Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Final Week - 53 Union Shield

This week's block is one that Barbara Brackman designed for this project. She explained that during the era, shields would have been appliqued. Perhaps she got too many complaints about applique, because she gave us a pieced shield to make.

She recommended a starry blue fabric for the upper portion of the design, but I didn't have a suitable one. I did have my Lincoln toile though! Since I only used him in a small strip in the Log Cabin block back in February, he was not quite given the place of honor he needed for a quilt by a quilter born in Illinois, made for family still living there. Here I get to use the entire Lincoln and the wreath that surrounds him.

I redrew the block at 9 inches in EQ to make it simple to make an uneven number of stripes, then I printed it at 8 inches for paper piecing. Staying with the florals I started this project with, I'm happier with my block that I thought I would be when I first saw the design.

And that concludes the blocks for the Civil War Block of the Week/2011. I'll be posting more pictures as I work on the quilt for Roger and Laurie in the coming weeks. One of the blocks will not fit in my 52-block layout. I thought I knew which one would be left out, but now I'm not sure. Decisions will come when I see how I like the blocks with the sashing and cornerstones.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Joyce's Quilt - update

I managed to get the next phase of Joyce's quilt top pieced even with too much help from Moki. The quilt-in-progress was last seen when I was in Chicago for Roger and Laurie's wedding. At that time, I got one corner put together while Joyce worked out the layout for the color gradation with help from her daughter Niki. To keep their work intact, I brought it home with all the pieces pinned to a sheet.

Even though the pieces looked beautiful, there's something more special when you get them sewn together. This view is turned 90 degrees from how Joyce intends to use it.

Lily is proving she's a cat - I laid this out on the bed first and she was there, then I brought it downstairs and she was was in the photos here as well.

Now it's up to Joyce (currently on a cruise vacation with her family) to decide on the border fabrics so I can finish this up! Her last quilt had a gradation of blues for an inner border about three inches wide, and solid black to drape over the edge of the bed. We used Vicki's black-white gradation for those triangle insets - and a red-blue one supplemented all the fabrics we had for the pieced colored areas. So Joyce may be able to find something she likes in Vicki's shop for that border.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Week 52 - Christmas Star

Happily, this block was slightly modified to make it very nice to piece at 8 inches.

Barbara Brackman gives several other names for this block, among them Wedding Ring. Since this quilt is to be Roger and Laurie's wedding gift from Norris and me, I didn't worry about the Christmas coloring. I put the red color in the center because I had the right size rose motif to feature there.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dorry's Mystery Quilt

I quilted this Mystery Quilt for Dorry a couple of weeks ago - It arrived at her house today, so I can post photos.

Here's the concept of a mystery quilt: A leader instructs the participants to gather up a certain amount of fabrics using some formula - but without describing or showing them the design they are making. They only know approximately what size the finished quilt will be. The leader then doles out instructions and the quilters just have to start cutting and assembling fabric pieces with very little idea of how this is going to turn out. Dorry's came out very pretty!

Here's a closeup of the piecing and quilting - the stars have a sort of fish-hook based design. I was inspired by some Maori carving art Dorry shared with me.

Keeping that theme, I used a photo of a Maori tattooed arm for the border design.

Here's the back where the overall quilting scheme stands out.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I didn't think of anything original to call this quilt, so the label says it is "Winter Trees."

I was very happy with the way the quilting came out. Here are some closeups of the stitching on the silk areas. I used a variety of leaf designs and backgrounds.

On the left in the above photo is an Ann Bright design and on the right is a stencil. All the pieced blocks are stitched with the freehand wavy diagonal lines visible around the silk pieces in these closeups.

The design below is adapted from a pantograph. I really like the freehand vertical lines - they were fast and easy so I'll use that idea again.

This fern is also a stencil design. Our kitten Lily tried to help and one of the leaves is misshapen, but I left it that way in her honor.

These oak leaves and acorns came from a book of quilting designs that I was given by a friend who was retiring and downsizing.

Here are a few more pantographs and stand alone designs.

