New EPP Ideas for a New Year

A collection of eggs from my family of ducks. Aren’t they lovely?

Hello Everybody and Happy New Year!

I’m sorry there was no blog post from me in December 2019. My  husband and I caught a virus which we  didn’t manage to shake off until Christmas Eve. And then, two days after Christmas, with my son and his girlfriend coming to stay the next day, we lost power from all our sockets. We did discover two sockets on a different circuit and so we ran extension cables, attached to further extension cables, from these to whatever we needed to use. There were cables all over the house and up the stairs where individual items were constantly being unplugged, swapped around and plugged in.  I found I couldn’t have a heater and an iron on at the same time, or the washer and the dryer without overload and the result was a strong smell of burning that sent me running to disconnect  one of them. This went on until well into January.  It’s so easy  take these things for granted until they vanish, isn’t it? And now it feels so wonderful to have all the cables disappear and the power return. Despite the inconvenience it  was an adventure of sorts and certainly a holiday season that I won’t forget.

As we only used essentials my sewing light was not a contender and this is something I really need to be able to sew in the low light of winter. Before the power went, I did make a set of three, double-sided, accordion houses as a gift for my son’s girlfriend and made a start on a few others, which I didn’t manage to finish.

Double Sided Accordion houses with a Spring like theme.

Here are a larger set of unfinished ones, which are double-sided as well:

Above: Larger Accordion houses with a coastal theme Below: Larger Accordion houses with a farm theme

and a mini set of Japanese Indigo ones, also unfinished as yet. They are just one and three quarter inches ( 4  1/2 cm) from the point of the roof to the base!

After Christmas, in the little space between Boxing Day and New Year, I worked on a  block I started a while back and wanted to finish.  January was just around the corner, when skeins of geese fly over our house on their way to warmer climates and I wanted to record that in fabric.

‘Geese Flying Over’ 8 inches square

I chose a blue grey palette to suggest our  overcast January days and added a group of fussy-cut geese (these may actually be swans but let’s not go there), all pieced together in a  traditional Flying Geese block. I have called it ‘Geese Flying Over”. Now I just have to appliqué a house into the bottom left hand corner and the top will be done. Still lots more work to do before it’s finished, though.

What should you expect from this blog in 2020?  My plan is to add some ‘special’ posts between my ‘work in progress’ posts to feature a variety of experiments with fabric. I hope to include flower pounding and leaf hammering, vegetable dying, fabric bead making, the use of crayons, coloured pencils and paint on fabric, weaving with fabric, fabric collage, writing text onto fabric and a whole lot more.  Each of these techniques can be used to enhance any EPP project and I hope to show you how. I will also experiment with more of Deborah Boschert’s Design Guides, flag up some of the best tools for EPP , try out some new wall quilt ideas and make one or two traditional American schoolhouses as I just love them. All these in addition to my usual Scottish-theme- incorporated-into- traditional-American block-pattern mini quilts for the wall.

Till next time….

 

Arrgh, Those UFO’s!

IMG_9480I have come to realise an uncomfortable truth and I suspect I am not alone in this; I accumulate UFO’s; not the flying saucer soaring through the sky kind but the UnFinishedObject lurking in a box kind.

I have an idea for a quilt and get excited. I find the fabric and decide on the pattern; all things I love doing. I piece the top, loving how the idea comes to fruition. Then I make the quilt sandwich (top, back and wadding/batting in between), tack the layers together….and then start a new project. Why?

It’s partly to do with needing a bit of time to decide on an appropriate quilting design and partly to summon the courage to start quilting, or embroidering , on the surface of something I have taken days to piece, knowing that I risk ruining the whole thing when I am this far along. So I put it away for a while, (chicken out ) and forget all about it. I have about five or six unfinished quilts. I say that in a whisper, eyes downcast, as if I am at a Quilters’ Anonymous meeting. My name is Lesley and I have more than FIVE unfinished quilts. And, (mumble, mumble) a few other smaller projects.

