Sunday, January 30, 2011

A comment about foundation piecing

Foundation paper piecing was never my favorite. I think it's because I used it for pictorial subjects, where all the little patches were very random shapes, and it's sometimes more difficult to figure out what size piece of fabric to cut that will cover the area but not waste fabric, when working upside down and backward. I always felt there was a lot of waste.

But using it for geometric blocks is a whole 'nuther story! You can measure each segment, cut patches that are the right shape and a bit larger with minimal waste, and know that when you flip the patch over after stitching there won't be the "DOH!" moment where it's just a little too small. (I know you know what I'm talking about.)

And the points and corners and lines are so crisp and straight, no matter how small the patches. Removing the paper is still a pill, but the results might be worth it, if you're working small.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One hundred little blocks

One hundred eight inch blocks, ready to become a very large quilt. I know I'm going to use a 1 1/2" to 2" sashing with corner blocks, and 3" or 4" outer border, making a quilt that's around 105" square. What I don't know is what color these pieces are going to be! Some of the blocks have neutrals around the edge so light neutral sashing would allow the blocks to visually "bleed" into the sashing. Other blocks have tan patches at the edge which would do the same if I use a darker neutral. There are so very many colors in this group that what would go with them all?

Here's the blocks. I'd love to hear suggestions.

On a final note, I love love love that last block! About 15% of the blocks were paper pieced, and it makes for such beautiful sharp corners and lines. Also take a look at that Snail's Trail block ad all the blocks with flag-like motifs. Foundation paper piecing is the only way to go with those.
The other Barbara Brackman Civil War sampler is also going forth. Today's block was Kansas Troubles. That quilt will have 52 blocks set 7 x 8, with a large applique block in the center. The applique is planned to be an eagle and shield design if I can find one I like. I'd appreciate suggestions on that too. The block will be 18" square.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thinking about color

My sampler quilt is continuing and has gathered into its blocks many more fabrics than I originally intended. At first the leftovers from a Kansas Troubles collection were to be the basis but I quickly determined that my remaining pieces would never be enough for the entire quilt. My husband constantly asks for brighter colors in my quilts so I started raiding the stash and pulling in brighter greens, pinks, yellows and more black and shirtings for contrast. The group of blocks is a riotous melange of shades now but will make an interesting sampler.

While I was looking at colors I thought about our perceptions of them. Take what we almost universally think of when we say "Williamsburg colors". The grayed blues, subtle tones and muted palette. The kind of colors you get with milk paint and natural dyes. It might shock you to talk to the restorers at Colonial Williamsburg to be told as I was during a tour that the shades of paint identified by the investigations in the original buildings were decidedly brighter - mustard yellows, bright greens, red.

Or consider the recent story I saw in a House Beautiful magazine about work at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. I remember the dining room there when I visited the house over twenty years ago. The walls were a somber and muted blue. Archaeological restoration has discovered by analysis of paint chips that in the later years of Jefferson's time, the room was painted a quite jarring shade of chrome yellow, that color being available due to the recently invented chemical dyes coming from France in the last part of the eighteenth century. The newly painted room was quite a surprise. Curators acknowledged that it would shake up a few people, but pointed out that Jefferson, a progressive man, would have found the new paint colors that were becoming available to be modern and interesting.

I remember a few years ago when the PBS program "This Old House" was restoring a colonial farmhouse and a paint expert was called in to take samples and determine the original color scheme used on the exterior. This house was in an historic area and changes, including colors, would have to be approved by the Historical Society. Everyone was quite shocked when it was determined from microscopic analysis of layers of paint removed from protected areas of the exterior that the original color of the house was a rather garish mustard yellow and the shutters were green. The Historical Society - that bastion of preservation, faced with the fact that their dream neighborhood of white houses with neat black shutters was, in fact, a dream - refused to approve the new color scheme, since it clashed so badly with their idealized vision of what a colonial home looked like.

While working on the Civil War quilts project from Barbara Brackman's blog, I started following links to articles about period fabrics and came upon a photo of a piece of preserved mid-nineteenth century calico and the modern reproduction fabric that was made from its design. I couldn't help but notice that the vivid reds that were still visible on the original fabric had been toned down decidedly in the reproduction. That made me think about the rather subdued colors in many of the Civil War repro fabrics I had bought in the past. Are we rewriting color history again?

Monday, January 24, 2011

I just walked back to my husband's den to get a page off the printer and found this: It's almost dinnertime - and she's not going to let him forget it. He's trying to copy and restore old photos. Ha! Not while Molly's keeping the scanner lid clamped shut. "Might as well give up and go feed me," she says.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Inspiration come from everywhere. I'm searching through my quilt books right now to find blocks that scale to 8" to make a new sampler quilt. It started out as a block a week project.

One of the members of Quiltville Chat mentioned the Civil War Quilts blog by Barbara Brackman which is showcasing a block a week for a year to make a sampler quilt. I was interested and decided to participate. But you know me - impatient! One block a week? Not fast enough!

Also this week's block was applique, and I really wanted a pieced sampler. So, I started looking through all my books for a substitute block. I found many, many possibilities. And I started sewing.

I have 22 blocks so far.

Yeah, I know - obsessive much?