The design on the pale blue-green below was freehand tree-trunks and with leaves and little broken-off branches. On the right is a portion of a pantograph I designed using leaves I picked up outside and more freehand leaves, large and small.

There - photos of most of the silk areas. My main goal with this quilt was to quilt on larger pieces of silk. I used silk thread. It turns out the shiny silk fabric made quilting extremely easy even with the nearly invisible silk thread. My eye could so readily follow my previous stitching lines, which is not always the case, particularly on prints. Even prints that read as solids can pose problems that the satiny silk did not. But you would not want to make mistakes and have to rip out much: If you snag satin, it would certainly show. I only had to remove stitches once or twice when I ran out of bobbin thread and wanted to take the stitching line back to a less conspicuous area of the design for the join.

Each silk piece was backed with a very sheer fusible interfacing to make construction easier. I was a little afraid it would reduce the impact of the quilting, as it did make a difference in the hand of the silk. Happily, whatever it did, the quilting still stands out.

I used two layers of batting, with a polyester batt on top of a cotton batt pieced from remnants. The poly helps with the pouf, as does the second layer. To help the quilt lie flat after all the quilting and finishing, I steam my quilts. I steamed the front side, where the poly is first - it did not help at all and the quilt was very wavy and would have been embarrassing to show hanging up. Steaming the back side where the cotton batting is made all the difference, though it could use a little more work -- I was anxious to see the finished product and hung it up before the quilt was completely cool and dry!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week 51 - New York

Who would have thought this block would be called "New York?"

Well, my photo appears a bit skewed. I didn't have the right shaped piece of any fabric with stars on navy - Actually I may never have bought star prints of any color for my quilts. Happily, my joint projects with Joyce left me with a single strip of these stars on navy, so I decided to paper piece the block with the star in the corner. I drafted it at 9 inches in EQ, then printed it to finish at 8 inches. In my haste, I forgot EQ does not automatically print the templates in reverse and started merrily piecing. I didn't realize my error until I was ready to put the stripes together. Since I had to pick out some short-stitch-length seams and put it back together I see there's room for improvement in my seam matching. But I'll wait to see how I feel about that in the morning.

As with the Peterson's star, it bothered me that the bottom stripe is not red and there were going to be an even number of stripes. Therefore, I chose my brown and white printed fabric for that stripe so it's less white. Makes me happier this way anyway.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week 50 - Grapes of Wrath

This week's inspiration was Julia Ward Howe's lyrics for The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Since we all love the hymn with its stirring words, this block must go in the quilt (I'll be dropping one block because there are 53 Saturdays this year, and my layout uses 52 blocks.) Since I'm not using purple for this quilt, I decided I could use the music-themed navy blue print I used once before to remind myself the block is about the song.

(I rotated my block in software to orient the basket correctly.)

Since I am not crazy about basket blocks, I went all out and made the more complicated version, courtesy of EQ and Blockbase. Yeah, making the harder version makes no sense at all. And my fabric choices probably don't seem right to a traditional eye. Both times I found this in my references, it was illustrated with a light-colored fabric where I used the brown on white print. I worried that a light fabric there would just look like holes in the basket of grapes, so I picked a busier light. I figured there were supposed to be leaves someplace in the basket, but I couldn't figure out where they might go. Still, I chose to add my seldom-selected green fabric here for that reason.

I think next time I would be smarter, and would cut and piece the many half-square triangle elements oversized and then cut them down for greater accuracy. Cutting to 1-16th of an inch is really not my thing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blue-eyed kitten - blue yarn

So what am I knitting now? It's a large throw that is going to take a while longer than a sweater. I started it at the same time as the fingerless-mitts I showed recently.

A few weeks ago, little Lily could not leave the ball of yarn alone - even digging in the project bag to pull it out and start trotting away with it. So the mitts were completed while very little was accomplished on the throw. The mitt yarn did not seem to create the attractive nuisance this one does, and the smaller project was easier to hide away.

But Lily can sit next to the yarn now and leave it alone. You can't see her eyes in this lighting, but she will look very pretty on this throw.

