Thursday, 5 March 2015

'Starry Starry Night' Mini Quilt

We've had quite a few cold, but incredibly clear nights over the last few weeks. There was one night in particular that made a big impact on me. We'd come home late and the sky was just spectacular, so many stars. I discovered, only very recently, that Exmoor was designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe a few years ago; although we're not on Exmoor itself, we're quite close and we're very lucky that we have virtually no light pollution in the night sky either. We're also fortunate to have an amazing, panoramic view of the sky here. I couldn't catch it in a photo, unfortunately, so I can't share it with you, but after standing outside gazing upwards until I was far too cold, I came in singing Don McLean's 'Starry, Starry Night', a song I love anyway, and wanting to turn it into a mini quilt.

As well as loving the song, I also love the painting Starry, Starry Night.

Van Gogh is a character who's always fascinated me and I've had a love of so many of his paintings for a long, long time. After thinking about his Starry Night painting, I decided that I really didn't want to try and base my mini quilt around that, apart from it seeming ridiculously presumptuous and over ambitious, it just isn't how I perceive the night sky. (I think one of the things that fascinates me about Van Gogh is how he does see the world in a completely different way.)

I decided to make a very simple quilt using some fabric scraps that I bought at a quilt show a year or so ago - from The African Fabric Shop. The scraps were from this range of Shwe Shwe fabric.

They've been sitting, admired but untouched, in a pile of fabric for too long, this was the perfect opportunity to use them, with a few other blue scraps I unearthed.

When I was trying to decide how to quilt my pieced front, I started reading a bit more about Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night painting, wondering about maybe using his swirls as inspiration for the quilting. And I came across this clip on turbulence, and how Van Gogh managed to depict turbulence in his work artistically, but also very accurately from a scientific perspective, something that was way ahead of his time. Personally, I found it really interesting, it just added to my fascination with how he saw the world around him, so I'd definitely recommend a quick watch (it's only about 4 minutes long I think), but if Van Gogh does not interest you in the slightest then sorry for going on about him here!

Anyway, after finding out more about the swirls, I definitely wanted to try and use the idea in my quilting. As you know, my quilting is not great even on small pieces so don't look too closely, but it maybe gives a little bit of the effect I wanted.

I made this corner reach up higher to try and get a bit of a feel for the vastness of the sky above, but I don't think it worked!
I found a colouring page of the painting too (here), which was quite helpful visualising quilting lines.
As well as my special fabric, one thing I do really like about this Mini Quilt is the fact that I printed my words for it on to fabric, which I then just machine sewed on to the quilt...

I like this from a 'how it looks' perspective and also from a 'didn't have to sew the actual letters for a change' perspective! I've been wanting to do it this way for a while, but waiting for the right project. I'm sure I'll be doing it again soon (I experimented with printing on fabric, just in a normal pc printer, back in the Summer, this time I used a piece of bondaweb ironed on to my fabric and cut to A4 size, it worked really well).

I do also like my star gazing person, lying down, looking up at the sky...

This was exactly what I wanted to do to gaze up at the stars, but the ground was way too frosty and cold - I'll wait till the Summer for that!

So I have another mini quilt done, ready for my wall, that will remind me of a particular moment in my life, and that will make me sing a particular song whenever I look at it. It feels vaguely reminiscent of my 'Morning has broken' Mini Quilt in many ways, perhaps I'll hang them next to each other.

This one is a little smaller than 'Morning has broken', it's just 31cm by 28cm -ish!
And for anyone who is interested in Van Gogh, and in particular his Starry, Starry Night picture, here's a bit of a summary of some of the information I came across...

After mutilating his ear in 1889 (he didn't chop it all off, just a piece of the lobe), Van Gogh checked himself into an asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and during the year he stayed there, the heavy output of paintings he had begun in Arles continued, he produced some of the best-known works of his career. He painted Starry, Starry Night, in June 1889, from there, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room, just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village.

In early June Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, "This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." Two scholars, working independently of each other, have determined that Venus was visible in Provence in the spring of 1889. So the brightest "star" in the painting, just to the viewer's right of the cypress tree, is actually Venus.

Van Gogh had also written in another letter, "A starry sky is something I should like to try to do, just as in the daytime I am going to try to paint a green meadow spangled with dandelions." He compared the stars to dots on a map and mused that, as one takes a train to travel on earth, "we take death to reach a star." Although at this point in his life Van Gogh was disillusioned by religion, he appears not to have lost all hope for an afterlife. He voiced this ambivalence in a letter to his brother after having painted Starry Night Over the Rhone, confessing to a "tremendous need for, shall I say the word—for religion—so I go outside at night to paint the stars."

