Monday, 16 December 2013

English paper piecing in grey and mustard


This finished wall hanging has been sitting around waiting for its frame to arrive for over a week now, but I haven't had time to write a blog post about it and the frame still hasn't arrived. I think out of all the things I've ever made, this is the only one where I don't look at it and feel distracted by seeing what I could have done better or differently (I'm not saying those things don't exist, just that I'm not preoccupied by seeing them). I'm finally happy with something I've created just the way it is. And oddly, it's also one of the most simple English paper pieced designs I've ever made. What I really love about it is how it looks quite intense close-up, but morphs into something pale and tranquil when I stand farther away.


However, it took quite a long time to get to this point. This small wall-hanging has been taken apart so many times and the border, it has had so many different borders. Luckily hand stitches are much quicker to unpick than machine stitches, even though they take longer to make. I tend to consult my husband and daughter a lot in terms of colour as I often find I get so close to what I'm doing that I lose any sense of perspective or objectivity about how something looks. The problem with doing this is that it's sometimes difficult for others to imagine exactly how something will look once it's pieced together…I lost count of the times I pieced a new round (and as there are only really four rounds before you reach the border, you can assume that was the same round many times over!), and my husband would wrinkle his nose and tell me it somehow wasn't quite right. It was maddening, although I think because we work together, we've fallen into this brutally honest approach to assessing whatever the other is doing, as I frequently do exactly the same to him when he's mocking up graphics for our Squeebles apps. At the time, it's always painful to hear when you've put so many hours of work into something, but ultimately I think it makes it more likely that we'll be pleased with the end result.


I use a large piece of foam board to trial out new colours and shapes, sticking the pieces on with pins. It's not the perfect way to mock something up as the dog's ears and overhangs, but it does cut out some of the trial and error, although the room does become littered with a confetti of tiny fabric-covered paper shapes.

What I learnt making this was that I as someone who loves fabric, I have an innate desire to work as many different prints into something as I possibly can. This was an exercise in peeling back print usage for me, which I found difficult as it made me feel anxious that the finished design would look dull. I've recently become fixated with studying why I find certain designs really appealing to look at though, and it's invariably because they repeat just two or three colours over and over, so I kept reminding myself of this, every time I trialled a new print. Orla Kiely's book, Pattern, which includes most of her designs up until the date of publication, has so many examples of limited colour and pattern use that I love.


I used white and grey Architextures for the plainer bits to give some texture without making things too busy. I love these prints. In her fabric round-ups (exciting weekend UK and US posts on what new fabrics are available) Katy has always said how useful prints like these were and I'd never really quite understood why, but now I can see exactly what she was talking about. 


Those who follow me on Instagram, will have already seen this photo, but for those who don't, this photo below is one my favourites taken while making this. My husband and I took a week off a few weeks ago as we were working so hard on Squeebles over the summer that we didn't make time to go away for a holiday and later really regretted it. So, completely unplanned, for a week in November or December (I can't remember which now, as time seems to be going so quickly in the run up to Christmas) we sat around watching films, going out for meals and taking Nell for long walks and I also did a lot of hand-sewing. It was so lovely to recharge our batteries in this way. One day I sat on the floor with my back to the radiator and Nell came and fell asleep with her half of her body draped over my legs: the solid weight of a warm dog is a very cosy blanket indeed. 


It feels like a real breakthrough to get to the point where I can finally sew around her (although I'm completely paranoid about putting needles down in safe places now) as for a while it became an upstairs-only activity, which I felt quite sad and limited by as part of the joy of hand-sewing is what a sociable activity it can be. In the whole of the time I was sewing this together she only ate two of the pieces, which felt like quite an achievement as it was only a few months ago that she would have attempted to eat the entire in-progress wall-hanging, as well as my box of supplies. This weekend my husband and son even managed to spend a few hours building a ship, with the entire contents of my son's Lego collection spread over the floor, with Nell lying beside them and watching peacefully without attempting to nibble vital components. She has to be in the right mood for this, but we're getting more and more frequent glimpses of what a calm and easy dog she will become once she's lost her puppyish bounce (which also means that I'm no longer wishing her puppyish bounce away, as she is so amusing at this stage, even while being frustrating). I think for my son, this with-Nell-in-attendance Lego session had a similar feeling of breakthrough as I'd had with my hand-sewing as, for the first nine months of her life, our lives changed quite substantially to try and accommodate this wild creature that had come to live with us who seemed to need constant supervision.


