Posts Written On March 2011

Transformer Cubees

Saturday was Elliott’s birthday party, and I know I have mentioned before that my party themes for Elliott alternate between Transformers and GI Joe, which were his favorite toys when he was little (Emily always has a Hello Kitty birthday).  Last year I made GI Joe cubees, so this time I wanted to make the Transformer versions (available from Cyberdrone on DeviantArt).  Because there are many more Transformer cubee designs available, I got a little carried away.  It takes about 20 – 25 minutes to cut one out and put it together.  I like to use short, sharp scissors and a razor blade or Exacto knife, but you can do it all with the Exacto knife if you prefer.  The construction is done with tabs and slits — no glue or tape required — and they’re fun to make.

I also made some Star Wars cubees for Max and Oliver, but forgot to get photos.  You can find pretty much any character you want by just Googling their name and the word cubee.  I like these so much I’m going to figure out a way to use them again in a couple of years.




My Quilt for Japan — Ready to Ship

This was a really different quilt for me — more like the table toppers I make than my quilts.  To me, the Polartec fleece batting makes it a feel a little more like a comforter than a quilt, but that’s probably a good thing.  The old Everglaze chintz for the backing has been in my closet for ages, and I’m glad I finally found a good use for it.  I just hope the person who receives the quilt isn’t put off by all the wild prints (for a view of the entire top, click here).

I didn’t have to buy any fabric for this quilt — even the binding was a leftover from Shirley Temple’s Halloween outfit.  It always pleases me when I don’t have to make a trip to the fabric store.


The Almost Perfect Mother-of-the-Bride Dress

To be honest, I have been dreading looking for a dress.  Although I knew what I wanted (linen sheath, preferably pink), I doubted I would be able to find just the right dress.  Then, on Sunday, Emily and I stopped by the Goodwill on our way back from picking up her wedding dress (a perfect fit — what a relief).  We found some things for the tables (more depression glass and some pretty cutwork doilies), a wonderful Bergdorf Goodman wool/cashmere jacket for Emily ($10), and this pretty dress which Emily found.  Okay, this isn’t my photo (because my pictures were terrible) — it’s from an ebay listing I discovered yesterday for the exact same dress.  But my dress was only $13.00, and I love the idea of finding the perfect dress at the Goodwill.  The only problem:  it’s a size 8 and it’s tight.  For this wedding, the bride’s mother (instead of the bride) will be going on a diet to fit into her dress.



My Quilt for Japan – WIP

Quilters Newsletter is working with the Japanese Quilt Magazine, Patchwork Tsushin, to collect comfort quilts for people affected by the earthquake in Japan.  When I thought about what type of quilt I would make, a few ideas came to mind:  it should be a simple pattern (because there’s not much time), it should be warm, and I wanted it to somehow have an Asian feel to it.

My vintage bark cloth scraps seemed to fit the bill — they have a bit of an Asian look, and they are fairly heavy.  My favorite thing is the scalloped border.  It was a narrow strip of bark cloth slightly longer than the quilt edge, but with only two wide stripes.  I kept thinking what a great border it would have made, and then it dawned on me I could cut each stripe in half along the wavy center of the design.  I’m pretty pleased with myself because I think it makes a nice frame for the quilt.

The batting for this quilt will be a fleece blanket, which will provide warmth and won’t shift or bunch.  The 60″ square quilt should be pretty heavy, so I plan to just tie it in the block corners.


Midnight Stars Quilt Top

I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this top before it was too dark to take a photo, but I made it just in time (I was in such a hurry that there are still little threads left on the top…oh well).  Thank you Lori at Humble Quilts for sponsoring this quiltalong, because I love, love, love this pattern.  It gave me an opportunity to use some of my tiny antique quilt scraps in the pieced blocks, and I had a lot of fun scrounging through my bins looking for just the right print.  The scraps I have to work with are pretty small, so the large alternate blocks are a reproduction fabric.

At first, because some of my blocks are sort of busy with many different prints, I thought I would make each block either red or yellow (seen here in an earlier post).  However, after I constructed a few blocks, I realized that Lori’s original concept (from her antique quilt) looked just fine.  It was no big deal to swap out the outside triangles.

As you probably know, the quiltalong was for a doll quilt, but I decided to make slightly larger blocks (5 1/2″) and a larger quilt (30 blocks instead of 9).  The finished size is 40″ x 50″.  I don’t normally make crib-sized quilts with antique fabric — they are a little fragile and not something you would really use for a baby, but I just couldn’t resist this wonderful pattern.


Vintage Shamrock Quilt Patterns

Here are a few vintage quilt patterns with an Irish theme to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.


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Ladies Home Journal – Vintage Embroidery Patterns

I just realized last week that the images on my site are distorted using Internet Explorer 8. Apparently the problem has something to do with my WordPress theme, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out. If you are using IE8 and the images are messed up, you can click on the “compatibility view” button just to the right of the address bar, and that should correct the distortion.

This is a wonderful catalog of all the embroidery patterns published by the Ladies Home Journal magazine in the early 1920s. I was not aware that LHJ published so many patterns — there are hundreds in this book — and the art deco illustrations accompanying the patterns are very cute. Although the book itself is quite large, the drawings of the patterns are smallish and it is difficult to get a decent scan.


