Different fussy-cut pumpkins (and more sparkle)

I feel more inspired now that autumn is kicking in.

I was looking for ways to re-use the green and brown fabrics here that I’d rescued from blocks that hadn’t worked and I’d taken apart, so after much fiddling about with different options – as usual – I eventually came up with this one. The pumpkin fabric is from a piece I bought in the clearance section of a website and at first I’d discounted it because most of the motifs are too big for what I’m doing, but then I thought I could do as for the last block and ‘fussy-cut’ small pieces out of it. It does lead to wasted fabric, but worth it for this and not so bad when it’s on sale. Maybe the centre square could have been a different fabric, but a big block of something plain in the centre sometimes looks a bit too stark. I do realise my pattern now seems to be to use these plain pieces in shades of tan for the background of the flying geese and don’t want to do too many of them, but I think it’s okay for now.

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I’ve  made slower progress on finishing this block because I’ve been working on a machine-stitched project at home. Top secret so pictures after Christmas! I’ve got as far as making the quilt sandwich and doing one line of quilting, but ran out of thread! It was just as well because that was Sunday and this coming Saturday morning we’re leaving for a week’s holiday so I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon (after my driving lesson) choosing colours for the next block so I can sew it while we’re away, and if I hadn’t run out of machine quilting thread I might not have stopped then I would be holiday-block-less.

I’ve also bought the backing piece for the quilt. It came yesterday so I washed it and it is still on the dryer as we speak – it’s rather large so drying it on my free-standing electric dryer is awkward, but we don’t use the tumble dryer due to expense and have nowhere outside to hang things (it’s raining anyway). My plan is to applique leaf shapes on it which will be made out of autumn fabrics. That way I can use some that I bought online but have turned out to not be the right shade, or were early mistakes. I think it should look good and removes difficulties of the seams of pieces making up the back not lining up with quilting lines, but it will take a long time and is not exactly something I can do on the train, so I thought I’d get a head start and alternate doing that at home with making up blocks on the daily commute. At least, that’s the plan!

I think this is block 33 and I’m looking at a 8×10 block quilt… so only 47 to go! I don’t know if I can get my head round that.

The estate agent through whom we rent our flat is coming to do a flat inspection while we’re both out at work tomorrow. I don’t like people looking around while we’re not there but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve been on a washing, ironing, and dusting spree because I don’t want to have laundry hanging around while she’s in there, so more ironing tonight, hoovering, tidying of the baskets of fabric and piles of paperwork (and hiding of candles! Not that our contract says we can’t have them but you never know)… by the time I’ve done all that, then on Thursday and Friday actually do some packing, I’ll be so whacked I’ll probably be too tired to make the most of being away. Hope not, because we’re going north and I’m looking forward to fresher airs and if it isn’t cloudy every day seeing some stars. Too much light pollution as well as air pollution down south.

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Autumn block with fussy-cut fun pumpkins

I like the term ‘fussy cutting’ that I picked up from Peggy Cooper’s lovely blog (https://peggycooperquilts.com/) – it’s something I do occasionally but hadn’t thought about it having a name – now I know it I’m going to use it more! I’m not sure if using it as an adjective as in the title is the done thing, but I’m doing it anyway…

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The flying geese round the centre square use the very last of the special autumn leaves fabric I love so much: they’re recycled from a block I didn’t like and took apart, and I’m so happy I did because they’re used much better here. I’m not convinced about the use of colour in the central triangles at the edge (where two flying geese are sewn together), but the number of variations I tried in order to get this the best I could was ridiculous! In the end I had it all except the four small squares at the corner of the sort of block-within-a-block, so when I found a remnant of the fabric that I ended up using I was really pleased. It’s one I’ve tried to work into other blocks because I like it, but it’s only ended up in one. Part of the problem is that the background’s white and bright, and the other is that the motifs on it are quite widely spaced. Hence the fussy cutting, so I could get a tiny part of the edge of a sunflower in alongside the leaf and pumpkin in two squares. I would have liked more, but there just weren’t enough on the piece of fabric. I kicked myself for cutting squarely round the pumpkin used on the top right, because it would have looked better at an angle, but I used it anyway because it’s nice to have the two pumpkins with different patterns. That fabric is very thin, not easy to work with, and a couple of the corners of those squares came out stretched when I ironed them so they don’t look their best. I now realise I should have starched them… too late!

