Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part III: Lyre, Lyre Pants on Fire

As I understand it, part of the modern quilting aesthetic is the exploration of traditional forms and concepts through a contemporary lens—the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast, a clean simplicity . . .

As someone whose first quilt was a 1904 Bowtie Quilt made by someone somewhere in Ohio, I love the parsimony (thrift) and utility of the old patchwork quilt. Made by mothers and sisters, aunts and grandmothers, these quilts were sewn from fabric left at hand—patchwork quilts were made by families who couldn't buy "store-bought" linens. These quilts were made with sons and fathers' work shirts, little ones worn and re-worn Sunday Best dresses. As I look at this bow tie quilt hanging across the room from me, I wonder the design decisions that ran through this long past quilt maker's mind as she pieced and quilted this quilt. Did she think about how quickly her children were growing (out of their clothes)? Remember a favorite moment represented by a particular scrap?

I think of these questions because, at their best, I think quilts are sewn, stitch by stitch, with the thought close in mind of the future recipient of the quilt being made. When I make quilts for friends, their babies, and family, I sew into each quilt hopes and wishes and love for the recipient. I think about what friend I was with or what town I was visiting when I bought a particular fabric.

When I'm trying out new design ideas, I think about what Nina Garcia on Project Runway calls an editorial point of view which, I think, means "what am I trying to convey and is it worth hearing?"

This is all to say that I have struggled to find the modern point of view for today's BFTPqal block. This image, for those of you who were not in their high school bands in ancient Greece or current day Eastern Africa, is the lyre—a Classical U-shaped stringed instrument. Think harp, but portable.

While I did go through a brief phase in childhood where I wanted to learn to play the harp, I couldn't find a way to relate to this image in a modern way. And then I discovered WonkyWorld. This post about her lyre quilt gave me a new perspective. In her case, the lyre is the symbol of her high school literary magazine. Now, I found WonkyWorld just by googling lyre and quilting, but as it turns out, she and I went to competing high schools in NJ. Check out her blog—she's amazingly talented and also covers phenomenally special historic quilts.

Reading her post about her excitement about her lyre quilt made me think about lyres  . . . and then it came to me. I can't speak about the Neoclassical roots of our culture and government and how the lyre is an icon of this time. Actually, I probably could, but I'll spare you!! But what I remembered was a musical theatre company in Chatham, NJ (Chatham Community Players) where in elementary school I "starred" in "A Palace Built by Music." I oddly remember most of the songs still to this day, and I remember my excitement when I was handed my very own gilded, cardboard lyre. Can't say much about the plot.

So, with all this said (are there any readers left out there?), I held tightly to this shred of a memory of a lost musical career to channel my Modern/Neoclassical lyre mojo as I approached my third Blocks From the Past post.

As all you close followers of our ever fabulous BFTPqal surely know, today's block is . . . . THE LYRE!!!

Now, not to whine or anything, because I actually do love my needle turn appliqué, but who thought appliquéing those slim little spaces between the lyre's strings was a good idea? Good thing I love Marion and Natalie to pieces, as I persevered!!

So, onto the business at hand. I began with selecting the ever fabulous VeloCity by Jessica Hogarth and the Grey Architextures by Carolyn Friedlander. The directions call for a 7" background square, which is later cut down to 6.5" after the appliqué is finished. I know you're asking: "where are the weird fraction of 37ths?" Today is apparently brought to you by the half and full inch measure. Phew!

Everyone has their own way of approaching appliqué. For me, it depends on what the shape is. For this one, because I needed to cut into narrow slots (between the strings) I opted for freezer paper. I traced the lyre pattern from the BFTP book and then cut it down to size.
I then traced out the lyre shape on the right side of the fabric. Next, I cut out the shape, leaving approximately .25-.5 seam allowance. I don't show it here, but I then cut out the space between the strings. Check out Red Brolly's great post on Needle Turn Appliqué. As the name implies, the needle is a very important/useful tool that helps turn the fabric under to make a clean edge (as opposed to raw edge appliqué). 

Apparently, so focused was I on the appliqué portion of this segment that I completely failed to photograph my appliqué. Plus, it's hard when your wife is at work and you can't take a picture of your own hands.  Apparently I need some sort of headlamp selfie cam (I guess they call that a GoPro?) so I can do up to the minute video of my handicraft!!

At any rate, here's the finished product:

And to all those who made it through my ponderous post, check out my blog tomorrow for other non-BFTPqal postings, and check in April 6th for my next installment!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part II: Fox and Geese

I'm baaack!

I know!! Three days in a row! Brace yourself—many more ahead, my friends!

I'm here to bring you Part II of my first week of the Blocks From the Past QAL. Today we're tackling the Fox and Geese (a.k.a., P. 24).

For those of you who followed my angst-ridden journey through the perils of the 11/16 inch, rest assured that today limits its craziness to the 3/8 inch. Totally calming and manageable, no?!

First of all, here's the block in all its finished glory:

The block calls for the following pieces:

Color 1 (Grey Architextures background): 

  • Five 2 3/8 inch squared, cut each diagonally
  • Four 2 inch squares

Color 2 (Navy & White Denyse Schmidt print): 

  • One 2 3/8 inch square, cut in half diagonally
  • One 3 7/8 inch square, cut in half diagonally
Color 3 (Green Half Moon Modern print): 
  • Two 2 3/8 inch squares, cut each in half diagonally

As with yesterday's Sister's Choice block, I sewed the bias squares the old-fashioned way. If I had had more to do, I would have sewn the two squares together and then cut down the diagonal (check out April's great blog description of this here).

