Category Archives: Quilting

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