Gifts in Spring

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Bluebells carpet the floor in the wood behind our house

Spring came early this year and I wasn’t ready for it. Most surprising were the bluebells arriving two weeks ahead of time and a hydrangea in flower in May rather than in mid to late summer. The Rhododendrons look amazing this year, better than ever:

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We have a whole range of colours in bloom from vibrant reds and oranges, to soft creams and luminous whites:

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I haven’t shown up here for a while and I have missed writing my posts. Not only do I enjoy chatting to you all but it feels good to see my thoughts on paper. Often they’re not clear until I see them in black and white.

I’ve been busy gardening, trying to transform new areas of the garden, buying a few new plants, replanting things in bigger pots which I neglected to do last year, and having my grown up children to stay for a while. It’s been lovely to catch up and feel close in ways that aren’t possible by email.

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My favourite perennial, bought this Spring, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

I have done SOME sewing,  for a friend’s birthday. I found an embroidery pattern that said just what I wanted it to say . It suited her perfectly, in that she tries to live her life to the full every day.

For Kriss

It’s not my own design but I find that when you sew something different for the first time, someone else’s design is often hugely helpful. It’s a bit like a children tracing letters with their fingers before they write them. I have not made any embroidered messages like this before, but now that I have done it by following in someones else’s footsteps, I feel more confident about creating my own design and I have a clear idea of what I would do differently.

Embroideries like this are not quilted, so there is the issue of them not being fastened to the background fabric in the same way. The embroidery is only on the surface. It doesn’t go all the way through to the back because the reverse of the stitches are not tidy in the way that quilting stitches are. You wouldn’t want them to show. I did use an iron-on fusible interfacing between the front and back fabric but some ‘puffing’ is still visible in the centre area, as you can see in the photo. Anyone know how to avoid that??  I think next time I will try a double sided fusible interfacing and see if that works better.

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I made it in the colours of her living room and popped it in a frame. I hope it will remind her to keep doing what she does already. I think that these simple embroidered appliquéd or quilted messages are a great idea for a personal gift and are not too time consuming or difficult to complete.

Now we come to the real reason no sewing has been done. It’s the arrival of two, three-day-old, Runner ducklings, a birthday present from my husband They are such a delight (and a constant distraction).  Here they are, my two little girls, Flossie on the left and Phoebe on the right. I am smitten. They will be fawn and white when they are fully grown.

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I did ‘complete’ the Third Plus project I was working in the last couple of posts and ended up calling it ‘All at Sea’. I found that once I washed away the appliqué sheet behind the face, and quilted the design onto a backing, the initial puckering that had worried me seemed to disappear. I say ‘complete’ because I still intend to remove the paper boat, change the stitching on it and sew it back on with waves enveloping the sides. At the moment it sits on top of the sea and I don’t like that. Whether all this is possible at such a late stage, I’m not sure but I’m going to give it a try.

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I have ordered some tools for printing some my own designs onto solids as I want to give that a try before dying my own cloth. I hope to do a post on that in due course, if it’s not a complete disaster (or even if it is).

I find myself wanting to move away from the traditional patchwork designs to explore other things but I need to use up quite a bit of my stash of fabrics first.  And I have been wanting to open an Etsy shop for so long, as I really don’t want to hold on to everything I make, especially if some of it can bring some pleasure to someone else, but find it is not only complicated and time consuming (I can cope with that) but expensive. You really need your own website and some set up to allow card payments, you need to pay for listing your items even if they don’t sell, for labels, for inner and outer packaging and so on. I’ve come to realise that I can’t afford to do it right now, though next year is a possibility. On the plus side, I’ll have a whole lot more variety of stock available by then.

In a few weeks my ducklings will need a little less care and attention and it will be too hot to garden. That is the time I will get back into almost full time sewing but for now I will just look at my patterns in waiting and see what grabs me and make a start.

Enjoy the rest of Spring…

Bye for now….

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Third Plus Revisited – and More

Purple Rhododendron coming into flower in our front garden.

Hi Everybody,

Signs of Spring have come to western Scotland at last. It’s feeling warmer and, although it is still disappointedly wet, there is so much colour appearing the garden.

Much of my time has been taken up caring for my new family of ducks over this winter. I had no idea they would be such hard work, not so much the ducks themselves, but being outside every day cleaning a pen and pond in all weather, the snow and the constant rain being the most challenging.

This pond was fresh, clear water only hours before. Hard to believe!

I can’t wait for drier weather when I am not sliding around in mud and my ducks return to being pure white again.

Yuk Yuk

I have been working on my ‘Third Plus’ experiment that I spoke about in my last post. However,  it has not been as successful as I had hoped.  I began by deciding to try using a wash away appliqué sheet,  as I had been given some for Christmas and had not tried them out.

I cut the face shape I wanted out of one of the sheets which, thankfully, was thin enough for me to trace my pattern through it. I then cut out the shape and covered it in fabric, folding the edges over the shape and gluing them down using a Sewline fabric glue stick.

The appliqué sheets are fusible on the shiny side. I chose to fuse the shape to the background fabric afterwards to stop the shape moving rather than fuse the wrapped fabric to the shape. Next time I might try it the other way around.

I thought the seam around the face looked ugly so I decided to cover it with stem stitch, using a variegated blue thread. I cut a boat out of paper to help me decide where I might place it,  though later I made it smaller. I wanted it to look a bit like a boat and a bit like a hat. You can see some puckering beginning at this stage. I have not had this happen when I have used ordinary paper inside a shape, though it could be just that I pulled my stitches too tight. I probably should have stopped and investigated but I thought it might iron out eventually. It didn’t.

