Friday, February 22, 2008

Once upon a time....

there was a little girl who was thought to be tucked ever so sweetly in her bed for a nap. Or so her silly old mother thought. Ever so quietly this sweet child snuck out of her room and slipped into her mother's quilting cave where she found her mother's large dress maker's shears and a pair of embroidery scissors. As quiet as a mouse, the little princess crept back to her bedroom and began snipping off pieces of her beautiful shoulder length, just finally long enough to put into the sweetest little brown braids. Because she is right handed she only trimmed what she could reach on the left side of her head. Then she moved onto her bangs where she grabbed a generous handful and with the scissors as close to her scalp as she could get them she whacked away a handful right out of the middle of her head...the end, well almost.

This photo was taken 3 months after the princess had her first appointment with a hair stylist. The bangs had barely grown and the sides had grown just enough to cover her ears.

Pleased with what she had accomplished she decided that the cat's whiskers would look better if they were trimmed a bit more even with his fur. So not only did she cut off all of the cats whiskers on the left side of his head, she cut off the whiskers of the right side of his head as well. It wasn't the mother who discover the mischief the little princess had entertained herself with during nap time. It was her darling brother who found his mother laboring away over the stove and said these words ever so calmly..."Mom, it's not good. You're not going to be happy."

The above story took place three years ago and since then I have been searching for a small pair of snips that I could keep in my pocket. I haven't found anything that wouldn't stab me in the leg...until now. I found the perfect thing for my hand piecing. Something that I am already accustomed to slipping into my pocket when I am finished using it...a knife. But not just any knife...AN EMBROIDERY KNIFE!

It has a small pair of scissors and a little blade. That's it! No bottle opener, no fish gut hook, no little tooth pick or tweezers to get lost. I've received approval from the farm's CFO and was given the approval of the purchase. Of course I ran to the computer, punched in all the magic numbers and told them where to ship my new sewing tool. And now I wait for the box from France with my embroidery knife. When it gets here it will go straight into my pocket only to see the light of day when I know the little princess isn't looking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hand piecing

I have completed my first two blocks from "The Civil War Diary Quilt" book. The first block is Selling the Livestock. It is not the first block in the book, but I used it as a way to test that my seam allowances and stitching were accurate before moving on to more complicated blocks. And it won't take long before I start hitting blocks with many tiny little pieces. After I stitch the first seven that were listed last week, I will start from the beginning of the book and work my way across each row from left to right. When I have completed stitching the 11 blocks in a row I will stitch the lattice and cornerstones and attach the rows as they are completed. I have never hand pieced a quilt this large and consider myself in training for "The Jane!"

Update: I received all the fabrics for the blocks as part of a Block of the Month program that was offered at Homestead Hearth. I have received a packet a civil war reproduction fabrics in my letterbox each month for the last 17 months. Next month I will receive the last packet for the last 6 blocks in the quilt. The only fabric I will need to buy will be the muslin I use for the lattice and cornerstones. I am almost certain that I have something in my stash to use for the borders, backing and binding.

I love the way the bulk of the seams can be evenly distributed when I hand piece. When I ordered my copy of the book I also ordered a copy of the cd that runs off of EQ5 software.
I am able to print my templates for each block and adjust my seam allowance to 3/16". This will allow me an easier time when hand quilting 1/4" outline around each piece.

The second block I stitched this week is Yankee Papers. It is another of the less difficult blocks in the quilt. Both of these blocks are a good place to start if you would like to give hand piecing a try. All of the seams are finger pressed. This eliminates the distortion that can occur when a block is ironed to death.

Here are the other blocks that were on the list from last week. After I use the template to mark each piece of fabric in a block I lay them out on a piece of felt that I've cut 8" x 11". Then I slip them into a plastic sheet protector. I have found that if I use the sheet protector with the expandable edge the felt doesn't buckle and my fabric pieces don't slip out of piecing order.

I have a 3 ring binder that I store the plastic sheets in. The important thing about being able to hand stitch on the go is the amount of prep time I put into getting the blocks ready. This week I spent Sunday afternoon prepping these seven blocks. Regardless of whether I finish piecing 7 blocks a week, I will spend time each Sunday prepping 7 additional blocks. This will guarantee that I will always have the next block to work on. If I have a few quiet minutes for hand piecing all I need to do is pull out one of the pages that holds two blocks and stitch away. After I finish the blocks I can keep them safely tucked away in the notebook where they won't get lost. I often take my piecing with me when I leave the house. Inside my notebook I have my name phone number and address listed n the inside of the cover. I also have indicated that if the notebook is lost I will offer a reward for it's return. Better safe than sorry!

If you are interested in a book on hand piecing try Jinny Beyer's book titled "Quilt Making by Hand." There is a dvd available as well. I have taken her hand piecing workshop from her at her studio in Falls Church, Virginia. If you are ever in the area of Washington, D.C. a trip to her shop is well worth the visit. Be warned though, the only thing she carries in her shop is her own line of fabric.

