Tiger Lily and a Cherished Quilt.

This hexie block, like many quilts, grew from a happy convergence of ideas and circumstances. A request from my sister-in-law to make quilts for their beds, my current obsession with anything with a 60 degree angle, and a bundle of Tiger Lily by Heather Ross, a whimsical purchase last year that I immediately felt guilty for. I had no plans for this fabric, I had just wanted the "Small Roses" in Yellow and this bundle ended up being the best way to get it.

I've pulled the bundle out a few times over the past six months and sat uneasily with it. It's such a warm collection, with no relief from aqua or blue. It's almost too sunny for my usual taste.

When I saw this block on Pinterest, it struck me as a great one for fussy cutting big prints, like these forest designs in Tiger Lily. I already had 2" diamonds and hexagons (which I cut in half), that meant the centre hexagon sides needed to be 4". So I asked Tim if he could cut me some 4" hexagons (hexies seems too small a word for these monsters!) on his newly completed laser cutter. Too easy!

The excitement surrounding a laser cutter that can cut EPP shapes for me warranted diving back into my stash and giving Tiger Lily another go. I decided to fill it out with other prints and solids, within the same colour palette. There's something about adding solids to this line that helps it breathe a little for me. I don't really need another hand piecing project at the moment, but writing it on a list just didn't get it out of my head. I just needed to make one block. And then I could put it aside. Promise.

4" hexies are a huge 8" across. Big for English Paper Piecing, but not so huge by normal quilting standards, and certainly not too big for this print. Those girls in the tree fit inside the hexie perfectly, don't you think? Each finished block is 8" along each edge. It's nice having an English Paper Piecing quilt where the fabric does half the work for you!

I sat auditioning border prints until I was happy with these ones above. And then, as you'll see below, I swapped out the low volume print. It needed something with a different scale. All the flowers were the same size, and, well, floral. The crosshatch I eventually settled with gives it a nice balance.

I love 2" diamonds, mostly because they so nicely fit in a 2.5" strip. I fit 6 diamonds almost perfectly along a strip cut from the short edge of my fat quarter. 

I stitched the border together in sections, first attaching the brown inside border to the top two sides of the pink diamond, and then joining the pink and white crosshatch. 

 And then I stitched the border to each side of the 4" hexagon. Because my stitching isn't perfect, it was great to have some clover clips to hold the edge of each seam evenly so I didn't accidentally push the border right over the edges. Once the hexagon was stitched around, I just had the six corner seams to do.

I called this quilt-to-be "Cherished" because I thought it would be perfect for any much loved kids line with beautiful illustrations, or those big, elaborate prints we find so hard to cut into. For a single (twin) sized quilt, I need 28 blocks and 4 half blocks. I hope to make these slowly (very slowly!) over the next year or so. That's if I can stop myself from designing a million other fun quilts that only a laser can cut! 

Farmer's Wife 1930s ~ Mrs Morgan


I really, really love hand-stitching. But yesterday, when I suddenly remembered today was my turn for the Farmer's Wife Sew-Along, (AH!) my big, red machine started calling! Now, I love my big, red machine too, but I'd already cut out the printed template, chosen the colours and started to cut out fabric for basting, so I decided to run with what I had.


Using the 'Block' printable from the CD enclosed with the Farmer's Wife book, I quickly coloured in some of the shapes so I'd remember which prints to match them with, and then cut them all out. Then I used plain, old, regular glue stick to fold and fix the fabric over the papers.


Then, starting with those two little pointy half-house-like shapes, I pressed them right sides together, stitched a few, quick staying stitches, and then hand- stitched along the seam.


I then added a large, coloured triangle to the upper right side, and a small low-volume triangle to the left. I now had a half-square triangle. Then I stitched the white triangles around the square to make a second half-square triangle.


I pressed the two triangles together, careful to match up the seams, and stitched along the seam.
Hmm. It was now time to make dinner, and Mrs Morgan was turning out to be a day-long visitor.
After dinner and a story, Tim and I put the kids to bed and I went back to giving Mrs M. some attention when we heard a knock at the door. A young friend with her Chilean mother and aunt had called in to meet us. Suddenly the house was a buzz of tea making, conversation and laughter. Our guests asked if they could help with my block, and I willingly obliged, passing out glue and scissors and thread.