This is the embroidery and appliqué completed. If I was pleased with it I probably would have added more to improve the shape of the lips and brows. The puckering seems worse now but it is possible that it will improve when it is quilted with some wavy lines. We’ll have to see. I haven’t washed out the appliqué sheet inside the face yet either and I wonder if that will make any difference. Apparently you can choose to leave it in, which may give the shape some depth, though it feels a bit hard and inflexible. This doesn’t really matter for a picture but it might matter if you were using it on a cushion, for example.

Although it is not finished as yet, I put the project in a frame to give you an idea of how it would look, proportion wise, but it was after five in the evening and so the picture looks quite dark. You’ll get the idea, though.  I do like the idea of a two-tone background, so I will definitely try that again.

‘Lady of the Lake’ 8 x 8 inches

The only other thing I’ve completed this week is ‘Farm in the Hills’, which has been equally disappointing.  I thought tossed cows in the ‘fields’ around the farm would be fun but now realise I should have fussy cut them all the same way up. Most of them look upside down. So, I’m not very happy about this one either. I can’t believe I finished it before I even noticed!

‘Farm in the Hills’ 8 x 8 inches

I ran over my index finger with my rotary cutter as well, so I was sewing wearing two plasters and a surgical glove so that I wouldn’t bleed on anything.  Not a great week for sewing, then.

In progress, despite all this, is ‘All Roads Lead Home’, which looks a bit more promising.

‘Al Roads Lead Home’ 12 x 12 inches

I have yet to add a window, perhaps  some vertical lines on the roof to suggest slates, and I want to put some hens or geese or something suggesting movement in the bottom, right hand, square. Then there is the quilting and binding to do.

As soon as the weather changes I shall be taking a break to go out in the garden as there  is stacks to do before everything  leafs up, explodes into flower, and the grass starts growing again. I also have to embroider something special for a friend’s birthday in April.

Next post? I have the embroidery bug at the moment, so I am thinking of attempting some Paisley Birds as a complete change from appliqué and design guides, though my Scottish themed EPP quilts will be chugging along, in between, as usual.

So, until next time, take a moment to enjoy the flowers….

A pink Camelia bud in the back garden.

‘Third Plus’ A Design Guide

Chenomeles, not often put in a vase and yet it looks lovely.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a start. You wonder how to begin to organise a design on your blank canvas, whether it’s paper or fabric.  But help is at hand. Deborah Boschert has taken traditional elements and principles of design and condensed them into a series of eight Design Guides, that go a long way to help us with that process in a friendly, non-academic, way.

‘Sketching with Silk’ by Ellen Linder.

You may remember that several posts ago ( October 2017: ‘Design, Composition and Play’) we looked at another of Deborah’s design guides: “One Amazing Line” and  I made an English Paper Pieced snake with some embroidered ladders. Here is another, much more proficient, example of  what a simple line can do, ‘Sketching with Silk’, a 9 x 36 ” piece  by Ellen Linder.

Today I wanted to talk briefly about another of Deborah’s Design Guides, one that she calls ‘Third Plus’ and to see what I can make of it with some simple EPP and appliqué.

Moda ‘Grunge’ fabrics

Her first directions is to “fill one third of the space with one fabric and the remaining two thirds with another fabric.” I chose an 8 x 8 inch space and two shades of fabric that complemented each other, for a sea theme.

These are Moda Grunge fabrics ‘Crystal Sea’ (the lighter fabric on left) and ‘Cabana’ (the darker fabric on right) which are perfect for background interest. They come in a HUGE range of colours and shades.

The next step is to put ” something interesting” on the line dividing the two fabrics. You can put this slightly above, below, to the right, or the left of the line, whichever suits your idea better; and this is a composition that works in portrait or in landscape, which is another thing worth exploring.

The “something interesting” that you add can be a shape, like a cloud; or a symbol, like a plus sign; it can be a line that works across the composition; or an arrangement of small things, like flowers or sea shells. You can play with texture and colour, too. So, there are stacks  of options that can take your initial idea different ways.

As I am an English Paper Piecer, I begin with paper shapes, so I drew my design out and placed my “something interesting”, a face, just  a squeak below the centre of the line. I drew it out as a grid first because I considered a patchwork background, but changed my mind and stuck with simply joining the two pieces of fabric.

‘Third Plus’ design sketch

The item of interest that you add to your line doesn’t have to be an appliquéd piece, like mine. Yours might be embroidered on, or  you might have a series of patches worked into the centre. My plan is to appliqué the face on the background, then embroider it (perhaps adding a little paint). After that I will embroider on the hair as a series of rolling waves and then appliqué a small boat riding the waves. I want to call my composition ‘Lady of the Lake'( though as I am in Scotland, perhaps I should be calling it the Lady of the Loch !

So here we go. The first step is to tack each background piece and then sew them together.  It will look something like this (without those horrible tacking stitches of course!)

‘Third Plus’ background shapes.

As the face is going to take me a while to complete, I need to leave you here and show you the finished item in the next post, where I will talk about any changes I make, and  about the surface embellishment.

Recommended Reading!

In the meantime, you have all the information you need here to make a start on your own Third Plus project and I will gladly post pictures if you send them to me. You may also want to check out Deborah Boschert’s book online. it is called ‘Art Quilt Collage :  a creative journey in fabric paint and stitch’. I can’t recommend it enough for when you want to take that next step into something more ‘arty’.

