Foot²Freestyle: March Roundup

What a great month I’ve had with all my sewing projects!  I’m looking forward to seeing how April turns out.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 7.32.54 pmIt’s time once again for the F²F roundup. It was Claire’s turn this month, with a warm and beautiful palette of various shades of brown, red and orange with a cream/beige/tan background. She likes both traditional and modern blocks, and for some of us, we’ve had to move out of our comfort zones, but I love what everyone has done! Head over to the F²F gallery page to see what has been made so far – it has been a busy month all round and a few of us are still working on our blocks but the next few days will see them all done.

April is Nanette’s turn, and her colour choices are:
Any soft shades of mauves, lavenders, purples (but no dark or bright purples), and soft, light, low volume/value background colours

Such a gorgeous, soft palette, which I’ve really enjoyed working with. Yes, I confess, I’ve made my blocks for Nanette already, I couldn’t resist! I’m not alone, and tomorrow, the start of the month, I’ll be able to put up a couple of sets to kick things off.

Now, is there anyone getting closer to a finished F²F quilt?

The list of sign-ups for F²F 2016/17 has changed a little since the last roundup:


Gun Adrian, my ScrapHappy buddy from Sweden
Claire Hupin, a SAL friend and a great pal of Avis’
Sandra Meynet, a French friend of Lynn’s
Moira McSpadden from the US

I’ll circulate contact info and blog addresses once we kick off in June. As before, we’ll all select our colours and do the draw in April to choose which member gets which month. Last time, Sue’s husband got the job; this time, the Husband of Chiconia would like the honour! Doing it in advance gives us all the chance to buy anything we don’t have and boost our stashes if necessary.

So far, we have 9 members, which is probably the minimum number we can still do the block swap with; each of us will end up with 24 blocks made by other people, and we can then choose how many more we’ll each make for ourselves. It will also run for only 9 months, so there’d be less of a time commitment, but I must admit, I do still love the idea of another whole year of lovely blocks! So if you have a fancy to take part in a fun, undemanding and very rewarding block swap party, leave a comment below. The rules are few, the choices are endless, and you’d be most welcome.

On with April, and the last month but one!



Cosmatesque #2

The first quarter template…

Cosmatesque final planThere’s no point attempting to draft the template for this piece all in one go; it’s 48 inches square and I simply don’t have a flat surface that size (apart from the floor, and I’m not up to grovelling around down there any more). So I’ve divided it into 24 inch square quarters, which still fit on my cutting table. Luckily the design divides neatly into equal quarters, so I just need to make each one and then piece them together. “Just…”, she says airily, as though it were the work of moments.

Extension arm compassI decided to start with the most difficult section first. With that out of the way, the rest of the sections will seem much easier. So it’s the bottom left hand corner, a series of concentric rings with inset triangles. I have a set of good compasses, from small to large, with an extension arm. Just as well, really – do you have any idea how tricky it is to draw an accurate 20 inch circle, even with an extension arm on the compass?  The thing just wobbles, spreads, dislodges and generally misbehaves. But the template’s done. The next thing will be to make a tracing or duplicate of each ring, which I’ll then mount on cartridge paper and cut out to make the papers for EPP (English Paper Piecing*) the triangles.

At least, that’s the plan for now. I’m still wondering if I can do it with FPP (Foundation Paper Piecing†), but just now I’m tending against it, because of the trickiness of matching up all the pieced segments. You can adjust a little with EPP, but over a piece this size, FPP errors tend to magnify.

Explanation of terms for non-quilters, including the quilt’s new owner:

*EPP: fabric is wrapped around a card template and basted/tacked on. The covered templates are then joined edge to edge with tiny hand stitching through the fabric only, and once fully assembled, the basting/tacking is pulled out and the templates removed. This is the process used for traditional hexagon quilts.

