Sunday, October 18, 2015

Memories in the Words

Mary with her quilt at her lake house in Idaho.
Fall is settling in on us here in New England.  Last Friday was my night for quilting with the once a month quilting girls.  They have been after me to get back to blogging and honestly I've just been busy with life.  But with the chill in the air I'm happy to be inside and ready to get back to writing.

I'm picking up with the "Quilts for The Girls" series I started so very long ago.  In fact all the girls have received their quilts except one.  So here's the story of Mary's quilt.

When we were giggly high school girls we all knew that Mary would be a writer. We had lots of ideas of how we wanted things to be when we grew up.  Writing a book about our little band of friends is something The Girls have always talked about doing.  Mary was picked to be the author because she was so good at writing.  I have always been in awe of anyone who could write ANYTHING.  

Mary wrote poetry in high school while I was barely able to write complete sentences for goodness sake! Which is kind of funny when you consider that I'm the one writing a blog :o)  But that's OK, no one is expecting poetry from me right?!

Mary and I became best friends almost from the first day we met.  I had just moved back to the small town in NH where my parents had grown up and my siblings and I had been born.  I didn't know a soul when I ventured out to the park across the street from our new house that first day.  I don't remember the particulars of that first meeting just that I was delighted to find some kids to play with who lived on the next street over!  We were in elementary school and the park quickly became our hang out.  I met the rest of The Girls through Mary because they all went to a different school than me.

Mary on the beach in Maine
It's difficult to write a synopsis of our long and enduring friendship because there's soooo much to tell - or not!!!  All of which really needs to go into that book we still want to write (or not!)  ;o)   For now I'll just say that without Mary I'd probably have gotten into more a lot more trouble, strayed away from my faith, and never gone to college or dreamed of bigger things in my life.  In short she was an inspiration and a role model to me from a very early age and remains close to my heart today even with all the miles between us.

The Girls - At my sister's wedding 1976
So how do you make a quilt that reflects so many years of shared memories?  Well this one started with words. You see, Mary didn't grow up to be a writer of novels but she did get a degree in communications.  I took that as my jumping off point and searched for fabrics that had words in them.  Finding them was more difficult than I thought it would be which was one of the reasons her quilt is almost the last one.  As I bought each piece I realized that the words were a great representation of all the phases of our lives.  

My original idea for a pattern was the log cabin block but then I remembered that Mary had told me when I was making a quilt for her daughter that log cabin is one pattern she really doesn't like.  But the combination of words and the long, narrow strips or "logs" just seemed like the right fit. Still I just couldn't bring myself to make a quilt with a pattern I knew she didn't like!  Besides, I wanted an upbeat, modern quilt to match Mary's personality.  

I searched the local quilt shops, went to quilt shows, and scoured the internet until I came across "I'm Blushing", by Natalia Bonner for Moda.  It's a really pretty and fun pattern, with key-hole blocks that are simple to construct.  It also had the long strips that would show off the words in the fabrics I'd chosen.  The pattern calls for pre-cut 2 1/2" strips but since I had already purchased all these special fabrics I made my own strips.

I put the strips on my design wall do to some tryouts.  I was trying to get the combination of words and colors right.  I was also paying closer attention to the words to see if they brought back any specific memories.  

The combo below didn't make the cut but I loved the "Fox In Sox" in the Dr. Suess print and the words made with scrabble letters. 

Playing scrabble with Mary's Auntie Anne was so much fun and 
I'm still hooked, playing scrabble on my Kindle nearly every day.

Here's some close ups of blocks that made it into the quilt and some of the memories that inspired them.  

Friends from grade school in a small New England town to college in the big city.

This one made me think of the countless hours we spent talking every day.
The seeds reminded me of one of Mary's jobs working for a seed company!

From Puberty to Menopause!  Need I say more?

Every girl loves to Exercise Accessorize!
Along with the rectangular blocks there are also some square key-hole blocks.  This one has a bike and reminded me of our many rides up to the dam.

