Saturday, January 31, 2015

January wrap-up

The first month of 2015 has flown past!  How are you doing on your New Year's Quilting Resolutions?  I'd call my progress "not too bad."  But then, I'm from Minnesota and that's what we say here for anything that's better than completely horrible.  Come to think of it, we even say that in the dead of winter when it's below freezing, as in:
Question:  How's the weather today?   Answer: Not too bad.  (sigh)

My goal is to get as many unquilted tops quilted and finished as I can this year.  I have way too many of them, and they're keeping me from feeling good about starting new and exciting projects.  So, let's see how I did.

Oklahoma Backroads and Ninepatch Rosegarden were quilted and bound!
Oklahoma Backroads  55x75 inches
It was so windy I couldn't get it to lay flat for a photo.

Ninepatch Rosegarden 25x25 inches

Starburst and Blue Disappearing 4-Patch small quilts were new projects and not UFO's, but are quilted, have their bindings on, and are ready to be hand sewn down at Historical Society events so that I have something to demonstrate.  Do they count as finished?  Almost.

I made progress on Countdown to Christmas and have the center portion quilted.  Borders still to be quilted with free motion stars when I get my courage up for that.

Two lap quilts are sandwiched, pin-basted and ready to quilt in February.

And as for my stash report:  10 yards of fabric purchased this year and 9 yards used.
Not too bad.

Linking up with Vicki and other quilters who are seriously working on their UFO's this year.  She asked if we had ever trashed a project that wasn't going well.  Sort of.  I had a quilt top that I finished and really didn't like it, so after an extended period of avoiding it, I donated it to a local church quilting group.  They were thrilled to have it.  One quilter's trash is another quilter's treasure I guess.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bessie Fisher quilt 1885

The quilt projects going on recently at our house aren't piecing, or quilting, but researching and framing.

Let me introduce you to the Bessie Fisher Quilt in the collection of the Bloomington, MN Historical Society.

 This quilt was made in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1885 by Bessie (Elizabeth A.) Fisher aged 16 and her sister Mina (Ermina G.) Fisher aged 12.  The girls were daughters of Thomas A. and Martha B. (Mattie) Fisher.

I was able to date this quilt because Bessie embroidered her name and age on one block.  

Elizabeth A. Fisher was born June 23, 1869 and was 16 years old in 1885.  "Mina" is embroidered on another block. 

In addition, the quilt has two ribbons from Grand Army of the Republic (a civil war veteran's group) events.  The GAR had it's 18th Annual Encampment in Minneapolis in 1885, and a rose colored ribbon sewn onto this quilt advertises the 19th Annual Encampment held in Portland, Maine the following year.  

Thomas Fisher, father of Bessie and Mina, served in the Civil War with the 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, company D, and would likely have been a GAR member.  After the war he worked as a meat cutter/butcher in Minneapolis.  The words 'New Hampshire' may seem out of place, but Thomas Fisher's grandparents lived in New Hampshire, so there is a family connection.  Perhaps uncles or cousins were with New Hampshire units in the civil war.

The Victorian Crazy Quilt measures approximately 62 inches x 45 inches.  Fifteen whole 12.5-inch blocks and five half blocks make up the quilt.  Velvets, silks, ribbons and other fabrics are hand-basted and embroidered to coarse muslin foundation blocks.  The blocks were sewn together by machine with brown thread and pressed open.  Then those seams were embellished with hand embroidery.  A jade green silk backing was sewn by machine, pillow-case style, with green thread to three sides of the quilt, then turned, and the last side is hand sewn closed.  The backing is badly shredding vertically and is split along the seam lines where the three pieces of fabric were joined to make the back.  As is typical of this style of quilt, there is no batting, and no quilting or tying the layers together.

The embroidery shows several skill levels, but there is some really outstanding embroidery on several blocks.  Flowers and ribbon rosebuds are sewn on velvet with multiple shades of embroidery thread in the leaves and stems. I had a hard time believing that these were hand sewn, but looking at the back through the large slits formed by the shredded backing, one can see that the embroidery threads come through the muslin foundations.  

In other areas there is beautiful hand painting on silk and on velvet. The velvet has not held the paint as well, but the flowers painted on silk have held up well.
I am surprised at the lovely shading and use of colors.  It is the work of a very good artist!

Elizabeth Fisher went on to attend one year of college, and was very briefly married, but divorced before 1900.  She became a music teacher and supported herself by teaching piano for many years.  Mina Fisher was single, and worked for a number of Minneapolis banks as a teller and clerk.  The sisters lived with their parents, and after their deaths Elizabeth continued to live with Mina.  Elizabeth Fisher died in 1941 at the age of 72.

