Friday, October 19, 2012

Autumn Rains

Its done.  However the actual glow of it is not captured in the pic.  Just as I wanted  your eye focuses on the  stars and the rest helps it float on the quilt.  Have been considering doing another as a 9-patch of stars in much subtler tones. Actually much quieter tones.  There is just something about this star that just makes me happy.

 This is what I came up with for Wind Storm blocks.
Half step down, but only 4 rows and the side borders.  I have a plan, but still in my head.  I like how graphic the blocks are even though I used a busy print background.
It must be my Fall quilt except that the solid green look like green shoots or plants that were covered and got no sun for awhile.  That could be Fall too as there seems to always be something that got covered up during the summer.

                                         Started this foray into improv.  It will go slowly
                                         as I make elements when the mood strikes. The
                                         crossed triangles are from a couple other pro-
                                         jects, but they do work with what I have so far.
                                         Although improv looks easy, I found it takes a
                                         as much time as the cutting sewing for more
                                         traditional quilts.  I will say I think I make a
                                         bigger mess as scraps fly in all directions. It is
                                         also just so much fun.
I posted this as it is a not so blurry picture of the blocks.  I liked using cut outs from prints to make the flowers or parts of them.

At the Museum I am still cataloging the Nancy Cabot blocks. I am up to 1080.  Jinny Beyer in her book, Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns,  has 1379 and she does not include applique. Now wonder those pattern collectors of the 50's and 60's went nuts over trying to check and double check there collection to try to get them all.  It reminds of the games with collectible cards before computer games.  My older son played some of the games and tried to collect all the cards, including the hard-to-find ones.

The other amazing part is that all these blocks seem to have been published mainly between 1933 and 1938. It seems you would be busy day and night to publish so many blocks and make patterns.  The patterns seem to have been limited to mininmal directions and certainly did not contain any sewing instructions, mostly just the pattern pieces, how many were needed to make a quilt.  Certainly not what we expect today in a pattern.

Autumn is here and the leaves are especially brilliant this year.  I thought maybe the summer drought would have hurt the color, but no they are gorgeous.  However, there wasn't much of an apple crop as we had a frost at the exact time the apple trees were blooming.  Michigan is having to import apples from Washington to make us happy.

Off for a short color tour.  Hope we picked a sunny time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rail Fence Star

Several quilters commented on Rail Fence Star. I found it in some patterns from Wallace's Farmer. In the early 1900s there were many publications with Farmer in the title.  These were supposed to help bring culture to rural areas. Although they published excerpts from classic literature and fictional stories, they also had a needlecraft column.  There was real purpose was to get advertising to those in rural areas.

They usually included a few quilt patterns every month...mostly traditional blocks. There weren't any directions and it was assumed that the reader already knew how to make a quilt.  The Rail Fence Star I found was just a small drawing on a partial sheet of paper. When I saw it I fell in love immediately.

I have drawn a quarter block and cutting directions for a whole block.  The block measures 24". Mine is based on a two inch square, but if you used a three inch square the block would be 30". When sewing start with the outer corner (green) and work in.  It is very simple to piece with great results.

The past several weeks I have been working on Nancy Cabot blocks. The name was a pseudonym used by the Chicago Tribune for Loretta Lightner Reising (spelling?).  This was common in the 30's. I think like the movie stars the paper wanted their columnist to have simple, easy to remember names. So far I have cataloged 980 blocks.  Some are traditional patterns and some were newly designed, but the most incredible were the applique patterns.  I have not seen quilts made of these patterns and would love to make a sampler of some of the ones I like the best. My hands and shoulder may not be up to it, but I will give it a go. I traced many of these patterns and have included a couple of pages here.

Yippee! My border fabric came for my Rail Fence quilt.  Hope to have the complete top to show soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Dimming

Hmmm!  Seems I took the summer off.  Last summer I was on fast and furious mode.  Retiring sent me on new paths and new ideas. I just couldn't make quilts fast enough for my ideas.  After a year of making/pushing myself to express all the new ideas I have, I must have needed a rest. Not a conscious one, but a rest nevertheless.
Now that Fall is upon us I am ready to finish things I started in the summer.  Maybe just not so furiously.  I hope you will enjoy what I have and have not done.  Onto the blogging.

I got this far on my quarter circles. They look like swirling galaxies to me. The lower right hand corner is not done as you can see.  I used one of the very busy Terrie Mangat prints for the squares and naturally ran out of it for the last few blocks.  I have another one of these busy prints, the one with giant bees on it, but it is currently lodged in the alternate universe and until it returns this quilt will be waiting to be finished.

