Monday, November 17, 2014

Odds and Ends

When my daughter was visiting last weekend, helping me with the improv piecing, she also arranged a block of her own off to the side using some of the scraps.  I sewed that together this past week and quilted it into a place mat sized mini.

I have never free-motion quilted over corduroy and wondered how it would act.  I'm happy to report that it went well and actually seemed very normal to quilt.  I experimented with some very "organic" clam shells.  Norm called the whole look primitive, and I guess that's about as good a description as any!

I really like the texture of the quilted corduroy.  For the back, I used a soft wool flannel in a subtle herringbone pattern.  

So that's my experiment of the week and pretty much the sum total of what happened in the sewing room the past few days.

* * * * * *
Back in October, I visited my aunt, who showed me two quilts pieced by my great-grandmother on my dad's side.  

My paternal great-grandparents, Max and Esther (50th anniversary, July 1944)
The story was that Great-Grandma Esther had told my aunt and her sister that she would make each of them a quilt, to be given to them when they got a little older (and married, probably).  My aunts regularly helped Great-Grandma in her later years; they lived just across the street.

Unfortunately, however, Great-Grandma passed away in 1952, when the aunts were 16 and 17, and the quilts all but disappeared in the goings-on after her death.  My aunt was fairly certain that my great-aunt had taken them home, ostensibly for safekeeping.  

Over the next many years, as the aunts got married and had children, my aunt asked about the quilts, but for whatever reason, they were never turned over to her and her sister.  

Indeed, forty years passed before the aunts received their quilts.  After my great-aunt passed away in 1994, the quilt tops were found among her things.

They were finished simply for each of the aunts at that time by one of their sisters-in-law, with what feels like a poly batting and tied with yarn.  

Aunt Celia and her double wedding ring quilt
The double wedding ring quilt went to Aunt Celia and the lavender basket quilt to Aunt Mona.  

Celia remembered quite a few dresses in the scraps of her quilt.

My aunt told me that Great-Grandma sewed may things, including the Christmas and Easter dresses made for each of her granddaughters every year.  She also made baby clothes, and the baptismal gown worn by a good number of babies born into the extended family in the last century, myself and my daughter included. (The baptismal gown is a story in itself.  If I can find photos of it around here, I'll post those another time).

This is one of the baby items Great-Grandma made in the 1920s.  My aunt has a Victorian style decor and displays this year-round.

The confirmation dresses worn by two relatives in this photo were made by my Great-Grandma in the 1930s.

It was fun to visit with my aunt about these things.  I plan to go back there again and look through some family photos with her, which I'm sure will prompt a story or two.

I can't recall how I had heard about these quilts made by my great-grandmother; it was something mentioned in passing in the past year or so, but I'm glad I followed up and asked further about them.  It was a treat to learn more about an ancestor I'd never met whose legacy lives on in her handiwork and the memories of those who knew her.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Weekend of Improv

No, not the theater or stand-up kind of improv. I'm talking about improvisational quilt piecing.  Otherwise known as how to feel like a fish out of water.

Seriously, I have questioned my motivation multiple times over the course of the past couple days, as I limited myself to the scraps of corduroy and a couple other fabrics that I insisted on working with.  One was a thrifted plaid shirt fabric that I loved the turquoise-y color of.  The other was a wild card fabric, just to make it an extra special challenge.  It was some of what's left of the only piece of clothing from my late mom that I kept, which used to be a '90s style, poufy-shoulder-padded, slightly over-sized blazer that both she and I wore at various times back in the day.  I think I wore it first, actually, and handed in up to her.  Anyhoo.

Gads, I'm tired.  My brain hurts in a good way, like my usually left-brain dominant side has been in an arm wrestling match with my right-brain.  I think they finally called a truce, but it wasn't without some hair pulling and name calling.

And then—then!—I just had to make a video.  Mostly because I don't know how to put together a simple slide show and upload it.  It probably takes all of five minutes, but no.  Why do that?  I have to make a simple thing difficult (see above).  I had to make a video, including music, including having to download a program to edit said music, and then reading just enough help files to be dangerous and to figure out the least I had to know to do what I wanted to do.  That takes, like, all dang day, y'all.  If you're me.  Just sayin'.

I know a few friends who have less than optimal internet connections so probably can't watch the video (that I slaved over, ahem), so here is the quick and dirty print explanation.

A)  I played with some fabric on the design wall.  

B) I sewed some strips together.  

C) I pushed and shoved and willed the two parts to play nicely together.  I had a lot of self-doubt I kept having to shush.  I pushed and shoved myself onward.  I got things to a certain point and was, like, meh.

C and a half)  I thought about a lot of pleasant and interesting things during the process too.  It wasn't all the Darth Vader Imperial March.  I may do another post about the musings I had while trying to work things out and sew.  My mom and dad...my family...the masculine and feminine...Jungian psychology... And because I am a person who thinks about what I think about, I  pondered how we tend to ascribe meaning to things we create, or at least I do. 

D)  Then I had a nice visit Sunday from my lovely daughter who drove home to celebrate her birthday with us.  After we visited and had lunch, she came downstairs to play on the design wall with me.

