Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FW19: Carolina & FW20: Caroline

20151118-P1430158.jpg Officially a fifth of the way through! Horrah! It's starting to take shape. Now that some of the fabrics are being repeated they are all gelling together a bit. We are still in sick land here. It is one thing after another. Penelope started vomiting late last night on the first night of not coughing herself awake constantly so she is in bed this morning and I am back sewing. At this rate I might as well do one of the US QAL blocks.

So these two blocks threw me slightly. I expected one to be difficult and the other to be easy, but I got them the wrong way round. I also lengthened my stitch length this week. I was finding it increasingly difficult to unpick blocks so I just made it longer and hey presto, it's all fine. I think I need to investigate seam rippers too. There must be a better tool.

Block 19: Carolina
Y-seam heaven. But actually they weren't very severe angles so it actually came together quite smoothly. I spent more time deciding on fabric.
Even the back seams very pretty easy. I did really starch the fabric to avoid too much stretch.

The 1930's print is a left over from the Jitterbug quilt which never quite fitted in. Here is works perfectly. I'm really happy with the result. There aren't that many versions of this block on Instagram so there are none that I wish were mine just yet. I did wonder if the background should just be plain grey in order to make the pattern more prominent but I am happy.

Block 20: Caroline
This block I am not so happy with. It's a simple idea but I poured over the fabric choices not being able to make up my mind. In the end I decided that I needed some more dark purple in there to balance out the few purple blocks I had done so far so I went with a simple matching pinky purple: a safe bet. The thing that annoys me with this block is that the three central points are all slightly off.

See? it's only slight, but it IS annoying.

And my seams are quite bulky. I should have taken more note of Kerry's swirl seam technique. It's an okay block but it doesn't thrill me. I could almost do it again just to see if I could get it perfect. It would be nice to know I had a learnt to a new technique if I can do the seam thingy.

I really like this version and I like Kerry's use of pink and purple. So maybe I'll try it again... or just move on to something new! That's the best thing about each block, once you've done one, it's over.

So slowly it's coming together; all my pinks peaches and purples. I think I like it... I think

Friday, November 13, 2015

FW 2: Aimee and 3: Alice

20151113-P1430132.jpg Another day, another sick person. I am well! But Penelope is not. We've had a proper full on sick day here. Thank heavens for cartoons. It's been really peaceful. I have been sewing whilst talking occasionally to the patient and trying to ply her with food. I decided therefore to finish up catching up! I am only two blocks behind at long last.

Block 2: Aimee
There's not much to say about this block. It was really easy in the end and came together really quickly. I've only got one other block that uses a big expanse of plain grey and so I think I need to create a few more. Sometimes I feel it's too plain but actually it's great laid out next to a fussy block such as the following one.

I was a bit worried about using the flowers after my blousy basket block, but I do like the print so I decided to stick with it. I think it works much better here. It's probably a bit more recessive than I originally wanted (this was what I was aiming for) and probably not as nice as others I have seen on instagram like this and this, but in general I am happy.

I'd been a bit stuck really. I've been slogging away at block 3: Alice for ages now. I thought that doing it in tiny bits would help me forget just how many bits there are! All that happened though was that I realised my fabrics were wrong. They were just flat, no contrast and they were just too samey. It really put me off and I decided to just drop the entire block. Here is the previous incarnation. I am not sure why it doesn't work for me. It just seems dull and murky and the grey points were lost against the grey dot background.

And because these were from so long a go they were both printed on tracing paper which is just rubbish. I forgot to turn my iron down and so burnt a few sections. That was the final straw really. Thankfully all those old printouts are done now so there's no more dealing with that. In celebration I have bought some Carol Deck Foundation Peicing Paper which I will use for the next batch. It won't be for a while though as I have already printed out up to block thirty.

Then this morning I decided to come at it afresh and just start again. So I printed out the pattern, cut the fabrics, sewed the sections, then sewed it togther. All in one go. It's amazing how chilled you can be when you have plenty of time.

