Friday, 27 June 2008

an embarrassing parade of UFOs

Dear Lene,

I'm so thrilled that your Piney/Peony project is making you happy! I sent Family Ties and Legacy to you because they were two books that inspired me, relatively early in my quiltmaking. I think prior to that I had mostly machine pieced, but those books made me into a hand piecer. I still reread Legacy from time to time.

Unfortunately, you've kind of opened a can of worms here. In the neverending push to reorganize the sewing room, I started a pile of unfinished projects from Family Ties to show you. Most of these were made quite a while ago (really sadly, I've misplace my oldest quilt project notebook for the time being and can't give you exact dates for when these were all made. Definitely the 90s, though.)

So, in no particular order, and with some commentary ...

A single Princess Feather block. Which should really be used as the center of a medallion. (Some day!)

A single Eastern Star block. Hand pieced.

Aha! Evidence of a finished project. These are two leftover blocks from a twin sized quilt that I made and gave away. I don't have a digital picture of the finished quilt (nor a scanner to scan the one picture I do have) but this block isn't actually in the book. If you look on page 167 of Legacy, there's a photo of a pile of blocks. I drafted this based on one of them. It's a great pattern and made a gorgeous quilt (all 30s repros, as I remember it). If I do find the notebook I'll post the pattern's cutting instructions to you (if you're interested). [Come to think of it, I can just redraft the pattern, even if I can't find the notebook for a while.]

Five Snowball blocks (I'm starting to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas in my head about now!). Unfortunately, there is no more of the background fabric to be found in my stash. I think I could make a cute baby quilt with these, even without making more blocks. They remind me of soccer balls, somehow.

Four Butterflies. Again (and alas) no more of the background fabric to be found. Another baby quilt, perhaps?

"Bluebirds in Easy Applique". The original in the book was done in wools with buttonhole stitching. This background fabric I do have a bit more of. (Has that helped me to finish it? Not exactly...)

Ahh... *almost* finished! The "Full Blown Tulip" quilt is baby sized. Just needs more quilting....

One lone Dutch Tulip block. I don't think I ever intended to keep going with these colors, but I do adore a curved pieced tulip. Another one for the lifetime list of quilts I want to make.

Grecian Star, another single block. It's a big one, 17". Now, maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I have a pile of them pieced, in another set of fabrics. I just didn't get around to photographing them. (Another day, maybe.)

A single "Trees in the Park" block.

Whew. There's actually more, but I started to get a little overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

Now, to be honest, I don't consider a single block a UFO, not really anyway. Sometimes it's more like a swatch, a trying out of the pattern to see if I like it. I've discovered they can be used up efficiently by setting a block on point and then adding borders - even a single 12" block makes a great little medallion quilt that way. Now, have I done that with any of these? Umm.... no. But I could, someday. Or that's what I keep telling myself.

I'm afraid that now that I've shown (even just a glimpse) into what I've got that's still in pieces here, you're going to get worried about me and the Tulip quilt that I'm working on. I have to admit, I've been slacking off. I haven't worked on it much this week, with the excuse that I was too busy cleaning and reorganizing in the sewing room.

But really, I do finish quilts sometimes. Hopefully soon I can show you a few. I'm working on getting bindings on two of them right now.


Thursday, 26 June 2008


Dear Cassie,

This will be a short one, but I just had to pop here to show you this…
I thought that I would knit something while thinking of further quilts and quilting patterns and the border for the Yellow Flowers. Yes, the border is giving me a lot to think about and since I really don’t have a solution right now, I had to find something else to keep me busy. I am really not a kind who can sit with idle hands.

I tried a couple of sock patterns but found no luck nor love there.
Family Ties (ISBN 1-55853-134-3) has been by my bed side ever since you gave it to me. I really love the title: Family Ties “Old Quilt Patterns from New Cloth” – that sounds so simple. The whole book feels that way, the patterns are beautiful and quiet and there is nothing flashy in them. The first time I looked through the book, I stopped at Piney (Peony) and it has happened every time I open the book.
So this is the humble beginning of many happy hours to come.


