Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I've been doing

After finishing block 6, I decided to take a break for a while (which makes my daughter a bit nervous).
I turned my attention to card-making, because I had pretty much exhausted my supply of handmade cards. Cards are fun to make, you can experiment with different techniques, and there is almost instant gratification, rather than the slow slog of working on a Crazy block.
It's fun to rummage around in boxes of pretty fabric, selecting bits and pieces that might "go" together, and searching for the perfect scrap of lace or ribbon to set it all off.

So here's a selection of my creations -
 Left:  the tried-and-true random strips of fabric, with sunflowers on top
Right : Silk flowers with bead centres on fabric scraps

Left: scraps of quilting fabric on a hand-dyed background, with a couple of ribbon flowers
Right: shades of grey, topped with silk flowers and beads

Left: co-ordinating scraps, set off with a crochet flower and some simple embroidery
Right: A pretty floral set mounted on some grungy greens, tiny daisies to pick up the pink

Left: a Japanese print, stripes, and daisies

Right: another Japanese-style arrangement
Left: a piece from a silk tie, backed with an unlikely choice of polka dots - love it!
Right: a lavendar confection of silk flowers,  a whisp of net, and sparkly brocade

There are more of course, I've made about thirty so far, and haven't run out of ideas yet...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Block 6

I've reached the halfway mark! Running a bit behind schedule, but still hoping to finish sometime in August.

Not so many figurative embroideries in this one, but I like how the spider and her web turned out. It's a redback, of course. (click the picture for details)

Now contemplating Block 7, seen here in its naked state... first, I should get those creases out!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Block 5

It's always a bit risky to step away from a large ongoing project - it can be hard to get back into the mood. And indeed, when I had sorted out my crochet dilemma, there were other distractions - a couple of birthday celebrations, a trip to Ballarat, another to Maryborough, a sewing bee, a quilters' it took a while to rekindle my enthusiasm for Block 5. Yesterday afternoon it was finally finished.

The central bird is possibly a species of budgerigar, maybe...
There had to be sheep, of course. Usually one uses french knots for these, but french knots and I are not good friends, and I decided that these sheepies should wear 'knitted' coats instead.
The watery blue in the top RH corner just cried out for some fish and seaweed, and the pale blue sequins add a bit of glitz.
The elegant letter P is for one of Liz's sons.

Now to tackle the next block, which will be No 6 - when that's finished, I'll be halfway!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A delicious dilemma

Block 5 is  was coming along nicely, but on Monday I had the chance to visit Bendigo Woollen Mills, and bought an assortment of purple-ish wools for a new cardigan. Five colours, perfect for a six row rolling repeat. This cardie will be worked side-to-side, starting at the centre back.

Spent most of Tuesday setting it up, and was pleased with it, until I discovered that I had some more purple wool stashed away.

Four 50g balls of lovely, deep, dark purple. What to do?
I could use it for bands on the cardie,but it's rather loosely spun, and probably not durable enough.
Add it to the mix? Substitute it for one of the other colours?

This is how it looks with the new colour added in - not sure if I like it?

Oh, and yesterday I just happened to be in our new local wool shop, and I just happened to fall in love with

this ball of Noro sock yarn, which will make a gorgeous shawlette, methinks...

Block 5 is calling me, and as soon as I get these crochet projects set up for car trips/TV watching/coffee outings, I WILL get back to it!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

block 4

Finished the fourth block today -

 The chookies in the middle don't show as well as I'd like, but there are some good patches

Don't you love the ants? and the flowers above are based on an Indian embroidery I saw online

The dragonfly turned out well, and the ribbon flowers also (those leaves are painted Vilene)

and the nest is exactly how I'd imagined it - pretty cool, eh?

The next block is waiting  - I have lots of ideas for it!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Block 3

Block 3 is finished, and I'm pretty happy with it -

It's well balanced, I think, the bird turned out well, and there are a couple of nice details. The mauve daisies on the left were hand-painted, my first attempt at shading. (If you look back at the un-adorned block, you'll see that I have replaced the centre patch with a more subdued purple.)

a bunch of cherries and some pretty paisleys

a sweet little mouse, and a very "sixties" daisy.