One problem with having spent so long choosing the fabrics for this one is that I only finished sewing it together on Sunday afternoon and didn’t have time to choose fabrics for the next one, so have no sewing to do on the train for my daily commute, I feel bereft!

Sparkly leafy new autumn block

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I’m pleased to have made this autumn block, as it uses my favourite fabric to best effect – albeit second (at least!) time lucky. I had 4 rectangles of it I’d never used and 4 that had been part of another block I’d taken apart, so I wanted to use them in the position in the photo along with less patterned fabrics so you can really see them. The only thing that really worked was to have a square of it in the centre, so I’m afraid I cannibalised another block to get to it. I wasn’t sorry to lose the one I took apart because making  it was a mistake really, too many very patterned fabrics and quite a bright green and a bright orange in the same block made it over-the-top. This is one of my favourites now, but re-sewing pieces that were already trimmed from having been in another block is difficult and I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it; better to have got it right the first time! To my surprise the sparkly orange fabric is going well in some blocks, perhaps because it’s a darker burnt orange, rather than some of the brighter ones I’ve bought in the past: it often isn’t easy to tell from photos online shops what things are going to look like in real life, and when I went to a fabric warehouse sale last weekend I couldn’t find a single one that would have gone well in this quilt, such a shame.

I went for a wander earlier and the trees are beginning to change colour:

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Lots of berries on this piece of hawthorn:

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I don’t know what this shrub in the area between fields is, but not only are the leaves very colourful, the flowers are extraordinarily bright… maybe if ever I have a garden I can find out what it is and plant one.

First machine-sewn garment finished…

At last! There’s a lot that’s ‘wrong’ with it, but it’s still wearable and I’ve learned so much in the process.

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I had difficulty finishing the seams and tried to use the overlocking foot but the edges of the fabric in parts got turned in, and the beginning and end of each row got tangled so I ended up doing those bits by hand using blanket stitch. I gave up on other seams and used pinking shears instead, so the inside of the garment is a real mishmash! The two halves of the back don’t line up by a couple of millimetres, it’s not much but it is noticeable if you’re looking – hopefully no one will be! I’ve done my first hem that’s ‘invisible’ from the front, which is just as well as it wobbles all over the place, and my first button loop, which again isn’t the most tidy but you can’t see that when the button’s fastened. So lots of fudging, but lots learned, particularly bias binding. Unfortunately it’s now too cold to wear it this year!

I’ll wait until next year when the memory of all the difficulties has passed before trying to make anything with the other fabric I bought on the same day. At this time of year I’m keen to be getting on with my knitting and the autumn patchwork anyway, as well as some Christmas gifts.

 

Speaking of the autumn quilt, here is the latest block, using parts of one that I took apart because the colours / patterns didn’t look right; I’d thought when I made it it would be fine, but now I’ve got a decent number of blocks I can see it doesn’t work.

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The one on the right below is the one I took apart, it had too many big patterns in it and the small triangles on the flying geese round the centre square were the wrong colour, they just disappear into the other parts. The new one’s not exactly exciting, but I think it looks better because there’s more definition. I’m getting to be very reliant on that brown fabric, don’t know where I’d have been without it.

 

A few weeks ago I made some elderberry syrup for the first time, needless to say having to negotiate nettle patches to get to them, as elders and nettles seem to grow together. It turns out to be quite tasty, more subtle than you’d think; I’d definitely make it again next year.

Stripey jumper, two new autumn blocks, and a trip to Wiltshire

I finished the jumper made from a self-striping Noro yarn (a silk mix) that I’ve been working on quite fast because I wanted to wear it when the weather cools down, but to be honest am disappointed. The colours are still lovely but I wish I’d made it a size bigger, and all is not well with the neck. I’ve included a photo from the pattern book to show what it should look like, but in reality it’s far too high and I don’t know what I did wrong; I followed the instructions!

Patchwork-wise, I’ve finished another two autumn blocks, and am pleased with the colour combinations on both. I thought the mouse one might be too ‘avocado and aubergine’, but actually it’s fine. On the other one, I wanted to showcase the rosehip fabric, following on from previous blocks when a more heavily patterned fabric stood out against plainer ones, giving a better effect. In the end some of the other fabrics are reasonably heavily patterned, but it’s still okay. The orange fabric is new and the best I could get to be close to the orange in earlier blocks that was more rusty than bright, despite being covered in gold sparkles!

