Sunday, March 22, 2015

The 1718 Coverlet in silks

Last summer I started to read about a new book that was due to be released about a silk coverlet made in England in 1718. I was intrigued by the coverlet as I am drawn to old English patchwork and the idea of making it began to germinate in my mind. My son even mentioned the book to me when he heard about it as he knew it was something I might like. The book, by Susan Briscoe, was released and I got busy with other things and the idea was pushed to the back of my mind. Then a few weeks ago while reading blogs I came across the 1718 Coverlet Quilt Along hosted by the blogs "The Last Piece" and "Mrs. Schmenkman Quilts" (sorry I am having issues with linking but you can google the 1718 Coverlet Quilt along) and I started thinking about the quilt again. Within a few hours I had pulled my stash of silks out and ordered the book, which I found deeply discounted online at Connecting Threads, and another new project was born. The book is really fascinating as, along with the pattern instructions, it gives a history of how the quilt was purchased for a museum in England and was then reproduced using the original techniques.

First a bit about these silks. About 5 years ago My DH and I were living in China due to his job and we went to Bangkok on holiday. Because we lived in rural China the silks that I hoped to purchase there were not available so I was hoping to purchase silk in Thailand. In Bangkok we toured the Jim Thompson house and I was fascinated to learn about how he had revived the silk industry in Thailand in the 1950's and 60's. The Jim Thompson silks made today are some of the most beautiful in the world and I had the opportunity to go to the outlet. So exciting for a fabric lover and I ended up purchasing a meter of almost 30 different colors of silk taffeta. A few years later, back here in the US, a friend was moving and gifted me with a box full of sample swatches from the Jim Thompson showroom in Atlanta that she had been gifted many years earlier. I had no idea what to do with them but hoped I would come up with a worthy project. I also had collected a few other silk bits over the years, including a few from local decor fabric stores, and really had accumulated quite a stash.

In looking at the coverlet more closely I realized that this was the project that would tie these silks together. Lots of stripes, solids and a few odd prints would be in keeping with the original and would give me a chance to work with these great fabrics. I was very nervous to use silks but they have been sitting around for over 5 years and I really want to use them myself rather than leave them unused in my stash to just stroke now and then! So I just began and they work beautifully. They do fray a bit more than cottons but the Jim Thompson taffetas appliqué beautifully using simple needle turn. I am not using any kind of stabilizer in either the piecing or appliqué and so far so good.

Here is block 1. It is one of the largest in the quilt at a finished size of 13 1/2 inches. The original quilt was all pieced with papers in an English Paper Piecing fashion but the book also includes modern directions for piecing and appliqué and that is how I am making my version. In this block the background was pieced and then the appliqué applied. I decided to try it rather than just using a solid background as I had this great stripe and am pleased with how it turned out.

My version will obviously not be a true reproduction but I have decided to use the original as my inspiration for color placement. My silk selection has many similar colors and stripes but I am taking lots of liberties as I go. For example I have no browns or blacks so I will just use something that I think works. I love the versions being made with modern cottons and prints but am forcing myself to stick with silks. Here is where I am so far. The lighting really messes with the silks. The two end large blocks are all the same fabrics though the appliqué is only completed on one of the blocks.

It is truly a joy to work with these fabrics on such an interesting project. History, stitching and memories combined, what could be more perfect!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

My appliqué group

A few months ago I had the opportunity to join a new bee group in my guild. It is a group dedicated to hand appliqué and though we have only been meeting a few months we have really bonded and our twice monthly meetings are something I really look forward to attending. This week we met on Tuesday and I wanted to share a few of my friend's work. First up is this lovely block by Eleanor which she is doing as a block of the month through Stitchin' Heaven.

Next is a lovely block finished by Suzanne. It is part of a wonderful nutcracker quilt designed by Sue Garman.

We met at Glend's home which is filled with her spectacular quilts. I just took one photo of the quilts displayed on this old barn ladder, don't they look great?

