Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Journey #4

It is interesting to look back at some of the quilts I made in my early years as a quilter.

The Journey #1
The Journey #2
The Journey #3

Remember, you can still VOTE for Best OVERALL Blog until August 31!  National Quilters Circle Awards. I am counting on you.

Today I'll tell the story of one of my favorite quilts and how it came to be.

Pieces of the Past--Circa 1875:

We moved to Alabama October 2, 1988 when my husband retired from the Marine Corps. A good move, this put us closer to his family, it rarely snows here, there was a large quilt guild and a wonderful quilt shop here--all good for me as a quilter with 3 years under my belt.

However, Friday October 7, 1988, my former guild in Virginia was having a workshop with Jinny Beyer--I had made all the arrangements with her and as a huge fan of hers, I really felt glum that day in Alabama that I had to miss the workshop.

On the way home from dropping off my sons at school, I stopped at a neighbor's yard sale. I didn't see anything right off but I  heard a man say "How much you want for that quilt?" YES, that quilt top I had just walked right by, it was hanging on a ladder. I grabbed the other one, it was brown, he had the blue one. She said "$5"--he paid it and I chased after him, offering him $10 if he'd just let me have it. He said "What do you care? You got one." and that was that. I begged him to take good care of it, not use it as drop cloth or worse. I paid my $5 and took the less-than-lovely brown quilt top home.

My mood did not improve. Not only was I not in Jinny Beyer's workshop, I lost the blue quilt and had to settle for the brown one, my least favorite color. But, sometime later that day, I was stricken with a dose of reality. As I studied the quilt top a bit, I realized it was really old and completely hand-pieced, pretty well. The outer border is shredded, almost in tatters as it is very crunchy. But the blocks are full of wonderful old fabric prints and in it's day, it must have been a beauty. I clearly remember saying to myself: "You have a treasure here and all you are fretting about is the one that got away. Appreciate what you have and let the other one go." Good lesson to learn.

As a new quilter, I thought every quilt top had to become a quilt and planned to hand quilt this one. It soon became clear this top would not hold up to such handling so all I should do is protect it. And reproduce it. In 1993 I found a wonderful reproduction print that strongly resembled the floral fabric in the top and it came in brown. I ordered several yards.

The Original:

The Reproduction:

Not exactly the same, but as close as I could ever hope to come. After drafting the pattern,  I pieced the quilt by machine and had a new-found appreciation for the long-ago quiltmaker--all those four-patches at the block intersections had to be set-in, they are not sewn straight across--that would be easy. I worked on this one for several weeks, added a brown striped border, and hand-quilted it myself, using wool batting--how wonderful that is! So easy to hand-quilt and so comfortable to sleep under.

About this time our guild brought quilt historian and fabric dating expert Merikay Waldvogel to give a program on antique quilts. In advance, we were told to bring any old quilts we had as she would incorporate them in her lecture. She placed the quilts we brought chronologically and this top was the second from the oldest--she dated it to 1875. I was even more amazed at my treasure.

Here is the label:

When my husband saw the label, he asked if I was planning to give this quilt away, as the fact that it has 100% wool batting was listed. I said "No, but I'm not going to live forever." I would hate to have someone way in the future throw this in the dryer and  have it come out much smaller.

I wanted to teach this quilt as a class but no one but me would be willing to piece it by machine with all those set-in four-patches, too challenging. So, I re-drafted it, eliminating that design feature and made a second quilt in 1995.  I called it "Five Easy Pieces:

Detail shot:

Now, there is one more funny story to tell about this quilt top.  In the late 1990's the guild brought Liz Porter and Marianne Fons to do a lecture and Liz did two workshops, one of which was to make a quilt that looked old from today's fabrics. I brought this top to show her during our lunch break and as she studied it carefully, she said "You know, this brown fabric used to be purple." Everyone listening started laughing--they knew my favorite color is purple but brown, not so much! Sure enough, looking at the seam allowances on the back, the original floral fabric was a purple--time and light had darkened it to brown. Since that day it has been my goal to replicate this old top one more time, in purple. That might be what's on tap next.

