Taking Stock at this Stage of the Journey

Two little boys playing footsie in the grass.

Hi Everyone,

I have been doing a lot of thinking this past month; of the where am I, where am I going and why, variety. I’ve been looking at what I have done, what went well and not so well and wishing there was more time in any day for what I want to do. I’ll come back to this in a moment, but first, a little of what I have be doing since my last post.

I have finished ‘All Roads Lead Home’, quilting it and adding what I call a ‘proper’ binding:

‘All Roads Lead Home’ (with geese to fend off intruders!)

I have decided to add bindings like this to all quilts of this size and larger, from now on. I used to just fold the backing fabric to the front because it was cheaper and easier, and it works fine on 8 inch quilts or smaller that go on the wall and don’t get a lot of wear. However, adding your own separate binding gives a more professional look and wears better on larger quilts such as table toppers, runners and bed quilts that are going to handled and washed more often.

I added embroidered details onto a couple of mini quilts that seemed to lack something. Both took HOURS to do and I am not sure I like them any better. Both need binding, so perhaps that will improve how they look.

The first is ‘Daffodils in the Garden’ which I had hoped to complete before the end of Spring:

‘Daffodils in the Garden’

The stem stitch on each of the trees does give them more texture. I love how they feel to the touch but they took HOURS to stitch, so I won’t be doing that again, anytime soon. It might be nice for a more special quilt though. Embroidery does tend to pucker the fabric, so I usually dampen and stretch it a little. The binding will straighten up the squiggly edges.

The second one is ‘A Home in the Hills’:

The embroidery on this took ages, too, and though I am happy enough with some of it, the house and the tree behind the house in the centre square, are not straight, and this makes the rest of the quilt look wonky. I could have removed the whole centre square and rotated it a little at an earlier stage but this is not really possible once it is quilted. This is why you need to keep standing away from your work and looking at it from a distance. When you are hunched over it, with your focus on the tiny bit you are stitching, you can lose sight of the whole picture until it is too late to change it.

I have a whole pile waiting to be quilted. I like quilting. It’s quick and easy once you have decided how you are going to do it. I don’t mind adding binding either. There is something very satisfying about seeing your quilt slowly reach completion, with this last step in the process. I notice that there is not a single Pinterest ‘how to’ on sewing both sides of the binding on by hand. It seems that everyone resorts to a machine at this point.

The weather is sunny and warm but I have been avoiding the garden because I came out one morning to water the plants that I have been nurturing all year, to find the deer have been feasting on them, biting the heads off flowers, and chewing the leaves and stems off shrubs,. Some are now no more than a couple of blunt stalks.It’s heartbreaking. The deer visit from time to time but it’s never been this bad.

This used to be a Hosta!

But they did miss this one, thank goodness. Too close to the front door for their liking, maybe:

A lovely red Dahlia

Each year I look at all my boxes of fabric and quilts done and in progress, and all the ones unfinished for one reason or another. I usually decide I don’t like any of the ones I have done, haven’t finished any of what I planned to do and haven’t got any closer to what I have wanted to do. So what is the solution? A change of plan to start with, I think.

The bookcase where I keep my stash and quilts waiting to be quilted.

When I started out I wanted to make children’s quilts. I no longer want to do this but I have collections of fabric that I bought, for specific patternsTh that are still waiting to be made. I still like the patterns and the fabrics but somehow they belong to a different me. I also have fabrics for two quilts of single bed size and fabrics for several traditional patterns I wanted to try at the time, like Courthouse Steps and a Log Cabin. I also wanted to make a quilt using a Jelly Roll and to try some ‘liberated’ quilting where there was no set pattern. At that time everything was new and I wanted to try a bit of everything that I saw. Designing something for myself never occurred to me.

I love American quilt blocks and their evocative names, and at some point I realised that I could either manipulate the shapes in a single block to create a different design of my own, or I could add something pictorial to a block to give it a more personal meaning. I could add birds to ‘Return of the Swallows’, a farmhouse to ‘Farm Friendliness’ and so on. And I could make them about Scotland because we have farms and swallows, too. I made mostly 8″ size mini quilts because that was the largest pattern that my printer could cope with, and I cut out the paper shapes to wrap them with fabric because I couldn’t afford to buy the paper pieces (and there weren’t as many available a decade ago).

‘Farm Friendless’ Block, re-imagined.

My brain is always ahead of my hands so it wasn’t long before I had a situation where I wanted to move on, and do something completely different, but was stuck with all my quilts-in-progress and there were so many to do before I could get there. Does this happen to you, too?

Eventually I found myself juggling four separate strands of quilt making – the early quilts that I never completed, dozens of Scottish mini quilts in progress, the new ideas I want to try with English Paper Piecing and the constant pull further closer to textile art where I could take the time to design things of my own. I feel there is so much more to discover about English Paper Piecing and where it might fit into textile art rather than quilting. There are so many ideas I can’t get even begin to get close to right now.

I called this blog ‘A English Paper Piecing Journey’ because I think I realised, even then, that my experiments with one thing or another would eventually lead me far from where I began.