The museum would like to display some of their quilts.  We did our research.  Hubby has made a wood frame, and put three coats of poly sealant over the wood. The frame is put together with dowels and can be taken apart for storage when the quilt is not on display.  I washed (three times- twice with soap and once without) two layers of muslin.  The muslin was stretched over the frame and is held taught by cotton cording over stretcher bars on the back. I have carefully hand-sewn the quilt to the stretched muslin with vintage silk thread and a very thin needle. 

The next step is to look for museum quality acrylic to protect it from dust and light, and it will be all ready for display at the Bloomington, MN museum at Old Town Hall!  There will be a presentation at 2 pm on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015 about Quilts and the Underground Railroad.  You are all welcome!  We hope to have many of the museum's quilts on display then.

Since I'm so excited to get this finished I'm linking up to share it!
Crazy Mom Quilts
Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Friday, January 16, 2015

Find of the day

Many quilters sing the praises of fabrics from Liberty of London.  Along with the high quality comes a high price.  But today I was browsing through the small section of fabric at a local second-hand (thrift) shop and came across a real find!

Four yards of cotton fabric with a very soft feel.  The colors and print were a William Morris floral/art deco type print.  But a glance at the selvage showed.... you guessed it...Liberty of London!  And the price tag for the whole four yards?  $6.00.

My stash report is now set back by four yards, because this was just too good to pass up!  The colors are not ones I generally choose, but I may be able to find a Barbara Brackman pattern that will be perfect for this print.  Or maybe a kaleidoscope pattern?  That could be interesting.  I'm taking suggestions!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Disappearing 4-patch

Kathleen Tracy is a quilt designer from the Chicago area who has been an inspiration to me to start making small quilts.  I'm overloaded with queen size quilts, and about a year ago stumbled upon her blog which got me started making smaller quilts.

This month she challenged her readers to make a disappearing 4-patch.  I've never tried one before, so started out by hunting through my 4-inch scrap bag and found a couple strips already sewn together to try the technique.

For a 4-patch made of 4-inch blocks I cut 1 inch away from the seam line in each direction.  It turned out to be quite easy.
Christmas disappearing 4-patch - 13 " square
I was ready for more!  So out came some blues and white that were already cut into 4 inch strips or squares.  Ta Da!
Blue disappearing 4-patch doll quilt - 18-1/2 x 24 "
I forget how much I love the crispness of blues and whites, especially in the midst of a cold Minnesota winter!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bonus Starburst

There were lots of bonus HST blocks leftover from making Grand Illusion.  Even though I only made half the number of blocks for a smaller quilt, there were loads of bonus blocks in red/white and black/white.

One afternoon a week I have been volunteering at the Welcome Desk (receptionist) at our church.  Yes, I'm way overqualified for that (LOL), but they needed some help.  Anyway, it's pretty quiet and was a great opportunity for me to trim those little bonus blocks to uniform size.  (1 3/4 inches square)

Pam Buda at Heartspun Quilts recently introduced an adorable collection of thee small quilts called "Tokens of the Past: Gathering in Red."  I used her Starbrust Quilt as inspiration and used up a whole bunch of those bonus HST's.
Bonus Starburst 23x23 inches
I love Pam's collection of red fabrics, and am very fortunate to have a few pre-cut pieces in my stash.

Do you have any plans for bonus blocks?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's so Grand!

Linking up with Bonnie to show my progress and to give her a great big "Thank You!" for sharing her wonderful quilt design talents with all of us.  A special welcome to everyone who is visiting Quilt Awhile through her link.  It's so nice to have you stop by!

The only way I've been able to keep up with Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt is that I'm making a half-size version.  My thanks to Beth and Karen for their comments and helping me decide to go with the original pattern.  They saved me a lot of ripping out for the changes I was considering.  I forged ahead and tonight the borders went on!  Here's what it looks like so far:
Half Grand Illusion  60" x 75"
Not a great photo I'm afraid, but it will have to do.   Some of my greens are so dark that they 'read' nearly black.  I think that has made it harder for me to see the true pattern in this quilt.

Another problem I had is a quilter's natural tendency to never put two pieces the same color together.  I found this out when I was piecing the border, and did I ever do a lot of ripping!  Evidently my brain just didn't want those yellows to go together, and I repeatedly would flip one section the wrong way.  Did you have any sections that looked like this?
Border oops!
Finally, I don't know if it was because I was making a half version, or if my seam allowances were so far off, but at any rate the borders were too long.  What to do????  I was starting to envy the quilters of a century ago who would just lop off a border or a block if it didn't fit right.

Hmmm,  what was stopping me?  So I took a deep breath and sliced a generous 1/2 inch off each end.  Crazy?  Maybe.  It made for an interesting look at the corners, but it works for me!
Funky corners, but I think I like them!

