My birthday is
creeping, no make that galloping, up on me. Which means that June is breathing down my neck.
Which means I need to finish my nephew Andrew’s quilt in time for his high school graduation.
As you can see, I’m keeping with my odd-block theme. In this context, that means mixing at least two simple blocks with squares in a random color march.
Odd block quilts have at least two definitions. One is that you’re pulling orphaned blocks from your scrap drawer, and assembling them to make a new quilt top. The second, the one at work here, is that you make different types of blocks in a color scheme that has some adhesion, and put them together in a quilt top.
I’ve made a couple of quilts with the first definition, and in some ways, that can be a challenging process, all made easier with a load of coping strips.
The second is a bit easier since all of the blocks are the same size (6 1/2 inches in this case) so there’s no need for coping strips.
This is the fourth quilt I’ve made this way, and I find each one more of a pleasure than the last.
Now I just need to figure out what’s going to back this gift, and I’m off on the next phase.
Twenty days and counting until it needs to be wrapped up for its trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
I’m working on a quilt for my nephew Andrew who’s graduating from high school next month. It’s a simple design, similar in concept to the quilt pictured at the bottom.
It’s simple, really, 6 1/2-inch squares interspersed with scrappy four-patch blocks and a third block that includes triangles so the overall effect is one of movement. I used friendship star blocks in the quilt pictured here. Andrew’s quilt includes pinwheels.
Since this is a scrappy quilt, the two fabrics in the pinwheels can come from any of a number of sources so long as the colors aren’t way out of the range set by the squares and four-patch. I like working this way because you sometimes trip across a whole new favorite color scheme that you wouldn’t have pulled out of your stash on your own.
That’s some of what happened in these three pinwheels. The zingy yellow batik really flamed up with the teal fabric up top, and then emphasized the colors of the dragonflies in the second pinwheel.
But the third is the one that surprised me. Who knew that a dark orangey tone-on-tone would look so fine with a deep purple going into brown?
Of course, that purple fabric represents the last scrap I had of that cloth. But still, the color combo gives one pause. That would be such a rich combination for a fall quilt.
I’ll have to remember that one.
As many of you know, I started a non-profit in 2010 called the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project. The effort is designed to gather handmade quilts to distribute to people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Many guild members have helped me in this effort, a fact for which I am always grateful.
That effort was temporarily derailed by my experience with Hurricane Irene but it is back on track now, has a slightly different name (the Parkinson’s Comfort Project), and is expanding to include services for caregivers.
I bring this up because of something that happened at a conference on Parkinson’s disease last weekend.
The organizers of this event, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Parkinson’s Center, give the Parkinson’s Comfort Project space to display quilts, and talk about our effort. We often have the opportunity to give away quilts at the conference, and that Saturday was no exception.
A lovely white-haired woman approached our table early in the morning, and tentatively reached out to stroke a quilt recently donated by a member of my guild, Mary Hardy. It was the sweet, scrappy four-patch pictured here. It was obvious the woman was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
I asked if she wanted me to unfold Mary’s quilt so she could see it. When she nodded, I held it up, and she reached out again.
“Are these quilts for sale?” she asked.
“No, they’re made to donate to people with Parkinson’s,” I explained.
“Did you make them all?”
“I made some of them but others, like this one, were made by members of my quilt guild,” I said.
“Oh, you live in quilt central up here,” she said. “I was at this amazing quilt show in Hanover last weekend. Did you see it?”
Of course my face lit up, and I started bragging about the talented women in my guild. Then I asked: “Would you like this quilt?”
“Oh no,” she said. “There are so many people with need greater than mine.”
And then she walked away…until lunch time when she came back with her husband to show him the quilts. It was obvious she had fallen in love with Mary’s quilt but still wouldn’t let me give it to her. Then I had a moment for a private word with her husband.
“She used to quilt,” he told me, beckoning toward his wife. “You have no idea how much seeing your guild’s quilt show meant to her. She was so inspired.”
Well, I wasn’t taking no for an answer after that. The last I saw them, they were making their slow way down the corridor at the end of the conference, the woman hugging Mary’s quilt, and tears in her husband’s eyes.
All of us who share this passion (addiction?) to fabric know there’s something special about a quilt, more than color, more than technique. I think I saw that power in action at the Parkinson’s conference.
You never know who a quilt will touch.
PARKINSON’S COMFORT QUILTS
My quilt guild, Northern Lights, had its every-other-year quilt show this past weekend. I barely saw the outdoors or my husband.
