Three from the Past

Tragedy struck in my sewing room a couple of weeks ago. My machine died. 😢….It was not heartbreaking. This was the machine my daughter passed on to me when my previous machine came to an untimely end. It has been a good machine for a few years, a computerized Brother with many good features. I was able to do pretty much anything I wanted to do with it, however it had a few drawbacks. The harp was only about 6.5 inches wide and I had not tried free motion quilting.

The lever to lower the feed dogs was on the backside of the machine, quite unreachable with my customized SewEZ table. When I finally decided to get at that lever, it was stuck. With a friend’s help I got it moved to lower the feed dogs but now the lever was stuck in that position.

What is a quilter to do without a sewing machine? Buy a new one, of course! 😁 I had been looking online with this in mind for quite a while and had narrowed it down to the features I wanted. On Memorial Day my daughter and I went shopping for one. Fortunately, I found exactly what I wanted in my price range. It had to be ordered and I expected it to come in this week, but it turned out that yesterday it had not left the factory, so now I have another week of waiting.

So last week, as a faithful blogger since 2012, with nothing new to share, I posted about my first and oldest quilt. Now I would like to share a series of wall hangings that I made in the 1980’s. I used a quilt block that I found in a Michael James book. I really liked the diagonal movement in the basic block, which I repeated twelve times.

The starting point was a piece of tie-dyed fabric which I had dyed years before. I made plastic templates and began adding any type of fabric that seemed to work, including satins and a plaid. It reminded me of sitting around a campfire at night, so I called it Firelight. I stitched in the ditch.

The second piece I made was to continue the theme of light, Moonlight.

Here I pulled out all the stops in order to produce the gleam of moonlight on the snow.

For the shadows I used dark purple and blue cottons as well as velvets and a few prints.

Now my final challenge was Sunlight. The rays of the sun slanted down between the branches of a tree.

On the dollar rack at a thrift shop I found a silk sheath dress. It had a leafy print which was perfect, so it got chopped up and added the touch I needed. Yellow ribbons slanting down provided the rays of sunshine.

There was much trial and error on the design wall. I learned a lot about color. For instance, I bought a fat quarter of dark green for the shade. When I added it, it stood out like a sore thumb, dull and boring, so it was discarded.

The most important insight I had about color was the difference between pure hues and grayed ones, which for the most part don’t mix, so I used purple rather than brown, black or gray for the shadows.

This series is one of my favorites. If my new sewing machine does not come by next weekend I will be sharing another series of wall hangings.

GREAT NEWS – my machine has arrived in the store and I’ll be picking it up on Monday. Wahoo!

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

My First Quilt

I grew up in New England and never recall seeing a quilt until I moved to California after college graduation. It’s probably because quilting was not a popular pastime in New England as it was in the Midwest and the southern states. The New England textile mills were a main industry there and so woven coverlets were traditional. All that changed when I was married and looking for some antique silver to match the pieces handed down in my family.

I was also looking for decorations for my color scheme which included rosy red carpet in the bedroom. I entered one antique shop in Palo Alto and found a quilt in rose as well as green and orange in a floral design. It was folded and draped over a chair. The price was only $30 and I decided to buy it for our double bed.

I have never seen this type of quilt before, but I thought it might be old, from about the 1930s. I had seen pictures of floral quilts made during that time period. I put it through the washer and dryer and we used it every day on our bed, with two kids climbing all over it.

To satisfy my curiosity about the quilt I began to try to find out more about quilts in general. The ones I saw done in red and green usually had been made around Baltimore Maryland. Mine was not at all as expertly made as those. As you notice, there are differences in the design of the blocks and in each of the borders. Some have more detail and one of the borders has no appliqué at all.

I began to study the details of the quilt itself to find some clues. The red fabric had some worn areas which didn’t appear to be from wear, but breakdown of the cloth itself.

I learned that this breakdown was caused by a mordant such as iron used in the dyeing process to obtain the red color. The binding was in a solid true colorfast red and was obviously applied at a later date, probably to replace an earlier worn out one.

