One (Slow) Step at a Time

Wigtown Bay, ten minutes or so from where I live.

Hello Everybody,

It’s early May and Spring is still struggling to bring us warmth and sunshine but small glimpses are beginning to show, here and there.

For this post I am moving away from saying any more about the early unfinished quilts that I have been hoarding for so long and trying to complete. I will work my way through them eventually. Today I have returned to more recent ones in progress, trying to get as many as possible finished before we move house.

You would never think we were supposed to be moving house this year. I am waiting for my husband to finish some jobs around the house and garden and to clear the barn of things he has accumulated over the years and I’m getting so frustrated with the time it is taking. This is a very busy time of year at work for him and he is so physically and mentally frazzled by the time he gets home late in the evening, there neither the time nor the motivation to do anything. Days off are spent recovering. I do understand and try to sympathise but months are going by and the delay is becoming a strain. My focus has been on readying the house for viewing, not making a mess anywhere, keeping stuff in place, selling and giving away things we no longer need and keeping some of the garden under control. This has been my goal since the beginning of the year and I’m ready to get this house sold. It doesn’t feel as if there is time to start any new or large project. Except now there is a delay. Sometimes I think the delay doesn’t really matter; that what will be will be and I can certainly work on a few little quilts now and then while I wait. Taking time out to complete these has definitley made me feel better.

Note to Self: Just deal with it one step at a time.

Before I show you these quilts I want to tell you about something I came across online by accident and if you have not heard of it before, perhaps you will be interested. I wonder if you have heard of Hari-Kuyo, the Japanese Festival of Broken Needles? It is celebrated in February in one region of Japan and in December in another region but there the difference ends. Hari-Kuyo (Hari=needle and Kuyo = memorial) brings women to shrines each year, to remember the sewing needles broken in their work over the year and to pray for better skills. The Japanese show great respect for objects and like to honour small things for the service rendered by them. This festival allows women to thank their broken needles for their help and service and to acknowledge the part played by these indispensable tools in their individual achievements. Isn’t that wonderful? I completely identify with this practice, having always felt respect towards the things I own, keeping them cleaned and polished in return for the pleasure they give me.

Here are the quilts I have completed in the last week or two, Fittingly the first one has a Japanese theme. I have called it ‘Evening in Japan’ as it is made from Japanese Shibori patterned cotton from a charm pack and some off-white cotton. I wanted to use quilting stitches to have the ‘moon’ shine down on a little group of houses but I am not sure if the quilting stitches around the houses works. What do you think? Would the houses look better plain, without an ‘aura’ of stitches?

‘Evening in Japan’ 10 1/2″ x 19″

This is the back; little bursts of light with a mix of navy and white quilting stitches, as on the front:

Moda Shibori ‘Karamatsu’ for the back of ‘Evening in Japan’

The next one is ‘Once Upon A Chicken’. This was made to raise a smile but also as a celebration of all the chickens rescued from battery farms lately that have found good homes. Most of them had never seen grass before. Another question though. Would the quilt look nicer without the hen in the centre octagon?

‘Once Upon a Chicken’ from a Moda charm pack with some other added fabric.

This is the back. A whole space full of happy chickens.

‘Once Upon a Chicken’ is 15 inches square. My quilts are always odd shapes because I don’t think ahead to how big I want them to be when they are finished. Their size tends to rely on the size of paper pieces I have available at home and whether I then add borders and/or binding. Then later when I want them to fit in a frame, or on a tray, or in a basket, or on a sewing box, I wonder why I didn’t make them to fit.

Note to self: Make your quilts fit something more practical!

After these two larger ones, which both need a label and a good press before I put them away, I completed a couple of smaller ones. The first, ‘Scottish Country Garden’ and is an 8 inch square textile picture. Our gardens in this part of Scotland are visited by rather too many deer and hares.

‘Scottish Country Garden’. My garden is just an outdoor salad bar for wandering families of deer and hares.

I am not too pleased with this one. The smaller ones are always harder to piece. The next one is one of a series of ‘Guardian’ quilts I made during Covid. This is ‘Wishing Star’:

‘Wishing Star’ – 9″ square mini wall quilt

The back is the same black, white and gold plaid as the binding. Bindings always need a good press when they are done because folding them over the edge of the quilt edge to stitch them down makes them buckle slightly. Pressing gently flattens the binding to the even measurement you have allowed all the way around. I was so glad to get these finished I didn’t think of pressing them before taking the photo.

