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Handmade

Spring Meadow Handspun {handmade}

24/03/2017

If using sticks to turn string into clothes is magic, spinning is pure alchemy.  It’s not particularly difficult once you’ve got the knack, but taking fluff and coming out with good usable yarn makes you feel like you’re being very very clever.

My spinning wheel has mostly sat quiet since the babies started arriving; a spinning wheel in full flight has far too many little gaps irresistible to tiny fingers to say nothing of two rows of metal hooks whirling around on the flyer and it seemed far easier to stick with knitting and crochet for a while.  I’ve had it out for them occasionally; mostly to demonstrate ‘Wind the bobbin up’; if you’ve ever wondered what on earth that nursery rhyme it about, it’s spinning.  First you wind the bobbin up; the spin.  Then you wind it back again; plying.  Then you pull pull; after you’ve skeined the yarn and let it soak for a little you put your hands into each end of the loop and pull them apart to even the twist.  And clap clap clap; well to finish the yarn you grab hold of the loop of skeined yarn and thwack it against your kitchen cupboards or the fridge to felt it very slightly and help it all hold together.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I’ve no idea what the pointing to ceiling and floor is about, it’s probably weaving.

But the other day I realised that the children are old enough to be able to follow “keep your hands clear”, and I had an itching to do something even more calm and meditative than knitting and crochet, so I pulled out the wheel.  In my fibre stash I found a bundle of Falkland Merino, soft as butter and dyed into the Spring Meadows colourway by BabylongLegs.  I think I bought it at Wonderwool Wales years and years and years ago so it was high time it saw the light of day.

I had every intention of taking photos before and during the process but when the decision is between not spinning or no photos because all the best craft projects are started after dark, the startitis won out.  If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen the work in progress on my stories.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I’m not sure what I’d planned for it at the time; most of my fibre was bought with the intention of turning it into sock yarn, and its true that the more you spin the thinner you end up spinning, and the more chance you’ve got of ending up with sock yarn, but for this I challenged myself to spin thicker, aiming for a DK-Aran sort of a weight.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I spun the whole lot onto one bobbin, then let it rest overnight and the next day Navajo plyed it back.  Chain plying is a lovely way to preserve the colour changes, although I’m never too precise about it and there are plenty of barber pole sections of brown into green or peach into yellow.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

And once skeined and washed and dryed in the garden on a brisk Spring afternoon, it was finished.  I’m a little bit thick and thin on the spinning but it evened out in the plying and I’ve ended up with 124 yards of a gorgeous greeny orange brown that’s probably on the bulky side of aran at the very least.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

So what is it to be? Well Kitty wants a hat or mittens, Elma just wants it to cuddle, and I think it might best suit the small Pip Squeak as the patterned yoke to a nice cosy jumper, possibly with cream as the background even if that is ridiculously impractical for a small boy.  I’m still waiting for the perfect inspiration to strike and then I’ll know exactly what it’s meant to be, so if you have any ideas, please shout them out.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

Handmade Quilting

Spring Forest – December(!) in the Sugar Block Club {handmade}

17/03/2017

Had I finished my SugarClub Blocks in December, Sugar Plum Forest, the final block, would have been gently seasonal, a hint to the Christmas decorations brightening up dark corners, adn perhaps I would have needed to find the darkest greens and blues to make them frosty and brilliant.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

But this is definitely a Spring sort of a quilt, and as it turns out, these threes are perfect for the month in which I finished the blocks.  They may be tall and pointy like a Christmas tree, but they’re covered in spring blooms and set on a carpet of tiny flowers and fresh new leaves breaking through into the sunshine.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

I love that some of my favourite fabrics managed to sneak in again right at the end.  The blue elephants that starts the year as a fat quarter is all but gone now, and the daisy tree trunks are the very very end of one of the first lengths of fabric that ever came to live in my stash.  Over the years it’s appeared in several quilts and other little projects and I’m both a little sad to see it go and glad that it’s in something we’re keeping.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

The tree blocks are all paper pieced, and with such skinny little bits as the tree trunks you really need it to stop the block skewing off to one side.  If I’ve got to grips with anything this year it’s the foundation paper piecing, and it does let you do some amazingly intricate work without too much hassle.  It’s also an amazing eater of fabric; I’m not sure I could ever make an entirely foundation pieced full size quilt but for a component part ….!

I think I’m going to say “never ever” and then I see things like the Forest Abstractions quilt and “never” becomes “quite possibly maybe”.

For now though, I’m finished.  Well sort of finished.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

24 blocks sit in a stack on the back of my desk.  A year and three months after I jumped into the SugarBlock Club on a whim, I’m finished.  That’s not a bad result for me, I’ve still got sock of the month clubs from before Kitty was born where I haven’t even wound the wool.