The stitching was not very fine in the quilting and the appliqué was done with a blanket stitch.

In between the branches are sets of three quilted hearts. I learned that these were used in a bride’s quilt.

When I held the quilt up to the light I could see several little seeds in the filler, which meant that it had not been run through a cotton gin or only a very early model.

The final clue to its age was the design, which was a variation of the Harrison Rose pattern. This was named for William Henry Harrison, a popular military leader, who became president in 1841 and died after only 31 days in office.

All of these clues led me to realize that the quilt dated back to pre-Civil War days, a century earlier than I had first supposed.

Because of all these details I like to imagine that the quilt was made for a bride back in the southern states, who came by covered wagon to California during the Gold Rush in the 1840s.

Needless to say, I no longer put it through the washer and dryer and now keep it very well protected in a pillowcase so it can breathe.

Thus my interest in old quilts began many years ago and I have collected quite a few 19th century quilts since then. The clues to the age of the quilts can usually be found in the fabrics and the method of construction. It’s like solving one of my favorite mystery novels.

I didn’t begin quilting myself until about 1980, but that’s a story for another day. If any of you are interested in dating quilts, let me know and we can share stories.

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

Reclaimed Construction

On April 20 my post was called Chop Job. I showed how a red group of strips I had made did not measure correctly and so I chopped it up and pieced it together with some aqua strips. This was the result.

Recently I decided to do some improvisation and picked up that block and a piece of floral fabric. I started cutting them up and added some triangular pieced blocks as well.

As I began playing with the smaller blocks they became houses, so why not make a little neighborhood?

I was very happy with these little reclaimed wonky houses. I haven’t done anything with them since then and right now I’m at a standstill. Disaster struck! My sewing machine broke down and could not be fixed.

Actually it wasn’t an entirely disastrous situation, because this was a machine that my daughter had given to me a few years ago. It has served me very well but I was starting to look at new machines pictured online. I really need a larger harp than 6 inches for doing any size quilts with ease. Some more convenience features would be a help also. So next week I will be going to buy a new machine!

Meanwhile I did get a 10-inch orange block finished for this last week of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

I also added blocks for a batik quilt in rainbow strips which I’m working on each month.

Here is the first five colors that I’ve completed.

So at this point I’m hoping that next week will be the reveal of my new sewing machine. If I don’t have it at home at least I hope I will have found a model that is the right one at the right price. Wish me luck!

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

Three for Charity

As I mentioned in a previous post, our local quilt group had a charity quilt collection day on May 6th. They will have another in October. This time they collected a record 1400 items, from NICU quilts to full size, all from about 60-70 members. AMAZING!

I’m not a prolific quilter by any means. I don’t have a large family and all of us have my quilts already. So I make Project Linus quilts primarily, because they are a manageable size and don’t require a lot of fancy or intricate quilting. Designing the top and making that are my favorite parts of the quilting process. Some of mine are not actually three-part quilts, but have a fleece backing. Sadly the store where I used to buy my inexpensive fleece blankets, 50 x 60″, has gone out of business and I no longer have access to those.

So for our most recent charity collection I contributed three Project Linus quilts. You have already seen them either in progress or finished. This is just a summary of my contributions.

This 36 x 36″ quilt was originally made for Jack’s Basket, however with the cost of shipping these days I decided to give it to our local collection. For the top I used animal layer cake blocks cut in half, with a fun animal print backing. It will make some child in the hospital or in other type of need feel comforted.

This fleece-backed quilt was made to use up some charm packs of black and white prints, along with the colored squares. Row quilts are one of my favorite types to make especially with strips added, because I don’t have to match up seams. How easy can I make it is the question. The cars and trucks on the fleece backing are just the right colors.

This final top is one which was a UFO for a long time. I had made the houses for another quilt idea, and the boats, which I enjoyed making also. So I combined them with strips of grass and sky and ocean water in between. I call it Waterfront Property. This was a last minute finish, working untill midnight on Sunday evening to hand it in by Monday morning, so I didn’t get a chance to take a final picture with the red binding and the backing of stop signs, appropriate for the streets. I know children will get a kick out of seeing some of the animal inhabitants.