†FPP: fabric is stitched directly onto a paper foundation, along drawn or printed lines. This ensures a lot of accuracy of individual pieces, but this shape has to be made up of many sections, and joining these sections can be a little inaccurate (when I do it, anyway!), so that points do not meet and things slip a little. The paper is torn away from the back of the piece once it is fully assembled, which is a laborious job in itself.

I need to start auditioning fabrics now, as very soon I’ll be able to make a start on assembly. I need a good tone-on-tone white. Flat, solid white will not look right, it needs a texture. If I could get a marbled white that would be ideal, but I’ve never seen such a thing (if anyone out there has, let me know asap, please?), and a tone-on-tone print will be the next best thing. I also need a warm deep red, a dark cobalt blue, a granite grey and a limestone beige, all marbled or textured batiks. And if anything else catches my eye, I’ll grab a bit of that too. This quilt won’t need large quantities of anything except the background white, I just need to be careful I don’t run out of any of the fabrics with one triangle to go!

Time to put away the ruler and compasses for a bit, and fetch out the scissors, needle and thread.


Cosmatesque #1

OK, the name needs a bit of explanation.

According to Wikipedia:

Cosmatesque, or Cosmati, is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of the architecture of Medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings, and derived from that of the Byzantine Empire. It was used most extensively for the decoration of church floors, but was also used to decorate church walls, pulpits, and bishop’s thrones. The name derives from the Cosmati, the leading family workshop of marble craftsmen in Rome who created such geometrical decorations.

You’ll recall my post of a couple of days ago, talking about how today we are using the same patterns in patchwork as the Romans and Byzantines used in their mosaic floors. It seems Italy’s medieval craftsmen had the same idea for their own floors, and the style they developed has attained its own name. And I’m hijacking it.

If you Google the name Cosmatesque, you’ll be rewarded with multiple gorgeous images of fabulous geometric floors. I spent hours searching, clicking, pinning and printing. OK, I admit it. There’s another quilt in the pipeline.

cosmatesque planIt’s going to be fiendishly tricky; all those wedges, circles, intersecting lines and teeny weeny blocks are not my normal comfort zone, but it’s going to be a tremendous challenge. I need to find out how to do this stuff without the ease of copying someone else’s pattern, or using multiple expensive specialist rulers, or geometric formulae. Subject to the approval of its intended new owner, my colour palette will be simple: deep warm red, dark cobalt blue, granite grey, limestone beige, on a white background. I’m echoing the palette of the original floors. My fabric choices will be marbled batiks and textured solids; there’s not much room for patterns here.

cosmatesque design pageAnd it’s going to be small – for me, that is – at 48 inches square. It’s intended to be a piece of wall art to remind its owner of her ‘specialist subject’. It’s for my eldest niece, Lecturer in Medieval Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. For many years, she’s spent months every summer rootling around in archaeological digs, and has seen and uncovered more mosaic floors than you’d believe. It’s rare that our spheres of activity collide, and now that I have found a point of common interest, I intend to play with it!

So as usual, I’ll be recording my discoveries, my decisions and my progress as this quilt grows. I have a LOT to learn, and will have to attain a much more stringent level of accuracy than I normally get away with. I’ll have to decide on a section-by-section basis how I’m going to make each part (hand stitched, machine sewn, EPP, foundation paper piecing and appliqué are all possible/probable). Fortunately, due to its relatively small size, it’s not going to take me a tremendously long time, but I’m not going to skimp on attention to detail and accuracy. And then of course, there’s the decision on how to quilt it. Machine, or by hand? Invisible or feature? Dense or light? Well, you get the idea.

I think there’s another Book of the Quilt coming on…

SAL 26: The last corner

Yup, it’s finished.

I had a lot of down time during my recent trip to Melbourne, hanging around in airports, sitting on planes. A small cross stitch project is perfect to keep the hands busy; it’s small, if you use a small hoop the necessary tools are tiny and portable, and the whole thing slips into a ziploc bag and into hand luggage. I’ll definitely be taking this kind of handwork along another time.

