Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quilt reproduction update

I haven't posted progress on the little "Russian Sunflower and stars" quilt lately but that doesn't mean I haven't been working on it.

After finishing piecing a sunflower I decided it wasn't right. So it was back to the drawing board (with handy graph paper.) This time I think it worked. Glad I went back and did a redo!

Now I am sewing lots and lots of hourglass blocks. These finish at 1-1/4 inches...can only do so many at a sitting. Also I have lots of these reverse applique circles to finish.

I hope to have the top assembled by next Monday. It is my next guild meeting. Need some sort of deadline to keep myself on track!

Meanwhile we are having an early spring here in the south...hard to believe there are blizzards elsewhere in the country. Dobby certainly looks guilty...and he should - at his feet is a butterfly he caught...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

CW re-enactors

Took a day out from sewing and attended the "Battle of Aiken." This is an annual civil war reenactment about 30 miles from Augusta.
Just for the sheer enjoyment of seeing the costumes and the shopping this was a good day! If I go again I will be better prepared to shop...nice civil war cotton reproduction fabrics were $5 a yard. Who would think that they would be less extensive at an event like this? Of course it may have to do with the fact you need 5-8 yards to make a mid-19th century dress! There were a couple of quilts for sale but they were from turn of the century...sigh.

There were some pre-made dress vendors there...if I were to buy a costume this one would be it! She also had gorgeous bonnets. Didn't get the vendor's name but I do remember she was from North Carolina.

Visiting the campgrounds was interesting. The older "soldier" teaching the younger one to play the marching tunes was fun. They were part of a Union Irish regiment.

My husband, being from Virginia, moved us to the other side of the field for the battle reenactment. Aiken is known for horses so the cavalry charges were exciting...the horses were beautiful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday....

My King Cake is in the oven and the ingredients for Jambalaya are on the counter. Looks like I'll be spending more time in the kitchen today than in the sewing room but that is OK...it is only Fat Tuesday one day a year.
Beaded fire hydrant!
Fat Tuesday is the last day of Madi Gra and the last day to celebrate before Lent. Mainly Madi Gra is celebrated in the Gulf area (primarily New Orleans area) but in the past decade or so it has spread across most of the south. Both my husband and I love Jazz music and Cajun cooking so we adopted the holiday as well.

New Orleans balcony decorated for the parade...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thimble talk...

Bonnie Hunter is holding a thimble talk linky-thing...for what it is worth here is my take on thimbles....

I was an off-again-on-again thimble user until I took an applique class with Pat Campbell. It is sort of uncomfortable I gripped. "Grow up and get used it" was her response (said with a very sweet but take no prisoners southern accent.) So during break I bought a very pretty solid silver thimble then tried to use it back in class. It still was awkward. Pat looked at the thimble and said, "it will look nice on shelf."

So she gave me a few pointers on thimbles that have served me well. First, put it on your finger and shake you hand. Not a wild "I'm being chased by zombie hand waving" but a bit more than a Queen of England wave. The thimble should stay on your finger. Second, the dimples on the top of the thimble should be deep. This is the part that will hold the end of the needle. This is even more important when I use the thimble hand quilting. Third, living here in the south it is very possible that I will need multiple size thimbles...just like there are rings I cannot wear in summer due to my hands swelling in the heat there are "season appropriate" thimbles too.

So my go-to thimble is the brass colored one with a magnetic top. I've had it for ages. It says made in England on the side. The magnet is particularly helpful when I am using tiny needles. I use this primarily for hand piecing and applique. The zinc thimble next to it is another all-around thimble. It is slightly flattened so fits my finger perfectly. I use this often on my right hand when I am hand-quilting.
My favorite right hand thimble for hand quilting is this very inexpensive Dritz Slip-stop thimble. I have it in several sizes. In addition to deep dimples there is a ridge on the outside to hold the needle in as I rock it.

If you find a thimble you really like buy six. I'm not just saying that because I own cats who love to play with thimbles. Thimbles have a way of traveling. They are left behind in airplanes, summer houses, and anywhere else you find a moment to stitch. Unfortunately most non-quilters don't understand the desperation in your voice when you call and ask if you left your thimble there. Even if you say it is your favorite thimble in the world and they aren't selling them anymore and you need to finish this quilt for ____ (fill in the blank.) Sure the person on the other side of the line will tell you they will look but really, you expect them to understand your need for a thimble? On second thought...buy a dozen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More quilt clues

I've been working on the reverse applique circles for the reproduction baby quilt. I need to make 18 of these so it is a good thing that I like making them!