The next step will be to divide them into their two quilts, one block of each month in each, and then lay out their diamond shape.  What’s missing at the moment, aside from a lot of plain white blocks, are the blocks that will make up some pattern of little squares to break up the white.  I think I’ve got an idea in my mind as to how I want it to look but then I need to start cutting and sewing again and audition a few options.  I’m giving myself until Christmas to have these quilts wrapped up under the tree for the girls, which sounds like it’s a long way away but that’s two quilts, if I’m being fair then I really need to make three and do something for Pip too, and somewhere in all of this we’ve got to move house.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

Which is why the first thing I did once I’d finished these blocks was crack on with the rest pull out a box of Liberty print scraps and start playing around with an idea for the central block of a very delicate little lap quilt.

It’s going to be a busy year.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

Handmade Quilting

Hello Sunshine! – November in the SugarBlock Club {handmade}

10/03/2017

It’s March, so clearly it must be time for November in the SugarBlock Club! There are only two more main blocks after this so with these blocks it feels as if I’ve turned a corner and I’m finally on the home stretch.

When I ran races (many years ago now; pre-children and mostly pre-marriage) I would plod along at the end, certain that I was pushing myself as hard as I could go, and then we’d turn the corner and see the finish and my brain would spot that finish line, send the clear and certain message around the rest of me, “Get there and we can stop” and I’d take off, entirely without conscious thought of a final push.  I could see where I’d get to sit down and I was going to get to sitting down as fast as possible.  I’m not sure I could claim to have sprint finished a marathon, because nothing I do could ever seriously have been called a sprint, but it was fast for me (and is possibly why I hold the family PB for both half and full marathon despite John being a much much much better runner!).

It’s the same for my quilting, or knitting, or any other project; when the end is in sight it’s all I want to work on until it’s done, and so it’s proving with this quilt.  Watch out for December coming soon.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

But first, November, and Dresden plates.

 

I have made a Dresden plate block before as part of a sampler quilt, and if I’m remembering it rightly it was pieced together, curved seams and all, rather than the plate block appliqued onto a base.  The Hello Sunshine block uses the applique method, and some clever fabric origami to boot, and it’s definitely the simpler of the two.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

The rays of sunshine are made from wedge shapes, folded in half lengthways, sewn across the top, and then folded out to reveal a pointy ray.  You end up with a beautifully crisp point and perfect edges on the point and raw edges down the sides and across the bottom which you sew together to make the quarter circle and then applique on to a base block.  It was one of those bits of sewing whiztrickery that make you feel very very clever.

I joined the lower edge with a zig-zag on the machine, but to keep the crispness of the points I hand stitched them down, and found it a lovely change to do a little hand stitching and watch it all come together.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

Two very similar blocks; you can start to see that I’m running out of original fabric that has any large pieces left but as I’ve decided to do two quilts I’m not bothered if they’re slightly more matching on this block than on some of the others.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

And with two finished it was actually really hard not to press on and make more.  I love this block, and I know I’ve said that about at least half the blocks in the club, (sign of a really good club), but this is one I could seriously see myself making a quilt’s worth.  Not perhaps to do big Dresden circles, though that could look amazing, but even with two blocks, the side of the bookcase and some washi tape you can see the fun you can get up to in setting them at odds.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

The possibilities are vast, and if I ever make even half the quilts I have planned it will be quite the achievement.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

Handmade Quilting

Editing the SugarBlock Club {handmade}

03/03/2017

Making a scrap quilt has taught me the importance of editing my blocks.  Editing in writing makes sense; even though I’m loath to part with words that are hard won in time and inspiration, the finished piece will always be tighter and read better for a bit of care and attention and the brutal cutting of some of my lovely words.  I’d not really made the connection to quilting before these scrap quilts (for there are now definitely going to be two – see my last SugarBlock Club post for the plan), my quilts had been made with variations on a colour, or were bought together as a bundle and then added to, or simply had a really clear visual style from the get go.

These blocks, scrappiest of the scrappy, did not. In the first few months I simply pulled the fabrics that I thought looked good together, looking at the existing blocks for a bit of reference, but not overly fussed about finding a cohesive whole while I had so few to put together.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

As the months have gone on I’ve found that the precise colour scheme started to reveal itself, and the more I lifted and laid out the blocks, and moved them around and put them back, the more one or two started to niggle at me, and I knew they needed a do-over.

I tried to leave it as long as I could bear it, but with the end clearly in sight, and only two months’ left to go, it was time to tackle the miscreants so that I would no longer try to hide them in the corners where it might not matter.  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of making quilt blocks and then turning them into a quilt then that’s a serious investment of time, so they need to earn their keep and be perfectly beautiful, not hidden.

