English paper piecing in grey and mustard
This finished wall hanging has been sitting around waiting for its frame to arrive for over a week now, but I haven't had time to write a blog post about it and the frame still hasn't arrived. I think out of all the things I've ever made, this is the only one where I don't look at it and feel distracted by seeing what I could have done better or differently (I'm not saying those things don't exist, just that I'm not preoccupied by seeing them). I'm finally happy with something I've created just the way it is. And oddly, it's also one of the most simple English paper pieced designs I've ever made. What I really love about it is how it looks quite intense close-up, but morphs into something pale and tranquil when I stand farther away.
However, it took quite a long time to get to this point. This small wall-hanging has been taken apart so many times and the border, it has had so many different borders. Luckily hand stitches are much quicker to unpick than machine stitches, even though they take longer to make. I tend to consult my husband and daughter a lot in terms of colour as I often find I get so close to what I'm doing that I lose any sense of perspective or objectivity about how something looks. The problem with doing this is that it's sometimes difficult for others to imagine exactly how something will look once it's pieced together…I lost count of the times I pieced a new round (and as there are only really four rounds before you reach the border, you can assume that was the same round many times over!), and my husband would wrinkle his nose and tell me it somehow wasn't quite right. It was maddening, although I think because we work together, we've fallen into this brutally honest approach to assessing whatever the other is doing, as I frequently do exactly the same to him when he's mocking up graphics for our Squeebles apps. At the time, it's always painful to hear when you've put so many hours of work into something, but ultimately I think it makes it more likely that we'll be pleased with the end result.
I use a large piece of foam board to trial out new colours and shapes, sticking the pieces on with pins. It's not the perfect way to mock something up as the dog's ears and overhangs, but it does cut out some of the trial and error, although the room does become littered with a confetti of tiny fabric-covered paper shapes.
What I learnt making this was that I as someone who loves fabric, I have an innate desire to work as many different prints into something as I possibly can. This was an exercise in peeling back print usage for me, which I found difficult as it made me feel anxious that the finished design would look dull. I've recently become fixated with studying why I find certain designs really appealing to look at though, and it's invariably because they repeat just two or three colours over and over, so I kept reminding myself of this, every time I trialled a new print. Orla Kiely's book, Pattern, which includes most of her designs up until the date of publication, has so many examples of limited colour and pattern use that I love.
I used white and grey Architextures for the plainer bits to give some texture without making things too busy. I love these prints. In her fabric round-ups (exciting weekend UK and US posts on what new fabrics are available) Katy has always said how useful prints like these were and I'd never really quite understood why, but now I can see exactly what she was talking about.
Those who follow me on Instagram, will have already seen this photo, but for those who don't, this photo below is one my favourites taken while making this. My husband and I took a week off a few weeks ago as we were working so hard on Squeebles over the summer that we didn't make time to go away for a holiday and later really regretted it. So, completely unplanned, for a week in November or December (I can't remember which now, as time seems to be going so quickly in the run up to Christmas) we sat around watching films, going out for meals and taking Nell for long walks and I also did a lot of hand-sewing. It was so lovely to recharge our batteries in this way. One day I sat on the floor with my back to the radiator and Nell came and fell asleep with her half of her body draped over my legs: the solid weight of a warm dog is a very cosy blanket indeed.
The wall-hanging will end up downstairs once it's frame, which is making me want to make another one (not exactly the same!) for our bedroom as I shall miss it once it's gone and my daughter has also said that she'd like something similar for her room. It's so nice to begin planning these out in my head
Ps. If you like any of the fabrics you've seen in this wall-hanging, for the most part they came from Kate's shop.