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When I finished it I laid out all the blocks I’ll definitely use, and as a whole the quilt is looking much better, though sadly weeding out the unsatisfactory ones leaves only 30 blocks! Sorry the photo’s dark (though it’s really bright sunshine outside) and of course as I’m standing on a chair with the camera stretched out up and in front of me, at a bad angle.

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Of the eleven discarded blocks left, I can see how two can be taken apart and some colours changed to make them usable, two won’t be used at all, and of the remaining seven I’ll take some apart and hopefully use some component parts in new blocks, and may keep one or two as they are. It’s a pain, particularly as the awful truth is there are some fabrics I should just never have  bought or used, which is a waste of money as well as time and energy, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk – I can be  more sanguine now I’m happier with the overall project!

We went to Wiltshire on Sunday and stayed for 5 nights, one night in a B&B near Malmesbury and 4 in a self-catering cottage near Salisbury. It’s a county I’d never visited, and am so pleased I went. I wanted to visit some of the sites associated with people I studied in Medieval History, so was really pleased to see Malmesbury Abbey, which was built on the site of an ancient holy place, and Old Sarum, the site of a now-ruined cathedral and castle, as well as Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century when the cathedral at Old Sarum was abandoned. But there was so much ancient history, too. You felt it all around you because although Stonehenge is the famous stone circle and we decided not to visit because it is such a tourist hub and so cordoned-off that there might not be much pleasure to be had, there are actually lots of other, ‘smaller’ stone circles too, as well as the white horses etched out of the hillsides which you can see just driving along. We visited the stone circle that runs through the village of Avebury, and although there are only 30-odd of the original c. 150 stones standing, the scale of them is amazing. They reckon the stones were put there in 2600 B.C.! My photos don’t do it justice, but you can see the scale from the ones next to houses and people.

 

Photos of parts of Malmesbury Abbey:

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Stunning gardens at Stourhead, designed in the 18th century (having first diverted a river and dammed some medieval fish ponds, of course!), complete with grottoes and follies. Now owned by the National Trust. Must look fantastic in the autumn!

 

Lastly, Salisbury Cathedral – great place to see stunning embroidery! I somehow managed to omit taking a photo of the central aisle down the length of the nave, which was very long. There is an incredible font in the centre, commissioned in 2008, with constantly flowing water. The Chapter house dates to 1260 and has an amazing frieze running round it, above the benches were Chapter members sit, carved in stone and showing biblical scenes.

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Rosehips block

For the next block of my autumn quilt, I wanted to make a block that showcased the fabric with the rosehips on a brown background. After the last few blocks I did with the bold autumn fabric flanked by less conspicuous ones, which I thought worked well, I thought I’d try it with another bold fabric alongside less in-your-face ones. In the end, to get colours that went well together, I included the fabric with a woodgrain background and naturalistic animals, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the rosehips too much. I’m afraid it is a bit bland, but I need some bland alongside the more, ahem, ‘interesting’, ones… I had trouble getting the points to line up, and had to redo a few of the flying geese; not sure why unless it’s because the cottons are different thicknesses, but it’s turned out okay in the end.

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I have, however, done the binding on both sleeves of the top I’m trying to sew. One per weekend! Doing one takes me a whole afternoon. Now I’ve got the remaining seam edgings to deal with, the button to work out, and the hem to do. I haven’t done edgings to date well at all, can’t manage the overstitching on my machine, so yesterday I spent a small fortune on a pair of pinking shears, which will have to be what I finish things off with, all this faffing about is not good!

Ages ago I bought a pack of cotton yarn at a knitting and stitching show in London and knitted myself a summer cardigan, then with the leftovers made a baby cardigan. I was going to send it to a school friend who had a baby but a) the baby was too old for it when I finished and b) the yarn’s a mix of colours and they came out badly spaced on a small garment and looked weird and I  didn’t think my schoolfriend would want it. It’s hung around for ages, I bought buttons for it then lost them, but then when I wanted a button for my top I bought a pack which it turned out were the right size, as well as colour, for the cardigan. My parents’ neighbours’ daughter, who’s a few years younger than me so we weren’t friends, but we grew up in next door houses as children in a friendly way, is having a baby in September so on Saturday I put on the buttons and posted it home to Mum so she can judge whether to ask if they’d like it. They don’t know if it’s to be a boy or a girl, but it’s a fairly gender-neutral colour(s). Also, the mum-to-be is an artist so may be okay with the interesting colours!