The wall-hanging will end up downstairs once it's frame, which is making me want to make another one (not exactly the same!) for our bedroom as I shall miss it once it's gone and my daughter has also said that she'd like something similar for her room. It's so nice to begin planning these out in my head

Florence x

Ps. If you like any of the fabrics you've seen in this wall-hanging, for the most part they came from Kate's shop.

21 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hello meen, I've been following your blog for almost 6 months now without leaving any comment so I decided to quickly say hi today, just so you know you've got a fan somewhere. LOL. Your blog makes sense to me just like http://danieluyi.com, another similarly interesting blog that I'm also a fan of.

      Keep it up.

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  2. What a wonderful piece of stitchery! I love the way the greys make it calming to look at. And Nell is so gorgeous!

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  3. It looks amazing Florence, your advisers have served you well as it is framed perfectly. Whilst harder to take, I think honest advice is much better in the long term! It looks so perfect, almost like it is on a computer screen. I am going to make my husband a quilt next year and was thinking of something geometrical and your colour scheme and pattern has certainly given me some inspiration. x
    PS glad Nell is making progress :)

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  4. This is so pretty! It's very modern looking like contemporary art! And puppy is adorable!

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  5. I love it, the layout is so modern looking and your fabric choices work really well together, would definitely buy the pattern :)

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  6. Beautiful work, Florence. I live with my worst/best critic too and wouldn't have it any other way - not that I always feel like that in the moment that he says, "No, you definitely need to unpick that and do it again," mind you!! x

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  7. This is perfect. I think I will need 10 years of practice before my work looks like this. Well done! The muted colors are peaceful and have a calmness and peace about them, I think it is lovely.

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  8. It's so beautiful. Lovely work as always.

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  9. This piece is beyond lovely. Truthfully, I find all of your wall-hangings to date very inspiring! I have high hopes of stitching a wall-hanging or two myself someday. As a result, I'm very interested in how you frame these pieces. Could you explain that process? Thanks!

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  10. Mustard is one of those colours I struggle with but it looks great here with the grey. Visually a lovely quilt and quite striking in your photos!

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  11. Just simply Gorgeous! So inspired. I love the idea of hanging these masterpiece like the one you did with oakshot. Have to put that on my list!

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  12. This is just beautiful and inspiring. I've already checked your tutorial on EPP and I am really inspired to give a try to this technique. I think I'll start using the scraps that live in my fabric box... Thank you.

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  13. This is just beautiful Florence. I am absolutely in love with mustard and grey. I even bought some mustard and grey in Liberty's today. You are so talented with your designs, you inspire me x

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  14. Hi Florence! How elegant and sophisticated! I've never worked with limited colours and fabrics myself, but can completely see the benefits; this is beautiful. I didn't comment at the time but was sorry to read of your earlier disasters (how unbelievably frustrating) and so pleased to hear of your more recent successes, the latter of course far outnumbering the former. We are dog sitting over Christmas, which will be completely new to us! Jen x

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  15. It looks beautiful!

    When our dogs were pups, we had someone in the street tell us that at about 4 years old, retrievers will go from playful puppy to comatose calm. As I normally can not move around the house without having to step over a sleeping dog, I can see their point.

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  16. Hi! I have taken to EpP recently and have been visiting your blog looking at your photos and reading your tips. I often wonder how many people lurk around my blog (I doubt many, it is rather boring) and never tell me they are there so I just wanted you to know I have been visiting and hope you have a wonderful New Year!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x