While I was patiently (!) waiting for my canvas work to be thoroughly dry, I decided to pick up another UFO.

My first quilt. This was started in 1999. Yes, you read it correctly, and I really did start it 15 years ago. I’ve done the main part of it (I’ll post that another day). I’d abandoned it when it needed a lot of careful hand-stitching to applique the letters and numbers on it. Something more exciting must have distracted me, I’ve no idea what.

But as with many of my returned to projects I’ve learnt new skills in the interim that will improve the finished result. At Embroiderer’s Guild early in the year we had a talk and demonstration by Jean Proud of her Baltimore quilts. She showed us how to make an invisible stitch to applique with, I’m still trying to perfect it, but it’s an improvement on my earlier appliqued letters.

Back to the quilt – it’s a memory quilt of a holiday in Tucson, Arizona at Easter in 1999 with a very dear American friend, each patterned fabric telling part of the story. The patterned quilt fabrics were all bought in America. All that remains to be done is to finish off appliqueing the “Easter 1999” across the bottom. The letters were already made, a hundred plus 1 inch squares of paper with a 1 1/2 inch squares of soft green (the colour of the saguaro cacti) tacked round each square of paper, then invisibly joined together as the letters for “Tucson” and “Easter 1999”.

20140709-171729-62249482.jpg

The pile of letters ready to put across the bottom of the quilt.20140709-171729-62249711.jpg

The back of the letter “R”. This was the tricky one as I had to make two triangles to make it look like an “R”.20140709-171730-62250732.jpg

I recently bought a metre metal ruler and this proved invaluable when lining everything up, and centring it all. I used a water soluble pen to mark in my guide lines, working from my long age drawn out pattern.20140709-171730-62250193.jpg

Ready to start stitching. You can see a bit of the main part of the quilt, but I’ll show the rest when I’ve photographed it all.
20140709-171729-62249945.jpg

At the top you can just see part of the already stitched Tucson.20140709-171730-62250442.jpg

Although my first quilt is not finished yet, I must have made about 20 others all of which were finished relatively quickly.

Advertisements

Once I’d sorted out the corners, the final border was plain sailing. It just took awhile, as the finished piece is 16 inches by 15 inches.20140626-161659-58619081.jpg

The finished border, ready to take off the frame.

20140626-161659-58619627.jpgThis shows the canvas piece laid on the cushion and the fabric for the edging and back. It only gives a vague impression as the extra canvas and denim are folded underneath. It’s now ready for the scary bit – blocking. Not something I’ve done before with such a big piece of canvas work, nor unaided. But too impatient to wait for help.

20140626-161700-58620173.jpgI’ve read how to do it in a couple of different books. Basically, it needs damping and stretching over an old sheet into a board with push pins or tacks, making sure it is straight and square, and leaving to dry thoroughly. One book recommends for at least a week. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it means I’ve got to be patient before I unpin it to see how it looks and to finish it off, on the other it means I can start (or continue) with another project without feeling I should finish this first.

20140626-161701-58621142.jpgThe blocking has to be done wrong side up, which means you can see the messy side, no knots (uncomfortable to lean or sit on), just woven through ends.

20140626-161701-58621604.jpg

I’ve  just got to be patient.

For some reason when I posted this last week it didn’t appear! And only part of the draft was saved. Frustrating, but hey, so here I go again.

I’d nearly got to the end of this section when I realised it wasn’t going to meet up properly. It would have involved loads of unpicking, again. I decided to finish it off and see if it was obvious. I showed it to 3 observant folk and none of them could find it. Phew! I even have to look hard for it myself a few days on.

20140612-204639-74799672.jpg  The finished piece.

20140612-204639-74799891.jpgBut it wasn’t really as big as I wanted, and there is enough canvas to make it a bit larger. So I’m now putting on an extra border to make it bigger. I bought several feather filled cushions some years ago. One of which was ear-marked for an Indian cushion I received as a “thank you” for making a quilt for friends that was inspired by  several of these cushions. No idea what I was planning on doing with the others. But I want this cushion to be the same size.

This is it so far. I then had to take it to be photographed for “insight” open artist studios in North and North East Lincolnshire the last two weekends of September and first in October. More about this nearer the time. I was so close to finishing it but just ran out of time. Usually it’s not the whole piece that’s used for the brochure, so not really a problem. I just wanted to finish it off.