It's easy to create a "pretty" block, with lots of flowers and butterflies and scrolly bits, but more challenging to work in some pictorial motifs, like the cherries and the mouse. I think it will make a more interesting quilt though.

and here's the next block, all ready for embellishment -

Should be done in a couple of weeks - at this rate, I calculate the quilt will be finished sometime in August...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Block 2

The second block is finished. I'm not entirely sure I like it.

I like some patches -

These roses

and another butterfly

Now to tackle the next block

Wonder how it will turn out?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two months later...

It finally looks as if I've found a solution to my design problems. I finished the first of the new blocks today, and I'm pleased with it. Have a look -

The bird -a  species of duck, maybe? - turned out well, with a folk-art flavour.

In the top right hand corner is the absolute last piece of the (Hoffman?) butterfly fabric, which I re-embroidered a little.

The patch on the bottom left was originally a rather strident orange linen, so I toned it down with a piece of yellow lace, which I embroidered to define the pattern.

The three yellow flowers were originally white, until I painted them.

There's a lot of yellow in this block, and I think I'll continue that trend, as a way of unifying all the blocks.

This has already been a long journey of trial and error, and usually I'd be sick of the whole project by now. But the continuing challenges seem to keep me from getting bored, which is probably just as well, because at the current rate of progress, I estimate it will take me about six months to finish.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

now that's REALLY crazy!

Well, plan B didn't work either - the blocks still didn't look like the makings of a quilt. So I made 12 more blocks, with a wild mixture of colours - the only "rule" was that there had to be either 3 warm colours and 4 cool colours in each block, or vice versa.

Here they are, laid out on the lounge room floor. And yes, it's a terrible photo, the light wasn't good.
Then I spent an afternoon shuffling them around until I was satisfied with the layout.

This is probably how it's going to be. Now I'll begin embroidering and embellishing them. I have no idea if this is going to work.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

learning curve

So, I made a few more blocks yesterday. Pretty blocks, too. (sorry about the poor photo)
  I followed my usual method for choosing colours - select a pretty print, add several co-ordinating plains, maybe a second print. But when I put them beside the three completed blocks, they just Didn't Go Together.

Lesson: a collection of blocks, however gorgeous, do not necessarily make a harmonious whole.
I had obviously strayed from my original plan of a colourwash effect across the whole quilt.

Back to the design board. I cut small squares of six basic rainbow pastels - purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and pink, and pinned them on the board. Then I added 2 smaller squares of analogous (related) colours to each one.

After a bit tweaking, they looked like this.

Next, I scanned a crazy block outline into the computer, and made 12 copies. Using a basic photoshop-type program, I coloured each block to (sort of) match the fabric squares.Then I pasted the blocks together in Publisher, and printed them.
 This will now serve as a guide for making a whole new set of blocks.

What of the blocks I've already completed, you ask? All those weeks of work? Sadly not all of them may be used in the quilt - the last one, with the sheep, will probably fit in. Don't know about the other two at this stage, but they won't be wasted; I'll mount them as individual pieces, and doubtless someone will like them for a birthday present.

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

two yellow chickies

Finished block 3 yesterday evening, but had to wait til this morning for photos.

sure looks different from the naked block, doesn't it? There seem to be an awful lot of beads on this block, and I had to restrain myself from adding even more. Some details -

the chickies


 My attempt at a Jacobean type flower. I hand painted those litttle guipure daisies to tone.

and some silk ribbon butterflies. The yellow ribbon here is very old - I found it among some of my mother's scraps - but the little sequins holding it down are from the 21st century.
And of course you've already seen the sheep.

After some time spent considering the three finished blocks, I decided to go ahead and make up the remaining nine blocks, so I can pin them on the display board and see how they will go together. I've done three so far, will post pics when they are all made up.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Block 3 is by no means finished, but I couldn't resist showing you this -

are they not the cutest sheep? Worth making every one of those innumerable French knots, I reckon. OK, Lizzie and David's little flock probably don't have black faces and legs, but the colours work here.

