Category Archives: Quilting

A Redhead With A Leopard-Print Handbag

Colored glamorous shot of Lucille Ball and Arnaz standing.A true blast from the past has been lurking in the back of my brain lately, an episode of I Love Lucy© from December 17, 1955 titled: The Passports.

If by some strange turn of events you’ve never-ever seen this episode (perhaps you’ve been off-world on an exploratory trip to Alpha Centauri), this is the episode where, after finagling a tag-along trip to Europe with Ricky, Lucy finds that she doesn’t have the necessary documents to get a passport. In addition, she’s somehow misplaced the only blood relative who can vouch for her… her mother.

Long story short, after finding that there is no record of her birth in her home town, she goes through the motions of trying to find someone older than her, who knew her as a child.

Lucy locates Helen Ericson Sears Kaiser, the woman who babysat Lucy as a child, only to be stymied when Helen won’t admit her real age in front of her husband. With Helen explaining the situation to her husband in some truly irritating baby talk, all the while calling him ‘daddy’ (Ack! I’m sure I coughed up a hairball during that scene!), the story gets twisted around until Helen and her husband decide that, of course, Lucy was the babysitter, and Helen the child.

[Lucy Trivia: the leopard-print handbag in the photo above made appearances in several I Love Lucy© episodes. Sometimes it belonged to Lucy. Sometimes it belonged to Ethel. But I think that I would luv to have that handbag most of all.]

Determined to make the European tour by any means possible, Lucy decides to stowaway on board the ship in Fred and Ethel’s old vaudeville trunk – a trunk that had been purchased from a man with a seal act, ergo the handy air-hole for ventilation. Lucy tries the trunk on for size, and of course the trunk locks, and of course the key to the trunk is in the pocket of the skirt that Lucy is wearing.

Just then, the doorbell rings, and who should walk in? Why it’s old Doc Peterson, the man who delivered Lucy in (West) Jamestown, NY.

At last, somebody who can identify Lucy! But Lucy’s still locked in that darned trunk…

  • Dr. Peterson: (speaking to Ethel) I couldn’t sign anything until I’m sure that she’s really Lucille McGillicuddy.
  • Lucy: (from inside the trunk) Oh, no.  I am, Dr. Peterson, I am. I’m Lucille McGillicuddy.
  • Dr. Peterson: Well, I don’t know. Uh, I thought she (points at Ethel) was you at first.
  • Ethel: Oh, no, now, you could see her. (points to the hole in the trunk) There’s a hole right there in the trunk. You look right through there, you can see that that’s Lucy.
  • Dr. Peterson: Well, I’ll take a look. (Bends down and looks through the hole in the trunk) Hi… I can’t tell a thing.
  • Lucy: Oh, now, wait a minute, Doc. Wait a minute. (from inside the trunk, Lucy puts one eye up to the hole) Here’s one of my eyes. Here’s my other eye. Here’s my nose. Here’s my mouth. Put them all together and they spell Lucille McGillicuddy!
  • Dr. Peterson: All that is, is an eye, an eye, a nose and a mouth.

Realizing that she’ll never get her passport, never go to Europe, and likely spend the rest of her days locked in the trunk, Lucy bursts into tears. Doc Peterson cheers her up by remembering a song that he taught her when she was a child.

And so, with Lucy singing ‘Skip to My Lou‘ from inside the trunk, and Doc Peterson dancing a jolly little jig, a perfect opportunity presents itself for Ricky to burst into the apartment with a classic, “What’s going on here?!”

And I was going where with this?

Skip To My Lou quilt: by way of sample blocks with an assist from Lucy Ricardo.

ribbon swirl quiltingI’ve spent a lot of time lately – when not rerunning old sitcoms in my head; cleaning the sewing room, and culling and organizing fabric, including some much needed rearranging of storage furniture and worktables. The cleaning, sorting and organizing went fairly smoothly.  I’d reached the point where I could stand back and admire my hard work – all except for three boxes.  What was in those boxes you ask?

Stuff that hadn’t been unpacked since we moved to Oklahoma (cough… thirteen years ago). If pressed to admit the truth, those boxes had been packed up when we left Texas and relocated to Colorado, and then from Colorado to Oklahoma. A time capsule of quilting ‘stuff’, untouched by human hands for centuries… um, maybe let’s just say years.

applique orphan block doodle quiltingThere were orphan blocks and sample blocks and vintage coverlets, but mainly lots of sample blocks.  Sample blocks from my earliest quilting days when I still regularly made sample blocks.  And I clearly remember saying to myself, “Save these, you’ll be able to make an entire quilt with a stockpile of sample blocks someday.”

Well, that someday never came until those blocks and I had traveled down a long, long road together.

I had two choices: pitch ’em or use ’em. Of course I went with the opportunity to procrastinate, and so the cleaning, and the culling, and the organizing, and the generally satisfied feeling of a job being well done went right out the window.

orphan block sampler quilt checkered doodle quiltingSometimes when faced with orphan blocks, the blocks seem to stare right back at me through an (imaginary) hole in an old vaudeville trunk, saying, ‘Here’s my eye. Here’s my other eye. Here’s my nose. Here’s my mouth’, and I can’t see enough of anything that will suggest a way for the blocks to come together.

But making this little quilt was one of those moments when the blocks and I didn’t end up in a standoff, they very nearly jumped into place themselves.

And the truly amazing part of this sampler?  Only one – count ’em one – inset seam. How ever did that happen? Dunno. Some days, and some quilts, just go skipping along like that – even quilts made by a crazy lady who can take a life lesson from an episode of I Love Lucy©.

orphan blocks sampler little quiltstars applique doodle quilting

Whimsy: It’s Icing On The Cake

In my book, someone who turns down the opportunity to let a little whimsy brighten their day is as sad as a lost ball in high weeds.

I’ve been making headway on the patches I salvaged from the scrap bin – haven’t had the time or the energy to cut any more scraps, but I’ve got more than enough to finish up the current project.

pinstripeThe lightweight gray suiting?  After spending too much time dithering, and doing my best Jimmy Durante imitation trying to decide whether to use the right side or the wrong side, I finally decided to go with the pinstripes.

I had so few stripes in the scrap bin – florals I’ve got, with some checks, and a few dots, but I was definitely stripe poor.  I love geometrics and have a tendency to use everything I have quickly, so pinstripes were the only way to go.  You know the rule of five, right?  Large floral, small floral, check, stripe, dot.

Lately, Edyta Sitar has been claiming the rule of five as her formula, but truthfully, decorators have been using it for decades.  And that’s fine; Edyta is a quilting goddess, and I can forgive goddesses quite a bit if they keep the eye candy coming.

Oh, that was kind of off topic.

As I was saying, the 32-patches were stacking up as a result of staying with the leader/ender method, and I had the suiting already cut into rectangles to fit, so I decided to start slapping parts on the design wall.  Then, when I wasn’t looking, this lil’ guy popped in.

Applique Swallows

And before I knew exactly what was going on, he whistled up some friends.  I suspect that these five are outriders for a whole flock, and that makes me just about as happy as a boardinghouse pup.

Whimsy… gotta love it.

Outriders of the flock

 

Oh, Why Not?

So Many Scraps

Everybody is doing it apparently.

It’s being done at Temecula Quilt Co., and they’re doing it over at A Quilting Life, too.  Repro Quilt Lover is doing it in my email inbox – thanks to a well meaning favorite SIL.  Even my friend Katell is doing it over at La Ruche des Quilteuses, but with a slightly different twist.  Yes, it’s that time of the year when every quilter in cyberspace has announced the same pesky resolution, the one that I try to sidestep most every year, because the message is the same as always: LET’S USE THOSE SCRAPS!

All through January, I heard the catechism about organizing and reducing the size of my scrap bin.  As if I don’t carry enough guilt already about the mountain of scraps that sits idle in my sewing room.  Since the first of the year, my mantra has been: I can ignore it. I have ignored it. I will ignore it.

And it’s not as if I haven’t got yardage to work with.  Come on… I just got back from my annual pilgrimage to the Houston Quilt Festival.  When it comes to yardage – I’m flush.

