Monday, 18 April 2016

A Quilt Block, a Quilt Dilemma and Some Random Thoughts


I bought these Anna Maria Horner Loominous fabrics last month and they're beautiful - they all have slightly different weights and textures and the feel of some of them surprised me by being perfect for dressmaking, as well as quilting. However, as I'd purchased them in fat quarters, I decided to use them for quilt making rather than a tiny bandeau top. I'd also somehow missed that they have shiny threads woven through them, so that was another revelation on seeing them with my very own eyes. The floral at the top is one of my favourite Kaffe Fassett prints, which happens to go well with them.


Not having had quite enough of English paper piecing curves with my Perpetual Spring pattern, I decided to draft something with a few more of them and found myself surprised anew (this is seemingly the post where I'm surprised by everything!) by how much easier they are to sew than I imagine them to be when I'm not actively sewing them.


Below is a photo of the block - mid-construction - reflected in my magic mirrors to give an idea of what it would look like if there were more of them. Although I've mentally moved onto my next EPP project, so I'm not sure that there will be more of them.


On other sewing matters, this quilt top (which I adore and very much want to get on with using!) has come to a sorry pause in production due to quiltification issues. Here is the sequence of events in reference to the photo below, which shows machine quilting in the upper half and hand stitching in the lower half:


1. I started off doing really dense straight-line machine quilting, which is a look that I love as when viewed at a distance I think it tends to change the way the prints look, making them appear as though you're seeing them through the blur of rainy window pane. However, having gone to the trouble of buying dreamy wool batting and backing the quilt with voile for softness, I was alarmed to find that the dense machine stitching makes the quilt feel stiff and unyielding. So after a few hours of quilting, I stopped and left it for a week to have a think about what to do.
2. I had a think about what to do and there were no helpful thoughts to be found in my head. Just a yearning for the feel of a hand-stitched quilt.
3. With no plan and pretending that the machine stitches weren't there, I began to do some hand quilting. I kept to the same density of stitch lines using small stitches. I did not consider that doing these two things in combination would mean that the quilt would take several years to complete. I only realised this a few days later when I had achieved just six lines of quilting and had only covered 2" with them.
4. On realising that the enormous quilt is now a hideous mishmash of hand quilting and machine quilting (I think those two things can look completely dreamy together, but my section of machine quilting is so large that there's no sense of the two intermingling) I put down my needle and have been background-thinking about this problem ever since February, without ever reaching a logical conclusion.
5. Here are the options that I think I have: do I finish this the easy way, by speedily unpicking the hand-stitches and machine quilting the whole thing and accepting that it's not quite as squashy as I'd like, but that it does look exactly the way that I wanted it to? Does dense machine quilting become softer with washing, I wonder? Do I unpick all the machine quilting, which will take forever and may leave holes in the fabric, unpick the hand-stitching and then hand quilt it with larger stitches in rows more widely spaced? Do I leave it under the bed for a few years festering while I think for a bit longer? I would love your input and Nell is now guarding the quilt for me (along with my trailing laptop cable), with her beautiful black button eyes, until I have been placed on a more sensible track.


In other random thoughts:

A few months ago, I decided to leave my less natural skincare products behind and have switched over to using Fushi products. I use their organic, cold-pressed Rosehip Oil in the morning as it's really quickly absorbed and has an oddly 'dry' feel to it that makes it perfect for using under make-up; and I use a mixture of Rosehip Oil & Evening Primrose Oil in the evening to treat my hormonal skin. The rosehip oil is also fantastic for treating scars, which is necessary after a freak (and slightly amusing) incident a few months ago when I was draining some ravioli rather too enthusiastically and a piece leapt up from the colander and slapped me on the forehead, leaving a large burn - although thankfully not in a square, with perfectly pinked edges! I also use Fushi's organic virgin shea butter on my skin and hair. It has a really hideous consistency that needs to be warmed in your palms to emulsify and it takes a lot of work to absorb it into the skin, but the results are miraculous. I really love that their products are so pure that with most of them you can choose to drink them, put them on your food, put them in your hair or put them on your skin.

I found Fushi's glass bottles slightly maddening though as they tended to drip, leaving little drops of oil about the place. I've now decanted them into little bottles and found them to be much more user-friendly. Plus, I've put gorgeous Rifle Paper stickers on them, which make me happy every time I use them.


Let's talk weird clocks. When I was a teenager, my father travelled a lot and was sometimes away for a few weeks at a time. As well as him arriving home, I would also always really look forward to the gifts he'd bring with him, which seemed deliciously foreign, such as a Japanese kimono or a little origami bookmark. From one trip, when I was about 12, he gave me a digital alarm clock. Several years later when I was away at university, one term I painted quite a lot of my furniture and I decided to spray my alarm clock silver (completely obscuring the settings in the process!). Since then, my husband and I have regularly agreed that the alarm clock is a hideous monstrosity with its flaking silver paint, but for some reason neither of us could bring ourselves to replace it...it had become this weird thing that we felt sentimentally attached to, even though neither of us knew why; almost like a talisman. However, this month we painted our bedroom, got a brand new bed and finally it felt like the right time to move on and have a grown-up alarm clock (I love the video which tells the story of the name behind this clock). I hope the adventure continues to be just as good with a new alarm clock in tow but if it falters even slightly, I shall buy a spray can and modify it! Do you have anything in your own home that is hideous but that you're too attached to to get rid of? I feel slightly ashamed to be sharing a photo of this, but it feels worthwhile to preserve the memory of it and also to properly convey what a curious thing it is that I've chosen to have this by my bedside for twenty-seven years. And just in case you're wondering, it's set ten minutes fast for tricking-ourselves-that-we're-late purposes that we find we no longer need, so our new clock is set to the right time.

