Friday, December 25, 2020

Have a Merry Christmas

No snow here yet . . . . but I'm still hoping.

Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas!

See you in the Sew Along group on January 1!


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Practice on Some Simple Blocks

Less than two weeks left until the Sew Along begins! I suspect some of you have been secretly making blocks since you purchased the book  . . . . 

But for those of you who may be beginning quilters or who are anxious about making this quilt, let me reassure you - These blocks are simple and pretty much a piece of cake. Not one is really that difficult. Some may require a little patience but for the most part they are straightforward. Nothing fancy.

When we begin the sew along on January 1, we'll start with Block number 1 and then go on making the others in order. That's how I started making the blocks for my Dear Jane quilt. Please - I am in no way comparing my quilt to the awesome Jane Stickle quilt, but it does have some similarities (small blocks, similar fabrics) and yes, I modeled one after seeing and working on the other. 

I fell in love with that quilt the first time I saw one. Then I started seeing them more and more so I knew everyone else was as entranced as I was. I liked sampler quilts and, being a lover of small quilts and 1800s reproduction fabrics, the fact that Jane's sampler was comprised of small blocks and made in the 1860s with fabrics from that time really drew me in.

Dear Jane quilts on display at a show in France. 

A few of Jane Stickle's blocks.

A few of my blocks. 

Unfortunately, when I started making the Dear Jane blocks in order I quickly ran into difficulties. I was not a very good piecer, hand piecing was just not my thing, my applique left lots to be desired and I had no idea how to paper piece. So, when I ran into challenging blocks, I became frustrated and often set them aside. However, by skipping around and making some of the easy blocks first, I was able to warm up to the small piecing. I gained confidence and polished up my skills. I found it was a great way to practice precision and patience. The difficult blocks became less difficult because I practiced. It was my journey to becoming a better quilter as I picked up quite a few new skills. My blocks are far from perfect but I still think they're pretty good. And, I can now paper piece with ease and my applique doesn't stink. I can even do reverse applique. Who'd have guessed?? 

I think making any sampler quilt is bound to do this for you. Anyway, the point I am making is that the blocks in my quilt are MUCH easier than those in the Dear Jane quilt. There are no difficult blocks, just blocks that take a little patience and practice.

So, if you're a beginner or a quilter who is just not used to working with smaller pieces, you may want to spend a little time practicing on some of the easier blocks. 

This will allow you to gain some skills for putting the small pieces together and may make the others a whole lot easier. If you have the book, please read the section on page 8 - Tips for Sewing Small Blocks. Try making a few of these blocks first - # 9, 11, 17, 19, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30, 37, 38, 40, 43, 68. And probably a few others.  These blocks are mostly made from squares and triangles. A few larger half-square triangles. If you follow the directions, they should give you no problem. And, if you have that scant 1/4-inch seam down, they will go together easily. After this, you may even want to start a Dear Jane quilt or go back and finish the one you started. 

Have a good weekend. I hope some you are able to take some time to enjoy the holiday season! No snow yet here in the Chicago area but I know some of you out east are cursing it as we speak . . . . . 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

It's Almost Sampler Time!

The Sampler Sew Along begins on January 1 in my Facebook group. Some of you who are interested in making the quilt along with us but are not on Facebook have requested that I post the weekly blocks for the Schoolgirl Sampler Sew Along here on my blog or on my website. So, in an effort to please everyone, I created a Schoolgirl Sampler page at Country Lane Quilts (my website)  and will update it with files listing the blocks to make each week as we go along (beginning January 1). I can't upload the files here too but I'll try to post some photos every week or so.

I uploaded a Welcome to the Sew Along file explaining how the sew along will work and exactly what you'll need as far as supplies before we begin. If you decide to join in and make the quilt, please read it so you can know what to expect. If you're like me, I'm sure you're all getting anxious for January to arrive. 

For those of you who asked, the border print I used is from Moda - Susanna's Scraps by Betsy Chutchian. I made the quilt last year and the fabric was a few years old at that time so you may not be able to find it now. If you cannot find it and would like a similar print for your quilt, look for other reproduction floral prints in a cream color.  After I finished putting the blocks together in my quilt, I picked up a few different fabrics for the border - a brown floral print, a light blue print and a darker tan floral print. I couldn't decide which one to use. Finally chose this one. But any one of the other fabrics would have worked as well. Take your time to pick something you love and it will turn out great.