I can be mule stubborn when it comes to not doing something just because I’ve been told that I should do it, but my goodness, that bin fills up with offcuts faster than I can use them.  After much internal debate, I’ve decided (again), that the pile of fabric must lose the contest of wills this year.

But actions always speak louder than words.  It took me a full day to translate a bit of this…

scraps

Into this… so neat, so tidy.

Scrap Tin

Folks,  that’s a whole lot of ironing and single cuts inside that not-quite-filled tin – but a rough estimate tells me that there are about one thousand 2.5″ patches in there.  And that pile of remainders in the upper right corner?  Those will be cut down into even smaller, usable patches.

{{Sigh}}  Why didn’t I start doing this years ago?  Wait.  I did.  But then I gave up after one of my “ooh shiny” moments and moved on to another project that didn’t involve cutting up itty-bitty scraps.

I’ve no plans to drop everything and start another quilt – the last thing I need is one more UFO (unfinished object) cluttering up my design wall.  The master plan is that I’ll use the patches as leader/ender projects.  For you non-quilters out there, that is when you run a few sets through the machine before starting in on the main event, namely the current project, and before you’re finished for the day, you run a few more sets through.  Leaders and enders.  All the while you’re gradually sneaking up on an extra quilt finish.

It’s been a week since I’ve begun taking a whack at the contents of my scrap bin.  So far, I’ve completed nine of these 32-patch units simply by using the leader/ender method.  Where am I going with these?  Dunno, but I’m sure something will occur to me.

Leader/Enders

pinstripeIt’d be nice if the “something that occurs to me” includes this gray pinstripe.  It’s 4 yards of vintage summer suiting that was gifted to me by, you guessed it, Miss G.  But which side should I use?  The right side pinstripe is very nice, but the wrong side has a shot cotton effect that is equally intriguing.

However it works out, I’ll keep one thought uppermost in that fluffy little brain of mine:  this is not a resolution, it’s simply another episode in my quilting adventure.

Crazy lady here, saying toodles and happy trails!

 

 

Still Life With Donkeys

Earlier today, my favorite SIL posed the question: What are you working on?

Honestly?  I’ve been having a love affair with 9-patches.  This weekend I put a check mark on a reproduction quilt top begun ten years ago.  I had the field of blocks complete, and the cheddar sashing mostly done, when I began cutting the wholecloth borders.  Then… full stop.

Now there’s this thing about the fabric I used in the border.  It’s kind of ugly.  But I kind of love it for all of its ugliness, and it was a millennium fabric done for Quilt For The Cure, so it was kind of like guilt free spending at the time.

Sort of.

I had long suspected that it was a reproduction fabric, and I’ve since found the likely source – the backing fabric used on a pineapple quilt, supposedly dating to 1876.  The website where I found the quilt listed is called 1stdibs; a site self-described as “the world’s leading online marketplace for the most beautiful things on earth.”  And the price tag for the quilt?  $4,995.00.

(yowza)

lady liberty 1876 1stdibs

Lady Liberty 1876 1stdibs

A little artistic license was used in recreating the Quilt For A Cure fabric.  We still have the beehive, cornucopia, and wheat – all symbols of prosperity and abundance – but the corn has gone AWOL.  Lady Liberty, her shield, and anchor remain, but Anno Domini and MM were added to the anchor… and that leads us right back to where we started: millennium fabric so ugly only I could love it.

Quilt For A Cure Millennium Fabric

Rewind to ten years ago: I botched the border cuts.  Devastated, I folded everything up – toe-tagged it, bagged it, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early yesterday morning: I was flipping through an old quilt magazine (American Patchwork & Quilting – February 2005), when I stumbled across the pattern for the not-quite-forgotten quilt.  The pattern is called Civil War Soldier Patch, by Julie Bragg.  What originally caught my attention ten years ago, was that the quilt was based on the dimensions for a U.S. Sanitary Commission cot quilt.  During the Civil War, hospital quilts and blankets were made long and narrow to cover the body, but not drag on the floor, and that translates into a perfectly sized quilt for a couch potato like me.

Imagine this: any Saturday night, with something on TV that is probably too violent, too graphic, likely something by Quentin Tarantino.  The floor is littered with candy wrappers, spilled soda and popcorn.  But my nifty new quilt never has to brawl with movie night detritus, it hangs nicely above the muck.

And I remembered why I’d buried the quilt top – those pesky borders – but I gave myself a stern talking to.  “Get over it, it’s a utility quilt, get it done”, I told myself.  So back up on the design wall it went.

I thought that this morning I’d try snapping an interesting photo or six to share, but real life, in the form of my pair of donkeys, got in the way.  Some photos have just noses.  Some photos have just ears.  But most of the set-up shots have a stealth attack involving one or more donkeys.

Still Life With Donkeys

“Oh.  You wanted to take a photograph of that old thing?  Really?”  So I settled for a standard “let’s spread it out on the grass” shot , sans donkeys.  See the cotton field across the road?  A few more weeks and it’s picking time.

The soldier’s quilt finished at 54.5″ x 84″ (app. 138×213 cm).

Soldier's Quilt

Still Life With Donkey

I’ve also been playing with Miss G’s bag of orphan blocks, fifty two of which are 9-patches.  Let me tell you about those blocks – Miss G, being a housekeeper all her life couldn’t gift me with (probably) old and musty fabrics.  She laundered them all.  And yes, they frayed, but her heart was absolutely in the right place.

So after much blocking and pressing, I cut all fifty two blocks down to uneven 9-patches, and that’s when they began to take on a life of their own.  I decided that a riff on the Sister’s Choice block would be a good place to start, and I knew that I wanted to use two different blocks in the quilt.  But the second block eluded me…  time to go stash diving for inspiration.

When I surfaced, I had found four fabrics: a black gingham, plus three more fabrics that had been given to me (again, from my favorite SIL).  One was a red/white check that reminded me of growing up on the road, seeing the Purina logo on storage silos in the rural towns we passed through.  The second was a bit of gorgeousness: an entire vintage feedsack in blue with a ditzy fan and flower motif.  Lastly, a good green.  Love me some green in everything!

The gingham became points for the Sister’s Choice blocks.  The red check, blue feedsack, and that good green became Hens & Chicks.  The blocks finished at 14″, and the entire quilt top is 70″ (177.8 cm) square.

Twelve of Miss G’s orphan 9-patches down.  Forty to go.

Sister's Choice/Hens & Chicks

Sister's Choice & Hens & Chicks

It Was A Scrappy 4th of July

A typical 4th of July for me?  Long hours anticipating the pyrotechnic portion of Independence Day.

I did my best to dodge all thoughts of mundane chores – mowing being one that could be put off – managing to stay distracted until the time when my in-house grill master could work his magic with the all-American hamburger.  Then, just a short wait for the crump, crump… crump, of fireworks.

Sitting up on our little bit of a rise in a flat terrain, I anticipated good views from both the back porch and the front porch – yay!  If you can imagine me trotting through the house from porch to porch, greedy to see all of the fireworks, then you’ve got a true picture of what a little kid I can be.

In the meantime, the clock would be ticking incredibly slowly, not at all like the biological clock of Mona Lisa Vito (My Cousin Vinnie): “My biological clock is [tap-tap-taps her foot] TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.” – so I pulled out some scrappy bits and pieces to fashion a quilt with a patriotic theme, it was the 4th after all.

Inspired by a timely post called Olde Glory, a free pattern from Temecula Quilt Co., our flag and American roses would be my starting point.  Then I stumbled across a few miniature spool blocks left over from an older project.  I had almost all of the components ready to while away the hours.

Mission accomplished – the doll-sized quilt will finish at 18.75″ x 21″ (47.625 x 53.34 cm).

A Scrappy Fourth

Ostrich Humor – Anyone?

ostrich

OSTRICH, n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe…  The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly. — Ambrose Bierce

Occasionally, when meeting the world head-on sounded like a drag, I’ve been known to do a fair Struthio camelus imitation.  I’ve had my head in the sand a lot lately, but I’m still kicking, nonetheless, and no, I don’t have a nest of eggs that needs checking on.  I’m aware that the ostrich effect is a myth except when describing behavioral finance… but I still like the metaphor.