Anyway, such was the extent of my airport loitering that I’ve got the job done. Here’s where I was three weeks ago:

Sampler start of top left

And here’s the finished piece:

Blue sampler complete

I can see a few places where I miscounted stitches, but I’m not unhappy enough about the slight inconsistencies to unpick and do those bits again. The sampler is about 10 inches square; not really good enough to frame and too small for a cushion unless I give it a wide border. Hmmm, I’ll have a think about that…

As always, it’s worth your while visiting the other SAL stitchers, even if they’re not posting progress today. Don’t forget about the difference in time zones; if you’re seeing me first, you may need to drop in to theirs a bit later to give them a chance to get their posts up.

Avis at
Claire at
Gun at
Carole at
Jule at
Wendy at
Lucy at
Cathy at
Jess at
Sue at
Constanze at

Sue is the newest member of our growing group!

For the next piece, I have to go and buy a large piece of 14 count aida and some embroidery floss. I have a plan. Actually, I have two, and the tricky bit will be deciding which one to go with.

Unless the Husband asks me to re-start Anzac…

Everything old is new again

Quilting has been around a while…

IMG_0095According to an authoritative source, the practice of quilting began in England in the 13th Century AD, mainly for warm or protective clothing. Written records suggest that bed quilts were first in use in the 13th century, but few examples survive.

Quilting as we know it today was first practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries, bringing with it the start of the huge collection of traditional blocks we know, love and make regular use of today, whether we favour modern or traditional quilt design.

The patterns of these traditional blocks are timeless – even more so than we perhaps realise.

IMG_0756 IMG_0750My sister was showing me photographs of Byzantine mosaic pavements she took on a visit to Myra in Turkey, and a Roman one from Spoleto in Italy. It amused me no end to realise I was looking at square in square (economy) blocks, hexies, snowballs, orange peels, HST, mariner’s compass, sashing and mitred corners. Just as with antique quilts, the colours have faded and some of the patterns are a little threadbare. But it’s still possible to see the jewel-bright, crisp patterns the mosaicist created, and visualise the magnificence of the finished work. I think those Byzantine and Roman artists still have a lot to teach us, and I’ll be looking at those ancient blocks with a newly respectful eye.

Quilting isn’t new. But the sources it draws upon go far back in the mists of time, and today’s quilters are joined to their sisters and brothers in history by threads of tradition, and the beauty and clarity of the mosaicist’s art.


You gotta love a plover

The Husband now has the perfect excuse not to mow the grass at the far end of our backyard.

Mr & Mrs Masked Plover (or more commonly, Masked Lapwing) have set up house in the longer grass down there. They’re silly birds, and will lay their eggs on playing fields, football pitches, carparks and airport runways, without a thought to the potential danger of predators or environmental hazards. More detail than you’ll ever need to know about them can be found on Wikipedia, here.

Mrs Plover on the nest

That’s Australia’s No. 1 Highway 4 metres away on the other side of the fence….

We only discovered this fact when the Husband drove the ride-on mower down to the end and was dive-bombed by Mr Plover. Both male and female are notoriously aggressive during the breeding season, not quite as bad as the Australian Magpie, but loud, hostile and prone to attack. The males especially are a bit of a hazard, as they have a ‘spur’ on the major joint on the leading edge of their wings, and these can inflict painful damage.

Future plovers...While they were briefly away from home, I took my life in my hands and scooted out with the camera to capture the nest and eggs, more a slightly bare patch in the grass than any sort of formal structure. Three eggs so far, four is a normal clutch, so there may be another. While I was taking the photo, the pair were yelling and displaying aggressively at me from the next door garden, so I left it at one photo taken from a distance with lots of zoom, and retreated. Mrs Plover immediately flew back in and settled down, and Mr Plover stalked around crossly, squarking at me.

I tremble for their babies, as we have a lot of birds of prey, crows and other flying meat-eaters in this area. Still, we’ll let the grass down there grow till the babies can walk and run and feed themselves. The longer the grass, the better the cover.

It could be a couple of months. The grass is going to be waist high…