So, I have made some decisions:

I do not want to sell or give away those early quilt fabric and patterns, so the only solution is to get them done and the sooner the better. So, I am going to make a start, right now. There are about 17 of them, so I won’t be done with them this year.

I do not want to make 8″ mini quilts anymore, but want to make some slightly larger ones for the wall. These might be between 36 and 48 inches square, so not huge, but bigger. Having said that there are about fifteen Scottish mini quilts still in progress but I am going to put these aside for a while.

When you are making tiny quilts it is entirely possible to have something different to share in each blog post. Making larger ones could mean lots of posts about progress on the same quilt. Although I plan to work on a couple of them at the same time, I don’t want my posts to be like watching paint dry. So, I have decided to intersperse the making of these with some ‘how to’ posts that you might find useful. I want to start with colouring English Paper Piecing; how to add paint, coloured pencils, markers and crayons to your work. And then, if time allows, I want to experiment with using English Paper Piecing in non-traditional ways, such as using tulle to trap objects and so on.

Having made my decision, I spent much of August going through each box of fabric, sketching out the pattern, deciding on the size I want to make it and the paper pieces I would need. I am now buying the paper pieces and cutting out the shapes. The idea is that every box will contain everything needed to complete each quilt (no more procrastination because I don’t have all the paper pieces, or I haven’t decided on the right pattern, or size). It should now be possible for me to take any box I fancy off the shelf, and begin.

A ‘Neighbourhood’ quilt waiting to be made with Moda Neco

I always buy my paper pieces from https://www.linapatchwork.com because she has such a great range of simple shapes that allow you to reproduce any block pattern in any size you like, or design your own. Of course she also stocks the shapes for the hugely popular Passacaglia and other such patterns and kits, as well, but I have never been interested in those. She will also custom make paper pieces for your own design if you ask. I really want to ask her to make me the ‘Storm at Sea’ pattern in EPP one day. Have you seen it. It’s made up of straight lines that look like curves.

Some Paper Pieces that arrived this morning. She always includes a few complementary shapes to try, too.

HOT TIP: I have discovered that when you want a size that is not generally available, you can join paper pieces together to make the size you need. For example, you can join four 4″ squares to make an 8″ square centre, or join to 4 x 1″ rectangles for the 8×1″ outer log for your log cabin. If you stick them together with a strip of Sellotape at the join you can cut them apart again later and re-use them, though it’s possible that if you joined them with washi tape, you could just peel the tape off afterwards. I’ll try that and let you know if it works.

Despite all the laudable decision making, planning and organising there is always the problem of how overwhelming the sheer volume of what there is to do, can become. Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe we think we have more time than we have, or can work faster than we do. I think it’s often about seeing fabric we love and want to use, and we think if we don’t get it now, it will be gone forever. Why can we not see that, like ideas or creativity, there will always be always be more. Maybe this is me. Maybe you are a great deal more sensible.

Till next time……

Macz (short for MacKenzie) taking some time out in the cat kennel

6 thoughts on “Taking Stock at this Stage of the Journey

  1. Lesley, you are not alone. Most, if not all creative people have multiple works in progress at all times. If they engage in more than one creative art, the UFO’s multiply exponentially. I do fiber arts with fabric, knitting and watercolor painting and I get ideas all the time. The way I deal with my ideas is to write them down in my journal, sketch them, or put together a set of swatches. Then the concept is preserved without the big investment in material and time. Sometimes I get back to them, sometimes I decide not to make them. I will be keen to read any “how to’s” you post.

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    • Hello Kate, how lovely to hear from you! Yes, I am sure that’s true. I just haven’t learned how to stop them from becoming overwhelming and getting me down. There must be a knack to that. I too have scrapbooks, sketchbooks, files of ideas for quilting, files of creative writing, textile books I want to read – just so much that goes on accumulating. I feel constant pressure to do something useful with every one of them as fast as possible, though for me ‘fast’ means a couple of months for a small quilt. It’s all “in progress” though and that’s something. I haven’t given up on any of it, yet!

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  2. I particularly like ‘A home in the hills’ as it is very charming. I didn’t notice the very slight wonk in essay first but now I do I beluga it adds charm. Some famous artists have intentionally placed motifs wonkily 😍

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    • Thank you, that does actually make me feel better about that piece. I’ve been a bit fed up lately with my bungled sewing and my chewed plants! It’s good to know that not everyone sees these things the same way and that’s one reason not to fret over them.

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  3. Dear Lesley – thanks for letting us take the “taking stock” journey with you. I can’t imagine any creative person not having a stash like this whether it’s paintings or music or writing! Yours is more colorful than most. Don’t worry about not having a lot to say when you start making the larger quilts. We’ll be interested in the progress and whatever you’re learning as you go. Sorry the darned deer took your hosta, but the red dahlia is gorgeous!
    From across the pond,
    Molly in Oregon

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    • I have an even bigger stash of books on writing, ha ha! Blogs are funny things, talking to people you never see, some of whom never say anything at all. I do wonder about them and all their different reasons for following this blog. I lead a very solitary life and so it’s good to share little bits of it with people out there somewhere, who might like some of the same things, and even better to hear back from them.

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