I also wanted to say something briefly about copying, today. I see that in the UK, copying is something very much frowned upon. As I see it,  here  we are encouraged  to separate ourselves from others and create something unique.  I grew up in the Far East where copying is encouraged and you would be thought very arrogant indeed to think that, as a beginner, you could just go off and do your own thing.  I attended Chinese Brush Painting classes where students would watch while the painting master created a painting in front of their eyes and then copy it.

‘Paddy Birds’

One day, after several years of copying, my painting master paid me the highest compliment (actually the only one he ever paid me). “Just like mine,” he said. Of course it wasn’t but it was his way of telling me that I was nearly ready to create my own compositions. The painting was Paddy birds (from the paddy fields), in a tree.

I agree that copying work and passing it off as your own is not acceptable but there are advantages to copying work as a learning exercise and I don’t think we should be afraid to embrace that. After all, didn’t Picasso say something like it took him a couple of years to learn to paint like Rembrandt and then the rest of his life to learn to paint like a child ?

The original ‘Antique Fair’ basket by Merumo at pleasantreeus.blogspot.com

We can learn things from copying that lead us to a better execution of our own ideas in the future. I often copy designs I am drawn to on Pinterest. Here is an example.

I copied this little quilt because it allowed me to try some small appliquéd shapes for the first time as complete something fairly quickly. Sometimes I adapt designs to suit myself. Here I changed the shape of the basket  because I liked this one better. I also added a tail and some whiskers to the rabbit. I am quite happy to say it is not my own design, or that I have improvised on top of someone else’s. It still makes me smile whenever I look at it.

My copy, ‘Spring Basket’

In copying I can inhabit the shoes of the maker, understanding a little of what it took to make that design, or use those stitches. Copying helps us experiment, gives us something specific to focus on: What would it be like to make a primitive design like one person, an embroidered landscape like another? Though copying we learn about what we most enjoy and want to go on and develop. Some people are so talented they can create something unique from scratch. Most of us have to learn slowly by trying out different things in a bid to find our own unique take on the world. Copying is a good way to start out. What’s not to like, as they say?

After ‘ Lady of the Lake’  is complete, I will return to some more Scottish themed ideas that are already in progress, with one or two especially for Spring. If  Deborah’s Design Guides give you useful food for thought, we could try out some more of them……let me know, ok?

Till next time…

 

 

 

 

Two Pieces of Scotland (And a Touch of Fake Trapunto)

Hello Everyone,

We have some unexpected mild and sunny weather here in Western Scotland at the moment, despite a few snow flurries a week or so ago. Spring really is beginning to feel closer and the snowdrops down through the garden look thicker and whiter than ever.

I have just a couple of pieces to show you today as I am trying to sort through a pile of unfinished projects. One or two went wrong, some just need a little tweak here and there, some need quilting and some need binding. After a while it gets annoying to have so many sitting about in various stages of unfinished, so it’s time to deal with a few at a time.

Even the two I am posting here have been in the pipeline for over a year. I am amazed how long it takes me to finish something. I think that it’s down to having too many pieces at different stages at the same time. However, I see from posts on an online EPP group I joined, that this is nothing unusual. We all seem to get excited about the next project and make a start on it before we have finished the one we are already working on. From now on I am going to start fewer projects at one time, with a view to finishing them more quickly – ha, well, that’s the plan.

‘Down in the Glen’

The first of my finished pieces is ‘Down in the Glen’ which I completed months ago but I wasn’t satisfied with how it looked. I thought that if the trees stood out a little more the scene would have more depth, and so I decided to unpick them and stuff them with some cotton fluff, of the sort that you stuff soft toys with. I couldn’t face unpicking all the trees and sewing them down again after after having just painstakingly sewn around each one, so I put the quilt aside for a while.

Eventually I felt ready to make the changes but found that the stuffing I intended to use gave a rather uneven, lumpy result, so I used a medium loft quilt batting/wadding instead. This gave a more even finish and it was fine for the house roof but gave a flatter look to the trees than I wanted, so I think perhaps a higher loft batting might have worked better for those. I didn’t want to start all over again with different batting so I will just keep this in mind for the next time I do a  project of this nature. It is now finished and the above photo shows it being ‘auditioned’ in a frame. It hasn’t been stuck down to the backing board yet, so it’s not evenly placed and tending to crumple towards the bottom as it tries to stand upright. I need to attach a label on the back before I stick it down.

‘Dog Log’

I have become increasingly unhappy with my bindings, which seem to chop off fussy cut piecing at the edge of quilts, as in ‘Dog Log’ above (also recently finished), or show too much of the binding inside a frame or mount. I have got around this with some quilts by altering the size of the centre space in a mount to hide the binding, but In future I am going to add a further pieced border around my mini quilts for the binding to fold onto, so that this stops happening. I have now unpicked ‘Dog Log”s binding to add a border and binding that will allow the dog house at the top to regain its rooftop and for the dogs and the fence to be seen in their entirety on the other sides.

The second piece I have to show you is the first ‘Luckenbooth’ design that I created, finished just in time for Valentine’s Day this year (see my 19 March 2018 post, ‘Update – Work in Progress’) for more about the Scottish Luckenbooth and its purpose). An online friend said the colours gave it a soft look. This was intentional. I wanted to get away from the hard reds and pinks we usually associate with hearts on Valentine’s Day. This love token is not about passion; it’s about  something quieter and more lasting.