Mary's 10 speed bike was named "Pegasus"

The cats, Alice and Guppy, kept a close eye on the progress.  Many mornings I got up to find items removed from the design wall and crumpled on the floor around the foot stool I use to reach the top of the wall.

Apparently Alice didn't like the other red one so she took it off the
design wall and threw it on the floor (next to the stool).

Since I have a full time job I usually sew in the evenings.  When I'm on a roll I can be up late into the night.  Poor Guppy spent many long hours, often past his bedtime, supervising the sewing.

Guppy has a bath while I pieced the blocks.

Alice (on the left) decided to get in on the action too, checking up on me to see if I was ready to stop for the night!  She also made sure my hand stitching on the binding was properly done.

Don't you just LOVE that backing fabric?  It's part of the "Reunion" collection by Moda.

Here are some pictures of the finished quilt in the sunshine.  

The beautiful long-arm quilting was done by Lori Wurtzler.  

Each of the large circle flowers was quilted to look like it had petals.

The leaves were done with a bit of extra batting underneath to make them pop off the quilt.

Mary's label reads "A faithful friend is the medicine of life."

It was 2006 when I began this journey of making Quilts for The Girls.  I finally finished and delivered six quilts by June 2012.  Along the way I spent many enjoyable months planning, collecting just the right fabrics, and choosing just the right pattern for each of my dear friends.  There were also countless hours of reminiscing mixed in with the fun of cutting and sewing and creating these quilts. I have just one left and I can't wait to get started on it.

It was such a joy delivering the a finished quilts to each of my friends.  This delivery took me all the way to Mary's lake house in Idaho!  A fun weekend of catching up (blah, blah, blah) and walking by the Lake just like all those times we walked to school in the mornings, or to the damn on a summer afternoon, or downtown on a Friday night just for something to do. 

Oh yeah, and the deal for me in all of this, besides the quilting fun, was these were meant to be "birthday" quilts so every time one of The Girls has a birthday they're supposed to look at their quilt and forgive me for not sending a card!  I'm a terrible correspondent . . . 

Here's a big hug ( ) to all my Girls, and a very Happy Birthday to each of you!  I can't wait for our next adventure so we can continue to add "chapters" to that book we're going to write - or not! ;0)

The Girls - Celebrating in Boston July 2013

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Round Robin #7 - Sleeping Under the Stars

For several years now I've been thinking about making a quilt I saw in a magazine ad.  It's a beautiful quilt made with green batik fabrics.  It's shown hanging over a fence with a horse standing near by.  This quilt just spoke to me and I thought it would be perfect for my sister Sue.

Scraps from my very first quilt!
But with so many quilts on my to do list I didn't know if I'd ever get around to making it so I decided to use it for my Round Robin project.  It's a simple block that I hoped everyone would enjoy making.  I love that it would reveal a secondary pattern once the blocks and rows were sewn together.  

My color choice for the Round Robin was strictly influence by the need to reduce my stash!  I also wanted to find colors that the other girls would already have in their stashes.  I didn't want anyone to have to go out and buy fabric for this project.  And lastly the color choice was so I could put the quilt on our bed and not worry about the cats making it a cozy place for a nap.  ;o)

I was so intrigued by the pattern in that add.  It looks like pinwheels but it also looks like rail fence.  So how'd they do that?  I was hoping I could get a close up of it on the internet somewhere so I did some snooping and found it. What did we do before the internet?!

The block, as I said, is pretty simple.  It's a rail fence with a contrasting triangle added to two of the rails.  The key is to put the triangles onto the rails BEFORE making the block.  

Since I wanted the quilt to be scrappy I took some of each of the fabrics, made rails, then added triangles.  

This makes a cute block and doesn't require any matching of seams when you sew the blocks together until . . . 

. . . you put the ROWS together.  That's when you can see that the triangles are starting to create a secondary pattern.  So color choices are very important.  If the little triangles are too close to the color of the rails the pattern is not as obvious.  

Here's my original row.

And here's the piece after each of the other girls had added their rows.  They all did a great job!  I just love how the pinwheels are popping out from the rails.

