One snowy morning

Well this is it, the last in a series of twelve monthly journals with a weather theme. I actually look this picture one morning at the end of November from my bedroom window. I was hoping for more snow but sadly this little dusting is the best the weather could muster up. I should be careful what I wish for as we don’t know what 2022 has in store.

There is plenty of interest in this photo, the beautiful sky, the snow and the low level of light, and if you look closely you can see a landing light on in the house opposite. I quite like this little detail it makes everything look warmer and more homely.

I could have recreated this photo exactly as it is but that would mean a lot of houses and a lot more work so I decided to put my home in the photo. As my daughter was quick to tell me, it couldn’t be in the morning as the sunrise is facing the wrong way, so I reminded her that is what artistic license if for. So she has decided it is a sunset.

I started as I usually would with these pictorial pieces, a rough sketch and a pile of fabric scraps. I founded the painted sunset/sunrise in my stash and discarded it originally as it was too bright, and too pink, but seeing as I couldn’t find anything else I had to go with it. In hindsight I think it was an excellent choice.

I used Bondaweb to fuse all the shapes down, remembering to reverse them.

You will notice that the fabric choice for the windows in the above picture is too light, by replacing them with the darker fabric and putting the ‘landing light on’ detail in, helps to give that early morning low light feel. It was really hard to get that snowy look with the fabrics I had to hand in my stash, so it probably is a little more frosty looking, but I am OK with that.

The rest of the details were put in with freemotion and a few french knots for the lights.

My journals for 2021 are now complete and it will be a very satisfying feeling when I press ‘publish’ at the end of this blog post. I think I have decided not to do another twelve months of journal quilts for 2022, they only take a couple of days to do but they take up a lot of my head space. I would like to perhaps design and make another large quilt, there are also plans for a group quilt with my City and Guilds friends and more classes as The Fat Quarter. I will of course record any new work in my blog posts.

So signing off for 2021, have a lovely New Year everyone and let’s hope for fabulous things in 2022.

PUBLISH!

Autumn Leaves

The month of November with darker nights, the beautiful early sunsets and autumn leaves has been largely dry and mild. Almost uneventful really, but the colours are always inspiring along with the view of the big Oak tree from the window in my sewing room. This tree is so inspiring that I might decide to make the 2022 journals all themed on the view of this amazing oak tree. And, believe it or not I do not have a picture of it – I see it every day so it doesn’t occur to me to take any pictures.

I came up with the design for this next project back in the summer and I have kept it stored away for an appropriate time, and November seems perfect.

It is a simple design that I imagined would be made using just freemotion quilting, but I have some lovely hand dyed fabrics perfect for autumn leaves. I used Bondaweb to fuse them in place, and layered them with two layers of wadding, to give the trapunto effect. I stitched them in place and cut away the excess wadding around the leaves before I added another layer of wadding and a calico backing.

I used two different fabrics for added interest.

A few acorns later and I have my design ready for quilting.

Note the blue water erasable pen marks!

This was one idea to extend the design, but I thought the acorns looked a bit bitty, so I decided to go with the acorns in the corner.

As usual I don’t have the whole design planned out and I always seem to make it up as I go along, and just trust the process. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The finished design is somewhat more lacy than I had in my minds eye, but what happens in my minds eye and what I actually achieve usually tend not to match up!

This is the finished piece, and usually I would quilt the whole thing, but for two reasons I have decided not to. First, I think the areas without quilting look quite nice, and I am not sure that quilting it would add anything to it, and second, if I were to quilt it I don’t know with what design. So if any one has some great ideas, I am all ears.

There is just one more thing to say about this months journal and that is if you were to look at the bottom right acorns you can see some bleeding of the fabric. I used a water erasable pen and it is always a good idea to remember whatever marks you put on your work there could always be a consequence of doing so. Only put marks on when it is absolutely necessary, especially if you are not planning on washing it.

But on the whole, I quite like this little project now it is finished.

What December holds for the weather will unfold in the coming weeks. At the moment at the end of November it has turned really cold and the scarves and gloves are well and truly earning their keep.

So with one journal left to do to complete another set of work, I am already wondering what the December journal will be. I think it needs to have a Christmassy theme as well as the weather.

Maybe we will get snow!