‘Lavender Luckenbooth’

The heart and the crown have also been stuffed with a piece of low loft batting, cut to fit each shape – 3 triangles for the crown and a whole piece for the heart which was then embroidered down the pieced seam on the upper right with feather stitch. Again I think I could have got away with a higher loft batting, especially since I am going to put it in a box frame. A  good press and a frame and it will ready for someone to put on their wall. I would love to think this little quilt could represent a symbol of lasting devotion between two people. That would be so gratifying. There could be a secret message on the back.

The method of stuffing fabric as a decorative feature is called Trapunto quilting, from the French meaning ‘to stuff’. However, traditional trapunto is more complex in that it uses two layers of fabric and cutting and stuffing is worked from the underside, to create a raised surface on the front. My, much easier, fake Trapunto is more like a simple stuffed appliqué which can give fabric pictures a little more depth and interest in a fraction of the time.

It was my hope to open an Etsy shop this January but I have come to realise how much more I need to do, gather together and pay for (more frames and mounts,  perhaps my own domain, a way for people to pay easily, packing materials and lots more), if I am to be as professional as I want to be and offer a great service and I just can’t afford it all at the moment. Next year is probably more realistic. I am disappointed but I will go on adding a few pieces to my Folksy shop from time to time and of course I am always available for questions, which I will answer as best I can.

My next post is going to be a brief step away from Scottish themed quilts to something I have wanted to experiment with  for a while; a fabric picture based on one of Deborah Brochart’s design guides: Third Plus. I also want to talk about the value (or not) of copying designs and following formulas as opposed to charging off on your own path. And I’d like to know what you think about that, too.

So, until next time……

 

Scotland’s Unicorn

Did you know that the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal? It was adopted as our national animal by King Robert in in the late 13000’s.  It’s no surprise really when you think how steeped in myth and legend the country is. And, though it is a creature straight out of fable, it does represent ideals synonymous with those of Scotland: Pride and a fierce desire to remain unconquered. It also stands for wildness, masculinity, nobility, chivalry and dominance, qualities important to Scottish kings, centuries ago. 

And did you know that there were once TWO unicorns on the Scottish Royal coat of arms? The Unicorn first appeared in the 12th century under William 1 and when James III came to power in the 15th century, gold coins were added below the Unicorn. Much later, when Scotland and England unified under the reign of James VI of Scotland in 1603, the Scottish Royal Arms sported two unicorns, holding a shield.  However, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Ireland, he replaced the unicorn on the left with a lion (the national animal of England) to demonstrate unity between the countries.(I have always thought it ironic that the lion and the unicorn have been age old enemies in folklore, since Babylonian times).

If you look at the first picture, above, the Unicorn in the Scottish coat of arms is always shown bound by a gold chain that snakes around its body. Given that the unicorn was reputed to be the strongest of all animals, this seems to suggest that Scotland has the power and strength to ensnare a unicorn.

You may wonder at the meaning of  “Nemo me impune lacessit”, the motto of the kingdom of Scotland, which is written below the two animals. It translates as “No-one provokes me with impunity “. Translated into Scottish Gaelic, it is closer to “No one who harms me goes unpunished.”

So being a Scot, I thought that it was fitting that I should create a couple of unicorns of my own, though these are unchained, gentle animals romping through fields or at rest among flowers, as unicorns should be. This is certainly more in keeping with  how unicorns are portrayed as more benevolent creatures today.I read somewhere that a medieval cookbook had been discovered containing instructions on how best to cook a unicorn! That is if you could catch one, of course.

The first of my unicorns is a 8 inch square mini quilt with a simple pattern. I wanted a use for some lovely floral fabric scraps I found online, and the soft pink stars and  gold fabric that I couldn’t seem find a place for. They seemed to fit together here. The unicorn is embroidered entirely with stem stitch and the pink plants in the centre square are embroidered with chain stitch. I realise I have given him a white eye and so you can’t really see it. Somehow introducing such a hard colour as black didn’t feel right.

The second mini (below) is also 8 inches square but a bolder design in bolder colours. I tried a polyester wadding in this one, to see how puffy the result would be and whether I would like it. Hmm, I’m not sure, I think I prefer the flatter  one above. The gingham and check binding were a nightmare. I tried to keep the number of squares even all the way around but it was so difficult. At some points keeping the pattern the same would have meant a change in the width of the binding, which was not acceptable. Perhaps in a frame, with only a fraction of the binding showing, they would look ok but although bindings like these can look striking, I will certainly avoid them in future.

I have  embroidered the body, mane and tail of this unicorn in stem stitch again, but this time I have used a variegated thread to introduce some of the colours that are in the background fabric. The hoofs are satin stitched.

Amazingly, the unicorn was believed to be real, all across the world, for thousands of years, until in 1825 scientist Baron George Covier suggested it was hardly feasible for an animal with a split hoof to have a single horn emerging from its head. By 1900 it was thoroughly disproved by Dr Dove’s and his experiments with a male calf.

You wonder how something that didn’t exist could hold so much fascination and power for so long. Merchants used to sell ‘unicorn horns’ for huge sums of money, or they were given as gifts to kings because were said to have the power to purify; to provide an antidote to poisons.

We would still like to believe in them a little, I think, especially as in our culture they have long been depicted as beautiful, noble, creatures. This was not the case everywhere. The Greeks and Romans thought they were more like antelopes and in some other countries they were perceived as smaller, goat like animals.

