Saturday, 17 May 2014

Fifty shades of not black

Well, maybe fifty is an exaggeration, but how many shades of 'not black' can a girl dye? None of which would matter too much, if I hadn't given the title of my next competition quilt as 'Black on white, White on black'

I heard an author interviewed on TV recently. He related that he never knew how his books would end before he started to write them. He knew the setting and the characters, but he would start with an event - the hero throwing a glass at a wall - and them write the book to find out why said hero had done that.

I can relate to this. When I start a quilt, I have a vague concept and maybe a colour scheme. This 'vague concept' is what I call my 'Mental Masterpiece'. 'Masterpiece' as in it is always going to be a showstopper - naturally!. 'Mental' as in so vague that I don't know what the technical difficulties are, yet alone how to solve them. But I find out as I go along - at least what they are, sadly not always how to overcome them. The more I do, the more ideas I get, the more I find out what does and does not work, the more the concept and results change.

Again, if it were not for competition entries, this would not matter too much. But the entry form always requires measurements and a description. "Don't know until I've finished"and "subject to alteration and variation, but invariably not quite as I imagined it" would be truthful if not exactly satisfactory answers!!

My first lot of 'black' is a nasty bottle green: the second plum - a very dark plum but still definitely plum: the third is midnight blue.... In the end I settle for a rather nice charcoal and hope that with a lot of black quilting it will pass.

I've already lost 3 weeks in failed dyeing and another 2 to flu. Now I'm pushed for time and my usually wonderful Bernina (160) chooses this moment to have a few hiccups. She stitches without problem for 20 minutes and then suddenly, for no apparent reason  surreptitiously alters the tension. I find a have a maze of spiderweb stitching on the back. And of course I have chosen to use a spiral motif which involves a lot of travelling - in rows that seem to go on forever. And it is a nightmare to take out.

Malvern Quilt show 2014 show quilt free motion quilting

The already completed 'black on white' bit is cut up into sensuous curvy shapes ready to shimmy down the centre of the quilt. My intention was to create a focal point by making one of these black with white stitching, but it just gets lost in the black (OK charcoal) background. A white border around it looks weird.  I quickly quilt up some shiny white satin with black and try that instead, but the difference is not striking enough and it just looks odd. This is one of those 'it doesn't work' moments.

I've run out of time to experiment more and go with what I have got. For the first time I don't use my usual quilt binding, but use a facing finish. I really like this. I let the appliqued shapes overlap the top and bottom and it feels like they drip on and off the quilt in a never ending flow.

After this quilt's troubled birth I was relieved to get this off in good time for the show which takes place this weekend. But the trouble continues. I know from the courier that the quilt has arrived but according to the show's paperwork it hasn't. Fortunately the show agrees they must have the quilt because they don't have a gap on their walls!! - and have promised to get it back to me.

For those of you asking if it wouldn't be better to compete a quilt before entering it into a show  - of course it would. But I always think I could do a better quilt in the 2 or 3 months before the show and I want to put my best in. Will I learn from this experience? Well, the next entry is in 2 weeks - and the quilt is not finished - but I have completed several trials, so I'm getting there.

I'm going to enter this post to the Bloggers' Quilt Festival  at Amy's Creative Side. I discovered this 2 days ago - just in time for this year's Festival! Open to all quilt bloggers (you can enter up to 2 quilts) it is both an opportunity to see some amazing quilts from the on line community and also a competition - and YOU are the judge. Go and vote for your favourite quilts! The are many different categories. Click here to go through to the 'Quilted on a Domestic Sewing Machine category, into which I have entered this quilt. Click here to go through to all the other categories. And have a look 'Forest Fire 2' in my next post, which I have entered into the mini quilt category. Have fun!

Thanks for dropping by...

Hilary Florence

Please find below a list of linky parties. I may not link with all of the every week, but with some of them most weeks. Please go and have a look at some of the other wonderful quilts and quilters there.
Anything goes Mondays @
Linky Tuesday at Free motion by  the river­­­­ @
Fabric Tuesday @    
Sew cute Tuesday @ 
Show and tell Tuesday @
WIP Wednesday at freshly pieced   @
WOW = WIPs on Wednesdays  @  
WIP Wednesday at TN + TN  @
I Quilt Thursdays @
Really Random Thursdays @
Needle and Thread Thursday @
Off the wall Fridays @


  1. Fabulous quilting as always Hilary, love it!!

  2. I love this piece. It's a winner.

  3. your work is always so inspiring - this piece is no exception!

  4. I not only love your quilting but also the way you cut the white fabric. It is such a great idea and such a great way to display the different quilt patterns.

  5. Very cool! I love the gentle curves but the quilting is amazing!

  6. Great work, as usual! I have also had trouble dyeing black because there are so many other colors in that dye. Now if I want a true black I just buy it.

  7. Yes, it probably would be great to make a quilt first, and then, enter it in a show. Someday I hope to enter a quilt in a show but like you, I know I'll be working, right up to the deadline. There's something about a deadline that gives me the push, I need. This quilt is an amazing entry and I hope they find it.....soon. Good Luck!!!!

  8. So sorry that flu, dyeing, and the Bernina have conspired to delay you- but it does look magificent!

  9. I'm really intrigued by how you use stitching to contrast and then piece it. Visiting from Blossom heart Quilts.

  10. Wow you had a few chalenges there, but the finished quilt looks really good. I like that facing finish a lot. Best of luck in the show!

  11. What stunning quilting. A really beautiful finish.

  12. Great quilting and cool design!!

  13. I love this quilt. And your humor that goes along with describing how you start and end a quilt. :)

  14. Your description of the quilt-making process, and the finished result as not quite as one imagined are utterly brilliant and made me laugh. So true! This is a fantastic and striking quilt - I love it.

  15. Thanks for a glimpse into your process. I love all the variety of quilting designs!

  16. I hope your machine troubles are over! Have you tried the Little Genie Magic Bobbin washers? I have them in my regular sewing machines and my longarm and have noticed a big difference!
    I love this quilt showcasing your designs!! What a fantastic idea to cut up shapes... love your thought process!

  17. your struggles sound all too familiar!! Glad to share in your quilting issues. The thread next could be a slight burr on the throatplate or race, a mechanic sanded one off my machine and it helped. It could be need for a new needle. Lots of things. The dyeing is a challenge. Black is the hardest to achieve.
    LeeAnna Paylor Not Afraid of Color

  18. Your quilting IS lovely, and I love the overall design of the quilt! I'm just curious how you enter quilts that aren't done yet - don't you have to submit a photo?? Good luck at any rate!

  19. Magic quilt! Beautifully! Original! Great!

  20. Beautiful and the curves in this are wonderful! I always enjoy seeing your quilting too! Thanks for sharing at Linky Tuesday! Freemotion by the River

  21. The curves are wonderful. I found the best way to get a black was to mix all the different black dyes together.

  22. Hi, Hilary. A knock-out! The variety of designs co-existing is fascinating.
    best, nadia

  23. Visually stunning - love the curvy piecing and the grey and white color scheme!

  24. A lovely quilt. I just voted for you!