If you have a little time before January gets here (hah!), sort through some of your reproduction fabric pieces to find suitable fabrics to use. Organize your sewing space to get ready. Clear off that sewing table. Get a nice box to store your blocks as you make them. I love these plastic project cases for storing blocks for some of my in-progress quilts. I bought them at Michaels in the Scrapbooking department last year and I hope they're still available. 

We'll be taking it slowly and making six blocks each week. There are 72 blocks total so if you keep to the schedule I created it will take 12 weeks to complete all of them. This will still give you time to work on some of your other projects as well and not feel too overwhelmed. If the sampler quilt is not for you, there are six charming little quilts made from some of the 4" blocks that are also included in the book. 

And, if you're all set to go and have nothing to do - have you made any little trees yet this year? Too cute, huh? I had very good intentions to put them all together into a quilt this year but so far have only finished 18 little trees. I keep rolling them over to the next year . . . . The paper piecing pattern is on my website under free patterns.   

Friday, December 4, 2020

Tips for My Sampler Quilt Sew Along

Quilters - If you are interested in joining us in the Schoolgirl Sampler Sew Along in January, I posted some info in the Facebook group and other group today. If you are not joining us on Facebook, look in the book for a section with tips on sewing small blocks on page 8. Here are some things you will want to practice if you are going to join us in making the sampler quilt in January. You have a couple of weeks to practice before we begin.

Most of the blocks are pretty straightforward. If you sew with a scant 1/4" seam, your blocks will turn out better. Many of the blocks use 1 1/2" squares. These may be small for some of you who are used to working with larger pieces. Practice cutting the small squares accurately and try sewing small four patches until you feel they are precise. A non-slip ruler is a good choice. I like the Olfa Frosted the best (brown rectangle) because there are fewer lines to distract or confuse me when I'm cutting.

A couple of other things you may want to practice are making small flying geese and half-square triangle units (HSTs). Follow the directions for making these on pages 8-9 of the book and practice until your blocks are accurate. Pick a few simple blocks that use these units, follow the directions and practice. Perhaps purchase a flying geese ruler to help. Bloc Loc makes these in different sizes. Pricey, but it may be worth it for some of you if you're striving for accuracy. Some of the shops listed carry recommended rulers and other tools.

I love these Mini rulers by Quilt in a Day as well as the Bloc Loc rulers for making flying geese and half-square triangle units. You can get the Bloc Loc flying geese rulers in all different sizes and if you can afford them they work great. The others are less expensive if you're on a budget. The one Bloc Loc ruler for flying geese you may use the most in making this sampler, or just small quilts in general, is the 1" x 2" size below. I got the ruler after I made this little tree mug mat so you can see my units are not exactly accurate here, LOL.  I have the ruler now so I'll definitely do better in the future! 

Christmas Tree pattern is available on the Free Patterns page on my website.

Less than a month until we begin the sew along! I'm excited, are YOU??

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Sampler Sew Along

Get ready for some fun! The Schoolgirl Sampler Sew Along Facebook group is now open. We'll begin the sew along in January. It's a closed group for those who have the book and want to sew along with us and see the progress of others. Join here if you have the book. You can always jump in at any time after you get the book. Each week I'll post suggestions for making the blocks in the group files. (I'll probably post suggestions here too and also in my other small quilt group but you will miss out on the sewing together part so it won't be like a sew along at all. It will be a sew ALONE . . . .)

If you're used to making larger quilts, my sampler book includes lots of tips for making small blocks  I think you'll find it's an enjoyable project and the 4" block patterns can also be used to make a variety of little quilts or other quilted items.  I know some of you will love doing this sew along. Sewing along with others and sharing your progress really motivates you to make these larger projects. I may sew along on my Dear Jane quilt while the rest of you make these sampler blocks.

If you would like to purchase a book, I have signed copies available on my website and in my Etsy shop. Amazon also has copies. My publisher Martingale has copies and your local quilt shop may have copies too. If they don't, ask them to order it for you and you can save on shipping. International friends -  Sorry, I am not shipping outside the U.S. Try Amazon in your country. Someone told me you can purchase a book from The book Depository. Apparently, they ship worldwide. If they're out of stock, don't worry, they'll be ordering more within a short time so put your name on the list. Also, Martingale has e-books available which is a great option for those who live outside the U.S. Just download to your computer or tablet and print out the pages as needed. Also, much cheaper.