My plan for this project is to create a queen sized quilt that I can use on our bed.  Finally I'll have a truly scrappy quilt.  Since the secondary pattern looks like little stars I've named my quilt "Sleeping Under The Stars".

I hope you'll come back and see the designed I've created for the final quilt!

Have you made any quilts with secondary patterns?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Round Robin # 6 - Spring Table Runner

Now this is how I envisioned our Round Robin would go!  Jane created a lovely basket of flowers as the start of her Round Robin project.  The large flower in the center is a yo-yo! Jane's project book said she wanted a spring table runner.  

Each subsequent person followed her lead by doing an applique with a spring theme.  And each managed to include a little bit of their themselves in their block.  All of them are beautiful hand appliqued pieces!  

When I originally joined this small band of quilters I was in awe of their skilled handy work.  I loved what they were doing but as a brand new quilter I didn't think I'd ever get to their level.  Slowly over the years I've had lots of opportunities to learn from all of them.  I now feel confident enough to tackle simple hand applique work and some day hope to hand quilt something of my own.

Of course Dutchy was the one who introduced me to quilting and taught me all about using the rotary cutter.  Including a lesson we BOTH learned about keeping your hands away from the blade!  Red work is another talent she's shown me.  She has several groups of beautiful red work (and blue work!) blocks she's done that I hope will some day get into several quilts.

For Jane's table runner Dutchy had this cute idea for using hexies as the flowers in her block.  She added a button in the middle of each one.  

Carol's block includes some embroidered stems and buttons to embellish the centers of the flowers.  Carol's hand embroidery is beautiful and this is just a little example of it.  Each month I look forward to seeing her progress on the "State Flowers" she's doing.  She and Jane are both doing the state flower blocks and it's fun to see the different ideas for colors and techniques they are using.

Tami's our expert applique artist.  She's good and she's fast!  She's helped me with becoming brave enough to try my own applique projects.  The first one I did was on the Twiggy quilt I made for a wedding present.  She taught me how to use the English paper piecing method.  It wasn't the first applique method I tried but it's was the first that actually looked good when I was done!

Charlene's block was the same one she used in her own Round Robin project bringing the project together in a unique way.  The bird and egg definitely signify spring.  As a quilting teacher Charlene has provided all of us with tips, tricks, and techniques for piecing all kinds of project through her classes.  Having her as part of our small group gives us a chance to pick her brain once a month!  She's a talented quilter and a genius with scraps! 

Deb R.'s block is her signature bee and bees-keep.  It's something she likes to include in her quilting and we've all come to recognize it.  The name Deborah means "bee" and Deb is certainly the embodiment of a busy bee.  She's great at so many things from refinishing furniture, quilting, and cooking, to Tree House building!  She typicality has half a dozen project in several mediums going at the same time.  Her energy is contagious and her creativity inspiring.

With all these talented, creative people making these beautiful blocks I just knew I had to put them all together so Jane would have a finished table runner.  For my addition I chose to do the sashing and borders.  The colors for all of the blocks were just lovely.  Each one had a bit of golden yellow and some blue.

I found these two great fabrics in my stash.  Although the blue initially seemed dark to me it had that pretty little golden yellow flower that worked beautifully with the golden sashing I picked.

With all the blocks up on my design wall I was able to come up with several layouts.  I really struggled with doing a long narrow table runner or a rectangular one.  I was concerned that if I did them all in a row it might not fit on Jane's table. Even now I question my choice.  This layout seemed to be balanced and light  but maybe a single row was what she really wanted.  Which order would you have put them in?

Here's Jane with her finished Spring Table Runner.  She really liked it and I hope she'll use it.  I gave her the rest of the blue fabric and I told her I would not be hurt if she changed it to the long single row of blocks.  I don't think you can go wrong with such pretty blocks!

Next up will be my Round Robin project, #7 and that last of the series.  I hope you'll come back and check it out!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Round Robin # 5 - The Tree!

Upper left corner of "The Tree"
when I first got it.
Doing a sewing project as a group can be fun and challenging.  And for any quilter, whether experienced or just starting out, a Round Robin can also be a bit scary!  When we began our little adventure I was feeling pretty confident.  I love a challenge and now that I've been quilting for nearly 15 years I figured I could deal with a simple Round Robin.  Little did I know what was in store!

