Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part III: Lyre, Lyre Pants on Fire

As I understand it, part of the modern quilting aesthetic is the exploration of traditional forms and concepts through a contemporary lens—the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast, a clean simplicity . . .

As someone whose first quilt was a 1904 Bowtie Quilt made by someone somewhere in Ohio, I love the parsimony (thrift) and utility of the old patchwork quilt. Made by mothers and sisters, aunts and grandmothers, these quilts were sewn from fabric left at hand—patchwork quilts were made by families who couldn't buy "store-bought" linens. These quilts were made with sons and fathers' work shirts, little ones worn and re-worn Sunday Best dresses. As I look at this bow tie quilt hanging across the room from me, I wonder the design decisions that ran through this long past quilt maker's mind as she pieced and quilted this quilt. Did she think about how quickly her children were growing (out of their clothes)? Remember a favorite moment represented by a particular scrap?

I think of these questions because, at their best, I think quilts are sewn, stitch by stitch, with the thought close in mind of the future recipient of the quilt being made. When I make quilts for friends, their babies, and family, I sew into each quilt hopes and wishes and love for the recipient. I think about what friend I was with or what town I was visiting when I bought a particular fabric.

When I'm trying out new design ideas, I think about what Nina Garcia on Project Runway calls an editorial point of view which, I think, means "what am I trying to convey and is it worth hearing?"

This is all to say that I have struggled to find the modern point of view for today's BFTPqal block. This image, for those of you who were not in their high school bands in ancient Greece or current day Eastern Africa, is the lyre—a Classical U-shaped stringed instrument. Think harp, but portable.

While I did go through a brief phase in childhood where I wanted to learn to play the harp, I couldn't find a way to relate to this image in a modern way. And then I discovered WonkyWorld. This post about her lyre quilt gave me a new perspective. In her case, the lyre is the symbol of her high school literary magazine. Now, I found WonkyWorld just by googling lyre and quilting, but as it turns out, she and I went to competing high schools in NJ. Check out her blog—she's amazingly talented and also covers phenomenally special historic quilts.

Reading her post about her excitement about her lyre quilt made me think about lyres  . . . and then it came to me. I can't speak about the Neoclassical roots of our culture and government and how the lyre is an icon of this time. Actually, I probably could, but I'll spare you!! But what I remembered was a musical theatre company in Chatham, NJ (Chatham Community Players) where in elementary school I "starred" in "A Palace Built by Music." I oddly remember most of the songs still to this day, and I remember my excitement when I was handed my very own gilded, cardboard lyre. Can't say much about the plot.

So, with all this said (are there any readers left out there?), I held tightly to this shred of a memory of a lost musical career to channel my Modern/Neoclassical lyre mojo as I approached my third Blocks From the Past post.

As all you close followers of our ever fabulous BFTPqal surely know, today's block is . . . . THE LYRE!!!

Now, not to whine or anything, because I actually do love my needle turn appliqué, but who thought appliquéing those slim little spaces between the lyre's strings was a good idea? Good thing I love Marion and Natalie to pieces, as I persevered!!

So, onto the business at hand. I began with selecting the ever fabulous VeloCity by Jessica Hogarth and the Grey Architextures by Carolyn Friedlander. The directions call for a 7" background square, which is later cut down to 6.5" after the appliqué is finished. I know you're asking: "where are the weird fraction of 37ths?" Today is apparently brought to you by the half and full inch measure. Phew!

Everyone has their own way of approaching appliqué. For me, it depends on what the shape is. For this one, because I needed to cut into narrow slots (between the strings) I opted for freezer paper. I traced the lyre pattern from the BFTP book and then cut it down to size.
I then traced out the lyre shape on the right side of the fabric. Next, I cut out the shape, leaving approximately .25-.5 seam allowance. I don't show it here, but I then cut out the space between the strings. Check out Red Brolly's great post on Needle Turn Appliqué. As the name implies, the needle is a very important/useful tool that helps turn the fabric under to make a clean edge (as opposed to raw edge appliqué). 

Apparently, so focused was I on the appliqué portion of this segment that I completely failed to photograph my appliqué. Plus, it's hard when your wife is at work and you can't take a picture of your own hands.  Apparently I need some sort of headlamp selfie cam (I guess they call that a GoPro?) so I can do up to the minute video of my handicraft!!