Last week I dragged them all out of their boxes,  laid them out on the dining table, and realised another uncomfortable truth. UFO’s that hang about lose their shine. I don’t like them much anymore. The thing is that UFO’s stay the same but you move on. You have new ideas, learn new ways of tackling problems, grow more experienced. And then you look at your UFO’s and realise they scream Old You, a You that you don’t want to be anymore. A much less experienced you, and it shows.

I am an English Paper Piecer and the quilt police have put it about that modern English Paper Piecers are not expected to have stitches showing. My stitches don’t show anymore, but in these quilts, the first few I  did before I learned how to hide them, before I learned to quilt designs on the surface, before I learned to match thread more carefully to the background, they SHOW.

Of course if I was to hang the quilts on a wall, so I am looking at them from a distance, I  the stitches holding it all together are no longer visible. But I know how they look. These quilts no longer meet my expectations. They make me feel unprofessional. All I can hope is that there are people out there who doesn’t give a hoot about stitches showing, that they know every one is sewn by hand,  over many hours, and love them for that. Thank heaven for those people! Are they any?

So here is the first completed UFO. My ‘Bows’ quilts from the old, traditional, Bow-Tie pattern, in summery Moda fabrics. It measures  24 x 32 inches (or 61 x 81 centimetres).

I am now a reformed being. I have set myself the goal of finishing these quilts (well, as many as I possibly can) over the next month, so that I can get on with new ideas that I am itching to start. And because my box is full and I am NOT going to start another one.

The Moral of this Post:

Start very small, so there is more chance of finishing what you have started.

Don’t try and quilt before you can stitch. Create little samplers that are not so important and try techniques out on those.

If you are like me and can’t do sensible things like that, don’t put your UFO away. Leave it lying around where it bugs you, so that you tackle it at intervals until it’s finished.

Plan a reward:  ‘When I finished this quilt I can….’ Maybe get a friend to help. When you’ve finished it you can do something together that you’ve both been wanting to do.

And if you really hate it, unpick it (shock, horror!) and begin again. It might be worth it in the end.

Here are two of my other offending UFO’s: a Burgoyne’s Quilt made during the last Olympic Games in the UK (still no idea how best to quilt it – any suggestions? ) and an Owl Four-Patch which I am working on next. I’ll post them when they’re  finished. It could be some time….

and THIS ONE, below, (more shock, horror) I began in 1981 !! I thought it would be nice for my daughter to have a quilt when she moved from her cot to a single bed. I didn’t attempt another quilt until 2014.

This was as far as I got: A pieced, appliquéd cottage on a plain background with a single border, in pink and blue Laura Ashley fabric. A few trees are still waiting to be appliquéd on. There are curtains in one window and not in another. I don’t like how incongruous the flower patches look. I can embroider my own on, now. And I hate the stitches. They are WHITE. I probably only owned white and black thread then. This one is going to be taken apart completely and I will start again. Maybe I will finish it before her 40th birthday.

Do you have any UFO’s languishing somewhere? Quilts? Paintings? Poems? Drag them out into the light, get the pesky things finished and, who knows, maybe they will fly!

 

Something in the Cabin?

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The traditional log cabin block layout. Image via all-about-quilts.com

As I love quilted and embroidered houses it stands to reason that one of my favourite quilt block designs would be the Log Cabin. Tradition has it that it is meant to represent the logs of a cabin built around a central hearth, which is often represented with a red fabric square in the centre. I came across an interesting article by Jane Hall (dated 2004) online, describing the history and possible origin of the log cabin. You will find it here:

http://www.womenfolk.com/quilt_pattern_history/logcabin.htm

It makes fascinating reading. Today there are a huge amount of variations on the original design: offset logs, swirling logs, thick and thin logs, half logs, half log skew and so on. The more I looked at these patterns the more I began to see pictures in them and feel that it might be permissible to create a variation of my own. For example, in the one below I see a girl in window with shutters, perhaps high up in an old American barn.

Barn Window

Image from Pinterest via picasaweb.google.com

In this one I see steps up to the front door of a house, perhaps someone sheltering from rain in a doorway. Or a dog on a temple step in India.

