Monday, March 26, 2018

Framed Memory Quilt Block

This is the story of a fairly quick and easy project.  Do you like that word, "fairly"?  Qualifiers aside, it really was pretty simple.

I wanted to make something with Dad's ties, some kind of memory piece.  The thing is, Dad used to have more ties before he retired.  That was over 30 years ago, so at the time he passed away, he was down to only three ties in regular rotation.  With the dress code for church and weddings and funerals being more relaxed these days, he didn't need any more than that.

And he was a clip-on tie kind of guy.  Always.  He was all about simple solutions.

First I hand-washed the ties in Woolite, and when they were dry, took them apart.  Turns out once you cut the knot off, there's not a whole lot of fabric in a clip-on tie when it comes down to it.  Therefore my project, whatever it was, would need to be small because of the limited resources (and variety) of three clip-on ties.

Ties are cut on the bias, so I fused a lightweight interfacing onto the backs of the pieces to stabilize them.

This block, which I saw on Pinterest, was my inspiration.  Unfortunately, the link did not lead to any information on the maker.  If anyone recognizes it, please let me know so I can give credit.  

My thought was to feature the tie fabric in the center star.  I have three siblings, so I could use a different tie for each block, along with some of Dad's shirt scraps left from the memory quilt.  And then I'd frame each block and give one to each of my two brothers and sister as a memento.

I was thinking of a shadow box style frame without glass, but that wasn't easy to find.  Something square, not rectangular, larger than 6 inches but smaller than 10, that didn't cost an arm and a leg.

Then one day while shopping at Dollar Tree, I saw these square signs.  Thought I might pop out the glass and be able to use the frame for my project.  The price was right, a buck, so I bought one to experiment with.  Well, it turned out the glass was glued in with some kind of super-tough epoxy that my razor blade could not budge! 

Plan B:  Leave the glass in place and try scraping off the lettering with the razor blade.  Bingo!  A couple minutes later, the lettering was gone and I had a 7.5-inch square frame for my block.

The next step was to make the block.  Figured the easiest way to do it was draw up a paper piecing pattern.  

The block consists of four identical sections joined around a 2.5-inch center square.  There's a partial seam involved in sewing the block together, but that's not difficult.  The hardest thing for me was remembering how to paper piece!  I did have to un-sew a few seams on the first attempt, but then I got the hang of it.

(I would be happy to share the paper piecing pattern, crudely hand-drawn as it is, but I don't know how to insert a PDF download link.  If I figure that out, I may come back and edit this post.)

To insert the block into the frame, I bought a piece of black foam core board at the dollar store and cut it to about 7-3/8 inches square. 

Used a few dabs of washable glue stick to help center the block on the board, and then gently pushed it into the frame.  It fit just right, not too loose or too tight.  I could seal it in place with a bead of hot glue, but for now I'm okay with leaving it as is.  It seems stable enough.  And I like the option of being able to remove it easily, if you want, from the frame.

Finished blocks.

I ended up making four, so I can keep one.  I used the one of the ties twice, but a different part of it, so the center stars don't look the same from one to another.  

That's how it all came together.  Fairly simple, right? 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Sundry 3-25-18

A few weeks ago, I sat here and composed a long, sort of catch-up post.  Spent a couple hours on it (I am not a fast blogger, especially with so much time having passed since the last entry).  Saved it to edit a bit more later, and went to lunch.  When I came back to it, I went to make one small change and just like that—poof—it was gone!  The "undo" button was of no use; the entire post had vanished.

Fate or fumble fingers?  Perhaps both.  Frustrating?  To say the least.  I was not about to repeat the effort in that moment, so just walked away.

Anyway, hello again.  I'm still here, doing the day-to-day, and hope you are too.

(My first wall hanging, made for Dad in 1993)
I spent a lot of time in January going through my dad's stuff.  He was kind of pack rat, but in the best way.  That is, if he kept something, it had meaning to him, nostalgic, sentimental or historical value.  Of course, in the end, it's all just "stuff," but in sifting through it and dividing it among my siblings, I wondered and mused, marveled and giggled (and even Googled).  It has been an interesting, cathartic, and healing process.

My sewing space was strewn with paperwork, photos, memorabilia, and other non-fabric related whatnots for a couple months.  I spent a lot of time there in the basement, not sewing.  But I got a lot done, things organized and dealt with, funeral thank-yous and other notes written, etc. 

And then there was the radon.

January was "Radon Awareness Month," per various plugs I'd seen online and in the media.  On a whim one day, I followed a link to order a test kit, and a week or so later had completed it and sent it in for analysis.  A couple days later, an email arrived with the results.  And I freaked out.

My sewing room, my Happy Place where I've spent countless hours in the past 20 years, measured four times the actionable level of radon.

Fast forward 10 days, and a mitigation truck was in the driveway.  A system (pipe and fan) was installed to vent the gas from where it collects under the concrete slab/basement floor to outside and above the roof line, where it is discharged into the general atmosphere.  Followup testing last week showed the level is now down to nearly zero.  Happy Place restored.

So there was that.

Meanwhile, I brought a sewing machine upstairs to the kitchen table and made a memory quilt out of Dad's old shirts and one pair of pajamas.  

I went back to using the living room floor as my design wall.

I needed to keep my mind focused on something productive, other than fretting about the stuff I couldn't see or taste or smell, much less control.  (You know, if radon smelled like manure or rotten eggs, I bet we'd all be dealing with it pronto.)

Soon, there was this.

I am going to send it out for quilting, although I haven't determined where yet.  My local long arm quilter has moved away to live with her elderly mother.  She did give me the names of a couple other local quilters, but I haven't contacted them yet.

Some of those shirts were a bit finicky to work with.  I ended up fusing interfacing to the backs of the thinner ones.  A couple others want to fray if you just look at them sideways.  I zigzagged the edges in the most troublesome areas.  But the sooner it's quilted, I think, the better.

I did another little memory project that I'll tell you about in another post. Hint:  It involves the three ties pictured on the table above.