A long time ago I took a workshop on using antique quilts as inspiration with Jeanna Kimbel. One of the things I remember most is how she would fold paper instead of struggle with the math to recreate a pattern. Second was how she used items around her for applique shapes. For instance the outside diameter of these circles is the size of a YLI silk thread bobbin. The inner circle is the size of a dime. Makes so much sense no?!

A quick update on my Adams County Applique quilt. I spent a couple hours on the computer and was amazed at how much I learned. Well, at least how many clues I found.
The names Bishop, Benner and Fisher are listed on the estate file. There was a Bishop family burial ground in Littlestown (the town on the signature block) but a school was built over the grounds. A Martha M Bishop from Littlestown is listed on the Civil War Pension Roll of 1883 (widow.) The quilt has a Maria and a Mary Bishop from the same town. There is also a Hannah Benner listed as a widow on the same roll.

Adams county has a Historical Society in Getttysburg that looks to have quite and extensive collection of research materials. Right now it is closed for renovations. I may make a road trip up there later this spring and see what I can find. I'd love to uncover who the quilt was made for and what was the relationship between these names.

Friday, February 17, 2012

list or tower...project managment

So I am a bit late on reviewing my to-do list from last year...there is a reason for that - it barely budged!
A box of scrappy star pieces...in need of a retreat...
It isn't as if I didn't finish quilts last year. I just didn't finish any quilts on that list. Which leads me to wonder if I should keep lists. At points in my life I had lists of lists..So I updated my pitiful progress on the 2011 sidebar. I may or may not post a 2012 one...makes me think of the old conundrum "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears does it make any sound?"
One of my 12 cowgirl sampler blocks....5 years on the list
Instead of a list I am trying to motivate myself with the tower of shame. This is a towering pile of plastic boxes containing UFO's. The two piles reach to the ceiling of my sewing-room. I cannot avoid them. I will not put them in the closet because if I don't see them daily they will quickly slip from my mind and I will most certainly start a new project. There is a danger here...if one of these towers tumbles it will not be pretty...but that just gives me more incentive to get going!
Leftover Album blocks UFO...15+ years old...
I do have "rules" for my UFO's...First, it has to be a project. A photo pinned to my dream board is not a project. A pattern in my file cabinet is not a project. A set of vintage blocks given to me by a friend is not a project. It becomes a project when I start cutting fabrics...

Next, if a project has never left the cutting table or design wall it is not a UFO. The little star and applique quilt I am currently reproducing/interpreting most likely will never be a UFO...(btw...this quilt really needs a name)
Current baby quilt project...

So for it to be a UFO it has to be abandoned. Abandonment can be in a box, a bag, wrapped up in fabric or even just slid onto a high shelf or under a bed where is cannot be seen. Abandonment and out of sight are pretty synonymous to me.
Project boxed up after Christmas and now part of the UFO tower...

When does it become delisted as a UFO...when it is finished of course! Once it is abandoned that is the only way out. There are lots of finishes though.

I consider it a UFO finished when it is a completed top. Quilting is a whole new step to the process. I admit to having over 50 tops at this stage. It doesn't bother me.

Another way off of the UFO list is to be totally abandoned. Usually this involves putting it on the give-away table at guild where my UFO can become some-one else's project...a quilter's "mulligan" perhaps. In the past year I have moved almost a dozen UFO's that way...makes space for more "stuff."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Old quilt new quilt post 3

I have made some progress on my little quilt interpretation...let me just start by saying at times I can hear the original maker laughing...

No I'm not losing it but just when I think I've seen all there is to see in this little quilt something else jumps out. For instance there are eight stars in this quilt...

each star gets a circle appliqued on top...

than another star appliqued on top of that...

Don't know why I did it but I turned over the quilt and saw another of these star shaped in the quilting...it is in the center of the center block (a russian sunflower.)

While I had the quilt turned over I noticed there are a lot more circles sewn on this quilt than I originally thought....
test layout of the quilt with half a sunflower....
I think I now have unraveled all the secrets in this little quilt....at least the room is quiet...for now...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Antique Applique quilt...

One of the oldest quilts in my collection is an 1848 applique sampler quilt with signatures from both Pennsylvania (Adams County) and Maryland (Carroll County.) The quilt has 25 13-1/2 inch blocks with an 8 inch appliqued swag border.

