Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Tracks

This is a photo of my great-grandparents, taken around 1914, so almost 100 years ago.  We called them Grandma Bess and Poppy, but their names were William and Bess (Miller) Risley.  The little boy on Poppy's lap grew up to be my grandfather Richard Risley.  The baby is his little sister Mabel.
Poppy got a job on the railroad, where he worked until he retired.  They lived on a small farm near Petersburg, Indiana.  He and Bess had seven children.  Two died as infants, and the other five lived to adulthood.
I was lucky enough to know them later in their lives.  I just barely remember the farm, and Poppy building me a wooden swing to hang from a tree.  We used to go to their house for Sunday dinner in the summer.  Grandma would be cooking happily in the kitchen, laughing and visiting with the women.  Poppy loved playing with wind-up toys with the kids.

Grandma Bess made quilts.  Piles and piles of quilts.  She quilted three quilts every winter.  And all the stitches in the quilts were by hand, including piecing the borders and backing.  It was something she loved to do.  She had a sewing machine, first a treadle that was eventually passed to my grandmother, and then a small black electric that might have been a Singer featherweight.  She used the machine for making clothes, and made the quilts by hand. Poppy would sometimes tease her about buying new material and cutting it up to sew it back together.

This is more what they looked like when I knew them.

When she died in 1969, the family members were allowed to choose the quilts they wanted, by turns.  My grandmother brought home several quilts that were more recently made (1960s).  She was disappointed not to get a red and white cherry basket quilt that she admired.  I've often wondered what it was like.
We slept under those quilts for years.  And my mom washed them (a LOT) in the washing machine.  When they started to get worn, she tried mending them, and eventually gave up and put them away.  When I began to be interested in quilts, Mom gave them to me.  You can see the batting coming through in some of the squares.
This one was called Turkey Tracks.  It's not the pattern we usually think of by that name.  It does look like the track a turkey makes, though.
We know what Grandma called it, because she embroidered the name and the date she finished it on the back.  I only have one of her quilts that doesn't have this.  She never added her own name, however.  It could be for religious reasons, or just that she was a modest person.
Here's the quilt laid out.  Unlike some of her earlier quilts, this is not a scrap quilt.  The fabrics would have been purchased just for the quilt.  By this time in her life they were living in town, just the two of them, and she would have had more time for quilting.
The blocks themselves are made like sections of North Carolina Lily (Brackman 765 covers most of the variations).  Gotta love that wild black print!

The border treatment is unusual.  I wonder if she was experimenting.  It seems like there should be another black print square on the lower border, but she put a background square there instead.  Did she run out?  Or did she want a sort of floating look?
The worn places don't show up as much when the quilt is stacked, or draped over a chair.  I love to run my hands across the softness of it, and think of family memories.
May the Thanksgiving holiday bring the joy of new memories to you and your family and friends.

P.S.  I'm not decorating for Christmas until Friday, but the Christmas cactus is going ahead without me!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quilt of Honor---Free Pattern

I started this quilt last Monday, in honor of Veterans Day, and just finally finished the top today.  I wanted to show my appreciation, even in a small way, to our service men and women for their dedication to our country.
I come from a military family--Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines.  I was born in Ft. Knox, KY while my father was in Air Force basic training  in Texas, and my mother was staying with her parents.  My granddad was an army sergeant. 
Today's soldiers deserve everything a grateful country can provide for them, especially respect for their service and sacrifices.
For my quilt, I knew I wanted to use scraps for at least part of it, and of course the color scheme was set--red, white and blue.
If you'd like to make a quilt like this, I'll give you the directions as I go along.  You'll need some basic knowledge of piecing and cutting.
First, I made 20 nine patch blocks.  Each block was made of 4 light print squares (all the same, usually), 4 blue squares (ditto) and 1 red square for the center.  The squares were cut 3.5 in., so the blocks finished at 9 in. square.  You could strip piece these, but I didn't.
These were fun and easy to make, but a little blah.
So I added star sashing in red.
That's better!
The sashings are 3.5 in. wide (cut).  Connector corners are used to make the star points.  These are made from 2 in. (cut) squares.  You need a total of 31 sashes cut 3.5 in x 9.5 in.  Of these, 14 will have star points on only one end.  (Check out the top row and the ones on the sides.)  These will need 28 red 2 in. (cut) squares.  There will be 17 sashes with star points on both ends.  These will need 68 red 2 in. (cut) squares.
To make the connector corners, crease a red square in half on the diagonal.  Lay it on one corner of the sashing piece with the crease going from the center of the sashing to the outside.  Sew on the crease, or just inside it.  Trim and press.  Instead of a crease, you could use a marked line.
Marcia Hohn of Quilters Cache has a good tutorial on making these, which she calls Morning Star sashing:
You will also need 12 red squares for the star centers.  These are cut 3.5 in. square.
Got all those pesky sashes done?  Now lay it all out and assemble the rows.
I added 2 borders, partly because I think most quilts look better with borders, and partly because I wanted to make the quilt a little bigger.  The inner border is cut 2 in. wide.  The outer blue star border is cut 3.5 in. wide.  This is a lap-sized quilt, finishing at 54 in. x 66 in.
I will be sending this top off soon to be quilted by a volunteer long arm quilter, and then given to a veteran.
This is my first Quilt of Honor, but it won't be my last.  One of the benefits of doing this has been finding good fabrics for quilt of honor quilts in my stash.
Here I have them sorted and folded in a basket, ready for the next quilt.  I will probably mix in some other fabrics from my stash or my scraps, but these are definitely patriotic and will be a good start.