I started a new quilt.  I found this pattern while cataloging patterns collected by Cuesta Benberry of publications aimed at rural/farmer
audience.  They all carried quilt patterns along with knitting, crocheting, embroidery patterns.  I found this star called Rail Fence and fell in love. It is so simple and yet very graphic.  
 Once I started to make a quilt of the blocks I added the sashing so each star is showcased.  The borders have been much played with. It took quilt awhile to figure out how to keep the focus on the central image.  I toyed with making more blocks, but then each one would be less special.  Tried several pieced borders, but they were too much.  I like what I came up with.   I really wanted the lighter fabric on the left upper ochre colored fabric. It just was more toned down that the center and was perfect. Alas, it is an oldie and I couldn't find it anywhere and I only have a yard. Drat.
I put up the other two on the right, but they too cannot be found.
Then I tried the red that is in the center of the blocks and it looks great.  I found some more on line and have ordered it. It will be here soon.  Yeah!

Sorry this is so blurry, but I think I used the telephoto on my camera when I shouldn't.  I want to make several panels of applique blocks, using the oval shaped fabric in the leaves.  These were left overs from cutting out the "crust" part of the quarter circle blocks from the first quilt above.   All of the shapes, except the leave were free cut. These are going very slowly as I am limited by arthritis in by thumb.  However, I love them so much, will post better pictures next time.  

This block was in the previous post and has needed percolation thru the summer.  I like the block, but not the stripe I made..too busy..nor the colors...too dark.  Willpick it up again soon.

This was in the previous post too.  It turns out navy was not the right color. It too has had to percolate.  Now have an idea in place and will get started on it too.

So this has been a time for not too much improv, but both conventional piecing and improv are in the future. So keep an eye out for more.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

 OK, I was just bemoaning being stuck and guess what, I now have several things cooking.  This is a start of a new improv, wonky quilt.  This may not be how it ends up, but it looks good for now. I made long strips by laying a print on top of a solid and just cutting freestyle and sewing. So which is print on solid and which is solid on print? I don't know either, but they were fun to make. Don't know how many I will make before I have enough for a quilt, but enough will let me know.

 This a a block I designed. As far as I can tell it hasn't been done before.  I love the background, but my idea of using dark blue is not working.  Have tried a couple with brown prints and it is much better. Don't know where it is headed either.

 These are inspired by a block in a book called "East Quilts West"(no longer in print). She had the quarter circles lined up in the same direction, but I don't think so.  Plan to make lots and play with sets.

I was so enamored by these blocks by OCS (designed in the 30's)  There is a series called Bowl of Flowers.  I decided to make one first to see how they looked.  I was disappointed. To be they look too stiff and stark.  Now I am not sure that I will make more.  Maybe it needs leaves?  Well, looking at the picture, I am softening.  These are pretty complex piecing and I don't to invest the time and then hate them.  They are very Art Deco.

Finally I got caught up on all the gardening that didn't get done last year, but no new projects. Summer seems to be really starting....several days in the 90's.  So just going out to water plants is about all that can get done. Oh, and deadheading and some weeding and.....

This week at the MSU Museum we had a visit from Merikay Waldvogel.  She is a well known quilt historian.  For me it was a thrill...much of her research is on the 30's and 40' favorite.

Currently at the Museum I am working with home-based publications from mostly the 60's and 70's.
Interestingly there was a group of dedicated quilt block pattern collectors. They formed round robins which was a method of exchanging patterns they had found and hopefully the source of the pattern.
Some of them became friends thru the mail. It made me think of today. Blogs have given us an opportunity to share our quilting with others and make some from friends along the way.  However, the round robin ladies saved much of their correspondence and I wonder how much of cyberspace communication will be saved for the future.  Will historians look back and wonder what we did and what we talked about?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Summer already?

This is the finished version of my previous post. It is so lively and looks like the crosses are dancing.  And who knew when I bought the bolt end of the red flower fabric that it would be just enough to complete this quilt. It explains why keeping a stash is important. I bought this several years ago and it was the perfect answer for this quilt.
My latest quilt started out like this.  I was considering using blank
alternating squares, but when I got a more complete mock up
the light square overwhelmed the blocks.  I even bought a
more fabric in hopes of making it work, but it didn't. .
And this is how it ended up.  Lots of wonky energy.   It reminds me of a carpet with fringe  on the ends.   It turned out that red was what I needed.  I also figured out how to make wonky 9 patches or whatever number of squares you want without having to cut them to size.  They are sewn to size and required no trimming.  The top and bottom borders were cut a little longer that needed but required little trimming.  I love wonky, but not having to cut everything to fit. 
These are a couple of the blocks patterns from the 30's that I cataloged at MSU Museum.  I just love the diagrams. Each of the pieces of the block pattern that are supposed to be prints has a different calico pattern carefully drawn in it.  Since this was pre computer you couldn't just fill in the blank with patterns made in your computer.   Each one is separately drawn based on the prints of the times. They are from my favorite pattern service, Needlecrafts (also known as OCS..Old Chelsea Station).which is the post office you sent your order too.  When I was a kid I can remember their ads in craft magazines, mainly for crocheting, knitting and clothing patterns.  I never ordered from them, but was intrigued by the range of patterns types the offered..

This brings me to why I haven't blogged in so long.  I got stuck.  The old patterns, especially from my favorite pattern service, OCS, were calling my name. When the blocks were put together like a tile floor or wall....side by side. Then they were often unexciting and I couldn't imagine making 20 to 30 of the same block. The blocks also have pieces that are unsual and can't always be cut with my rotary cutter. This would mean making templates for the block pattern.  Now I can see why so many quilters use patterns that are easily rotary cut and many of the old patterns are neglected.

