Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Every Trick in the Book: Book Review

I got a new quilt book!  Okay, this is not that unusual for me.  As a former librarian and just plain book lover, I get books from everywhere--new book stores, used book stores, flea markets, libraries, friends, and even some free ones online.  Last week I bought a book at a quilt group meeting, and this is it.
The book is called The 3 1/2, 4 1/2, and 5 1/2 Block System, or just The Scrap Template System for short.  The author is Judy Gauthier, and she came to our group and showed us her system for using scraps.  Unlike Bonnie Hunter's Scrap Users System, Judy's is based on squares instead of strips.  As the book title would indicate, she uses 3 sizes:  3.5 in., 4.5 in., and 5.5 in., to make a variety of quilt blocks.

Her presentation was so much fun.  Judy is down to earth, and has a great sense of humor.  Plus her quilts were terrific!  And this is just the kind of thing I like, neat ways to use up the scraps and make quilts.
Judy is a local quilt shop owner.  Below is a link to her store, Bungalow Quilting and Yarn.  There are pictures there of her quilts made from this system.
Bungalow Quilting and Yarn

So I bought the book and the templates (they come with the book), and when I got home I thought I might try a block or two.  I ended up trying them all!  Just a warning, these are addictive.
There are 9 patterns in the book, which is more like a booklet or a workbook.  This little thing is packed with ideas.

1.  House Block
So much fun!  Very easy, but you have to follow the directions (duh) and sew the roof on the house before you add the sky triangles.  It finishes 5 in. x 7.5 in.  I had a little trouble with the points.

2.  Sunshine and Shadows
Cutting the square for this block is a neat trick! 

3.  Square in a Square
I had a little trouble getting this one to come out right.  Can you see all my margin notes?  I want to be able to remember what I did.

4.  Autograph Block
Not a new idea, but I like how she uses this simple block (check the pictures on her web page).

5.  Broken Dishes
These were easy and fun, and squared up perfectly.  And no darn lines to draw!

6.  Cross Roads

I can't decide which of these blocks is my favorite, but this one is definitely in the running.  It would look great in reproduction fabrics too.

7.  Treasure Box
I've seen similar patterns on the internet, but not done in this way.  Fun, easy, and scrappy!

8.  Dutchman's Puzzle
Another one of my favorites!  You could make a great quilt with this block using fussy cut centers.  If the blocks are set side by side, the red and yellow triangles make pinwheels as a secondary design.

9. Crown Block

Isn't this cute?  I didn't cut this perfectly, but I was able to trim it and fix it.  It seems to be fool proof.

I guess you can tell I am enjoying this book.  It works especially well for me because I have boxes of 3.5 and 4.5 in. squares and strips, and some 5.5 in. strips too.

Judy explained that she is often cutting from scraps that are irregularly shaped, since she makes garments and other things like umbrellas.  (Really!  She has a class.)  That's why she would rather use the templates than any other rotary cutting ruler.  You can also see through the templates, so fussy cutting is simple.
You will still need a ruler, however, in addition to the templates, because several of the directions include cutting the squares in halves or in quarters.  And naturally you would want a larger square for squaring up most of the blocks.
A couple of minor problems with the book--Judy often forgets to tell us what the block will measure when finished (or even unfinished).  I wrote those measurements down after I made the blocks, but they should probably be included.  Also, some of the really critical directions are written in a very small font.
Four of the quilts are pictured on the front cover.  There are no color pictures in the book, but there are lots of them on the web site.  This holds down costs of printing, and allows Judy to put up more photos as time goes on.
When I buy or borrow a quilt book, I'm always hoping I can get at least one good idea from it.  If I do, I consider the cost and the use of my time worth it.  This little book is more than worth it.  I am excited about using these ideas with my scraps.
Just call me a satisfied customer.
Here's hoping all your ideas work out for you today.
Happy Quilting!

Friday, May 16, 2014

So Many Quilt Blocks, So Little Time

I love making quilt blocks.  It is so much fun to cut and piece them, especially if I am cutting from my scraps.  Next to hanging out with family, it's my favorite thing to do.

I find I never get tired of piecing, probably because I'm always trying something new.  It may not always work out the way I want it to or expect it to, but that's just part of the challenge.