Monday, 23 June 2008

all four blocks done

Dear Cassie,

Really, I don’t mind seeing all things blue…

Small things moved me also some time ago, the smaller and the more complex the better, but all of a sudden, the phase passed and now I seem to be into all things big and simple. It was all of a sudden, I did not go gradually from small to big, but jumped right from one end to the other.

While I was hand-sewing these huge blocks together I thought that maybe once again I have gone overboard. From the tiny hexagons to these huge and bold flowers… for sure there has to be the middle ground there somewhere. I know I said sometime ago that I plan to sew everything by hand (I will sew the binding partly by machine) but I guess I did not realize it would mean sewing seams that are more than 2 meters long and I am having second thoughts.

All the blocks are done. There was sense of relief and accomplishment after I had pieced the blocks together. I thought about adding something to these blocks all the time while appliquéing and pondered about adding flowers to the borders but so far nothing worked. So my plan today is to add plain off-white borders with no flowers and no leaves. You have kept telling me from the very beginning that quilting will be a great filler. So I will take your advice and start planning quilting designs after I have added the borders.
I have learnt a lot – about everything:

of colours - some combinations worked better than others and I have favourites among the flowers

of shapes - some are heavier than others and while at times I have felt that the shapes are too bold, I have also found beauty in the simplicity

of fabrics - some are easier on the hands and easier to fold while others cause problems with fraying and others by being too dense

of appliqué stitches - I have gone from ladder stitch to fell stitch, back to ladder and then again to fell... and the last block was done totally with fell stitch

of different methods of appliquéing - at first doing more or less everything with English paper piecing, then only partly adding freezer paper on top to the mix and then finally without any freezer paper at all

and I went from trying to be very precise to more or less free hand work.

I am very aware of the fact that I am not even half way there yet but still I keep dreaming of new quilts...

I keep coming back to this one frequently, but so far I have just admired it. As much as I love slow-sewing, there are times when I wish it just was not quite that slow.



Thursday, 19 June 2008

crazy little blue things

Dear Lene,

Apparently, with you gone for just a couple of days, I've totally lost steam. Yesterday I didn't manage to do anything on my third block (this in spite of the fact that it really is going faster without the freezer paper). I guess I need your presence to keep me going.

This morning I pulled out two piles of blocks that I had told you about. Started years ago - admittedly at a very stressful point in my life, when I really needed something to focus on.

These are the Dear Jane blocks I did - I think from about 2000-2002. I worked on them in the midst of a very stressful move from one apartment to another.

They're all entirely hand-sewn. I was able to have my handwork in one tiny work bag, and still keep sewing while my entire life was in boxes.

Somewhat unfortunately, I made them all blue. I'm not sure why I got going with that (other than the fact that my blue fabric stash is just enormous), but as you know blue is just not my color. Ultimately, I got bored with them and they've been living in a tin in the closet ever since. Every once in a while (like today) I take them out and think about setting them together. Somehow. I think that's the problem - they don't really move me, I have no idea where to go with them, and yet ... I put so much work into them that they really deserve a life outside of their tin.

The next set of blocks are from Linda Franz's Quilted Diamonds book.

These I actually like, but once again ... they live in a tin. Also all hand pieced. I obviously was on a teeny-tiny piecing kick for a while, but the fever seems to have passed and now I have lots of little blocks (and diamonds).

Just to show you that I've also been bitten by the English paper piecing bug:

hexagons [Edit: that would be octagons!] and squares - blue squares (maybe I don't dislike blue as much as I say I do?)

Stars in hexagons. Again... a lot of blue (but these have pink and purples too).

I really do like the fabrics in this one.

Now, can you please get back and keep me on track here? I'm afraid I might do something crazy. Or something else in blue.


Monday, 16 June 2008

second block done!

Dear Lene,

I know I've been bad about taking pictures of the blocks I'm working on. First we had that heatwave, and now we're into our third day of clouds and thunderstorms here. Fortunately, I prefer that to the heat, but the rare sunlight we've had has made it difficult to find just the right time to take pictures. But I tried my best, to keep you updated.