20140612-204640-74800089.jpgI’ve used the same pattern (just over more holes) as the outer border and the divisions of the sections.

IMG_1604The 2 small triangles and one large triangle give the impression of a heart, so it will have a border of hearts, once I get it back.

IMG_1603

In between other projects I’ve stitched away at this canvas work cushion at the various groups I go to. It’s a slow process and I’ve been challenged to have it finished before the group on 13 June, we’ll see.

On Sunday morning I was feeling slightly head-achey and out of sorts, with not much energy. So I decided to have a slow start to the day and make the most of  a warm sunny morning, stitching outside under the wisteria  in the garden, before the wind and rain finishes it off for this year.

I dream of lying under it in the hammock with a good book, but rarely (once?) have I managed it, either time or weather has always been against me. It’s slightly passed it’s best but still smelt wonderful. Before we moved here (24 years ago) I had a similar dream of spinning under the apple tree, again it only happened the once, but I still remember it as being idillic.

There are goldfinch nesting up in one corner, almost totally hidden by the metal frame and the wisteria. I had a few really good glimpses of them. Also blackbirds coming and going with food for their babies.

Stitching with the sun on my back outside in the area of the garden that is more or less sorted for the moment was a rare treat. I made some good progress and the end is in sight on the one panel. The other needs more and what I hope to be the last of the unpicking on this project!

I sometimes find stitching quite mediative, totally in the moment, and the  garden setting helped with this. But, it also can be time to reflect and plan new projects, and just sort out my head amongst the chaos, and hustle and bustle of day to day living.

 

20140603-141158-51118701.jpg  20140603-141159-51119053.jpg 20140603-141200-51120043.jpg 20140603-141200-51120428.jpg 20140603-141200-51120839.jpg

20140603-141159-51119720.jpg

20140603-141159-51119402.jpg 20140603-141158-51118402.jpg

P1250623

Woods near Berkswell, Warwickshire

I haven’t touched any sewing for what seems like weeks. By the time I’ve run out of daylight in the garden I’ve also run out of steam. I’ve taken loads of photos though; just to capture the moment, for later inspiration, and to look back at when I need a fix of green. I just love this time of year. The fresh green of the beech coming out just fills me with joy and energy somehow. I’ve walked loads too, several times with our son in woodland. He handed in his dissertation a couple of weeks ago (he’s studied forestry and woodland ecology) and it feels good to be able to walk and talk with him now he’s not totally preoccupied with that.

I’ve also had a few days out with friends. One to Quarry Bank at Styal, (National Trust), wonderful scented azaleas in the garden, too much to see in a day – anther visit sometime. A couple of embroidery exhibitions, loads of things I want to try. A great garden centre at Reighton (lots of plants to keep me busy, rained off today, hence time to write).

Loads of inspiration, just need to start some work.

Just a few photos for you to have a peep at my green obsession.

P1250908

Eckington Woods, Derbyshire

P1250911

Eckington Woods, Derbyshire

P1250768

?, Quarry Bank, Styal

P1250808

Underside of Gunnera, Quarry Bank, Styal

This is the stitch I’d started for the final strips a month ago. I was not really happy  with them, but wasn’t sure why, partly the colours, but mainly the stitch. I’d even sewn in all the loose ends, so I could assess it better. And finally, at the group this morning I realised what  the problem was – the main sections are diagonal stitches, the ziz-zag strips and the border are horizontal stitches and I was the adding vertical stitches. It was just too much. Also they didn’t cover the canvas well with the pinky yarn.

 

20140331-161004.jpg

I then started on the other side with Creole stitch, this is worked on the diagonal. It was very small and the scale looked unbalanced (I forgot to photograph this stage before I took it out). I then did my own variation on this stitch, which I’m sure is not really mine, and has it’s own name, but I’ve not spotted it in a book – yet. I’d also done the Creole stitch going from right to left, and I wanted the stitching to go from left to right on this side to lead the eye in to the centre.

20140509-172241.jpg

I started off with just two colours to make it a more restful area, but didn’t want it too stripy, so planned on doing two rows of one colour randomly. But the darker tone then became too dominant. (This sounds like Goldilocks and the 3 bears!!)

20140509-181959.jpg

So more pulling out! And the introduction of a third colour, again randomly, not one, two, three repeatedly.