In a relatively short period of ten years, Van Gogh made approximately 900 paintings. He only sold one during his lifetime. Vincent’s brother’s wife collected Vincent’s paintings and letters after his death and dedicated herself to getting his work the recognition it deserved.

That's it for the Van Gogh tribute! Have you got any favourite artists whose work you love?


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Pocket in a Log Cabin Block

I started Maria's quilt back in January with a 'Lift the Flap' Log Cabin block. For the next block I've made a 'pocket' within my log cabin rather than a flap. I started out with 3 pieces of fabric, 2 the same size, for the front of the pocket, and one a little longer but slightly slimmer for the back of the pocket.

I'm going with a quilt as you go method, so I already have a square of backing fabric here too. I sewed my larger piece down on to the backing fabric in the position I wanted the pocket.

Then you sew the 2 identical pieces together along 3 sides, right sides together, leaving whichever will be the bottom side unsewn and open.

Turn this 'bag' the right way round, gently poking out the corners and iron flat.

Now, you can just create an empty pocket, and use it to hold something 'loose', but I know what my children are like for losing small, loose items! This pocket is for 2 cats, so rather than just popping them in 'loose', I'm sewing them in on long tabs so they can't be completely detached from the quilt, and therefore can't be lost.

Here are my basic cats, with a long tab of fabric inserted up their bottoms!

The cats are very much taken from our 'Ten in the Bed' make before Christmas, I loved them so much then that I couldn't resist using them again. And if you wanted you could use a ribbon instead of creating a tab, but I do sometimes find ribbons don't stand up to repeated use and washes very well.

So before doing any more pocket assembling, I sewed my tabs down onto the back of my pocket.

I used a zigzag stitch and sewed them on very securely to allow for plenty of tugging by small hands. I've left the front of the pocket in this picture too, but folded up.
And then sew the front of your pocket on, along 3 sides, leaving the top open obviously. And make sure your raw edge of the front pocket is at the bottom. I just had to be careful not to catch the tabs or my cats in the sewing here.

Then I just built a log cabin up around it as normal, again taking care not to sew over cats or tabs. So this now conceals all my pocket raw edges.

I've made another 'Flap' block, which will probably go just above this cat pocket block in the finished quilt.

They both need a good trim and some quilting still.

Underneath the purple 'flap' is a little mouse...

Still in need of eyes!
Whom the cats will be sneaking out of the pocket to try and catch!

The baby cat is still missing his eyes and face, I need to find some tiny green buttons for him.
I'm sure they won't eat him though!


Friday, 27 February 2015

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and here's mine...

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . . 
I know it's supposed to be no words, and I was so nearly not going to cheat, but not sure whether you'll realise there's a cat snuggled up there with her unless I do!

Robin Quilt Progress

I've been finishing up some blocks for my Robin Quilt. I think these will be my final four, otherwise this quilt will be scarily big for quilting!

These first three were inspired by an old Christmas card I found (and now seem to have lost again!).

And this last one...

From a print I spotted on Pinterest a while back...

This last one is possibly the simplest of all my blocks, but it's one of my favourites. Sometimes simple can be very effective, and I find print designs often translate very well into applique or patchwork.

So, now I have 12 blocks, all different sizes...

At some point I expect I'll probably waste a couple of hours arranging and rearranging these, until I come back to something very similar to the above! And then it'll just be a matter of working out how to piece them together somehow. I'm feeling confident it will be done by next Christmas!

I'm linking up with 'Ho, ho, ho and on we sew' today, which this month is hosted by Pam over at Threading My Way. As well as lots of Pam's own lovely sewing and ideas within her blog, there's an amazing ongoing link up over there, with a huge number and range of sewing projects to browse through. Well worth a visit, and you might want to link up one of your own projects.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hanging Bat Mini Quilt

I have been back at the sewing machine, hurray! At the start of the New Year, when I thought about what I wanted to be making, one of my priorities was a few more mini quilts. I've been waiting to hang them all up together till I got to a point where I felt that I had a large enough, and well balanced enough, collection to work together. And I'd like to get to that point soon now!

I remember that I mentioned when I made my last mini quilt (a kite) that one of the things I liked about it was that it wasn't a standard square/oblong mini quilt shape. And this was something that I decided at the start of the New Year that I'd like to explore further, partly for fun and partly to try and give my Mini Quilt 'wall-to-be' more balance and variety. I decided I wanted to cover a few different design elements somewhere within my next few mini quilts - make one a bit taller and thinner, one with a radically different shape, one with some kind of 3D element and one upside down!