At any rate, here's the finished product:

And to all those who made it through my ponderous post, check out my blog tomorrow for other non-BFTPqal postings, and check in April 6th for my next installment!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part II: Fox and Geese

I'm baaack!

I know!! Three days in a row! Brace yourself—many more ahead, my friends!

I'm here to bring you Part II of my first week of the Blocks From the Past QAL. Today we're tackling the Fox and Geese (a.k.a., P. 24).

For those of you who followed my angst-ridden journey through the perils of the 11/16 inch, rest assured that today limits its craziness to the 3/8 inch. Totally calming and manageable, no?!

First of all, here's the block in all its finished glory:

The block calls for the following pieces:

Color 1 (Grey Architextures background): 

  • Five 2 3/8 inch squared, cut each diagonally
  • Four 2 inch squares

Color 2 (Navy & White Denyse Schmidt print): 

  • One 2 3/8 inch square, cut in half diagonally
  • One 3 7/8 inch square, cut in half diagonally
Color 3 (Green Half Moon Modern print): 
  • Two 2 3/8 inch squares, cut each in half diagonally

As with yesterday's Sister's Choice block, I sewed the bias squares the old-fashioned way. If I had had more to do, I would have sewn the two squares together and then cut down the diagonal (check out April's great blog description of this here).

After sewing and pressing the HSTs together (using Maggie's Classy Hooch Press, of course!), I assembled this as pictured below, and then sewed it all together!!

In tomorrow's post, I will try to make an argument for the modernity of the lyre (that's a "harp" to all you non-classicists out there) in needle turn appliqué. Oh boy, I live an exciting life!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part I: Sister's Choice

I'm so happy to be part of the Blocks From the Past Quilt-a-long! My fabulously talented—and fun—quilty friends Marion at My Quilt Diet and Natalie at Natalie Ever After hosting a sampler quilt-a-long using Marie Henry's Teach Yourself Blocks From the Past book (available here on Amazon). April over at Making Ends Meet discovered this book at a yard sale and proposed a QAL using modern fabrics.

They organized a QAL blogfest, with each of us taking a week or two to highlight some of these blocks. If you haven't been following along before now, check out Marion's post here, which lists the bloggers and the schedule. Today starts the first of two weeks I'll be blogging about six of the pieced and appliquéd blocks from this book.

This week, beginning with today, I will do three posts on three separate blocks. The first up, is Sister's Choice on page 23.

Before I outline what I did, may I rant ever so briefly about the horrors of the One and Eleven Sixteenths Inch. Yes, I capitalized it. So horrible a thing deserves capitalized letters.

This pattern for the Sister's Choice block calls for squares of two different measures: One and Eleven Sixteenths of an inch, and Two and One Sixteenth of an inch. The first is kind of like 3/4 of an inch, but it isn't. I'm apparently more precise (also known as OCD) than I had realized—much as I wanted to just round it to 1 and 3/4, I just couldn't. Given the apparent shortcomings of our wonderful modern rulers, I pulled out my trusty 12" ruler from college:

Using my Washi tape in a vain attempt to lighten the moment, I marked out 11/16 of an inch. Do you know how little those little marks are? It was a grisly task. I then used this measure to mark out the 1 11/16 inch square on my Omnigrid ruler:

After mastering this, I finally moved onto fabric. Now, my other quilty peeps who have preceded me in this QAL venture ably discuss the most efficient way of sewing half square triangles (HSTs), but I found myself so overcome by the 11/16 issue (see above) that I resorted to cutting out the HSTs and then sewing them together. Old School baby!

The block calls for the following pieces:

Color 1: Eight 1 11/16 squares; 4 2 1/16 squares, cut each in half diagonally
Color 2: Four 1 11/16 squares
Color 3: Four 2 1/16 squares, cut each in half diagonally
Color 4: Five 1 11/16 squares

I then trimmed off the little ears from the squares and squared them up

I sewed the squares together in strips:

And then sewed the strips together:

11/16 aside, I do like the look of this block. I'm ambivalent about my greens—I love them, but don't adore them together—but I do like the modern look of the general color scheme. 

Give this a try and let me know what you come up with! Next up, the Fox and the Geese block! Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Back from Siberia

Er, well, after much fanfare in my last post about my renewed commitment to regular blogging, I vanished from the blogosphere. I was, apparently, tempting the Fates, who decided that I was getting cheeky. Within a day or two of that last post (January 7th, I believe), I caught a cold. Not a big deal, right? Well, it is now March and I am only now getting over it. It's months like these that I start to see hibernation as a welcome alternative.