They are very popular among children these days. I know a little girl or two who dreams of unicorns and loves to see them galloping across her duvet or keeping watch over her from the wall.

I wonder how long the Unicorn will stay with us in this new, kindly, form.

Till next time….

 

 

 

New Year, New Work in Progress

Happy 2019,  Everyone!

January 2019

We are already steaming through January, snowdrops are out all over the garden, and it seems pleasantly warm for this time of year. Spring is not far away but no doubt we will be in for some nasty cold spells before it arrives.

Lily’s first egg.

Since the arrival of my three ducks last summer, my sewing has suffered mainly as a result of a massive change in routine. It’s much harder to get a good run at anything without some kind of interruption. It’s clear that I have to change the old routine and work differently. I had my first duck egg appear four days ago which was quite exciting and have been collecting one each day since.  I hope she will sit on some in Spring and give me some chicks.

I haven’t been able to settle on exactly what to do this year. I had wanted to dye and paint my own fabric and do something more ‘arty’ but looking at my stash tells me that I really need to use that up first. I am unlikely to go back to it.  That said, I am sure I am going to be tempted to buy a few bits now and then. And there is no reason why I can’t be a bit more ‘arty’ with scraps. At some point.

I have begun January with some experiments and some UFO’s that needed to be completed. That said, all of them are still in progress and need a good press, which was not my ideal for this post. My first experiment was with Liberty fabric. I have usually used just small pieces of it against a neutral background and that has worked well. The prints are so bright and busy, I wondered if they could ever work if you put them all together, so I thought I would try something and see. This is ‘House with Love in It’ using reds, greens and navy blues. It still needs some surface embroidery on the house and some binding. I went for a mix of sizes of print and one that reads as a solid to see if you could mix prints in this way. Does it work? I’m not sure.

‘House with Love in It’

Liberty fabric is quite hard to work with as it’s so fine, pins and needles make holes unless they are very skinny ones and its floppiness makes it hard to keep square. An online friend suggested spraying it with starch first and I think that’s a great tip to try.

The second little quilt is one I started a while back but have now managed to finish the top. I took an old traditional American block called ‘Farm Friendliness’

‘Farm Friendliness’ bock, borrowed with thanks from quilterscache.com via Pinterest

and altered the pattern slightly to give me me more large triangles to suggest hills. On reflection I think I should have make the squares at the corners into half square triangles but it’s too late now. At the time I thought half a hill would look odd.

‘Farm in the Hills’

I’ve also added tossed cows and a farmhouse. I’ve photographed the quilt top against a piece of black and white striped fabric because I think that might make a fun binding. I still have to quilt it to suggest fields, which may make the squares look more appropriate, and add some doors and windows to the farmhouse.

Another experiment is this house in a frosty wood:

My idea is to extend the trees, or a single tree, beyond the image, out into the frame. I want to cut between the branches and sew it on a bit like this:

‘Frosty Morning’

I’m not sure how I will manage it. Perhaps use some wash away interfacing, I don’t know. We’ll see.

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’

I am working on some appliqué to complete the top of this, larger quilt, ‘Over the Hills & Far Away’ which was mentioned when I started it, in a post long ago (See ‘Over the Orchard and 5 Lessons Learned’, October 2017 ). I still can’t decide whether to place the house on the bottom row where the trees are (they will all have trunks), or in the next row up, as in this photo. I have kept away from true greens as there are none in the border.

There is more appliqué to sew down to put the finishing touches to this fabric picture ‘Down in the Glen’,  which also featured in an earlier post (‘Tartan or Plaid, What’s the Difference?’, September 2018). It has been sitting around waiting for me to decide what to do with the trees. I have finally decided to unpick them all, as well as the roof of the house, and insert some batting. I am hoping the slight puffiness will give more depth to the picture.  Then I just need to bind it and put it in a box frame.

I am also in the working on several mini ‘house’ quilts and fabric pictures  to use up scraps, like this one, still in progress:

‘House Under a Wishing Star’

All of them need to be squared up and given a good press. Finishing touches need to be added, then they need backing batting and binding.  So, not even half way through, really (sigh). I never like showing my work like this, half finished, but maybe it’s helpful to see things in progress, to see that they can look pretty awful until they are finished.

So that’s it for now. I have the binding to finish on two Unicorn quilts for a Unicorn post shortly, as well as some more Scottish themed pictures and a couple of ‘House Angel ‘ and ‘Garden Angel’ pictures.

All of these are 8 inches square but I am planning a move to 12 inches square. ‘Down in the Glen’ above, is 12 inches square and I like it better. I used to think this was too big but have had a change of heart. I think very small removes some oomph from the picture. What is your favourite size of wall quilt? Do you you like small squares, long and thin, poster size? And why?

Till next time…..

 

 

 

Taking Stock and Opening Shops

 

Forest Moor Designs Banner 2

It’s only a matter of days now until Christmas but there is just enough time to squeeze in my last blog post of the year. The picture at the top shows most of my new banner which complements my new logo, both done by my talented daughter. These are for me to (finally!) open a ‘Forest Moor Designs’ Etsy shop in January  (I have been talking about doing it for years) and to re-open my folksy shop featuring new fabric pictures with Scottish themes as well as mini quilts, runners and fabric decorations.

