Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quilting study

This morning I read an interesting article written by Barbara Burnham in the May newsletter of the Baltimore Applique Society.  She talked about quilting ideas for applique beyond the usual outline plus grid design and shared some good pictures.  Since I am working on refolding my quilts I thought I'd study some of the quilting in the antiques.  Those of you who study antique quilts know you always find something new when you do that.  I started with the Mexican Rose quilt pictured above because it is an amazing example of a heavily quilted applique quilt.

The quilter did not outline her applique motifs like you usually see.  Instead, she quilted right through the flowers and outlined the diamonds with a feather motif.  On the back, it doesn't look like a flower at all but instead an interesting diamond shape.  I have larger pictures of the block (front and back) below.

There is also a large wreath quilted in the alternate blocks.  If you look closely at it and the picture above, you can see that this quilt was done in very closely set lines that resemble stippling but are not.  If you stare at it for a minute it really looks like stippling because your eyes start to cross.  The center of the wreath may actually be stippling - I just cannot tell.

The next quilt pattern is often called "Farmer's Delight" and is believed to come from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  This quilt did.  In addition to being a delightful collection of c. 1870-80 fabrics (including centennial fabrics) it is a truly delightful collection of quilted surprises.

I was doing my folding early today and I find the morning light particularly good at revealing quilting motifs.  I glimpsed a motif that looked remarkably like a fork and thought to myself, "I wonder if there is a knife?"  Well, sure enough, there is!  Below, I've included a photo of the actual quilting and then an enhanced image that shows there is a fork, knife, and spoon.  There is more that I will have to examine later.

The motif on the lower right looks like a giant diamond ring to me
Finally, I have a red and green double Irish chain quilt that is a puzzle to me.  On the back, the quilting thread that corresponds to the green blocks appears to be a dark green color.

Double Irish Chain with Lemoyne Stars
Hopefully, you can see the darker thread in the photos below.

I am wondering if the green in the fabric migrated into the thread or if the thread was dark green to begin with.  I think it would be a bit of a pain to keep changing thread when doing the quilting.  On the front, the thread on the green patches appears to be the exact same color of the fabric and is definitely lighter than it appears on the back.

That's my quilting study for the day.  BAS members can read Barbara's article in their most recent newsletter.  It isn't on her blog, Baltimore Garden Quilts, but she has loads of other interesting information there and I urge you to stop by for a good read.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sometimes... just have to drop everything and start a new project.  And sometime you have to know when it is time to walk away for awhile.  I subscribe to the Temecula Quilt Company's "Monthly Mini" program.  This month was a "drop everything I've got to make this right now" kind of design.  That's exactly what I did.  I got it Saturday and finished the top on Sunday.  It's so simple and cute I'm even going to do the hand quilting myself.

The flip side of this is the "time to walk away" situation.  Not every monthly mini blows me completely away.  My initial reaction to the one below was "meh."  At first.  But I also have Temecula's super adorable 2016 calendar which is basically 12 postcards with the month and a quilt picture on one side and the cutting and sewing directions for the quilt on the other side.

Well...January 2016 was the quilt below.  Let's just say, it really grew on me and one day I decided I had to make it.  It had been quite awhile since I'd sewn and I was rusty.  And in too much of a hurry.  I went home from work (the calendar is on my desk or I'd snap a photo to show you now), cut out the whole thing and started sewing.  I got the pieced strips together in no time - easy peasy I was saying to myself.  Then I proceeded to stitch every single strip together backwards.  Let's just say there was a four letter word used and it wasn't "oops."  No problem, just chalk it up to a learning experience and rip it all out.  I couldn't find the seam ripper.  So, I used my only alternative, my large Gingher dressmaker shears.  Now, I can honestly say that was a stupid decision.  Fortunately, I reached that conclusion fairly quickly which minimized the damage.  Then, I got up and went to bed.

After I cheerfully finished my little log cabin quilt yesterday I restarted Miss January and got her put together, too.

Before I wrap up this monologue, I want to mention something about sewing machines.  See those two little holes on the sewing bed of my machine?  I think they are pretty common (Bernie had them) and I know they are for screwing in some accessory.  But I have never actually screwed it in and am not even sure which accessory it is for.  All they seem to do for me is swallow my pins.

With this new machine I've tried to be very, very careful and not drop any pins down the holes.  But it happened yesterday.  Now, when I take the machine in for its yearly service I'll get "the talk" from the sewing machine guy.  You know what I mean...the machine is returned with the sewing test sample under the presser foot and another piece of fabric with some straight pins stuck in it.  The mechanic will come out from his workshop and tell me "these were inside your machine."  Sometimes they throw in a big ball of lint for good measure.  It's said with the same tone the dental hygienist asks, "have you been flossing?" when they already know the answer but are just waiting for you to lie about it.  It's shame I can live without.  So, maybe we could make those holes optional.  If anyone actually knows what gets screwed into them they can request the machine with the holes.  The rest of us can use the bed for keeping their pins within handy reach.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Details Details

What is your favorite thing to find in an old quilt?  My top three are:  trapunto, dates, and signatures. So, today's details are all about the signatures (and some other inkings).  I took all the photos for this post at the Lovely Lane event I attended on Sunday and they are from Baltimore album quilts in their collection.  It's a little hard to read but I love the design on this one.  It's one I'd like to try myself.  In case you cannot make it out, the date is 1847 (Reverend Roberts quilt).

