Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Back in the Saddle!

The blogging saddle, that is. I never left the quilting one. What happened? Nothing monumental, I just got busy, and first a week passed, then another, and another, and pretty soon I was out of the habit of posting. So this post will be a bit long as I try to catch you up on my doings.

I took a bookbinding class at the local community college. Over four evenings in April I made these four books.

It was fun to learn something new and different from quilting. The teacher was excellent, very patient and knowledgeable.The books were each bound using a different method: western pamphlet, coptic, chain stitch, and one other whose name escapes me.

I have acquired several new books on the topic of quilting. The three most recent ones have captured my attention and I have my eye on projects in each. First up is "Mixing Quilt Elements" by Kathy Doughty; she never fails to inspire and astonish. Kathy is not afraid of mixing it up with many fabrics in one quilt - often to the point of nearly visual confusion. I like that, though, because she gives you permission to use the unusual and unexpected. It gives her quilts great energy. Sh e has now gone just a step further and mixed applique, traditional piecing, English paper piecing, and foundation paper piecing in her work. She explains that she has learned so many wonderful ways of doing things and wants to use all the tools in her tool belt when constructing her quilts. I agree wholeheartedly. I feel as though I am finally able to make just about anything I care to tackle after numerous workshops and classes over the years. Wild Child and Colorworks are particularly appealing, although Wild Child relies on a very specific and graphic fabric that will take some thinking to replicate the bold appeal of Kathy's quilt without using the same fabric.

The other two books are Millefiore Quilts and Millefiori Quilts 2, both by Willyne Hammerstein. She is a Dutch quiltmaker and her books are full of patterns made entirely by English paper piecing.

The photo on the cover is "Passacaglia with Mr. Penrose." Quite the title, isn't it? A passacaglia is of Spanish origin and can refer to either a dance or musical work that consists of many repeats and variations on a theme. The projects in this book are stunning and promise me many happy hours of hand stitching. Many of the pieces are fussy cut, although this is not necessary. If you google Millefiori or passacaglia quilts, you will see many examples from the very traditional to the modern.They are popping up all over the internet and Instagram. The kaleidoscopic designs are mind boggling. It took me awhile to track down the books. I finally located them through Quiltmania; they are pricey and not available through Amazon unless someone is selling a used copy. The books are written in both French and English which adds to their size, and thus, I assume, to their cost. "Love in my Guiding Star" is a pattern that I am pretty sure I could tackle without a lot of difficulty. The blocks are LeMoyne stars set in a hexagon and separated by triangles. I have hand pieced (without paper piecing them!) an entire quilt of LeMoyne stars, so this looks easier somehow with the accuracy of the paper pieces.

For some reason I don't have a photo of the finished quilt, just this one of the completed top.

I have been on somewhat of a string piecing tear of late. I love treadling on my vintage New Cottage treadle, but frankly, string piecing is about all I am skillful enough to accomplish on this treadle. Taking Bonnie Hunter's advice, I learned to treadle making string-pieced blocks. Since I also have followed Bonnie's advice and cut scraps down into usable sizes, I have drawers full of ready made strips. I just go through the drawers and pull out strips by color.

This purple quilt with pops of green is for my neighbors' three year old girl. She asked for a purple quilt with some green. This pattern is from the free patterns on Bonnie Hunter's website and is called "String-X". The strips are pieced using old telephone book pages as the foundation. The paper is quite thin, tears off very easily, and the ink does not transfer to either the fabric or your fingers.

This blue and yellow version, not yet quilted, is for my nieces' new baby. I usually wait until the babies are toddlers before giving them a quilt, but her baby was born with some health challenges and I thought he could use the quilt sooner rather than later.By the way, while I piece the blocks and sew them together using the treadle machine. I use my modern Bernina to quilt them.

 The following trio of quilts are small - only 24" x 36". They will be donated through my guild to a local non-profit that provides home health and nursing services to young mothers and their babies. The nurses often have to teach the mothers basic things about raising babies, such as providing sufficient "tummy time" to allow babies who sleep on their backs to develop strength in their necks and upper bodies. Often there is nothing appropriate in the homes to lay on the floor for the babies. These small quilts will fill that bill. Their small size also makes them ideal for slipping into a diaper bag or using in the car. I have many, many strips, so this will be an ongoing project for me for the coming year or so. The secret to making an attractive scrap quilt such as these, in my opinion, is limiting the color palette so that the quilts appear to be purposeful rather than just a haphazard collection of cast off fabrics.