Block 3: Alice

It's very slightly wonky, but I love it. I am just really happy that the new fabric choice turned out so well. I really like peachy oranges next to pink. It is really the theme of the whole quilt. I am also pleased that something I had basically given up on could turn itself around like that. I also like this version and this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

FW 17: Bride and 18: Carol

Well another week has past and I am still in control it would seem. I thought I would fall behind because of half term and because I have been hit by the dreaded winter vomiting. But the only good side to this is that for 24 hours after you are feeling well again you are still contagious so I am in my confinement, feeling weak, but managing to do a little bit of sewing. This might be a long post as I have time on my side here.

Luckily I had cut the templates and fabric all out in advance as it's something very easy to keep on top of whilst watch The Apprentice. In fact, I am often ahead of myself. This can work against me sometimes as when I see other blocks people have created I want to change my fabrics! If I had seen Kerry's Bride block before I cut my own fabrics out then I would have changed my mind totally! Ack.

Block 17: Bride
But I am happy with my block. It really needs to be on point, but I haven't really decided fully about how it will end up. I don't need a massive quilt at the end of this. I really don't. I had planned to make half the blocks and put skip blocks in with it to even out the intensity, but I don't seem to have dropped many of the blocks. So far I have not completed Block 2: Aimee – it's not going well. My colours are not good so I keep putting it down. It's all a bit too fiddely for me and I am sure I really like the block. And block 5: Anne – nope. just not for me. But considering we are nearly a quarter of the way through that's not many to drop. I am in danger or making nearly all of them! I do feel some are weaker then others though and either I redo them in better fabric or i just take them out. Anyway that's in the future. Back to this week. The block was good, it came together pretty easily.

It took me a long time to choose fabrics. Look at my mess! Usually I really enjoy trawling the instagram block tag first for inspiration but it was pretty empty this time. Obviously I love Kerry's block with the use of solids and the variation in the small coloured bits but I didn't see that because I started early, so I looked at Fiona's for inspiration. I really couldn't say how this related to my final block, other than I knew that the big diamonds should be the main flowery fabric. Anyway who knows if I really achieved that as my lawn is quite pale really and I meant it to shine out, but I still like it. The problem with lawn though is the show through. I am hoping you won't see it against white wadding.

I'm getting much better at my seams so the backs are looking a lot tidier.

And I have started leaving all the outside edges untrimmed so that I have some extra leeway when trimming the final block to size. It makes all the difference and doesn't seem to affect putting the block units together too greatly.

Block 18: Carol
I thought this block was going to take ages but actually it was pretty quick. I felt quite bold using the dark purple as it's by far the darkest colour I have used so far but I am in danger of being too safe and having all my blocks look samey. I wan them to look more varied, to step out and create something more along the lines of the quilts I seem to pin by other people. Such bold colour choices I always think. So come on, get emboldening. I have already seen some people using dark colours – black even – to great effect. Check out Sue's and Emmy's. I really like them and this one. So this purple is my stab at it. Need to use it in some more blocks.


Yes I caved in and used coloured pencils after saying I wouldn't. Primarily because I was down in my parents cellar trying to have a little throw out and found my school pencil case with every coloured pencil in it that I have ever owned – quite a collection. I am amazed I never got rid of them but they are Caran D'Ache Supracolor Soft Pencils which I remember being THE BEST. I remember mum buying me and my sister our first tin. I was so excited. I wish I'd kept the tin now. Anyway, the pencil case stinks. It's been in the cellar for at least fifteen years, but they are all there so I thought I might as well start using them to see if they do indeed make life easier. And they do! Result. See a quality pencil crayon is for LIFE folks.

I also created my triangles the normal way instead of trying to make big batches of HSTs. It was much easier and more accurate. D'oh. I am much happier with the end result.

So here they all are so far laid out just to check that the dark purple is going to work. I think it's going to be fine. Do I wish it was black? Maybe, but you know, small steps. Looking at them all laid out makes me think: more dark purple, more orange sprigs, more turquoise, more text print and more bird print. Best get cutting out some more blocks.