Over stitches, we talked about their old life in Chile, our travels, embarrassing stories about learning a new language, fabric, quilting, fashion design... Mrs Morgan wasn't finished until after midnight, a block that might have only taken me 20 minutes if I'd let myself change course earlier in the day. And now that I'm here, still typing even later after midnight, I wonder if that would have been best. I'd really love to be in bed right now! But paper piecing for me has the uncanny knack of drawing people together. Visitors never offer to help with my machine sewing, but I'll often get asked how they can help if I'm stitching on the sofa. People ask me to teach them, ask me why I did it this way, and then like a good wine, hand-stitching opens up the conversation. I've listened to people talk about their hopes and their grief while I teach them to stitch. So I'm trusting that maybe Mrs Morgan knew this was the way to go. She's one I would have preferred just to check off the list and keep going, but she helped me play host instead.


After we'd made the four little identical squares, I lay them out to match up my seams. I then sewed the top two and the bottom two together, and then I sewed those rectangles to each other. And voila! A tiny 6" block made by four chatting woman and a kind husband who kept refilling tea cups.

You've reach the next stop of the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along hosted by Angie of Gnome Angel, Marti Michell, and the Fat Quarter Shop. Thanks for stopping by!

05/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
06/01/2016: Melissa @ Oh How Sweet & Nathalie @ Les Ouvrages de Nat
07/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
08/01/2016: Lucy @ Charm About You
12/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
13/01/2016:  Jodi @ Tales of Cloth
14/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
15/01/2016: Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts & Tonya @ The Crafty Mummy
19/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
20/01/2016: Jess @ The Elven Garden
21/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
22/01/2016: Melissa @ Ms Midge
26/01/2016: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com & Marti @ Marti Michell
28/01/2016: Erin @ Why Not Sew & Rachel @ Family Ever After & Renee @ Sewn With Grace



The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.

Each time I've made one of these blocks, I've toyed with the idea of machine piecing. And each time, hand-stitching has made me more available, more inclusive, and a whole lot slower. They're all things I'd love to embrace more this year. How about you?

Red Sky at Night Quilt


When I first embarked on a quilt history adventure, I expected to find a tonne of resources on the internet. I heard snippets of interesting stories from blocks, slaves rescued, quilts donated, stories of war and weddings, that I figured it would be easy to dig up others. But just like we ordinary women make quilts in the present, as a gift, or for the sake of design, without much thought as to how it fits into a wider narrative, or what future generations will want to know about us, the million old quilts out there are often silent. I've written here before, while men's history is The History, the history of politics and war and civilisation, the history of women is often more like archaeology. We dig around and make inferences based on the tools they used, the magazines they read and the quilts they made.
But this escapade has not been in vane. While we may not have learned many women's names, not been able to read their diaries, or have their stories passed down through generations, we have gleaned beautiful things about them.



We know that when the sewing machine was first invented during the industrial revolution, around the 1850s, that women flocked to it, having previously spent up to 12 hours a day sewing and quilting. We know that quilt blocks became popular in America around this time, as an alternative to British medallion quilts, possibly because they were easier to sew in quilting groups, or because the repetition made them faster to come together. Quilting was a community endeavour, the space where women shared themselves and were known.
We know that quilts were the significant way women contributed to war efforts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They were sent to soldiers, they made political statements, they commemorated victories and losses. They were stitched from extremely limited resources, and yet still made immensely beautiful. 
We know that women made quilts to celebrate birth, birthdays, engagements, weddings, leaving West, and to commemorate a death. Quilts became a family's way to tell their story.
As pioneers settled across the country, quilt blocks were shared and altered, often without names. It was the introduction of published patterns in journals and newspapers in the 1890s that canonised quilt block names across the country. It was a time of great depression, and quilting boomed as women made do ever so artistically with old sheets, flour sacks, and dress scraps.
Quilts were art as well as necessity, and they carried both titles beautifully and equally. They reflected everyday life, nature, history and literature, as well as political and social concerns. They celebrated the mundane churn dash, and cups and saucers, and riled against slavery and alcoholism. And in a simple mix of squares and triangles, they created several thousand variations of design. They were generous and they were genius.