Perfectly Uneven

This and the following patterns are via Pinterest, from a book entitled ‘101 Log Cabin Blocks’ but I can find no author or other attribution given.

In this one I see Alice falling into the rabbit hole:

Rabbit Hole

in this one, an avenue of trees:

Avenue of Trees

and in this one  a garden shed with a cat in the window, up to mischief.Get the idea? It’s like finding pictures in the clouds, only you do it with quilt blocks.

Petite curved log

I turned around the logs on the  right hand side, so that they would resemble the slats of a wooden shed and put the most mischievous  cat I could find in the ‘window’ in the centre hearth area.

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Then I embroidered on a climbing vine and added some flowers.

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and ended up with this:

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At first I wanted to embroider on a spade handle leaning against the shed but eventually decided there wasn’t room; that it would make the whole thing look overworked. I am not sure my idea was entirely successful but I am trying out a few more of these to see what I come up with. They may just end up as UFO’s (unfinished objects to non-quilters!).

Last week I managed to finish one of my UFOs. Hurrah! You may remember it from a previous post, ‘Ah Those Liberty Squares’? It had been hanging around for a while as I couldn’t decide how to quilt it. The large centre area needed something holding it down here and there and I was nervous about messing it up but it turned out OK in the end. Here it is:

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‘House in the Country’

Until next time…

 

A House with Love in It

“A house with love in it, is where we stay”, my dad used to sing along to an old 78 rpm record of his. I think it was. My parents did everything together, always looked out for each other and as a result my home was a secure and happy place.

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One of the houses I grew up in, in India

Is this why I love houses? I don’t know. I have lived in so many of them through the course of my life, all kinds: flats, maisonettes, penthouses, cottages, black and whites, plaster and lathe and new builds, both here and abroad, though I didn’t live in any one of them more than five years. The house I live in now is the longest I have lived anywhere.

I love moving house, the packing up and unpacking, the smell of fresh paint, the anticipation of a life somewhere else, looking out of smaller or larger windows onto unfamiliar views. Most of all I love the way that every house causes you to live your life in it, differently. The layout and position of the rooms; how warm or cool they are; how much light they let in; what you can see out of them; this influences what you put in them, how you spend time in them and how much you choose to be in them.

Perhaps like most children one of the first things I drew was probably a house, with a door and a couple of windows, perhaps a garden with the sun shining. Many years later, when I lived in Singapore, I began to be interested in real houses especially the colonial houses and enjoyed photographing as many examples as I could.

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The black and white colonial house I lived in, in Singapore

Here in Scotland I have begun drawing houses again. I love the ones with stone walls, low roofs and little, symmetrical, windows.

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A house in Newton Stewart high street, Dumfries and Galloway

I notice the chimneys in particular and how large they are, often taking up one whole side of a building. I didn’t grow up with chimneys, so I find them fascinating. Does anyone else out there take photos of chimneys?

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Chimneys in Wigtown

 

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More chimneys in Wigtown

When I started sewing recently it seemed obvious to start making houses, not only to add to quilts IMG_7257and pillowcases but tall houses that you can lean on a mantel or hang on a wall, tiny stuffed and embroidered houses and house ‘cards’ to send friends to welcome a new baby or for a house move.

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One of my Tall Houses. This one is called ‘Keyholder’

However, the ones I have enjoyed making the most are accordion houses, ones that stand up by themselves, a zig zag row of houses that you can place on a shelf or window sill and that will, hopefully, make you smile.

For now I have made only a few designs but I have plans for so many different ones. I never seem to tire of them, as if all the best things about all the houses I have known and loved are stitched into their seams.

I began with this prototype,IMG_4483 a little row of tartan houses only an inch high, with the windows and doors glued on. After that I was hooked. Since then I have moved on to a range of sizes. They are all double sided, some have chimneys and they come in multiples of three, four or five houses in a row. There are tiny medieval houses, plaid houses and houses in bright cottons.

I’m excited to sell you that these will be selling in ‘Curly Tales’ book and gift shop in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway, during the whole of next month (June 2016) and I hope some of you will pop in for a look. I would love to hear your comments.

Till next time…..