Lots of books, music, and movies have gone under my wheels since I last posted.  My binges have included, but not limited to, all 10 books in the Bernard Samson series by Len Deighton, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse have been my constant quilting companions, with side trips accompanied by the likes of Steve Winwood, Cream, and Joe Cocker.  Movies: too numerous to list here, but here’s a hint – puredee escapism.

Elmer Tipton OK F2 TornadoThe weather here in Tornado Alley has finally driven me back to the computer; we’ve had a couple of “holy cow that was kind of close!” tornadoes blow through – friends and neighbors sustained damage, but our little piece of paradise is, so far, intact.  And the rain… we went from exceptional drought and near-dead lakes to ground that’s reached its saturation point and flooding in the last 3-4 weeks.  Highways to anywhere have been closed and a nearby town is dealing with evacuation procedures.  We’re in moderate drought now, but I have it from a reliable source that as soon as the new statistics are tabulated we should be listed as merely abnormally dry… huzzah!

The most recent quilting check mark – which, incidentally, rhymes with aardvark, airpark, autarch, ballpark, blue shark, bookmark, chop mark, debark, demark and D-mark – that I’ve seen lately, is my scrappy red and black version of Barbara Brackman’s Threads of Memory project.  The finished top measures 72″x87″ or app. 182×220 cms.

threads of memory barbara brackman quiltI still need to get three blocks plus borders finished on my Fig Tree & Co. fabrics version of the same quilt.  Never fear, I will get there one of these days.

On another quilting note: I finished quilting and binding my Bonnie Hunter Easy Street quilt from 2012 (seriously, 2012).  I was somewhat eager to show it off here, but disaster managed to strike first.  The pre-washed mauve fabric that I’d used as backing fabric bled…. and bled and bled and bled.  I’ve used every commercial product I could think of, and it’s still bleeding.  All of my nice white background fabrics are an ugly pinkish-mauve, ditto the greens and the aquas that I used.  But there is a silver lining – the purples are still purple.  My last ditch alternative is going to be using an ammonia solution – cross your fingers please – otherwise it’ll be designated as dog bedding.

Speaking of dogs: we lost Boomer this spring, one of a pair of big yellow dogs that lived with us, but we’ve since acquired a pair of litter mates as company for Boomer’s brother Jack, who badly missed having a wing-man.

Tank & TillyHave been puzzling over so-called designer dogs since our new puppies are a Labrador/Rottweiler mix, and what to call them.  Labrador/Rottweiler is a mouthful, so I’ve been reading about hybrid dogs with names like Yorkipoo, Alusky, and Labradoodle to name just a few of the recognized crossbreeds.

Where do Tank and his sister Tilly land?  Officially, they’re Labrotties, but I think instead that I’ll follow the Labradoodle logic and call them Labradotties if asked.  The name rolls off the tongue easier and sounds like a lot more fun.  Besides, Labrottie, when said aloud, makes me think of some old and dignified Italian breed.  Too much responsibility to put on a pair of rough and tumble puppies.

Where’s Lilly?

Remember these fabrics from Miss G?  I had thought that it would be the absolute last fabric that I would find a spark of inspiration in.

Key West Hand Print FabricI often surprise myself – these bright Floridian prints that are so unlike anything that I gravitate towards were the fabrics that caught my attention when I was trying to decide where to go next while exploring Miss G’s treasure trove.

I had read that Lily Pulitzer often used Key West Hand Print Fabrics as a source for her fashions.  On further investigation, I learned the fabrics printed for Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. had the name “Lilly” incorporated into the the design itself.

But of course I just had to know if Miss G’s Key West Hand Print fabrics were Lillies, so the hunt began, and as it turned out, these fabric scraps are ALL Lillies.

Sometimes the Lilly is easy enough to find.  Other times not so easy.  Then at other times, after days of hair-pulling frustration, I’d find the next Lilly.

I’ve plumb forgotten to mention that the fabric has inspired me to begin a new quilt.  The pattern I drew up is based on probably the most famous dress designed by Lily Pulitzer: The Jacqueline Dress.

Can you find the Lilly in the following examples?  Here’s a tip – look for the dot on the “i”.

Hey – I Found My Stuff!

Miss G, who incidentally happens to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 92 to 96 years young – depending on who’s asking –  has long enjoyed going to estate sales and auctions.  When it comes to hauling her loot home, Miss G gets it there by way of her Fire Engine Red Dodge Ram pickup truck.  She drives it well enough while peeping over the top of the steering wheel (Miss G is five foot nothing, after all), and she does drive it straight as an arrow, if really, really, really slowly.

Coming from a generation that shies away from throwing things out, she sorts through her purchases, then tries to find suitable homes for the items she doesn’t need or can’t use.

Over the last several months, Miss G has decided that I was the candidate mostly likely to use some of the goodies that she’s been saving up from sales: all things quilt related plus sundry items she thought might interest me.

Cereal box templates that were shared between quilters and sent via the US Postal Service.  When could a person mail a letter for three pennies?  The answer is anytime between 1851 and 1958 – but judging by what was stamped on the envelope above, 1940 would be today’s correct answer.

There’s even a wee treasure, a 2½”x4¼” envelope in beautiful condition that’s chock full of Peter Pan fabric samples – colors that go by the names of Copen, Orchid, Canary, Cameo and Coral Bell.

There also seem to be enough pre-cut fabrics ready to be rocked into a Dresden Plate quilt.

Scads of patterns cut from newspapers and magazines, yards of vintage 1920s fabrics (about 90 years old!), with all of the motifs for an Oriental Poppy quilt cut out and many already basted.  You can see in the photo below that even the original pattern has been preserved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then there are the orphan blocks.  Lots and lots of orphan blocks.  I’ve got a stack of Nine-Patch, a veritable tower of Improved Nine-Patch, blocks that I don’t recognize and haven’t identified yet, and so many hours went into making these blocks – they were all hand pieced, the stitches small and even.  So how can I ignore them?  Can I leave them to languish in bins and boxes?  Or should I simply pass them along to another quilter?  The answer to all of the above is, I can’t.

Stacks of orphan blocks

Whaddaya Mean You Didn’t Use Templates?

To kick off my latest personal challenge, I’ve made a quilt out of a few of the orphan blocks.  The maker of these particular blocks knew how to stitch, but was maybe new-ish to quilting.  She or he didn’t bother to use a template, and as a result, few of the circles were actually… um, how will I phrase this nicely?  Circular.  When assembled, there was only one block that was within miles of being circular.

Not a problem – a few down and dirty stitches embroidered onto the top to give the impression of circularity, and “hey presto!”, a primitive style little quilt.  A phrase springs to mind, one I heard while watching White Men Can’t Jump when I was binding the quilt, and when I heard it I barked with shocked delight.  “You can throw a cat in the oven, but that don’t make it a biscuit.”  So here’s a photo of my Biscuit Quilt – it’s not symmetrical, it’s not traditional, but it’s a quilt.

The finished size of the Biscuit Quilt is 45″x54″ (114x137cms).

Biscuit Quilt made from orphan blocks by JoT in 2014

I’m Really Not Changing Horses In Mid-Gallop

Miss G didn’t limit herself to traditional quilting fabrics when she was piling up treasure for me – she also included vintage fabrics from the Key West Hand Print Fabric Shop that began operation about 1960 (think Early Jet Set Chic).  For today’s bonus round of fabric trivia, you should know that the Queen of Prep, Lily Pulitzer Rousseau, had many of her fabrics designed and printed at Key West Hand Print Fabrics.

Just for grins – a short history of the shop can be found here, a pictorial history of the shop is here, and an overview of Lily Pulitzer Rousseau’s link to KWHPF is here.

I am completely open to suggestions when it comes to these fabrics – I think that they will be my biggest challenge to date… smiling pink monkeys kind of creep me out.

Thanks Miss G.  You are a pip!

Key West Hand Print Fabric Leaflet

Key West Hand Print Fabric Cutting Room Floor

Key West Hand Print Fabrics

 

Everywhere I Look, I See Stars

Closeup of Summer Stars 2012 by Temecula Quilt Co.First official finish of 2014 – and is it really the end of June?  The year is half over already.