Finally, a book. Last night, I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin - it's a simple, easy novel to read, but at the same time it draws complex and interesting characters that I quickly became attached to - I absolutely loved it and read it in one long sitting. Have you read anything good lately?

Florence x

18 comments:

  1. If you're asking for opinions, I would finish the quilt the easy way.

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  2. In my experience, a quilt that is that densely machine quilted will never drape, even after several washings. Prior to washing, it may even stand up on its own. Dense machine quilting works for wall hangings and pillow tops and bags; it does not work well for cuddly bed and lap quilts in my opinion. I'd unpick it and quilt with lines farther apart or on the diagonal. Rita of Red Pepper Quilts (Australian quilter blogger) uses straight and diagonal lines frequently on her quilts. Check out her work on her blog.

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    1. Thank you so much for your advice, Cathy. Yes, I already follow Rita's blog and her work is absolutely beautiful, isn't it. After a few more days of thinking it over, I took your advice and started quilting it on the diagonal, but with much larger hand-stitches. I'm really happy with it so far (although finishing unpicking all the machine stitches and then completing the hand stitches could take some time!). x

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  3. I love dense quilting, but can only attest that a year of constant use has not softened mine at all. Personally, I would unpick what you have and do hand quilting on the diagonal.

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    1. That's such a shame - I'm so sad for you with your quilt. I've followed your advice to the letter (although am yet to complete either the unpicking or the new hand-stitching!). x

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  4. I love matchstick quilting and have played with it on all sorts of projects, washing will soften but never like a less densely quilted piece. For a softer look, think kantha - they are hand quilted much further apart, every half an inch or so. If I was you, I'd go with the machine quilting and somewhere on the quilt label put not to tumble dry. My only wool batting quilt got washed, I'd completely forgotten it was wool and tumbled dried - it shrank to about a quarter of its original size!

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    1. Oh no! That's awful! I heard about a woman that this happened to and about two years after it happened, it suddenly occurred to her that only the batting had shrunk that much, not the cotton. She unpicked all the quilting, took out the batting and was able to salvage the entire quilt top at a normal size! Maybe this could work for you? I did quite a bit of research into wool batting before buying it - from memory, I think that you can't tumble dry Hobbs wool batting, but that you can tumble Quilter's Dream batting and I picked the one that can be tumbled...although after several wool jumper disasters, I don't believe that wool ever behaves predictably, so I'm not sure I'll actually risk it. x

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  5. I have nothing to offer on the quilt advice front, but I do love that clock of yours. I recently got a new alarm clock for my birthday which is nothing special design wise but is one of those that you cannot hear tick. I don't know why but after several decades of having normal clocks beside the bed that you can hear tick, said tick was driving me potty, hence the silent one. And again on the same subject, I recently had the joy of throwing away a ghastly modern carriage clock which my MIL gave us once after she had babysat and decided that we needed a clock (why didn't she just wear a watch or go in the kitchen where there was one??!!) I had always hated it but felt obliged to keep it. I replaced it with a rather nice wooden-surround one that I found in a charity shop for £1.50.

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    1. It took me several days to get used to the ticking of this clock (during which time I wanted to throw it across the room!), but now I've really warmed to it and love hearing it if I wake in the night. Hurrah for your super (and silent) charity-shop find!

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  6. I'm all for the quick route and I would continue machine quilting but unpick some of the existing machine quilting so that only 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 lines of stitching remain. That way you can use what you've already done.

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  7. Hmm...I have definitely found that dense machine quilting definitely softens with washing and time - I wonder what the difference is between my quilts and the other commenters? I would continue with the machine quilting, myself.

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  8. I have thought about it some more, and what I would do is continue straight line quilting but add more space in between the rest of the rows - you can always make the quilting more dense, or pick out a few rows of the machine quilting. Or you can alternate dense and spare sections of quilting...

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  9. Yes, your quilt will soften up once you wash it since you used wool batting. It's often the batting rather than the quilting that determines the stiffness. If you are quilting with cotton thread that will help even more :-) It's a beautiful piece!

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  10. Do you think the trauma of The Ravioli Incident might be responsible for your current state of easy surprisability?! I'm imagining you like that Catherine Tate character: https://youtu.be/oER9xKbD2T8
    And argh to the quilting quandary - I think I'd pick out alternate rows of the machine quilting and then continue with wider spacing. We've got an ugly old alarm clock (gift to A from his dad before we met) with bits falling off it, and we went as far as ordering a new one online but actually sent it back! x

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    1. I tried your suggestion (before changing tack completely and doing diagonal hand-stitches!) but found that when the lines were close together, it hid any lack of perfectionism I'd had in how straight the lines were...and that once I'd picked out alternate rows, any wobbliness was suddenly glaringly obvious. It would have been an excellent suggestion if I'd have taken more care initially! Thank you. And yes, the ravioli incident has left me permanently changed! x

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  11. Whilst I'm sure that the ravioli incident was very painful and alarming (there are few more painful things than a burn, but childbirth, I'm looking at you)- it does conjure a very funny image though...

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    1. It's really odd, because it was actually so bizarre and funny that rather than feeling distressed by my ravioli-disfigured forehead, it actually makes me smile each time I catch sight of it in the mirror, so do feel free to laugh with me! x

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  12. I would want the quilt to be finished, so I'd unpick the hand sewing and go with the machine quilting. I'm positive it will soften up with use and after washing. It looks far too beautiful to be left unfinished for too long!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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