Over the last couple of weeks I have missed out on too many games of Candy Land. My daughter got board waiting for me one morning while I was writing a post and when I turned around this is what I found....

I had been replaced.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A history lesson, a quilt and a love letter

Sometime in 2007, I signed up for a Block of the Month mailing for The Civil War Diary Quilt. Each month in my letterbox there is a fat, squishy, yellow envelope. I open the envelope, remove the little red check paper bag that holds the fabrics for four different blocks in the book and I throw the bag in a box, where they sit patiently waiting for me to decided when I will start working on them. Hello little's your lucky day! Today when I stopped by Kathie's blog, she showed the blocks that she is making from The Civil War Diary Quilt. She wanted to know if anyone else is interested in playing along? Of course I sent back an email saying "I'm in!" This is just the bump I needed to get going on this quilt. But what really excites me is that I can easily tie the quilt into our school work. My son reads everything he can about the Civil War. Each year, usually right before we start our lessons in July, we take a trip to a Civil War battlefield. Last summer, it was Antietam and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He spends the day, dressed in his Union soldier re-enactment uniform and traces the movements that the soldiers made across the battlefield. When he reads about the bayonet charge down Little Round Top, he knows exactly how long it takes to get down the little hill. He knows just how uncomfortable a wool uniform is on a 90 degree day. He can appreciate the pain the soldiers must have felt from wearing shoes that didn't fit. And after eating hard tack and beef jerky for a day, he has a better appreciation for his mamma's home cooked meals. Each spring as we approach the end of our school year, (less than 30 days left! Hurray!)we put together a short movie of his time spent learning about American history. video

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Don't put off til tomorow, what you can quilt today...

I've always planned on making my dad a quilt, but some how it keeps getting moved further down on my "Quilts to Do" list. Last week, while I was organizing my sewing room, I came across a pattern that I have been saving for about seven years. The pages were torn out of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine from the March 2001 issue.

I chose this quilt because of the Ohio Star block. Ohio is the state were both my dad and I were born. My dad grew up in Ohio, but moved his young family east with his jobs. When I think of Ohio,it reminds me of my family and the long car trips we made in the back of a blue woody station wagon to spend time cousins on their farm in the summer.

I like to barter. It is something that comes in handy when living on a farm. I am also finding out that it can come in handy if you are looking for scraps of fabric. I have struck up a barter with another blogger and will be busy knitting dishcloths for the scraps she will be sending me to piece into my dad's quilt. I want it to look scrappy and not planned. Using lots of different fabrics will be the best way to achieve this. I will work the star blocks as I come across the fabrics. There are 152 (3.75")stars and I am hoping to have each star be a different fabric. I can't wait to start going through my fabrics to see which ones I want to use.

Because I will want to finish this quilt quickly I will machine piece the top. After I finish the top I will decide whether I have enough time to hand quilt the top in time to give it to my dad for Christmas.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Knitted Dishcloth Pattern

Materials: 1 skein of cotton yarn
I use Lily's Sugar'n Cream

Needles: Size 6 & 8(only used to cast on and bind off)

With size 8 needle, cast on 35 stitches.

Using the size 6 needle knit two rows and continue with the size 6 needle.

1st pattern row: Knit the first two stitches, (yo, k2tog) across the row,
knit the last stitch.

2nd row: knit
3rd row:knit
4th row: knit

Repeat these four rows until your cloth is the desired length.
I repeat the pattern 16 times.
My cloth finishes to about 8.5" inches on each side before shrinking them in the dryer!

Bind off with size 8 needle.

Weave in loose ends.

Machine wash and dry these cloths to tighten up the cotton.
This prevents the cotton from stretching when it becomes wet.

As long as you cast on an odd number of stitches you can make the cloth any size you'd like.
Use 25 stitches to make child sized cloths.

If you have difficulty working up the cloth, please email and I will help you the best I can.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

On the mend...

This little boy left his barn coat on the top of...

this hungry dog's house....

and this is what needs to be mended.

Something tells me that she was after candies
hidden away in the pocket.
Fortunately she only damaged the lining and
didn't chew the outer jacket or snaps off.
There's a little girl who will be able to get
many years of wear from this coat when it is handed down.

Cost to replace coat = $39.50 plus shipping
Cost to repair = FREE

I have a house full of fabric and thread and was able to find a scrap just the right size.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

People travel....

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars;
and they pass by themselves without wandering.

- St. Augustine

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Something for me!

Last summer I bought 36 vintage blocks from a seller on ebay. I liked the double pink setting triangles and had an idea how I wanted to use them. So I began taking out the stitches. I wish now that I would have taken photos of the size of both the stitches and the knots. Most of the stitches were 1/4" long. The knots were the size of seed beads. There was no way these bad boys were ever going to come undone. The thread that the blocks were sewn together with was very thick and had three plies that were very tightly twisted. It is nothing I have ever seen used before. It reminded me of crochet cotton from DMC.
I have no idea of the age of the fabrics used in the blocks.
It would be interesting to learn how old the fabrics are.

