2022 Is Here – But Where Am I?

Hello Everyone!

This bird stand was one of my Christmas presents from my husband. Less than a week after it was set up, two of the baskets are empty and the rest nearly empty!

I wish you all a happy and productive year ahead but most of all a healthy one.

I am sorry I have disappeared for so long. In late November I travelled up to central Scotland to see some friends that I’ve known since I was twelve. I had a wonderful time but started to feel unwell almost immediately I got home. It had been years since I had a cold or any flu symptoms but these were so severe and went on so long that I had a PCR test, afraid it might be Covid. The results came back negative, so I seemed to have some kind of mega cold. Perhaps I had self isolated for so long that I had no defence I against what was waiting for me outdoors. I was not completely over it by Christmas Day, and though much better by New Year’s Day, a persistent cough still kept me up at night.

My kids came up for a visit on the 4th and stayed until the 7th which I had long looked forward to, but it is only now that I am able to put the whirlwind of Christmas and New Year behind me and relax and try to recover some of the energy I had at the beginning of November.

I wrapped all the presents for my family in fabric this year.
You will see that some of these have been wrapped/tied using some Japanese Furoshiki methods.

I feel curiously dislocated from everything, as if the world has zoomed on without me and I can’t catch up. The last sewing I did seems so long ago. I felt too unwell to read at first but then suddenly had a huge desire to read and bought a rash of books. I bought a couple of second hand novels (I don’t know how long ago it was that I read a novel!) I am a short story reader usually and my favourite authors are a group of American writers, writing mostly during the eighties and referred to as the ‘Dirty Realists’ (Jayne Anne Phillips, Raymond Carver, Larry Brown, Richard Ford, Richard Yates and lots more!) I have read most of their short stories so I thought I would make a start on some of their novels.

I also bought three books on Abstract Art . The two below both explore shape and colour, line, tone and size, texture, composition, and more, as well as secondary elements like contrast rhythm and balance, which I don’t know enough about. ‘Realistic Abstracts’ (my favourite kind!) goes more into how reality and illusion can be combined

I want to learn more about abstract art but also about design and to see if I can transfer any of what I learn to my quilt making. I bought a third book on Kindle, called ‘Creating Abstract Art’ by Dean Nimmer, which is much more formulaic, with a series of exercises to work through. I bought this one for fun and for practice in loosening up a little, something I have always found difficult.

I bought two textile books ‘Textile Folk Art’ by Anne Kelly and ‘Sketchbook Explorations’ by Shelley Rhodes and these have been hugely inspiring. I am fortunate to have joined each of these artists in online workshops, as part of my textile course.

Another book I bought fairly recently was Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Older copies had become rare and expensive but this new edition has brought the prices down and made copies readily available. I am fascinated by American blocks and their origins and names and, although I keep saying I want to stop making them and move on to different things, I am constantly drawn back to them. I have a perpetual calendar of these blocks on my window sill.

With regard to EPP I was delighted to receive a commission in November from someone I met recently; to complete two mini patchwork quilts for a wall, that featured sheep. They were supposed to be finished by Christmas but are barely begun, so I shall be getting back to work on those in the next few days.

This is the first of two 8″ quilts in progress, featuring sheep for someone who has a several pet ones! It does’t look much at the moment but it will improve.

So, what of my plans for 2022? I want to vary my posts a little with some ‘how-to’s’ and ‘things to try’, (e.g. making some little fabric books) so that the posts are not just about progress with my quilts. I want to include some posts on colouring fabric with paints etc which I had intended to cover last year, I want to do some appliqué work with a Scottish theme, and I really want to try some fabric collage. And while I am working on those I want to learn how to layer fabric in interesting ways and how to do free motion embroidery. That should keep me busy most of the year!

I have 40, part-finished, mini quilts (yes 40!), sitting in a pile, waiting for me to find some backing fabric so that I can quilt them. Then I have more that I planned and bought fabric for, long ago, that I want to get out of the way. However, there is one large quilt I am itching to begin working on. I am going to call it ‘Houses and Dolls’. It is made up of blocks of patched houses and ‘dolls’ of different sizes which are all joined by improvised paths. It is based on a quilt design called ‘The Burbs’ by Sarah Fielke from the book ‘Material Obsession’. I have not seen any quilt top put together in this way before and want to give it a try.

Here is a section of Sarah’s quilt, so it will be something along these lines. I love it! I’ll probably leave off the appliquéd flowers that are dotted around, though. I find that I learn a lot from reproducing someone else’s quilt design now and again (though obviously the chosen fabrics will be different), especially if there is something unusual about them or I am intrigued by the way they are made. It’s the same with recipes for me. I follow the first attempt to the letter and from that I learn not only what is involved in the making but how I would definitely do it differently. And I won’t be selling this one so no need to worry about accusations of it not being an original design!