Rainbows in October

Early in the month I witnesses this amazing rainbow, I am not sure I have ever seen one quite so bright so it had to be the focus of my October journal.

So with a rainbow as the focus you would think it would be easy, the colours are all there so there was no need to worry about that side of things. How wrong I was! When I really started to thing how I was going to make this journal there were three thoughts that popped into my head. The NHS, GLBT and The Hungry Caterpillar. Not that I have a problem with the story book or any political statement, but my inspiration was the rainbow.

To avoid this I thought I needed to avoid the semi-circle shape and any bright primary or secondary hues! I focused in on the rainbow and came up with this really close up image.

With amazing colours, and more of a streak than a rainbow shape I was thinking this would be easy and just left the journal on one side to the end of the month.

Now this is where I had to dig deep! Nothing came to mind on how to create a pleasing design and I really started to hate the whole idea. With time running out I kept to the rainbow theme instead of ditching it altogether.

I went through my stash and found just about the right shades of fabric in my natural dyed collection, and thought that a few miniature patchwork stars would be nice, but it just wasn’t working for me. The fabric was either too slippery (silk background) or too thick (cotton).

Natural dyed cottons

At my local fabric shop they have a range of Ruby Star fabrics called Speckle, and they are just a little bit thinner than regular cotton so I bought half a metre of each (I only needed a 2” strip of each) and made the little stars and a few tiny circles of each colour to appliqué into some kind of design.

I really had no idea what to do with them so I left it on one side. October came and went and because I hated this journal so much I even stopped sewing. But today 9th November I realised I would need to clean my sewing room and so the journal had to be finished first.

So this is my October effort,

Not particularly inspiring, I don’t like it – but I do recognise the hours of thought and how deep I had to dig to get myself out of the ‘can’t be bothered’ hole. Also there is a wasps nest out the front of the house and the wasps seem to be finding their way into my sewing room. There were seven on the window yesterday! It doesn’t make for a cosy and inspiring place to work.

I think my sewing mojo will be back as soon as I can get my room sorted and clear away the wasps from my window ledge.

Oh dear! I hear you cry, but I am sure I am not the only one!

September Sunrise (6.15am – 7.15am)

To explain the inspiration behind this months journal needs no words when you watch this time-lapse video taken by my sister Wendy, except to say it was an unseasonably warm September morning. Wendy and I were sitting on the beach at Sandbanks with a flask of good old British tea watching the morning begin.

Monday September 6th 2021

Please note the colour of the sand at the start of the video, it is almost black, sometimes it is really hard to see the colours. We see what we think is there and not what actually is in front of us. I used an app on my phone to show the Pantone colours in the photograph. I found this really useful when planning the quilt.

6.15am
6.45am
7.15am

I thought about just choosing one of the pictures but I couldn’t decide which one. I really loved the dark grass on the beach before the sun came up and how bright the sea became, reflecting the colour of the sky. But then the golden colour that followed as the sun came up made me think maybe I could combine the three images.

Using the Pantone app to help show the true colours.

I chose to paint the skies rather than piece them, trying to think all the time that all three images were different. I must have painted about a dozen small pieces of fabric until I decided on the three to use. It doesn’t take long, in fact there is very little control when painting sky because the paint (Jacquard Dye-na-flow) spreads and bleeds into the fabric very quickly, but that gives the effect required.

I used just three pieced sections for each image with the grass being stuck on with Bondaweb. Everything was then enhanced using threads and freemotion. I put in some dividing strips between the three pieces unlike the twelve sunsets last month as they did need framing a little more.

September Sunrise

Just three more pieces to do until I start journals for 2022. I am already thinking of possible themes, but maybe I should just hold back and worry about completing October, November and December first.

View from Penarth Pier

August this month has been very disappointing, no heatwave, just generally fair weather and lots of cloud. I suppose I should be grateful when Europe has had a terrible time with extreme heat and wild fires. It feels like summer is over already and we are heading into autumn. We shall see what the last throws of the British summer will send us.

At the beginning of the month I went to Cardiff with my husband and a took a trip to Penarth Pier. As a child my husband spent many a day skimming stones into the sea in Penarth as he spent his early childhood growing up in Cardiff. It was a real trip down memory lane for him. The weather wasn’t great but the skies were lovely.