RED SKY AT NIGHT QUILT TOP CONSTRUCTION:

You will need:

Red: Sixty 1.5" squares, two 9.5" squares cut in half diagonally for the corners, Four 18" squares cut into quarters diagonally for the side triangles.

White: One hundred 12.5" x 1.5" strips.


1. Lay out your quilt on point. Your quilt will have 41 blocks of 5 blocks across the top and 5 down the side. The extras will fill the spaces in between. Take note of blocks with more dark or light colour, and spread them evenly.

2. Starting in one corner, sew a white strip to the left and right side of your block. Press away from the block.

3. Take another white strip and sew two red 1.5" squares to each end. Sew it to another side of the block. This will be the corner. Press.

4. Sew a corner triangle to this white strip. Press.

5. Sew a side triangle to the white strips on the side. Press.

6. Take 3 white strips and sew red squares between them, end to end to make a line of sashing. Add to the first row.

7. You will now repeat these steps in diagonal rows through the quilt. First sewing strips between the blocks, then sewing red squares between lines of strips, then side triangles, before adding another row of sashing. I sewed these in rows as below before sewing my quilt top together.



I used Carolyn Friedlander's Doe Wide for the backing, and handquilted through the sashing, and in a simple echo of each block. I find hand-quilting easier with a queen size, though obviously much slower. I like the look of the thick, chunky perle on the red, but I also wonder if a simple cross hatch design on the machine would have worked well too. Washing it made some parts puffy rather than giving it an even crinkle, which I love. You can see in the picture above that there's a little overhang with the triangles. I trimmed the top before basting, but you could also wait till after. I washed the quilt three times with colour catchers before I felt safe giving it to my mum. There was lots of pink in those babies, and a little bleeding after the first wash, but it was gone by the third.


I made a single Dresden Plate for a side corner and considered making more, but I worried it would be too busy. I think it's sweet there on it's own.

It's a humbling thing for a Quilt Along to be a huge learning experience, rather than a raving 'success'. For me it's been a fumbling, scrounging, eye-opener, not a neat, organised package. But I'm not sure I could have come to quilt history any other way. And it's made me all the more certain of the need to tell stories through quilts and about them. It's been a winding path, but the next leg of the journey feels clearer because of it.


Thank you, thank you for your following, encouragement, and allowing the freedom to grow and fail and learn in this experience. Right back at the very beginning, I noted one of my reasons for doing this was to shake that quiet, persistent voice that quilting was an extravagant waste of time. If there is one great success in this, it is that. I never hear that voice now. And it's why I believe so passionately in understanding our story. Quilt making is not an excess or a passing phase, it is an old art form, once so highly regarded, and deemed necessary, and now pushed to the side as a hobby. I for one am honoured to be passing on the tradition. This Quilt Along has moved quilting in my mind from a bit of a sanity keeper, perhaps even a distraction from real life, to a calling. 



An InLinkz Link-up

This link up is open internationally!


Cups and Saucers - Red Sky at Night


Here we are! Our second last block! I missed last week because of internet troubles and a traveling husband, and decided rather than trying to fight it out, I'd leave it to rest. It feels good to be back here today.
I've been thinking about which areas of quilt history are left to explore in our final posts, and this week I've been drawn to my books and information about slave quilting history. It interests me partly because of the overwhelming tie of 19th Century America to cotton, making it the centre-stage of both American wealth, and ethical and political debate. But also I find it fascinating, because while linked to White American quilt history, the African American slaves also formed their own culture and identity around quilting, heavily influenced by their African roots.