Finally I have been busy with the free motion quilting on my appliqué quilt. I just discovered that the deadline for entries for our quilt show has been extended. I am trying hard to see if I can get this done in time!



Sunday, March 15, 2015

More Free Motion Quilting

After the success of the quilting on Cherry Thieves I decided to try my hand at some more McTavishing on a small appliqued piece designed by Brandie Campbell of the blog A Brandie Creation. I have not seen a new post in awhile but a few years ago Brandie asked if I would be interested in testing this pattern for her. Isn't it just adorable! Though these could easily be Easter Eggs I decided to use fabrics that would go in my home anytime and have turned this into a sofa pillow that is perfect for Easter and beyond.

And with Easter in mind I also whipped up these small fabric buckets using a free online tutorial by Ellison Lane. They are for my two little grandchildren and I will fill them with a few Easter goodies. I figure they will be perfect in their rooms later to hold whatever they wish. They were so fast and easy and I was thrilled to use up a bit more of the stash in a fun way.

Finally, now that the flooring has been laid in my new studio, I have a space large enough to spray baste a quilt that has sat lingering in the finished tops pile for years. This is Botanica by Robyn Pandolph that was a BOM from Stitch n Heaven around 2007 or 2008. I have always thought it would be a good candidate for McTavishing so I am going to give it a go. I had thought I would wait til my longarm was set up but doing this recent free motion quilting has given me the confidence to just go for it and I hope that I can do an OK job. Time to start finishing all the tops I have sitting around!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cherry Theives finished!

Yesterday, after getting the machine I use for free motion quilting back from servicing, I finally tackled the quilting on my Cherry Theives tablerunner. This beautiful design is by Ester Aliu and the quilting on her version is lovely. I was really inspired to try something new that would highlight the appliqué and since this is a small project I figured I should just go for it. I have long admired McTavishing and decided to add some feathers as I really need practice with feathers.

As you can see I am using the Halo recommended by Sharon Schamber. It really helps keep control while doing the smaller fill designs like this and I much prefer using it to the cumbersome quilting gloves. The quilting really took much less time than I expected, about 4 hours in total.

I am pleased with the final result though my edges are really wavy. I guess my background quilting is too dense for the outside border. Lesson learned for the next time. And there will be a next time, the quilting pattern was pretty easy and fun and I love how it looks.

I have also been making the little flying geese for my Stonefields quilt. Here are about 1/2 of them finished.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bitty houses for March

The start of a new month means a new set of Little blocks from Quiltmakers Bitty Blocks QAL. I love making these little blocks and using up scraps that might otherwise be wasted. This month they were 3" house blocks. House blocks are not normally my favorite but these are just sweet.

I also finally finished sewing the first rosette from the New Hexagon Millifiori QAL. I am now debating whether or not I wish to continue with this project. It is fun but very time consuming and with all the other projects I want to work on I need to think about my word for 2015 which is "Prioritize".

While I think about it I have lots of other projects to keep me busy, including the search for several sewn blocks that I made for a quilt for my grandson. The gremlins in my sewing room are working overtime and I have spent several hours this week searching for something that I had seen a few days earlier. Don't you hate when that happens?


Friday, February 27, 2015

Finished Squirrel block and prepping a fish

I have finally finished the squirrel and strawberry block for the Rachel Meyer quilt. So happy to be finished with all those tiny strawberry caps!

The original quilt has lots of embroidered details and while my adaptation is by no means a faithful reproduction I do try to add some embroidery in each block. In this block I embroidered all the strawberry stems in a tiny chain stitch using 2 threads of Valdani variegated embroidery floss. It comes in a little ball and has only 3 threads rather than the usual 6 threads of embroidery floss. I have used Valdani whenever possible in this quilt as I love the depth of color in the hand dyed threads. The squirrel's eye has been embroidered using an outline stitch in one thread and a French knot.