As people who follow my ‘Forest Moor Designs’ page on Facebook will already know, I haven’t been doing much sewing lately. It’s partly because I’ve busy preparing for Christmas but we have had some really bad weather lately, lots of rain and wild winds, and the days have been so dark that it has made sewing difficult. We’ve had a huge beech tree come down into our garden from the wood behind and that has damaged several plants and a section of wall.IMG_2093

The duck pen has had an new extension but that nice new grassy area on the right is now a sea of mud with all the rain we’ve had. The ducks have a makeshift shelter for now but a new one is in progress and will be installed by Christmas day.

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It’s been mild at times but very cold at others so I’ve been putting food out for the birds. I have some just expired duck food that the pheasants seem to love. I counted 19 of them in the back garden yesterday, mostly females but there a couple of males, one of which has a beautiful silver back.

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However, the main reason I stop sewing at this time of year is to take stock of the year, to see where I’ve got to and where I want to go next. I’ve been making pencil sketches for new, more ‘arty’ and ‘housey’, ideas to try in the New Year, in addition to my ubiquitous Scottish themes.

I have a design idea that makes use of my new House Ruler from Creative Grids so I have also been making another series of sketches on house-shaped pieces of paper. I can’t be sure that any of these ideas will work out in practice but I will try one or two.  I don’t know exactly what result I’m after. I’m just following a feeling. It’s one of those things that I’ll know when I get there but I’m not sure of the route.

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I’ve bought some new fabric, despite trying hard to resist doing this; some red, blue and black florals for houses, some frosty winter trees and a number of ‘sky’ fabrics, featuring seagulls, flying geese and these two shades of ‘Murmuration’ from Lewis and Irene. Aren’t they wonderful? I can’t wait to put a house on those!

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Today I re-opened my ‘Forest Moor Designs’ shop on Folksy, a UK market place for hand made goods. I added my new banner and logo and listed just one item, the hand painted and stitched portrait shown below, so that everything is ready for me to addd new stock in January. I have broadened my stock now to include fabric pictures and wall quilts as well as mini quilts and table toppers.

Rajastani Woman

‘India Daydream’

I may add some more Indian designs because I have several sketches that might translate well to fabric and paint. I can’t decide whether it will seem odd to have them side by side with Scottish themes, though. What do you think?

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That’s about it, but, before I go, I want to thank my followers for joining and sticking with me through the year.  I really appreciate you being there and love it when you make comments and ask questions. I don’t publish posts as often as received wisdom says I should but hand sewing is slow, so I’m grateful that you hang in there, knowing something will appear eventually.

Happy Christmas and a bright new year to you all. See you again, soon. xx

House Mania

I definitely suffer from an insatiable need to make houses and have to stop whatever I am working on, from time to time, to make some. Over the last month I have taken a break from making my Scottish themed quilts to make a few houses as it feels as if  I haven’t made any for ages . Then I thought maybe you would like to make some, too.

There are lots of easy ways of making your own English Paper Pieced houses, using bought paper pieces;  printing out patterns you like on Pinterest, cutting them up and wrapping the shapes in fabric (for personal use only); or designing your own shapes using scraps of paper or card.

House templates that you can buy come in various sizes and shapes and are easily available online both in the UK and abroad:

These are usually made from fine card which makes them easier to work with than paper which is so flimsy. With paper you have to be careful not to crumple the template when you fold your fabric over it.  The small brown one, third from the left  above, looks lovely covered in Liberty fabric (see below). You can piece these into a quilt (see 2nd pic below), or appliqué them onto something:

‘Housie Housie’, a mini quilt using Moda fabric.

The smaller white one (the last template on the right above), is seen used here in Liberty blues and would make a lovely border:

What is interesting about these house shapes too, is that they tesselate, fitting tightly together like a puzzle:

You can flatten the point at the top to make a different roof:

Or you can join them together to make zig zag houses:

And if you prefer not to buy house-shaped templates, you can make your own from paper or card. This way you make a whole lot of different and more interesting shapes:

‘Bluebell House’ – it’s going to be pieced into a field of bluebells.

‘Coastal Cottage’

‘The Bothy’

You can make tiny ones and turn them into brooches:

Or giant ones to put on your mantelpiece:

‘Christmas Tree House’

Houses can be assembled from other shapes, too, like diamonds, squares, triangles and rectangles.

The houses above have been made with 60 degree diamonds and equilateral triangles for the roofs, and squares or squares and a rectangle for the walls.

These are covered with fabric and tacked. Now the pieces can be sewn together and the papers removed.

You could add a whole row to a table runner or placemat.

In this starry one, above, I have used bought templates for the roof and one wall (a 60 degree diamond and a square) and then created a larger house shape of my own to make a wall that fits into the roof space.

House blocks can look lovely in frames, too.

(If this one doesn’t look secure in it’s frame, it’s because it hasn’t been stuck down yet. I’ve just popped it in to see what it would look like).

Recently I found a House Ruler reduced in a sale which was rather exciting. It is made by Creative Grids and enables you make a whole range of sizes of houses, as well as other shapes (half and quarter square triangles, trapezoids, parallelograms and diamonds). The ruler is a foot tall and nine and a half inches across (30 cm x  24 cm), so it’s quite big. Has anybody used one of these?

I have a new idea for houses using this ruler, and I am itching to start working on it but I have a number of part-made quilts that I must finish first.

Do you make houses? What is your go-to method of making them and what do you do about doors and windows? Do you sew on small patches or embroider them on? I’d love to know. Drop me a line in the comments section and tell me about your favourites….

Till next time….