The other thing I managed to achieve during the month was to dye my own fabric using Woad grown in my allotment. This was a first for me and my friend Jackie who came for the day to experiment. There was a little bit of a process but for a first attempt we were both really pleased with the results.

Woad steeping in boiling water.
After straining, soda ash and aerating a blue foam shows there is colour in the water. Then add hydros, wait for an hour and you are ready to dye.
The fabric looks yellow but when exposed to the air it turns blue.
Here are the results, cotton, silk noil, cotton/silk – some were soaked in an iron solution giving the greys and browns. The colour range made it easy for me to decide what the subject matter was going to be this month.

So I had the fabric and the design, and I made a real meal out of this one. It is basically appliqué and a bit of freemotion, but it took me ages.

I took so long messing about with this and I really didn’t need to. It is simple but it shows the skies from Penarth Pier as they I saw them. The best and most satisfying bit is it is all dyed from my home grown woad, and the variety of shades from the same vat is amazing. I will grow some more next year and maybe I will make a fermentation vat which may give me darker blues. Maybe I should try growing some indigo?

A Thousand Splendid Sunsets

A thousand splendid sunsets – well perhaps a dozen in the skies over Barford St Michael this month. We have also had a heatwave, with temperatures into the low thirties. I know it is nothing compared to the ridiculous temperatures they have had in parts of the US, but for us here in the UK the low thirties is plenty hot enough.

It comes as no surprise then that the big orange disc in the sky was my inspiration for this months journal.

I also got myself a little behind with these journal quilts so needed a simple quick design to get me back on track.

I considered choosing an image from this months camera roll – but I didn’t take any, so I asked my neighbours for some of their sunset pictures (above). I still wasn’t quite sure what I would be doing but began by painting some sunsets and left them out to dry in the sun. With still not much of a clue what I was doing I took one of the painted sunsets and chopped it up into 12 squares, and cut 12 circles from another.

I mixed them all up randomly, and stitched them together, using Bondaweb to stick down the suns.

With a bit of freemotion using silk threads it was all done. It was simple, quite quick and really fun.

So this is how it looks all finished, it took me a full day. I think it is simple and quite pretty and I am pleased with it. I showed my daughter and she asked, “Are they all sunsets?”

Let’s see what August brings. I am off to the Festival of Quilts in a couple of days so maybe something there will inspire me.

Flaming June?

There have been some lovely sunny days this month, but really they have been few and far between, and it feels like we are still waiting for summer to start. There have been some great sunsets so that at least is a blessing.

The Ox Eye daisies always make a cheery addition at this time of year both in my allotment, my garden and whilst on holiday in Cornwall so I really wanted to include them in this months journal.

In my allotment above and below in beautiful Padstow, Cornwall

There have been some amazing sunsets, the photo below was taken from my daughters bedroom window – what a beautiful sight.

So with such great inspiration around me I decided to combine the two. I used just scraps from my stash to make the rolling hills and the sky was painted with translucent fabric paints.

I added the border a little too early and had to take the bottom strip off to add some of the Ox Eye daisies and leaves, before reattaching it. I kept the colours of the leaves and flowers slightly muted as being the evening the light would be fading.

I found some silk threads perfect for quilting the sunset

The three larger Ox Eye daisies and were placed onto the border to bring them forward.

Just remember a weed is only a flower in the wrong place!

This blog post is a little late this time and as we are now mid-July we have a mini heatwave about to start. I wonder if this will bring any inspiration for my next journal quilt.

The rain will stop, and the flowers will bloom

What a month May has been, at the time of writing this the weather has started to changed for the better. At last the weather is warming up and the rain has finally stopped, so understandably the focus of this months journal quilt is the rain.

My allotment has enjoyed all this wet weather but because it has been so cold there are a lot of vegetables sat in my greenhouse waiting to be planted out. Amongst all the showers and rain clouds we have had some great sunsets and a super moon when the clouds cleared long enough for me to see it. This time last year we were in the middle of a heatwave and all the produce was about three weeks ahead of where we are now – but all good things come to those that wait.

I had already decided that this months journal quilt would be made with the indigo and natural dyed fabrics left over from last month (and I have loads) with a focus on rain drops or clouds. I found it really hard to come up with something inspiring so I looked to the fabric to inspire, with lots of indigo I began thinking of blue and white china, and looked online at some of the patterns.