 I love my improv, wonky style too.  What to do...go to the past and make those charming old block patterns or go forward with my own style.  I got stuck and I couldn't make up my mind.  I talked with some friends who have quilted as long as I have and they have the same problem.  It was good to know others wrestle with this.  In the end there is not single resolution.  I will make some of these old blocks and someday put them in "sampler" quilts.  Some of these old block patterns will be a launching pad for something new.  I will combine both old and new.  I just needed to accept that it is OK to do a little of both.  Has this every happened to you? You just couldn't move past a certain point and couldn't start any projects because of it.  

Monday, March 5, 2012


I have been busy, just not a frequent blogger. The above quilt is based on  the vintage quilt shown below.  I kept the nine patch motif and had the blocks rotate around the center square. The outer border is a fabric that languished in my stash for many years. Now it has finally found a home. To me this is why you have a stash. You just never know what may be hiding there.
This top is from the 20's to 40's. It appears that the quilt maker liked the idea of  using a little assymetry or accidentally put them together and didn't realize her "mistake". It makes for an interesting quilt.

Actually the hard part for this block was selecting a fabric for the slashed cross.  I knew I wanted the light background block. After several tries this was the most striking.  This is one of those sale fabrics where you got a discount for buying what was left on the bolt. I had about 2 1/2 yards. It will all be used up by the end of the quilt.  Who knew? Another stash find. I love the intensity of the reds/oranges used for the daisies.  My husband says it reminds him of the poppies in Flanders Field...a poem about a cementary from WWI in Belgium and the poppies that grow there over the graves. These poppies bloom every spring  are the kind that are annuals and reseed themselves every year.  

This is the quilt coming together. I have one more row to complete. The borders will make it seem like the crossed block are floating on the borders.  I loved taking the "ordinary" background block and making them so lively. 

 Then of course I had to start another crazy hand pieced project. A friend lent me a book about reproducing old quilts. I had looked thru all my block compendiums without success for a simple circle and amazingly there was what I was looking for in the book.  Someones grandmother made this quilt and so the author called the blocks Ursula's Circles. The author said she had never seen it before. Anyway, it is 22 inches and the center is simple but I will have to admit that the 40 little triangles around the outside are a bit tedious. The good news that if I finish them at 24 inches I only need 3 turned on point to make a good size center to a quilt.

I think I mentioned that I was volunteering at the MSU Museum in quilting. I am organizing the patterns that were willed to the museum by Cuesta Benberry. Currently I am sorting thru patterns in a box labeled OCS(Old Chelsea Station), Laura Wheeler and Alice Brooks. This block pattern mail order service has some of the most original designs. Many remind me of Art Deco designs. I may be unable to resist at least making one or more of quite a few of the blocks. I couldn't ask for a better thing to volunteer to do.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Medallions onward

Finally I have finished this medallion quilt top. However, it is turned on its side. I ended up making it big enough to fit my bed.....not king size thank goodness. I am still fascinated with  medallions. It is such an old style and definitely was imported from England when America was in its beginning.  Then in the 2nd quarter of the 19th century Americans started to design and make block quilts. Alot of those first blocks were made of elements from all those pieced medallion borders. I made mine a little more contemporary by using different borders but not always round and round.  I am not sure if I have this out of my system yet.
I definitely used rust a lot in this quilt. It is one of my favorite colors. I don't any one else who like it like I do.  With some thought I realized that this color impressed me a lot as a kit. First in the red clay soil of coastal Mississippi and the sandstone rock outcroppings in Colorado.  To me rust just seemed so vibrant in the sunshine. The rock outcroppings seemed like miracles.

In another moment of lunacy I pieced this star.  It is actually 20" across. I figured if I made the finished block 22" and turned them on point I could make 5 and have a quilt. I figure that by then I will have had enough of piecing it.  The inside is simple with large pieces, but when I got to the triangular border yikes.  Needless to say it is hand pieced.  Hand piecing is a  part of my quilting life.  It is just so relaxing and I can't just sit still.

I have been working on a couple of thing that I can't show yet, but the time will come.

I have been continuing to volunteer at the MSU Museum.  The last month I have been sorting thru the patterns designed by Herbert Van Mehren.  A name little known today.  He had a business to market his quilt designs called Home Arts Studio in the 1930's and 40's. He designed amazing mediallion designs that were 72" square. The most well known is Giant Dahlia.  I don't think I have seen quilts made of these patterns except Giant Dahlia and Star of France. However, it seems plenty of quilters bought the patterns and kept him in business.  Each pattern is a circular design made up of a complex star pattern. You would have to be quite the expert quilter to make one as there are no instructions just pattern pieces and a partial drawing of the complete quilt.  Sorry, but the museum doesn't allow photos.  If you have The Encyclopedia of Pieces Quilt Patterns or Block Base the blocks are in those publications.