A Long & Winding Road

IMG_1572This is Lily. Isn’t she pretty? She makes the most delightful chuck-chuck sounds and for a bowl of  peas, she’ll be your friend forever. She’s going to appear on one of my quilts one of these days, for sure.

Just a quick post today because, though there is much in progress, hardly anything is completed. That’s what happens when you try to work on too many mini projects at once. On the one hand it’s nice to go from one to the other for a change of ‘scene’, but you reach a point when you’ve feel as if you’ve been sewing forever and nothing is even close to coming to an end!

I HAVE finished my ‘Monarch of the Glen’, though I think I may have overdone the embellishment. I do like adding surface embroidery but I can get a bit carried away sometimes.  I think it might look better if it was a little plainer. I used a variegated thread to make the leaf design. The shape of each leaf would have shown up more clearly in back-stitch but would have been untidy on the back, so I stuck with a running stitch to fit in with the quilting. For the deer I have used surface embroidery in brown and silver-grey, with a touch of pale brown fabric paint.

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I didn’t add a binding this time. I sewed the edges closed with what they call a knife-edge finish. I read somewhere all British quilts were finished in this way once upon a time, and that was how you could tell British quilts from American quilts which traditionally add binding. The knife-edge finish is much easier to do than regular binding; just a whipstitch around the edges which are folded in over the wadding. It’s a good choice if you want to put it your quilt a frame, so bits of borders and binding to worry about.

I have also finished my ‘Little Boys’ Britches’ as this block was called in the early 19th century before women wore trousers. I had fun with the quilting on this one and decided to call it ‘Spinning Jeans’:

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The light is awful today and my pictures are not very sharp. I will re-do them when (and if!) we get some sunshine.

This is what the block looks like behind a mount for a frame. You can see why the knife-edge finish is better because the mount would sit seamlessly against the pattern. Unless your binding is completely square and your corners perfect, which is so difficult in something hand stitched, the machine cut mount shows up any flaws. You are left with what looks like an uneven border.

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I’m was working on a couple of Unicorn mini quilts for this post, to tell you about this mythical animal’s link to Scotland but it’s slow going and that post will have to keep for another time.  The two mini quits are very different. One is pale and delicate,  the other bold and bright. I have embroidered the centre of both of them:

These are not embroidered from my drawings. I have simply embroidered around a design already on the fabric. It’s an easy way to add an embroidered centre if you are not too confident about your drawing and it gives a centre picture a bit more ooomph.

The quilting is finished on both of them and now there are just the bindings to do:

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I usually use cotton or cotton/bamboo mix for my quilts but I had some polyester scraps left over from my first quilting experiments years ago and I wanted to use them up. I knew polyester was a tad too puffy for a wall quilt, especially one so small (8 ins/ 20 cm square) but I was curious to see how it would turn out. I thought some puffy shapes might throw the Unicorn into relief. It does, but I’m not sure I like it better than if it was flatter.

I thought I might try leaving more wadding around the edge of this quilt to make a ‘border’ type binding but it didn’t work (too flabby!) and I ended up cutting away the wadding and going for the usual slim binding of between a 1/4 and 1/2 inch (1 cm).

One annoying thing about English Paper Piecing is that if you echo quilt around the shapes like machine quilters you have to contend with sewing through the extra layers of material below that tuck around the papers, and that makes quilting hard going. But, if you quilt in the ‘ditch’ between the shapes you are really sewing the wadding to the backing fabric and through the stitches that hold the top shapes together, rather than through the top shapes themselves. Does that make sense? It would be preferable to quilt through the centre of the shapes, as I have with the deer above, but sometimes you need something more subtle.

I do wish  I could find a book that gives tips and strategies about how to deal with specific EPP quilting challenges like these. I have most of the EPP books available on the market today, and a few old ones, and none of them cover anything like that. I am still searching for one that explains the best way to deal with triangles.

Here is the 2nd unicorn quilt (sorry about the piece of fluff on the lower gold triangle)  with the binding in progress, looking awful as it always does at this stage. The pins distort the binding, so I find it useful to leave it pinned for a couple of days for the cotton to ‘remember’ the folds and then take the pins out and let the binding relax while I sew it. It seems to keep a more even shape this way.

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You will see that I used a checked fabric for both unicorn quilts. Not a good idea. It just happened to be what I found in my scrap bag that matched my quilt best, but checks are a nightmare to get straight and even. You end up with three little squares on one edge of the binding and two and half on another. I won’t be doing this again.

And you know what? I hate that the binding chops off the edge of the shapes, so the triangles lose their tips and the squares and end up not as true squares. I guess the only way to get around that is to add a border before the binding, so I am going to try that in future.

It truly is a long and winding road but I am hoping that it will get less punishing and more ‘user friendly’, as they say, as I crawl along it.  You can probably tell that I’m rather disenchanted with my efforts his week. I know that most people want their creations to turn out better than they do; that I’m not alone in that. However, I’ve learned plenty this week, so I guess I’ll just keep going.

Till next time….

A Mixed Bag of Minis

I live close to Wigtown, Scotlands National Book Town, which holds a book festival each year from late September to early October.  To celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, the artist and illustrator Astrid Jaekel covered the exterior walls of eleven buildings in paper designs. Here are some of her designs. Aren’t they fabulous! I just love them and wish they could stay up forever.

I have more variety to show you in my quilts today, as I have digressed a little from my usual designs since my last post. I have been working on one quirky (maybe a little odd) black-and-white mini quilt, a few more of my usual Scottish themed ones, one for Christmas, and one just for fun. Some are traditional patterns that I have re-imagined and some are just traditional patterns with a pictorial element to them.