I guess I'd always assumed the African American slave women were responsible for sewing the bedding and clothing for the white household, as well as their own. But actually, it was far more complex or varied an arrangement. Sometimes the lady of the house sewed for her whole household and beyond, sometimes the work was shared. Sometimes slave women were allowed to sew in their free time to make quilts to sell. Quilts became an important part of African American culture because time, resources and rules often limited slaves from learning new skills for creative and intellectual expression. Reading and writing were often banned. Painting and other forms of art were extremely rare. But quilting was expected and necessary, and therefore became the canvas (apart from music, of course) for expressing culture, identity and creativity.

Quilting among slaves was often done together, to provide for the small community of families, or draw in extra income. It became an important symbol of 'togetherness' in a time when family and community ties were often tenuous, easily separated at the whim or need of their owner. Sometimes slaves managed to buy their freedom by their quilts, and sometimes, their creative skills just made them more valuable and sought after by wealthy families. Of course, sometimes these quilts were simple and rough, using what was on hand from worn out clothing and cotton left in the fields, and quick piecing techniques to make what was needed. But sometimes, as in the case of Harriet Powers, these quilts were a place to document their illiterate life, their history and myths.

PowersBibleQuilt 1898.jpg

"PowersBibleQuilt 1898" by Original uploader was Jreferee at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

I've never really been drawn to quilts like Harriet's above. But taking another look at it today makes me wonder how I can bring some of these techniques and story telling into modern quilting. Contemporary quilters have embraced the old blocks as their own. But bubbly pictorial applique remains in a category I have never associated with. Something altogether 'not me'. Harriet's quilt, however, draws on very old African techniques of applique, it was stitched over many night time hours in low light, it was sold very reluctantly for a meagre $5 in a time of desperate poverty. Harriet took great care to make sure the new owner understood each of the pictures, and cared for it accordingly, and she came to visit it regularly, to enjoy it again. It inspires me to make a kind of Great Work like that. Something that draws on old techniques and stories to tell who I am today. I'm going to have to mull over that for a while.

CUPS AND SAUCERS 12" BLOCK TUTORIAL

You will need: (after making this block, I decided life is too short to use half square triangles for Flying Geese! Feel free to use your preferred method!)

Red: Two 5" squares cut in half to make half square triangles, one 3 3/8" square, and eight 3" squares cut in half diagonally to make half square triangles. (These last ones are for your geese)

White: Two 5" squares cut in half to make half square triangles, two 3 3/8" squares, cut in half diagonally, and eight 3" squares cut in half diagonally to make half square triangles (also for your geese).


1. Sew your half white 3 3/8" triangles around the red 3 3/8" square as pictured below. First to two opposite sides, press, then to the remaining sides. Trim to 4.5"


2. Sew your white 5" half square triangles to your red ones. Press and trim to 4.5".

3. Sew your white 3" half square triangles to your red ones. Press and trim to 2.5".


4. Sew the 2.5" red and white squares together into red geese as above. Press open.

5. Sew the geese into pairs. Press.


6. Arrange your block as below. Sew into rows. Press seams open.


7. Sew the rows together.

The term "cups and saucers" reminds me of being a little girl, pretending to be a lady. In history, the everyday lives of women, especially the oppressed and illiterate, become stories told, not by themselves, but by their rulers, owners, journalists and politicians. But these quilts are uniquely theirs. And it's amazing we still have them, kept, and loved because of the reluctant sale of a slave woman trapped in poverty. It reminds me that I should never take my opportunity for education, for expression, for the documentation of my creativity for granted. I wonder what my quilts will say to the next generations?

The Orphanage Quilt


If old WIPs make a satisfying finish, imagine all the good feelings brought on by finishing six at once! This quilt has been on my mind for along time, back when I asked my Do Good Stitches bee back in February to send me some scrappy improvised blocks. And then as they arrived, I added them to my orphan block pile, wondering when I was finally going to take the plunge and sew this thing together. To say it made me nervous was an understatement. This is not usually how I quilt. It's not a pile of squares sitting next to the machine and sewn together at random and it's not carefully laid out blocks that need concentration and working out. It sits somewhere in the middle, not in a happy medium kind of way, but in a road-less-travelled, throw-the-rule-book kind of way.