And I know any cat would love it - they like quilts, but fuzzier wooly things are even better.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 49 Yankee Puzzle

I wouldn't have thought of the brown and pink color scheme for Yankee Puzzle - I might have chosen a red and blue one, but we were supplied with the idea of pink and brown, so I made mine pink and brown.

A nice and easy block this week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 48 - West Virginia

As has happened with other blocks for this quilt, we have a slightly different block than the original West Virginia to work with, to make it easier to piece in the 8 inch size. This time it's a pretty substitute:

Four "y" seams later... I did not use the cutting instructions provided. I had to double check in EQ and indeed that's what is provided (though with a bit more accuracy, it is a 1 15/16 inch strip vs a 1 7/8 for the parallelogram.) But it looked to me like those would have bias edges on the outside of the block. It might be nice if you were working with a stripe, but I wasn't so I cut mine from 2.5 inch strips - and the result is a nice square block that will finish at 8 inches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Several firsts

Here's the story on my latest knitting project completed.

The yarn came from New Zealand - it was a gift from Dorry's sister Kerry who lives in New Zealand. I quilted a Round Robin quilt for her earlier this year and blogged about it here. I can't remember anyone ever giving me yarn before - other than my mother when she taught me to knit years ago. The yarn is a "limited edition" blend of mohair, nylon, and merino wool. I don't know if there are any vendors in North America carrying their yarns - perhaps some of their main lines, but not this one!

It came with the patterns pictured on the box - I had been thinking I'd like a pair of fingerless mitts. The pattern gave directions for three lengths. I made the medium to be able to tuck into long sleeves or cover my arm when wearing with a long sleeved tee like the one I have on in the photos.

I've never had fingerless gloves before, and I've certainly never made any kind of hand wear. Isn't this practical?

It was a fun knit - quick and easy - and I may be the only one wearing them this winter in this hemisphere.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Feathered and Other Fine Friends

I posted photos of this international round robin quilt while I was working on the rays in the upper left part a while back. The quilting is finally finished and it is bound - though not show ready (needs blocking and there's no label or hanging sleeve).

This is how I resolved the quilting in the rays - there's a little alternating curl in the parts that were too narrow for leaves. The rays generally turned out to be more elaborate than I planned, but I like them!

I was also pleased with the way this next photo turned out (I just like the background with rocks and trees). I think you can see the oak leaves in the gray border on the right if you click for the higher resolution photo.

For the rest of the quilting, I started at the bottom with oak leaves, a pine forest and pine boughs, a deer, and a bear - and started doing some freehand leaves and echoes. Then came some cats, a hummingbird and a cardinal, a rooster, flowers, and a music staff. All of these designs were from books of quilting designs my parents gave me when I was quilting for others. I used things I like and took cues from the "I Spy" inclusions in the blocks to choose the motifs. The details didn't show up too well in photos, so I'm not posting all of them.

I was running out of ideas by the time I got to the top, but the little Kiwi inspired some fern fills and the precious Merino sheep needed to be fenced in.

It seemed like there were a lot of quilted feathers, the quilt was made for a round robin, and then there were birds as a repeating motif in the blocks and quilting, so the working name for the quilt so far is my post title, "Feathered and Other Fine Friends." The "other" refers mainly to my quilting friends - but includes all the creatures on the quilt.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Week 47 - Dixie Tea

I think I've always seen this block called Maple Leaf - although that's silly, it doesn't have enough lobes to be a Maple Leaf. But for the purposes of our 150th anniversary of the war, Dixie Tea is a good way to think about it.

I'm getting used to cutting 3 3/16ths inch squares at this stage of the game.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Week 46 - Apple Tree

As I've stated here before, quilt blocks that use triangles and squares to represent organic objects are not my favorites. However, this week's Apple Tree, chosen to represent the feelings of the Unionists towards Jefferson Davis who was elected 150 years ago this week, was also a good symbol for me to make for my brother Roger. The house we grew up in, and that Roger subsequently raised his daughters in, had three productive apple trees in the backyard. Our mother was famous for baking pies, apple pie in particular, and Roger has followed in her footsteps.

The block - simplified by Barbara Brackman from an original 7-patch - was not going to work to represent an apple tree with my fabrics, so I designed a new Apple Tree just for Roger, based on the 8-inch finished size we're working with.

