Monday, July 26, 2010

Design Wall Monday::One Thing Leads to Another

I spent a frustrating Saturday morning dealing with real life stuff and nearly all of Saturday afternoon at the computer.  At first I was looking for a mystery quilt pattern I could use for the guild--not too hard for beginners but with something of interest for more experienced quilters.  Then I got a little sidetracked as it's so easy to do when hunting around on the 'net.

One of the quilts on my bucket list is called Album, or Chimney Sweep, or Chicago Pavements, depending on the source or the coloring.  I just happen to have a jelly roll of Barbara Brackman's Civil War Homefront which would be perfect for this. Clicking around on the 'net yielded dozens of variations of this block.  Bonnie Hunter did a scrappy one based on an antique quilt she saw.  Mereth at Pages from Me did one with a paisley coloring scheme.  She even has cutting and sewing directions for the block on her blog.

With a few more clicks I found myself at what surely must be one of the best sites for antique quilts, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Not only do they have a fantastic collection of quilts viewable online but they have several interactive features which make it easy to lose hours browsing through their collection.  Which I did. 

And there I found yet another block pattern to fall in love with.  It's one I'd never seen before, and I finally found a name for it after searching through Jinny Beyer's great book Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns. It's called Sunshine or Spring Has Come, depending on the source or variation. I don't know what it is with me, but I like to know the names and histories (if possible) of the blocks I work on.

So yesterday I booted up my ancient copy of EQ5 and drafted patterns for both of the blocks.

Purely as an exercise to see if the rotary cutting measurements were in fact accurate, you understand, I cut out fabric for the sunshine block and started to put it together.

And that's why I have a completely new project up on the design wall today. 

You can check out what others have on their design walls today by visiting Judy L's Patchwork Times blog.  Thanks again, Judy, for hosting this!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Isn't Design Wall Monday

This isn't Design Wall Monday or even WIP Wednesday; somehow the week got away from me, I'm afraid.  But I have been sewing a bit here and there and have three more star blocks almost completed.  Most of the blocks have a dark and light blue center, but I felt that things were looking just a little too uniform, not enough surprise for the eye, I guess, so I tried a red and blue center.  That red paisley print kept jumping out of the sewing box begging, "Pick me, pick me!".

I did, and I like the result.  It remains to be seen whether I make more.  Although I am enjoying making the blocks, I'm not feeling the love enough to want to make a ton of these.  So far I've cut out enough to make nine blocks total (three more than my original plan), so despite myself this seems to be taking on a life of its own.

My husband was away over the weekend and I decided to take advantage of the relative quiet to work on the challenge quilt for my guild.  I set up an ironing station and cutting station on the kitchen counter and my Featherweight on the dining room table and had a wonderfully productive two days of cutting and sewing.  All the stuff that is normally clattering around in my head (what to do about dinner, is that load of laundry done yet, did I remember to take out the garbage, etc., etc.) just vanished as I got completely submerged in the moment.  I cut, I sewed, I unsewed, I compared colors, I think I even invented a new quilt block.  I wish I could get to that level of concentration more often because it feels so incredible to come to oneself hours later and see all you have accomplished. 

This is just a teaser, I fear, because we are supposed to keep these under wraps until the big reveal next month.  And of course I still have to quilt it.  I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and do it on my machine.  Here's hoping that I don't muck it up too much with my less than stellar machine quilting skills.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New England Quilt Museum

After seeing the Mark Twain house and spending the night in Hartford, our plan was to drive north, skirt the northern suburbs of Boston, and pick up our son who was taking the train out from Boston to spare us the drive into Boston proper.  Since we had gotten a very early start we had a couple of hours to spare, but we figured we could find something to do. Mid morning we pulled off the interstate at Lowell, Massachusetts for a pit stop at the McDonald's.

This is the first trip we've taken with my husband's GPS device.  Despite a few quirks, as when it kept insisting we get off a highway that was clearly marked for our destination, go around the block and reenter the highway at the EXACT same point, potentially sending us into a never-ending loop through rush hour traffic, it had proved an invaluable tool for getting around unfamiliar towns and cities.  Once you get used to a disembodied voice suddenly telling you to turn right (or left) in "point two miles," that is.  One of its best features is that it can find restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and, as it turned out, tourist attractions that are close to wherever you happen to be.

As I came out of the McDonalds with my coffee my husband suddenly announced that there was a quilt museum nearby.  Would I like to go?

He is a sweetie, isn't he?

So that's how we ended up at the New England Museum of Quilts.  The museum is located in the downtown area of Lowell in an old red brick bank building.  The special exhibition that was just ending as we were there was called, "Women's Writes: Signature Quilts and Their Stories."  It featured quilts, tops, and blocks that had been signed or embroidered with names, either as friendship quilts or as fund raisers for various causes such as temperance or abolition.  Some of the quilts were from the museum's permanent collection and others were on loan. 

The museum area is fairly small, but there were about three dozen quilts displayed.  Some were hanging on walls, some were draped over beds, and (my favorite) some were folded up in a dresser so you could open the drawers and see them close up.  In addition to the display area there is a classroom and a library (!).  I kind of briefly considered whether moving to Lowell might be possible, but then, sadly, decided not.

My husband gamely paid his admission, took a walk around the display area with me, but when I started another turn around the galleries, he opted to explore more of downtown Lowell on his own.  Kind of a good thing, actually, as I could spend some time browsing the gift shop on the first floor relatively guilt-free.

Lowell has a quilt festival in early August which benefits the museum.  It looks like it would be a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mark Twain House::My Blue Stars

 When we were planning our trip to Maine, my husband noticed that we were going to be passing close to the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Connecticut. Mark Twain is one of our favorite authors and we had heard so much about this house that this seemed like a great opportunity to visit and see it for ourselves.

Now you have to understand that driving from Indiana to Maine is a long trip, three days in the car.  And with rest stops and construction delays and heavy traffic through the bigger cities it's a little hard to plan to be at any given place at a particular time.  But we made it, just barely, with a full 7 minutes to spare before the final tour of the day.

 There are actually two tours, one of the house and another of the servants quarters, but since we arrived so late we were only able to take the house tour.  No inside pictures were allowed, but if you check out this link, you'll be able to see some of the interior and take a virtual tour.

The interior was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his associates (before his stained glass days). Every surface of the interior is decorated in some way, with stencils or carvings.  It's almost too much to take in during one visit.  Many of the furnishings are not original to the house, but the curators were able to recover a few, including Mark Twain's ornately carved bed.  He liked to read in bed and had a gas line precariously extended from the chandelier to a bedside lamp. 

It was definitely worth the scramble to take the tour.  We seriously considered staying over in Hartford for another day and doing it again, but we had to move on.

There is some quilting content here!

I have been working on the blue stars.  I'd cut out enough fabric for six before the trip and have four of them nearly done.  Although I like the design, and I've enjoyed the sewing process, I'm not so sure about my color choice.  They seem too much alike to me.  I may just finish what I have cut out and lay them aside for now.  Or maybe experiment with other color combinations?  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back From Maine

We're just back from a ten day vacation to the coast of Maine.  Yesterday was a recovery day for me after the long drive home.  Today I had to attend an all-day training session on a new computer-assisted reading program for next year at school.

Once I get the laundry caught up and the gear stowed and the maps put away, I'll post more...