Monday, February 14, 2011

Be My Valentine Quilt

 I had a very productive pre-Valentine's Day weekend.

A couple of weeks ago I designed a small Valentine quilt project for those in my Yahoo group, using little nine-patch blocks combined with hourglass blocks. I didn't think I'd have any time to make something myself so it was fun to see what people came up with. I became really inspired looking at some of the quilts in the album and said What the Heck with chores this weekend and spent time working on my own. (I did finally  mop the kitchen and front hallway yesterday, so that counts for something . . . Quilting seems to energize me some days).

 First, I cut my pieces. I decided to make it completely from my scraps, using assorted reds, pinks and shirtings.

The nine-patch blocks are made from 1 1/2" squares, finishing at 3" x 3". 
The hourglass blocks in the center are made from four 4 1/4" squares, cut twice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles from 4 different fabrics. Each hourglass block also finishes at 3" x 3". Arrange the triangles to get the Pinwheel in the center. (I ended up using different prints.)

Lookie here, I got the top finished!

I started out thinking it would be a red and pink and white quilt, then started adding more muted colors. I decided to scrap the initial center piece I made - too bright for me - and remade the rest of it with more vintage fabrics, including BROWN! Don't quilts just take on a life of their own sometimes?? Funny, this is NOT the quilt I had planned, just the way it turned out as I worked with the fabrics. I will probably trim the pink border a little and then add a darker pink binding. The brown floral border is a Judie Rothermel (Marcus Bros) print left over from the Peony Star quilt I made for Remembering Adelia.

 I love my little vintage Valentine's Day quilt!

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According to the Huffington Post, a widely accepted belief about the holiday is that Valentine's Day grew out of a Middle Ages tradition of celebrating Feb. 14 as the day "the birds began to pair." The first true Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time.

In the U.S., the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847. 

On Feb 14, 1861 - Adelia Thomas wrote in her diary:

"Feb 14
"This morning it snowed and the wind blew very hard. Towards noon the weather moderated and then it rained. In the evening went to Mr Sharp's Spelling school and when we came home it snowed very hard. Mary Lincoln was there and made herself very conspicuous I thought. Maria Shaver spelled the school down. Valentine's day—never got one! Good."

I know Adelia had a special beau in mind (she referred to him as "L" in her diary) and so I think she protested too much! 
My "sweetest of the sweet" husband took his 2 girls out for a special Valentine's Day lunch yesterday. (That would not include the little black dog, although she runs a close third . . . some days she even comes in first or second.) 
Tonight, I will return the favor and cook something nice : ). 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Summer of 1893

No, I was not alive then, so skip this if you're looking for a diary of my summer camp memories or a journal of sewing activities.

I've been catching up on some reading I meant to get around to in the last year or so and recently finished reading this fascinating book - The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and had to tell someone.

Larson tells  the incredible, factual story of the building of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago intertwined with the drama of a serial killer at large. A tiny bit gruesome in parts but still a fascinating history of American culture at the end of the 19th century. Chicago history is a particular favorite of mine since I'm a Chicago girl.

For about six months and into the summer of 1893, Chicago was home to one of the largest and most spectacular events of the 19th Century - the World's Columbian Exposition, called by its creators as, simply, "by far the greatest Exposition ever held."

Nicknamed the "White City" for its glorious white buildings, the World's Columbian Exposition was an extremely popular and influential social and cultural event. Filled with  an amazing display of 65,000 exhibits, the Fair depicted some of the best achievements of modern civilization and a wonderful array of the arts and sciences.

I love this quote from novelist Hamlin Garland, written to his parents in 1893 - "Sell the cook stove if necessary and come. You must see the fair." I also got a little sense of the excitement people must have felt when I transcribed Adelia's diary entries (from my book Remembering Adelia) telling us about her trip to Chicago to explore the State Fair in 1861. I can only imagine what she thought of the World's Fair, years later, if she atttended. (Adelia died in 1899, at the age of 57.)

The Fair housed the largest exhibition of American art ever held in the United States, displaying 10,000 pieces of artwork.  There was also a Women's Building highlighting women's work and accomplishments and  featuring  several famous suffragist leaders - Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony - as speakers.

Some famous cultural icons and brands of our popular culture were introduced at the Fair - a huge wheel designed by George Ferris placed on the Midway, revolving high above the fairgrounds; Cream of Wheat; Shredded Wheat; Pabst Beer; Aunt Jemima syrup; Juicy Fruit gum; Cracker Jack (noted by some as the first junk food); carbonated soda; hamburgers; and . . . ELECTRICITY! Not to mention belly dancers and the "Hootchy-Kootchy."

