Sunday, November 30, 2014

Progress!


The stash monster has escaped.  I might not have time to sew but my favorite reproduction manufacturers keep printing great lines of fabrics so I keep acquiring them.  Problem is, when I buy them without a specific project or purpose I only get small pieces suitable for scrappy projects.  I like to keep them visible for inspiration and a reminder of which line they belong to should I ever get busy on a project and need to order more while it is still available.  That means there is a lot of fabric "visible" in my sewing space(s).  In fact, it has taken over.  Even the scrap box has blown its lid.  So, I've instituted the moratorium:  "Sew it or stow it."

Getting back into my own sewing after such a long break I decided to start with baby steps.  Or at least small quilt steps.  I used the scrap box for all the fabrics in the Bear Paw center of this little quilt and the border is from one of the fat quarters that are residing on my cutting table.  Funny thing, though.  After digging around in my scrap box the fabric has decompressed and is actually taking up more space.


The red and green quilt is a copy of one I saw at Temecula Quilt Company.  The fabrics are the Civil War Melody line designed by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Fabrics.  The fabric is still on the cutting table but I made a dent in it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Do you have a "go to" quilt?


I am enjoying some family time, some "me" time, and some sewing time this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  My sewing and cutting tables were (still are) covered with piles of fabrics, pieces of projects, other sewing miscellany, and DUST.  I can usually measure my sewing progress by my number of blog posts and 2014 has a pathetic 4 posts.  All four posts are about antique quilts and quilt shows.  I've been inspired this year but it hasn't translated into action.  I want to change that.

So, I went to my "go to" project.  Whenever I cut fabric I save the little bits and cut them into 7/8" x 1-1/4" rectangles for my favorite little tile quilt.  Restarting the sewing engine is a familiar theme in my blog and I used this little quilt many times.  I've posted about it here, here, here, and here.  I just love playing with the fabrics and remembering the projects they went into and revisiting my favorite fabric lines and designers.  Since I didn't have to cook the holiday dinner this year I arranged a platter with a little fabric feast.


I also got busy and quilted a previous tiny quilt project.  I am embarrassed to say my machine piecing and hand quilting skills are very rusty.  There is always a learning curve when I pick up hand quilting but I also bought a new machine this year and we are having some adjustment issues with the 1/4" seam.  My beloved Bernina 1130 was getting cranky in her old age.  There were times when she would only sew backwards and other times when she refused to sew backwards.  If I tried to get her to sew backwards she would get mad and then only sew forwards with gigantic stitches.  I took her to the shop and got all the dire diagnoses but told the repairman to do whatever was necessary to get the old girl running again.  Still, it was time to bring in a backup.  I'm not a "bells and whistles" kind of gal so I went for a basic Bernina.  Give me a perfect straight stitch (and the ability to do a backstitch when necessary), a walking foot, and a quarter inch foot and I'm satisfied.  Or so I thought.  This little whippersnapper just doesn't have the feel of my old machine.  I think it is the plastic housing.  My old machine has metal everywhere.  You're not getting me into the 21st century without some kicking and screaming.  Plastic.  Pffft.



Just a couple more of my little "go to" quilts.  The red one has been pictured here before but, hey, I told you haven't done any sewing for ages.  I do love tucking these little sweeties around the house. They are delightful little surprises for me.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Apple Pie Ridge

Quilts were displayed in themes throughout the house: pink and green, signature, applique, family, local (Winchester/Frederick County), and utilitarian

I just finished another fantastic quilt history/appreciation weekend.  The Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society (in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley) presented "A Focus on Quilts from the Lower Shenandoah Valley."  For those familiar with the pattern, this is the base of Mary Robare's research on the "Apple Pie Ridge Star."  

One version of the Apple Pie Ridge Star pattern

We kicked off the weekend with a house and quilt tour at Cherry Row, a late 18th century home built by a quaker couple outside of Winchester, Virginia.  The current owners are restoring it to be as close as possible to it's c. 1780 origins while still including some of those 21st century comforts we don't want to live without, like plumbing, a refrigerator and microwave.  The latter two items are artfully hidden behind period-looking cabinetry.

Cherry Row, c. 1780 home situated on Apple Pie Ridge

In addition to a magnificent house with loads of local antique furniture, the owners have amassed an impressive quilt collection.  They generously allowed the visitors to inspect all of their restored rooms and most of the rooms had thematically arranged portions of their quilt collection (see photo above).  Docents were on hand to share information about the quilts, the owners' collecting philosophy and even more information about other objects in the rooms.  