I have been making good progress with my plan to do a whole lot of quilt tops first, rather than do one at a time but actually it’s rather addictive and I can see that I might  eventually feel overwhelmed by all the ones I then have to finish. Luckily they are small!

I’m in a hurry to finish the series of 8 inch square mini quilts I have planned because I am itching to try something else altogether; something more ‘arty’ using paint and stitch, with only the odd pieced background, maybe.

I have noticed that I am rather rubbish at triangles and have been avoiding them for years. I also notice that guidance/tutorials on the English Paper Pieced triangle are non-existent. None of my EPP books cover them. So, if you come across a tutorial, or are good with EPP triangles and feel like passing on a few tips, I’m listening. In the meantime I have bought myself Gwen Marston’s ’20 Little Triangle Quilts’ to get in some serious practice. IMG_1646It comes with templates inside and, in this book, none of them have an added seam allowance which is great for EPP addicts. There is a whole series of these “20 Little” books but strangely, some come with templates on card stock, some on paper and some do have an added seam allowance, which is annoying when you don’t expect it. You you will probably notice that my fabric tends to pucker where the points of my triangles meet other pieces. I think I have stitched the triangle point in too tightly, worried that a gap might form in this area. When I figure it out, I’ll you know.

I’m thinking a trouble shooting page might be good on this site where people could share tips and strategies and pass them on.

By the way, I watched Stacy Dooley’s documentary called ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ a few days ago and if you are in the UK I urge you to watch it on BBC I Player. I knew cotton used a lot of water but didn’t realise HOW much and had no idea of the effect that producing cotton, and clothing in general, has on the environment and people’s health. I was shocked and saddened to learn the reality of the fast fashion business in particular and I’m glad to say I live miles away from any high street and can’t afford to buy more of what I already have, anyway. However, I love cotton and most of what I buy is cotton. I have always thought of it as a wonderful, natural product, and wouldn’t quilt with anything else. However, I have now resolved to buy and use less.

My quilts are made from best quality cotton, usually from designers like Moda, Lewis and Irene, Riley Blake and occasionally Makower and Robert Kaufmann. I choose these because their fabrics don’t shrink, the colour doesn’t run, creases iron out like magic and they are the right weight to produce good results. However, fabric from these makers is now becoming quite expensive for even a Fat Quarter (18″ x 22″ piece) so next year I plan to paint and stitch over old sheeting instead.

So back to my recently made quilt tops. I am strangely happy with a this black and white one that I call ‘House Angel’. I told you it was odd ;

IMG_1641 I wouldn’t say I believe in angels but I like the idea of my house being protected something larger than myself.  The idea came from a traditional pattern I was looking at called ‘Storm at Sea’, which I love, when I saw an angel. Can you see her in the top left hand corner? And can you see two others, one on either side of her?

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Storm at Sea 

I chose to feature just one but I think I will make another quilt that includes all of them, maybe for Christmas.

The danger of these unfinished quilts is that they can look a bit blah when they have just been pieced, not necessarily squared up and have ugly tacking/basting stitches all around the edges. But even the most basic one is transformed once quilting and/or surface embroidery is added. I may paint the House Angel’s face, embroider her wings and embellish the house doors and windows.

My thoughts have turned to Christmas recently as I always buy my gifts early, to spread the cost, reduce stress and because I have noticed that prices go up as we get closer to Christmas. I have only one family member left to buy for which is good because we are only in October. I bought some lovely Lewis and Irene fabric recently, with scattered red thistles, and planned to add some of it in with a red, green and tan mini charm pack I wanted to use up. I wanted to call it ‘Thistle Jam’.

However, much as I loved the thistles, they didn’t work with this little on point pattern. Sometimes the ‘mood’ that fabrics project just isn’t right, so I used some little stars I had in my stash instead. Now, it’s more like Pine Tree Jam. Sadly, the triangle tips have caused some puckering but I am hoping that when I add the border, it won’t be as noticeable.

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For a continuation of my Scottish theme, I first chose to make this simple block aptly named ‘Bonnie Scotsman’. I am still wondering whether to add a stag and a moon like the paper shape I have placed on it, or if that is too obvious and I should add something more unusual.

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I have begun the first of two Unicorn mini quilts. This one has a lovely soft feminine colour palette. I know some little girls that dream of unicorns and think they might like this one.  IMG_1638

I have also begun a second Luckenbooth, using Liberty fabrics in gorgeous candy pinks (see my March 19th ‘Update – Work in Progress’ post to find out what a Lukenbooth is, if you don’t already know)  but it’s not coming right and I have unpicked some of it and I am leaving it to one side for a while, so that I can see what’s gone wrong without getting upset about it.IMG_1644

Lastly, I have had fun making a modern version of the pattern traditionally called ‘Little Boy’s Britches’ that was popular in the 1800’s, long before women started wearing trousers. I thought would be great if it featured pairs of jeans.

IMG_1637Soon I will add the stitching up the leg and across the belt, fly and pockets and then they will look more like jeans. I was thinking of embroidering something in the centre like ‘Love Your Jeans’ or ‘I love My Jeans’. What do you think? Better left blank?

So that’s it for today, more Scottish themed ones to come before a return to some houses (with a difference), more angels of different kinds, two or three with birds (starlings and geese) and a some fun ones of different kinds. And lots more pesky triangles!

Till next time…