Here's something I found  really interesting. Walt Disney's father was a construction worker for the Exposition, and often relayed stories of the Fair to his children as they were growing up. The author of the book cites it as a legitimate source of inspiration for his son Walt and the Disney kingdom he would eventually create.

If you haven't already read it, The Devil in the White City is a great book and a fascinating read. But not necessarily for the squeamish, although you can skip some parts - I did just a little at times. I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio has bought the movie rights. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

My New Favorite Tool

I am not one of those quilters who always has to run out and get all of the latest tools. The quilts I make are never too complex and I pretty much just use the basics - rotary cutter, rulers, cutting mat. In the back of my mind I always try to remember that quilters from long ago did not have all of the fancy tools available to us today and yet they still made some pretty amazing quilts. That's not saying that now and then a special tool isn't helpful. Maybe all of you already have this one and I'm the last to know? Sometimes I'm a bit slow on the uptake . . .

Do you love quilts with blocks set on point but have trouble figuring out what size to cut the setting pieces?

This chart has always worked well for me when I have to figure out what size to cut the triangles without fussing about the math.

If you're a beginner and just learning to put your blocks on point or if you have trouble remembering the formula for cutting your side and corner triangles - you can print out  this chart at Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville site for directions based on the size of your finished block.

Sometimes, however, when I'm  making a scrappy quilt, I want to use a couple of different scraps for my setting pieces and I find that I don't have a square that's large enough, just a narrow strip.

Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler to the rescue!

With this ruler, you can cut side setting triangles and corner triangles for diagonally set quilts from a strip. You don't have to figure out any math - just measure a strip of fabric, line up your ruler and cut the triangles from the strip.

Turn the ruler to cut another triangle.

Works for corner triangles too.

The ruler I bought is especially helpful for small blocks that  finish as small as 2 1/2". There are a few different rulers out there like this, but I happen to like the one made by Marti Michell just because I often work with small blocks.

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Off-topic - It's still snowing here in northern Illinois!

I went out for a bit yesterday and took a roundabout route where everything looked so pretty and crisp.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow What's New??

The calm after the storm has arrived and we are mostly getting along fine. Our streets are plowed, the driveway is shoveled and life is just about back to normal after 2 days of digging out. The sun came out today.

It's very cold (18 degrees) but so pretty! I love showing pictures of our snow because I know so many of you live in places that don't get any snow at all. How sad.

My street from our driveway.

I drove to the Post Office today and while the streets are okay, many intersections have these huge snow mountains that make it difficult to see cross traffic. Twice, I almost hit someone as I was edging out into traffic to see past the snow mounds.

Some of us are really loving it - once a kid always a kid, huh? It took about an hour for the poor dog to thaw out after diving into snow drifts.

Yesterday, while my husband was busy working on shoveling the driveway and paths  I took it easy and finished this sweet little cross stitch I started in December. Perfect for a snowbound day!

Sometime soon I'm going with some friends to a favorite cross stitch shop that's about an hour away. We haven't been there for a couple of years and I'm looking forward to picking up a few little patterns to work on in between my quilt projects.

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Oh, some of you may be interested in this Civil War Sewing Circle club offered by Homestead Hearth Quilt Shop. I am not affiliated with them at all but it looks really cool. Hey, I want to join! Oops, I forgot - I already made the quilts . . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Storm I've Been Waiting For

I've been getting very jealous of  those living on the East Coast and the snowstorms they've had in the last few weeks. We had no snow to speak of and it seemed like Chicago had been out of the loop in that department for awhile. Last night the winds were so strong I was afraid the trees were going to be blown down upon the house.

I was sure the winds would bring the power lines down too.

Visibility was next to zero.

My big fear was that the power would go out and we'd freeze. Or worse, I wouldn't be able to access my  e-mail or cable TV . . .  According to the local news, 80,000 were without power in the city. I kept worriedly looking at my husband, saying, "Where will we go, where will we go?? It's 12 degrees. There are no warming centers in the suburbs!!" LOL.

Okay, okay, I admit I'm a little bit of a Chicken Little alarmist at times. The sky did not fall, the roof did not collapse, the winds finally died down and we woke up in the morning to a Winter Wonderland outside the door.

I put on my snow boots (the big furry ones I bought last year that you all laughed at) and braved the back yard. Without a  sherpa.

My sneaky husband thought this was funny and worthy of a few photos- me going out to fill the bird feeders in my jammies and sweats early this morning.

The view from my back door. Nowhere for the dogs to go out . . .

Haha, who's laughing now . . .

Okay, I've had enough - let me in!

I knew I should have cleaned out the garage so I'd have somewhere to park this winter . . . Can't even get to the car . . .

This is not so bad. If my front walk and driveway ever gets shoveled I might venture out and take a little walk with my camera later . . .


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