Monday, September 27, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Seven Sisters

Here is one finished Seven Sisters block.  Phew!  There are a lot of pieces in this one...

And I had to ask just how many pieces when this happened last night:

I was cutting some for another block and laying them out on the kitchen table when a breeze came in through the open window and blew everything all over the place.  By the time I picked up all the pieces, I decided it would be a lot easier to just count them rather than try to lay them out each time. 

Sixty-six pieces. 

You can check out what others have been working on this week by clicking the link to Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.  And once again, a big "thank you" to Judy for hosting this each week. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nearly Perfect

Sometimes all the tumblers in the universe line up and you are blessed with a nearly perfect day.  I had one yesterday.

After weeks of 90+ degree days, the weather broke Friday afternoon, and Saturday dawned with cooler temps and lower humidity and suddenly it was actually pleasant to be outside.  I drove out to see a quilt show and hooked up briefly with some friends.  The quilt shop across the street from the show was having a sale and I saw a lot more friends and guild members there, too.

Ordinarily I would have just gone home, but I decided to drive out in the country to a quilt shop I had never visited before, a little bit off my usual path.  I took a chance because I wasn't entirely sure where it was, but I found it rather easily.  There was a beautiful selection of fabrics, not big, but lots of things that I haven't seen at other shops in the area.  I found a couple of fat quarters for a fabric exchange at next month's guild meeting and, heaven help me, a stencil set for yet another eight-pointed star block.

Yes, 2010 is shaping up to be the year of the eight-pointed star for me.  There seems to be an almost endless variety of ways to combine these shapes, and I'm so enjoying trying them out.

Heading home, I passed the county historical society museum and saw a big banner proclaiming a civil war exhibit, and I decided to drop in and take a look.  Since the museum is on a one way street I needed to circle the block and my route took me by an antique mall I like to visit from time to time.  I stopped there first and spent a pleasant half hour or so looking around.  There is always such a jumble of stuff in places like that.  Victorian tables piled with garish '60's jewelry.  Old postcards stacked in trays next to "vintage" Tupperware. Is it possible for Tupperware to be vintage?  I ask you!  A dollhouse just like the one my sister had as a child selling for $75.  My gosh. 

Eventually I headed over to the county museum with only about 20 minutes to spare.  There I was doubled teamed by a wonderful older lady and gentleman who gave me a guided tour of each and every exhibit.  I like history in general, but I find local history to be so compelling.  I like knowing that the decrepit old brick building that I pass sometimes used to be the "opera" house and that the big church downtown was a way station on the Underground Railroad.  Or that the beautiful neighborhood that I drive through on the way to work each day used to be a park where William Jennings Bryan spoke. Someone had done a great deal of research on the regiments from the civil war that mustered from this area, and there were exhibits on the battles they fought in. My two guides kept me past their regular closing time, and I had to promise to return so I could spend more time looking through the civil war exhibit.  I left armed with brochures about other historical exhibits in the area and a schedule for the historical society meetings. 

 Altogether, a grand day.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

There Are Certain Advantages to Google Reader

Last Thursday, my computer died.  Completely.  EVERYTHING on the hard drive was gone without so much as a puff of smoke.  My pictures, my accumulated patterns, my files, my documents.  I had been pretty good about backing up all my files on a thumb drive, but in the past couple of months I had gotten lax, and I found, to my chagrin, that the last time I backed up anything was sometime in June.  June!

I discovered two good things, though.  Since Google Reader is web-based all the blogs on my list were still there.  Yippee!  (My Bloglines list is gone forever.)  I also found out that all the pictures I've published on my blog are stored on-line, so they are still intact. Relief!

One more reason to move everything over to Google Reader.

And another advantage:  with Google Reader you can set it up so that blogs written in foreign languages are automatically translated within the reader, saving you from having to pull up the translator each time you want to read the blog.  Now, the translator is not the best; it is often clumsy and a bit surreal, but it at least gives you some idea of what the blog writer is saying.

Design Wall Monday::A Retreat

I'm just back from a quilting retreat this past weekend in a beautiful state park lodge.  It's a very popular retreat among the quilters in this area; for years the woman who organizes it had a waiting list and I feel very lucky that I somehow managed to get my name in.  We work in what I would guess is the hotel's ballroom, with plenty of room to spread out, more than adequate electrical plug-ins, and the comraderie that comes from spending two or three days doing what you love with about 90 other like-minded women. 

Even though there were so many quilters, the retreat is very well organized.  There are plenty of snacks and drinks provided, several ironing stations, cutting stations, and even a vendor on hand to supply anything the retreaters may have forgotten at home and provide a shopping opportunity without leaving the sewing room.  It's no wonder that everyone who attended this weekend's retreat signed up for the next one which is to be held in the spring.

I didn't get as much accomplished as I had hoped.  I had to go in for a full day of work on Friday, so I missed most of the the first day.  Oh well.  I did get eight of my album blocks put together.  The fabric I'm using is a jelly roll of Barbara Brackman's called Civil War Homefront.  The picture above is giving the beautiful soft blues a greenish tint, unfortunately.

The colors are truer in this picture.  I love how this is going together.

I did a quick trip into town on Saturday morning and scored enough of the missing fabric to complete my kaleidoscope posy blocks, but by the time I finished the album blocks late on Saturday afternoon, I wasn't in any shape to begin the careful cutting I needed to do, so that project got put back into its box for another day.  Just knowing I have the right fabric to complete the quilt gave me quite a boost, though.

