Blocks 51 and 52

In my stroll to the finish line of 64 blocks I’m evening up the number of ‘stars’ as opposed to ‘diamonds’, as the pattern of the finished quilt alternates blocks with the centre 4 flying geese reversed. The first of these ‘star’ blocks I finished in February and enjoyed putting together, even though in the scheme of the quilt in may be more green than most, I love the colour combination. I made a similar one earlier but with the diamond centre and a bit of brown, so I wanted to make another with the flying geese reversed. I did want to include brown in this but just couldn’t make it work. If this isn’t the only block in the quilt that consists of only 4 fabrics, it’s certainly one of very few. Lots of nice Moda fabrics again, including Prairie Cactus, one of my favourites.

Green

This next block, on the contrary, is not one of my favourites. It’s the subject of my last blog post reworked so that the centre square is a lighter shade of brown, repeated on the outer four corners, and with the dark brown triangles on the outer edge replaced on two sides with all that is left of one of my favourite fabrics for this project (salvaged from an unsuccessful block I took apart). The trouble is that I could not get the centre four squares right, no fabric I tried looked right, so in the end this was the best I could muster. I’ve nearly run out of this fabric so couldn’t afford to do too much fussy cutting, hence the purple remains and I don’t like it. I don’t like the overall effect in that when it’s gloomy and you stand back from the block, the centre four squares blend into the dark orange of the star so it looks like a big dark lump in the middle. I think it would have been better with a smaller print but there was only one in my stash that sort of worked, but alas not well enough. So this is the best I can do. Orange and brown

I think I’m going to have to have a recount of how many blocks I still have to do! Thought it was 10 but if these really are blocks 51 and 52 then it’s 12…

Christmas pyjamas!

 

It’s Christmas Eve! We’re in a self-catering cottage in the English Lake District, where the views and the wildlife are amazing.

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I finished the hems on my Christmas pyjamas in brushed cotton.

Though I think I made them a size too big I’m still pleased with them and think they’re the best of the three garments I’ve made. I won’t wear them to bed but they’re nice to sit around in – loose and comfortable! The pattern’s a New Look multi-option and unisex pattern. I don’t know the manufacturer of the lovely fabric, but bought it online from Croft Mill, at a reasonable £5.50 per metre.

The pattern has pockets, which I thought would be hard to do but it was ok.

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I’ve also today posted to Mum and Dad a patchwork quilted mat I made for them, to put underneath a nice red glass bowl they’ve got standing on a polished wood sideboard.

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The fabrics are by Moda and came in a pack of 6 inch squares I bought on eBay then cut into quarters. I love the rich autumn / winter reds and greens. I used it as an opportunity to try some freestyle machine quilting (no idea if that’s the right terminology, I was going to write freemotion, but is that only when you use a long arm machine?), by drawing a leaf vine design on with chalk. Unfortunately I kept not being able to see the lines, partly because sewing at night when even electric light on good enough. Some leaves turned out quite well, others not so much, with spaces where they join the ‘stem’, or zig-zaggy loops. The light’s not the only reason for that, though!

Anyway, I enjoyed doing it and the project’s a nice size to practise on. I’d like to be able to make the same pattern on the double bed autumn quilt I’ve been working on for years, but don’t think it’s possible!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to walking to Grasmere tomorrow to go to church, where Wordsworth’s buried so I assume also worshipped. Then a roast dinner using the small oven in the cottage, but no pressure to have it ready by a certain time as there’s just the two of us. Ooo, Carols from King’s has started – Happy Christmas everyone!

Blocking, and a trip to Kew Gardens

The two aren’t related! I finished the main elements of my jumper last week – ‘Gotland’ in Rowan Hemp Tweed – but haven’t had the opportunity to start sewing it together so I could start on the neck. At the weekend we took the train to London and went to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It was great! Apart from the rain, so I got soggy feet, but there was so much to see in the glasshouses we spent a fair bit of time inside anyway. We got there in the afternoon and knew when we left we hadn’t seen it all, but looking online when we got home realised just how huge it is and that you couldn’t see it all in one day anyway.