Here are the first two blocks, finished except for the center reverse appliqué:

The reason I'm waiting to do the reverse appliqué is because I wasn't sure if I was going to have enough of the blue for it. I have other blue fabrics that are similar, though, so I figured if I run out, I can use an alternate fabric at the center. I'm still not sure which fabric I'm going to use for the swags in the border - I'm hoping to have enough of the green, but I may go with blue. (Or maybe the blue will be used for the binding instead? I'm really playing this by ear, as I go along.)

When I was basting down the center yellow piece for the third block, I had a funny parakeet moment, and managed to grab my camera just in time:

That's Moe the parakeet, who just discovered pins for the first time. What I did was to lay down the piece with freezer paper still attached, pin down the seam allowances, and then remove the freezer paper and baste just the fabric down to the background.

For the first two blocks, I left the freezer paper on, and worked around it. Normally, this is one of my favorite methods of appliqué, but with the 22" square yellow piece, it just wasn't practical. After reading the comments about this method, I decided to try something else for the third block. I had thought I was going to mark at least the inner curves (the deep ones at the base of the scallops) with white chalk, but when I tried that I just wasn't happy with it.

Of course, when I finally took a picture, you can't see the white chalk marks at all. But I did spend some time wiping them off in frustration - it really was worse before.

What I decided to do in the end was something new for me. I recently found a small size hera marker in one of my sewing supply tins. I had never used it (it was still in the packaging) but had probably bought it because it was different than the other ones I have, with one end that was pointy - almost like a plastic awl.

I tried using the pointy end of the hera marker to press turning lines into the fabric, and was really pleasantly surprised by the result. I had to lay the freezer paper back over the yellow fabric to do it, but that was easy enough.

I'm very happy with how it's going, and will probably use the same method for the fourth block. Next time, though, I'm going to mark the turning lines before I remove the freezer paper. It will stabilize the fabric a bit more.

When we had started up with this whole idea, I mentioned another four-block quilt I had started a few years ago. I think I said something about lots of leaves being too fussy. I pulled the block out and ironed it (although you can't tell at all from this picture!) and re-examined it.

I really like it, and I realize now that the Tulip quilt I chose to copy is a much harder pattern to sew than this oval wreath pattern. Oh, well. Maybe it will be my next project.

I chose to work on the wreath quilt totally freehand, although I did baste the pieces down using a pattern, I didn't mark any lines. It works out just fine for these smaller pieces, unlike the large piece at the center of the tulip quilt. I found the block with a needle still in place:

I've been really tempted by it - to just pick it up and sew a few pieces down, but I'm resisting the temptation. I'm telling myself it can be my reward for finishing up the tulip quilt top. I only have a quarter of this one block sewn, but have all the fabrics set aside for the entire quilt. Something to look forward to....


PS - I'm not ignoring your hexagon madness. But may I make a suggestion? Step very slowly and carefully away from the hexagons. They seem dangerous.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


Dear Cassie,

Since you last posted about that lovely hexagon quilt, I decided to dig into my deep past and reveal some hexagonal madness that I had a few years back. I am little worried if you will ever talk to me again after you see this, but believe me, I am cured now and this is the only, the only, dark secret from my quilting past. Nothing before or since has ever been as bad as this, except maybe knitting the twined sweaters, but that is not a secret, it has been out in the open for many years now.

It all started out very innocently. I received a bunch of paper cuts as a gift from a friend and I set myself into making a doll quilt out of them. I had never liked the grandmother’s flower garden a lot before and it came as a surprise how much I enjoyed the slow-sewing process and how I really liked the outcome.
Then I received another set of paper cuts from the same friend, a little bit smaller yet than the first ones and there was plenty. Without any particular project in mind I started to cut small scraps into hexagons and made a few…
And then a few more…
And then some more…
And then I had this.
But you need not to worry, I don’t do these any more.



(PS. I did figure out a way to use some of them!)

Monday, 9 June 2008


Dear Lene,

I suppose we can just resign ourselves to being jealous of each other's weather through the summer. I know you think you want some nice warm weather, but really - 35º/95º is not something you really want. Please trust me on this.

I was going to write today about more snowflake quilts, but then I got distracted and wound up going for two quilts that are at least related somewhat. Not the same pattern, but both are signature quilts.