My orphan block box is a scraggly mix of leftovers from finished projects and abandoned quilts that started with a bright future but quickly resulted in disillusionment. It is a place of discomfort and guilt, bereft of inspiration.What else do you do with leftover blocks? It's times like this I realise that in my quilting life, more than anywhere else, I am a hoarder.

And it's a good thing I am, don't you think? I used only about half of my leftovers, but with the ones that made their way back to the box, I now feel a sense of peace and purpose. One day I'll do this again. Maybe it can be a yearly ritual. Like a jubilee. Setting those old expectations and dreams and "I don't know what to do with this so you can go here" into a quilt to start afresh with new projects and a little less guilt.


As I was showing my progress on Instagram, a few folks asked me to explain my progress, so I took lots of photos to give you an idea here. Like I said, there's no rules in improvisation. I went mostly by feel.

There's no way I could have achieved this without my design wall. I laid out the blocks, keeping in mind that I want to sew them together without going around corners. So I made them into bigger blocks of 2-4 pieces. Coincidentally, most of these were divisible by 3. That means they were 3", 6", 9", 12", etc, so a little mindful arranging made them fit together easily. When they didn't, I had strips and strips of leftover half-rectangle triangles from my Tent City quilt that I added to anything that was too small, and then trimmed back down if I needed to without worrying about keeping my points intact.

I sewed those bigger blocks into 3 large slabs and was almost going to sew those together when I realised I was out of wadding. This actually felt a lot like providence because I did have long, wide strips of wadding, leftover from other quilts mostly the perfect size for my slabs. The one that was too narrow, I sewed to another and pressed the seams open so it would fit.


I used a Quilt-as-you-go method I first came across on Maureen's blog, which I had only ever used with smaller blocks. I spray basted the quilt top slab to one side of the wadding and then quilted lightly over the two layers. Then I trimmed all the way around the excess wadding. And then I did the same with the other two slabs.



I trimmed the whole quilt a little again, just where there was uneven edges. Then using a 1/4" and my walking foot, I sewed the quilted slabs right sides together. I lay out my backing fabric and taped it to the floor so it would stay taut, sprayed and laid out the quilted top.


I then went back to my machine and first quilted either side of the thick seams to hold them down. Then I used a straight, meandering stitch, basically zig-zagging my way around the quilt. I wanted to try something different and more improvised than straight line quilting, but now that I'm done, I wish I'd stuck with my favourite! I used a mix of hand-quilting, thick variegated Aurifil thread, and my go-to white. It was a fun experiment, trying to keep with the improv theme, but I think simple, horizontal lines would have held it together more.


Undoubtedly, the very best part of quilt-as-you-go is when you suddenly remember that you can use you backing as your binding! I simply trimmed around the backing 1" from the quilt top edge. I then folded it in half towards the quilt, then over the edge of the quilt again, and top stitched. When I came to a corner, I folded the overhanging pieces to the left to make a little triangle. The I folded the same method, folding the fabric in half and then over again to make a neat mitered corner.


I'm not sure if I would usually use a binding this dark, I generally pick out a colour somewhere in the middle, but I love how this all hangs together. In a quilt with a lot more low volume than I usually try in scrappy quilts, I think it makes the darker tones shout out happily.


There is much joy in this quilt, in the trying something new, using something old, freeing myself of quilts hanging over my head, some for years. Some were hard to let go, like my Penny Sampler. I would love to make that quilt again someday! But for now, the colours stumped me, I was never sure about them. Other blocks were a relief to use, like the Ohio Stars and the leaves. The leaves were generously made for me by an old bee and the colours just didn't go together like I hoped. Oh, it's good to see how much I've learned about colour over the last five years! I also love the contrast and interest the lovely flowers add, but I was sad when they arrived late, lost in transit for weeks before getting here. I'm glad they finally have a home!


All in all, this quilt was made by about 20 people from about 15 old quilts! Because half were for do. Good Stitches, it'll be heading to a charity next. A quilt of previously hope-less blocks for someone struggling for hope. Gosh I love long-coming finishes! I love new starts, renewed confidence, and stories with happy endings.