Monday, July 28, 2008

Star in a Broken Wheel.

Today's free quilt pattern is Star in a Broken Wheel. Broken Wheel is a traditional pattern that I've always liked. When I drafted it to 12", it seemed a little empty, so I added a Sawtooth Star in the center, making it a Star in a Broken Wheel.

Today's topic is Getting Stuck. Everybody has their favorite parts of quiltmaking. Mine is drafting and sewing. I don't mind cutting and I like quilting, whether by machine or hand. But the part of quiltmaking that is the most trouble for me is choosing a quilt design and marking the quilt. I have dozens of unfinished projects that all stall when it comes to quilting. I'm trying to finish these UFO's, so I've got lots of quilt marking to do.

My current project is a streak of lightning, strippy quilt using 7 1/2" Ohio Stars. The blocks were given to me by members of the Capitol City Quilt Guild as a thank you for being their 20th president. I received the bocks in 2005, so 3 years in my UFO pile is not too bad. I set the blocks with triangles to make 7 strips. Then I put them aside to piece a quilt top for my friend and colleague at the MSU Museum, Lynne Swanson. It is a Center Diamond with Flying Geese (Lynne's favorite pattern) border. It was a fun project to draft and sew, but I think the real reason I did it was to avoid the next steps in my president's quilt. In 2009 the guild is having a quilt show and they want to display all the president's quilt for our 25th anniversary so I'm going back to that project.

How do you get past a block? For me, I sat down on Saturday with a pile of books with quilting patterns in them. I'm going to machine quilt it and I know I'm going to quilt the stars by stitch in the ditch. The hard part is the streak of lightning triangles. I always have an image in my mind of what I want, but my skills in drafting quilting designs is very limited and rarely measures up to my imagination. For this quilt I was thinking of a flowing feathered plume. The problem is a streak of lightning is really rectangles set perpendicular to each other. So to the books. I finally found a pattern I liked that almost fit in Sue Nickels and Pat Holly's Amish Patterns For Machine Quilting (Dover Needlework Series). The pattern is an arched plume with a tulip at one end. The pattern was not as long as I needed so I spent much of Sunday adding a pair of feathers to each end to get the length I wanted. To make sure the pattern was the right size I began sewing some of the strips together. The pattern fits.

Now I have a pattern I like and the next step is marking the top. When I machine quilt, I divide my quilt into units, quilt them and then put them together. This means I have to mark the top after it's basted to the batting and backing. So, I need a stencil. Pepper Cory taught me to cut stencils, so this afternoon, I'll be transferring the design to plastic and carving the grooves for my marking pencil. Once I get my first strip marked and quilted, I'm hoping I'll be unstuck. When the quilt is done I'll post a picture.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Party Basket

Today's free quilt pattern is the Party Basket. It is an original block that I designed. I love basket patterns, but most of the traditional baskets look best on point and I wanted to make a basket for a 12" block. I also wanted to have the basket full without using applique. That's how I came up with this pattern.

Today's topic, Time To Quilt.
I work Tuesdays-Fridays. Everyday, while at work I think of all the quilting I can do when I get home. The day ends, I ride my bike 4 miles home, cook dinner, wash dishes and watch TV. No quilting. On Fridays I think of three days off and all the quilting I'll get done. Saturday mornings Tom (my husband) asks what do you want to do today. My answer is always the same, "Whatever you want, but if you don't have any ideas I'll sew all day." Last Saturday we walked Boomer, got groceries, then went to Big Rapids and rode bikes on the Rails to Trails path. We rode 26 miles! My longest ride so far. I got home about 6:30, scrounged leftovers for dinner, did dishes and watched TV. On Sunday, I spent about three hours re-illustrating the Party Basket pattern. The original illustrations were done by hand, but now that they're being published on the web, the illustrations had to be drawn on the computer. I did a little sewing. My current project is a Center Diamond quilt with Flying Geese borders. The Center Diamond is done, and I pieced about 50 of the 120 Flying Geese units. This morning I helped my daughter get ready for class. She's taking classes at the local community college and has a cold, so was a little slow to start. Then I washed dishes (my dishwasher has been broke for about 5 weeks and the new one is coming today!). I vacuumed the kitchen floor, so the dishwasher installers don't have to sit in dirt and while the vacuum was out, did the living room, dining room and other miscellaneous places Boomer has been. It was fairly cool so I weeded half of a garden bed with the help of Boomer. I pull two weeds and he drops his ball in my weed bucket. I throw the ball and it goes on this way until one of us is tired. I usually poop out first, as I did this morning. Now it's 9:45 and I'm ready to sew, but I want to get my Blog done.

Now the story of my days is not very exciting, but I was thinking of all the little things (housework, errands) and big things (husbands, kids, pets) that distract me from what I really want to do QUILT!

How do you find time to quilt? Do you squeeze it in anywhere you can? Sew a little everyday? Is it a priority that comes before more mundane chores? Do you take handwork with you? My fantasy is to have a fabulous sewing room (mine's not bad), a brand new Bernina (mine's 12 years old), a great fabric stash (done) and unlimited time to work (not anytime soon). I don't know if this will ever come true, but I feel lucky to have found a hobby that has captured my interest for 34 years.

Time to go, I get to quilt until the dishwasher is delivered!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Anvil

Today's free quilt pattern is The Anvil.