Since it has been a long while since I shared the beginnings of this quilt I thought I would show a little of the next block being prepped. Several people have asked if this quilt is begging made from a pattern. It is not a pattern exactly however I am using the "pattern" for the quilt that appears in the out of print book American Graphic Quilt Designs by Dolores Hinson. Here is a picture of the pattern for the fish block.

The book includes these drawn templates for each block and a tiny illustration for placement. Unfortunately the templates do not always fit in the block when the placement is made so I must evaluate each one to determine if the piece needs to be reduced, enlarged or remain in the original size. Some blocks require very little adjustment but others involve significant changes. A bit challenging but not too bad once I realized that I needed to pay attention to size before cutting fabric pieces. So when I start a block prep the first thing I do is take a copy of the template drawings and then do my size adjustment on the copier in my sewing room. In this block the bird and the upper interior flowers needed to be reduced

The next step is to select fabric possibilities for the whole block. Here are the fabrics I selected for the outside flowers. I ended up making a few changes in the final flowers but since I have so many different fabrics pulled for this quilt it helps if I make some choices before I start cutting.

My prep method is very simple. I cut the template shapes from the copies I made, trace around them on the front of the fabric using a Frixion pen and cut them out using about a 1/8" seam allowance. I do use a sandpaper board when tracing the template as it helps to hold the fabric in place. Once a few pieces are cut it take them to my light box to be glued in place. In this quilt the light box is not necessary as I am not using a full size placement pattern but if I did have the pattern the light box makes placement easy. In this quilt I lay out by sight and usually fold the background into quarters to give me center lines for guides. Here I have laid out the circle and made sure the fish, bird and flowers fit inside before gluing everything down with tiny dots of Roxanne's basting glue. I did alter the fish slightly as it is only one piece in the original quilt. I couldn't resist changing one fin and the tail to separate pieces so I could take advantage of the printed fabrics.

Next were the outer flowers and leaves. The original quilt has a bit of a crowded feel so I decided to use the flowers and leaves at the original size. Once everything is glues down I drew in the stem details and birds feet ,using a Frixion pen, to be embroidered after the appliqué is complete. Finally after about 4 hours of work this block is ready to stitch.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stonefields Part 5

This week I have had some fun working on my Stonefields quilt. I really do enjoy working on this quilt and have been pacing myself. This is one quilt that I want to savor so I fit it in as a reward between other projects. Once I finished the appliqué work on the Rachel Meyer squirrel block with all those tedious strawberries these Stonefields blocks felt like a treat.

Here is the wreath block that will end up in the center of the quilt. I am a little nervous that the light flowers won't show up so I will be keeping an eye on that as I continue.

Since there are no directions in the pattern for machine piecing, these blocks were a little tricky. I ended up piecing the center with just the square, 4 rectangles and the triangles which I then squared up to size before adding the outside triangles. Certainly they could be easily hand pieced but I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out a way to make this work using rotary cut pieces.

These Dahlia blocks were really fun. I love using all these floral and paisley fabrics together and I love searching for the perfect center circle fabric.

Again I decided to machine piece these blocks. Lots of fun selecting fabric combinations. The pink frame around the roses is made from fabric that is at least 20 years old. Lots of practice making mitered corners on these blocks!

This Lollipop block was super fast and easy. I noticed that the quilt need some touches of darker fabrics so I added darker green leaves and those dark teal stripes.

One of the hardest parts of this quilt, for me, is trying to make sure that I am maintaining a good balance of colors and light and dark shades. For this reason I try to have all the finished blocks on the design wall in front of me as I prep each block. That is the main reason that the center star of this wreath is beige color, I feel like I need to add a bit more of the neutrals in upcoming blocks. But I also like how fussy cutting these diamonds makes a secondary design.

Lots of the hexagon rosettes are finished too, I think I have half of them ready!

And speaking of half, here are about half of the Stonefields blocks up on the design wall.

Until next time, happy stitching.