Taking the blocks apart took me more than two weeks. I had to work slowly snipping the stitching threads so that I didn't clip into the fabrics. I had time to sit wonder about the hands that had stitched the blocks together so long ago. Who was the quilter who stitched these blocks? How old was she? The size of the stitches were 1/4" long and I wondered, was it her first quilt or her last? Was her eyesight failing her with age and was she old? Was she married? Did she live in town or on a farm? Did she have children? Why was the quilt never finished? What would she think if she knew I had undone all of her stitching?

After letting the blocks age just a bit longer, I finally decided what pattern to use. This is a Carol Hopkins Design. She has a wonderful line of patterns using reproduction fabrics. I am a huge fan of her patterns. I have too many to decide which one is my favorite. She has included directions for both handpiecing the LeMoyne stars, as well as a variation on the star for those wanting to piece the stars by machine. It is rare to find a pattern that will include directions for both machine and hand piecing. The patterns are well written and very easy to follow.

After hand piecing 9 LeMoyne stars that I bequeathed to Nadine, I have found myself in serious hand piecing withdraw. While the children were gone to the hockey games, I began tracing out the 1" diamonds for the stars from the brown and double pink vintage fabrics.
The background is a muslin and the setting blocks and borders are a pink reproduction fabric that I have tea dyed to help it look older than it is.

After tracing each piece I use scissors to cut them out. I find such comfort in cutting out each shape one at a time. I know that many of you would say "Oh, bother! Grab your rotary cutter and get it done!" But I love each step of the journey of hand piecing. It demands a
mindfulness, for if my mind wanders off the cutting line the scissors will make a poor cut and I will loose out on using that treasured little scrap. There are many fabrics that were only used once in the entire quilt. I wonder where the quilter who first pieced the blocks came across each of the fabrics. I'll never have the answer to each of these questions, but when I finish the stitching of this little quilt I will be sure to label and document it's making.

Here are stars two are three waiting to have their triangles and corners set in. Working from the center out has given me the best results when piecing the LeMoyne star. Working from the center out has helped me to align each of the points of the diamonds in the center of the block. Next to the feathered star, it is my favorite block. I hope to finish the stars tonight or tomorrow and move onto stitching the rows together. I am still trying to decide on the fabric to use for the inner border. I may have to make a trip to the fabric shop! Yippee!

This is the little book that waits patiently for me to find a minute spare minute or two. I came across these books while at a NQA show. They are called "The Teeny Tiny Traveling Tote." They are made by Froncie from Hoopla Patterns. There are four pages of fleece to store my pieces. In the back there is a little plastic bag for holding whatever notions I need. The top has pockets to slip a sandpaper backed cutting mat, rotary cutter and as my son refers to them, my grandma glasses. I keep a second book stashed away in my car filled with blocks to piece, in case I ever find myself out and without something to keep my hands busy. If you aren't familiar with Hoopla patterns, you should visit her site. She has a line of the most wonderful reproduction patterns. Froncie will be teaching a class at the NQA show this year. And if I would just put down the stitching and send in the class registration, I know I would learn a lot from her.

Update: This morning while not doing school because everyone is sick, I stopped over at Dawn's blog at Quilts and Pieces. She had a very cute coin quilt. The inner border fabric is just what I need for this quilt. Dawn supplied me with a link to a shop where I could find the fabric I was looking for. I love the way quilter's offer a helping hand to someone they've never met before. Dawn, thank you! I have ordered fabric for the border as well as finding perfect fabric for the backing.

Now I need to get busy while I wait for the mail car to come down the long driveway. The mail car only comes over the hill when they have packages. We very rarely have cars come up over the hill and when they do we know it's going to be something special.

Oh, and husband... since I know now that you are reading my blog, you can consider this fabric my Valentine's gift. Now you won't have to go out shopping!
Think of all the time I've saved you!
You don't even have to wrap it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

i miss summer!

homemade toys are the ones that they love the best!

little man helps with women's work...

little mamma can't remember something she needed to do...

painting fairy houses out on the porch....

keeping an eye out for little miss mischief....

concentrating on getting everything just so...

never again will his hands be so small...

remember, the fairies won't come eat if you are watching....

checking to see if the fairies have left any gifts....

out in jammies to see what the fairies have left for us....

To all my readers living in the southern hemisphere:

I wanted to let you know that our wonderful little groundhog did not see his shadow! Which means we have only 6 more weeks of winter. Hurray! Enjoy the warm weather while you can, because the sun is moving north! I know you'll miss her but we'll send her back when we're done with our gardens, picnics and swims!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Quilting is like .....

Barn Raising
by Rebecca Barker
click here to visit her site

While taking a break from stitching yesterday, I visited Jeana Kimball and have been thinking about the question she posed to her readers. The question was:

"Why are you compelled to quilt?"

After sleeping on the question,
I came up with this...

Quilting is like breathing...if I don't do it enough, I turn blue!