And I'm very happy I seem to have covered 3 of those bases with this bat! As soon as I got to the 'upside down' idea, the thought of a bat popped into my head. I love bats anyway, seeing them swooping around at dusk in the Summer is always a treat, especially when we're swimming in the river late, as we often do, and they sweep low over our heads catching juicy insects that gather together and buzz just above the water.

And their shape does, I think, lend itself quite well to patchwork. I started out drawing a basic shape, and then building up the patchwork to fit.

Did you know bats are the only flying mammal, and there are over 1000 different varieties? More than 250 species have been identified as endangered, vulnerable or "near threatened."

If I hadn't been keen to get back to some machine sewing I think I might have been tempted to paper piece the wings, but as it was I managed fine by machine.

Bulmer's fruit bat is the world's most endangered bat. It is only found in one cave in Papua New Guinea.There are only around 160 individuals left in this colony.

I drew my basic shape again on a scrap piece of wool...

A fungus that causes a disease called white-nose syndrome has devastated bats in North America.
And kept it small enough so my patchwork wings could just fold over at the edges...

Flying foxes (genus Pteropus) are the largest bats. Some species have wingspans of 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters).The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat, it grows to only about 1.25 inches long (3 cm) and weighs about 2 grams (0.07 ounces).

That's the end of my bat facts but I used some glue basting spray to fold those wings over!
Then laid it out on another, nice and coordinating piece of wool, with a green, cotton body piece as well...

Wool was great so it wouldn't fray around the edges.
Then sewed a tight zigzag all around the patchwork, including the body piece, cut it out with a very narrow, wool border and quilted it...

I added a little star applique in my patterned fabric to balance it out a bit too.
My plan was always to be able to hang my bat from his claws. I have no idea whether there might be lots better ideas out there on how to make hanging bat claws, but I decided to use craft wire...

I mummified them with a thin strip of fabric, using a little drop of glue here and there to secure it...

And then wrapped a thin strip of my green fabric around that, again using a drop of glue here and there and also a few stitches with this outer layer too. I also wanted bat 'arms' for the wings, and used a fluffy pipe cleaner for this (I did think about a pipe cleaner for the hanging claws, but wasn't sure it would have been quite firm and strong enough).

Because it was very fluffy and padded already I just skipped straight to covering it with my thin green strip, starting in the middle and winding out in both directions seemed to work well.

You can see here I've also made a top layer for the body - just very slightly larger than the original body section, and I zigzagged this cotton shape onto a piece of the wool and then cut it out with a very narrow border of wool again.

I sewed on my words (all my mini quilts have a quote or words of some sort on them) and quilted it - just to add a bit more strength and detail.

He has 2 button eyes sewn on too - and if you're wondering I did sew them on a little crooked on purpose, for added quirkiness!

At this point I decided my 'arms' needed fingers at the end of them - did you know bats have 4 fingers and a thumb?! (Researching that is what set me off on the bat facts generally!)

Fingers were sewn on by machine in a small zigzag stitch.
 Now I was ready to start putting it together. I just hand sewed the arms and the claws to the body.

I also hand sewed the ends of those arms to my fingers in the photo above.

Then padded the body area with some scraps of soft fleece.

And then hand stitched the outer body all the way round, poking a bit more stuffing in as I went round if I felt it needed it. And there he was done.

The pipe cleaner arms and wire claws are fully 'poseable' so he can hang in a more bat like, but less visually interesting manner, with his wings tucked up...

And then out pop the wings as he's about to fly off!

His toe claws are bent the other way here and could fit into the crack on this beam!

He hangs nicely from shelves, ledges etc, or from a thin wooden skewer as he was in some of the photos above!

So, now I just have to cover the tall and thin design in a mini quilt, which is kind of shrieking giraffe at me. But I might leave that a little longer and see if anything else comes to mind.


Friday, 20 February 2015

This Moment

I'm back to having moments again, here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and since we had a lovely walk through beautiful woods to a stunning beach this week, I typically have more than one photo - but then I do have a few weeks to make up!


We were very lucky with the weather, it was sunny and not bitingly cold at all. Maria was tempted into bare feet and a paddle...

But Theo, who is definitely more crazy, went further and had his first swim of the year...

He went in for a second time, so it can't have been too bad! Once dry and dressed, he did comment on how 'fresh' he felt, but happily it was also the first beach BBQ of the year, so plenty of opportunity to warm up well.

Happy Weekend to everyone,