Thursday, December 01, 2016

Adventures in Batik

Behold! It is a Hawaiian disco traincrash!

For many years mum and I have disagreed upon certain quilting matters, one of these has been batiks - mum loves them, whereas I do not. I like traditional, flowery or modern and geometric. Batik doesn't seem to fit any of those characteristics. It's loud, garish and a bit, well, Hawaiian.

Batik is just not me. No siree. This is more me.
Festival of Quilts 2016
I mean look at it? It's old, flowery, delicate. Everything a cosy, little house on the prairie quilt should be. I love it.

But you know, sometimes I change my mind...

Mum made this Asymmetrical Log Cabin quilt at her local quilting class she goes to. When she first showed it to me I think I thought it was quite nice. But left alone with it for a week, it grew and grew on me, to the point where I just asked mum if I could have it. I mean come on, there must be ten quilts in every room in my mum's house; what's one less between friends?

Mum said no.



No big deal.

I am the last person to need more quilts. But it gnawed at me. I really just WANTED it. I am not even sure why I like it. I think partly why I like it is because it really is a mum quilt. Whenever I see those colours and batik prints together I just think of mum. Whenever I curl up underneath it, it feels like a mumple hug.


Mum's answer? Just make your own one. I of course pointed out that I have no batiks, so she just unveiled a huge scrap bin full of perfectly sized cut strips.

So here they are. A few fistfuls to get me going. I bought a couple of fat quarters at Duxford to supplement the stash, but it's quite hard as they really are not my thing. Heavens knows why I am making this. It's so hard. I haven't a clue how they go together and I feel a slight sense of despondency that whatever I do will not be as nice as mum's quilt, but maybe I can trick her into a swap!

This is how it started. The days have totally drawn in here. Dark in the morning until 10. Dark again at 4. There is no light. So sorry, everything is shot under my harsh angle poise lamp. The great thing about log cabin though, is how easy it is. I stuffed all the strips in a basket and just yank them out willy nilly. I tried making choices about what went next to each other but I couldn't do it. So now I just try to make sure the same colour and tone don't go right next to each other.

Here is how it chain pieces together. It's quite amazing how they all come together. Ones I thought I would like I am not that into and ones I thought weren't that nice have turned out to be my favourites.

This one was my special block because it has a sliver of mum's favourite dress from the 60's in it. She seems to manage to insert it into quite a few quilts. It always reminds me of her so I decided that this quilt should be a homage to my mam. It's the plummy pattern top middle. Then I followed her basic rule of putting purples and pinks next to greens. The outcome is ok, but the two greens next to each other was a bit of a mistake I think.

This one I feared was just too bright and garish - all different colours, no overall theme, but you know, it's grown on me.

This one is my favourite though. I like the orange and the dark and light combo. It knocks it back a bit. I thought the darker batiks wouldn't sit well with the black; not enough contrast, but you know, I kind of like it.

I am constantly surprised by my likes and dislikes. I cannot predict my fickle mind. So the game continues as I try to make 36 of these. I am doing them in blocks of 6 at a time so I can chain piece. It seems to average out at about 1 a day if I do 6 a week. We'll see. There is no time really at the moment.

I just hope at the end I achieve what I am looking for. It's an etherial kind of ending. I will like it if it reminds me of mum. It won't be about liking it, it's more about liking what it represents, but everytime I make a block, I think; 'But would mum like it?!' Maybe this is how people feel when they make quilts for other people in fabrics those people like. It's... weird.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Smitten block two progress

So here is my progress with block two of Smitten. It's slow work but the blocks are coming together nicely. I am pleased with my random flowers so far.

The flowery outsides are a bit full on but I really love this fabric. I think at the end when I lay out all the blocks I might choose to redo a few of them so we'll see if it makes the final edit. I love the stripy point though.

You can see on the left edge where I am getting some misalignment. I am not sure why. Maybe that's just life.

I am really pleased with this block. I love the yellow spots. I think it has good contrast.

My alignment is not as bad with this one so maybe I am getting better, who knows.

Here's the back. You can see my tiny stitches. That Superior Thread Bottom Line is so thin and strong, it's like fairy hair or something. There's no going back from it now, I even used it to bind a border the other day, it's just so invisible! I think my stitches would not look so neat without it. I recommend it 100%

Are the blocks all starting to go together? not really. I am playing the long game though. We'll see as I go along.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Smitten Hexagon Two

smitten icon

So here we are on block two! I had a little think about this block. Do you make the flower all one fabric or two fabrics or six? I pulled out some fabric and had a look at the Pinterest board. In the end I decided to try out a bit of both and see what I like. I felt my last set of hexes weren't very harmonious so I want to ensure these blocks are so that they help pull everything together.