I had not really studied this quilt in years. Between moves and work it was taken out every year of so and refolded...so when I posted an old photo of a heart inspired block on this quilt on Facebook last Valentines day and folks asked to see a photo of the full quilt I decided to rephotograph the blocks and the quilt. What a difference the new photos make!

With a bit of fiddling on Picassa I was able to read at least 4-5 more of the signatures.
D4 Crossed Oak leaves

There are definitely families of names -Bishop, Benner, Barr and Kregle appear at least two times each.
A1 Tulip Wreath

The quilt is definitely worn and some of the applique is very folksy. The history of it however is starting to intrigue me again.

A couple of quilt historians asked for the names. Where there is an * the writing on the quilt is not legible. When there is a parenthesis then it is a possible alternate interpretation of the writing. I did go to the Estate files for Adams County from 1849-1854 and often the name in parenthesis is the name on the list that looks the closest to what I read.

A1 Tulip wreath, *Bishop, Adams, PA; A2 Single Peony, Isabella E *, Franklin, PA; A3 *; A4 Crossed Tulips, Jane A Barr, *Township, Adams Co, PA; B1 Crossed bulky buds, Ann Marie (M)ockelagar, Franklin Township, Adams Co, PA; B2 Heart and Tulip, *; B3 Berry Wreath, *; B4 Berry Lyre, Catherine Kregle, *; B5 Tulip Wreath, Hannah A. Kregle(s), Carroll Cty, MD; C1 Lilly Pot, Sarah A. Barr, Mountjoy Township Adams Co, PA; C2 Dancing Daisy, Margaret Ann Benner, Adams Co, PA; C3 Flower Wreath, *; C4 Daisy Wreath, Maria L. Bishop, Mt Joy Township, Adams Co PA; C5 Rosebud Medallion, Matilda Marisey (maybe Maring or Maginley), Cumberland Township, Adams Co, PA; D1 Winged Pomegranate, Eliza Benner, Adams Co, PA; D2 4-leaf wreath, Sally Ann Beck (Reick); D3 Papercut, Barbara A Bishop, Littlestown, PA; Crossed Oak Leaves, 1848, *C. Benner, Adams Co, PA; 4 monuments, *, Carroll Co, MD; E1, Papercut, *; E2 Flower Pot, Mary E. Bishop, Littletown, Adams Co, PA; 3 bud wreath, Catherine A Weirman (weikert) Littlestown, PA; E4 Crossed Cactus, Mary Catherine Dearing (Deardorff), Cumberland Township, Adams Co, PA; E5 4 buds, *

Happy Valentine's Day!

Brownies (as in the bar cookies not the cat) went off to work with my Dh today so my Valentine's Day duties are done. I can get back to sewing with a light heart....

I am working on a Russian Sunflower block and using freezer paper templates.
First time I've tried this technique and I am on the fence about it. (the extra seam allowance on the top and bottom seam was on purpose...) I do like how sharp the points are but it seems fiddly. Of course it is a fiddly block so maybe it would feel like that no matter what technique I used. Anyone out there ever make this block? Any suggestions?

(The block I'm making is similar to the one in the photo a the top of this post that I pulled from a Google search. The one I am making has a much smaller center circle.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quiet Sunday stitching...

I had to take a day off from working on the antique baby quilt so I could catch up on my Sprigs and Stars in time for today's get-together. Three of us are working on the same pattern and get together once a month. It helps keep us on track.

This month I did really well making the stars but am a few leaves behind on my 4th block! I still have a few hours before our meeting so may be able to pull it off!

My DH surprised me by giving me Valentine's day flowers early...he gets really, really nervous that he will forget. I make him a batch of brownies and a cake that is sort of like the hostess snowball (his favorite junk food which thankfully is not sold around here!)

I am auditioning some fabrics as backgrounds for these vintage blocks.
The polka dots in the middle look a bit too light but the others work ok. I think I need an almost solid. Finding good grey fabrics isn't easy....I'll keep searching. This is a "no-rush" project!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Part two: old quilt new quilt

I finished some test blocks for the antique baby quilt interpretation. Notice I changed from reproduction to interpretation...decided I was having to make a lot of assumptions due to poor condition f the original and I was using modern construction techniques. Basically I am making one that I hope will be a good representation of what the quilt looked like when it was first made....