Last September Bonnie Hunter was here in St. Louis and I was able to take a class with her. The projects was "My Blue Heaven", another of her free patterns from her website. Here is her original  pattern which is limited to various shades of blue and neutral. Bonnie considers any beige, white, cream or tan fabric that is no darker than a paper lunch bag, to be a neutral. The pattern consists of alternating Puss in the Corner and star blocks. The outer border is made from the same 4" Broken Dishes block that is in the center of the both the Puss in the Corner and the star blocks/ Since I did not have enough blue strips in my scrap drawers, I chose to include the analagous colors of green, purple, and turquoise as well as blue. I also made the fateful error of not paying any attention whatsoever to value and included some light blue and green strips that made for disappearing star points. Setting the blocks directly next to each other resulted in a god-awful visual mess.  I decided to sash them, figuring it couldn't be worse than what I was looking at. Here is the top so far and the sashing did tame all the disparate patches and colors.

It is certainly not perfect, but I can live with it. The two little lonely Broken Dish blocks off to the left will be the final border. I chose to make them in neutral tones, ala Mickey Depre (she does this to great effect in her most recent book "Half Scrap Quilts"). It required some simple math to figure out how many 4" blocks will be needed for the border since in adding the sashing, I messed up the original dimensions of the quilt. The secret to making everything fit is the turquoise border, which is currently outermost in the photo. It can be adjusted to allow the border to fit and while it turns out that it will be 1" in finished width for both the length and width of this particular quilt, small differences in the width of the border can be made if necessary. I am assured by quilting gurus that in the end the differences would not be noticeable.

I also have made good progress on "Octo" by Brigitte Heitland of Zen Chic.This is an easy project to make. The blocks and pieces are large and paper pieced. That said, it became mind numbingly boring and I have put it away for awhile. It will come out again when I want something easy to do and it will seem like a snap as 12 of the 16 blocks are finished. It won't take much to push through and finish it. Just not now.

I have bought "Twirly Balls and Pinwheels", a pattern by Sue Garman. I really just thought I would read through the pattern and decide it was too difficult. But Sue is a talented designer and teacher. Her directions are second to none. The twirly balls are hand appliqued and she gives excellent directions and tips with plenty of photos that promise to give top notch results. The little pinwheel sashings are paper pieced and again, Sue has made it appear fairly easy. Not fast, I give you that, but after reading through the pattern, I feel confident that I can tackle this

Oh, and what else? Oh, Yeah, I finally found a Singer 301! They are rare as hen's teeth in this part of the world for some reason. It is a two-tone mocha model and she sews beautifully. I have signed up for two three-day workshops in the fall at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. It is an easy three to four drive from here and I will be taking a Double Wedding Ring class with Victoria Findlay Wolfe and a log cabin workshop with Katie Pasquini-Masopust.I have already take a workshop with Victoria when she was at our guild two years ago and can vouch for the fact that she is a fantastic teacher. The friend I am going with has taken classes with Katie PM and she says the same thing about Katie. The 301 will be the machine I take with me. Can't wait.

I also took two workshops with Paula Nadelstern in late winter. She is so talented and creative, I have wanted to do this for a long time but honestly, I don't think I will be making even a wall hanging at this point. Paula is a great teacher but her technique is really labor intensive. Really, really.

I will close for now. I have probably left out some stuff, but my brain is fried right now. We are getting up super early tomorrow to get to the hospital by 6:00 a.m. for my husband's second knee replacement surgery. He had his first one in January and the results have been very good. He is looking forward to being pain free. And I need to rustle up some type of hand piecing project to take along to pass the time.


  1. Wow, you have had all kinds of stuff going on! I have the first Millefiore book too, but I am Definitely Not making one! I love all your books -- hand made books are so appealing somehow. I have been thinking of buying a couple of Sue Garman's block patterns, it is good to know that they are so well written. That may encourage me! And, I was dying to take a class with Victoria this summer, but I couldn't swing it. But, I did buy the Wedding Ring book, and I like it a lot. Another quilt in the queue!

    Glad to catch up with you, fun post!

  2. no wonder you have been absent from blogland with all the wonderful quilting you have been doing, I really like the string quilts and your hand made books will be so useful for making notes in.I have seen a few quilts made from the Millefiore books but though I like doing hexies they are not appealing to me to do would love to have one made for me though!!

  3. I really really like your version of Bonnie's My Blue Heaven - refreshing to see a different interpretation! Your string quilts are gorgeous and will be much appreciated by the recipients. All the best to your husband for his second knee replacement -- and to you!