I'm working with a few quilt shops to supply the group with a variety of reproduction fabrics for making these little blocks. My quilt was made using 72 blocks and if you want to use a different fabric for each block, then you'll need a nice variety of scraps or prints.  I made many of the blocks from scraps or fabrics I already had but also bought some new fabrics - just because, LOL. Pretty prints are fun and motivating for sure. Some shops to try - 

Ye Olde Schoolhouse in Cedarburg, Wisconsin
 Pieceful Gathering in Fox River Grove, IL
The Quilt Merchant in Winfield, IL
Two Thimbles in  Bellingham, WA
The Woolen Needle in Williamsburg, Iowa

These shops are all providing nice fabrics, bundles or starter kits to make the sampler quilt. Some also have kits available to make the smaller quilts in the book. 

Ye Olde Schoolhouse has some kits available for quilts in my other books. 

We'll also be doing another Mystery Quilt next year in my online groups. A very simple, scrappy quilt with easy blocks that will be posted each month. I'll also post the different parts on my website again so check back here for info on that. 

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Orange Peels and an Easy Quilting Design

I fell in love with Orange Peels when I made this quilt for my book Remembering Adelia. That was 10 years ago but I honestly think many of the quilts we make with reproduction fabrics stand up to the test of time, don't you? I will never get tired of them, no matter how old they are. 

This was such a fun quilt to make and really good practice for hand applique with the simple shapes. Here's an entertaining link if you're interested in the history of this pattern. Some historians say it dates back to the American Revolution. 

I used that peel pattern as a quilting design on the Pink Patches quilt in my book, The Civil War Sewing Circle, which is the small quilt challenge for November in my small groups. The last one as a matter of fact. We worked our way through this book this past year, making some of my favorite small quilts. 

Instead of using a stencil or making my own from template plastic, here's what I did:

I marked the center of the block and then traced around a small bowl with a water soluble marking pen to make a half circle on one side. Then I turned the quilt and used the bowl again to trace intersecting half circles around each side of the block. Better than a template because you can do it easily with any size block, large or small - just find the right bowl with a nice arc. Here's a sample square:

Then turn the block and mark on the other two sides the same way.

The half circles intersect and you get this peel design when you mark each side of the block with an arc.

Then, just quilt on the lines and dampen or wash the quilt gently to remove all traces of the marking pen. It was easy to do this on a small quilt and it turned out very nice, I think. I'm not sure I'd try it on a larger quilt unless I had a lot of time. You can also mark circles between the blocks to get the same Orange Peel design but doing it this way gave me a little more control as I was working on each block. I especially like the way it looks on the plain blocks where the stitches stand out a little more.

Oh, and if you haven't tried it yet, my favorite quilting thread is YLI quilting thread. Not sure if it's still available in this color but I'm very partial to the light brown as it gives a nice antique look when stitched on both light and dark fabrics. 

Enjoy your fall weekend!  I'm still planning on doing a sew along for my Schoolgirl Sampler quilt in the Facebook group of the same name beginning in January so check out my earlier Sentimental Quilter blog post about that for details. I haven't decided yet but I may use my website or this blog to post some info every week so that those of you who don't do FB can still follow along. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

It's Fall and Change Is in the Air . . . .

Fall is definitely a time of transition.  I've heard it said that life seems to start all over again in the fall . . .  Almost a rebirth. But not like an exciting springtime rebirth. Fall is a quieter, gentle season that embraces change, reflected in the changing colors of the leaves. 

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

~ Elizabeth Lawrence

We spent a day at the Chicago Botanic Garden recently. Here's a view from the top of the waterfall looking beyond, into the Japanese Garden. Because of the pandemic, the garden now limits the number of people allowed to enter at any one time. You have to reserve a time slot in advance now so I don't go walking there as often or spontaneously as I used to.

Here's a quilt I think you'll enjoy. I don't often go crazy with scrappy pieces and borders but I had a great time with this small flying geese quilt, our challenge for last month  - 

Lots of swirling colors and movement; just perfect for fall.

If you have the time, why not get out some of your fall-colored prints, play around a bit and then hurry up and make something "fallish" before winter gets here?  It will be here before you know it.