog was a seminal moment for me: mostly because it has forced me to articulate (or try to) what I am doing and somehow that has also changed the way I think. I’m certain that I am making different quilts as a result and now find it very hard to sew without pausing to reflect and explain. I also believe that hand stitching is very conducive to ‘reflective practice’; time slows down and the focus is just on the fabric, the hand, the stitches.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Reflecting on what I’m doing has been important to me as long as I can remember, but it seems to have taken a while to find a community of quilters that find it integral to their practice too. There are lots of people that appear to be happy running off one quilt after another, and that’s absolutely fine, but I like a deeper, more thoughtful connection with what I’m doing, and like you, hand stitching really gives you the opportunity for that. I started off making art and that’s not a time based thing either, you have to give it whatever time it needs to evolve through the process.

      Reply
  4. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    I love your first nine patch with this quiet palette and the spot of blue ! I like the idea of “quiet spaces” as well. These circles aren’t going to end up like coasters after all ! 😉

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      I don’t know Sophie, I might get fed up and cut them back into coaster sized pieces any minute, haha! I really like the blue one – it’s from a linen shirt that belonged to a friend of mine and it had worn enough to need some real darning, which was a pretty exciting discovery!!!

      Reply
  5. Ann
    Ann says:

    The quiet spaces work perfectly. Great idea. I agree with Kaja that blogging made me slow down and articulate which changed so many aspects of my work. One of the things I admire in this work is how you’ve taken a germ of an idea from Audrey and elaborated it into something uniquely your own. Wonderful.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thank you Ann 🙂 I’ve tried the odd sew-along in the past, but just couldn’t stick with them as I found them far too restrictive (and got bored easily). The simple premise Audrey gave us is perfect for me: it fully allows for the ‘what if…’ type of thinking: what if I cut this circle in half; what if I make a circle from transparent fabric; what if I use the wrong side of the fabric to get the right tone from the scraps I have (I’ve done that a fair bit here!). It’s the absolute freedom that comes from a simple starting point of a square and a circle that I love and the ritual of making one a day.

      Reply
  6. Quilter Kathy
    Quilter Kathy says:

    Love the words “reflective practice”… so true! I love this weekly ritual, which as you can see I have stretched out to enjoy a few links every day this week! And now we get to do it again tomorrow 🙂
    I think the hardest part of making a quilt layout from chaos it just taking the first stitches… to just start when it all seems so unclear. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      You’re so right Kathy, I was thinking just the other day that taking the first steps to find the right quilt layout is just like being faced with a blank sheet of paper and convincing yourself to just start somewhere. If you start and your drawing doesn’t feel right you can rub it out, likewise with a quilt top: if it doesn’t work out you can dig out your seam ripper! (I know I’d rather use a rubber (eraser? – I don’t know which you use in Canada!) rather than a seam ripper though – so much quicker!). And yes, stretching out the link up so it lasts all week is wonderful – something to look forward to every day 🙂

      Reply
  7. lapaylor
    lapaylor says:

    how interesting it is. Sometimes despite being careful it bubbles. Lots of stitching does pull it in, as does blocking. Wetting the block and ironing it into square. Your work is fascinating to see coming together. Leeanna

    Reply

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