Another day or two few days before the whole block is finished; life goes on around it. If you ever wondered why I work so slowly, consider the past week...

On Friday my sister and I went to Williamstown for a funeral. Saturday, a trip to the Wesley Hill Market to stock up on some of Katie's luscious fruit. Sunday, a couple of Scrabble games with Marle and Janet - neither of which I won :-(  What can you do when someone gets TWO seven letter words in one game???

Monday, coffee with a visiting granddaughter, and later a train trip to Bendigo to see the chiropractor. Love the train (and ridiculously cheap at $1.90 for pensioners.)
Tuesday, lots of stitching took place. Wednesday, not so much, due to morning coffee with the lovely Catsmum, followed by my regular massage appointment with Naomi, who does her best to combat the effects of sitting for hours, bent over an embroidery hoop.

This morning the Naughty Little Car had to be attended to; it's now running sweetly again. Tomorrow is the Goldfields Quilters' meeting day. Guess I'd better stop faffing around on the computer, and get back to stitching!

Friday, February 1, 2013

I don't think so

Don't quite know where this week went. 
On Tuesday, after spending several days on block #3, I came to the unhappy conclusion that I didn't like it enough to continue.

Something about the colours was just...not right.

 So I made a replacement, in a slightly different colourway.

 Chose some harmonising threads and trims, and made a start.

But I haven't made much progress. There was a coffee date, a visit from a daughter and a grandson,  some novels were read - one of them finished by candlelight during last night's lengthy power outage. And today, a funeral for a lovely cousin.
The weekend promises more distractions. But I'll get back to it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

block 3

The new block is made, I had sooo much trouble with it! A couple of the fabrics were silky, and needed interfacing with light Vilene. I kept getting mixed up and cutting the shapes out in reverse. Grrr!

All colours from the print in the top LH corner, except the centre, which is actually greenish gold. I'll work the bird block first, as usual, then consider what to add.

When I'm "considering" I often look through some of my favourite books -

 Allie Aller's book is always inspiring

and Marsha Michler's books are a goldmine of ideas and useful diagrams.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

a bird, a bow and a butterfly

The second block is finished! It turned out well, I think, though maybe a bit lacking in texture...

Some details -

The bow was worked in one of Cottage Garden's yummy hand-dyed threads. The patch looked a bit bare when I'd finished, but I found some iridescent beads to match the thread, and scattered them around.

This patch is a Nile green silk, overlaid with a scrap of wide lace edging, which I gussied up with beads and tiny artificial flowers. I have a box full of fake flowers; these were white before I tinted them with acrylic paint.
The patch above is a sample of fine wool, which inspired the colour scheme for the block.

Deep peach linen, adorned with flowers in faux buttonhole stitch. I'm not going to show you a close-up of the butterfly patch, because I'm none too pleased with it :-(

The bird looks happy in her bower, doesn't she? the flowers are ombre ribbon, and the leaves are aqua silk, backed with light Vilene (which hopefully will prevent them from fraying.)

So there you have it, two blocks done, ten to go!
I'm thinking maybe purples for the next one...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

tools of the trade

There's a few things that make life easier for the embroiderer -

an assortment of hoops, invaluable to keeep your work from puckering. I resisted using a hoop for a long time, but I'm used to them now, and my work stays nice and flat. These are 4", 6" and 10". What's that pen thingy, you ask?

It's a Frixion pen, for marking designs on your work. Supposedly, if you rub the marks with the other (grey) end of the pen, the marks disappear. Doesn't work very well. But apply heat and

Voila! all gone! Depending on the colour of your fabric, there may be a faint white line left, but not noticeable enough to worry about. This is a wonderful tool, especially if you change your mind about something :-) Someone told me the pink marks come back if the fabric is chilled, so I experimented by putting this piece in the freezer for 10 minutes. The pink lines returned, but faintly, and another touch with the iron removed them.

Another, often overlooked marking tool is your sewing machine. Just stitch beside the seam line, and use it as a guide for even stitch length.

Oh, and here's the next bird.