Hopefully all these fabrics will go together. I don't want to overly repeat fabrics but I do want them to be a bit tighter; to have similar colour values.

I really like this block I did for my EPP case. I like the pinks and peaches with the citrus yellow/green. So I think something like this will be my first attempt. I also have a few blues which I might make into their own block. Then I might sit back and see what I think of them. Time to get started!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Smitten Block One Finished

Finally, my last block one! This took longer as I went away in the middle and then I started a completely new project - like you do. It was nice to have a little break. I do keep looking at all my block ones together... they don't really gel together which worries me! I definitely need to get some stripes into the next set of blocks.

So here is another Heather Ross print. I do love the unicorns. I was going to have yellow diamonds which matched those little yellow flowers in the middle but then I decided that I needed to be more adventurous... yeah, well I am not so sure about that now.

And here is the back. Look at all those tiny stitches. My system is that I start off whip stitching for about 5-10 stitches, then I tie a knot, open out the two shapes and do the rest is what I call a flat whip stitch – I made that up.

So here are all my block ones. Do they go? Do the repeated fabrics help? IS it a mess? You can tell me!

5th Block in Heather Ross' Far Far Away and Lizze House's The Lovely Hunt

4th block in Heather Ross' Tiger Lily and Cotton & Steel

3rd Block in Lizze House's Catnap and Cotton & Steel

2nd block in Heather Ross' Mendocino and Lizzie House's Constellations

First block in Heather Ross' Nursery Versery and the raindrop fabric which I can't recall right now.

So there you have it! Has anyone else even started? I might start thinking about the next set of blacks but it's half term next week so I am taking it easy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Half Square Triangles

Inbetween hand sewing Smitten blocks on the sofa in the evenings, I also wanted something quite simple to do on the machine. A bit of a no brainer after The Farmer's Wife. So I have started making Penelope a bigger sofa quilt as she complains that all the others are too small. Luckily she does love a quilt. I bought some colourful fat quarters a while back specifically to make her some kind of bright quilt. I spent a bit of time trawling through my Pinterest boards and finally decided to make this by Megan. She has a whole album on Flickr.

It's a pretty basic pattern; just half square triangles. This quilt will be 48" square once I have finished. I have enough fabric to make it double this size, but I think that would just be too big. We'll see. If I added two more rows at the bottom it would fit on a single bed... tempting, but we'll see.

I cut 2 big 9" squares out of 16 fat quarters. I chose this measurement as you can easily cut four out of a fat quarter without too much to spare making it a good use of fabric. That's the only reason I chose it really. Then I made 8 half square triangles in a one go out of each square. The other nice thing was that I have a long 4 1/2" ruler that was great for finding the middle lines of each block. It just made the whole process really easy and enjoyable. Mum thinks you don't need many rulers, but there is something extremely pleasing about having the exact right size for the job. I have to return the 6 1/2" square I borrowed off mum so I might have to buy my own when we go to Duxford in a few weeks. Yes, I am finally returning to the old Chillford come Duxford show. Primarily to help test out the new rollator and make sure mum can zoom around the show to her hearts content. This basically means I will whinge very loudly about every slight step I come across. I might even wear a high viz jacket to make myself seem even more of a health and safety expert. But I also plan to see if the new show is managing to get back to the greatness of its predecessor: Chillford. It's so sad that the giant scones are gone and that we have to look at war planes instead of a historic barn. Poor Chillford, burnt to a crisp. I miss you!

Anyway, I've got a lot of HST to trim down to 4 1/2". Luckily I can just sit on the sofa with my rotating cutting mat and my 4 1/2" square ruler mum gave me and just trim them out. I made my 1/4" seams a bit scant when I sewed the 8 block so that I could have some room to trim. I just thought it would make things more accurate.

Here are some of the offcuts, it's not much. Part of me can't be bothered, but another part of me finds it kind of peaceful. It does end up giving you that level of accuracy that you see in other people's quilts which make you think 'Gosh, how can they be so accurate?' Well folks, it's not really skill, it's more patience. If you spend more time trimming, starching and ironing open seams, then you just end up with a more accurate end product... but you spend 200% more time getting there. It's a pain, and often has me thinking 'but once I have scrunched it all up in the wash will it matter?' Jury's out on that one.

I sewed the blocks into strips of 4 which on reflection was not the best idea. Next time I will make units of 4 and join them together instead, but it's not too shabby and I am pleased with the colours. I wanted to make sure I had some dark blues in there; it's not a colour I usually go for. I'm not really thinking too deeply about this project so I am just throwing the colours together randomly. It's rather freeing after all the agonising of The Farmer's Wife, which by the by, is all sewn together. I just need to iron it and try and photograph it. It's massive.