This little quilt began as a free summer sew-along pattern by Temecula Quilt Co. from 2012 titled, Summer Stars.  I usually begin at least one red, white & blue project in the summertime – and 2012 was no exception – but I didn’t want this one to scream RED, WHITE & BLUE.  Burrowing into my scrap bin I turned up a group of reproduction fabrics with definite possibilities, fabrics with softly faded personalities, and they gave the quilt just the look that I was after.

While I enjoyed making the star blocks that summer anyone who knows me, knows that I’m often compelled to put my own spin on the overall design.  An idea for setting the blocks didn’t spring immediately to mind, so the eight wee star blocks ended up languishing nearly forgotten on the design wall for nearly two years.  Two years!

Inspiration finally clobbered me over the head a few weeks ago and the star blocks came down off the design wall.  I’ve added 9-patch setting blocks plus borders from another repro fabric.  The star blocks finished at 3.25 inches, and the finished quilt measures 15″ x 23″ or 38.1cm x 58.42cm.

Variation on Summer Stars 2012 by Temecula Quilt Co.

First Star To The Left… but of course you know the rest of the J.M. Barrie quote.

Canada Star by Barbara BrackmanAnd if you’re wondering yes, I’m still living in a dream world, a world where I really and truly believe that I can demolish my pile o’scraps.  This has become quite the funny ha-ha joke in my sewing room, and I think even the dogs are laughing at this point.  So clap if you believe.  But clap for me, please, not Tinkerbell.

In the continuing saga of my scrap quilt challenge, first up is the Threads of Memory project by Barbara Brackman.  I’ve pulled every red, white & black scrap that I could find – there are quite a few of them – and the group of star blocks has begun to remind me of a setting for a summer picnic.

I hate to admit what a complete slacker I am, but as of this weekend, I’m two months behind in the Brackman project.  I’ll get off my bigoldfatone soon and get caught up.  Right after the next round of visits from family.  And then there’s the Saucier Family Reunion July 19th.  Right after that.  Maybe.

Do you wonder if I really have a Master Plan for the destruction of the scrap bin?  Certainly, and the following photo will give you an idea of where a major portion of the scraps will find a home.  But scraps aren’t the only items in my sights this year… idle yardage will also get used up wherever and whenever possible.  Example?  I’ve had some American Jane Alphabet fabric in my stash for years, and that fabric is in the process of becoming a border of words that evoke summer for me… a perfect coda for this summer’s string pieced star quilt.

String Pieced StarsPulling together a summertime words border from American Jane Alphabet

John Wayne Always Got The Best One-Liners

It seems forever since I did anything besides paddle around in the deep end of my genealogy pool.  Some people may think that I’m ruthlessly single-minded at times, and that could be a good thing if we were faced with something along the lines of a zombie apocalypse.  But as of this moment in time, in my particular version of reality, that’s not even a blip on the radar.  I do try to journal about things that interest me, and hopefully others as well, but lately I’ve been fully immersed in the whole Ghosts of Family Past thing – fairly heady stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoving along… Stitchin’ Witches Mystery Quilt-Along is complete and I hope she leads another one soon.  The big reveal with assembly and border instructions hit my inbox last month, so I shifted into D (after spending a couple of late winter months in N).  I was already two blocks behind in the project – plus, I’d never gotten around to finishing the signature block.  For those that are interested in how I completed the siggy block, I let my heart make the decision.  I embroidered it by hand, and I’m mightily glad that I did.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Quilt The Stitching Witches Quilt AlongAs for borders… since I was working strictly out of my scrap bin I didn’t have the option of a whole cloth border. So I asked myself what kind of pieced border could I make for a quilt made almost entirely of half-square triangles.  The answer was obvious – more half-square triangles, of course.  I had a few ‘reject’ HSTs left over, and with the aid of the Magic 8 method, the remaining 240-plus went quickly.  I found an alternate method – after the fact, of course – to make 4 perfect HSTs at a time in a Craftsy video.

The pattern for this quilt, minus the HST borders, is Kaye England’s Civil War Legacy.  Overall, I’m very pleased with the way the quilt top turned out, especially since I managed to hold myself to the absolute bare minimum as far as tweaking or modifying blocks.  That’s a very hard impulse for me to control, and in most cases I never-ever try to rein in those “how would it look if” thoughts that go blasting through my brain.  For this one, single, quilt, I managed to follow most of the instructions (yay!).

Finished dimensions: app. 60″ x 78″ (152cm x 198cm).

civilwarlegacy

 

Winter, Say Sayonara… Please

My apologies for the month-long silence.  So what exactly have I been doing?  During my absence I’ve been mostly holding a lot of incredibly boring and one-sided conversations with myself and sleeping through an amazing number of movies.

Con·va·lesce: to become healthy and strong again slowly over time after illness, weakness, or injury.

One quick snip during an emergency surgery rid me of a bothersome appendage, my appendix. Since then, I’ve had plenty of time to peruse the statistics that I didn’t fit neatly into – appendicitis can affect anyone, but it most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years of age.  My best guess is that I’m simply a late bloomer in the extreme.

I was happy-happy when I was released to go home – in my opinion, a hospital is no place for a sick person.  What with the constant chuffing of the IV machine, and the liberal visitation policy (the woman in the next room, 92 years young and quite hard of hearing, still had visitors at 11pm), and the inflating of the automatic blood pressure cuff every five minutes, and the certified nurse’s assistant waking me up at 2am to ask if I wanted to get up and brush my teeth (seriously?), or to record my vitals, and the quick bursts of cackling from the night nurses who were apparently holding a hen party in the hall just down from my room… I couldn’t get home quickly enough.

Oh, I’ll just fess up and admit that I’m probably not an easy patient – at least not until I’m told that I can go home – then it’s smiles for everyone.

Washington's Sidewalk Kaye Egland Civil War Legacy Stitchin' Witches Quilt AlongFeeling much better, thanks, but I find that I now have a whole lot of catching up to do.  As of this morning, I was officially two months behind on Stitchin’ Witches Mystery Quilt Along.  I’ve not done the February segment yet, but I did get the March segment, Washington’s Sidewalk, knocked out – it really was a lot of fun to plan and piece.

North Star Sawtooth Kaye EnglandHere’s my January segment, a sawtooth North Star.  So glad that the instructions for this block arrived before the February interruption.  I’m still waiting for my quilting mojo to return, and I don’t think that I could have done justice to all of those points just yet.  We’re getting so close to a finish, and I’m very excited to see how this mystery quilt will come together.

Barbara Brackman’s newest Civil War quilt along, Threads of Memory, began in late January.  The blocks for this project are 12 inches finished, and when that information was released the crazy woman decided to do two versions, sadly neither is in Civil War reproduction fabrics.  Okay, so I’m more contrary than crazy.

portsmouth star Barbara Brackman Threads of MemoryLike a lot of quilters, I’ve got a scrap bin that’s turned into a bit of a beast.  As a matter of fact, it’s grown so much that it’s overflowed onto what I now term “the scrap table”.  Something needed to be done, and done quickly, so I shopped my scraps and came up with a nice assortment of appropriate bits in red, black and ivory/cream.  Wish me luck on my quest to vanquish the scrap monster, but please note that I never-ever said that I wouldn’t purchase new fabrics while I was trying to reduce the pile o’scraps.

portsmouth star Barbara Brackman Threads of Memory Perhaps I was needing relief from a seemingly never ending winter when I spied the fabric line, Honeysweet by Fig Tree Quilts.  It is so outside of my comfort zone, but I was absolutely smitten from the first moment I saw it.  Whatever the reason, I’m now the proud owner of a layer cake plus some yardage of my favorite prints, and I have the next ten months to make the fabrics work in my world.

That’s it folks, I’m mostly caught up except for a mountain of email.  Toodles for today… this crazy woman is signing off.