View from house to road on Apple Pie Ridge

View from the backyard.

Once we exhausted ourselves looking at quilts we could go outside to take in the serene beauty of the ridge and imagine that little has changed in the countryside since the first Quaker couple started construction on their home that has remained inhabited for the last 230 years.

Pink and green apple blossom and basket quilt

I must point out the pink and green quilts included in the owners' collection.  As you may have deduced, apples are a critical component of the economy, history and life on Apple Pie Ridge.  Winchester has an Apple Blossom Festival every year and that is the excuse to break out a profusion of pink and green quilts, many with apple blossom motifs.  My particular favorite vignette was the wonderful green bench (below) with hand pieced/hand quilted pink and green quilt draped over the back. 


After our house tour, we were welcomed at the the historical society's lecture hall and enjoyed a lecture by Alden O'Brien, Quilt and Textiles Curator at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, on the Quilts of Amelia Lauck.  On Saturday, we had four more interesting and enlightening lectures:  Tracking the Apple Pie Ridge Star, by Mary Robare; Quilts for Two Centuries, by Pam Pampe; Shenandoah Patriots-Martz Family Quilts, 1838-1860, by Neva Hart and, finally, Domesticating Quilts: Furnishings, Formalism, and Folk Art, by Linda Eaton.

Congratulations and thank you to the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society for a quality educational and sensory experience!

I couldn't sign off without one more antique quilt photo.

P.S.  Wish you could have attended this terrific quilt event?  Well, you missed this one but stay tuned for information on the upcoming DAR exhibit: "Eye on Elegance: Early Quilts of Maryland & Virginia" and the corresponding symposium.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Love Quilters


I happened upon this little surprise today.  I was all alone (fine by me) and wasn't in Chi-town for the show but it was a very happy coincidence.  When I was leaving the show after they closed tonight I ran into a lady steering her wheely cart with what had to be her machine.  We started chatting and I learned she came to the show from Mexico!!  They have a guild in Mexico City and a show coming up this October.  Don't you love it?

Then, I went out to dinner - in the neighborhood - and stumbled upon countless groups of other women who had "the look."  I won't describe it but you cannot deny that we all know it when we see it.  The exchange goes a little like this:
"Quilt show?"
"Yes."
"Taking classes?"
"Yes.  You?"
"No.  I just happened to see the show was going on so thought I'd stop in."
"Did you see that quilt... "
"Oh my gosh, I'd love to make one like that."
...and then we are off talking like we've know each other for years.  That is why I love quilters.  We are "sew sisters."


I first went to the Chicago International Quilt Show (festival?) back in 2009 and 2010.  Then, the organizers got the brilliant idea to move it to Cincinnati which was a non-starter for me.  They wised up and moved it back to Chicago in 2013 and here I am in 2014.  I had no expectations so am easily pleased.  The show designers hooked me real good when the first quilt I saw was this one.  It is a reproduction designed by Margo Hardie from New South Wales, Australia, from a Baltimore Album quilt.  I just love album quilts that look like an explosion of color and design.


One album always makes a show worth attending but then, I saw two!  Another Aussie, Rhonda Pearce, (do you girls just take more time to stop and savor your hand stitching?) reproduced a quilt in the American Museum in Bath, England.  What I loved the most was the scale of her hand quilting.  I think it was twice as much as I see on a lot of very fine quilts.


Above is the reproduction of a quilt in the American Museum in England.


I hope I captured the quilting in this one.  It made such a difference in the overall look of the quilt.


This is not me doing shadow puppets of a woman taking pictures of quilts.  Okay, it is.

This is just a pop in posting.  I've been a total blog slacker for about a year.  I am determined to change that.  I find that when I am blogging, I am sewing.  I want to sew which means I better blog.  I haven't been doing my own stitching but I've been making sure that the quilt shops stay in business during my hiatus.  I've gotten back to planning projects and carrying on that eternal debate:  "Should I buy this fabulous fabric or USE MY STASH?"  My personal stance on that is on shifting sands.  Hey, I just visited a quilt show so you know I've got some more fabric.  Maybe even a new machine but I'm not saying.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Quilt for Me

Baltimore Applique Society Raffle Quilt.
Made in approximately 1995 by BAS members and
recently bequeathed back to the Society upon the
death of the quilt winner.

