Monday, January 26, 2015


I don't like to waste things.  Maybe that's why I like scrap quilts.  Even though I'm adding at least some new fabric, I am using up the pieces left over from other quilts.
The blocks in this quilt are made from leftovers from part 3 of the Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt by Bonnie Hunter. 
We were supposed to make 120 units that look like this--one blue, 4 greens, 3 neutrals. 
I kind of got stuck on this part.  The piecing was easy, but I was making each part on a different people-powered machine, and for this one I chose my oldest treadle, a Singer model 12.
This is a picture I took while making these blocks.  Bonnie's directions had us sew sets of 4 strips together and cut them into sections.  It worked better for me to make 2-strip sets and cut pairs to sew together.
This machine was made in 1876, and is nicknamed Lorena.  She needed a little more oil, and sewed just fine, but she was a little balky about winding bobbins.  You use your left thumb or forefinger to apply tension when winding the bobbin, and your right hand to press the bobbin winder (that stickety-out thing on the right of the picture) against the hand wheel.  If the machine isn't running very smoothly, the wheel won't turn freely.

So I was working on this when the clue for part 4 came out, and I left this part and went on to the next.  When we got the big reveal, I decided I wouldn't use these sections in the mystery quilt, but instead replaced them with plain sashing.
So what to do with the leftovers?  I had 60 sets made.  So I turned them into 30 blocks, like this:
The squares in this block measure 1.5 in. finished, and the block itself finishes at 6 in. square. 
 According to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, this is a variation of block 1102a, which is called Mosaic #20. 
By the way, this particular block is a leftover of the leftovers.  The flag square has a tuck in it--oops!  This may be destined to become a pot holder.
Lorena, the model 12 treadle, lives in my basement.  About the time I was working on these blocks, we got a real cold snap, with lots of below zero temperatures.  It was just too cold to work in the basement, so I brought my model 12 hand crank upstairs and finished the blocks on it.  This is a real Frankenstein of a hand crank, with the parts of at least 3 machines.  (I call her Frankencrankin.)

I made 20 more blocks, for a total of 50.

Here's how I set the blocks together.
It's a little wrinkled from being folded.  I positioned the blocks with the blue corners touching.
I love this setting fabric!  It comes from my favorite quilt shop in the world, J. J. Stitches in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and was designed by the shop owner, Julie Hendricksen.
Now I have to figure out the border, and then get going on the quilting.  The quilt is a small twin size, so it should be too hard to quilt on my home machine.

One of the reasons I simply had to have my model 12 treadle was the folding top.  Want to see?
Here's what she looks like, all closed up and locked (the key is in the lock here).
When you unlock the top, the front folds back and the sides fold down. 
The sides are ready to fold back, and the front is leaning against the wall here.  It eventually folds completely down behind the machine.  It locks against the other section so it stays in place.

And here's how it usually looks, with the top folded flat to become a sewing surface.  Isn't this cool?

Sad to say, I don't use Lorena to sew very often.  I can't buy new needles for her, although I have a small supply of new old stock.  It's amazing how well she sews after nearly 140 years.

Good news for me--leftover lasagna and French bread for lunch!
What's under your needle this week?

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Day of Service

 Dr. Martin Luther King.Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is:  What are you doing for others?" 
Today is the day we set aside to remember Dr. King.  Volunteering to help others today recalls his sacrifice and leadership.
I must confess, I wasn't thinking about this day ahead of time.  I'd like to plan a work day on Dr. King Day and invite others to come.  It's more fun to work together, and more in the spirit of the day.
Instead, I'll be doing my usual chores today--laundry, baking, getting my grandson off to school, walking the dog, doing some volunteer computer work for the quilt museum.  But for today, I'm setting aside the quilt I'm making for me, and I'll be working on Quilts for Kids.
Here's what I'll be working on today.