I used my blue with red fabric, and added one of the red florals from the layer cake set I acquired recently, to give a more random smattering of "red apples" than the original Tree of Temptation had. I also eliminated the tree colors at the top corner of the block, so it more resembles the shape of the apple trees we grew up with. Making the trunk in one piece required a bit of partial piecing. I'm pleased with my version of Sour Apple Tree.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week 45 - Port and Starboard

Yesterday, I almost checked my 1861 History for November, somehow thinking it was time for a maritime theme. Well, maybe it was, though nothing about this particular block except the name seems to fit.

For some reason, everything was going along swimmingly, until it came to the center of the block, in the very last seam. Then, some kind of total inability to match a simple four-patch seam took hold of me. I pulled that out enough times to make up for not having any problems with the rest of the block. I like the result though.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I made a cover!

Well, not me, but my work did! The book is Slash Your Stash (you can see it at the link) and this quilt, by designer Ann Weber, is on the cover - I did the quilting for her back in 2008.

I posted several different photos of it when it was published, on our main blog. You can see those photos here. I cropped a different view for this post, trying to show all the quilting themes and motifs I used. I really love Ann's designs. It's always fun to see how beautiful they look photographed by the pros.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A fine Ravensong

Norris helped with photos of my latest sweater finished - Ravensong, from Lisa Lloyd's A Fine Fleece. I was going to my crop face out, but decided these were o.k. shots.

The yarn is a Royal Llama/Silk blend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The last baby quilt I put together was shipped off to Kansas a couple of weeks later to the grandson of one of Norris' cousins. So, when it dawned on me that a different cousin was to get a new grandson very soon, I searched through my fabric to find something suitable for a baby boy for fall in Oregon.

I worked on the design in software so that I could use the flannel Cow Jumping Over the Moon print with some others I had collected. Of course I didn't have everything I would need - but the internet is really a nice place to go shopping in a hurry. I ordered a herringbone type black and white flannel, and the backing which is a cow-hide printed cotton.

They keep telling us black and white is the first thing babies can identify, so Carson, born last week, needs to get this quilt right away.

I hand-guided the quilting with a pantograph by talented Australian designer Hermione Agee, called Swirling Clouds.

I decided the striated hand-dyed flannel could be a Western sunset, pulling the whole theme together. Happy birthday, Carson!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 44 - Union

I was happy to see this block for one reason: I got to use almost every last bit of the darker gold fabric I had used in two other blocks. That fabric came from the music-themed quilt I made for my parents. However, this is one of those blocks I am always attracted to, but when I sew it, I dread the job of getting the points to meet up at the center of each side (where the gold fabric has to meet the white fabric in this case).

I sewed one of those seams at least 5-6 times - it looks like two of them aren't right, but I think it's only because the fabric has relaxed. When stretched flat they are close enough.

At the risk of confusing my viewers (one thought a blue fabric was brown, another thought a different blue fabric was green...) here are the fabrics I purchased for borders, sashing, and other finishing. These are all blue fabrics - since Roger likes blue. The aqua on the far right is the backing. The three on the left are Jo Morton 19th Century reproductions.

Now that the recipients have seen and approved this as a work in progress, I can proceed with some of what will have to be done to put the blocks together into a quilt. But I won't start final assembly until all the blocks are done - which will be at the very end of this year. Forty-four down, eight to go.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 43 - Right Hand of Friendship

Ms. Brackman had a great story behind the choice of this block for the Civil War block of the week - go to her blog using the link to the right to read it.

I went back to the way this block was colored in BlockBase, and then didn't quite do that either. And I used those 1 16th of an inch increments for cutting these pieces - but it looks like I have one seam allowance that could have been a bit deeper.  Shows up plainly on the photo but I didn't notice it before!  I've been very distracted with the new kitten in our family - she's not a very good helpmate in the sewing studio.

I like this block - it would be fun to make a scrappy quilt with it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 42 - H is for Hospital

I was of course aware of the American Red Cross origins a few decades after the Civil War, but had forgotten that Union field hospitals used a green H on a yellow ground.