Anywho, dare I tempt the Fates again, I think I'm back. Still snuffly and such, but upright enough for stitchery and such and lots to talk about.

First up, a shout out to my quilty peeps at the Quilt Bliss Retreat and Cabin Fever Retreat
During the past two weeks I've been participating vicariously in the Quilt Bliss and Cabin Fever retreats. When I was living in Utah I met some incredible quilting folk, many of whom have become dear friends. There's an amazing modern quilting community out there—fabric designers, quilt designers, quilters, bloggers, and fabric shops.

Two years ago I joined some friends at a fun, food and fabric fueled getaway in a phenomenal snowy lodge at the Cabin Fever Retreat organized by Emily Herrick, Shannon White, and Terry Griffin. Picture an adult-sized spiral slide running from the loft down to the second floor. Serious fun. I couldn't go this year, but I hear it was fabulous!

Last year was the first ever Quilt Bliss, organized by Pamela Cardwell and friends. Imagine a horde of talented and wonderful quilters, retreating in a "cozy" 26,000 square foot log cabin. Check out my post here from last year with all the details. I was sad to miss it this year, but still am holding out hope of going this fall. Check it out if you're interested, tickets are still available!

Next, a look ahead
Not sure you can A) believe me, or B) stand it, but brace yourself for a virtual onslaught of Shortcookie blogginess!! I have news of swaps, bees, tutorials, quilt-a-longs, and even some new news of progress on our dear 1927 house.

Next up—tomorrow—will be Part I of my first week in the Blocks From the Past quilt-a-long (#BFTPqal). Stay tuned for the wondrous challenge of using a block measuring 1 11/16". Yes, that's one and one sixteenth inch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

No, it is not a mirage. It is actually I, Shortcookie, returned as if from the grave!

It has truly been eons since last I checked in, and it's been about that long since I was last in a regular sewing groove. But there was something about the coming holiday season that has returned my sew-jo (aka, sewing mojo).

Since I relocated back to the east coast from Utah almost a year and a half ago, I've been doing freelance work as an educational researcher and writer. It's directly related to my former life as a professor, but it is quite a different pace, with most of the work done from home in what I call my "day-time pajamas"—clean, fresh pajama bottoms with a comfy sweatshirt—as no one can tell from my email and reports what I'm wearing! No complaints about my work clothes, but it has been a bit of an adjustment to the pace. My consulting work is not yet up to full speed, so I have felt guilty over this past year when I spend any time sewing instead of working on drumming up more business.

So, day after day, I've walked by my mostly unpacked sewing room upstairs, trying not to be enticed by all the fabric yumminess. I did occasionally pull out my machine to work on my medallion round robin with my Utah quilty friends, and I think I may have made one baby quilt, but other than that it was one big goose egg for sewing over the past year and a half.

And then Christmas approached and I got that crafty vibe that you just can't say no to!! I have an abundance of fabric, extra time on my hands, and some ideas I've wanted to work on, and so it began anew!

I had made a vintage Lilly Pulitzer quilt for my mother almost three years ago, shortly after I began sewing and quilting. It is a smaller lap size, and it was early in my skill development, so I decided to make her a larger one with a bit more finesse. I was inspired by the baby quilt designed by Allison Harris over Cluck, Cluck, Sew. Her design is for a wonderful baby quilt that uses the WOF of each color, with a strip that inverts the color array. In order to make mine larger enough for my mother's use, I decided to create two rows of pieced fabrics for each color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Turquoise, Light Blue, Purple, and Pink), with white in between.

This is a lot of color to through into my mother's life (and decorating scheme), so I decided to make a more muted backing that still ties to the front scheme. A while back I had ordered a ton of Lotta Jansdotter's fabulous Kita fabric, intending to use it for drapes, but we ultimately decided that the print was too small a scale for the room we had targeted. Such a sad thing it is, having 8 yards of fabric without a purpose! So I used that fabric for the backing, with a panel of color strips.

This quilt still needs to be quilted and bound (see below for explanation of that), but it should be about 63" x 63". I know that usually only baby quilts are square, but I find them a satisfying shape for a cuddle on the couch quilt.