Nothing Up My Sleeve… Presto!

butterscotch yellowInterview With A Quilter: by James D. Snoope

I spent the last few miles of my journey checking the rearview mirror, amazed at the rooster tail of red dust that was kicked up in the wake of my rental car.  When not looking back at where I’d been, I focused my attention on where I was going and keeping the small economy car from rattling itself off the washboard road.

I checked my watch, I was still a few minutes early for my appointment.  I’d fought my new boss for this assignment, a much sought after interview with the semi-reclusive quilter, Savannah Threadwell – such an article would be considered a coup in the world of quilt journalism.

A new, leather bound notebook lay open on the seat next to me, a present from my parents after I landed this job, my first real job after college.  I stole a quick glance at the the scribbled driving instructions, nearly missing the last turn in the process.  Gripping the wheel, I made a wide, sliding curve onto the gravel driveway of a rambling red brick house, braking hard to avoid the farm equipment parked there.  The trailing dust cloud caught and enveloped the car – a small blessing, I thought, that I wouldn’t have to see the business end of a bale mover connect with the front end of my car.  It really was a shame that I had declined the extra rental insurance.

In the next moment I realized that the car had not only stopped but stalled, the only sound I heard was the ticking of the engine as it cooled.  When the dust settled, I could see that I had avoided both financial disaster and a K.O. to my budding career.  In my notebook was a photograph that had been procured by our research department and I’d studied it well in preparation for today.  The snapshot had been taken quite a few years before, but there was no doubt in my mind that the woman standing beside the bale mover was Ms. Threadwell herself.

A tall woman.  Her once dark brown hair was worn shorter now, and more than lightly touched with silver.  She was flanked protectively by two yellow-orange dogs.  If they had been cats, the color of their fur would be described as marmalade, but I knew by looking at their hard and alert eyes that no one could ever mistake them for jam sweet doggies.

As I took in the tableau, I noticed that Ms. Threadwell had accessorized carefully for today’s meeting, a shotgun hung easily across her left arm.  With justifiable caution, I climbed out of the rental car and introduced myself, adding, “I’d be wary of casual strangers,too, if I lived as far out in the country as you.”

Savannah Threadwell’s reply didn’t warm me.  She said it quietly, and the words hung heavily in the air before she turned to lead me into her home to begin the interview.  “Strangers don’t scare me.  Zombies do.”

James:  Ms. Threadwell… may I call you Savannah?  I’ve read a lot of stories about the project that you, and many other quilters around the world are working on, a quilt designed by Bonnie Hunter called Celtic Solstice.  I’d like to question you more closely on that subject, but before we begin, could you shed some light on one thing for me?  Did you really say zombies?

Savannah:  Would you like some coffee, Jimmie?  I…

James:  Uh, the name is James.  But maybe you’d be more comfortable calling me Jim.  And thanks, I could use a cup.  Black, please.

Savannah:  Oh, right.  As I started to explain, I don’t worry about strangers so much as I do zombies, Jimmie.  As a point of reference for your readers, I read, and books always make a strong appearance as Christmas gifts.  While what interests me is such a mixed bag – everything from hardboiled detective novels to hard-core science fiction – my one constant is to have a good horror story in the pile.  It really starts the new year off with a bang.  You may not know this, Jimmie, but in the horror market, vampires are un-dead meat, so to speak – zombies are the monsters of choice right now.  So to answer your question, Jimmie, when one has a lively imagination, one must be aware of strangers wandering onto one’s property.  Have one of those peanut butter cookies, Jimmie.

James:  I thought we’d settled on Jim?  Are you trying to say that these books frighten you into paranoid, er, delusions?

Savannah:  Oh no, not paranoid.  Let’s just call it a heightened state of awareness.  Banana bread, Jimmie?

James:  [blink] Okay.  So, regarding your quiltingI’ve heard that Bonnie Hunter hosts a mystery quilt-along every year, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and finishing with the reveal on New Years’ Day with a link-up party after each weekly clue.  This seems very intense.  As a rule, do you always work at such a pace?

Savannah:  Not at all, Jimmie.  I think that I could best be described as a lazy quilter.  I cut a little fabric, I do a little piecing, and I stare at the progress a lot.  If I worked on every quilt as intensely as I do during Bonnie’s mysteries, nothing would ever get done.  You’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that the Christmas tree and holiday decorations still haven’t been taken down.  Then there’s everything that goes along with the general neglect that you see; a lot of meals out of cans, and the drawers are nearly empty of clean laundry.  Well Jimmie, all of that is just an unfortunate by-product of this once a year quilt bash.  Try some of that canned Spam, Jimmie, it’s a treat.

James:  When making a quilt from a designer’s pattern, do you follow the instructions down to the last detail?

Savannah:  Well Jimmie, it’s all about tweaking the pattern to make the quilt your own.  Sometimes it’s something as simple as adding a border of your own design.  At other times, it’s changing up the block pattern just a bit – a variation, a deviation, or perhaps the process could be best described as a mutation.  Mutants!  First there was Godzilla, then Rodan, and now me.  Fudge?

James:  Yes, please.  Have you ever considered an alternative pastime?  What if you could no longer quilt?

Savannah:  Do I have a Plan B?  That’s a very interesting question, Jimmie.  As a matter of fact, I do.  In the past I flirted with several musical instruments; the harmonica, the dulcimer, but it’s the accordion that has always held a special place in my heart.  I’ve often thought that if all else failed, I could rely on my accordion to sustain me.  Have you noticed how much airtime the song Shipping Up To Boston by Dropkick Murphy’s has been getting lately?  It was used to great effect in Scorsese’s film, The Departed, but now the song has been featured in a mainstream beer commercial – that’s the accordion for you.  Some Vienna sausages, Jimmie?

James:  And your husband, your family, and your friendsare they as supportive as you hoped they would be?  What do they think of your passion for quilting after all these years?

Savannah:  Nuts.

James:  Thanks, but that fudge really filled me up.

Savannah:  No Jimmie, that was in answer to your question.  Nuts… as in nutty.  Everyone I know thinks I’m barmy.  Fruitcake, Jimmie?

celtic solstic bonnie hunter reveal[Edit.: I have one more border to add yet, a scrappy green border that didn’t get done in time for the last link-up party – close, but no cigar.  My version of Celtic Solstice with an extra border will finish at 83″, or 210.82 cm. square.]

I Like Red… A Lot

redwork embroidery toujours l'amour french market threads need'l loveThe color red always makes me hungry… apples, beets, cayenne pepper, cherries, cranberries, currants, guava, kidney beans, pomegranates, radishes, red bell peppers, red cabbage, red plums, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon – yum!  So how many more food items have I left off the list?

Is there anything more truly luscious than red?

It doesn’t much matter the tone – I like reds anywhere from the reddish-pink to a very nearly burgundy red.  Currently (and that gets me thinking about that red of a different color), I favor the tomato red.

I like reds in hand embroidery.  The image above is a piece of redwork that I finished (mumble) years ago and it’s been languishing in a UFO drawer ever since.  I know that it wants to become a pillow, and I’ve been waiting somewhat patiently for inspiration to strike, but it better strike soon or I’ll have to start referring to this piece as my vintage redwork.  And what if it begins to compost… (gasp)?

If you’re curious, the pattern is from a Needl’l Love book called French Market Threads, and happily it’s still in publication.  There are a lot of fun projects inside, including some quilts that are still on my to-do list.

I like reds in a quilt, too.  Anything from itty bitty pieces in a scrap quilt, to an entirely red quilt (with some neutrals tossed in just because).

Kansas Troubles Kaye Egland Civil War Legacy Stitchin' Witches Quilt AlongAnd as of today, I am all caught up with Stitchin’ Witches Quilt Along.  I have officially pressed the last seam in segment #8, Kansas Troubles. I had the idea that perhaps this would be the segment where I toned down the reds somewhat.  Wrong again.  If anything, I think that I added more red prints than before – that green almost looks like an oversight.

split triangles bonnie hunter celtic solstice mystery 2013No, it’s not red, but I do like orange as well.  I’m still plugging away at the components for Bonnie Hunter’s mystery quilt, Celtic Solstice.  I’ve got everything finished in Parts 1-4, but a mere 5 of the split triangle units for Part 5 are completed (sorry – that doesn’t make for much in the way of scrappy variety for the photo).  I only need 100 total of this particular component, and I’m positive that I can get the remaining 95 knocked out easy before Part 6 goes live on Friday morning.