I wasn't at the first gathering where everyone exchanged projects for the first round.  I'd heard rumors from the other members: 'have you seen"'The Tree"?'  'Wait til you see "The Tree"!'  'Oh my goodness, "The Tree" !  . . . 

I was curious but I'm a rule follower so no peeking allowed and besides, I didn't want to spoil the surprise.  I like surprises!  So I didn't actually see "The Tree" until it was my turn to work on it.  When I first took it out of the bag I was not only surprised but fascinated!  The trunk has several layers of fabrics with different textures and the leaves are 3-D.  She used batiks for the backgrounds which simulate the land, the river, and the sky. 

The Tree is what I consider an 'art' quilt.  I've never done an art quilt and honestly working on an art quilt created by someone else sent a shiver of panic down my spine.  As I said, I'm a rule follower but 'art' doesn't have any rules!  

I began the project, as with all the other projects, by hanging it on my design wall and leaving it there for inspiration.  When we started the Round Robin we were each given a little note book that we used to describe why we chose our particular project and what we wanted it to be in the end.  So I took out Deb's book read the back-story.  

The gal that created this art work, Deb R., has been a lover of tree houses since she was a young girl.  In her note book she quoted the poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer.  I remembered studying that poem in English class in high school and it was a nice surprise to read it again. It starts out "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree . . .".  

Deb went on to describe her first tree house and her wish to create one in the tree outside her new home.  She had been telling us her tree house plans at our monthly meetings so I had a hint of what she was planning.  She was going to enlist the help of her family and friends but intended to build it on her own as much as possible.  

I was the next to the last person to get The Tree.  Some of the others had put in some very creative additions.   

In the lower left Charlene had added Deb's two dogs.  

Carol added two kayakers on the river in their red kayaks.  

And Tami added an actual miniature quilt hanging on a clothes line with a basket of beaded flowers next to it. There's even a label on the back of the little tiny quilt!

This next picture shows the details of the batik border that Charlene added and the adorable turtle created by Carol.  You can also see some of the details in the tree trunk but you really need to see this one in person to appreciate the textures.

Next, in the far right right bottom corner just past the turtle and the ladder, you can see a big black bear added by Dutchy.  He's had enough of this craziness and is fleeing the scene!  There's also more of that beautiful woodland animals batik border.

As I surveyed the whole quilt it dawned on me that there were no people there to enjoy the tree house.  So for my additions I selected the "Fruit Bottom Ladies".  But I had to wait for the cat to finish his nap before I could cut anything.  

I picked 7 different women - one to represent each of the girls in the group - and added them to the quilt.  Since Deb has told us that this is a tree house for grown-ups I put two ladies sharing adult beverages on the deck.  Notice how the leaves are stitched?  There is fabric on both sides and doubled sided interfacing in between that makes them stand off from the surface.  It's just the coolest 3-D effect!  I couldn't capture it with my camera but it's just so fun.

Three other ladies are out on a limb watching the river and chit chatting away.  The white line over their head is the "phone" line for the two tin cans, one in the tree house, one in the garage, so the ladies can "call" for more refreshments. LOL

But there are two ladies missing.  Wait, I see them, down on the ground.  Hmmmm, could that be Deb trying to talk Tami up the ladder?  It's OK Tami, adult beverages can also be served under the tree house too ;o)

When I finished my additions I sent The Tree on to Jane.  She added a kite and some birds to the sky . . .

along with a cute 3-D tire swing!

I've probably forgotten a couple of items that got added but as you can see there's tons of stuff going on in this fun art quilt.  Each of us stretched beyond our initial apprehensions and came up with some pretty creative additions!

Deb loved the finished project and promised that when it was done it would be hung in the tree house for all visitors to see.

I thought I'd share this picture of the REAL tree house that Deb had posted on social media.  She is one happy woman with a real, grown-up tree house and a beautiful piece of art to hang on it's wall!

Next week is the final installment of the Round Robin and we'll look at Jane's project.