Lessons learned from an old quilt:

1. Appreciate all the treasures in your life
2. Don't fret about what you don't have and don't need
3. Honor the past with the work of your hands today
4. If the path is difficult, find an alternative route that is easier but still gets you there
5. In your old age, you may not be as beautiful as in your youth, but you still deserve to be loved and treasured, for in age there is wisdom and a life well-lived
6. Document your quilts and tops--how I wish I knew the story of this quilt top
7. Stop at yard sales--you never know what you're going to find

Over the years I have replicated several old quilts--more coming up in my Journey look-back.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Quilt Show

Today The Quilt Show is on my mind. This is an internet-based, worldwide quilting community. Begun in 2007 by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims--I have been a member since the very beginning.

It is a subscription service, so, yes, you do have to pay for it. The current cost is $49/year. I often say if I suddenly had to severely curtail my quilt spending, the last two things I would give up are dues to my local guild, Heritage Quilters of Huntsville and my subscription to The Quilt Show..

Here is what I get from The Quilt Show:

1. A new, hour-long show every two weeks, featuring at least one quilt artist/teacher. Often, Alex and  Ricky teach a tip on how to accomplish some quilting technique. I always learn something, even if what I learn is "I don't want to do THAT"--good lesson to learn, no more time spent on that. All previous shows remain available to paid members--wonderful talent, some of whom no longer teach away from home, or have passed on. Past shows are a tremendous resource.

2. Block of the Month patterns--if you like the design, this is reason enough to subscribe. Each year since 2009 there has been an original BOM quilt designed by a renowned quilt designer, available FREE for the entire year. If you miss saving/printing these patterns while they are free, the next year you can buy the patterns from the designer, for at least $80. This year's quilt is designed by Edyta Sitar, The Patchwork Barn:

My most favorite BOM quilt ever, is the first one, designed by my friend, the late Sue Garman:
This pattern is still available from her website: Come Quilt. The quilt I made from this pattern in 2009 is New Stars, New Day. It is included in the book 500 Traditional Quilts featuring some of the best quilts made today:

3. The Forum is a way to connect with other quilters around the world. There are many topics and people ask questions, others provide answers. It is always a treat when I meet a few of these quilters in "real life" at Houston, where  I work Market and Festival each year. Some of these people have become true friends, an added bonus.

4. The Classroom provides detailed teaching on various quilt topics. Lots of great information there.

There is so much more I get from the site--you can check it out without subscribing--there are always a few free shows you can watch to see if you like it. I encourage you to take a look:  The Quilt Show

Not everyone has a local guild or a local quilt shop where they can take classes and meet with others. The Quilt Show provides a quilting lifeline for those quilters.

Let's Quilt!


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Joumey #3

A few more quilts that look back on my quiltmaking journey. See the first two here:

The Journey #1

The Journey #2

Moving into the 1990's now, life was busy as a wife, mother, tax professional, Longaberger Basket Sales Associate, and very active quilt guild member. I was making lots of small quilts for magazine publication and bed-size quilts for my family. I was also in a 6-woman group who went on an annual retreat and made 6 queen-size quilts, one for each of us, over 6 years. I also made several banners for my church. The only way I know these things is because I kept a scrap book of all the quilts I made in those years and today, I have that information.

By now I had started to speak to quilt guilds in the area. At a talk in 1992 for the Batting Brigade guild of Florence, AL, I learned about their upcoming "Nature" challenge. I bought the two-fabric kit that had to be used, a blue and a green. The finished quilt had to be a shape other than a square or rectangle--quite a challenge for those early days of "art-style" quilts. My entry, called "What Goes Around, Comes Around":

The desgin is based on a Franklin Mint plate seen in an advertisement. To draw the dolphins, I found a child's coloring book with sea creatures. The bird was cut from an Oriental print and fused in place. This was my first attempt at some of these more "artistic" quilt techniques and though today it lives in a closet, I still like it.