I have a feeling of satisfaction for having made my small contribution to Project Linus. The lesson for October is to start earlier. We’ll see how that turns out.

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

Fabrics to Treasure

This week I received a package from Missouri Star Quilts which was more beautiful than could ever be depicted in an online catalog photo. It was digitally printed, which gives amazing realism. They are the Artisan Spirit line by Northcott.

The first is a panel, which is about twice the size I had expected.

I also purchased two 1-yard cuts of beautiful nebulas in the sky.

I have no idea what I will use them for. At this point I can’t even dream of cutting into them. They don’t go with any of my home decor. So I will just gaze at them in rapt worship.

My first Rainbow Scrap Challenge block for May is an 8-inch orange improv block. It’s so much fun sorting through all my scraps to piece these blocks.

Spring weather has finally arrived here in Wisconsin and I couldn’t be happier. I plan to make the most of it. I’m hoping I will get some Mother’s Day gift of plants for my deck pots Because my apartment faces north the selection is limited, but my favorites are impatiens and coleus.

I wish a happy Mother’s Day to each of you and your families. I will be spending the day with my daughter and her family. My granddaughter will be graduating from high school this year. She looked so beautiful in the gown she made for her senior prom. Sewing does run in our family, but so far I’m the only quilter. All of you online friends are my quilting family.

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

A Finish and a Find

This week I had a challenge quilt due by Wednesday. The theme for the wallhanging was Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. I had three months to work on it, but of course it went down to the wire. I needed an idea, so I went to Pinterest to look up pictures of rain.

Surprisingly what I found is that in photos the falling rain looks like streaks rather than drops. I had no idea how to portray the theme. Finally I came up with the idea of an umbrella by itself for a version called, “Raindrops keep falling on my head….because the wind blew away my umbrella.”

I fused an overturned umbrella onto the gray fabric and added the handle with a black marker. I followed this by adding the white streaks of rain. This was a painstaking job trying to get the random spacing done.

I was very happy with the result and I received many comments about the realistic looking rain.

Today when I went to look in my stash for some orange fabric to use for the May Rainbow Scrap Challenge, I found a box filled with orange and brown batiks. Wasn’t that a lucky find?

Now I have no excuse for getting busy with my blocks. A couple of them are so lovely I hate to cut into them, however maybe a strip off the edge won’t hurt.

We are finally getting more spring weather, although not many flowers are in bloom yet. They should be coming out like crazy in the next week or two and I can’t wait!

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at

April Aqua Finish

It’s been a long slow month and I’m looking forward to the beginning of May. However, working with aqua and turquoise has been a nice change. It has brought a touch of springtime, which I’ve needed.

I’ve been busy trying to finish three quilts to be donated for charity on May 6 at our local guild. They are all children’s quilts which will go to Project Linus. I’ve enjoyed doing all of them. The only difficulty this last week has been working with black on black for the border and binding of one quilt. I just finished up this afternoon. I haven’t had a chance to get a photo so I’ll show it next week.

As a result, my aqua projects have taken a backseat. The first is my 8-inch improv block.

I didn’t realize until just now that it certainly is a wonky block, which will have to be trimmed immediately. On the other hand, it’s just might need some pressing.

My other project is the batik blocks, which I am framing in black, to make up a rainbow quilt for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

Back in January I sorted out the batiks according to color for this project, so it’s just a matter of stitching on the black strips each month.

I have not been happy with my steam iron for a long time so I checked on Amazon to find out if there was something better. I found this Rowenta cordless model priced at only $49, a real savings.

I’m really excited about trying this out. My other iron has been a good one for a long time, but this cordless will really make a difference for me in ease of pressing.

I look forward to hearing about all the interesting things that are you friends have been up to this week.

I’m linking up with Angela at Cynthia at