What's more fun than doing just one large quilt just before Christmas than doing another one! I decided to do a quilt for my brother and his wife, who live up in Boston. I had made another lap-sized quilt for them a few years ago. I wanted to do something that would fit well with their lovely 1920s' home and balance both a masculine and feminine aesthetic. I found several versions of the quilt online of the quilt I've made for them, although can't find a source, so I apologize for not giving credit to the original designer. If you're out there, let me know and I'll give you proper credit!

UPDATE: Thanks IPatchandQuilt for letting me know that Ludlow Quilt and Sew calls this the Shadow Box pattern. 

I was originally going to use the Kona slate grey for all the shadows, but had a brief, panicked meltdown when I thought I didn't have enough for the whole quilt. Karen, as always, stepped in with both a calming influence and a great idea, suggesting that I alternate the slate grey Kona with the Lotta Jansdotter Kita. I later realized that I actually did have enough of the slate to have done the whole quilt, but I found I preferred the alternating light and dark shadows. 

For the backing, I used a similar approach as with my mom's quilt. My back was starting to act up, so Karen took over the sewing. She came up with yet another great idea and created a patchwork panel using all the fabrics from the front, set between Kita. This quilt also needs to be quilted and bound, but should be 62' x 72'.

They were both quite a hit at Christmas, even though they each remain unquilted and unbound. And now for that story . . . What I have not yet mentioned is that this great inspiration to make these two quilts was five days before Christmas. Knowing that we would be driving to my mother's on Christmas Eve, that left only four days to get it all done. Apparently my back and shoulder didn't quite like non-stop marathon sewing sessions, so I hit the wall. I woke up on Christmas morning and couldn't raise my arm above my shoulder. 

So, dear readers, I have likely overwhelmed you with too much quiltery after so much radio silence. But my chief 2015 quilting resolution is to get back quilting and get back to blogging, so stay tuned for much more soon! Lots to report!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Still Back from Quilt Bliss!

So, continuing my saga from the other day . . . after we arrived at Timber Moose Lodge, we settled into the sewing room, which was transformed from this great upstairs room with a fantastic view of the mountains:

There wasn't quite enough room for all the sewists, so another room was set up on the first floor. I snuck down there occasionally to lay out and baste my quilts, and they had quite a cool, zen sewing environment. Just a handful of ladies, but they were having a great time and had plenty of room. I loved being upstairs, although there were a lot of tables to fit in and it was sometimes hard negotiating around people on the way to and from the iron and cutting table. 

Before I forget to mention it, throughout the retreat we had the most amazing meals, prepared by Pamela's sister Christina, mother Ginny, and aunt Becky. Seriously good. I tried to be good and skipped most of the desserts, but they were incredible: bouche de noel, meringues, rustic tarts, and more! They worked so hard for us and did an outstanding job. Thank you ladies!!

Throughout the retreat there were many great classes and trunk shows. Because I signed up late, there were only a few classes left, but still such great choices! I have to confess that I spent most of my time sewing, so I only got to one class, but it was great! I took a fabulous scrap class with Amy Smart. Amy reviewed a number of great techniques to use scraps, but we focused on making a string pieced quilt. It was perfect! About a year ago I won scraps from Film in the Fridge, leftovers from her lovely Bonnie & Camille Ruby quilt, and I've been holding off using them until I got around to doing these string blocks. I made it through one block before digging back into other projects at the retreat, but I'm inspired to finish a quilt with them. I was so impressed by so many ladies at the retreat who really dug in and made a ton of these blocks. Amy had the great idea of cutting the block into quarters, which made a super cute baby sized quilt. 

In addition to the class I took with Amy, there were great classes by Amanda Woodruff on mixing and matching fabric, Emily Sessions on quilting, Kristin Barrus on quilt journaling, Anna Morrison on paper piecing, Leigh Hansen on carving out creative time, and Jeannette Hartvigsen on her fabulous hand-turned appliqué. 

I had been so crazed with work and preparing for my big meeting in DC (which was scheduled for the day following the retreat) that I really didn't have much time to plan (or pack) for the retreat. The morning of, I opened up a suitcase and just dumped in somewhat random piles of fabric. All were tied to projects I had already planned, but I just ran out of time to think about how much I could accomplish and how much to pack. As a result, I ended up with a rather small suitcase filled with retreat and work clothes and a large suitcase filled with fabric and assorted projects in progress. Some of what I packed were the medallion quilt blocks from the round robin I've been working on. I had three to tackle, and April had the awesome idea of us working on them together at the retreat. I've decided not to show the blocks, as I know there are peekers out there! 