More fan blocks were won at a guild meeting in 1993--these Amish-style fans had black backgrounds and solid colors. I named it "Wheel of Fortune" and gave it to my eldest son, Joshua:

The back was pieced too, something I continue to do frequently:

In 1993 I got more blocks in a group swap with the guild board and made "Good & Plenty". I think one of my sons has it as I no longer do:

The back is a bars-style design, a popular Amish design though the food print would not have been used in an Amish quilt:

When I stumbled across this next photo I was surprised--I have no memory of this quilt or where it went. Fortunately, on the back was written "Plaid Country" and dated August 25, 1997:

It was longarm machine quilted from the looks of it, and I am sure there is a label on the back with the name of the quilter but I have no memory of it today. I believe it was given to my younger son, Andy, seen here, because I think it was made for him to take to college--in Arizona--I thought it funny I made a quilt with lots of flannels, including the back, for him to take West.

There are many more completed projects in these years, many wallhangings and baby quilts and class samples. But I'm coming to the end of my scrap book so notes with dates and all the written details are almost done. Once we got digital cameras, our photos became "files" and are only saved on hard drives--which eventually die. I have digital images of most of my quilts made since the mid-1990s but unless I have the quilt so I can read the  label, much of the information is no longer there.

Do future quilt-lovers a favor and start keeping some kind of written log of your work, along with photos--unless you plan to live forever. Your work will.

Let's quilt!


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Well, What Do You Know?!!

This little blog is a FINALIST in the 2018 National Quilters Circle Blogger Awards--one of three in the running for BEST OVERALL QUILTING BLOG!!!! Along with Bonnie Hunter and Susan Carlson, two very well-known and respected quilters.

You can say I'm GOBSMACKED!

Now I need YOUR help--please vote--the voting is only open until August 31, winners will be announced September 7.

And, wouldn't it be something if this little blog can hold her own in the great big quilt world? With your help, we can show them who we are--quilters on a joyful journey, learning to do our best and have fun while making great quilts.

Vote Now!

I would sincerely appreciate your vote. And, please share this post with all your quilting friends--it takes a village.

Let's Quilt!


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

NOTE: If you saw this last week when it was accidentally posted early--those numbers are not correct. This post has the correct measurements for the 6" block below

Recently, I've shown these adorable little house blocks on Facebook and Instagram and there has been a lot of interest. I call them Quilters' Scrap Houses:

Three of us are close quilting buddies and often make blocks to swap, or do round-robin quilts. While at a three-person retreat a few weeks ago we decided to make house blocks to swap. I took on the design job and set the "guidelines"--that would be "rules".  I wrote all the details of this project here.

In Electric Quilt 8 there are lots of house blocks. I found one that just needed a bit of tweaking, size, one chimney, not two, no ground, etc.  Here is our pattern:

This one is perfect for foundation paper piecing. There are four units to make, then you assemble a lower half, the building, and the upper half, the roof and the sky/chimney. Ours is 5" finished but could easily be larger or smaller.

What if you don't have software and want to make a pattern? Simply draw a square and make your own. Trace paper patterns for the block you drew--be sure you add seam allowances where needed.

Here is what my pattern looks like for the 5" block. Notice I printed it in reverse so the door will be on the left and window on the right when sewn:

What if you are not a fan of paper piecing and want to piece your block in the regular way? No problem, these shapes are basic and simple to piece.

How about a 6" block, pieced regularly? Here are the numbers:

Top Half: 
Top Row:  2 Sky rectangles cut 2" x 3", 1 Sky cut 1.25" x 1.5"
                  1 Chimney cut 1.25" x 1.5"
                   Join chimney/sky, add sky to both sides, unit should now be 2" x 6.5"

Second Row: 2 Sky triangles cut from 1 square 2 3/8"--note I'd cut the square 2.5" for insurance
                       Front Roof triangle can be cut from one square cut 4.25"--cut in quarters making the                             long side on the straight of grain--each square gives you 4 of these triangles.
                        Long Roof Triangle--cut rectangle 2" x 5.75". Create parallelogram by removing both                            ends with a 45 degree cut--be sure you are cutting in the proper direction
                         Join the front roof to the long roof, add sky triangles to both sides
                       Unit should now be 2" x 6.5"

Bottom Half:
Left House: cut 2 House rectangles 1.5" x 3.5", cut 1 house square 1.5"
                     cut Door 1.5" x 2.5"
                      Join door/house, add house rectangles to each side of door
                      Unit should now be 3.5" square

Right House:  cut 3 house rectangles 1.5" x 3.5", cut one of these in half for above/below window,                               trim them to 1.5" squares.
                        cut 1 Window 1.5" square
                        Join house parts to window, above/below, add house rectangles to either side
                        Unit should now be 3.5" square

Join the Top and Second Rows for the upper half of the block
Join the Left and Right House units for the lower half of the block
Join the upper and lower halves and you now have a Quilters' Scrap House that is 6"finished size.