I love all the birds you can find on BAQs.  The fabric in this bird is similar to some reproductions I've seen but if you look closely you will see that the small squiggles (technical term) are much crisper than what we see today and are a smaller scale.

There are inked birds in addition to the applique birds.

Miss Colvin still uses the old "fs" instead of "ss."  I wonder if she was a drefsmaker?

Amanda A. Yearley has beautiful penmanship.  Should I say she has a "good hand?"

Lots of inking here.  Note the bible and inked details in the flowers.

And, finally, enjoy taking in all the inked details in these flowers.  No need to find just the right fabric when you can draw your own.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Ask an antique quilt lover what is the advantage to living near Baltimore, Maryland, and I suspect she would say...Baltimore album quilts.  I seize the opportunity to see them every chance I get.  My favorite part of seeing them "in the flesh" is taking in the fabrics, quilting designs, techniques, and stitching.  Today I am sharing the wonderful details in just one block in the Reverend Wilkins quilt at the Lovely Lane Museum.  Above, is an adorable blue and yellow bird.  Note the blue ombre fabric and how rich and true the colors remain.

How about all the petals layered to create this flower?  Barbara Burnham (Baltimore Garden Quilt blog) teaches a class on making these layered flowers and they were used in the antique album quilt she owns on which she based her book - Baltimore Garden Quilt.  I guess you can say it was a Baltimore thing.

This layered flower goes a step further, incorporating two fabrics in its many layers of petals.  I love that star in the center.

Isn't the pink fabric in this flower sweet?  There are more great details with the reverse applique and the fussy cutting for the flower center.

I'm guessing the variety of blue berries came from the same blue ombre fabric from which the bird was made.

Another great flower with reverse applique and another fussy cut center.

Here is our sweet pink fabric again peeking out from this dangling flower.  Sorry to all you gardeners out there - I don't know plant names.

Put all these details together and what do you get?  A charming and cheerful basket of flowers!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A little what-not

Do you find yourself taking a vacation from what you "should" be doing? I am guessing you do.  A while back I was hand stitching "little houses from scraps" using blue (sky) for background and a yellow to represent a light in the window.  But, for some reason, I made three with a light shirting background that I was going to do something else with but had no plan.  Yet.

This week, out of nowhere, it popped in my head that one of the house blocks would make a cute little needlebook.  I love little sewing gadgets that I can take along with me; there is something cozy about them.  Dropped everything and started playing with the scraps.

I made a nine-patch for the back and added a small strip between the nine patch and the house block to allow for the fold.  I added some batting and did some quilting (is it quilting if you only stitch two layers?).  Then stitched a lining, turned, and added some more quilting stitches to hold the lining in place.  Cut a piece of felt for the inside, hand stitched that in place, stitched a bead on the back edge and a loop on the front edge to close it up.

Now, I better get back to what I was supposed to be doing.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stop the bleeding!

It looks so innocent, doesn't it?  After my last fiasco with Benjamin Biggs block 5 that sent me into an 8 month sulk I finished block 6 with more than a little anxiety.  I thought perhaps that leaving block 5 to soak for about an hour (I got distracted, it happens) might have exacerbated the bleeding from the reds whether it was the fabric or the threads.  So, this time I whipped the block out of the water as soon as I was sure the blue markings were gone.  I squeezed the excess water out and began pressing.  This is what I saw...

Yes, that's what I saw.  I won't tell you what I said.  It wasn't nice.  These are different reds than block 5 - a solid, probably Kona, and pre-washed.  I literally watched the color just ooze right into the white fabric.  There is a halo on the front but not as bad as the last block.  Seeing how the lines show up from the gathers of the fabric makes me think that it's not the thread's fault here.  But, there is a mystery.

I had already started block 6 when I washed block 5 and was traumatized by the color bleed.  All but two of the red berries were sewn down.  I only have two of the plastic templates so I make them two at a time.  Being an instant gratification kind of gal I need to sew them down right away so I can then hold the block up and gaze at the cute little circles for awhile. (you are probably starting to get an idea of why I am so slow at appliqueing these blocks).  I starched all but the last two circles which remained gathered and squeezed together inside my needle book.  [Ooooh, that's where they were - it did take awhile to find what I had done with them.]  Anyway, they were nicely creased and I didn't see a need for an iron, much less starch for these two.  Those are the ones in the picture above - left and center.  The right one was sewn 8 months ago and had been starched.  So, my questions are:

  • Is it the fabric that bled?  The same fabric is used in all three circles.
  • Is there some weird chemical thing that happens because of the starch.  The two "clean" circles had no starch.
  • Is it the thread?  The tiny bit of bleeding on the "clean" circles is at the edges where the thread is.  It is the same thread used in all circles.

