Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Making Some Good Progress on My Quilt

Most of the easy Dear Jane blocks for my quilt are already done. That's good and bad. On the one hand, by moving along with some of the easier blocks first, I was able to practice my skills working with teeny tiny pieces and become motivated to make a lot of blocks (112 blocks finished out of 225 blocks and triangles. Yay!). If I had started with all the difficult ones at first, I know I would have gotten stuck and the blocks would be sitting in a drawer today.  On the other hand, this means that I still have quite a few difficult blocks left to make.

But I'm a big girl and now that I've just about completed half of the quilt I find that I cannot quit at this stage. I've come too far. I have to keep going. And that means making some of the blocks that are not easy for me. Most of them involve foundation paper piecing - yuck.

I've never been a fan of paper piecing and avoided it for years because it involved too much fussing around with paper and not enough sewing. (Sewing along with abandon and either random thoughts or music in the background is the fun part of quilting, am I right?) Paper piecing, on the other hand,  requires your undivided attention, as well as patience. If my mind wandered I would end up with my fabric sewn to the wrong side of the papers or my edges and seams cut off because I was too impatient to correctly measure the pieces. And the waste! You waste so much darn fabric with paper piecing. Insane for someone who likes to savor her scraps.

I try to keep the book and my blocks accessible on or near my sewing table in case I have the urge to pick one up and work on it if I have a day. (I was going to say "moment" but the truth is it takes me a lot longer than a moment to sew these together. I'm not especially quick about it but it certainly has trained me to become a more patient sewer.)

What has helped me lately is buckling down and forcing myself to do better with the paper piecing and using this technique instead of hand piecing the blocks (a nice idea but just not practical for me. I'm clumsy at it. Something else I need to work on.). I've tried and have even hand pieced quite a few blocks but it takes me a long time and they often end up not looking great. Right now I am anxious to work harder to get the quilt done already, you know? These days, with half of the blocks done, I feel like I am at the top of the hill, finally looking down the other side.

 Messy before you trim

After trimming, nice and neat.

I could not even think of hand piecing this one . . . . God bless those of you who can and Jane, who did. 

Anyway, I decided upon this topic today because I suspect some of you are like me when it comes to paper piecing. And, if you're putting off beginning a Dear Jane quilt because of all those tiny pieces in those tiny blocks, here's what I want to tell you -  just do it. Make peace with paper piecing. It is not difficult, just tedious, but it will make your Dear Jane blocks go that much faster. 

To simplify the process, I found a couple of good books on paper piecing, watched some videos, bought a few new tools and I practiced, practiced, practiced. Even though very time I am away from it for awhile it feels like my brain has to relearn it again, I have stuck with it and progressed much just by forcing myself to keep doing it often. I still don't love it but I do love racking up the number of blocks I can finish quickly so that's something.

There are a couple of  videos I found to be helpful here and  here . Practice, practice, practice and it will eventually click.

Also, since Carol Doak is the paper piecing queen, I got her book and foundation paper. I really like the Add a Quarter ruler she recommends. Get an index card, a glue stick and fabric (and, of course, if you're me buy a new blue rotary cutter and baby blue cutting mat) and you're all set.

The pieces are so freaking small I can't believe these blocks turned out as well as they did. Couldn't have done it without paper piecing, that's for sure.

In case you missed this post, you can read more about my recent Dear Jane® progress here.

See my post about my trip to see the quilt last year. Wish I were going to Vermont again. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Day Just for Me

Quilting is not the only thing that soothes my soul. After the past few busy weeks, I needed to take a day just for me for a change. On beautiful days I'm always eager to get out and enjoy nature and am lucky to live close to a great lake with a beautiful shoreline. Sure, I'd prefer the ocean, but this is where I am and it's good enough. Even a few hours spent walking quietly through a path in the woods and along the shore is enough to restore my soul. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

-Rachel Carson

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

-John Muir

My favorite part - I turn around a bend and then see the water. I swear my heart leaps up every time.

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.    -George Washington Carver

 Ahh, a day just for me. But it's not over yet so now I'm going to sit outside with the dog and read a book.

To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment. 
-Jane Austen

She always helps me remember to smell the flowers! Next time. I promise I'll take her with me next time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

Although Memorial Day is officially the start of the summer season here in the U.S. it's about more than barbeques and department store sales. Whatever you're doing today, take time to remember those who served and the sacrifices they made for all of us.