Lately I've been getting many of my challenges/ideas from the internet.  (Aren't we lucky to live now?)  A few posts ago I mentioned the Jane Austen block of the week, with blocks and background information by quilt historian Barbara Brackman.  What I didn't know then was that Ms. Brackman was running another blog with a block of the month, called Threads of Memory, based on real people and events on the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War.

Threads of Memory started in January, so I've got some catching up to do, but the new block is posted at the END of the month instead of the beginning.  As of now there are 4 blocks.  Each has a wonderful TRUE story about people who escaped from slavery, and the people who helped them.  The articles are well researched and illustrated.  The blocks are new, designed by Ms. Brackman, but based on familiar shapes and stars.  These are all 12 in. finished blocks.

Here's my first block, named Portsmouth Star, for Ona Judge Staines.  (I must admit, I changed it a tiny bit.) Ona was a slave who "belonged" to George and Martha Washington.  She ran away to New Hampshire and managed to keep her freedom, in spite of efforts to kidnap her and return her to the south.  I made the square in the center from plain muslin, so I could write a little bit of the information on it.  It reads: 
In Memory of Ona Judge Staines.  A free woman of color, and "perfect mistress of her needle".

My second block is called Mercer County Star, and honors Susan Lowe Wattles.  She and her husband worked to help freed slaves find jobs and land.  She was a teacher, who bravely taught black children and was persecuted for it by many of the people of Cincinnati.

For some reason I'm having trouble with these blocks, and not making them as nicely as I would like.  Maybe I'm in too much of a hurry.  Time to slow down.

Here's the link to Ona's block, the first in the Threads of Memory block of the month:
Threads of Memory #1: Portsmouth Star

The rest of the blocks can be kind of hard to get to through the blog.  The best way I've found is to go to the Flickr page where there is a current list of links to each block.
Threads of Memory Block Index

Another fun block I'm making is the Granny Squares block.  This version is made from 2.5 in. squares.  It's an old block, similar to an Album block, Brackman #2413.  The cool thing is, young quilters have rediscovered it and renamed it Granny Square, like the crocheted squares we did for afghans in the 1970s.
These blocks are made with 2.5 in. squares.  The outer white triangles start out as squares, that are trimmed away when the block is finished.  They end up measuring about 9 in. unfinished (8.5 in. finished).  Cute, right?
This trend seems to have been started at the Blue Elephant Stitches blog, which has a tutorial made up in modern fabrics.  The link is below.
Granny Square Quilt Block Tutorial
The above tutorial is made with squares.  She did an updated tutorial for the Moda Bakeshop with some limited strip piecing.  Here's the link to it:
Granny Square Quilt at Moda Bakeshop

So what am I going to do with all these blocks?  I guess I'll have 12 of the Threads of Memory blocks at the end of the year, which if properly set will make a twin sized quilt, so I'm not worried about those. 
The Granny Squares could end up being a big quilt, as long as I don't get tired of making them.  I have enough 2.5 in. strips to cut for a long, long time.
In the meantime, I'm using up scraps and staying out of trouble.

Happy quilting!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Antique Inspirations

I'm sure you've had this experience.  You see a fabric you really love in a quilt shop.  It calls you.  You pet it.  You don't really have anything in mind for it.  It's not what you came to the quilt shop for.  You try to forget it, but you can't.  And you end up buying at least some of it.
Flash forward a couple of months.  You're working on a quilt, and it suddenly occurs to you to use the beloved fabric.  You dig it out, and guess what?  You didn't buy enough.  And sadly, when you go back to the quilt shop, they're out, and they can't even order it.
Can you tell this has happened to me more than once?  Articles in quilt magazines used to encourage us to buy 3 yards if we loved the fabric, so we could use it for sashing or borders.  I hate to admit it, but I actually did that for a while.  I ended up with tons of 1990s yardage that I mostly gave away.  With fabric running at least $10.00 per yard now, buying so much is really unrealistic.
This time, I lucked out.  When I went back to the quilt shop, not only did they still have the fabric, it was now on sale for $6.00 a yard!  So I bought 2 more yards.  I had more than enough to put this quilt together.
The fabric in question is the sashing.  It's a sort of butterscotch color.  I had tried to make it work with a couple of block sets that needed finishing, but it just wasn't right.  So I chose the sashing first, and then chose the colors for the blocks.
My special fabric is a reproduction print, based on quilts from the 1870s-1900.  The hottest color in this time period was brown.  And boy did I have great browns.  Some of them were from fat quarters designed by Jo Morton, and some were scraps.
A few of them were reproductions of Centennial prints, which were designed to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States in 1876.  I had been saving them for a long time.  It was good to use them.
Plaids were also big in this time period (and really, every time period).  I used some plaids my friend Debbie gave me, that were scraps from her son's quilt.
Many fabrics from this time period were dyed with madder root, which can make colors from pink through red, reddish brown, and even black.  I chose this orangy red print with the big spots for the corner stones.  I have enough for the binding also.  And it was on the sale rack, too.

