BM&I #44: Parterre block 11

Block 11, now that I have no more excuses!

We were away on holiday last time, and this particular block needs my big sewing machine, to do all the blanket stitch, not to mention a large number of assorted supplies. So this time, I had to get a block ready, because, well, isolation = no excuse. (I told myself I’d post more often while I was confined to barracks, and so far, it’s been 5 for 5, not bad going for unplanned, spontaneous posting).

I don’t love this block, but looking at the rest, I decided we needed some quieter ones amidst all the hectic colour. This one and the next are a little more subdued. After that, I’ll crack on with the brights again. I have the fabrics sorted for the next block, but I had other things on and couldn’t quite get a second one done. By other things, I mean domestic concerns that are a bit too mundane to make interesting reading, before you get excited about new projects.

So, here we are:

Bee, Myself and I is a forum for ‘selfish sewing’; any stitchery which is purely for pleasure and not to a deadline or for anyone else. The original concept belongs to Carla of Granny Maud’s Girl. To find out more, you can click through on either her blog link, or using the button a fair way down in the left hand column of this blog.

And while I think of it, today is our copper or wool anniversary, depending on which country you live in. Happy Anniversary, Husband

Until next time…

Anemone: talkin’ and stitchin’

The restrictions on movement are getting tighter.

Everyone in this household is safe and well, sheltering (mostly) in place. We still have to buy groceries and medication, etc, but the Husband has sensibly said that we should not both go, one of us is enough to shop. But given that my everyday life isn’t that different, I’m not feeling restricted, trapped or stressed. I have things to do, many, many books to read, food to cook and fabric to sew. I’m OK. Where I do get stressed is in worrying about friends in danger zones, especially those already not in perfect health.

So, well, I’m cooking and reading, but mostly sewing! No big surprise there. Before, from a few days ago.

After, below. I got another long row of flowers assembled (the one on the left in the image below), and am about to sew them in. After that, I’ll cut fabric for what is likely to be the last row if it looks about right. I’m still thinking about what to do on the back. I have a variety of fabrics, but I like to make the back work with the front, so it needs a little thought. I think I’ll also face the back edge rather than straighten it off and bind it. Probably…. I also like the idea of stitching the outer edge to a straight band of fabric, so long as it works well visually. We’ll have to wait and see, even me!

Over the past couple of days I’ve enjoyed a number of conversations with blogging friends, on the phone, by Skype and on FaceTime (hello again, Anne, Dale, Sandra, Jan and Linda!). It’s such fun to put a voice and a face to your online ‘voices’, and I hope we can continue to stay in touch. It’s interesting to hear how your daily lives are affected by the pandemic, and how you’re dealing with it. I have learned things and gained ideas from talking to you all, so thank you for your time, your friendship and your warmth in reaching out to a (comparative) stranger. Anyone else up for some cheerful conversation and a lot of laughs? If so, say something in the comments 🙂

Stay home, stay safe and stay well.


Anemone quilt: how to do hexies

It’s this quilt again.

Pauline said she couldn’t get her head around how I made the hexie flowers, and could I explain? It’s not at all hard to do, but a bit tricky to explain in words, so there will be lots of pictures. You can click and zoom on any of them. This isn’t going to be interesting or new for everyone, but if it demystifies the process for even a couple of you, I’ll be happy.

Let’s get started. For each flower you need a centre and six petals. In this quilt all the centres, or hearts, are black. To save time, I just cut squares that will accommodate the 2″ hexie papers*, rather than laboriously trace and trim out hexie shapes in the fabric. You can fold and hold the fabric in place if there’s a bit extra, but with the trimmed shapes, you might need clips, pins or tape to hold it in place while you stitch. Most of my hexie quilts use much smaller papers, but I liked the big ones to showcase the fabrics.

Then start wrapping each hexie paper with the fabric and stitching it in place. This is called ‘basting’. Fold a corner of the fabric over the paper, stitch down until the next corner, where you fold the fabric over again and stitch down to secure the fold. I start with a good knot, which at the end of the process I use to help me pull out the basting at the end.

At the end, simply do a double stitch to secure, and snip the thread. Now repeat that six more times with the petal fabric.

Once you have all 7 hexies done, arrange them around the heart so that the pattern is pleasing, if appropriate. You can obviously use all different fabrics, or two, or three or just one.

Take the heart hexie, and one of the petals, laying them face to face. Knot the end of your thread. Start stitching along the edge where they meet. The stitches should pick up just a few threads at the edge of the hexies, and not pass through the paper at all. Work on the basis of at least 10 stitches per inch.

When you reach the end, pick up the next petal in the layout, lay it on the front of the heart, face to face, and continue with the thread from attaching the previous petal. Carry on all the way round until you reach your start point. Do not knot off and cut the thread.