We’re getting so close to Bonnie’s reveal.

mikado tomatoo seed packetPS – Barbara Brackman has given us a heads-up on a new Civil War BOM that begins January 25, 2014.  I haven’t quite decided for sure, but I’m wavering.

I’m such a soft touch when a quilt along is mentioned.

Are You All Right, Mr. Scrooge?

snowbelle 003The wee snow-lady above is called Snow Belle.  She was designed by Susan Fuquay and made by me way back in 2005, so she isn’t one of my newer quilts – on the contrary she’s a retread.  But aren’t many of our holiday traditions and decorations retreads?  We haul them down out of the attic, or from a high shelf in a closet or garage year after year.  The season would seem a little off kilter if I didn’t bring out the well used, and in some cases, the tired and faded components of what constitutes Christmas in our home.

Would it really be Christmas without the tawdry little yarn snowmen I made for our Christmas tree the year we were married?  And the egg ornaments, decoupaged with brightly colored calicoes, from that same year?  Christmas traditions come in many forms; the cinnamon apples at dinner when a certain brother-in-law comes to visit, peanut butter cookies and peanut brittle for my sisters, and let’s not forget the Christmas movies – they’re the gravy on the mashed potatoes, the ice cream on the apple pie, the melty marshmallows on the candied yams, the aristocracy of retreads… or at least they are in my world.

fredschristmaspartyIt doesn’t matter how much decorating goes on around the house, the holiday season hasn’t officially begun until I screen the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim.

What in particular do I love about this movie?  For one, the soundtrack is exceptional.  How about the music played by the fiddlers at Mr. Fezziwig’s Christmas Party?  The name of that ditty is Sir Roger de Coverley, and I dare you not to tap your toes when you hear it played.  There isn’t a better musical introduction for the Ghost of Christmas Present than Oranges and Lemons to convey a child’s sense of wonder and plenty.  Then the hauntingly beautiful song, Barbara Allen.  It was played as background throughout the movie, and sung as a duet at Fred’s Christmas party.

Oohoohooh – and what about Mrs. Dilber’s happy shout, “Bob’s yer uncle!” when Scrooge, for the first time, gives his charwoman a Christmas present?  (Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel)

Is this way more about A Christmas Carol than you ever wanted to know?  Okay… moving along.

rudolph2A Christmas Carol must be followed immediately by the Max Fleischer cartoon, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, from 1944.

After that, it’s Katie, bar the door… the evenings leading up to the big day are filled, in no particular order, with Scrooged (1988), A Christmas Story (1983), White Christmas (1954), Christmas In Connecticut (1945), Holiday Inn (1942) which  happens to be the Mister’s least favorite, Penny Serenade (1941), and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

One last thought:  It’s odd, but Snow Belle has never made it out of the sewing room.  Oh, she gets moved to the front of the stack of little quilts so I can spy her whenever I walk past, but perhaps this year will finally be her year to shine.

Well Begun, But Not Quite Finished

Clue #4 of Bonnie Hunter’s mystery, Celtic Solstice was published last Friday.  All the strip sets have been joined and cut, but sadly, only 80 of the required 120 4-patches have been finished.  My excuse?  …..Christmas!  Hopefully, I’ll get the remaining 40 finished before next Friday.  Then again?  Maybe not.

4patches 002

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.  Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~  Andy Rooney

Yay! It’s Ugly Sweater Season

theuglysweatershopLike a large part of the US this past week, it’s been cold enough to be considered sweater weather here in SW Oklahoma.  We had a little freezing rain, some sleet, and for us, a whole lot of snow.  Enough snow that the small town bank where I work didn’t open for business one day.  A snow day for adults (woot!).

The snow has finally melted in the last few days, turning our dirt road into a muddy bog – but even with the extra play day that saw me hunkered down in the house with our two dogs, I find that the closer it gets to Christmas the more hurdles there are trying to keep up with ongoing and time critical projects. No surprises there.

Stitchin’ Witch has sent out the instructions for Segment 8 of her mystery sampler.  The pattern is Kansas Troubles, a beautiful block, but I haven’t had the time to even contemplate fabrics or color placement.  Perhaps I can make some progress later on this week.

bonnie hunter celtic solstice part 3 pinwheel hstNote to self: use more pinwheels in future quilts.

Part 3 of Bonnie Hunter’s Celtic Solstice mystery project posted the morning of Friday the 13th, which as it happened, turned out to be a wild and wooly day at work.  In addition, it was just a couple of nights away from a full moon.  Perhaps it was those two events so near to each other that caused things to get so weird around the edges.  At any rate… after all of the bizarre and curious events of Friday, I decided that rotary cutting would be better left until the weekend.

For the small quilt, we were required to make 200 HSTs, using 100 to make twenty-five 3.5″ (8.89 cm) pinwheels, reserving the remainder to use somewhere else in the quilt.  Every time I make pinwheels, I’m reminded of how much I like pinwheels.

This time last year – while working on Bonnie’s Easy Street mystery – I fell behind, eventually finishing up weeks after most of the other participants.  I’m determined to stay on target with this year’s project, so I cut on Saturday and pieced on Sunday, putting a period to this segment.

We finally have enough components to start playing around with.  The yellow floral stands in for the unknown parts of the blocks – with so many possibilities, it’s a guessing game.  In all probability I’m way off base, but use a little imagination to fill in the blanks…

cstar

cshedgescsmaybeI’ve added a photo (and link) from Bonnie Hunter’s website.  The image below is a portion of the floor from Christ Church in Dublin, Ireland.  It’s easy to see that Bonnie was inspired by the palette.  More than that?  Only time will tell.

bonniehunterchristchurchdublinfloor

The Marquee Should Have Read: Welcome Back

Welcome Quilt Festival Houston 2013It’s such a good thing that I don’t go to Houston, Texas for the International Quilt Festival every year.  No, seriously, if I made the pilgrimage annually, I’d be in a constant state of quilting induced poverty.

As it is, I’ve certainly gone over my quilting budget for this fiscal year, and it’s highly likely that I’ve depleted my quilting fund for the next few years… yeah, that’s very probable.  It’s the last day of the festival that gets me.  The day when the vendors give fairly deep discounts so they won’t have to pack up the remaining stock and schlep it back to home base, wherever that might be (and there were all those shiny long arm machines singing a siren song).  Lucky for me I have a large stash and plenty of supplies.

vendorhallaThe photo above is just a small portion of the vendor hall, and it truly is a quilters paradise.  Does the floor look empty to you?  Good reason for that.  The photo was taken before the opening bell.  Try to imagine this with 60-odd thousand quilters in here over a four day period.

Crazy and awesome all at the same time.

It’s the perfect opportunity to stock up on all of the necessary notions, and believe me, you can find it all here: a rainbow of threads, machine and hand sewing needles for every occasion, and rulers, and gadgets, and patterns, and fabric of course.  Fabric pre-cut in fat quarters, half yards, and full yards.  Fabric on the bolt.  New fabric, hard to find fabric, hand dyed fabric.  Cottons, wools, and silks.  Classes and lectures on nearly any quilting technique that you ever wanted to learn.  Conversations being held in English with accents from assorted countries, French, Spanish, Japanese, and a few that I had an inkling about, but couldn’t identify for sure.

There was an ooh-shiny-pogoing-up-and-down-on-the-tips-of-my-toes moment every time I turned my head.  It’s nearly impossible not to return home inspired and ready to quilt… and slickly separated from your money.

But it’s worth every penny spent.

fromconventioncenter1

Houston, Texas Sunrise Quilt Festival 2013It was such a treat to be back in a city again.  All the people, the traffic, the noise, the restaurants, and don’t even forget the posh hotels.

Waking up early in the morning humming with the anticipation of goodies not yet seen.  Entire days filled with nothing that wasn’t quilt related.  I ate, drank, talked, slept, and breathed all things quilty.