5" on the left, 6" on the right

You can also Google "Quilt House Blocks" and you will find many blocks, in lots of sizes and lots of designs--find one you like if this doesn't suit you.

 I really prefer paper piecing and the smaller the better--I plan to make this baby in a 3" size too. But not everyone likes that method, so choose whichever you prefer.

This has been added to my Workshops offerings as a 3 hour class--just enough time to make a few and see the paper piecing process.

Let's Quilt.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Journey #2

This is a continuation of my Journey Series, my quilts in photos and stories. See the first one here:

The Journey #1

In October 1988 my husband retired from the United States Marine Corps after 23 years of service and we moved from Virginia to Alabama. about an hour north of the small town he grew up in. I happily agreed to move to Alabama when I learned they had a quilt guild with 100 members and a quilt shop with 1000 bolts. It also meant winter without snow, most years, and that was fine with me.

The Heritage Quilters of Huntsville welcomed me with open arms and I was quickly on the board for a few years then targeted to be president. I am still very active with my guild and it has been an important part of my quilt journey. The best thing for me has been all the top-notch, first rate teachers the guild has brought in over the last 30 years, affording me a chance to learn from the best.

I attended my first HQH meeting the 3rd Thursday of October, 1988. It was their first challenge and they didn't take time for Show and Tell. I was disappointed because I had brought several quilts. After the meeting the owner of the local quilt shop, Linda Worley of Patches & Stitches, asked to see my quilts and soon thereafter I started teaching in her shop. So it all worked out for me.

At that first meeting I learned about their "Fan Block Swap". The next month the swap would involve Christmas fabrics in the fan blocks, the guild logo. In November I made a fan block and won the 10 blocks in the drawing. I went to work making 3 more so I could use this layout and at the December meeting I showed the top I had worked hard to get ready:

6. Christmas Around the Country--1989:

The members were shocked at my top--no one have ever made a top from the blocks they had won before. I thought we were SUPPOSED to make a top. I started hand quilting this one and it was done August 25, 1989 so I could enter it in the guild's first quilt show September 1989. It won a third place in the Group Category and I was thrilled!

I was particularly pleased with the quilting design I created, using freezer paper and cardboard. I still have this stencil. And the green thread was a bold choice, but I like it. The design in the dark green sashing was a stencil I bought, my collection of stencils was growing:

My quilt was also featured on the cover of "Christmas Year 'Round, Jan-Feb 1991:

7. Josh's Arrowheads--1989:

I was starting to enjoy using lots of fabrics in my quilts and this next one was a pattern in a magazine, the design was called Arrowheads. I gave it to my son who had an arrowhead collection of those he found several different places, including his PawPaw's farm, and our local neighborhood.  He recently told me it is worn out in places and he wants me to fix it. This is the first quilt I machine quilted, and I found THAT is not as easy as you might think.

8. A Christmas Carol--1989:
About this time, the editor of a new magazine "Christmas Year 'Round" commissioned me to make this log cabin wallhanging for their upcoming Premier first issue. The deadline was short but I met it, keeping track of the 54.5 hours it took me. I got the fabrics from Patches & Stitches and when the issue came out, unbeknownst to the shop, there was a notice with the photo that kits were available and the phone number to the shop. 

The demand was overwhelming, the phone rung almost constantly, and more than 300 kits were mailed out. Because I had made the quilt a year before publication, substitutions of some fabrics were necessary. Imagine the shock we had when we discovered the magazine had incorrectly figured the yardage for the most important fabric--they wrote the pattern, I did not. All the kits were cut short! Three hundred additional strips of that one fabric were mailed out. 

Eventually, the phone stopped ringing and the shop got back to normal. Imagine their surprise when, about  a year after the original mailing, the magazine was sent out free to subscribers of some other magazines. Demand was back again and more kits were made. 