Put the edges of the two adjacent petals together, and using the same thread, stitch these two edges together. Knot off and cut the thread. Work around the flower to attach all the petals to each other.

You will end up with a neat, crisp flower on the front.

At this point you have a choice. If you have used lightweight fabrics, quilting cotton, shirting, etc, you can leave the corners of the fabric on the back, as they won’t make an enormous difference when quilting. If you have used firmer or heavier fabrics, it would be a good idea to trim them off to leave a ¼ to ½ inch seam allowance, depending on how close to the edge you have basted. This will reduce the thickness and weight of the final quilt.

Use a pair of sharp scissors and snip away the excess fabric. You don’t need to get an immaculate result, just tidy it up a bit.

So there you are, a pretty, tidy hexie flower. There’s an endless variety of ways to join these. As you can see from the photo at the beginning, I’m separating the flowers with polka dot hexies. You can also surround them with a border and then a separator, or you can create diamonds using extra hexies, and so on. A quick search on Pinterest for ‘EPP’ or ‘Hexie Quilts,’ or a simple Google search will show a huge choice. One of my all-time favourites is a baby quilt using white petals, yellow hearts and green borders and separators, like a field of daisies. All the fabrics were different, which gave it a visual richness that flat, same fabrics would have lacked in this simple design.

Once you’ve joined flowers together, you can pull out the basting from all the hexies except the ones around the edge. Press well first, then unpick the basting, starting with the end stitches and pulling on the knot once you have one or two stitches left. Slide the paper out. You can use it again. It may need a bit of an iron to flatten out; papers get creased when you fold your work up between sessions.

I’m sometimes asked why I stitch through the papers instead of stitching only through the fabrics. It’s because I’ve tried both ways, and I prefer this one. It gives a crisper edge and sharper corners, as the fabric is tensioned over the paper more than using the other method. You may find the fact that you don’t need to unpick the basting is worth the lack of precision. Alternatively, you can buy little glue sticks you can run along the back edge of each paper and stick the fabric down. I don’t like this method as sometimes my papers stay in for years on a long term project, and by the time I remove them, the glue has stuck tight and shreds of paper remain, which is a Bad Thing, and ruins your papers for future use.

I hope this has clarified the process for you (looking at you, Pauline!), and that you might be tempted to give it a try. Who knows, being in lockdown might actually provide the impetus of boredom needed!

If you do, I’d love to hear about it.


Note: hexie papers are sized according to the length of each side, not by diameter. You can buy them from any quilt shop in packs of 50 or 100, and in a variety of sizes. 2 inches is a fun size to start with, as you get results quickly, but isn’t such a great way to bust your scraps if that’s what you want to do.

Unpicking the threads

I’ve been doing a LOT of hand stitching.

My Anemone quilt has been benefiting from the ‘stay at home’ order the government put out at the beginning of the week. This is how it looked before:

And this is how it looks now:

A bit of a difference, eh? It’s the other way up, of course, but you can see it’s a good bit bigger; two rows longer and another row wider. To give credit where it’s due, my friend Chippy stitched two of those big hexie flowers in, while we were on holiday together recently, but I’ve been industriously multiplying the blooms since then. For scale, each of those flowers is 65cm/10½ inches across at the widest point, so it isn’t one of my itty-bitty hexie quilts, and shows off those feature fabrics beautifully. I’m going to see how an extra row on the width looks, and then I may stop. It’ll be a good lap size, and if it’s much larger I’ll be really dreading the hand quilting.

I love English Paper Piecing (EPP). I find it soothing, portable and ridiculously easy. The most boring part is picking out the basting to release the papers. Even the endless work of hand quilting is funner. Basting stitches that go in quickly and easily are reluctant to release from the paper and fabric. Please ask why I stitch the fabric to the paper instead of around the paper. The answer is that I get sharper edges and corners and the assembly is therefore easier. It helps to ensure you always stitch fabric to paper shape the same way, so you know exactly where to find the end and the knot to pull out. You end up with a pile of random, messy bits of thread that get everywhere. It’s my least favourite part of the process.

In the same way, I’ve found it hard to pick apart the vast quantity of coronavirus data that’s being hurled at us. What do those graphs and figures even mean? But today I found a really clear and informative explanation of what we’re looking at, what it means, and how the management strategies of different countries is working for them. Take a look if you’re interested. Or ignore it if you’re over the whole thing :-/

Meanwhile, I’ll carry on pick, pick, picking…

You’ve gotta roll with it

Is it happening where you are too?

I’m talking about the current Australian passion for TP jokes, especially visual ones.

It’s not as if we’re short of interesting news at the moment, and this is the sort of thing that normally gets a 3 minute slot on a very slow day. But somehow, toilet paper humour has tickled the nation’s funny bone, and we’re laughing at ourselves.