Not the greatest screenshot but it gave me an impression.

I quite like this mandala style and wondered whether I could change some of the shapes for raindrops. But it all got very complicated and this is a monthly journal after all so I don’t have an infinite amount of hours to spend on it.

After a bit of playing around I came up with this design, and to be honest I was already half way through the month and decided to go with it even though I knew there were some design problems ahead.

The first challenge was the centre, there were little bits of reverse appliqué so I couldn’t use a fusible webbing. I was finding that as I was cutting the fabric it was fraying slightly and my thinking was a blanket stitch would cover it up. But because indigo is only a surface dye I discovered that the edges I wanted to cover were showing the ‘inner white’, and this has consequently made it a little tatty. The rest of the project I decided required a fusible webbing!

Incidentally this fact about indigo only being a surface dye was something I had only found out about a few weeks earlier and I can see now how this can effect your work.

Because I hadn’t really finished the design in the planning stages I began to cut shapes and petals and just placed them on the work to see what I could come up with. I used a flower template from April’s journal for the little green flowers and part of the umbrella to create a shape I could use for petals. I tried a random pattern as the design has five points that will need to fit into a square. (Above) This wasn’t going to work so I opted for a more symmetrical design.

Well this is the finished quilt. I am fairly happy with it, but my lack of planning has left me feeling it is a little unbalanced, and I have spent a couple of nights trying to work out how to quilt it. I find it quite funny that I ended up with just a stippling pattern because I couldn’t think of anything else. I would welcome any suggestions of what I could have done instead, and just in case you are wondering about the umbrellas, they form the flower in the centre.

So this is it for May, I am off to Cornwall in the middle of the month, maybe I can be inspired by some lovely seascape and weather scenes for my June project.

Arctic April

At the end of my last post I hinted at April showers for this months journal theme. Well for two reasons it has not been appropriate. The first being we didn’t have any April showers, the weather has been one of the frostiest since records began, lots of sun – but freezing! And below, the second reason, my disastrous attempt at modern quilting.

I was challenged by my good friend Jacky Benstead to make April’s journal a modern quilt. This was my effort. No rulers, just cutting freely with a rotary cutter. It was supposed to look like raindrops, and having failed the challenge I found it very difficult to find any inspiration to get going. My poorly made March journal didn’t help either, I was beginning to feel my creativity had peaked and I was on a downward slide from now on.

Luckily Jacky after setting the challenge, came to the rescue and suggested another day outside with indigo and natural dyes. Thankfully it was probably one of the warmest days in April so the indigo was going well.

These are the fabrics I decided to use on the project; the darkest indigo, saxon blue, madder – giving the orangey red, indigo over dyed with lac – giving a sort of lavender colour, and weld over dyed with indigo to give some green. I really liked the pastel of the blue, green and lavender especially against the really dark indigo.

Now having such a difficult time trying to find some inspiration, I went back to my December 2020 journal. This was one of my favourites, again all natural dyes on dark indigo and I figured I would need to make something similar for April to feel like my creativity was not lost for ever.

So this was my drawing, inspired by the spring flowers in the garden, Tulips, Pulmonaria, Brunnera (aptly named Jack Frost) and the blossom on the cherry tree.

All the flowers were raw edge appliqué and fused into position and with a tiny 1.5 x 1.3 blanket stitch the edges were neatened. The flowers were then embellished with hand embroidery. The leaves were stitched with a tiny satin stitch and a little Brimstone butterfly added. This little butterfly was intended to be yellow but in my little sample I found the yellow to be too strong, so the paler green was used. This was not just artistic license though because the female Brimstone has a much paler colour and is almost green.

The yellow Brimstone was just too bright so a paler green one was used instead.

The quilting gave me a bit of a headache too, I wanted to add some freemotion details in the corners. I did some sampling for this and thought I had got the design and colour right, but as you can see when I stitched into my work it just wasn’t right. I had no alternative but to unpick and just use stippling in a matching thread.

So this is the finished journal for April, I am really pleased with the end result and the simple stippling was definitely the right choice. The weather theme has turned a bit more seasonal, but I think that still counts.

Hopefully I will be able to come up with something just as nice for May, but the way the weather is looking at the moment (5th May) it might be a snow scene!