Nearly quarter of the way through!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

FW 11: Bea and 12: Becky

A good week this week. I finally felt like I was catching up a bit after my slow start. I have a bit of a routine going now. I print out a bunch of the templates. Every evening I sit in front of the TV and cut out a bunch. I stick the little thumbnail in my notebook and try and work out colours and sizes. Then I put all the templates in their own plastic bag and number them. Once they are all cut out. I take one a night and choose the fabric and cut it all out. It's always bad lighting so I am not overly confident in my choices. Then I put the current two bags by the sewing machine and literally grab a few minutes when I can to sew a unit. Sometimes it's literally one piece a day. I do a big catch up on Saturday or Sunday depending how the old 'independent play' idea goes down. We have boxes of Play Mobil, Duplo and train tracks which I empty out one after the other. They probably buy me about 10 minutes each.

Here I am making complex notations that even I don't really understand. I spend a lot of time looking at my notes thinking 'what is going on?' I often end up not even using them. I mark the plan with my colours using abbreviations. I know some people use coloured pencils but it would just be another thing to balance on the sofa and I already have my basket of fabric, my project bag and my cutting board. Everything ends up falling down the cracks in the sofa as it is. when I started this I had done two other small test blocks in order to learn foundation piecing. I feel I am only just starting to get into my groove of how to do this technique.

The Bea block felt a bit overwhelming with all its pieces, so I made a bulk batch of half square triangles then realised I had no idea how to use them with the foundation paper technique. I made quite a few mistakes before I worked out a way. I am not 100 percent on it. My blocks still aren't perfect but that could be because I don't so enough ironing and starching or unpicking. My tolerance level is quite high. I hate going backwards so a lot of things slide. Back to my new technique: I ended up having to draw 1/4" lines on the back to make sure I got them in the right place.

I did manage to do some chain piecing for once. Usually my brain just can't cope and I have to do each bit one at a time. But there were so many bits with these blocks that I felt like I just needed to save some time.

I starched and pressed all the units which I don't normally do but I thought it might help as these pieces have so many bits that need to line up. The wetness of the starch curls my paper but if I turn them over and do a quick press on the front they usually loose most of the kink.

Here is one of my units. I cut all by pieces 1/2" bigger rather than 1/4" as I find it gives me the leeway I need. Except for the premade half square triangles which had to be 1/4" just to line up with my foundation paper borders otherwise I couldn't make them work. Then I trim each section before sewing them together. But I have started leaving the outside edges untrimmed so that when it comes to trimming out the whole block I don't need to be 1/8" short.

Here is my unit trimmed just on the inner sides.

Another thing I have been doing is after I sew two units together I pull off the papers along the seam so that I can have some open seams. These blocks can get so bulky.

Here is what it looks like. Ready to sew to the next unit. It doesn't make much of a difference here perhaps.

But it does here. Jeez. What a lot of blocks.

My new phrase is; 'It's not perfect, but it'll do'.

If you look closely there are some lost points and some bits that don't line up. I think if you took the papers off before sewing you could tug some of these joins into place, but I haven't tried that yet. We just won't look that closely at it.

Block 15: Blossom
Behold! The finished block. Erm... hang on. It's not the block I was meaning to do. There is however a reason for this...

Block 11: Bea
I made the Bea block first and I just wasn't that happy with it. 1. I am sort of thinking I won't do my blocks on point yet this basket doesn't look so good square. 2. I felt the flowery fabric was a bit, well old fashioned. And 3. It just looks wonky. This is where I made all my mistakes and unpicked to high heaven trying to work out the best way to do it. So I decided to make a similar style block straight away putting all my new knowledge into practice. More starch, more starch!

So I ended up making Block 11: Bea and Block 15: Blossom. I'm much happier with the more contemporary fabric and I feel I have tamed the HST overload block. It was an intensive week though. I'm glad it's out of the way.

I think when I reach the end I will lay out all the blocks and remove any that I feel aren't really making the grade. The basket might be living on borrowed time, but when I lay them all out and squint it actually fits in okay.

Block 12: Becky
Becky block
But don't worry, I also made block 12: Becky. A lovely easy block and a chance to show some of the bigger prints. I really enjoyed it. I do like simple blocks that allow you to show the fabric. I love this version and this one. Gosh and this one and this plain one. In fact it's fair to say, I liked everyone elses so much I decided to do the block. I was planning not to bother as it seemed too easy and I realised I mostly like blocks where it'e the fabric range I like really. Like this one and this one and this one!