The Palm House at Kew Gardens
Fraxinus americana autumn purple

So last night I decided it was time to think about sewing up the jumper. However, confession time… I have never blocked a garment before! Or indeed, anything. I hadn’t even heard of blocking until reading ‘Nothing But Knit”s blog: https://nothingbutknit2.wordpress.com/. It will have been referred to in patterns and in the Rowan knitting magazines I sometimes buy, but I must have glossed over it! Mum never does it so it isn’t something I picked up at home. The Gotland pattern says to block, so with much trepidation I looked up online how to do it. I haven’t blocking wires, blocking pins, blocking mats or other equipment, and frankly nowhere to store them given how much quilting paraphernalia I have lying about, but it’s a simple pattern, no lace or cabling, just some detailing to the hem and cuffs, so I decided I could do without. I approach getting knitting wet frankly with trepidation, bordering on downright fear. I’ve had bad experiences in the past with washing garments on the wool or even silk cycle in the washing machine and them felting and shrinking, so know I must handwash them, but still I fear the results. So with some anxiety I placed the pieces in the bath with some lukewarm water and handwash liquid, left it for what I thought I’d read somewhere should be 15 mins but later read was 5, rinsed them gently, then considered how best to get the worst of the water out without wringing it, before the rolling-in-a-towel bit I’d read about. Husband decided to get involved, probably because I’d been vocalising my concern which he takes as a plea for help (don’t know if he’s right, haven’t psychoanalysed that yet), and rather worryingly decided to fold pieces in half and then quarters before pressing down on them. I was worried that would put lines in them so made him stop! I squeezed mine gently, don’t know which was worse. Anyway, we then did the rolling up in old towels in a manner akin to making a roulade thing, and I was amazed by how much water that got out of them. We then laid them on the floor on yet more towels and though I was going to just pat them into shape I found the edges were still curling up, so went pinned them all to the towels around the edges. I made sure not to pull them and pinned them in the shape I think they should be. In the process I found that the chest is about an inch wider than it’s supposed to be. I read later that blocking can make the garment bigger, but I’m a loose knitter anyway so don’t know whether to blame the blocking, and in any case don’t mind because it’s a winter jumper and being on the big side’s better than on the small. They were still a bit damp when I left for work this morning, when I took this rubbish photo – it was still dark outside and I didn’t have my camera to hand so this was taken on my ipad. If they aren’t fully dry when I get home tonight I’ll lie them on the clothes dryer I have, which is a very low temperature electric thing with ‘shelves’ to lie items on, and I’ve used it to dry delicates and even teddy bears on before so think it will be fine, just for an hour or so, I wouldn’t leave it on overnight.

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Here’s a slideshow of some photos of Kew, though first are 3 bonsai, because I think they’re amazing – one is 80 years old, and getting on eye level with them is really like looking at a full size tree. Won’t be growing any myself, but you have to admire the people with the patience to do it. The first picture in the slideshow, by the way, is steam coming into the palm house, it skooshes out automatically every few minutes, nifty. The titan arum from Sumatra isn’t in flower and I’m not sorry, it only flowers for 2 days every year and when it does it apparently smells like rotten flesh, an experience I am willing to forego.

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Birthday present to self featuring funky animals, and the snow’s been and gone

Two more autumn blocks finished – one a couple of weeks ago but I waited until I’d finished the next one before posting. These are blocks 39 and 40 (of the ones I’m keeping, I did more that haven’t made the grade), and I turned 39 yesterday so now have more blocks than years in my life – sometimes it feels like that’s exactly how long it’s taken to make them!

Prairie Cactus

I love the colour scheme on this one, when I saw how well the Moda Prairie Cactus went with the green autumn leaves one I had to make something that put them next to each other, and I could actually visualise a whole quilt made just of these blocks. I do realise that despite the autumn leaves on two of the fabrics it doesn’t actually look all the autumnal, but I went ahead and did it anyway. It’s slowly dawned on me that it’s not so much the patterns on a fabric that give it a certain theme, but the colours and how they’re put together. I can see it on professional ones I see online and on other people’s blogs, but haven’t got there myself yet.