I've been reading comments on electronic media and have been struck by how much negativity and guilt is connected with an avocation so many of us love.  Which is why I chose the title, “I quilt for me,” for this blog post.  (Note: I am peppering this post with great quilt pics so you can ignore my soapbox speech and enjoy them.  That is the better choice.)  The whole quilting process is something I thoroughly enjoy from the idea through the last stitch on the binding (whenever that may occur) but I don’t enjoy them the same at all times.  If I want to start something new, I do.  If I want to exercise discipline and work diligently on a current project, I do.  If I think my stash has gotten out of hand and needs editing, I do.  Get the picture?  I don’t like scolding and I certainly don’t think it productive to scold myself.  Quilting is a positive experience – or it should be – so I would rather assess where I am today when deciding what to work on and what to plan. 

My scraps spilleth over and that's the way I like it.

Let me back up a bit.  Nearly 10 years ago I returned to working full-time and lost most of my quilting time.  I tried to keep my part-time job teaching quilt classes at a local shop.  Therefore, my quilting wasn't for me and became a chore instead of a joy.  It took a while, but I finally assessed the pros and cons of giving up teaching and decided to stop and focus on what I liked most about quilting: reproducing antique quilts.  I gave away a large portion of my stash – the non-repro part – to a one of my guilds to use in their raffle baskets and charity projects.  They were thrilled and I was unburdened.  What I am trying to say is, if something in your quilting life is bothering you, figure out what it is and do something about it.  You don’t deserve to be punished if you decide you have too much fabric or too many projects.  You just need to decide what you want out of those things and figure out what you need to do to make yourself happy with your avocation.

Look at the quilting on this one!  Do you think the maker was smug about
her skill or just completely in love with quilting?  Both? Neither?

Which brings me to the Quilt Police.  They are real and apparently have accounts on a popular social networking website.  I've seen them in action.  But, I am happy to report that they have never been sanctioned by any official agency and you don’t have to listen to them.  Not listening to the Quilt Police is my way of rebelling against my eighth grade Home Economics teacher who taught me nothing because she insisted there was one way – her way, the curriculum, whatever – to cook and sew.  I came to her class already enamored with both, a track record of experimenting, and successes and failures to my credit.  There is more than one way to stitch a tote bag and to bake Snickerdoodles.

Wreath from an album quilt.  It is tiny and kind of gets lost in the full quilt.
But, when examined for itself the skill in making those tiny stems
and buds is incredible.

Awhile ago, there was a discussion on that social networking website about whether one was to use single or double thread when hand quilting.  I was amazed at how many quilters declared that double thread was the way it should be done.  When, of course, it should be single…oh wait…that’s just the way I do it.  For me.  We can learn from each other when discussing these things, of course, but I find it most successful when individuals state things along with their reasons for doing so.  Such as, “I use double thread because that’s the way I was taught” or “I use double thread because I like the way it shows off my quilting.”  And, an open mind to other methods is always helpful.

Blooming cactus block from a c. 1850 quilt.
Was this a pattern or did someone interpret a popular motif
in her own wild fashion?  The quilting certainly isn't comparable to the
previous two pictures.  Does the wow factor make up for that?
Does it matter?

More recently, some began declaring who deserved to call themselves quilters.  Apparently, if you are buying and using kits, jelly rolls, layer cakes, etc., you are unimaginative and pathetic.  Dare to combine too many of those things I just mentioned and you’re out of the club.  One compassionate comment stated that you only "know how to use your checkbook or credit card and how to turn on an iron."  Ouch!

I applaud the 19th century maker of this block.
It is my pictorial comment to the "quilt police."

I took a class with Kim Diehl a few years ago and her bindings were different than what you generally see on quilts.  She told us she entered a quilt show once and her binding method was severely criticized.  Quilt police in action.  Have you seen her quilts?  They are fantastic.  The binding looks fine.  But, on the back of her quilts it is bigger than you typically see.  Horrors!  That’s the way she taught herself and that’s the way she does it.  Works for her and for her quilts.

This picture is here because I am into all things birds these days.

I understand that quilt show judges (and my old Home Ec teacher) have those little score boxes they need to check off because they use “Standards.”  Are quilts and cookies better because of those standards?  Sometimes.  But, they can also be better because some sought to please only themselves and, in doing so, came up with something wonderful.  Worse, still, rigid critiques and comments can be downright soul crushing.  Hopefully, you will all remember that the only one you need to please is You and just tune out the negativity.

...and stars...I'm always into stars.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stars Fragmented


Stars fragmented is not a style it's just the reality of my photographs.  I participated in another DAR quilt study session last week and these old quilts are so big it is difficult to get a good photo of the whole thing.  So, we must settle for fragments of them  Since I am listing my inadequacies, I also spent more time clicking away and not much noting the details about the quilts.  If you want to learn more about the quilts most are on www.quiltindex.org.  You can go there and search for stars in the DAR Museum collection and learn such things as dates, maker, etc.