Ironically, this commission involved them getting to keep the quilt so I  don't have one of these. But lots of people do. Throughout the 1990's I made many quilts for this publisher, for "Christmas Year 'Round", "Country Stitch" and "McCall's Quilting". Now I wrote the patterns and I got to keep the quilts after they were photographed for the magazines.

9. Alabama Broken Star--1991
This quilt is king-size and was a commission I made. My only stipulation was the owner would meet me at Patches & Stitches and pay for all the fabrics and  I would get it done as soon as possible but without a deadline. And I had to be able to enter it in the guild quilt show.

The label I printed and put on the back says:

"The pattern is adapted from the pattern available in the Land's End Christmas 1989 catalog. 114" x 104", 100 % cotton fabrics, polyester batting. 

Begun August 25, 1990, completed July 15, 1991. It required 50 hours to piece by machine and 275 hours to quilt by hand and finish."

I kept track of my hours because I had set the price for the job before beginning. I underestimated, by 100 hours, how long the quilting would take. The price was set to give me the money needed to replace our old garage door. About half-way through, my husband said "Let's just hang the quilt over the garage door so you can keep it".  Here is a shot showing the quilting, hanging in the HQH 1991 quilt show:

This cured me of doing any more bed-size commissions. From then on it was only the magazines I sewed and quilted for. 

10. Charm Quilt--1992
When we moved from Virginia to Alabama, I was involved in a year-long block swap with my Virginia guild. That kept on, we just had to mail blocks to each other now. I chose a Thousand Pyramid's pattern--each person pieced 9 triangles into one large triangle and signed their block somewhere on the front. It was begun in 1988 and finished December 23, 1992. I hand quilted it with an intricate geometric design I created that you can't see. It represents the friendships in quilting started with  my first guild. The title is: "Quilt Shop Nightmare--I'd Like a Quarter Yard of Everything, Please".

Thanks for coming along on the Journey.

Let's quilt.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

New Finish and Best Blog Award?!

One more in the "Finished" column. pieced by me, longarm quilted by Mechelle Armstrong, Magnolia Longarm Quilting of Madison, AL:

Nice Fit on a Queen-size bed

A Topper for a King-size bed
Quilting Details:

Halo Star Medallion, 2017 Block of the Month on The Quilt Show. The GREAT NEWS is this pattern is still available FREE for Star Members, until December 31, 2018.

This quilt was designed by the late Sue Garman exclusively for The Quilt Show. The cost to buy the pattern now directly from Sue's company, Come Quilt, is $78.00.  The cost of a  one year membership to The Quilt Show is $49--and it includes so much more in addition to the Blocks of the Month patterns. Each show teaches me something--there is a new one-hour show every two weeks. Your membership gives you access to ALL the previous shows. I've been a member since the very beginning,  more than 10 years. and consider it the best money I spend on quilting each year.

This free pattern is in addition to the 2018 Block of the Month, The Patchwork Barn designed by Edyta Sitar. Here is just a taste of mine, with a few alternative options, it's still secret sewing until next month:

I received a surprise email the other day from National Quilters Circle, letting me know this blog has been nominated for "Best Overall Blog" in their Quilting Blogger Awards! Wow, that's quite an amazing surprise.

I don't expect this to go much farther--the top 3 blogs nominated move on to the final voting  and some of those nominated have many thousands of followers, this one has about 2,500. I am just happy at least one of you nominated this little blog. If you want to nominate me, feel free, but really, just thank you so much for following along on my Joyful Journey.

Let's Quilt!


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Journey #1

As I look back at my earliest quilts I can see where I came from and the journey that has brought me from my earliest work to today.

The very first quilts I made, I gave away--a few were baby quilts, 1985-1986. The first bed-size quilt I made, in 1985, was a Trip Around the World--the pattern came from a Family Circle  magazine--the article was called "Make a Quilt in a Day". My notes say it took me 15 hours. All the 4.5" strips were cut by hand with scissors--I had not discovered the rotary cutter yet. It was tied with yarn. I know it is here in my house somewhere, I just can't find it at the moment.

