Monday, October 31, 2011

Maple Leaf Mania

I am finally finished with a little Maple Leaf  runner I started about 2 years ago. Can't imagine what took me so long.

Oooh, it's very busy, isn't it?? For some reason I went outside my box and decided against "tame." I really wanted to use that Civil War print in the setting triangles. Sure was fun using all those different prints, even if it is a bit wild. What the heck . . . Look, I have more where those came from and I can make a few more small quilts.

The other day I pulled out some blocks I received in a Maple Leaf swap we did last year in my yahoo group -

Looks like my back yard, with leaves all over the place.

Aren't they gorgeous? I'm going to play around with these and see what I can come up with. Fast, before fall's over and I move on to red and green quilts. Maybe the next quilt will be more tame and I won't go crazy wild with the prints.

I'm just barely getting started decorating for fall. Remember this? The Bear's Paw quilt from Prairie Children & Their Quilts. I think it makes a nice fall table mat.

Here's the pattern for my Maple Leaf block. I really like the scrappy ones and have more pieces cut out and triangles already sewn from last year.

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."

~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jane on My Brain

I spent time plugging away on my Dear Jane blocks this past weekend and hope to get a few more finished this week (FIVE, think 5). I'm having a lot of fun. Honest. I'm up to 37 now! Yes, it is going slowly and it gets a little frustrating at times, but it's very rewarding to finish something you really didn't think you could finish, namely one 4 1/2" block with 8 curved pieces, LOL. In one day. And it doesn't look half bad, if I say so myself.

You all know that this is the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the beginning of the Civil War, right? Around the time that Jane Stickle made her quilt. What better time to begin the journey yourself or drag out your unfinished quilt and make a few more blocks to commemorate the event? Hint, hint. Misery loves company, you know.

Just kidding, no misery here - it's all fun and I'm very excited to get back to it again, at least for a little while, while the inspiration holds and I have the time. Or probably until I hit a difficult block and say "Arrrgh!! #*&! - I really can't do this anymore!" But really, this Jane quilt, it's not that hard, honest. It's a total learning experience.  I've always hated the thought of foundation paper piecing, but I'm learning how to do it, finally. Same with applique - I resisted that for a long time too because my applique was not great and now I'm actually getting better at it. These blocks do not have to be perfect. You see, Jane's quilt was not, and although many of the Dear Jane quilts or blocks we see  posted on the internet definitely look mighty perfect to me, mine will not be, that's for sure. And it will still be just beautiful in it's own way, like a true antique quilt. In the spirit of Jane Stickle.

Not all of my finished blocks are the easy ones - I've tried curved piecing and  reverse applique. I did that Rickshaw one too but  I'm not showing it to anyone LOL. I would not say I've mastered these techniques yet . . . but they're finished and Brenda wrote the book and she says finished is better than perfect! Good enough for me.

My notebook is chock full of tips to help me along.

I'm so not making this quilt as a competition with anyone, unless it's to compete with myself, to challenge myself to advance my skills a little, and practice my patience. I figure, so many quilters have finished this quilt. Why not me too?? Why NOT? I'm feeling optimistic today . . . help me out here.

Seeing Karan's finished quilt at a workshop last year (hand pieced, hand quilted) really inspired me to keep going . . . Of course, HERS is perfect but I won't let that stop me. 

Remember, quilters, this is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War (How could you have possibly missed hearing that??) and quilters all over are celebrating the period and getting inspired to reproduce quilts from the era. Jane was working on her lovely quilt 150 years ago. Who knows how long it actually took her to make it? She may have finished her quilt in 1863, but it's hard to believe she started it that same year. Maybe it took her 10 years or more. Did she take breaks and work on other quilts while she was making it??

The war lasted 4 years. Hmmm, there's a goal for me - 2015, the 150th anniversary of the END of the war. No promises though. Dear Jane, you're sure helping me get my inspiration back . . .

(Photo from [Photograph by Ken Burris,Shelburne, VT, courtesy of the Bennington Museum and the Vermont Quilt Festival.] Dear Jane® is the registered trademark of Brenda Papadakis.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reviving Jane

I had a few days earlier this week with not so much on my schedule and so I decided to pull out my Dear Jane blocks and look at them on Monday. But that's all I did - that, and glance through the book. By Tuesday I had gotten inspired and made a few more blocks. On Wednesday, even though it took me almost the whole day, I ripped and resewed one of the blocks I had made earlier. It looks so much better now!

The little nine-patches finish at 1 1/2"

It takes me such a long time but there's nothing like finishing a few more blocks and adding them to the pile. I'm going to prepare a few today so I can get a couple more done this weekend.