Ms. Brackman used the block to symbolize the brave doctors and nurses who worked in the field hospitals. I was happy to have another reason to use this green fabric which I chose before deciding the quilt needed to be blue for Roger. It appears in only two prior blocks - but he should appreciate it anyway because our mother chose it for a quilt I made for our parents several years ago. I changed the directions ever so slightly, cutting the long strips of pink and yellow fabric 1/8th of an inch wider so more of the floral would show.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Week 41 - Red, White and Blue

Back from the trip for Roger and Laurie's wedding outside of Chicago, I finally got this week's block done - I wound up following the lead of Dorry and other quilters and paper pieced a simpler version of the five-pointed star:

The good news is I talked with Laurie and she was happy to learn I was making a quilt for her and my brother Roger. I got to see the living room of her beautiful 100-year-old home in Oak Park Illinois, and this quilt will go perfectly with the furnishings and decorations she has. So now I have confirmed the direction for finishing the quilt. The decision to add blue to the fabrics I was working with came a few weeks after I started it, when Brother Roger announced his wedding in October. All of a sudden I had the idea to make this as a wedding gift. Laurie is a Horticultural Therapist, and I had so many floral prints in the mix, that was easy. And Roger gets dressed up as a Civil War vet and entertains crowds of people:

(Roger has the guitar in the photo above, and is featured in the center of the photo below)

However, Roger has always liked any color, as long as it's blue, so this has to be a predominantly blue quilt. My initial group of fabrics had no blue at all - but you can bet I've been adding to the mix to fix that. I love the way the new layer cake prints combine the blues and reds I was already using, as in the background print of this block.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

...continued from February

I'm in Chicago for my brother's wedding, so there won't be an update on the Civil War Block of the Week today - I'll get to it later this week, but it is going to be a challenging block: a five-pointed star pieced -- not appliqued -- into the background.

Meanwhile, I'm staying at sister Joyce's and we've got the king sized-color-wash quilt out for the next phase of construction - This is what the quilt looked like last night:

The little baggies contain the various shades of red, purple and blue fabrics we cut into 1/2 square triangles last winter. The larger black to very light gray triangles were each cut from a single hand-dyed gradient fabric purchased from Vicki Welsh .

And here are Joyce and Niki working on the layout of the final gradient, which shades from red to blue; upper left to lower right.

When they get a final layout of some of these triangles, I'll be starting the actual piecing at the sewing machine. Meanwhile, I'm doing a repair job on a pair of Niki's jeans.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On the Frame - a break with I Spy

The Round Robin quilt I wrote about has been on and off the frame in the last month. Yesterday I took it off again to examine what I was doing - it's pretty hard to see the back of the quilt when it's on the machine:

This is the part I was concerned about - in the above photo, you can see I quilted a leaf and curl in every third ray from the quarter circle at lower right. In the last ray, at the bottom edge in the photo, the leaves get very tiny and I didn't like doing it and it will probably just look messy if I make the leaves any smaller. So I wanted to see what it really looks like looking at the entire thing -

Most of the lower part and borders in the second photo is not quilted, -- the lumpiness is tack-basting.

I think there will be a simpler curling motif in the narrow parts of those rays.

Picky decisions aside, I'm happy with the effect of the feathers and leaves in the rays. The special personal elements my Robin friends included in their blocks are showing up just as I hoped they would. Dorry encouraged me not to quilt this traditionally, that is, as individual blocks and sashing, even though the quilt is put together that way. This overall design is much harder to manage because I have to roll the quilt back and forth many times for these rays and fills. But it is bringing the top together and makes much better use of her careful color-wash setting.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 40 - Order Number 11

The name of this week's block comes from the aftermath of the strike by Confederate sympathizers on the town of Lawrence, Kansas. This is an authentic Civil War era block - not all of these have been - and it's applique. Applique is not my strong suit, but I think it helps a sampler. I hope we get a couple more before this is over.

My block resembles the model made for the master website. I liked the color combination, and the background print I got in that new set of fabrics made a good scale contrast with the two fabrics I was already using for the project.