Here are a few of  my quilts, from the early years in Virginia:

1. Double Irish Chain--1987

This was a kit from Hearthside Quilts--all pieces pre-cut--I ordered it from their mail-order catalog. The piecing was easy but I remember being disappointed in the "Rose" fabric--that was not my idea of what "rose" fabric looked like. Of course, I hand quilted it and the two extra block pillows. They sit in my studio in that same rocking chair. 

When it was time to bind this quilt, it did not make sense to me to cut off the perfectly good extra back fabric, only to sew on a binding to the front. So I brought the back to the front and hand-stitched it in place. When I entered it in the first quilt show of the Virginia Star Quilters guild, the person who collected it from me said "You don't know how to do an applied binding, do you?" I had the perfect answer "Apparently, not.". She said "I'll teach you" and I never brought the back to the front again--but I do save that perfectly good fabric that is cut off when the quilt is finished--I can always use it for something.

2. "Peaceful Slumber" Baby Quilt--1987
A mail-order pattern, I stenciled the designs using fabric paint then hand-quilted it. I must have really liked this pattern, my notes say I made 3 of them that year. This one I made and kept for my "baby", Andy, who was 7 in 1987. It's time to give this to him for his new baby son, Sam. The fabric is a very cheap poly/blend fabric, the batting is polyester, all my early quilts had polyester batting. Easy to hand quilt, not so lovely to sleep under. And my early binding technique leaves a lot to be desired--I was still learning.

3. Ohio Star--Lap Quilted--1987
This quilt is SO 1980's--that mauve fabric, only three prints, two of which are opposites of each other, rose on white, white on rose, and muslin. But see how it matches the mauve sofa?

As my quilts got bigger, I tried "Lap Quilting"--today we call this "Quilt As You Go:QAYG". Georgia Bonesteel made it a popular method. 
 Here you can just barely see the seams on the back--they were all turned under and sewn by hand with "blind" or "applique'" stitches--today it is all done by machine. This was my first and last QAYG.

The quilting design in the sashing is from the first stencil I ever bought. I still have it and like the simple feather/heart design:

4. Trip Around the World--1988
The first quilt I hand-quilted on a floor frame. This is also SO 1980s'--rose, blue, white, and a large blue floral--by now, I was learning to use a print to help me select the other fabrics.

I kept track of my time: "Begun September 4, 1987: 25 hours machine piecing. 2 hours basting (3 people). Began quilting November 20, 1987 on a frame borrowed from a neighbor. 175  hours hand quilting, 1.5 spools of thread, 7.5 hours binding. Total time: 209.5 hours. Completed May 26, 1988."

I designed the simple pumpkin seed quilting in the body and a vine motif for the borders, I still have those stencils, made from freezer paper and cardboard:

5. Amish Miniatures--1987-1988
One of the lucky things that happened for me was I discovered the Virginia Star Quilters of Fredericksburg, VA, about a year into my quilting journey. There were about 25 members, I was the baby, and they kindly took me under their wing, answering my incessant questions each month at our evening meeting. During this time the statewide guild was founded, the Virginia Consortium of Quilters. We met quarterly in different parts of the state and I got to go with my quilting friends to several of those meetings--where I got to take workshops! A chance to really learn new techniques and/or "best practices" of quiltmaking. I was like a sponge at those events.

Back at home, a few of us had weekly "quilt dates" and for a while we worked on quilts from the book An Amish Adventure by Roberta Horton--still available today. I still believe small quilts are a great way for the new quilter to learn--by the time these were all done I had mastered the basics of binding, my quilting was much better, and members of the group shared leftover batting so I could try several different varieties to determine my favorite. For young moms, money is often tight and it was so helpful to get those giveaways.

Amish quilts were the first I ever saw--on a Girl Scout trip to Lancaster County when I was about 10 years old. I was just starting to sew then and was captivated by the bold colors and strong designs in these quilts. But I thought I was too impatient to ever make one. Twenty years would go by before the bug bit, but from then on, it was all quilting, all the time.

Thanks for coming along on my trip down memory lane. I hope you have photos and information on your early work too. Each of these has either a label sewn on or my name and the year written on the back in permanent marker--many times I have needed those dates to refresh my memory.

Let's quilt!