The border is a printed brown plaid.

My inspiration for the pattern came from having seen an antique quilt like this somewhere.  This exact coloration is hard to find in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, but the main number is 1687.  One of the names is Road to California.  The name I like best is Double Hour Glass.
When I was first deciding on which block to make, I looked the pattern up in the Quilt Index online, and here's what I found:

Isn't this a gorgeous quilt?  Lots of those wonderful madder browns I love.  It turns out this is a signature quilt., made in North Carolina, probably between 1890 and 1901. 

The antique quilt has 30 blocks, which finish 9.5 in. x 9.5 in.  Its sashing measures 3.5 in. and the outside border is 4.5 in. wide.

Here's a link to the Quilt Index, in case you'd like to look up an antique quilt for yourself:
The Quilt Index

This is a really easy pattern, and would look good in almost any color scheme, not just the reproduction fabrics I love.

These blocks are 9 in. finished (9.5 in. unfinished). 
For each block, cut:
2 squares, 3.5 in. x 3.5 in., of the dark fabric
2 squares, 3.5 in. x 3.5 in, of the light fabric (I used plain tan muslin for all of my blocks.)
Make 4 half square triangle units that measure 3.5 in. unfinished from the light and dark fabrics.  I do this by cutting triangles from 3.5 in. strips with the Easy Angle ruler, and then sewing the triangles together, light to dark.
Once you have the half square triangle units made, just assemble the squares like a nine patch.

I made 42 blocks, each with a different fabric.  I laid them out on the floor as I worked and looked for the colors I needed to balance the quilt.  The sashing is cut 3.5 in. x 9.5 in, the cornerstones are 3.5 in. square, and the outside border is cut 5.5 in. wide.

As you can see, this quilt is bigger than my usual twin size, measuring approximately 79 in. x 91 in.

Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to quilt it!

Stay in stitches!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Faith, Hope, and Charity

Most quilt groups make quilts for others in need.  Some groups focus on particular causes or charities, like Quilts for Kids or Quilts of Valor.
Our group, called Ties that Bind, gives back to the local community.  We make baby quilts for local hospitals, lap sized quilts for nursing homes, larger quilts for a hospice, and all sizes for a homeless shelter.  We are always keeping our eyes open for others who need the comfort of a quilt.
Today on the blog I'm going to show you some of the quilts we've made so far this year.  At the end, I'll show you my new charity quilt top, and give the pattern for it.

This is Joan L., holding up one of the baby quilts.  You can see several other quilts also.  Joan and Colleen are the co-chairs of the charity quilt committee.

This is a lovely quilt made by one of our members.  I took the picture--I should have noticed it was upside down!

Beautiful colors!

Here's a fun pattern to use with charm squares.  The lady on the right is Colleen T., also our current guild president.

Lots of novelty print squares make a great quilt for a child.

It's hard to see here, but these are Halloween prints.  The quilting has black cats, etc.

These nine patch blocks are really enhanced by the hot pink sashing and border.

Another great baby quilt.

My favorite of this bunch--a string quilt.

The back of this baby quilt shows our label.  It tells who we are, and has a link to our web site.

Helen L., one of our faithful charity committee members, brought this box of fabric for us, which was donated by her church.