On careful examination, three were up for the chop.

Space for the Butterflies - Stitchery Dickory Dock Sugar Block Club

The first was this one from February, and in it’s original incarnation it was fine apart from the corners.  The quilts I’m making are warm colours and the green is cool, and it just jars. I know I’ve written before that I was going to pull it apart and do it again, and now I really have:

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

Blue spotty corners and it all works perfectly.  The pulling apart wasn’t as bad as I thought either; I just took it back to its constituent elements and added in new half square triangles on the corners, which gave me confidence to tackle the next candidate, and another of the blocks with the pretty but all wrong green print.

Space for the Butterflies - Orange Peel Blocks

This wasn’t so much a problem with the colour clashing as the colours being too close; you can’t really see all those pretty triangles, they just blur into one big splodge no matter how much I convince myself I can make it pop with the quilting (is that the quilting equivalent of a knitter’s “it’ll all block out”?).

So off the borders came. I only needed to remake the central flying geese, everything else stayed the same and put back together quite happily, but you can see the difference when I overlay two of the old flying geese; there just wasn’t enough distinction between the two fabrics at that sort of scale to make it work.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

The final editing was a block that I thought I liked, and I do still really like, even though I’ve redone it.

Space for the Butterflies - Orange Peel Blocks

It’s the other block from March and as soon as I’d sorted out those borders it became the one that I was hiding at the bottom of the pile, and so it had to change.  It wasn’t bad per se, it just didn’t quite sit right, and as the seam ripper and I were old friends by that point, off came the borders and on went new ones.

Space for the Butterflies - Editing the SugarBlock Club blocks

This is probably the most dramatic of all the changes and it gives it a lightness and a freshness compared to its predecessor.

And so we’re all ready to power through to the finished, there isn’t a block left that I try to hide away without realising it and that puts me a good step nearer to turning them all into quite.  I’m trying to tell myself that the first versions weren’t failed blocks, so much as teachable moments; for all that sometimes it feels like treading water to go back and redo the blocks I’m certain that I’ll be able to pick fabric for a scrap quilt with a much more intelligent eye than when I started this one, so the earlier versions are just part of the evolution of these quilts.  Now on to evolve the final months!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

Handmade Quilting

To and Fro: September in the SugarBlock Club {handmade}

24/02/2017

Amy named the September Sugarblock to represent the busyness of the back to school month; everyone going here, there and everywhere while the patterns of a new academic year shake down into normal.  I may have only got to it in February, but it’s been apt none the less; a busy block for a busy month.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

One of the biggest challenges I had with this block is that I’m starting to run out of fabric.  At the start of this quilt I went through my scraps and my stash and pulled out anything that seemed to vaguely fit “blue, yellow, green, white background, Spring” and I ended up with a tote bag of fat quarters and scraps and bits and bobs, but a I went through it each month to pull out fabrics for the block I found I was naturally editing towards one particular version of blue, yellow and green.  And I think as I got further into the quilt the edit became stronger; there are blocks that I made in the first few months that I’m still itching to go back and do over (and pretty certain that I will).  But it meant that the bottom of the bag is a puddle of scraps that really should be going back in to the scraps box, and an ever diminishing collection on top.

I have lots of teeny tiny little bits so the little triangles in To and Fro were perfect for sneaking in the very last little scraps of some of my favourite fabrics, and some of the fabrics that fit best in teeny tiny amounts.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

The smaller triangles are flying geese made with half square triangles across each corner but the bigger ones were foundation paper pieced.  I suspect if you were ever going to make an entire quilt of these blocks you might do better with the tri-recs tool that I used to cut all the triangles for my Fishing Net quilt.  They’re just a larger version of the same block and it’s definitely more economic on the fabric than foundation piecing.  I love foundation piecing for the precision when handling teeny tiny bits of fabric, but amount of fabric wastage on the bigger blocks is still a little eye watering!

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

And speaking of precision..

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

OK, so they’re not quite all perfect, but for me that’s a pretty good triangle point survival rate!

I think if I’d made every full size quilt that I’ve loved from the SugarBlock Club I’d be buried under a small avalanche of quilts, and as it’s February and I’m sewing up September, it’s probably a good thing I never started or we’d still be on March, but the Razzle Dazzle quilt is seriously tempting.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugarblock Club September Block: To and Fro

If two of the blocks look like this, should I not just throw in the towel on the rest of the quilt and make more of these?!

Fear not, with only four more blocks to go (I’ve already done October’s) I’m not backing out yet and I’m really looking forward to seeing all 24 together, and it being dry enough to lay them all out together as we’ve easily reached the critical point at which I need to do my laying out on the lawn!

But Razzle Dazzle‘s going on the list!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On