Generally when I am drafting a block I don't use anything smaller than 1-inch finished. For this quilt I had to make an exception. There are five half square triangles on each side of the hourglass...at one inch it would make the block 7 inches. The block just looked too large next to the original and the star blocks. But at 3/4 inch finished hst the block finishes at 5-1/4...only 1/4 of an inch larger than the original. So what the heck I only have to make 80 3/4 inch hst blocks...not too bad when you get in swing of it...just be very, very careful with the rotary blade...

(left is Southern star, right is squares and points...)

The stars presented a construction dilemma. Because the original quilt is so worn it isn't obvious if the star was a variable/southern star or a square and points star. Let me just say the latter is a much easier block to make...so of course I found that the variable star looks best.

I had not made a block with an inset seam in a long, long time. I happy to report that it was like riding a bike...a bike with lots of blue dots and one that goes very slowly!

So as of this afternoon I have made four of the framed hourglass blocks. I'm pretty happy with the fabrics I've used so far. Tomorrow I am going to try and finish the variable/southern stars so I can start the applique circles and applique stars....

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Old quilt new quilt

One of my favorite things is to use an antique or vintage quilt as inspiration for a new quilt. Right now I am working with a baby quilt that belongs to Bill Volckening from the mid 1800's. This quilt is in poor shape but has some wonderful techniques still visible.

My first decision on a project like this is do I want to reproduce the quilt or use it as inspiration. And if I am going to reproduce it do I make it look like it did when newly made or an updated version of what it looks like now (minus the worn away fabrics and torn binding of course.) For this quilt I am going to make one that will be similar to what the quilt looked like new. I say similar since I am going to use reproduction fabrics and will likely have blocks that are more regular in size.

I still draft the quilt on good old graph paper. I lay the quilt out and make lots of measurements. This also gives me time to really study the construction. This quilt has everything - piecing, applique, reverse applique and some decorative stitching. Block sizes can vary greatly in these old quilts. There are 8 of these stars in the quilt and they vary from 7-3/4 to 8-1/2 inches finished. The other blocks are equally variable. I have chosen to make 8 inch blocks...

Next I pull fabrics from the reproduction fabric stash. It may sound strange but I keep my new fabric in two rooms. Reproduction fabrics are stored by time-period in three different cabinets in the guest bedroom. (vintage fabrics and blocks are stored in acid free boxes in the library...yes, fabric of some kind is stored in almost every room of the house!) Since there is so much wear on this quilt I am making some leaps of faith. For instance the greens in this quilt have all faded to blues and yellows so I am using a different green for each of the different faded fabrics "assuming" that they were different fabrics to start with. I make a chart by block type and fabrics so I don't repeatedly go back to this step...yes, playing in fabric is one of my favorite parts of quilting and I would go back to it for the smallest of reasons....(btw I am loving the fabrics in this charm packet of Moda called "Friendship"...would be perfect for this quilt but yardage doesn't come out until March! Giving us access to charm packs prior to the launch of a fabric line is great marketing but it can also be cruel and unusual punishment!)
top is Kona PDF and below Kona bone
After I have a stack of fabrics I then select a background. There is a fine line between using a background that can make the quilt "muddy" or "comicbook." And to make matters more challenging the same background could do either based on the repro fabrics so that is why I select the background last. In this case I am using Kona bone...it is just offwhite but not too yellow or grey.

Now it is time to stitch test blocks.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Weekend wanderings...

It is still unusually warm here in Georgia but I was still surprised to see my daffodils blooming and a beautiful bluebird in my yard this morning. Feels like everything is a month early!
Have you noticed all the blogs with advice about cleaning/organizing you sewing room? Lots of good ideas about de-stashing or focusing on keeping what you need close at hand...heck I just want a path so I can get to the fabric and my sewing machine without breaking my neck! One of the most useful things I learned in the Army was how to do a three-point landing....not just useful for jumping out of a plane...

But I am trying! In the past few days I have sorted at least a dozen boxes and bags of scraps. I found two sets of donation quilt blocks that quickly become tops. I'm going to bring these to my guild meeting on Thursday and see if anyone is willing to quilt them up for the local Ronald McDonald house. A question...can you count it as a finish if you didn't know the UFO project was there?

The big exercise was the refolding of my antique and vintage quilts. They have their own closet. I take them out of the acid free box and lay them on the queen size bed. If they are folded in muslin I wash the muslin otherwise I check the acid free tissue and replace when needed. Then it gets loosely folded, put back into the box and into the closet. A few are rotated onto the walls in the hallway....I try very hard to keep the animals out of the room during this but as you see that is almost impossible. I went out to answer the phone and didn't even see Goldie slip past me...
this is what I came back to!