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Next weekend we’re going to Wiltshire for a few days. The county where Stonehenge is, but I doubt we’ll go there, it’ll be too busy. We’re staying near Malmesbury the first night, then near Salisbury for four nights. Both have mediaeval histories, which I’m keen on but as usual should read more about. I’m delighted to see (on Wikipedia, but I can check if it’s right!) that William of Malmesbury, the mediaeval chronicler, records that in 1010 the first ever attempt at human flights was made, when a monk called Ailmer tried to fly a hang glider off the tower at Malmesbury Abbey – made it 180 feet before crashing and breaking both legs, poor chap. All hail human endeavour, though!

Autumn block and first attempt at neck binding (unrelated!)

Something of a lowering sky when I went for a quick walk earlier this afternoon, but I saw some magnificent red kites, one swooping quite low over my head; my photos don’t do it justice.

I worked hard to finish a new autumn block this week, inspired by having a plan to use the same colours as last week’s, and by wanting to feel I’d achieved something by the end of the week if sewing the neck binding on my top didn’t work out! I’m pleased with the result:

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The more boldly patterned fabric is much thinner than the higher-quality Moda fabrics that make up the rest of the block, and I can feel how much better (for which read, easier) it would be to have fabrics all of the same quality. Unfortunately I haven’t had time this weekend to choose fabrics to put together for the next block, so will be deprived of sewing to do on the train. Might actually start reading a book, I used to read so much before I took up sewing! I’ve just finished Life of Pi and it took something like 4 months, oh dear. I listen to audiobooks all the time while sewing on the train, but don’t know if that counts the same way.

On Thursday night I tried to use the overlocking stitch for the first time. Not a resounding success, alas.

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I put the edge of the fabric up against the guide on the overlocking foot, but obviously sometimes it got too close and the edges have turned in. At least no one will see it. It went wrong near the bottom of the seam so I’m going to do that by hand.

I have spent so much of the last two weekends looking at YouTube videos! So much good advice, but people do things differently and I don’t always understand all instructions, so it’s still a lot of puzzling out what best to do. I confess that in my ignorance before I looked at these videos I thought the binding went on the outside! I now know that’s only if it’s to be a decorative feature, which in this case it most certainly is not. It took me in the end I think two and a half goes to do the binding round the neck of my top.

First time I used all these pins…

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It still didn’t work out, and I did misjudge it a few times and had to lift the needle to get a pin out then carefully put it back in the right place. The curve of the shoulder seam has  been the main problem. This was a wildly off-kilter part after my first go:

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Oops. I thought of just unpicking that section, then thought of the mess I make when I tie off an end of stitching mid-length and reneged. I thought I’d try to just add the correct stitching without unpicking this one… yes, I know, it didn’t work! So I unpicked the whole thing and tried again, this time, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, with basting. It still wasn’t neat like the woman in the video’s is neat, and I sewed over a few basting stitches and had fun picking them apart. But on the whole it was better.

Then as per instructions I trimmed it so the fabric was flush with the binding, and cut in little notches to help with the curve (thanks to having tried a little bit of needle-turn applique this idea wasn’t a novelty, so that was good), then turned  it inside the garment.

I saw on some blogs that some people do something called understitching, but I didn’t follow what exactly I was meant to do, and some people didn’t do it, so I decided as it seemed okay without it and my fabric’s not very stretchy (deliberately chosen for that reason) I would give it a skip. Then I basted the binding in place, by hand, then sewed it down with the machine. Again the problem with the shoulder, this time meaning I missed the binding for about 2 inches, but this time I did unpick from the  armhole edge to the offending part, and got the sewing machine needle in at the right spot and redid it. I stitched the thread ends in by hand, but don’t think it’s noticeable from the right side unless you’re looking really closely at the stitching, not if you’re just talking to me when I’m wearing it.

Having pressed in place, I think the binding’s  okay, a bit may gape in time but it’s fine for now (and for a first attempt) and for just me wearing it. A pity the two parts of the back are slightly misaligned, I really hadn’t realised until after the binding was done and I was going to take this photo. This whole thing has shown me – well, reinforced what I knew – that accuracy is so important, but also so difficult! I don’t think dressmaking is going to be my ‘thing’, I’ll make tops with the fabrics I’ve bought and I haven’t given up on making  pair of tartan pyjama bottoms in a nice thick or brushed cotton one day, but overall, I’ll stick with patchwork and knitting!

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