My blocks are not perfect. Last year when I began my Jane Journey, an "acquaintance" told me that she was very surprised that I was starting a Dear Jane quilt. I don't know if she thought I couldn't make one because of my lack of experience or that she was surprised that I was undertaking such a large project. I could tell that she had doubts I would finish, and maybe I won't, who knows? But let's have a little faith, please. I keep plugging away and at some point I may give up but for now it is very relaxing to work on them when I have the time. And, since I'm not working on a book, there is more of that. Some of you have been asking me what I am working on NOW. Again, I am not working on a book or anything and am just concentrating on getting myself back to a healthy place after my horrendous year. Me time, finally. I've been working and concentrating on raising my kids for forever it seems. Right now, quilting just for myself seems to be exactly what I need for a little while before I get back to starting another huge project to work on.

Working on my Dear Jane blocks relaxes me and like all of you who have made this quilt or are working on one know, the sense of accomplishment after finishing one block that took me ALL DAY feels so good! I am picking up some great skills and finally hope to get better at that applique thing. And let's not forget, Jane's quilt was not perfect so I'm in good company.

I've heard comments from some who have seen Jane's quilt at the Bennington Museum that they were surprised at how imperfect it is. That's one of the things I really love about this quilt - the fact that it is NOT perfect. And yet it is acclaimed and imitated all over the world. Brenda's book which introduced us to the Dear Jane phenomenon in the 1990s has sold over 100,000 copies!

But the most fun I have is just picking through my fabric, particularly all of my OLD fabric scraps I've saved over the years. Special fabrics for a special quilt.

Remember these?? They'll be great in my quilt!

Let's see how far I can get this time. I've only finished 32 blocks so I still have a way to go but you have to grab your inspiration where you can get it and right now I am enjoying catching up. Don't call me a quitter just yet! I'm making progress . . .

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Parent (and Puppy) Weekend

We took another little road trip up to Wisconsin yesterday. It was Parent Weekend at the college my daughter attends. She left in early September and so it's been 6 weeks since we've seen her. It's the first time she's been away from home for that long and we missed her. I'm so glad she did not choose to go to school all the way across the country. Those of you with doted-upon daughters can appreciate this, I know. We were given strict instructions to bring the little black poodle puppy along. (She's 3, but we still call her a puppy because she's so darn cute and wears the puppy cut hairstyle, not the poufy poodle "do.")

I think this barn needs a quilt block painted on it, don't you?

A car ride! So much excitement! Where the heck are we going??


The Princess and her Puppy - An emotional reunion.

Puppy got a special tour . . .


. . .  and a taste of dorm life. She also got to meet and make some new friends.

In honor of the special visit, my daughter wore her new "Poodle" sweater she just bought  -  isn't it sweet?? I had to laugh. Where in the world did she find it?? At the mall, on sale, she said. Even better.

When our son was in college he never really wanted us to come up for Parent weekend ("Nah, that's okay, I might miss some fun with my friends. I'll see you when I come home for break.") so it was nice to be invited. However, after a few minutes, something told me she had a few ulterior motives for inviting us. In addition to being the private puppy escorts (Guess who got the first hug? It wasn't me.), she needed to go shopping for a winter coat, toiletries and food. Our work was cut out for us.

Nevertheless, we all had fun and we're happy she seems to be doing well. Before we left, I checked on the quilt I made for her. It also seems to be doing well. Puppy was exhausted from so much excitement and the long car ride and felt like sleeping in a bit. This morning I had to literally carry her to her food dish, LOL. It's that princess gene . . . 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's October Without Leaves?

On the way home from the retreat last Sunday, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Bad move. It was Oktoberfest! and streets were blocked and traffic was backed up for what seemed like a mile. We grabbed a fast bite and got the heck out of the pandemonium but not before I took a pretty picture. As it was, we got home later than we planned.

Arriving home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that our front lawn was COVERED in leaves that had fallen from the tree in the front yard over the past two days. In the sea of green suburban lawns, ours was glittering, golden. I'm sure it drove our neighbors nuts since they usually have their leaves scooped up almost as soon they've fallen so the mess isn't too unseemly. While we were gone, the dogsitter (my son) had neglected to keep up with the Joneses. But I wasn't mad; I liked it.

I think we're the only people on the block who don't have lawn service. Yes, it's shocking, my husband actually cuts our grass himself. One, to save money (he's an accountant) and two - he says it's an opportunity for him to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise he might not otherwise find the time for now that he no longer coaches our daughter in soccer. Raking leaves in the fall  - another one of those old-fashioned traditions that seems to have fallen by the wayside in suburbia.

The little dog likes the leaves too!

My scraggly shrub roses are still blooming! For now, that is; they'll be turning brown in a bit.

The weather has been lovely and this season more than any other makes my senses come alive. In the morning, while I'm drinking my coffee, if I take time to listen I can hear the squirrels and chipmunks scurrying after each other, crunching through the potpourri. In the afternoon, as the children get off the school bus and walk home down the block, I can hear them shuffling their feet through my leaves. It's a great memory of my own childhood. Who doesn't love to skip through fallen leaves??

My husband has to work late a few nights this week so the leaves will stay until he can get around to raking them next Sunday. (Don't ask me to do it; I have allergies. Besides, I do the vacuuming.) That means I have a few more days to revel in the color and sounds until they're gone. What's that Robert Frost poem?