The holiday got its official start on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. But, it's seldom noted that three years earlier, on May 1, 1865, former slaves gathered in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers, who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for two weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated. Gathering in the graveyard, the crowd watched five black preachers recite scripture and a children's choir sing spirituals and "The Star-Spangled Banner."  

While the story is largely forgotten today, some historians consider the gathering the first Memorial Day.  There is also evidence that women's groups in both the North and South gathered informally to decorate the graves of the war dead even before that.  


Sometime today, before our company comes over for our annual Memorial Day barbeque to kick off the summer, I'm going to pull some fabrics and make a red, white and blue block and include it in my Dear Jane quilt. And say a prayer of gratitude.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Blooms of Springtime

I love being outside and smelling the freshness in the air. I was walking the dog the other day and it started raining  - yes, we got wet but oh, the air and earth smelled so good! Instead of running, we sauntered home. I've always had spring allergies but lately, for some reason, I seem to be outgrowing them. Imagine, at my age, finally "outgrowing" my allergies. I must be going through my second childhood, ha ha.

My lovely bleeding hearts are blooming in the backyard as I write this and the lilacs are almost there too. (Arrrgh - My camera seems to be malfunctioning this week so all of these photos are from last May. The yard is not quite  this lush yet. Two more weeks.) 

I'm so happy that I'll be teaching my favorite little springtime quilt - Clarissa's Garden -  at a workshop this Saturday. A perfect time to applique some flowers. If you don't have it, you can purchase the pattern on my website.

Will you be doing something with flowers this Mother's Day weekend? Either in the garden or in your sewing room? After I get home from teaching, I'll look forward to seeing my kids on Sunday. My daughter will get me something for the garden. My son and I will watch the Chicago Bulls do their best in the playoff game and cheer and scream and yell at the refs. My husband will cook something yummy for us on the grill. No cooking or cleaning for me for a change. No sewing either, but a perfect day nonetheless. Maybe I should bring out my pretty English Rose Garden plates??  Hurry up, Sunday! Weather, please be nice.

Have a Happy Mother's Day


Friday, May 1, 2015

Log Cabin Crazy

Don't you just love log cabin quilts?  The log cabin block is such a wonderful traditional quilt block and has always been one of my favorites. This pattern has gotten a lot of buzz on my Facebook page and Facebook group ever since I posted a photo of this antique log cabin doll quilt.

Our friends Sue and Marian in the groups decided to reproduce it and, after seeing their fun versions, I decided to use this as our monthly doll quilt challenge in those online small quilting groups. (We try to make one quilt per month but I know that many of you have so many other projects you also want to work on so if you can make a couple by the end of the year you're doing great. There's no pressure.)


Sue's finished log cabin quilt. So close to the original you almost can't tell them apart.

Here's Marian's version. 


               Take a look at another cute one - a doll quilt Annie made from an old orphan log cabin block.

I started a new log cabin project myself a few month ago. It still needs to be quilted but was inspired by this little log cabin coaster I made a couple of years ago. Yes, it's a little bigger but still small. . . . 

Awhile ago I was asked to review a quilting book by the Fons & Porter team on the topic of log cabin designs. It looks like they are still offering the book as a free copy. Twenty-four pages, free patterns and everything you could possibly want to know about Log Cabin quilts.

The book gives options for making the blocks in different sizes and includes some clever ideas and many helpful tips. There's even a pattern for a small log cabin doll quilt. You can download a copy of this book here. Even if you've never made one of these quilts, the patterns are simple enough once you get the hang of it.

Even though you've seen this a million times, here and on my Facebook page, it's still my favorite log cabin doll quilt - from my Prairie Children& Their Quilts book.

One more log cabin for inspiration - My husband was working with a client about a year ago when he spotted an antique quilt displayed in a frame on the wall as they were walking through an office building. He stopped in his tracks and said: "Look at that - a log cabin quilt." A silk log cabin quilt, as a matter of fact. I was glad he took the time to take a photo and send it to me. Isn't it lovely?  Would have been fun to see it in person.

I'll bet you've now become inspired to make a log cabin quilt yourself. Why not join us?  I will look forward to seeing some of your quilts posted in the small quilting groups. I know I want to go straight to my sewing room and pull out my bag of 1" scrap strips!


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