Oh, you guys, it was so good to have another engaged and interested person to collaborate with!  Especially someone with a eye for things artsy.  She doesn't quilt but she draws for her own enjoyment and commission work and, well, she just knows things.  It was fun to hear her think out loud as we played.  Together we worked at it until we both were happy, and I finished sewing it up this morning! 

Would I change a few things in hindsight?  Probably.  (The old inner critic works overtime, I tell ya.)  But really, the end result is a little beside the point.  This challenge was about the journey, not the destination, as I reminded myself often.  A chance to try something different with a limited palette, use a lesser developed skill set, ponder, learn, collaborate, add, subtract, adjust, and carry on while muzzling that inner critic.  In those ways, it was a success. 

The video shows more of the process sequence, and I hope you'll give it a watch!



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Puttering with Purpose

Since finishing the drunkard's path plaid quilt top, I've been getting a few odd jobs done around the house.  We woke up to snow on the ground a few days ago, which has since melted, but it's back in the forecast now as a possibility for the next couple days.  Before things got too cold and cruddy, it was time to get a few odds and ends done.


It's coming...it's coming...it's heeeere!
I finally painted around the basement windows (one primer coat + one coat of enamel = one more coat than I anticipated having to paint, but it's done).  Then I debated whether to put up curtains on those windows or leave them bare.  They're just your typical narrow basement windows near the ceiling and they don't let in a lot of light, but what light they do let in, especially in the winter, I don't think I want to obscure in any way.  Still, cute curtains in the sewing room might be nice, eventually.


Guard Pheasant says he doesn't need any stinkin' curtains.
I woke up Monday morning looking out some very dirty bedroom windows as the morning sunlight filtered in.  That seemed like a task for the "honey-do" list, as Norm's been off this week, but as it ended up, we collaborated and washed every window in the house straight away Monday morning.  I must officially be an old fart, because the resulting sense of accomplishment made me incredibly happy.


An interesting gluten-free beer I tried recently.  FYI, beer also makes you happy.
Next up is cleaning the light fixtures in the bathroom and ceiling fans.  I can hardly wait.

Recently, I found a cute red quilted jacket* at the thrift store which actually fit my long monkey arms.  For eight bucks, I bought it.  It was perfect for fall, light but warm enough for more brisk days.

(*Norm called it an "old lady" jacket on first seeing it, probably because it reminded him of what our grandmas wore in the 1960s, but I pointed out that it was a classic, if not current style.  Plus it was red.  He ultimately came around to my point of view, or maybe he just resolved to keep his mouth shut on further comment, but either way, I WIN.)

Trouble was, every time I walked into or out of a store in the coat, it set off the security alarm.  (And do you  know, not a single person ever stopped me?  I paused and waited for a while, but when no one came to pat me down or check my bags, I left; one other time, the clerk who had checked me out in line just waved me through.)

It didn't dawn on me that it might be the coat until about the third time it happened.  Norm was along with me and said he'd had a pair of jeans that did that and he finally turned them inside out and found a little wire coil hidden along the seam.  That was the anti-theft thingie, apparently.  He snipped that out and never had a problem after.  So he said when we got home, he'd give my coat a going over.

I saw nothing that looked suspicious myself, but he felt one of the labels sewn into the side seam with the washing instructions, and there was a slight thickness to it.  We cut the "label" out, snipped it open, and sure enough, there was the security tag.  Mystery solved!  Now I wonder if whoever donated the coat had had the same problem?

In other news, I got new glasses, which was no small feat seeing as most trending styles are reminiscent of what I used to wear in seventh grade, or the cat-eyes my grandma wore, or the safety glasses my dad used to have to wear.  Nevertheless, I came away with something that didn't make me look too much like Velma from Scooby Doo.


Well, okay, maybe a little.  Ruh-ro.  But hey, they're navy blue, which matches my eyes!

Sewing-wise, I puttered in the sewing room too, putting away the rest of the thrifted shirt stash and generally cleaning up the mess of scraps, etc. 


This led to me experimenting with an idea for the curved shirt tails I'd cut off the shirts.  What if I overlapped them and then gathered the edge?  Might it not make a cute scalloped ruffle for, say, an apron or curtains?


Maybe.  I'm filing the idea away under "try again when you've forgotten that gathering ruffles is kind of a P.I.T.A."

Soon enough, my attention was grabbed by a small stack of corduroy scraps next to some odd flannel pieces.  I had been thinking of cutting the corduroy into long strips for a sort of 1600-type quilt that I would tie and use as a lap quilt.  One of my coworkers had gifted me the corduroy scraps.  But the flannel seemed to be wanting to play, too, so I started making half-square triangles.


First I lined them all up by color in long rows, but that seemed a little lot too OCD for me, so I started mixing them up, random like.


And then I proceeded to sew those babies together—as you do when you are procrastinating on other things.  I'm looking at you, "Tea Towel Challenge Quilt 2014."  All in good time, my pretty, all in good time.


