Monthly Archives: May 2012

Hooked on Hexagons

Yes, it’s true. These little six-sided beauties have me enthralled. Why is that? First of all, they are so darn cute, especially the smaller ones like these, which measure a mere half-inch on each side:

hexagons galore

 

Fussy-cutting small prints can yield wonderfully whimsical results:

fussy-cut hexies

 

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille . . .”

 

There’s more to their appeal than that, though: hexagons are made completely by hand. I fantasize about being a good hand quilter but find myself — at least for now — unwilling to invest in the amount of time it would take to become one. That would mean time away from my sewing machine, time away from designing quilts and home sewing projects, time away from reading quilt magazines and blogs, time away from the non-quilting aspects of my life.

But in little more than an hour, I can whipstitch together seven little hexagons and produce a thing of beauty. So satisfying! Trouble is, I don’t have a project in mind. When the mood strikes, I simply take fabrics I love and turn them into hexagons. I have a little plastic baggie of hexagons-in-the-making, all packed and ready for the road (or just an evening at home). They’re oh-so-portable, making them great take-along projects.

A traditional Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt is most definitely in my future. In fact, it’s already started. I have a few larger hexagons (1” per side) made, although they need another row:

hexies big and small

(I stuck that baby hexie in there just to show you the difference in sizes.)

The idea of doing something a bit more modern with hexagons is also appealing. Fortunately, inspiration is close at hand:

Jaynette Huff’s book

Jaynette Huff’s book, Quilts from Grandmother’s Garden: A Fresh Look at Paper Piecing (That Patchwork Place, 2005) is chock full of ideas for “fabric floral arrangements” made with hexies, and one fine day I may actually get started on an arrangement of my own.

Are you hooked on hexagons, too?

 

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The Sewing Gene . . .

Do you have it?

My sisters claim that I inherited the sewing gene and they didn’t. Maybe this is why I find myself engaged in home sewing projects whenever I visit them. They joke about shackling me to the sewing machine when they know I’m coming. If you take a look at the Home Dec section of my Gallery, you will see that the usual beneficiaries are the Usual Suspects (my sisters).

Our mother was an excellent seamstress, fast and accurate. She sewed all of our school clothes and even made pajamas for us when we were little kids. This was back in the days when it was much cheaper to sew garments than to buy them. Every fall before school started, we would go shopping for fabric (we called it material back then) and patterns. Mother had veto power, though she rarely used it. We always had several new outfits to begin the school year, and we would pick our favorite to wear the first day. Mother worked full-time so how she found time to make all of our clothes and hers as well is a mystery to me.

My mother taught me to sew the summer before I started high school. I learned on an old White treadle sewing machine. I don’t remember where we got that sewing machine or what happened to it, but I sure wish I still had it. It sewed like a dream, once you got the rhythm of working the treadle. On my first day of high school, I proudly wore a dress I had made – a sleeveless shift with bias piping around the neck and armholes. It was a green and blue print, and I wore it with a blue velvet beret, which I thought was terribly chic but probably looked silly.

Last year, while antiquing at the beach with my quilt group, the Quisters, I found a wrought iron side support from an old White treadle sewing machine. It came home with me and now lives in the garden in the back yard. It’s a lovely reminder of my mother and the year my sewing gene kicked in.

2012-3, wrought iron garden art
Wrought Iron Garden Art

 

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My Very First Quilt-Along . . .

. . . or QAL, as it’s known for short. Essentially it’s a virtual community of quilters working independently on a project over a set course of time, reporting progress and pictures via the initiator’s blog and a shared photo site such as Flickr. Quilt-Alongs have been around for years but I’m just now discovering them. (Part of my Late Bloomer syndrome.)

So how did my first Quilt-Along come about? One day in late January I was innocently cruising some quilt blogs and spotted this picture:

Jenny's Urban 9-Patch block-002
Jenny Pedigo’s Urban 9-Patch Block

The block was designed and made by Jenny Pedigo of Sew Kind of Wonderful, using her own Quick Curve Ruler and a method for sewing curves without pins. Hmmm. Sewing concave and convex seams together without using a single pin? I was skeptical . . . but also intrigued. So I watched the tutorial video on Jenny’s blog, ordered the ruler, and gave it a try. I became an instant convert. And a big fan of Jenny’s, I might add.

Jenny was just getting a Quilt-Along started, the plan being to make a quilt top over 12 weeks — one block a week — using her Urban 9-Patch design and her ruler. A block a week? I can do that, I thought. So — totally on impulse — I joined the Quilt-Along. As if I didn’t have enough other projects in the works.

Here’s the first block I made, using a Riley Blake floral:

first urban 9-patch block-001
Dawn’s First Urban 9-Patch Block

I liked the block but I had been saving some other fabrics for just the right project, and I realized this was it. So next came this block, using three fabrics from Mo Bedell’s Party Dress line for Blue Hill Fabrics:

2011-2, Urban 9-Patch block-001
Dawn’s Second Urban 9-Patch Block

 

And here are the first four blocks joined together:

urban 9-patch embellished-001
Urban 9-Patch, First Four Blocks

(The fuchsia diamond in the center was my addition to Jenny’s design.)