A close up of one section of ‘The Burbs’ by Sarah Fielke

I also want to re-open my shop on Folksy.com and finally open the one I set up over a year ago on Etsy.com. I have abandoned the idea of selling from this website because I can’t include enough large images to show detail and I can’t easily sell to other countries. It may be pricey to list multiple items on these Folksy and Etsy but there is a lot of support for beginner sellers and invaluable help with postal calculations.

I am surprised to find that this EPP post is mostly about books! In between my reading binges I have been thinking and making lists, trying to hone in on the nitty gritty of what interests me, what matters to me, what brings me joy, what I want to say, whether I want to go on making quilts or move onto making textile pictures. I have a book of lists. Making lists is fun to do and interesting to read back later. It reveals quite a lot about you and is strangely therapeutic. I can recommend it.

So, until next time……stay safe and well.

Adventures with Quilt Stencils

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Prym ‘Curls’ Stencil

I thought stencils were for people who weren’t creative, that stencils gave you a template to use if you couldn’t draw, or were useful for those times that you needed dozens of repeat images to be the same each time. I could see myself using a stencil on a wall but not on a quilt.

The first quilt I made was a tied quilt but then I wanted to learn how join the layers with tiny quilting stitches. The next few quilts I made reached the quilt sandwich stage, with all the layers carefully basted together, but then they began to collect in a cupboard. How was I to quilt the borders, let alone the great yawning centres? Was there a pattern that suited a particular design of quilt? It all seemed so daunting.

The answer, to begin with, was Big Stitch Quilting. I was introduced to this via an online Utube quilting tutorial (Hand quilting techniques for beginners (on perle cotton) by the Australian quilt designer, Sarah Fielke, and it was a revelation. I still have to master the tiny quilting stitches that have been traditionally used for quilting but I’m taking my time over those. In the meantime I was happy outlining borders and images in bold running stitches, using variegated embroidery threads, and couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it after months of being afraid to try anything.

I wanted to do more. I wanted patterns, repeated images, tiny motifs, more variety! So, I began to consider stencils. I decided that although I could draw, the set pattern in the stencil would allow me build my sewing confidence until I was ready to draw freehand onto the quilt surface.

I had no idea where to begin. It didn’t occur to me that there would be different sizes of stencil for borders and all over patterns for centres. I just found an interesting pattern that didn’t cost too much and gave it a try. The first one I bought was a Prym ‘Curls’ stencil and I quickly realised it was much too big for the narrow borders I was making. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll just combine the two, big stitch quilting in narrow borders and stencils in larger areas and I’ll use the same Perle 8 embroidery thread for both. It seems to work.

About the same time as I was beginning to explore stencils, I discovered a pen that I now practically worship. It is a blue EZ quilting water soluble pen.You draw on the quilt top, inside your stencil, making thin, turquoise blue lines. Then you remove the stencil and stitch along your drawn lines. When you have finished, you give them a spritz with water and all the blue lines under your stitching, disappear. Well, blow me over with a feather! How’s that for magic?

Hot on the heels of those two revelations came another: A single stencil pattern could be used to suggest more than one thing. The Curl Stencil could be used for ANYTHING with a slight curl in the pattern such as smoke, or waves, or a paisley pattern AND by altering the pattern, using just a part of the pattern, or leaving out some of the inside or outside lines, the stencil could be used in more creative ways than you’d ever imagine.

In the quilt below, ‘House in the Country’, the smoke coming out of the house chimney has been made from the Curl stencil:

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In ‘Coastal Cottage’, below, the same quilt stencil has been used to suggest waves:

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The next two stencils I bought were flower designs, one a tulip and one rather like a row of petals. The petal design was used to create the pattern in the ‘garden’ of ‘House in the Country’, above, and also in the two golden borders in the mini wall quilt, below.img_8752

I also used it on the mini nine-patch blocks in my ‘Roses and Tulips’ double-nine-patch quilt. In the close up, below, you can see the design has been altered to suggest an ‘Orange Peel’ quilting design over the centre block, where each petal meets in the middle. On the block either side I’ve used the tulip stencil but, similarly, a single side of the tulip could be used elsewhere to suggest leaves, raindrops, faces in pointy hats, or whatever else your imagination creates for you.

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I’ve recently bought a whole series of stencils in different sizes from The Stencil Company at  http://quiltingstencils.com/ in the States and they arrived in the UK yesterday. My daughter is  collecting them from the post office for me and bringing them here on Christmas day. I can’t wait to try them out.

Stencils can also be found in the UK at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/, https://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/ http://www.paulinespatchwork.co.uk and  www.threadsandpatches.co.uk. They are inexpensive as they are just thin plastic though of course there is postage to pay as well. There are dozens of patterns and images available and sizes range from 3/4″ border patterns up to large images of 5-8 inches.

I hope this post might find its way to someone who is feeling daunted about making a start with quilting stitches and/or using stencils. It’s all enormous fun. Just jump in! If you have any questions I am happy to help if I can.

So… it’s only a week to Christmas. Yikes. It’s getting a little colder but it’s mainly grey, wet and mushy along our Scottish country lanes.

Till next time…..

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