I am now completely paranoid about red fabric.  When pre-washing the fabrics for block 7 I stitched a piece of the red to my background fabric and used a color catcher in the wash load.  The sample at the top is what happened.  Ack!!  Now, this was the first wash so I gave the fabric a second chance and stitched another (post-wash) piece to the back ground fabric.  The bottom sample is the result.  Better, much better.  But, blocks 5 and  6 were made with pre-washed red fabric and they still bled.  I almost dropped everything - again - but am holding onto the hope that the bleeding has finished for this piece of fabric.  

Here is the full shot of the back.  Fortunately, the bleeding is worse from the back than the front.  I took a class with Mimi Dietrich 16 years ago and she told us to dry our block face down because water evaporates up.  That way, the bleeding will go into the background.  Seems she's right.

P.S. The color catcher came out hot pink.
P.P.S.  The thread hasn't been ruled out as a suspect yet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If not now, when?

That is not a typo - I eagerly made this small quilt last January (2015) with the intention of sharing the pattern with my blog friends. But..I thought if I wanted things to be perfect, I should quilt and bind it. I think this little quilt messed with my quilting karma all last year. I do like it and it's on my finish list for this year. Just to be safe, I'll add a "7" when I draw the pattern.

I haven’t done a blog post since May 24, 2015, and I’ve only managed 16 over the last two years. That’s not even one per month.  Now, don’t think I kid myself and imagine there are readers just waiting for me to ramble on about (mostly) quilting.  But, thinking about what to say on my blog kept me thinking about quilting.  And if I was thinking about quilting enough I was usually doing some quilting.  My number of blog entries about quilting directly correlate to the amount of time spent on quilting.  How’s that for being statistical about it?

One of the first things I'm doing is turning my scraps from a mess of fabrics jammed in a box to squares cut into a variety of useful sizes. I save scraps in very small sizes and am almost embarrassed to say how long it took to cut up the tiny pieces in this box.

I started 2016 with instructions to myself…lose the phrases “I want to…” and “I will be…”  I also asked myself, “If not now, when?”  If I’m not sewing today, every day, when will I sew?  If it makes me so happy, why don’t I sew?  I looked around me and saw many quilting projects that were already planned and most were started.  How many?  Not sure.  That’s a question for another moment of soul searching.  I looked at what I am doing instead of sewing and, frankly, was a bit embarrassed to admit that I was on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook oogling what other quilters were accomplishing so much that I virtually stopped quilting myself.

You've seen these little guys before but I still love making them. I stash them around my house and on my bulletin board at work. Sometimes I send them to quilting friends when I think they need a little lift. I just love having a tiny quilt to pet.

Thanks to my wonderful daughter, I even got a new tool to help me get my *stuff* together.  I think those of us who are naturally disorganized have a special affinity for organizational tools because they give us hope.  For Christmas, she gave me what I consider the zenith of planners, the “Get to Work Book.”  Ironically, we discovered it on Instagram.  What’s my favorite part of the Get to Work Book?  The graph paper.  This planner has prompts, nudges and not-so-subtle motivational phrases along with enough project planning pages to actually plan some projects.  When I cracked it open, I thought to myself, “if not now, when” and I was off…  The two things I have committed to each day is to end that day with no more in my house than when the sun rose (reduce or at least don’t increase the clutter) and make sure I’m doing something that brings me happiness.  It’s a to-do:  Do something to make me happy.

Get to Work planner.  Seriously, check it out.
Got the photo from their website so visit

One of the first things I did was to take the two little quilts that were on the chair in my sewing room for m-o-n-t-h-s to Bellwether for hand quilting.  Sounds easy but someday I’ll have to figure out why they sat there until I wrote it down on my to-do list.  Check, done.  Next, I dug out an ancient WIP to assess and restart.  Well, I told myself to dig it out.  It became more of an odyssey to locate the parts.  The part of the top that was half done was in the basement (aka the Stash Cave) in a bin labeled Works in Progress, but the remaining blocks were not with it.  I found the blocks in a cart in my sewing room (aka the laundry room) while the fabric needed to complete the quilt was MIA.  Now, this fabric was manufactured sometime around 1998-2000.  If I couldn’t locate it I was out of luck.  It literally took me 3 hours to find that fabric.  I would have given up if I didn’t absolutely know I still had it.  I even found two pieces of already cut sashing and a cornerstone on my bedside table.  They were marking the page in a book I started reading two years ago.

Benjamin Biggs Block #6
If it were July 2014 I'd be all caught up!

So, what’s old is new again.  My WIP is my new project to finish.  Once I got all the parts located and lined up for sewing I …. went back to hand appliqueing my sixth Benjamin Biggs block.  Maybe I should also work on my attention span this year.
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