I've mentioned Quilts for Kids on this blog before.  They are a national group based in Pennsylvania.  The quilts they receive are sent to hospitals all over the country.  Here's a link to their web site:  Quilts for Kids
Quilters can request a kit from them to make a small quilt (40" x 46" max), which is how I got started with this project.  They ask you to pay $6.00 for shipping, and they need the quilt finished in 6 to 8 weeks.
Having been in the hospital myself, I can't imagine how scary and bleak it must be for a child.  Anything I can do to help is worthwhile.
The kits they send you have really cute fabrics, all color-coordinated.  You can also make your own kit, which is what I did above.
I'm using a novelty print from my stash for the main fabric.  I'm sure somebody will love these kitties on cushions.
There are free patterns on the Quilts for Kids web site, which are very easy to make.  I fall back on these when I don't have any other inspiration.  I know they'll turn out well.
This is one I just finished on Friday.  As you can see, I used a very colorful tropical fish print as the main fabric.  You only need 3 fabrics for this pattern, but of course you could use scraps if you'd rather.
Here's a close up.  I pieced it on my Singer 15 treadle, and quilted it on the electric Pfaff.
 I pulled these 3 fabrics to make another kit.  I'm not totally sure about the light fabric.  I might replace it with a light blue.  I can't believe I had this fabulous orange dot in my stash, which is perfect for the airplane fabric.
This should be a fun quilt for a kid who loves airplanes.
The pattern could hardly be simpler.  You need 15 6.5 in. squares of the main (maybe a novelty) fabric, plus 4 strips of the novelty fabric cut width of fabric, 3.5 in. wide, for borders.  From the other two fabrics, you make 15 4-patch blocks from 3.5 in cut strips.  These blocks will finish at 6 in. square.  After you set them together with the novelty fabric squares, you add an inner border (4 strips cut 1.5 in. wide) from one of the 4-patch fabrics, and the outer borders from the novelty print.  Then quilt, bind, and mail.
Click on the link to get to the free pattern, and several other easy patterns:   Quilts for Kids Patterns

The two other charity quilts I finished last week will be given away locally.  These have been in my to-do pile for a long time.
 I made this top several years ago, from tumbler pieces I cut with the Accuquilt cutter.  Nearly all of the prints are kid-friendly novelties, from dinosaurs and duckies to teddy bears and tools.
I quilted it very simply, just resting the presser foot next to the seams.
I am absolutely embarrassed about how long it has taken me to quilt this one!  One of our quilt guild members brought it to a meeting years ago.  Her mother had made it, and she needed someone to quilt it.  I volunteered, brought it home, and put it in a pile.  There it lay for literally years. (Hanging head in shame.)
I feel so much better now that I've finished it.  This quilt will probably go to a nursing home.
The backing fabric and binding for both of these quilts came from the second hand fabric I've been buying at quilt shows and at the museum's rummage sale.  The tropical fish fabric actually came from an antique store.

I know that this is a small thing to do, to make a quilt for someone else, someone outside our families, someone we've never met and probably never will meet.  It's a small step of caring for our communities, our nation, our world, and thousands of quilters do this every year.  It won't change the world.  It might brighten someone's day.

 An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Captain's Butterfly

A long time ago, I belonged to a wonderful online group called Treadle On.  The moderator for that group is Captain Dick, a generous, helpful man with a quirky sense of humor.  He helped all of us fix up our old machines, and was a great inspiration with his quilting.
In 2002, the Captain started a block of the month.  He showed everyone how to make quilt blocks that would be interesting and fun to make, but not too difficult for those just starting to quilt.  One of the blocks was a pieced butterfly.

This is a block I made from the Captain's instructions.  I loved making the pieced butterflies.  They became a tied comforter for my youngest daughter in a time when we both needed some comfort.

In recent years, I've drifted away from Treadle On, but I still have the bumper sticker on my car (Treadle On:  Saving Our Sewing Heritage) and lots of warm memories of people I met because of Treadle On, both online and in person.

I thought of this block recently when I was making a few Christmas presents.  I try not to make very many things for Christmas, because I tend to get carried away and then stressed out when things don't get finished on time. I always think I'll work on presents all year long, but so far it hasn't happened.  Maybe this year?
I scaled down the Captain's pattern from 12 in. to 8 in. square, and made these pot holders for my Mom.  It helped that I had lots of bright colored scraps, especially some batiks I bought in a scrap bag at a quilt show.
Then I made this little quilt for the gift exchange at our quilt group's Christmas dinner.  We call it a brown bag exchange, because we each put a fat quarter in a brown bag, mix them up, and all choose one.  Then we make something with the fat quarter for the original person, and give it to her at the dinner.  It's hard to see here, but the fat quarter I had was a shiny black cotton with silver dots.  I used it for the butterfly bodies and the cornerstones.
The 8 in. size worked well for this little quilt, too.  I left off the antennae on this one.
I quilted it on my electric Pfaff, bound it, and wrapped it.  Unfortunately, I didn't end up going to the dinner.  My cousin's wife died, and I went out of town to the funeral.  I mailed the quilt to its new owner, and I think she likes it.
I think this would be a nice pattern to use for a charity quilt, especially made up in bright colors.