This next one took ages to design! I really wanted to make one using this orange fabric with animals as the centre square, because I have the fabric and love the animals, but of the other blocks I’ve made with it only one has worked out ok because the colour is difficult to match to other fabrics; the others I’ve either taken apart or will include because they’re just about okay but I don’t love them. I think ‘autumn’ when I see the woodland animals, and like the spot-the-animal-in-the-quilt idea, but struggle to design blocks with it that look autumnal. I think the problem’s partly the shade of orange and partly the animals are bright white, whereas my palette’s more muted and has a lot of tan in it now. With the fabrics I have I think this is the best I could come up with, after about 10 variations were laid out and photographed. I finished it yesterday, hence the birthday present to self comment. Perhaps it would have been better with something plainer than the bright acorns and berries, but there you go…

fox and badger

I saw on a Moda blog a little YouTube clip of a lady who clips the fabric slightly at the back where there are bulky joins so I tentatively tried that here, but I think I didn’t  do it right because it hasn’t made much difference. Where the points of the triangles created by two adjoining flying geese on the outer edge meet the inner block there is always a lot of bulk, and at the outer corners where you’ve essentially got 6 pieces of fabric meeting at a point, and it is a problem. I’m nervous of snipping as I sew by hand so there are gaps between stitches for fraying to work its way through, whereas sewn by machine it shouldn’t be a problem; as the Moda blog said, it’s done when making garments (sorry I forget who posted, perhaps Carrie Nelson).

The snow of late last week (here at work):

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has all gone now. Saturday morning there was still a fair bit in my soon-to-be-former landlord’s garden, and this pheasant sat for ages on their bird table, looking bemused:

Pheasant

If we hadn’t been packing I would have gone out and taken photos, but my walk had to wait ’til the afternoon, by which time the thaw was well underway. By Sunday afternoon all the walks in these photos were deep in mud and sloshy meltwater, less attractive. (And yes, the wide photo was me trying to use the digital panorama setting, hence the dark streak down the middle where the clouds changed while I tried to line it up!)

Landscape

 

Different fussy-cut pumpkins (and more sparkle)

I feel more inspired now that autumn is kicking in.

I was looking for ways to re-use the green and brown fabrics here that I’d rescued from blocks that hadn’t worked and I’d taken apart, so after much fiddling about with different options – as usual – I eventually came up with this one. The pumpkin fabric is from a piece I bought in the clearance section of a website and at first I’d discounted it because most of the motifs are too big for what I’m doing, but then I thought I could do as for the last block and ‘fussy-cut’ small pieces out of it. It does lead to wasted fabric, but worth it for this and not so bad when it’s on sale. Maybe the centre square could have been a different fabric, but a big block of something plain in the centre sometimes looks a bit too stark. I do realise my pattern now seems to be to use these plain pieces in shades of tan for the background of the flying geese and don’t want to do too many of them, but I think it’s okay for now.

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I’ve  made slower progress on finishing this block because I’ve been working on a machine-stitched project at home. Top secret so pictures after Christmas! I’ve got as far as making the quilt sandwich and doing one line of quilting, but ran out of thread! It was just as well because that was Sunday and this coming Saturday morning we’re leaving for a week’s holiday so I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon (after my driving lesson) choosing colours for the next block so I can sew it while we’re away, and if I hadn’t run out of machine quilting thread I might not have stopped then I would be holiday-block-less.

I’ve also bought the backing piece for the quilt. It came yesterday so I washed it and it is still on the dryer as we speak – it’s rather large so drying it on my free-standing electric dryer is awkward, but we don’t use the tumble dryer due to expense and have nowhere outside to hang things (it’s raining anyway). My plan is to applique leaf shapes on it which will be made out of autumn fabrics. That way I can use some that I bought online but have turned out to not be the right shade, or were early mistakes. I think it should look good and removes difficulties of the seams of pieces making up the back not lining up with quilting lines, but it will take a long time and is not exactly something I can do on the train, so I thought I’d get a head start and alternate doing that at home with making up blocks on the daily commute. At least, that’s the plan!