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Making Quilts With Vintage & Antique Fabric

Sometimes I ask myself why I am obsessed with using old fabric in my quilts — like today, for instance. I mean, my local quilt store stocks tons of reproduction fabrics at reasonable prices, while authentic vintage and antique fabrics are often expensive, scarce, dirty and fragile, with the occasional nasty odors and stains. They are usually found online where photos and descriptions can be deceptive, and one must bid against strangers who are similarly obsessed (I wonder who these people are…quilters, collectors, hoarders?).

Putting together the required pieces for a quilt takes a long time. There is much unpicking of old blocks and tops, followed by soaking, starching and pressing. Then you need to find enough scraps of a suitable print, which often requires either substituting a different fabric when there’s not quite enough, or stitching two or more scraps together to make a big enough piece. Of course, all the quilt block pieces must be individually traced with a template and cut with scissors — placement on the grain is often not possible if the scrap size is skimpy.

The whole process is sometimes frustrating, but it is also absolutely wonderful, because. . .

Old fabrics have this great feel to them. With the exception of feedsacks, they are mostly thinner than modern fabrics, more tightly woven and very smooth. They look different — the colors are slightly less bright and saturated than new fabrics. Although some of the designs can be downright ugly, I love them all, and when I’m using them in a quilt, I feel a connection to history and the quilters who cut the pieces or made the blocks and tops that I eventually (hopefully) make into a finished quilt.

What happened today, you might ask, to make me ponder my obsession with old fabric. Well. . . I just finished cutting all of the pieces for the wonderful Midnight Stars Doll Quiltalong sponsored by Lori at Humble Quilts — the one that was over weeks ago. In my defense, there are a lot of pieces in this block (33), my quilt is going to be quite a bit larger (30 pieced blocks instead of 9 — more of a crib size), and then there’s all that stuff I mentioned above.

If you check out the completed blocks in this photo, you can see that I am occasionally able to find enough scraps to make all the similarly colored pieces the same.

When I can’t manage this, I try to cut an even number of each print, hoping to make the block symmetrical. Sometimes this is not possible and I have to make compromises, as you can see below in the shirtings for two of the blocks.

Lori, I’m going to be a little late with my quilt, but I wanted you to know that I haven’t given up!


Strip-Pieced Applique Tulip Quilt Directions

Holly and Mickie asked me how I put these tulips together, so here’s my attempt to explain my process, although I realize everyone has their own way of putting a block together — particularly when it involves applique.  My technique is baste and pin (no needle turn, no freezer paper), but you can use any method that works for you.  Also, I want to show you a big mistake I made on my first block just by being careless.

Because I’ve already used up my pre-sewn DWR arcs, I will have to demonstrate with the strip sections I made myself from some old DWR pieces.  To avoid waste, I sew together just enough pieces to fit my templates.  It’s not important to me how the templates fit, but you must remember to make an equal amount of left and right petals.

Put together your three tulip blossom pieces.

With right sides together, stitch the right and left petals to the center (I use a 3/16″ seam allowance) — stop about 3/16″ from the top and backstitch.

Press the seams open.  Starting with your knot on the right side of the fabric, turn in the edges of the tulip unit and baste 3/16″ all around (I do not bother to press first, but use my left thumb to roll over the edge while I’m basting).  Fold in the 3 tulip points, and then fold each side toward the middle to make a nice finish on the points.  Because you pressed the seams open, it is easy to fold down the top of the seams where the petals meet.

Here’s how it looks from the right side.

Here’s where things began to go wrong.  I cut a template to line up the tulip units on the block.  I didn’t add any markings or grid lines to the template.  As you can see, the 4 tulips fit fairly well into the template, but if you look closely, they really are not placed correctly.  Their points don’t line up well across the block, and even though the blocks won’t be right next to each other (since I’m adding sashing), this really bothers me.

Here’s the first block finished (about 9 1/2″), which I am definitely going to redo.  Not only is it crooked, but my basting and applique stitching was also pretty sloppy on the petal points — some of them are more curvy than others.

Next time I will draw more detail on the square placement template (duh!) and try to be more careful about making my petals the same.  One thing I can’t decide is whether the left and right petals should curve out, or be more straight — I currently have an odd assortment of both.  What do you think?


Strip-pieced Applique Tulip Quilt – WIP

First I saw this vintage tulip quilt block on Flickr.  A few days later, Kate (Empty Field) posted this fabulous vintage quilt top which she rescued and repaired.  Although I have way too many UFOs, and the last thing I need is a new project, I could not resist this wonderful pattern.  At first I was thinking doll quilt, but all those seams in the strip piecing would make the tiny tulip pieces difficult to work with.  Because I had an idea of which fabrics I wanted to use, I let the size of the vintage fabric pieces determine the size of the block — something I do a lot.

Here are the small vintage Double Wedding Ring arcs I wanted to use. . .

and here is a block that is ready to be appliqued.  I love it that Kate’s vintage quilt top is pieced, but it’s just so much easier to do this in applique.

The curve of the DWR arcs results in angled seams in the three tulip sections, which I think looks pretty cute, and I can cut exactly two tulip pieces from each arc.  This may end up being another Christmas present.


Vintage Hand Quilting Patterns

Most quilters are probably aware of the quilt patterns published by the Kansas City Star newspaper from 1928 to 1961.  Less well known are the hand quilting patterns that were occasionally part of these weekly publications.  Here are a few patterns from my collection — all from the 1930s.  Click images for slideshow.