The topic of today's blog is the naming of quilt patterns. The names given to quilt block patterns are not as old or as definitive as some quilters think. The first named pattern I know of was the hexagon, from Godey's Ladies Book, 1835. It was rare in women's magazines to find patterns for quiltmaking until the 1890s. At that time the Ladies Art Company began publishing and naming patterns. Connie Chunn is a quilt historian who has done extensive research on the Ladies Art Company and lucky for us, she shares it on her web site, Ladies Art Company. Quilt blocks continued to be advertised well into the 1960s, most notably in the Kansas City Star. Ruby Short McKim, Eveline Foland, and Nancy Page (the pen name of Florence LaGanke Harris) were some of the designers whose work were syndicated all over the country. The Magic Vine was one of Nancy Page's most popular patterns and a free version can be found at the Sentimental Stitches website. Patterns were named after places (Road to Oklahoma, Indiana Puzzle), historical figures (Lafayette's Orange Peel), household objects (Churn Dash), etc. In the 1920s and 1930s, the names were given romantic histories by authors Carlie Sexton, Marie Webster, Ruth Finley and others. There is no evidence in wills, household inventories or diaries that these names were used by colonial settlers or westward pioneers.

Publishing patterns began to wane during and after WWII. During the 1950s and 1960s, patterns were exchanged through Round Robins, where pen pals traced and traded blocks originally published earlier. Mimeographed catalogs from Barbara Bannister and others offered reprints of the syndicated newspaper patterns. Homemade quilt newsletters Aunt Kate's Quilting Bee and Nimble Needle Treasures were the precursors of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. The bicentennial began a renaissance in quiltmaking. Now we have many magazines, websites, and pattern companies to provide patterns.

This brings us to The Anvil. I drafted the pattern after finding it in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The pattern in Brackman had seams in the center square. Brackman's pattern was from an unknown source. I had no luck finding a reference to this pattern in the Kansas City Star, so I don't know where it originated. Finding the definitive name for a quilt pattern is impossible. Many patterns that are geometrically the same were given different names (Churn Dash, Hole in the Barn Door). Different geometric patterns were also given the same name (Corn and Beans). Add to that the infinite variations made by individual quilters and the quest becomes even more impossible. Brackman's Encyclopedia is currently the best compilation, but by no means a complete resource.

When I know the history of a quilt pattern, I will include it with the free pattern. However, I have only scratched the surface of this topic. If quilt pattern history interests you I recommend the following websites for a start: Barbara Brackman: Quilt Historian, American Quilt Study Group, Quilt Patterns & Their History (includes free patterns!), and the Quilt History List.

Next week: Party Basket

Monday, July 7, 2008

Block By Block Quilts, Getting Started

When quilt historians of the future look at the quiltmaking trends of the late 20th century, the Sampler quilt is going to stand-out. Over the years I have drafted many blocks to the size of 12”. I like this scale in proportion to bed quilts and because it divides easily by both 3 and 4, it’s perfect for 4-Patch and 9-Patch blocks.

In the early 1990s, I taught a block of the month quiltmaking class at a local quilt shop. After the first year, I designed the blocks for the class. In 1995, these blocks were turned into my book Block By Block. The book is now out of print but you can still find it at, eBay and some quilt shops. After Block By Block was published, I continued designing blocks and sold them to quilt shops all over the country for their block of the month classes. The quilt on the left, I called the Desert Sampler and it is comprised of both traditional and original blocks from the pattern service.

I will be offering the blocks from this quilt on these posts. But before we start on the blocks, here are some thoughts on how to choose fabrics. Choosing fabrics can be very scary, especially for beginners. If you've been quilting for a long time, you're used to placing stripes next to polka dots, and after awhile, all fabrics look good together. But if you're new, one of the easiest ways to pick colors is to find one fabric you really like and use it to choose your other fabrics. I call it the bold fabric. The next fabric to choose is your background. This is the place your eye rests and makes the pieces in your blocks standout. After that you can add at least 4 accent fabrics. These should not be as striking as the bold fabric, and will be used to make the bold fabric look good. Don't worry if the accent fabrics don't all go together. They don't have to be used next to each other or in the same block. The main fabric I chose for the Desert Sampler is used as the border and in the large pieces in the blocks. I chose a peach tone on tone for the background, because it was the same shade as the background in my bold fabric. The accents include, brown, royal blue, rust, and a yucky green. They all appear in the bold fabric and I probably wouldn't have thought of putting them together if I hadn't loved the bold fabric. Don't be afraid to add more fabrics to the ones I suggest here. The backgrounds can be many different peach tone on tones. The same goes for the accents. I prefer to use as many fabrics as I can. I, like many of my quilting friends, have a huge stash of fabrics that I like to draw from. I also believe that if you choose many fabrics and one is wrong, it won't show much, but if you choose only three fabrics and one is wrong, you have trouble. Make sure you consider scale and value in your choices. Mix up small scale prints, with medium scale prints, stripes, plaids and geometrics in your accents. Going from light to dark in value also adds interest.

To start the project I've got some free handouts for you. The Desert Sampler is a lap size quilt with 12, 12" blocks. The Layout Chart shows you how to arrange the 12" blocks with sashing and cornerstones to create quilts sized from Wall to King. The second handout is a Fabric Yardage Chart for all the sizes given in the Layout Chart. My next blog will be the first block in the quilt, The Anvil. There will also be instructions on putting the quilt to together and information on borders for the different sized quilts in future blogs.