Adult beverages and a pizza party in the hotel room in the evening because no one had any energy remaining to decide on where to eat.  For dessert?  Tumbling out each others spoils of the day so we could admire, and covet, and discuss.

I’d also like to mention that it’s some kind of treat when you wake up the next morning to the smell of leftover pizza – even though after my sister-in-law and her daughter-in-law had toddled back to their own room, I stashed all the detritus in the closet and shut the door tightly.

I’d like to send out a special note of appreciation to one who shall not be named, but whose name rhymes with Donnell, who put up with all the 50s, 60s, and other assorted classic vinyl music on the road to Houston, and who never complained once while Gracie and I sang along at the top of our not-so-tuneful lungs.  I sure hope that she’s still speaking to me.  I think she deserves a road trip name.

Did I forget anything?  Maybe a little something about the juried quilt show itself?  I won’t even try to describe the caliber of artistry there, but I will leave you with some images.  Have some fun trying to puzzle out what kind of quilting interests me.  There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to what caught my eye – as you’ll see, I was all over the board.

PicMonkey Collage1bonesPicMonkey Collage2

Do You Ever Wonder Why?

Sitting here this morning, curiously wondering how some quilt blocks got their names.  Occasionally, the name suits the block and other times the name makes no sense whatever.  Ohio Cluster is the name of this block – the cluster part I get.  But Ohio?

According to folklore, the Ohio Cluster block was used by abolitionists as an indicator pointing north towards freedom on the Underground Railroad.  Note my use of the word, folklore.  Although there was certainly a network of routes and safe houses in place during the 19th century, many quilt historians and scholars of antebellum America have questioned whether quilt codes were fact or fiction.

Ohio Cluster Stitching Witches QAL FlickrWhat else am I working on besides the Stitching Witches QAL?  Later this week I plan on a run down to Houston for the International Quilt Festival.  In anticipation of being completely stoked about all things quilt related, I’m pre-cutting fabrics for a take along project.  I wanted something interesting, yet small-ish, so I decided to pick from my ‘gosh-I-really-need-to-do-this’ list; a semi-vintage pattern that was last published in the Kansas City Star in 1977.

Why semi-vintage?  Because I was around in 1977 – coincidentally, I was in Kansas City in 1977 – and if I dropped the ‘semi’ part, that would be conceding that I’m vintage, too.  As if.

Democratic Donkey

A Donkey pattern similar to this was published in the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1931. The pattern was published in response to requests for a pattern representative of the Democratic party, due to the upcoming 1932 presidential election. “Giddap, A Very Democratic Donkey” was designed by the Ladies’ Aid Society at the Sedalia, Missouri, Congregational Church. Kansas City Star patterns were syndicated in many other states, making the Donkey pattern available to many people. — Great Lakes Quilt Center, Michigan State University Museum

And in case you haven’t seen what we have lurking in our pasture… here are Pepper and Donkey Hotie (pronounced Don Quixote), the inspirations for my version of the “Giddap” quilt.

Donkey

Still Living It Up With Color

Quilting in serial form.  Ever tried it?  Most folks call it a quilt-along, but it is after all, October, and I’m feeling like a serial quilter – ooh, scary.  On offer today is the next installment in the exciting saga of The Stitching Witches Quilt Along.

First up is the Montgomery segment.  This is to be our ‘signature’ block, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to put in the blank space at the center of the block.  Wait.  Let me clarify that last statement: I have all kinds of ideas of what I’d like to put there, but I’ll have to do a little winnowing before I can fit what I’d like to see in that small space.  Then there’s the application method: Pigma Pen? – that’s the easy route – Or hand embroidery?  Decisions, decisions.

Spoiler Alert: the pen will end up the winner… guaranteed.

Montgomery Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsNext is Yankee Pride.  I don’t usually have large prints suitable for a fussy cut center hanging around in my stash, but I turned up a floral that worked just fine.  I may have erred when selecting fabrics for this block, in particular, the small leaf print that I used to border the red star.  In hindsight, I probably should’ve used a fabric with higher contrast.  But do I think that the low contrast is enough to cry do over?  Nope.  I adore that wee print, so it’ll stay.

Yankee Pride Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsTune in next week for another installment… same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Batman Quilt Along Stitching Witches October 1966

Warning: Sunglasses May Be Required

The year long quilting party celebrating the Fight For Women’s Rights is over.  Now what?  For starters, I have no projects in mind that include yellow.  I’ve also joined another QAL, but this time I’m making a scrap quilt.  Am I having fun with it?  Boy Howdy!

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Quilt The Stitching Witches Quilt AlongIt’s such a relief to wallow in color again.  I’ve been diving into my fabric bins and pulling out bits and pieces and yardage in reds and greens and browns.  The only other restriction that I have is that the fabrics must have fun together.  So far so good.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt AlongPulling fabrics for a scrap quilt can be likened to a surprise visit from an old friend.  In the photo above I see several fabrics from two different quilts that were made for my nieces.  Loved the fabrics then, still lovin’ them when they pop in again.

You might want to link over to Flickr and browse the group pool at The Stitching Witches Quilt Along, which is hosted by the one, the only, the original, Stitchin’ Witch.  What?  You were expecting someone else?

While you’re there, you might want to consider joining our group – don’t be shy, there aren’t any divas to be found among us, and it’s not too late to catch up.  All the details can be found at the Flickr Group, but in a nutshell: it’s a Mystery Quilt Along, and once a month on or about the 13th, Stitchin’ Witch will email you the pattern and instructions for the next segment.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt Along

Block Forty-Nine: An Arc

An Arc Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's ChoiceAn Arc: Bending Towards Justice, signals the end of Grandmother’s Choice: The Fight For Women’s Rights quilt project.  Barbara Brackman, quilt and textile historian, has generously given us a block a week for forty-nine weeks, accompanied by short history lessons focusing on women’s suffrage around the world.

Admittedly, the subject is one that fires my interest, and although women are enfranchised in many countries, voting isn’t the end of story.  We still have a long road ahead of us before we can say that we are truly on an equal footing with men, not only in the workplace, but in our daily lives.  This last bit is what helped me finish the Grandmother’s Choice quilt project in a way that I’d not imagined.

Grandmother's Choice Barbara BrackmanDuring the course of the project, I’d been busily planning the layout of my quilt, tweaking the overall concept until I was well satisfied with the design, or so I thought.  Additional fabrics were selected for the setting squares, my math was double-checked, and I settled in to begin the final step of making a quilt top.  As I progressed, my excitement faded, the quilt was not making me happy.

I tried different fabrics and values in the setting squares, but still, no happiness was forthcoming.  I persevered, sure that I had hit some kind of wall in the design process and it would work itself out by the time I was ready to add the borders.  I kept laboring on it until at last – huzzah! – the field was finished, and there it hung on the design wall.  What was my reaction?  I turned my back on it and walked away.  The quilt top was flat, bland, and uninteresting.  Boring.  Time to work out the problem without the disappointment of the unfinished quilt top staring back at me.

Capital T Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice I continued to check in on the Grandmother’s Choice Flickr group from time to time, watching as the completed quilt tops came trickling into the group photo pool.  I missed the camaraderie of our Saturday morning group.  Together, we had worked through the challenges occasionally thrown our way, applauded each other’s successes, commiserated and made gentle suggestions when we failed.

One day, I was musing and drifting, thinking about all the women we had learned about over the course of the last year, when the proverbial light bulb finally winked on.  We didn’t win the right to vote through the work of any single woman, but through the execution of the battle plans of many women working shoulder-to-shoulder to achieve a single goal.

Girl's Joy Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's ChoiceThere was a large problem with my quilt, but the solution was simple – scratch the setting squares – all of that extra fabric simply made them shine out as individuals.  The blocks in my quilt needed to be set together, shoulder-to-shoulder so to speak.  You know what happened next… all of the sewing needed to be undone.

My trusty seam ripper and I became the best of friends for a time, but this has allowed me to become reacquainted with some of my favorite blocks.  Many of the instructions that Barbara gave us have found a permanent home in my pattern book to be used another day, in another quilt.

My version of the “Grandmother’s Choice: The Fight For Women’s Rights” quilt project finishes at approximately 68″ x 79″ – or 172.7cm x 200.6cm.