And a couple more in the Newcastle Herald.

On the other hand, if you like the more traditional silo art, this link will take you to a good selection. In these locked-up days, you can’t do the real art trail, but thank heavens for the wonders of websites and viewing this stuff from the comfort of home, without the need to spend hours in the car. (Did you see what I did there? Virtue out of necessity, and all that?)

We have to take our humour where we can find it these days, don’t we?

Only connect…

These immortal words are the epigram at the end of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.

Although they signify a different idea, they also express perfectly the idea I’d like to put forward today.

In these strange times, when so many of us are confined to a much smaller world than has been our habit, wouldn’t it be marvellous to expand that world in other ways? Let’s actively write our blogs and express ourselves. Let’s create something meaningful from the ugliness of fear, disease and confinement. Let’s do what we so rarely do properly these days.

Let us speak to each other.

Not face to face, of course. That would be silly and irresponsible. But we can still use the technological marvels our lovely world gives us. No-one who blogs lacks a communication device. Whether it’s talking by Skype or FaceTime or Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Line, Viber, Tango, Kakaotalk or WeChat, on a desktop or laptop, tablet or phone, there are many ways to talk face to virtual face with others.

I already talk with several blogging friends. I actually meet up with a few of the closer ones, and they have become valued members of my social circle. I’d love to do more of it. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with Sue of From the Magpie’s Nest. Sue and I have been collaborating on F2F for years now, but since a couple of initial conversations, we haven’t talked face to face. Yesterday, we caught up. It was great! There was a lot of laughing, our dogs got involved, we walked each other around our sewing rooms… I couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t done it sooner.  I also had a lovely chat with Dale of daleleelife101 about something I’d sent her and our recent visit to her tiny corner of paradise. I’d really love to widen the circle.

So, is anyone else up for it? I can only offer Skype or FaceTime; my phone isn’t an iPhone and for a smart phone it… isn’t very, so I don’t want to overburden it with more apps than I absolutely need. If you have a PC desktop or laptop you can do Skype. If you have a Mac desktop or laptop or iPhone, you can FaceTime. All it takes is a user name for Skype, or an email address or phone number to hook up for FaceTime. If I can expose my grey hair and wrinkles and double chin, so can you, or whatever you might be self-conscious about. This isn’t a beauty contest, it’s friends making meaningful contact in ‘interesting times’, through the wonders of technology.  Go on. Give it a try.

I’m looking forward to hearing from some of you. As a famous 1990s ad for a phone company in the UK used to say:

“It’s good to talk”…

One thing not in short supply

Well, we’re shut down.

No surprise there; the only surprise is in how long it took. The Federal Government has mandated the closure of ‘principal places of social gathering’ with effect from midday today. Shops and businesses will close unless they can offer their employees and customers a safe distance to work in, which translates as 4 square metres (13 square feet) per person. Essential businesses remain open: supermarkets, petrol stations, convenience stores, banks and pharmacies. Oh, and the bottle shops (liquor stores or off-licenses). Of course…

We don’t have to stay in our homes, it will simply be harder to gather with a large number of other people and share our viruses around, and at home, at least you’re probably safe.

Knowing it was coming, I went into town this morning. I mailed something, I went to the pharmacy to get each of our prescriptions filled in case of emergency, I got some blood test results and I bought a bit of food. Bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables, that sort of thing. I maintained a safe distance, sanitised my hands and waited behind safe lines to pay with a card tap instead of folding money. Others were not so compliant. I had people reach across my face for things, hanging around in the centre of the aisle talking on their phones and preventing others passing them safely, and worst of all, abusing the checkout lady because they couldn’t bulk buy whatever they liked. As if she had any control over bogan buying behaviour, or the timely decisions of her head office in limiting quantities so everyone could get a bit. I couldn’t buy flour. Well, too bad…

But there’s one thing my online community has in abundance, and which it’ll never run out of.

The more you have, the more you make. Use it, share it, give it freely. It doesn’t need sanitising, it can’t carry the virus, and it will nourish your soul.  In the ugliness of restriction, fear, disease, social isolation and shortage, shine a light. Make something beautiful, clever or useful, and share it. Bring a bit of beauty into the lives of others. Build community in the midst of isolation, invite friends into your virtual creative space. Blog as you’ve never blogged before. Encourage and support, rather than scoff at fears and reject ideas.

Because we need this.

We are humans and have to feel connected. Without the reliable physical contact and emotional support of normal life, many of us are going to feel lonely, afraid, depressed and despairing. Creativity and virtual contact can help bring us all through this.

Yes, out there is the monster: COVID-19, the Coronavirus, SARS CoV 2, however you want to name our enemy. But in our hearts we have love, solidarity, courage and hope.

We will not be defeated.