It does mean I have not completed a block from the US quilt a long group this week though, but it was a bit wishful thinking to imagine I could keep up with both. I still have three other blocks to complete from the UK quiltalong on the back burner so I need to keep up the momentum. I missed watching Kerry's Periscope this week. I really look forward to it. I've already done one of next weeks blocks so I am hoping to catch up on the earlier blocks.

Right. I'll stop talking now. Half term here next week so it might end up that I achieve very little. We'll see.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

FW 7: Augusta and 14: Betty

Ere we go. Another week and my first big disaster in quiltland. I have really tried to catch up and get organised, or rather try to. I seem to be failing. I've even been dreaming about blocks. I am not sure why. Last week I managed to make one block from both of the quilt a longs; block 1: Addie and Block 8: Aunt. They were fine. See the post here. I felt good.

Block 14: Betty

This week I made two blocks but I began to notice all the things I was doing wrong and wish my blocks were more perfect. Some of my seams are tiny due to bad lining up of fabric. Some points are off because, well I donn't know. I haven't been starching. I should starch right? I do usually, i just wanted to catch up quickly. I feel like I could be doing better basically. So i feel a little disheartened. But I did get a mention on GnomeAngel's link party roundup! Yay! So i am trying to be upbeat.

I do seem to be learning a lot with each block which is definitely good. With the first two I learnt that using tracing paper to print out the foundation pieces onto is great. This week with block 7: Augusta (from the UK QAL) and block 14: Betty (from the US QAL) I learnt that tracing paper is in fact rubbish as soon as the blocks become complicated. It's too thick and heavy. Either I pull my stitches apart or I make my stitch length so tight that it sheers the paper in two. I am going to buy me some proper foundation piecing paper or just revert to bog standard computer paper.

I also learnt with Augusta that I need to be better about my seams and trim as I go along by folding the paper as shown on verykerry's blog. It really tidies everything up nicely.

I'd also like to iron my seams open as some of the joins are very lumpy. But I am not sure if it's possible with foundation piecing. I did realise that some of the blocks are so simple that you don't really need to foundation piece them. I also realised after I had constructed Aunt above that I should have used my preferred method of making multiple HST's at once. I have actually never tried sewing them from triangle shapes. It's rubbish, they just stretch. But with fussy cutting you don't have a lot of choice.

I also need a small rotating cutting mat. It would just make a big difference. Then I could trim at the sewing machine instead of getting up every five minutes to go trim something. It's annoying as I really don't want to buy more quilting stuff. I just don't have the space nor the funds. but some things are just really useful like this ruler above. I bought it on a whim to go in my project bag. I really didn't need it and now it is really useful as it has bold 1/4 markings to trim my seams with and is a great small size for cutting.

I have also started to do a bit of chain piecing. Not too much as some of the blocks are just too complex. I can only think about one section at a time. I swear I have been doing Block 3: Alice for an age now.

I just keep putting it down when it does my head in. I need to have a better system. I think the coloured pencils on the foundation paper might have to come into play as I can barely understand my current marking system.

But back to my disaster. This week I printed out my template with 'fit to paper' selected and it shrank it every so slightly to fit on A4 paper. Sigh. So my block was 1/2" too small. So I made it again. The one on the far left is the new block. And I got to change my fabric around which is always interesting. Not too bad as it was an easy block but I was hoping to get another block finished from the backlog. I can basically only just about manage one block a week currently so catching up is hard work. I think the first block on the right is nicer though which is slightly annoying.

Truth be told, when I lay out all my blocks together I don't really think they go! I am hoping as I repeat the fabrics and change the combos though that the whole thing will come together. I promised myself I wouldn't play safe and just use one colour way or fabric range. Of course when I look on Instagram I fall in love with many people's versions doing that very same thing. And part of me is sad I am not using repro fabrics as the ones I am seeing are really lovely.

Block 7: Augusta

But on a positive note, Block 7: Augusta was much easier than I anticipated. I was really pleased with it, even though it's a bit more garish. I love the blue print. I was really elated when I went back to Birmingham a year after buying a small fat quarter and there it was again.