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!!


  1. I'm so impressed with the strings of your Lyre! Great post!

  2. That looks like it was tiny work between the lyre strings - looks fantastic.


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