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.
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.
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 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.
THE STITCHING LIFE
It’s finished. This morning I hand stitched the last of the binding on my quilt The Butterflies Came from Maryland.
After agonizing (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) over the binding, I ended up thinking that that purple/blue/gold fabric was just right.
So it’s wrapped up, and on its way to Maryland to be part of a silent auction fundraiser for the Dream Builders of Maryland.
Sure hope it goes a long way toward helping them reach their financial goals. I know they have a lot of needs they want to fill this year.
OK, what’s next on the list?
THE STITCHING LIFE
The quilt for the Dream Builders of Maryland is almost finished. I completed the quilting on Sunday night, and squared up the sides on Monday morning.
Now I really needed to make a decision about the binding.
Sometimes I can reach into my stash cabinet and pull out the one-and-only-perfect fabric for a binding.
But for some reason, the Butterflies Came from Maryland (which is what I named this creation) was caught in a Goldilocks continuum. In other words, I couldn’t fix on a fabric that was just right.
At first I opted for a dark tone-on-tone green. OK but no pop.
I pulled out browns, blues, more greens. Nothing.
I eliminated my batik stash because I’m not a fan of hand stitching them.
I even considered making a scrap binding from a roll of brown fat quarters but when I did the math, I realized I would have to cut and piece about a jillion strips.
If I thought the effort would be worth the effect, I’d do it. But after all the cutting and piecing was done, I’d still be dealing with a severe case of blah binding.
Back to the stash cabinet. What you see here are my final choices.
The blue at the top works OK but like the tone-on-tone green that I picked out originally, no pop. (Papa Bear’s choice, no doubt.)
I thought that the batik-like fabric in choice two would surely work. But when you narrow it down to binding width, it blended too much with the border fabric. (Mama Bear’s choice.)
That’s when I reached into my purple pile, the only color I hadn’t considered.
I almost put the fabric back in the closet but then I remembered art quilter Sarah Ann Smith’s advice about choosing fabrics: Make visual decisions visually.
I slid the multi-colored purple with a coppery over-print under the butterflies, and literally gasped because it was perfect, just what the quilt needed.
A Goldilocks moment if ever there was one.
THE STITCHING LIFE
In two weeks, the Dream Builders of Maryland will host their biggest fundraiser of the year. I understand it’s a spaghetti supper and a silent auction.
I’m making a quilt for their silent auction, a promise I made when we had dinner with the Dream Builders when they came to help on our Irene recovery last year.
Ordinarily, I fuse a tiny label on the back of whatever I’m making. (If I remember, that is.) I put a picture of those labels below.
But we’ve had two speakers at my guild who made me rethink the whole labels-on-stuff-I-make idea.
One was this extraordinary quilter named Pat Delaney. She puts large labels, handwritten, on the backs of her quilts. She irons some muslin onto freezer paper so that it’s temporarily stabilized. Then she dates and writes out her label, telling the story behind the quilt.
Well, the story part sure made sense to me because historically, that’s the part that’s often filed under “anonymous” when it comes to art created by women.
The second speaker was a quilt appraiser named Sandy Palmer. Sandy made my eyes open wide when she started talking about the monetary value of quilts. And she strongly advocated labels (dated and signed, at the very least) that are quilted right into the back of the quilt.
She explained that as the worth of quilts has increased, so has the theft of quilts. And excising a label that’s quilted into a piece is very difficult if not downright impossible.
Hence the label you see at the top, the one I wrote out last night for the back of my quilt for the Dream Builders. Now that I’ve done one, I really like this idea.
I finished the quilt for Sandi yesterday about noon. My son took it to the PO for me.
And lo and behold, Sandi was on the phone at noon today, her quilt in her arms.
Yep, she did like it.
So now I’m on a roll, ready to make one more of what I’m now calling Odd Block Quilts—squares of fabric with two other blocks, put together in a way that pleases the eye without needing to be in a regular pattern.
Controlled scrappiness, I guess you could say.
This pile of cut-ups will become 4 patches, pinwheels, and squares of fabric for my nephew Andrew who turns eighteen in just a few days.
I know I won’t be on time for this one.
But I’ll be close.
This becoming-a-quilt is an example of “Really? Do you really want to start that now?”
I’ve long had a back-of-my-mind goal of making a quilt for every member of my family that I think would appreciate one. (Notice the qualifier. Too much time goes into making a quilt to waste it on someone who won’t care if you do or if you don’t.)
My sister-in-law Sandi is definitely an appreciator.
She’s got a thing she needs to do just a few days before Christmas, and it will be a bit scary. Since she lives four and half hours and a boat ride away, I can’t just stop by to give her a hug or make a cup of tea.
So last week, I decided I needed to make her a hug, and send it to her.
This top—seen here with the first of two borders attached—is an easy one. Some friendship stars, some nine-patch blocks, and a bunch of 6 1/2 inch squares.
I counted. There are 26 different fabrics here, including the border. When the top is complete, there will be 28.
In order to get it to its destination in time, it needs to be in the mail no later than Monday morning.
I think I can. I think I can.
I think I can.