After sewing and pressing the HSTs together (using Maggie's Classy Hooch Press, of course!), I assembled this as pictured below, and then sewed it all together!!

In tomorrow's post, I will try to make an argument for the modernity of the lyre (that's a "harp" to all you non-classicists out there) in needle turn appliqué. Oh boy, I live an exciting life!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Blocks From the Past Part I: Sister's Choice

I'm so happy to be part of the Blocks From the Past Quilt-a-long! My fabulously talented—and fun—quilty friends Marion at My Quilt Diet and Natalie at Natalie Ever After hosting a sampler quilt-a-long using Marie Henry's Teach Yourself Blocks From the Past book (available here on Amazon). April over at Making Ends Meet discovered this book at a yard sale and proposed a QAL using modern fabrics.

They organized a QAL blogfest, with each of us taking a week or two to highlight some of these blocks. If you haven't been following along before now, check out Marion's post here, which lists the bloggers and the schedule. Today starts the first of two weeks I'll be blogging about six of the pieced and appliquéd blocks from this book.

This week, beginning with today, I will do three posts on three separate blocks. The first up, is Sister's Choice on page 23.

Before I outline what I did, may I rant ever so briefly about the horrors of the One and Eleven Sixteenths Inch. Yes, I capitalized it. So horrible a thing deserves capitalized letters.

This pattern for the Sister's Choice block calls for squares of two different measures: One and Eleven Sixteenths of an inch, and Two and One Sixteenth of an inch. The first is kind of like 3/4 of an inch, but it isn't. I'm apparently more precise (also known as OCD) than I had realized—much as I wanted to just round it to 1 and 3/4, I just couldn't. Given the apparent shortcomings of our wonderful modern rulers, I pulled out my trusty 12" ruler from college:

Using my Washi tape in a vain attempt to lighten the moment, I marked out 11/16 of an inch. Do you know how little those little marks are? It was a grisly task. I then used this measure to mark out the 1 11/16 inch square on my Omnigrid ruler:

After mastering this, I finally moved onto fabric. Now, my other quilty peeps who have preceded me in this QAL venture ably discuss the most efficient way of sewing half square triangles (HSTs), but I found myself so overcome by the 11/16 issue (see above) that I resorted to cutting out the HSTs and then sewing them together. Old School baby!

The block calls for the following pieces:

Color 1: Eight 1 11/16 squares; 4 2 1/16 squares, cut each in half diagonally
Color 2: Four 1 11/16 squares
Color 3: Four 2 1/16 squares, cut each in half diagonally
Color 4: Five 1 11/16 squares

I then trimmed off the little ears from the squares and squared them up

I sewed the squares together in strips:

And then sewed the strips together:

11/16 aside, I do like the look of this block. I'm ambivalent about my greens—I love them, but don't adore them together—but I do like the modern look of the general color scheme. 

Give this a try and let me know what you come up with! Next up, the Fox and the Geese block! Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Back from Siberia

Er, well, after much fanfare in my last post about my renewed commitment to regular blogging, I vanished from the blogosphere. I was, apparently, tempting the Fates, who decided that I was getting cheeky. Within a day or two of that last post (January 7th, I believe), I caught a cold. Not a big deal, right? Well, it is now March and I am only now getting over it. It's months like these that I start to see hibernation as a welcome alternative.

Anywho, dare I tempt the Fates again, I think I'm back. Still snuffly and such, but upright enough for stitchery and such and lots to talk about.

First up, a shout out to my quilty peeps at the Quilt Bliss Retreat and Cabin Fever Retreat
During the past two weeks I've been participating vicariously in the Quilt Bliss and Cabin Fever retreats. When I was living in Utah I met some incredible quilting folk, many of whom have become dear friends. There's an amazing modern quilting community out there—fabric designers, quilt designers, quilters, bloggers, and fabric shops.

Two years ago I joined some friends at a fun, food and fabric fueled getaway in a phenomenal snowy lodge at the Cabin Fever Retreat organized by Emily Herrick, Shannon White, and Terry Griffin. Picture an adult-sized spiral slide running from the loft down to the second floor. Serious fun. I couldn't go this year, but I hear it was fabulous!

Last year was the first ever Quilt Bliss, organized by Pamela Cardwell and friends. Imagine a horde of talented and wonderful quilters, retreating in a "cozy" 26,000 square foot log cabin. Check out my post here from last year with all the details. I was sad to miss it this year, but still am holding out hope of going this fall. Check it out if you're interested, tickets are still available!

Next, a look ahead
Not sure you can A) believe me, or B) stand it, but brace yourself for a virtual onslaught of Shortcookie blogginess!! I have news of swaps, bees, tutorials, quilt-a-longs, and even some new news of progress on our dear 1927 house.

Next up—tomorrow—will be Part I of my first week in the Blocks From the Past quilt-a-long (#BFTPqal). Stay tuned for the wondrous challenge of using a block measuring 1 11/16". Yes, that's one and one sixteenth inch.