Sunday, May 29, 2016

I'm on the bandwagon



My friend Linda Collins - Quilts in the Barn -  has started a bit of a phenomenon.  It's called Panama Pyramids.  It started with a pattern published in Quiltmania #94 of a scrappy antique triangles quilt from her collection (photo of original quilt is below and is used with permission from Linda).  It has grown into "Panama Pyramids Sew-Along 2016," a 350+ member Facebook group created to encourage those making the quilt to share their projects and cheer each other on with their stitching.  Recently, she came out with a set of plastic templates that make it much easier and more accurate to cut the many triangle shaped pieces needed to make the quilt.


I was resisting starting yet another project but as you can see from my first photo, I didn't resist long.  Linda had the templates at the Zieber Quilts Retreat in California earlier this month.  Several of my fellow retreaters (perhaps that is not a real word but you know what I mean) started making their own Panama Pyramids and their various color combinations were enticing.  It was Brenda Papadakis' red and green version that got me to purchase a set of templates of my own.  Since our retreat this year focused partly on "name inscribed" quilts and we studied "blue" at last year's retreat, my version will be a signature quilt and features indigo fabrics.  My hat tip to you Zieber Quilts!


Many in the Facebook group are hand piecing their blocks.  It's nice to see so many enjoying the "zen" of hand sewing and seeing just how quickly a block can go together without getting a machine involved.  I'm going to share a couple of quick tips to answer some questions that have come up in the FB group.  First, let me address how I trace a template for hand piecing.  As you can see in the photo above, the templates have the center cut out so you can trace the stitching line onto your fabric.  I've seen people also tracing the outside of the template as a cutting line.  If you cut with scissors, you need this line.  However, it is much faster if you skip that line and rotary cut your triangles 1/4" away from your stitching line.  See below.



The next thing I'd like to address is grain.  No, not grains of rice or grains of sand.  Fabric grain.  As in the pesky fact that fabric is woven from horizontal and vertical threads and fabric cut on the grain is much more stable than if it is cut on the bias.  There is no avoiding bias when working with equilateral triangles but the trick is to know where to put the straight of grain side.  If, like me, you are assembling the quilt in long strips and then stitching those long strips together then you should make sure the top and bottom of those strips are on the straight of grain.  This will prevent many headaches (and distorted fabrics and lumpy quilt tops).  The plus side of bias is that you've got some sides with a little stretch which is handy in case your pieced triangles don't come out exactly the same size as the solid alternate triangles.


Also, if you look at the original quilt, there are some blocks cut in half along the sides.  If you make sure the grain line runs straight down the middle of the pieced triangle block it will help avoid those annoying ripply quilt edges.


I feel like I'm channeling my fussy and fastidious 8th grade Home Economics teacher with this post.  I used to thumb my nose at her insistence on lining things up correctly with the fabric grain but a few garments that bulged in all the wrong places taught me the lesson the hard way.  So, I bow to you Mrs. McMurtray.  Grain does matter.

P.S.  If you ignore the grain and things come out lumpy then you can always quilt the dickens out of it.  That's the difference between quilts and dresses.

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.

Front
Back
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...


...you 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

Details


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.
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