I'm considering adding another plain border to finish it off.  Maybe 5 inches of a nice green print.  I'll have to see what I can find in my stash.  I know I have greens leftover from Celtic Solstice!

Edited 1/31/2015
I had just enough red to put a 2.5 inch red border around the whole quilt and call it done!  I was a little surprised to see the scalloped border look it gave the quilt. (Sorry about the colors, the flash wouldn't go off and it's a cloudy day...but you get the idea.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

First finish of 2015

It didn't take long to have a finished quilt in 2015.  Only the binding was left at year-end, so I brought Bonnie Hunter's 'Oklahoma Backroads' up to the lake on New Year's Day to work on in my free time.  It was a leader-ender project and I used 3 inch blocks and strips from my scrap bag.  The backing is polar fleece, so it's light weight and warm.
While hubby was ice fishing I cut and stitched the binding. 

The blue border just pops against the snow!  It was so windy that I had trouble getting the quilt to lay flat for a photo.  I must have tried 10 times, and this was the best shot.

A few minutes later I snapped this sunset - the first sunset of 2015.
Last year I decided to take a sunset photo as often as I could when we were up at the Lake.  It was fun to do, and I think I'll keep it up this year.   Here's a link to see some of them:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Grand Illusion progress

Original Grand Illusion
Grand Illusion is coming along, but I'm at a crossroads.  I love Bonnie Hunter's designs, her colors, her scrappy, happy quilts.  But my Grand Illusion is looking really busy.  I mean really, Really busy.  Is it the values of the red that I used instead of a lighter pink?   Am I just too close to the quilt?  I do notice that it's a little easier looking at the photo than looking at the quilt top in person.

After the green and white checkerboard sashings went on, I started having a hard time seeing the main blocks, and I just can't see any secondary pattern at all.

I'm wondering if I should make a few design adjustments so that I can appreciate the blocks a bit more.  In the photo below I laid green fabric on top of some of the checkerboard sashing to see what it might look like.  (It would go all along the edges as well.)

Green sashing option
What do you think?  
I might be able to incorporate the checkerboard sections in an additional border.  This will be a half-size version of Grand Illusion, so there will be 12 blocks in all, set 3 x 4, and it could handle extra borders.   It will have to hang on the design wall for a few days while I puzzle it out.  I really want to LOVE this quilt when it's done!

Please leave me a comment.  All input will be appreciated!

Year End Review

Time to tally up and see what was accomplished in the quilt workroom in the year just past.

Most of the quilts can be seen if you click on the '2014 quilts' tab above.  I thought I'd let you do that if you're interested instead of making a very photo-heavy post.  Hope that's ok with you.

4 Queen size quilts:
Rhapsody in Bloom - wedding gift
Chinese Coins and Lanterns - wedding gift
Pond Dakota Album Quilt replica
Wedding Album - wedding gift

4 Baby and Lap quilts:
Sly Patch - gift 48 x 58
Rascal Patch - gift 48 x 58
Decade the Halls quilt along 62 x 71
Bricks and Stepping Stones - gift 58 x 72

13 Small quilts:
Disappearing 9-Patch from "Ribbons and Roses" orphan blocks 28"
Redwork Snowmen 22x27
Little Bear Paw 14"
Four Bear Paws 23"
Triple Square 14 x 20
Little three-inch 20x24
Valentine Spools 12"
Orphan Star 20"
Shamrocks 12"
Market Day 30"
Cypress 28"
State Fair 40"
Cascadia 19x22

3 table runners - gifts

Designed 4 styles of 3-inch Ornaments:
and made several of each as gifts
2 Hearts
Album Block

9 finished tops not yet quilted:
Red white blue - lap quilt
Oklahoma Backroads -lap quilt (first finish of 2015!)
Sailing - small
Friends and Companions - 60"
Friends and Companions the musical - 60"
Autumn Friends and Companions -60"
Countdown to Christmas - wall hanging
Irish Puzzle - small
Celtic Solstice - Queen

This just counts the quilts I finished in 2014 - not any of the works-in-progress, or UFO's.  That's an entirely different list - and I'm not sharing that!  But all-in-all quite a bit was accomplished this year.

Yards purchased in 2014: 55 1/2
Yards used in 2014:  76
Stash reduction: 20 1/2 yards!!!
I think I'm most excited about using up 20 more yards than I purchased this year.  (at least as far as I kept count)  I really tried to keep my fabric purchases to just what I needed to finish up a project.  With very few exceptions, I really stuck with that this year.

I hope you will stick with me in 2015 and leave a comment when you stop by, so we can share with one another the fun we have when we get the chance to quilt awhile.