But I did see some incredible quilts made by the talented women in our group. It was a lot of work but it was a truly great show.
I put three of my Parkinson’s Comfort Quilts in our special exhibits area. The one that drew the most attention was the winter nine-patch pictured here.
And what drew people’s attention was that single square of red fabric near the bottom.
Truthfully, I added it out of a desire to put just a dash of color amidst the grays, blacks and whites. I knew that I was going to bind the quilt in the same red, and there are flecks of red in the black border fabric.
After I made it, I joked to my husband that it represented “a cardinal at the bird feeder in January.”
But the folks who saw it at the quilt show kept asking about its meaning. So now it’s the heart of the quilt. In fact, I have three quilts in this pattern—one for spring, one for fall and this one for winter—and I intend to make one for summer. The reaction to that spot of red gave me an idea.
THE PARKINSON’S COMFORT PROJECT
Since yesterday was supposed to be one of the few non-rainy days we would have for a while, I took my camera and the quilt inventory I have for the Parkinson’s Comfort Project outdoors to try out my new whole-quilt photography site on the wall of the CLB.
My husband, clever man that he is, rigged up a way to hang finished quilts that needs a bit of adjusting but we’re pretty close. The quilt you see here is one of the ones I’ve made for this project.
This quilt began with the pinkish fabric you see in the border and in the lattice work in the quilt’s center. I bought it during a going-out-of-business sale to use as a backing. But no matter what type of a quilt I made, it just didn’t suit. So it sat.
Then I figured if I used it in the front of a quilt, it would automatically work well as a backing.
Of course, those of you who quilt may guess the end of this story. After working with the fabric for a while, I began to appreciate how nice it is, all the shades of color in the floral pattern that lend themselves to other colors. I have enough to back a second quilt. I wonder what the front of that one will look like?
By the way, the new executive director of the Parkinson’s Comfort Project, Jesse Davis, and I attended the Vermont chapter meeting of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association on Saturday. You would think, given the seriousness of the subject matter, that such a meeting would be something of a downer. But I came away re-inspired to make more quilts.
More as the week progresses.
Yesterday, we drove through rain, snow, sleet, sunshine and back again to celebrate the birthday of my son’s fiancée, Jessica.
I made her an odd block quilt, starting with a UFO that she liked (so I knew her color palette) and expanding from there. It was fun, the first quilt to be designed on my design wall.
I backed it with this deep blue flannel, and bound it with the turquoise fabric you can see in this picture.
I think it was a hit.
THE STITCHING LIFE
I’ve been quilting for about six years now, give or take. And I’ve never really had a design wall to work with.
They say you don’t miss what you don’t have but believe me, laying a quilt out on a rug and in a place where the cat, the dog, and assorted humans need to walk from time to time can make you miss what you don’t have.
Back in January, when my guild was involved in creating quilts for the relief of victims of Hurricane Sandy, we got to use these great design walls—felt-covered boards that rolled on wheels, big enough to hold the squares for a 70-inch x 90-inch quilt. We loved them.
I was talking about getting a design wall for my new studio with the principal organizer of this event, Lynn Wheatley, and wondering out loud how best to do it.
“Oh, just get a flannel sheet from L.L. Bean, and use that,” Lynn said.
I liked that idea a lot. So I ordered a white twin-sized sheet (got it on sale, too, an added bonus) from that great Maine retailer. When it came, my husband and I realized it was actually big enough to make two design walls so I cut it in half across its width.
Then I sewed sleeves on the top and bottom, and a narrow hem on the cut side.
My husband cut flat pieces of pine, each 1/2 inch thick, 1 1/2 inches wide and 54 inches long.
We slid the wood pieces into the sleeves, and then Jay screwed them into the wall on each corner. This attachment accomplishes two things at the same time—it creates a little space between the sheet and the wall so that air can pass through. (We had a slight concern about moisture in the summer.)
And second, if the sheet needs to be washed, we take out four screws, slide it off the wooden pieces, and it’s ready for the laundry.
I have to tell you what an amazing improvement this has been in my quilting life because I can see a quilt as I build it. And as long as I take the time to smooth my blocks against the sheet, it will hold a whole lap quilt in place without any problems at all.
Another little piece of my personal heaven.
THE STITCHING LIFE
My husband Jay is a clever man. He loves puzzling out solutions to all sorts of questions.
A couple of years ago, I asked him for ideas about how to create an oversized flip chart, something I could put on a table (perhaps) for when I do talks with quilt guilds.