I am not overly happy with the neutral background colour, I wanted something a bit warmer, but Kona just have nothing like this. Plus I keep losing the colour card chart thingy so I just had to get a grip and move on. The neutral is Kona Ash. 20161016-P1450716

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Smitten block one progress

So two weeks in and I have completed my first two blocks. I am not sure if they really go together but I am just ploughing onwards. I swapped out a few fabrics as I came to do each hexagon. I just felt that I needed a more subtle colour to go on the outer ring.

I laid out all my bright colours and went a bit blind. Really? That bright? Hmmm. I kept laying them out in different combos then finally opted for a grey low volume to go with it all to bring the brightness down a bit.

Block one
Was it a good idea? not sure, but it does frame the cog shape quite well.

I decided to experiment with some different techniques. I sew basted each element first which takes a bit longer than gluing but allows for a bit more manipulation when sewing them together. However, I found that it was quite hard lining the elements up. I made a bit of a dog's dinner of some bits.

Pink and yellow give it a real pop. Too bright? perhaps. We'll see how it comes together. Overall, it all came together in the end and I love the rainy theme of the fabrics. But can you see how my section on the left doesn't line up? Was that because of my loose sew basting? Perhaps. I have no idea.

Block two
I glue basted this time using my Roxanne glue. It's pretty great! A bit messier than the sewline glue pen but still easy to use. I just hope it comes off at the end! I also swapped out my needle. Hirosihima for block one, Black gold for block two. I do think that the black gold needles go through my finger pad quite easily which is annoying, but overall they just glide through like butter and are my preference.

The Superior thread is brilliant. There's no turning back from that. I think I will be buying more of that. On reflection I probably only need an off white neutral thread for it all in future.

On the whole I was a lot more accurate with my piecing but I still fudged some bits. Look at that fumble above. Cripes. Oh well, I am sure I will get better with practice. Overall, I am a bit worried that the grey outer section is a little dull and will stand out too much. We shall see.

I am just starting block three! I have decided to ditch the less saturated outer ring rule and am just going for it. I had to buy a new angle poise light from Ikea specially so I can piece in front of the telly. It's just a bit too dark otherwise.

That's all for now. Back to watching the Bake Off...

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Smitten Hexagon One


Let the Smitten commence! Here I am being very organised as usual. I have sifted and sifted through my stash, thinking about the first block. You have to make five of these. I spent ages choosing. I sort of chose everything in the end. Another technicolor train crash coming up! I am filled with doubt over my choices so they might well change but you have to start somewhere. I have tried to choose colours from the main pattern fabric where possible. I found @Laura_Zuckerkuss instagram feed very inspirational. Her latest colour palette of pink and peach is so great! She labels all her fabrics so i bought some of the Cotton & Steel fabrics she is currently using. Maybe it will inject me with some subtelty and taste?

Choice 1 – Itsy Bitsy Spider by Heather Ross
These were my Birmingham choices. I really like how bright and sunny they are. I might need a darker purple in there, we'll see. But this is how I plan to start.

Choice 2 – Tigerlily by Heather Ross
I am not sure if the yellow flowers will work well in the small diamond shapes but it is quite nice to keep to the fabric range.

Choice 3 – Catnap by Lizzy House
I picked up this catnap fabric in the bargain bin at Empress Mills, along with the lovely purple grey solid. I think this combo will make a very tasteful block as it is all colours from the main Catnap fabric.

Choice 4 – Medocino by Heather Ross
I've been hoarding this fabric, waiting for the perfect time to use it.

Choice 5 – Unicorn Far Far Away by Heather Ross
I am not totally sure about the pink on the end. I think a plain might go well in here. Maybe a yellow. We'll see.

So those are my fabrics for block 1! There's a bit of a Heather Ross bias going on I know.

I made a colouring in diagram in the hope that it might help me plan out my fabrics better. Already I can see that to achieve that darker frame I might have to rethink some of my choices. It also is good to look at when you are mindlessly sewing the units together.

Here is a link to Sew Lux' sew-a-long. I think the error she is talking about has been corrected, plus she is machine sewing whereas I think we are all not, but it's always good to see what other people have been doing.

I have decided to aim for creating one block a week and see how I go. I have no idea how long they really take. But a slow, easy pace works best for me. I found the Farmer's Wife pace quite gruelling!

So five blocks over the next five weeks. I'll probably change my mind about my fabrics completely as all I seem to do is sift through the Smitten Pinterest board changing my mind! Also there is a Flickr group.

Now I just need to dig out my Marti Mitchell templates and start cutting into my precious fabric! It's birthday weekend here for Penelope so I doubt I will start until that is over as I have to make cake and wrap presents in the evening. Roll on Monday!