I think this is block 33 and I’m looking at a 8×10 block quilt… so only 47 to go! I don’t know if I can get my head round that.

The estate agent through whom we rent our flat is coming to do a flat inspection while we’re both out at work tomorrow. I don’t like people looking around while we’re not there but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve been on a washing, ironing, and dusting spree because I don’t want to have laundry hanging around while she’s in there, so more ironing tonight, hoovering, tidying of the baskets of fabric and piles of paperwork (and hiding of candles! Not that our contract says we can’t have them but you never know)… by the time I’ve done all that, then on Thursday and Friday actually do some packing, I’ll be so whacked I’ll probably be too tired to make the most of being away. Hope not, because we’re going north and I’m looking forward to fresher airs and if it isn’t cloudy every day seeing some stars. Too much light pollution as well as air pollution down south.

Autumn block with fussy-cut fun pumpkins

I like the term ‘fussy cutting’ that I picked up from Peggy Cooper’s lovely blog (https://peggycooperquilts.com/) – it’s something I do occasionally but hadn’t thought about it having a name – now I know it I’m going to use it more! I’m not sure if using it as an adjective as in the title is the done thing, but I’m doing it anyway…

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The flying geese round the centre square use the very last of the special autumn leaves fabric I love so much: they’re recycled from a block I didn’t like and took apart, and I’m so happy I did because they’re used much better here. I’m not convinced about the use of colour in the central triangles at the edge (where two flying geese are sewn together), but the number of variations I tried in order to get this the best I could was ridiculous! In the end I had it all except the four small squares at the corner of the sort of block-within-a-block, so when I found a remnant of the fabric that I ended up using I was really pleased. It’s one I’ve tried to work into other blocks because I like it, but it’s only ended up in one. Part of the problem is that the background’s white and bright, and the other is that the motifs on it are quite widely spaced. Hence the fussy cutting, so I could get a tiny part of the edge of a sunflower in alongside the leaf and pumpkin in two squares. I would have liked more, but there just weren’t enough on the piece of fabric. I kicked myself for cutting squarely round the pumpkin used on the top right, because it would have looked better at an angle, but I used it anyway because it’s nice to have the two pumpkins with different patterns. That fabric is very thin, not easy to work with, and a couple of the corners of those squares came out stretched when I ironed them so they don’t look their best. I now realise I should have starched them… too late!

One problem with having spent so long choosing the fabrics for this one is that I only finished sewing it together on Sunday afternoon and didn’t have time to choose fabrics for the next one, so have no sewing to do on the train for my daily commute, I feel bereft!

Sparkly leafy new autumn block

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I’m pleased to have made this autumn block, as it uses my favourite fabric to best effect – albeit second (at least!) time lucky. I had 4 rectangles of it I’d never used and 4 that had been part of another block I’d taken apart, so I wanted to use them in the position in the photo along with less patterned fabrics so you can really see them. The only thing that really worked was to have a square of it in the centre, so I’m afraid I cannibalised another block to get to it. I wasn’t sorry to lose the one I took apart because making  it was a mistake really, too many very patterned fabrics and quite a bright green and a bright orange in the same block made it over-the-top. This is one of my favourites now, but re-sewing pieces that were already trimmed from having been in another block is difficult and I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it; better to have got it right the first time! To my surprise the sparkly orange fabric is going well in some blocks, perhaps because it’s a darker burnt orange, rather than some of the brighter ones I’ve bought in the past: it often isn’t easy to tell from photos online shops what things are going to look like in real life, and when I went to a fabric warehouse sale last weekend I couldn’t find a single one that would have gone well in this quilt, such a shame.

I went for a wander earlier and the trees are beginning to change colour:

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Lots of berries on this piece of hawthorn:

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I don’t know what this shrub in the area between fields is, but not only are the leaves very colourful, the flowers are extraordinarily bright… maybe if ever I have a garden I can find out what it is and plant one.