Since the Captain so freely shared this pattern years ago, I don't think he would mind if I shared my 8 in. size pattern with you.
To make one block:
1.  Make 2 half square triangles that measure 4 in. square when finished.  Use your favorite method.  I used the Easy Angle ruler, and cut two purple and two white triangles from 4.5 in. strips, then sewed them together in pairs.
2.  Make 2 half square triangles that measure 2 in. square when finished.  Use your favorite method.  I used the Easy Angle ruler, and cut two green and two white triangles from 2.5 in. strips, then sewed them together in pairs.
3.  Cut 3 black squares 1.5 in. x 1.5 in.
4.  Cut 2 green squares, 1.5 in. x 1.5 in.
5.  From background fabric (in this case, white), cut 1 2.5 in. square, 1 rectangle 3.5 in. x 4.5 in., and 1 rectangle 1.5 in. x 3.5 in
To assemble:
Lower right section:
Make a 4 patch from 2 black and 2 green 1.5 in. squares.  Sew a half square triangle to the 4 patch as shown above.  Sew the white 2.5 in. square to the second half square triangle, as shown above.  Then sew the two rows together to make a square.
Upper left section:
Sew the black square to the 1.5 in. x 3.5 in. white rectangle.  Then sew the white 3.5 in. x 4.5 in rectangle to that section.
Now just assemble the block like a 4 patch, following the picture.
You can add antennae if you like, either by hand or machine.  On the potholders, I used a chain stitch machine to make the antennae.  I drew the lines I wanted on the wrong side of the block, and stitched them from the back.
I quilted the little blocks, and then brought the backing fabric to the front for a binding.

Now I want to make some pieced flowers to go with them.
Spring is such a long way off in January in Wisconsin.
Stay warm, and keep quilting.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Loosely Based on a Mystery

It has been such fun to do this mystery along with so many other quilters!  I haven't been posting lately, but I've been working right along in between family gatherings and having the flu, so I had most of the pieces done when Miss Bonnie posted The Big Reveal.  I'm ending as I began, sewing the quilt together on my Singer 15 treadle.
My quilt is very loosely based on Bonnie's pattern.  I hadn't made the 4 patches in part 5 yet when the reveal went down, and I decided I liked it better with a square in the center instead.
I alternated red and blue squares in the centers.  And you can see I made plain sashing, instead of using the pieced sections from part 3.  I made about half of those before the reveal, but the muddy green color I used just didn't look right with my blocks (one of the consequences of changing the colors, of course).  You probably can't see this in the photo, but the sashing is cut from a sewing machine print.  I've had this fabric for years.  I'm not sure what I was saving it for, it was just too precious to use, but it goes well in this quilt.

I used a hand crank to sew the blocks together.  This is a clone of a Singer model 28, and the first hand crank I bought on Ebay.  I picked it up locally from a really nice person, despite my husband being sure I would run into an axe murderer doing business this way.  Barely visible on the arm is the name Harris S.  At first I named her Emmy Lou (all my machines have super obvious names), but since she was brought here from England I tend to call her Mrs. 'arris, with a terrible Cockney accent.  She has been languishing on a shelf in the basement for literally years, but after a quick clean and some oil went right to work making these pretty blocks.
Speaking of the blocks, I went right to my book shelves to find this one.  As you can see, I had marked it with a check, which I do for all the blocks I think I might like to try.  This one was a little intimidating, so it was a big help making these sections a little at a time, with Bonnie's guidance.
Here's the cover of the magazine, if you're looking for it.  And Big Bang is right on the cover!
I've been working all over the house on this mystery, using different machines.  This Minnesota A treadle lived in my dining room, and was more or less inaccessible.  I moved it to the living room to work on part 4, which turned out to be the sections for the pieced borders.
Since I was out of my sewing room, I made a kit with the instructions, tools, and cut pieces.
Here's where things stand this morning.  I have two of the inner borders sewn on, and the other two ready to pin and sew.
The pieced borders are ready to go on next.  As you can see, I did them differently.  They're a little chaotic, but I like the diagonal movement from the triangles.
Quilts are personal.  Bonnie Hunter's quilt calls to mind her time at the Grand Hotel.  It helps preserve her memories of teaching and visiting.  You can tell it gives her joy from her writing.
My quilt has the same basic structure and almost the same pattern, and is completely different.  My quilt will reflect my memories of this mystery; the excitement of the clues, the fun of choosing colors, the joyous rhythm of sewing, the amazement when things turned out right, the enjoyment of sitting at the computer with a cup of tea looking at everyone's progress.  I will also remember using all these great machines that I've collected.  The fabric scraps remind me of other quilts I've made and fabric I've gathered, from conversation prints to Liberty of London.  These are my colors, my fabrics, my choices.  This is my quilt.
Happy quilting to all!
Update--I finished the flimsy this afternoon!  And this in spite of the cat helping me.
Here's what I did with the corners. am I going to quilt it?

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