By Sunday morning I had moved on to hand sewing. I thought I'd post a picture of the difference a one little quarter inch makes.

On the right are 60 degree diamonds cut at 1.25" to finish at .75", measured from one parallel line to the other.  To the left are the same diamonds, but this time cut at 1.50" to finish at 1".  Pretty big difference, no?  It makes a huge difference in sewing, too.  I need to cut some more fabric to finish this little block.

You can see what others are working on this Monday by checking out Judy L.'s Patchwork Times blog.  And once again, thank you Judy for hosting this weekly event.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I'm Working on Wednesday

Last Saturday one of the quilt guilds in town held a quilt show at the church where they meet. It's always fun to go to a local show because you get a chance to see what everyone has been working on, and around here, at least, you can also see a fair crop of antique quilts which people are happy to pull off beds or out of  cupboards to display. 

As I was walking around, one of the quilts on display brought tears to my eyes.  It was a seven sisters (click and scroll down a bit).  Do you know that pattern?  It's one of my favorites and has been on my bucket list for years.  This one had tiny diamonds of what looked like late 19th century pinks, blues, grays, and browns set with white, and the blocks were offset with solid dark green diamonds.  At least they seemed to be green; the quilts were being displayed in the church sanctuary and the light wasn't the best.  It seemed like an unusual combination to me, since I haven't seen dark green used much in antique quilts. According to the label, the quilt had been rescued from a junk shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so I wasn't able to get a picture. 

The diamonds were tiny, maybe an inch or less.  And I really like tiny pieces.  So, on Sunday afternoon after I finally got it through my head that I hadn't bought enough fabric for the quilt pattern I intended to work on at next weekend's retreat, I picked out some of my reproduction fabrics and cut a few diamonds.  These finish at 3/4" measured across the parallel sides. Now as much as I like small pieces, these are a bit too small for me, so I'm going to try it again with diamonds that finish at 1 inch. 

I'm not necessarily going anywhere with this.  I'm just playing with them--one of my favorite things to do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Frustration

Somehow another whole week has slipped by without a blog post.  I really appreciate Judy L.' s hosting this weekly event, otherwise my posting might be even more sporadic than it already is.  As always, you can check out what lots of other people are working on this week by clicking on this link.

There is very little on my design wall this week, except frustration.  Last spring I fell in love with a certain commercial quilt pattern and I bought what I thought was a generous amount of fabric with which to make the quilt.  Unfortunately, yesterday, MONTHS later, when I finally got the stuff out and began cutting (in preparation for a quilting retreat I'm going to this coming weekend) I found that I didn't buy enough. Grrrrrrr!  I was able to fill in some with stash fabric, but one of the fabrics that I bought, that I truly loved...just not enough.  So, to make the quilt, and I do intend to at least get a start on the quilt this weekend, I'm going to have to buy something else because I'm pretty sure that there won't be any left at the LQS. I'll just have to swing by the shop early Saturday morning and check out what I can use.  Ordinarily I wouldn't mind. I mean, buying fabric is fun, but I would rather not have to spend a chunk of my retreat time hunting down fabric. And, I would like to add, none of this is the fault of the pattern--just my hurried reading of it in the quilt shop.

I've also been working on quilting my challenge quilt for the guild.

The challenge was to use this pattern to depict our favorite place.  Mine is Maine, where we spent our vacation this year.  Can you "feel" the water and the sand and the dark woods and the rocks and the sky?  The picture isn't great, I know; for some reason, my camera has a hard time with these greeny blues.

I tried...and tried...and tried to free motion quilt this, but after my fourth attempt still didn't look good to me, I gave up, picked all the stitches out and started hand quilting. It's only 22 in. x 22 in., but still I would have liked to been able to machine quilt this. 

BTW, the block is based on this.

Above is a detail of one of the corners.  I think I unvented my own block, in Elizabeth Zimmerman's words.  I was attempting some sort of pinwheel-flying geese combination here, but it turned out quite differently than I intended. All in all, I like it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Labor Day Edition

I spent yesterday and today putting these blocks together.  This is a project I began sometime last year; it started out as just an experiment to see if I could piece eight-pointed stars.  Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with this design.  I love how the colored outer points seem to make the stars twinkle. 

I started with two fat quarter bundles of a fabric line called Stars of Provence from Deb Strain.  I bought the bundles on impulse with nothing in mind except that I loved the colors.  Then I got inspired by a quilt I saw in the May/June 2008 issue of Fon's & Porter's Love of Quilting.  At first I made a few stars with reproduction fabrics, but the muted colors didn't seem to suit the design. I was looking around for something brighter when I saw those bundles which had been sitting patiently on my shelves for so long.

I tried making a couple of blocks and I knew I had found the perfect fabric.  My only worry was finding enough of the green to use as a background.  Luckily there was a bolt of it left at my LQS, so I had enough to play with.  I have enough white and another green in the line to be able to add generous borders, my next step.  Ordinarily I'm not one to worry too much about using a particular fabric line for a quilt, but in this case I'm making an exception.

I was also pleased at how well it went together.  Sometimes with blocks that have been made over a long period of time, especially hand sewn blocks, the measurements get a little wonky.  I was able to sew the blocks together with very little easing, although, as you can see, I used enough pins to make a porcupine proud.  I did lose a few points, but that's okay with me.

I enjoyed sewing the blocks so much that I'm almost sorry I've almost come to the end of this project. Have you ever felt that way? But there are so many more things I want to try out, including more with eight-pointed stars

You can see what others have on their design walls this week by checking out Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times