Thursday, 28 April 2016

Bits & Pieces

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I can't remember now what I saw on Instagram that prompted this sudden purchase, but I was left with a yearning for some softer, calmer colours and Oakshott's Scandinavia bundle answered this perfectly. I bought the tiny fat 1/8th pack, which may seem too small to be good for anything, but I actually think when a fabric isn't patterned, I often end up using it much more economically as I'm not trying to fussy-cut certain parts of the print, so I'm hopeful it will still be usable. It was even lovelier than I'd been anticipating and it looks so deliciously creamy and soft bundled up here in perfect colour order. It's very deceptive once unfolded, as one moment it looks quite coloured and the next the colour is barely there because of the white thread used on the warp of the fabric.

English paper piecing curves

This week I've returned to some more curved paper piecing. I designed these shapes one evening last week and if it goes to plan, then it will hopefully become a pattern. However, its progress has been hampered slightly by what-comes-next fabric-indecision (thank you, people of Instagram, for being such a wonderful advisory board). I'd really like a wise man to come and give me the gift of decisiveness (which sounds alarmingly like I'm comparing myself to the baby Jesus; I'm not. I'd just like a gift from a wise man) because it would up my productivity levels quite incredibly. Discussing it with my husband this evening he said: I think you just need to go for it, because in the time you've spent feeling indecisive you could have actually finished and completed all three options that you were weighing up! This is probably true and I've suddenly realised while writing this that maybe my husband is actually the wise man!

English paper piecing

Nb. You might think Magic Mirrors can cure indecisiveness as you can essentially see a mock up of all the options...but for some people, even that doesn't help!

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In other news, thank you so much for all your wonderful advice to my quilting dilemma in the last post. I'm yet to finish unpicking all the machine stitches but, as suggested in the comments by Pieces of Cotton and also Cathy, I've now trialled some diagonal hand-stitching in a large corner and really quite like it. I couldn't quite face doing tiny hand stitches though and I suddenly remembered that I had the solution to that sitting patiently in a drawer. A few years ago I'd met Kim Porter of Worn & Washed at The Festival of Quilts and had fallen in love with how soft and squishy her quilts looked - possibly a combination of the batting she was using (I have a vague recollection that it was 100% poly, which made me rethink this option as they felt absolutely gorgeous), the soft, recycled fabrics, but also her larger quilting stitches. The three elements came together to make her quilts feel and look utterly divine! Anyway, she'd sold me some of her needles and thread and when I took them out of the drawer this week, it felt most enabling to see the label bearing the words 'needles for thicker thread and bigger stitches'. I find it really hard to do things on a larger scale, so for me, what you can see below feels like huge (and quite liberating!) progress. And this corner of the quilt feels exactly the way I'd hoped it would, so although I'm not looking forward to all the unpicking, which I think will take several hours, I think I'll enjoy the finished quilt more. Kim doesn't seem to have a shop as such, but if you're interested, I think she's going to be at The Decorative Living Fair at Eridge Park in May.

big stitch hand quilting

This post is brought to you from the middle of the night as I've woken feeling hideously nauseous after eating food containing garlic, which I normally avoid. When I came up to my sewing room with the idea of writing a post to distract myself, I saw that my half-finished quilt was in here and I can now attest to the wonderfulness of a wool batting, because I'm sitting under it right now and I was toasty within about thirty seconds of draping it over me. The voile backing is so incredibly soft and lovely so I've now added a quilt made of voile on both sides to my list of things to make at some point.  I made this one back in 2010 and it's by far and away my loveliest quilt in terms of 'feel', but I find the colours a bit wishy-washy now that my daughter is six years older and she tends to have this one out on her bed (or more often trailed across her floor because she's a teenager and that's exactly where I would have left it at her age too!). There aren't a huge range of fabrics to choose from when it comes to voile though - Free spirit used to do a collection of voile solids, but that seems to have disappeared. Finally, in writing this post and thinking about quilts-past, I've also realised that I've made three quilts for my daughter and only one for my son and his lone quilt is incredibly basic, so this too may need to be added to the quilt list too!

Sleep tight (or be highly wakeful and effective if you're reading this during the daytime!),
Florence x

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
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