We finished a couple of tops on our workday, and put our heads together to solve some problems with some of our UFOs.  Ann W. was a big help with design and sewing.

I am so proud of our little quilt group.  There are only about 35 or so members, but we get a lot done.  Joan and Colleen ask for blocks to be made each month, and members donate their time and fabric to make them.  Then the committee (or sometimes mostly Joan and Colleen!) make the blocks up into quilts, and quilt them on their long arm machines.  They also buy the batting and backing (with guild funds) and any other fabrics or notions we happen to need.  Many of our members also make tops or quilts on their own.

We know that no matter what a quilt looks like, it will serve the purpose of warming someone.  But we take the extra effort to make our quilts as nice looking as we can.  Some of that might just be because we can't stand to spend our time making ugly quilts, and we naturally take pride in our work. 

It's more than just that, though.  The gift of a really nice quilt is more than just the gift of a blanket.  It says to the recipient, we care about you.  Your enjoyment of this quilt matters to us. 

This is my latest charity quilt top.  The pattern for the blocks is Twin Sisters.  I made this after watching an Eleanor Burns quilt show on public television.  The blocks are made from 2.5 in. strips, and finish at 5 in. square.  Each set of strips makes two blocks, with opposite colors.
Here's a link to a tutorial:  Twin Sisters Quilt Blocks Tutorial

For this particular quilt, I made 72 blocks.  Each of the 9 rows has 8 blocks, plus the sashing strips, which are cut 1.5 in. wide and 5.5 in. long.  I also cut 1.5 in. squares from random prints for the cornerstones.

The inner white border is cut 3.5 in. wide.
It was fun to make the piano keys border from my scraps.  I used up most of my 1.5 in. strips, and actually had to cut more.  The strips for the piano keys are cut 1.5 in. x 6.5 in.
The quilt finishes at 71 in. long x 65 in. wide, about twin size. 
I think it would work for a Quilt of Valor, if you used red, white, and blue fabrics.  Wouldn't that be fun?

May God bless all the quilt makers who stitch for others, even for people they'll never meet.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sundays with Jane

I have been spending my Sundays with a most congenial companion--the British author Jane Austen.  It started in April, with a block of the week on a site called Austen Family Album, designed by quilt historian Barbara Brackman.
Each week, Barbara writes a short article about something in Jane's life, and accompanies that with an appropriately named quilt block.  The posts appear on Sunday mornings.
This is the first block, for Jane herself.  It's called Bright Star.  I used some really fancy fabrics from my reproduction stash.  This must be what I've been saving them for.

Block #2 is Sister's Choice, for Jane's sister Cassandra, which I've pictured at the top of this page, with a book I borrowed from my eldest daughter.  Here's a detail, showing a woman in the toile background.

Block #3 is for Jane's father, who was a clergyman.  Its name is Cross within Cross, which certainly seems appropriate for a minister.

Block #4 is for Jane's mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen.  It's called Thrifty, and she certainly had to be, with 8 children on a minister's salary.  I used more of the toile in the center, this time with a picture of a house, since her home was the center of Mrs. Austen's life.

Yesterday was the fifth week.  This week's block is called Village Square, for Jane's brother James, who also became a clergyman like his father.  I used some of the same fabrics in this block as in Rev. Austen's block.  The center square is a toile from Judie Rothermel.  I'm using it to represent the church being at the center of James' life, but it's really supposed to be Independence Hall and George Washington.
Because of this wonderful block of the week, I've been reading Jane Austen's novels.  I had sort of read Pride and Prejudice in high school, but I really didn't have the background knowledge to know what was going on, or to appreciate it.  I'm saving it for last, as I read the others.  The library has all the books, and I'm finding I really enjoy them, even to the point of reading when I "should" be sewing.
It's not too late to get in on the fun.  All the instructions are still up.  There will be a total of 36 blocks, and only 5 have been presented so far, so there's plenty of time to catch up.  You can post pictures of your blocks, and see the ones everyone else has done.  Quite a few are being done in modern fabrics, even some really wild and fun stuff.
All of this is totally free!
Here's the link:
Austen Family Album
This will take you to the most recent posts.  To start at the beginning, just click Older Posts at the bottom right of the page.
Happy Quilting!