But here's a photo of some of the great swag we received:

There's an adorable little print of a sewing machine, two Omnigrid rulers (5.5 inch square and 1x5 inch ruler), little snips scissors, some Aurifil and Metrosene thread, a charm pack and Kona solids mini charm pack, and that adorable little name "tag" person. It's all resting on top of the great Valentine's table runner made for me by my secret swap partner, Lori. I've also included some of the fat quarters I bought at Corn Wagon on my way to the retreat (on the right) as well as two cute Christmas FQs from April. I have just realized that I neglected to add (but need to include) the great little jar filled with selvedges that Sue gave me!

Going to the retreat has really rekindled my sew-jo, and I've been busy since I returned working on a hexie quilt. I've noticed everyone around me getting into the hexie craze for some time, but it really just didn't interest me until now. The QuiltBliss swag included a little hexie starter kit with EPP templates. While I love all things paper piecing, I initially only picked up the little hexies when I returned from the retreat with a bad cold and ended up in front of the TV (and Olympics) for a solid week. Now I have totally gotten into it!

I initially started making flower circles, using the same scraps pictured above, but I didn't like the more traditional look they were creating. I unpicked what I had done and restarted using a swirling spiral pattern which is making me much happier. And the best part? All of the fabric I'm using—even the white Kona—comes from my scraps collection! I forgot to add something to give a sense of scale, but they're little 1-inch hexies. So lots more to go if I want to make this into a lap quilt!

Okay, enough for today . . .  stay tuned for more to come!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Back from Quilt Bliss!

And back from the blogging grave too! This past month or two have been totally crazy with a big work project that, of course, coincided with the much anticipated Quilt Bliss retreat! My work project included a big trip to DC and I initially worried that I'd have to skip Pamela's retreat in order to meet my work obligations. A little bit of tweaking of the itinerary and I made it work!

As you know, I left Utah mid-summer, relocating to the NYC area. When Pamela first mentioned she was hosting a fabulous luxury retreat along with the Utah County Modern Quilt Guild, I knew I wanted  to go, but I assumed I wouldn't be able to come, given that we're still very much settling into our new jobs and new home. When I discovered a few months ago that there was still room in the retreat AND I realized I had some frequent flier miles piled up, with the support of my honey I decided to make the trip. I knew it'd be a fabulous experience, not to mention a great opportunity to catch up with dear friends.

And what an adventure it was! My dear friend Sue weathered a nasty storm to drive all the way up from Utah County to pick me up late at night at the SLC airport. I settled into her guest room, which included chocolates on my pillow! The next morning, April picked me up and, along with Marion, we wended up our way up to Heber, stopping along the way at several fabulous quilt shops. As I may have mentioned, it has taken some adjustment living in the NY metro area in terms of the shortage of modern fabric stores. There are a few places out on Long Island that have primarily batiks and traditional fabrics, but we have to head into Manhattan to the City Quilter to get some real options. I felt as if I were coming out of the desert into the rich world of Utah fabric stores! Despite the great temptations at Corn Wagon, Gracie Lou's, and American Quilting, I walked away with some fat quarters and some new fabric ideas for my wish list.

We then headed up to the Timber Moose Lodge in Heber. So grateful for Marion's trusty monster truck! A lot of snow had accumulated and only the most robust of 4 wheel drive vehicles were making it up the hill! We actually passed the Dave's Bernina truck, which had gotten stuck going up the hill. After a little backing and forthing up the hill, we finally found the lodge. Funny that you can drive past a 26,000 square foot home and not see it!

Yes, this place is so massive that I could fit my entire house—with room leftover—in the lodge's great room! This incredible place is apparently the largest privately-owned log cabin in the U.S. It has 13 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, a game room, and plenty of nooks and crannies, including a gorgeous crow's nest with a nearly 360 degree view!

The lodge overlooks a private lake, which is apparently stocked with fish! I didn't bring my camera (just one thing too many to pack!), so I'm using photos from the lodge rental site (thank you!), but during our stay the lake was frozen over and covered with snow.

I bunked with my friend Sue in the lodge's bunk room, which had six queen-sized bunk beds. I don't think I've bunked down with so many people since sleep-away camp in my teens! There was such an impressive number of bathrooms that despite having almost 60 people sharing facilities, I never once had to wait in line for the shower or potty!

So this is a little glimpse of where I stayed. Stay tuned tomorrow for more about the retreat itself!