You see, I’ve watched any number of people do trunk shows or demos for my quilt guild, and they are always distracted by holding quilts up for display or picking up pieces of their demo from the floor.
I figured that a flip chart something or other would be a good solution. I’d set things up beforehand, have them securely in place, and then I’d be free to talk to my audience.
The device in the top picture, which we dubbed a Quilt Carousel, was his solution.
I’ll take some closeup pictures of this and do a longer post on it soon.
For now, the carousel holds my UFO tops so that I don’t forget about them. (Way too easy to do when you have a yen to start something new.) The one currently on top is in the jewelbox pattern.
I started this top (I actually have enough blocks for two lap quilts) as part of the block of the month when I was doing it for the Northern Lights Quilt Guild. Yet another great way to use up scrap.
Unfortunately (or at least that’s what I thought until recently) the focus fabric (the neutral) was taken from a pile of drapery lining that I think Jay and I picked up at a yard sale.
The fabric looks fine, sews nicely. But it has a stiffness in the feel of it that I’m not crazy about.
My friend Joanne Lendaro, who’s a long arm quilter, was here the other day, and like all my quilting friends, she loved the carousel. I was telling her about this issue, and she had a great observation.
“People feel the backs of quilts,” she said. “So if you put something soft on the back, the stiffness on the front won’t matter.”
So, I’m off to find some nice flannel, feeling a lot better about turning this top into a quilt for the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project.
By the way, we are finally back on track to getting the new website up for the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project as well as filing our paperwork to become a 501(c)3. Will keep you posted.
THE STITCHING LIFE
Now that the butterflies are safely in Maryland, I’ve launched myself into an eight-quilt project, all of them odd block quilts.
Odd block quilts, in my definition, can be made of fabric from the bolt or orphan blocks or a combination of orphans, scrap and new stuff.
The goal is to free up the design fairies (which means the pattern of blocks is not regular), and push the boundaries of what’s “acceptable.”
I’ve made three of this type of quilt already, and find that I really enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to blend a single quilt from disparate elements.
This quilt began with the 27 fence rail blocks on the right of this photograph.
These blocks were originally destined to become a small quilt for the top of my couch but that idea had been fading for a while. You know how it is.
By themselves, these blocks (see a sample below) are too narrow for a quilt so I decided to keep them all to one side, and do something fun on the other.
The something fun are the pinwheels made of three not-used-in-the-fence-rail-blocks but related-in-color fabrics. They’ll be tied to one another with the purple batik that’s part of each pinwheel. Not sure of the configuration yet.
But that’s the fun. And I’m using my new design wall (an L.L. Bean flannel sheet—works super!) to build it.
THE STITCHING LIFE
My move into my new studio and office gave me the opportunity to divide my creative endeavors into two distinct categories—machine-aided creativity and hands-only creativity.
For example, I write the first drafts of my fiction by hand so there’s a bunch of pens and my favorite notebooks in the downstairs room of our house where I spend my early morning hours writing.
Once I get to the editing, rewriting stage (which is where I am with The Road Unsalted), I do that in my studio with access to my Mac.
Piecing a quilt? In my studio with the sewing machine.
Hand sewing a binding? In the house where I keep a supply of needles, threads, and my favorite thimble substitutes.
I’m enjoying this reconfiguration immensely because all of my creative parts have their own spaces and places instead of getting crammed into any nook or cranny because there’s no space for anything.
For the first time in memory, I now have all of my embroidery tools in one place. This is one of the first needle arts that I ever practiced, going back to my early twenties when I bought embroidery kits that included printed patterns and all the floss or yarn you needed.
I’ve added embroidery to a few small quilts, and now I’m expanding my experiments.
Come to find out, embroidery has been a favorite among the women on my mother’s side of my family for at least three generations. My great grandmother, Clara Ballard Stoddard, was an amazing embroiderer. I have a linen tablecloth that she made for a card table (Clara loved to play bridge) with these lustrous embroidered flowers on it. The stitching is amazing.
Her two daughters, my Great Aunt Edith (Aunt E in my family) and Christine (my grandmother) both embroidered though I know my grandmother preferred counted cross stitch. I have a number of her pieces as well.
See the booklet in the picture? That was my grandmother’s. I found it in all the stitching stuff I inherited from her.
My Mom? Well, I can’t recall that she even sewed on buttons though I think she must have with eight children.
Which is why I count myself as the third generation of Stoddard women who embroider.
Now I’m tinkering with my own patterns, little pieces to use as the centers of quilt blocks.