But aren't they cute?

An 8 inch block is perfect - large enough not to make you crazy piecing it but small enough to complete quickly. And you can include a lot of 8" blocks in a sampler quilt. One of the best sources for these blocks - surprise! - is the book "The Civil War Diary Quilt" by Rosemary Youngs. I'm so glad I had it. It has a bunch of block designs but no patterns so you have to draft them yourself. Not a problem for me, but I was really expecting patterns and cutting directions, or a CD with the book containing the templates like in "The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt". This book just tells you to trace templates from the drawings. How chintzy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Orange Crush!

Here's the center all assembled and waiting for borders, which I will be starting this afternoon. I changed up the Bonnie Hunter design a little, so stay tuned.

Postscript: Yeah, I see it. I got a square turned sideways. But I fixed it.

P.P.S.: Rats, there's another one. I'll fix it too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dog coat

Here's the recipient of the dog coat I made last month:Although she doesn't look too thrilled in the photo, she's actually quite happy wearing coats.

I don't know if you can see in the photo, but she has blue eyes. "People eyes", I call them. It's kind of spooky to look her in the face. She's my brother's dog and he adores her (and she, him). They go everywhere together. She's part Shiba Inu, and hardheaded, but very sweet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bring on the brights!

Maybe it's because of the dumb gloomy weather we've been having. Maybe it's post-holiday letdown. Maybe it's because of the amount of brown in the last few quilts I made. Whatever reason, I've been craving brights in my quilting life. Well, as bright as I can manage, which might not be other people's definition of bright.

Anyway, I started casting around for a project after I finished the last Quiltville mystery and found myself looking at the old mystery quilts on that website. I had made Double Delight, and while I loved it I wasn't in the mood to make it again. Old Tobacco Road was a lot more browns - nope. Carolina Crossroads was interesting, but - then, there it was! Orange Crush!

The perfect solution to the winter blahs. I started scrabbling through my stash and found the perfect orange fabrics. Then I had a decision to make. Go with the black and red for the star points that Bonnie Hunter used or break out on my own?

I wasn't too crazy about the red and the black seemed a bit contrast-y. I loved the blue centers to the orange blocks and wanted to add more (complementary colors, don't you know). So the star points became chocolate with blue. Here are a few blocks: I just love it.

I can't let my brother ever see this quilt when it's done. He likes orange. And now I do too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quiltville mystery done!

I'm the one to blame for making it so big, but really - I could barely spread it out in the sewing room to photograph. I've owned houses with ROOMS smaller than this quilt. But I truly like how it's turned out after I tweaked the design.

Monday, January 10, 2011


You remember us - the sunny South? Well, maybe not so much. . .

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Well, the first thing you notice is it's BIG. . .

. . .and this layout doesn't even include the borders. It's sort of a wall-to-wall quilt. Finally got all the blocks made. Now to assemble the rows tomorrow. It's doubtful that I'll have it put together before the next clue on Friday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Test run

I made a few blocks of my proposed alternate block in the Quiltville mystery design. As you can see, they actually form the primary pattern you first see when you look at the design - the horizontal and vertical rows of neutral squares with the red and pink x's in the intersections. Interesting. The primary block in the initial design is now a secondary player.
I think I like this, but I like busy designs. Opinions?

Monday, January 3, 2011

What about this?

Still fiddling with the Quiltville mystery quilt design. I took the string blocks down from the design wall and have been pondering in EQ what else I could use. If I don't do the string blocks between the pieced ones, I think I'll do this alternate block which makes a secondary pattern. As you can see, I like very busy quilt designs!
Maybe the string blocks will end up in a Project Linus quilt or something.

Radio themed decorating

Here's what my husband, aka the Radio Guy, found to decorate his computer room wall above the new sofa bed: See: Poster reproductions of old hobby radio enthusiast magazines from the 1930's through 1950's (plus a cover from "G-Men: The Federals in Action", but never fear, look at the cover blurbs; it's got a radio theme story too). Aren't they cool?

That's our house for you: a quilt and a radio in every room!


Well, it's happened again. At some point of the Quiltville mystery quilts I become conflicted whether I want to complete the design per the instructions or go my own way. This time, it's because of the string blocks.

Here are a few of the Prickly Pear blocks and the alternating string blocks (and a little of my sewing room wallpaper too, on the right side! Small design wall.): You see, I'm not a big string block fan. Although she's cut them in half and resewn them together in an interesting way, they're still string blocks and I'm just not feeling it. That's the problem with these two block designs from Quiltville. The first one I did, Double Delight, went together well and I loved it. The ones after that, though, sometimes don't seem to jell well for me. I can't see the relationship between the two blocks. Are they related or are they simply coexisting on the same quilt?

So, I have been poking around in EQ trying out different options. I made several I liked and Husband liked too (he didn't like the string blocks). BUT, I have all these string blocks already made - what to do? Do I want to make 25 more blocks in a different pattern? Do I have enough matching scraps? I don't know. An alternative would be to set the blocks in a vertical strip zigzag set, which I love, but I would have to buy the coordinating print for the background because I don't have enough of any print that would work. And this quilt was supposed to be a stash buster.

Give me an opinion. Do you like the string blocks?