I feel another note to self coming up!

Finally, here is a quilt I have been battling with for some time, ‘ Frost in the Forest.’ This quilt was promised to someone more than a year ago (you know who you are!) but has given me more headaches than any other quilt I’ve tackled. This is one of the problems that comes with experimenting with something you have never done before. Sometimes it works and sometimes you have to find other ways to make it work. So, a little about this as yet, still unfinished quilt:

I thought it might be fun to cut out trees and superimpose them on fabric for a lacy look. The challenge was how to stitch them down in an unobtrusive way and how to stop their thin ‘branches’ fraying and falling apart as you stitch.

The answer is you can’t. I don’t like to use glue, so I decided just to stitch them down the best way I could with small stab stitches to keep them in place and that perhaps some embroidery stitches, used in a creative way later, would make the holding stitches less obvious. The photo above shows the tress stitched down. The white area will eventually have white batting behind it. This will allow both the visible seam allowances and transparent areas to disappear from view and become evenly white.

I had a small square of the blue fabric left to use for the back of the quilt. And then one day I laid the front of the quilt down onto the blue and was amazed how a slim blue border around the quilt transformed it completely. It was as though you were looking through a window to the forest beyond. I loved the difference it made.

Frost in the Forest’ – eventual size about 14″ square

I decided to stitch the quilt onto the blue piece of fabric to allow for a border all the way around, and to just use white on the back. However, putting the white front directly onto the blue caused the blue to show through. It turned the white inner areas pale blue while drawing attention to the thicker inner hems that remained stubbornly white.

The only way to solve this problem was to replace the blue fabric with white fabric behind the front layer and cut up the blue fabric to create the borders. That raised yet another problem. If I cut strips across the fabric the trees would not all be facing same the way up on each border. I would have to cut around the edges but the fabric wasn’t a true square. I wasn’t sure the borders would fit as I had only had a small piece to work with and EPP necessitates larger seam allowances than regular quilting.

It may seem a bit odd having a row of tree stumps around the bottom but all that is left now is a 9″x 3″ rectangle and I can’t do anything with that. I tried to buy more of the same fabric but it was no longer available. It would have been nice to match the fabric at the each corner of the bottom border so that the top of the trees fitted with the bottoms. Even now I am not sure all the borders will fit the quilt. I have left a generous seam allowance at each end as a safety measure. Otherwise, making the side borders narrower might help. We will soon see.

On the plus side I know how I am going to quilt it and I have some lovely matching blue thread. I have found a white fabric with minuscule white tone on tone dots, like falling snow, for the back. Now I have to do something with those two trees in the foreground and get the borders sewn on. Then perhaps I can get it sent to the person who has been waiting so long and so patiently for it.

I have begun three more quilts while I am thinking about this one. This stops me getting too anxious about it and allows thoughts and ideas to percolate.

There is so much more I want to show you than my stash of quilts in progress – from how to make 3D pieces using EPP to how to make fabric bead embellishments – but it will have to wait a little longer.

Until next time….by which time I hope we are all enjoying wonderful weather!

A posy of Spring flowers from a friend as a thank you for letting her help herself to anything from my garden to make her wreaths last Christmas. A lovely thought and so appreciated. They smell heavenly.

2 thoughts on “One (Slow) Step at a Time

  1. A wonderful lesson in the work that you do (which we so admire!)

    I like your casual, willing to make a guess or be wrong, attitude toward the work. It’s the thing that keeps the creative juices flowing. Good luck with the move! Moving is never ever easy, but with the art added, even more challenging!!!

    We have flowers now but the great heat wave last week, up to 90 degrees at our place decimated the tender spring flowers I’d waited for all winter.

    Still, we’ll see spring again!

    I’m forwarding your post to three textile artist friends here in Oregon. You all would enjoy each other!



    • You’re so kind to me, as always. I can’t believe you forwarded my post but thank you. It has been frost that has decimated our flower buds and the deer have already started on the young trees. I’m so looking forward to some warmth! Leaving Scotland is going to be a wrench and I will have to look for different subject matter but, who knows, it might be just the change I need to discover something wonderful! Let’s hope so.


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