20140509-182017.jpg

This is the opposite end, with a different random pattern of the three colours.

20140509-182041.jpg

 

And is the stage it’s at now, it should be easy to pick up and work on again in front of the telly!

20140509-182050.jpg

FOR SOME REASON THE PHOTOS ARE  ALL IN THE WRONG ORDER IN THIS POST – SORRY

I’d got a couple of manky looking pomegranites, some dried up lemons, and a few shrivelled oranges in the bottom of the fruit bowl. I’d read that pomegranites can be used for dyeing, and on further research found that they don’t need a mordant. I boiled up all the fruit for an hour, strained it, split the fabric in half and micro-waved it for about 10 minutes, and left it to cool. I also reboiled the mush with more water for another hour, which gave me a much paler dye bath, and again micro-waved it for 10 minutes. Left them both for several hours before rinsing out the excess. I also did a load of cotton strips in the two baths mixed together as there still seemed a lot of colour left.

20140422-201121.jpg

First dye bath and fabric on the left, second on the right.

20140422-201114.jpg

Rinsing of second dye bath.

20140422-201057.jpg

Second dye bath cooling

20140422-201103.jpg

First dye bath cooling

20140422-201012.jpg

Dry fabric and threads

20140422-201030.jpg

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble

20140422-201128.jpg

Dried fabric

20140422-201137.jpg

Damp fabric from first dye bath

20140422-201024.jpg

Strained dye bath.

20140422-201004.jpg

Soaking a mix of cotton, silk, muslin and some cotton thread.

20140422-201018.jpg

Looks pretty revolting, but smelt wonderful.

 

The finished results are a pale, creamy yellow, the first bath slightly deeper. The silk has taken the colour better, a lovely warm gold tone. Not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but a couple of ideas simmering.

 

I’ve finished the side panels of the cushion. They are deliberately not symmetrical, something that I have struggled with in canvas work in the past. I just want it to look balanced overall. The first photo shows a section round the edge that needs completing. Then it’s just the narrow strips on each side to do. And, the dreaded ends – always the last bit to drag my heels about!

IMG_0906

Close-up of centre of one side panel.

IMG_0905

Close-up of the centre of the other side panel.

IMG_0904

The side panels completed.

 

I’ve found some brown denim type fabric in my stash, that will look good for the back and round the edges of the canvas work. It must be cut out soon while the dining table is still clear (needed for eating at on Easter Sunday, too many of us for the kitchen table). It is a superb space for cutting out on and working on big quilts, but I tend to fill it with many and varied smaller projects when we’re not feeding the masses.

I’ve finished the miniature embroidery, from Alison Larkin’s workshop at Scunthorpe Embroiderer’s Guild from a couple of weeks ago. I needed good light, my reading glasses and a magnifier to see what I was doing. I’ve seen a couple of the other’s finished work, we had all got favourite areas on our own work (mine was the bottom leaf) and bits we weren’t quite happy with (the centre flower). However, several of us found this small scale a challenge, split stitch with a single strand of floss is not the easiest thing to do. I have often admired miniature work in the past and thought I should have a go while my eyes were good enough to see small scale. Whether I will do more I’m not sure, it certainly needs lots of patience as well as good eyesight. I just need to make it up now.

20140414-204000.jpg

Close up of miniature embroidery

20140414-203949.jpg

Detail of miniature embroidery

20140414-203934.jpg

Finished miniature embroidery.

We had a choice of three kits; burgundy / maroon (the bottom image is the truest colour), blue or green. It looks very different in other colour ways, have a peak at Alex’s  green version at underatopazsky.wordpress.com/‎          

 

The first photo I took in artificial light so the colours are not true, but it shows the progress I’m making.

I realised that it won’t work in the same way as the centre panel and that I’ve ended up with a triangle leading inwards in the middle. I tried carrying on varying the colours and stitch widths and meeting at a centre point. But I’m not sure that it looks right (right hand side). The other side has ended up meeting with the same colour which I think looks better. I’m going to try doing both sides the same and seeing how that looks before I do any more on the right hand side section. It might need pulling out again!!

20140408-153159.jpg

The colours are not good on this photo,but it’s making progress.

20140408-153212.jpg

Filling in the last triangle on each side.

20140408-153220.jpg

Not sure I like the meeting of the ways.

20140408-153226.jpg

This side ended up meeting with the same colour, but different width stitches.