GC5

Block Thirty-Three: Not-So-Contrary Husband

contraryhusbandActually, the name of this week’s block is Contrary Husband, and Barbara Brackman selected this block to remind us that not so long ago, it didn’t matter how rotten a man was, if you married him, you were stuck.

Any property you brought to the marriage became his.  Money?  You guessed it, his.  Land?  His.  If you had children with him and decided to leave him?  Yeah, he got the offspring, too.  What if he beat you?  That was your tough luck, because your family and society in general were just as likely to turn a blind eye to his execrable behavior as well your bruises and broken bones.  Divorce you say?  That wasn’t happening either.  The callous old saying, “you made your bed, now lie in it,” seems so much more cruel used in this context.

I’m in such a good mood, I believe that I’ll pull a Scarlett O’Hara regarding this week’s block topic – I’ll think about it tomorrow.  We’re on vacation this week and we’ve been having some high times around the home place.  I’ve had the opportunity to get some flower beds cleaned out and seeded, and the dogs are enjoying the extra freedom.  The donkeys are ready to get shed of their winter coats – it’s amazing how long they’ll stand still when I have a brush in my hand – and one of the two people that live here has been battling the epic number of tumbleweeds dropped on our place by the last few windstorms (psst… it hasn’t been me).

Barbara Brackman Grandmother's Choice Contrary Husband Template

Ms. Brackman’s pattern called for a solid square in the center, but I couldn’t leave it there.  That large center patch was crying out for me to be contrary and add my own touch… why not?

Blocks Thirty-One And Thirty-Two

What, another twofer?  Yes – seeing as how two weeks ago my iron did a full gainer off the ironing board (long story having to do with my bigoldfatone).  That one event put a halt to all things quilt related, and it took so stinkin’ long for the replacement dry iron to arrive.  Methinks the vendor made a tidy little profit on shipping costs judging by the length of time it took to get here vs. the $$ I paid.

Block Thirty-One: Tinted Chains

The title Tinted Chains, refers to the circumscribed lives of women who were bound to husbands, families, and homes; chattel, denied the right to voice an opinion at the polls.

I pulled in a new fabric, a medium gold plaid, to replace the orange fabric that I 86ed.  No matter how hard I coaxed, the orange just wouldn’t play nice.  I probably spent more time auditioning fabrics for the Tinted Chains block than it took to make, but I do admire the finished piece.

Tinted Chain Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

Block Thirty-Two: Mr. Roosevelt’s Necktie

The block is called Mr. Roosevelt’s Necktie in reference to the Bull Moose (Progressive) Party’s use of the women’s suffrage plank in the failed 1908 presidential race.

Is it a necktie?  Or is it a doggy treat?  My first impression of this pattern was a dog bone – try as I might, I can’t get that image out of my head.  I’m all about the more traditional bow tie pattern, and I admit that I’ve reached the point where I actually kind of enjoy Y-seams, but I don’t mind adding a variation to my pattern book.

Mr. Roosevelt's Necktie Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

Much can be done by law towards putting women on a footing of complete and entire equal rights with man – including the right to vote, the right to hold and use property, and the right to enter any profession she desires on the same terms as the man… Women should have free access to every field of labor which they care to enter, and when their work is as valuable as that of a man it should be paid as highly.  Theodore Roosevelt, 1913

Have You Ever Been Beguiled By A Color?

Recently, I was at La Ruche des Quilteuses reading a post regarding the flax plant.  The original post is in French – thank you Google Translate – and it was there that I saw the photograph.  To say that my jaw dropped would be a very poor description.  Smitten?  Certainly, but it was more, I was amazed, thunderstruck, gobsmacked, and yes, beguiled, by the watery greens in a field of flax in bloom.

I found myself drawn back to that photo repeatedly.  I decided that I wanted to celebrate the color the best way I knew how, with textiles, in a quilt.  I confess that I am a green lover, and you won’t find a shortage of greens in my fabric stash, but I was looking for a very particular color of green.

I spent hours burrowing through every bin, box and bag of fabric that I own, and then I found it.  A length of vintage fabric that I’d picked up for a song a few years ago.  It was one of those fabrics purchased without even the foggiest idea of what it was going to be used in.

Seen up close, the fabric is a particularly virulent poison green overlaid with a grass green on white, but when you stand back it all blends into a gentle watery green.

Once I had my treasure at home, I kept trying to use it in a variety of scrappy style quilts, without success.  It looked wretched with everything.  The last time that I had it out attempting to make it play nice with all the other fabrics, I folded it up and with a sigh I put it away.

I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be seeing that fabric surface again for a while.

But here it was on the cutting table – unfolded and seemingly compliant – what if I just kept it simple (stupid) and paired it with white?  For a pattern, I could use a two-block combination, Snowball and Nine-Patch.  The pairing is a little old fashioned, but when used together it makes a dandy flower pattern, plus, I’d have all of that lovely negative space to work with when the time came to quilt it.

And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.   — Groucho Marx: A Night At The Opera (1935)

We don’t have a season that most folks would call Autumn here in SW Oklahoma.  No glorious show of color to bring down the curtain on a growing season.  We do have Fall, if by that definition you mean that all the leaves turn brown and fall on the ground (it usually happens overnight accompanied by a crash).  And of course the wind was up when I wanted a morning shot to play up the soft color in the quilt top.  No surprises here, the wind always blows in SW Oklahoma.  The only place outside that I could find where the top would hang and not flap, was the lee side of the donkey’s loafing shed.

While it’s not a perfect replica of flax green, ‘I done my best’ with what I had, and I was able to use up every last scrap of that lovely poison green.  No more frustrating moments trying to force this fabric to be a member of the chorus when all it truly ever wanted was to be a diva.

English: Sibyl Sanderson, American opera sopra...

Sibyl Sanderson 1864 – 1903 American opera soprano

Pretensions: A Quilter’s Haiku

In my world, quilting is a humble art. Originally, it was an article made for the home, something to cover a bed, warm the body, filler for a blanket chest or linen closet. Today quilting has blossomed into an art form. Fiber artists have taken the basic utility item and turned it into a fabulous creation of the imagination. But whether you make traditional quilts or art quilts, it’s a pastime that can overtake every moment in life, awake and asleep. Here’s the admission – I quilt.

Fabrics fragmented then sewn together
united with thread in a pattern imagined
warm the body and soul.

Quilting: A Cog In The Economic Machine

Once upon a time, home sewing was an economical way to put clothes on your back or decorate your home. Have you checked out the prices of fabrics lately? Granted, the so-called quilt quality fabrics are very nice, but hasn’t anyone besides me noticed that the price per yard has gone through the roof? I’ve seen some really beautiful fabric this year… at $11 a yard.

So you want to make a quilt big enough to sleep under.  8-10 yards to make the top, the back and the binding for a quilt, (oh come on, you can do the math here).  Crazy!

I am a ruler addict. I’ve got big ones, little ones, square rulers, rectangular rulers. Rulers to cut diamonds. Rulers to cut hexagons. Rulers rule.

Earlier this year I read an interesting book on quilting, Making History: Quilts & Fabric From 1890-1970 by Barbara Brackman. I highly recommend the book, an informative and entertaining read, a nice little overview of fabrics used in American quilts.

Have you seen How To Make An American Quilt? It has a stellar cast, Ann Bancroft, Alfre Woodard, Jean Simmons, Maya Angelou and Ellen Burnstyn for starters. Add Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney to the mix and what’s not to love? Beautiful cinematography. Warning: watching this movie while you piece will guarantee you a soggy block, so keep a box of tissues handy – a definite weeper.

Speaking of movies and quilts, have you ever noticed how many quilts are staged in movie sets? For me, quilts convey a sense of home, of comfort, and describe a basic sense of levelheadedness in a character. Look for them and you can spot quilts everywhere, in movies about urban dwellers (You’ve Got Mail), westerns (The Angel and the Badman), and period fantasy pieces (Nanny McPhee).

angelbadman

I wonder if Kevin Bacon has ever co-starred with a quilt and where exactly, would that lead me today?