The first is the only antique signature quilt that I've bought. It's the snowflake pattern (again)
I should know a little more about dating it by the fabrics, but I'd say it's from about 1875, although some of the fabrics are definitely circa 1850. There are signatures on it, both by stencil:

and also by hand:

(I just love the name "Delilah Kirby", don't you?) There are a lot of Kirby and Potter names on the quilt, but other than that I have nothing to go on. No idea where it came from, or who anyone is. Ironic, isn't it, that a quilt can be signed for remembrance and then all the names on it forgotten in time?

The other signature quilt that I'm honored to have the safe-keeping of is one that belongs to my aunt. Years ago (about 30) she had rented a house in Vermont for the summer, and one summer she bought this quilt at a local estate auction.

It's an absolutely fabulous hexagon quilt, hand pieced with cheddar orange triangles in between the hexagons. It's signed, and many of the signatures have "Dover, VT" beneath the names.

My aunt spent that summer researching the quilt in the local cemetery. She was able to date it to no later than 1850, based on the names and the gravestones there. The quilt has a fabulous collection of mid nineteenth century fabrics, and is in perfect condition. Obviously never washed or used.

The maker(s?) took enormous care in placing the fabrics in the hexagons to form kaleidoscope patterns.
Every time I look at this quilt, I'm really in awe. Interestingly, it's not paper-pieced, but pieced by hand with a regular running stitch. I love the way the quilt's colors jump out with the orange and white background. I think this quilt is almost entirely to 'blame' for my love of the color orange, actually!

I had hoped to take some more pictures of quilts I've made, but really the weather is too hot to be moving big, warm quilts around. I'll save that for another time. And really, I think these quilts are more special than most (if not all) of the things I've made. A little bit of history to think about.


PS - I'm almost halfway done with my second block. I spent the weekend shut in a room with air conditioning, working on it. Today looks like more of the same weather, so I'm hoping to make some more progress and show some updated pictures soon.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

beautiful saturday morning

Dear Cassie,

This is how my work space looks at the moment. Outside the picture are piles of fabrics that I have been auditioning for the border. I am not sure if I have a solution yet, but I am thinking of something that I don’t want to show yet. If I go with this fabric I have on mind, it is somehow going to change the feel of my quilt completely… And a quick sketch for the border design. I am thinking of adding few more big flowers on the border and I talked to one of my girls yesterday, N, and she thinks that I should only add these flowers and do nothing about the empty spaces between the flowers. I sort of agree with her at the moment. But one more block to go before I absolutely need to decide.

I tried to find some small quilts that I have done over the years. They don’t really have any fine stitches on them, they are all machine pieced and machine quilted so I am not sure if this is the forum for them… here thrown between your antique pieces, they seem a bit out of place…

The first one is appliqué, it was just cut and sew, and I made it for the amusement of my girls. They loved Moomin stories when they were small.
This is from a book, Prairie People (by Marji Hadley and J. Dianne Ridgley). I also made a doll from the book but I’ll have to find it. It was in a time when I used to sew lots of dresses for my girls and they all had beautiful Little House on the Prairie bonnets, which really were the best kind of hats.

I love teddy bears. I have done few repros of antique bears and thus was inspired to make quilts with them. I did not like this little quilt even when I had just made it, but I’ll show it because it led to something that I really like, even today. So this came first…
And then this. It is quite big and was made at the time when the girls were learning to read. The timing was perfect!

Please bring on the baby/doll quilts, because I bought this crib some time ago. It is an old one and it needs a quilt. When I brought it home, I was a bit embarrassed to have spent money on something that we really did not need. I called my husband on the way and prepared him on the purchase. I said that I have bought something and stressed that I really don’t want to hear his opinion of it if it is not a favourable one. (I had to remind him of some of his purchases to have emphasis on my case.) I carried it inside, he looked at it and then he said: “But what if there are twins again?”

Guess what, ever since I have been on the lookout for another beautiful crib! Which then again means that there has to be two quilts.



PS. I really need to work on the photography on the quilts. I realize that this is all very different from taking pictures of knits.

Or from the scenery. It is a beginning of a lovely day over here at the Arctic Circle. Wonder what the weather is like there when you wake up...