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I love that poem. Time passes, change is inevitable. I guess I'll try to enjoy the leaves while they're here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Small Quilt Retreat

The quilting weekend was perfect. The weather was just beautiful (almost a little too warm!) and lovely fall colors surrounded us. Except for the centipedes, things went well (I didn't actually see any but I heard stories . . .). Everyone seemed to have a good time and I was happy to see that many got their quilt tops completed. Here are the photos: (turn on your speakers for the full effect)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Thanks for looking! I hope you'll join us someday . . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Inspired By

I'm really inspired by Inspired by Antique Quilts today. Kathie has been talking about quilting small quilts on her blog lately and I love how hers have turned out. I am going to take the time to relax at the retreat this weekend as soon as I have everything ready and planned for those who are attending. I decided not to bring my sewing machine, just my needle and thread, and get some of my quilt tops hand quilted. Who am I kidding?? SOME of them? I'll be lucky if I get one finished; I am that slow. But that's the beauty of hand quilting - you HAVE to slow down. No rushing allowed. And boy, does it feel good.

I bought this antique doll quilt a little while ago and think the simple hand quilting adds something really special to the simple quilt. (The primitive little bed helps too, don't you agree??)

I almost didn't buy the quilt because it was so simple and plain. Unexceptional for the price. And then, as I  looked closely, I spotted one block in the corner that was different. The quilt is a simple four-patch design and the quilter used light shirtings in the background squares. Except for one. In ONE block she used pink for the background . . .  Just a little quirky and not noticeable at first. Did she run out of shirtings? Or did she insert a tiny bit of creative play into the quilt? Did she say: What the Heck, I'm doing this one in pink. It's probably the thing I love most about this doll quilt. I don't like perfect quilts and I sure don't make them.

So simple and unassuming. But clearly loved to death by some little girl I'll bet.

I was so inspired by this quilt that I made THIS quilt that's in The Civil War Sewing Circle.

Again, just a  simple four-patch design with mostly light shirtings for background.  Pink in the setting squares. All of the darker squares in the blocks align except in one block.  I turned ONE of the blocks in the right hand corner the other way deliberately. Did anyone notice? Many of you probably thought I just made a mistake, LOL. No, I tried to do the same thing as the maker of that little doll quilt did.

I had so much fun hand quilting this little quilt with an orange peel or pumpkin seed design as some call it. I think hand quilting really makes little quilts special, even if the quilting is rather simple and  not spectacular. Click on the link above to see how this one was done. Very easy.

Last year, when I was recovering from my surgery, I hand pieced a copy of the antique doll quilt using some of my favorite prints and shirtings. This morning I layered and pinned it to bring to the retreat this weekend to work on. I'll let you know how it goes. Wouldn't it be nice if I finished?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quilting Frenzy

I'm getting ready for my 1st Annual Small Quilt Retreat this coming weekend and scrambling to get everything done in time. I say 1st annual with a grin. Who knows how it will go? It's my first time hosting a retreat, so wish me luck. I have lists all over the place so I don't forget anything. If it turns out to be a success, we'll definitely do another one next year. I'm looking forward to relaxing and sewing in a woodsy place in Wisconsin in October with a group of ladies who like to make small quilts too. What am I saying - of course it will be fun!!

The colors have just barely begun to change here. Wisconsin is farther north - I hope it looks like this.

I'm almost finished with the quilt I'll be teaching on Saturday and hope to get it done today or tomorrow. I left it ito the last minute, of course. Instead of using a quilt from one of my books, I wanted to design a new small quilt just for the retreat. As usual, the quilt took on a life of it's own. When I began, I had an idea of what I wanted to make, using Ohio Star blocks. After I designed it, I kind of knew it was just a draft. I took my time picking out the fabrics. This part takes me so long but is probably the most fun. I always make a few sample blocks when I begin a quilt.

As I go along, if the colors are not quite right, I'll  make a few more blocks. I always make extra blocks just so I have the option of choosing different ones and playing around with them. While I play with the blocks (This is actually my Yahoo Small Quilt group motto - "We Play with Blocks"), I get ideas and the quilt evolves and changes. Fabrics are swiped out and others substituted until I get the look I like.

The table sure gets messy. Fabric flies!

The quilt has changed a quite a bit from its original design. Hardly the same quilt at all! I decided to make it more scrappy and colorful and added more blue in the blocks. I'm getting ready to quilt it today and will show you the finished quilt next week.

Karen, who is coming to the retreat, made this darling wool pincushion for me and promised to bring a few nore to show everyone, along with her doll beds. I think some others are bringing their antique doll beds and everyone is supposed to bring some of their small quilts for Show & Tell.  Don't forget, ladies.

This retreat will be so much fun and I cannot wait to meet everyone  (I've already met a few of you) and have a great time together, sewing and chatting! Now, back to work. Friday will be here before I know it.