I used up some more of my 3.5 in scraps in this quilt, even though I only used red, white, and blue.  After dumping everything out on the table, I was able to put in back in neatly, like this:
I don't think I'll ever really use up my scraps completely, but they're great to work with, especially when they're organized.  Thanks, Bonnie Hunter, for the inspiration.
If you'd like to make a Quilt of Honor, here's the web site with the instructions/rules, etc.
Quilt of Honor Quilters

May God bless all our veterans.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Quiltmaking By the Book

As a former librarian, I must admit--I love books.  Computers, too, of course, but there's something about curling up on the couch with a new book full of beautiful photos.  I have a large collection of quilting books, from state quilt history books to the newest techniques and patterns.  But when it comes to actually making a quilt, I often fall back on traditional patterns and my scraps.  The books are more for inspiration.
Except recently, when I was inspired to make quilt tops from two terrific books.

This quilt is called "Joy in the Morning", and the pattern is from S is for Scraps:  18 Great Quilts by Gayle Bong.  It's the first quilt in the book.  I passed it over at first, and bought the book for a different quilt pattern, but when I saw how easy this one was, I had to make it.
I bought the book at Half Price Books--a lucky find!

The original quilt was set with a screamingly bright yellow, which I replaced with a turquoise blue.  I knew I would have lots of yellow scraps in my quilt, and not a lot of turquoise.  The original was also much smaller.  I made 56 blocks (7 x 8) instead of 30.  I added a border of squares to the outside of the quilt after the solid border.
My first thought was to use up the 3.5 in. squares I had left from other kid quilt projects, but of course I had to cut even more (this always seems to happen).  Now that it's done, I think I have just as many squares as when I started!  I only used what I had on hand, however, for the whole quilt top. 

I needed to make it at least a twin size, because this quilt is for our charity work at Ties That Bind Quilt Group.  We're making quilts for people who have been homeless, who are now being helped into housing.   They will get to keep the quilts no matter what happens.  I hope this one goes to a child who will love and use it.

 Do you ever check out a book from the library, and then not want to take it back?  That's the problem I'm having with this book:  Dessert Roll Quilts:  12 Simple Dessert Roll Quilt Patterns by Pam and Nicky Lintott.
You probably already know dessert rolls are sets of 5 in. wide strips sold in coordinating patterns and colors in quilt shops.  Once again, I had my mind on a different quilt, when I noticed how easy this one was:
It's called Highland Fling, and all of the pieces for each block are cut from 5 in. strips.  (Seriously.  The triangles too.)  Some patterns with tilting squares are very wasteful, having you make the block on the square and then cut it "crooked".  This one doesn't waste a thing, so of course fabric hoarders like me can love it.

The fabrics were picked out by our wonderful charity quilt chairs, Colleen and Joan L., and put in a shoebox for someone to take home.  I've been trying to figure out what to do with them for months.  I wanted something that would show off their pretty prints.  Great job on the colors, ladies!
All these cherries reminded me of Door County, and that reminded me of dairies, so I added the cow fabric.  It's a cute print by Luella Doss that I've been cherishing for years.  Luella has been involved with the Quilt Museum since the beginning as one of the founding mothers.  It's because of her that I first became a volunteer.
This quilt is also for our charity project.  I'm thinking about making another one in different colors, for me.

Because these are copyrighted designs, I can't pass along the patterns (sorry).   But if you see these books somewhere, like the library or the bookstore, they are definitely worth having/borrowing.  And don't worry, Germantown quilters, I WILL return the book to the library.  Really.  There are a couple more patterns I want to try out first, though.  And did I mention there are recipes?

May all your days be pieceful.