I was humming along, happily making my Urban 9-Patch blocks, when Jenny introduced her Urban Deco block:

Jenny's Urban Deco block
Jenny Pedigo’s Urban Deco Block

I was captivated by this new design – it’s the Urban 9-Patch block with another row around the outside. Now picture that block without the last strip of fabric that makes the block a square. Can you see the remaining curve as the outside of a quilt? I could! I decided to make a small project testing that idea, so as not to totally abandon my other QAL project.

Here is my three-block quilt, made mostly of batiks, with a pale lime Fairy Frost border and dark green batik binding:

9patch-runner-W-002
Into the Woods, Dawn’s Urban Deco Table Runner

I am so pleased with it! And Jenny has kindly given me permission to teach her design. My class, “Jenny’s Urban 9-Patch,” is scheduled for June 9 at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop in Lake Oswego.

Jenny’s Quilt-Along is over now and I’m still several  blocks behind. Time to get back to work.

 

Posted in Quilt-Along, update | 5 Comments

“Nattering ladies with needle and thread . . .”

I am lucky to own quilts made by two of my great-grandmothers.

I treasure the Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt made sometime in the 1930s by my maternal great-grandmother, Grace Violet (nee Watson) White (1873-1964). She was quite imaginative in the way she combined fabrics and replaced fabric she had run out of with something similar. She even fussy-cut some of the hexagons (decades before fussy-cutting came to be called that).

wauka's quilt, with detail
Grace’s Quilt, with Detail

 

Apparently she didn’t waste a scrap of fabric. Printing from the selvage is visible along seams on the back: PASTORAL GUARANTEED FAST COLOR.

Wauka's quilt, detail of back
Detail, Back of Grace’s Quilt

 

Equally precious to me is the Ocean Waves quilt made sometime in the late 1920s by my paternal great-grandmother, Magdalena (nee Naegeli) Weissenfluh (1862-1929). It’s not in very good condition but it is greatly loved.

Ocean Waves Grandmother Lena
Detail of Lena’s Ocean Waves Quilt

 

My father, who at 88 is sharp as a tack, gave me the back story on this quilt and the frame it was quilted on, which hung from the ceiling of Grandmother Lena’s home in eastern Oregon:

“Grandmother died in February 1929, some six months before my sixth birthday. My memories of her life are very fragmentary. I do remember, though, that when they [Grandmother Lena and her fellow quilters] were sewing the quilt top together they had me iron the scraps, which came out of the ragbags all wrinkled. Some of those patterns appealed to me and some didn’t. I could still point to some of those on the quilt. The quilt top was sewn on a treadle sewing machine.

 “Now to the quilting frame: It was four pieces of wood, perhaps one inch thick, two or three inches wide. Two of them were a foot and a half or two feet longer than the quilt was wide. The other two were shorter, maybe four feet long. Each piece of wood had a row of holes about two inches apart running the full length of the piece. Lay the two long pieces parallel to each other and perhaps three feet apart. Lay the two shorter pieces across the others, near the ends, making a rectangle of the whole thing. Think of using four good sized nails dropped through the holes (the holes being large enough that the nail would be a loose fit within it), anchoring the four pieces together.

 “Then think of the quilt rolled up on one of the two longer pieces, with enough of the quilt pulled off to reach to the other longer piece. Sort of like film in a camera, being spooled off one spool onto another. Now think of four eye bolts anchored into the ceiling with a cord dangling down from each. Each cord has a loop on the bottom end big enough to slip over the end of the long pieces. Think of the cord being of a length that would put the quilting frame at something like bosom height of a woman seated in a kitchen chair.

 “Two chairs on each side of the frame, four nattering ladies with needles and thread, pushing the needle first from top to bottom, then reaching under the quilt and pushing it back from bottom to top. The quilters were my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt Mandy, plus any other woman who happened to show up. As one panel was completed, the nails would be temporarily removed, and the completed portion of the quilt would be spooled onto the receiving spool and then the nails dropped back in place and the work continued until all the entire quilt has been spooled from one side of the frame to the other.”

Isn’t that a marvelous description?

Sometime in my quilting life, I plan to make a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt and an Ocean Waves quilt, in homage to my great-grandmothers Grace and Lena.

 

 

 

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New Kid in Town

Johnny-come-lately, new kid in town . . . yep, that’s me. Definitely a late bloomer. It’s taken a while but I have finally launched this website and blog.

Until a short time ago, I didn’t pay much attention to blogs. All I knew about “blog” was that it was a shortened version of “web log.” Oh. My. Word. What rock have I been under? I had no idea there were so many blogs out there – millions of them – on every subject under the sun.

Does the world really need one more sewing/quilting blog? I certainly hope so. My goal is to have a site so interesting, helpful, inspiring, and fun to read that it will prompt frequent return visits. So here we go!

Elvis has left the building . . .

. . . and Dawn has entered the blogosphere.

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