Okay, now on to the quilt pictures.  Above is an early star quilt.  The brown fabric is one of those that starts to fall apart so it is fragile.  I just love the block that we now call Ohio Star that surrounds the central medallion style pieced star.  There is something calming and sophisticated in this soft two-color quilt.


The quilt above is another one that has deteriorated with time.  The big star, of which you can only see a bit, is a pieced 8-pointed one while the small stars surrounded it are 6-pointed.  I like the pieced triangle border.  You cannot see it in the photo but the brown print on the pink fabric in the border has deteriorated and eaten holes through the fabric.


This quilt has stood up to time much better.  If my memory serves me well, it can be dated to the late 1830s.  It is the large pieced star one sees from that time period and contains the delightful Turkey red fabric.  Don't you love the applique border you can see toward the back of the picture?


Here is a detail showing some of the red fabric I just love.  If any fabric designers and manufacturers happen to be reading this, we need more reproductions!  Good ones, mind you, that accurately recreate the shade of red seen in the surviving mid-19th century quilts.


This group of photos didn't load in the order I intended so forgive the jumping about.  First, let's immerse ourselves in the red and green gloriousness of it all.  Above is the corner section of the quilt - all four corners are made of nine eight-pointed stars with sashing.


And above, is a bigger section of the quilt showing that the maker also managed to successfully sash around the large center star and fit more sashed stars in the triangular sections on the sides.


Here is a better picture of this engineering marvel.  The use of the limited palette (red, green and white) makes for the pulsing effect you get looking at the quilt.  I think I even captured it in the picture although in "real life" it was quite striking.


Above is a close up of a stamp with a name - Guyer on the back of the quilt.  I also like seeing the two green fabrics used in the binding and the quilt.  Don't you love them?


Now, this one is quite something.  It is all wool hand whip-stitched together.  Wool holds color so well that there is no fading in the quilt.  It is what we would consider just a top since there is no batting or backing.  I've seen this type of quilt with a backing before but never batting.  Think how heavy that would be!  The edges are raw but the fabric is so tight that it does not even fray.


You can see the stitching and raw edge in the lower right part of the photo above.  You can also get a pretty good look at how the pieces look inlaid from the front.


The quilt above is another wool quilt.  It is not, however, Amish or Mennonite as you might guess.


I particularly like this one since I've spent three years hand piecing Lemoyne stars like these.  Well, not quite since mine are individual stars and these are pieced together in fours sharing a center large square.  Maybe I'll try this design on my next group of stars.


I particularly like the colors in the stars around the edges.  Pink, brown, green and blue, yum!


The quilt above and in the next couple of pictures is the first we saw and one of the earliest.  It is my opinion that these large star quilts are nothing short of magnificent and these fabrics are also.


In the photos above and below you can see the pillar print used in the border.  The broderie perse "basket" is actually the top of the pillar cut off, the blue turned into leaves on each side and the flowers that wrap around the pillar are fussy cut to be the flowers at the center of the motif.


You can definitely see the pillar print better in the photo above.  Below is a close up of the fabrics because I do love that soft yellow print, particularly as it contrasts against the Prussian blue.


The feathered star quilt below is a combination of excellent quilting and piecing.  Our tutors were not positive but think the green fabrics may have been home dyed and they were fading unevenly in spots.  Of course, I love it because, fading or not, it is red and green.


Don't you love this quilting?


This quiltmaker wasn't to be satisfied with one elaborating pieced star so she made many.  A style believed to be later than the single large star.  All of them fit together perfectly.


The picture below, a detail from the quilt above, was chosen to show you the fabrics a little closer.  Pink and green is another favorite of mine and that bright green is a delight.  And, the red.  Did I mention how much I like Turkey red?


I hope you enjoyed seeing these bits and pieces of some wonderful quilts.  The DAR Museum is continuing their quilt study sessions on the second Tuesdays of February, March and April.  The events are called Textile Tuesdays and each session is just $20.  You can register by emailing museum@dar.org.  If you are planning a visit to Washington, DC you should definitely try to fit one of these sessions into your plans.  Also, the DAR will be mounting an exhibit on early Maryland and Virginia quilts this fall so pencil that into your agenda, too.  Some of the quilts we are seeing are to be included in that exhibit.  The mid-Atlantic boasts some of the earliest U.S. quilts and are examples of some of the finest fabrics.
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