Not sure if the corduroy/flannel diversion will end up being a small wall quilt more or less as it is, or if I want to add a border or two, or if it may be the start of a medallion type quilt.  It's a humble beginning, and I'm okay with that.

Because you know I'm all about that base (and bass...I really am a sucker for a good bass line).


P.S. - I like this version more than the original!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Drunkard's Path Quilt Along - Week 4

There's something to whoop about today—I got the plaid drunkard's path quilt top sewn together this past week!


It went together really well.  I did any necessary trimming to size/squaring up, block by block, as I sewed each row. 

Turns out I needn't have worried about pressing all the quarter circles one direction (toward the circle).  It worked just fine to sew over that seam, and there was no shifting, thanks to strategic pinning and then using my trusty seam ripper, flat side down, to compress the bulkier seams as they went under the presser foot.  No broken needles either, ha!


The full shot was taken with me standing on a chair and holding the camera up almost touching the ceiling.  What we do for our quilts, huh?


It will finish at 72 x 90 inches.  I love it!

It still needs a few things:
  • Backing - Have to see what I've got in the stash.
  • Quilting - Going to send this one out.
  • Binding - Thinking of using more shirt scraps for the binding.
  • Name - Considering "Plaid Portholes" or "Portholes in Plaid," but I reserve the right to change my mind, and your ideas are welcome.
And a label, I almost forgot!  I have been really bad about labeling quilts lately.  I need to label probably a dozen finished quilts.  That sounds like a winter project, doesn't it?  Good thing there's this blog to remind me of the details for each one.


As I have mentioned before, I used the pattern "Dad's Plaids" by Elsie Campbell for this quilt.  It appears in her book String Quilts.  You can also see a video of Elsie Campbell showing how to make this quilt on QNNtv.com, HERE.  A subscription is required; I bought the monthly subscription for $2.99, well worth it just to be able to watch this video, but it also gives you access to hundreds more.


And as a final bit of random, how about a photo of the full moon earlier this month.  It was so bright and clear to the naked eye, but my camera couldn't quite capture that image. Ah well, I think it's kind of cool anyway, through the creepy tree and all.  Happy Halloween!

Linking to:

Cross the Drunkard’s Path Quilt Along


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wisconsin Quilt Museum - Part 2

This is a continuation of our day trip to the Wisconsin Quilt Museum a few weeks ago, to see the "Trends and Traditions" exhibit, which has now closed.  If you missed part one, which featured the double wedding ring quilts of Victoria Findlay Wolfe, you'll find it back a couple of posts HERE.

The second part of the exhibit featured traditional quilts made during the first half of the twentieth century, although some of them seemed to have quite a "modern" vibe to them, I thought.

"Muscatel Grape Quilt" designed by Mary McElwain, appliqued by Genevieve Peters Wainwright, begun in 1937 and completed in 1989, quilted by the Ladies Aid Society of the Community Church, Fontana, Wisconsin
The featured quilter in the traditional quilts display was Mary McElwain of Walworth, Wisconsin, who designed and sold quilts, quilt patterns and kits.  She started out in 1912, in a corner of her husband's jewelry store, and then expanded from there.

I'm going to include some of the signs that told her story throughout this post.  Click on the photos to make them larger and more readable, as necessary.


"Gypsy Tears" quilt, a/k/a Drunkard's Path
Close-up of hand quilting, quilted 11-13 stitches per inch.
The pattern for the "Gypsy Tears" quilt was printed on a batting wrapper, like the one shown below, which indicated "Pattern furnished courtesy of the Mary McElwain quilt shop."
This next one was one of my favorites of the whole "Traditions" exhibit.  I just loved everything about it, the colors, the pattern, the quilting—oh my!

It's called "Pine and Wreath" or "Trees and Garlands," made in the second quarter of the twentieth century.

"Pine and Wreath" or "Trees and Garlands"
Norm enjoyed seeing the quilts, believe it or not.  Maybe he didn't enjoy having his picture taken as much, though.

"Daisy Chain" made circa 1935
This one, called "Daisy Chain," was made about 1935, and was one of Mary McElwain's favorite designs, as noted in the blurb below. 

Close-up of "Daisy Chain" applique and quilting
"The Laurel" made circa 1937-1938
The fine handwork of these quilts just blew me away!
Close-up of "Oak Leaf and Acorn" quilting and applique
"Oak Leaf and Acorn" made circa 1936
"Modern Rose Quilt" or "Peachy Posey" made around 1936

Double Irish Chain Quilt
It was fun to read one person's account of being a quilt turner in Mary McElwain's shop:


How interesting to see this 1941 invoice for a quilt from Mary's shop.  An entire quilt for $31.36!  I like the line that says "Color...gorgeous."  At least I think that's what it says, what do you think?

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with too many photos.  It was just so interesting to see all of these quilts (and more), still so compelling and colorful and beautiful after all these years. 

Close-up of "Horn of Plenty" quilt
I'm so glad for places like the Wisconsin Quilt Museum and the opportunity to appreciate the quilts of the past, as well as modern day quilting.  It was a great visit!