Question: What could be more wonderful than finding a happy surprise in your mailbox? Answer: Finding two happy surprises.
Last week a package arrived from my friend Deborah, a fellow member of our small quilt group the Quisters (Quilt Sisters). Look what was inside:
If you are a fan of wool appliqué and the designs of Bonnie Sullivan of All Through the Night, you will surely recognize this as a block from Bertie’s Year, introduced in 2014. Bertie’s Year is made up of a dozen 13″ x 17″ wool applique projects, one for each month of the year.
The Bertie Deborah made me is the May block. Here’s the entire year:
In the past few years Deborah has made me two other blocks in Bertie’s Year, January . . .
. . . and September:
They never fail to make me smile.
I had never done wool appliqué before but I was so charmed by Bertie that I bought the pattern for July . . .
. . . and wrote this post about it. That was back in 2014.
This is how far I’ve gotten:
I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started this project. I need to bring Bertie out of the closet (so to speak) and get back to work on him. He will definitely be in good company. Thank you, dear Deborah, for the lovely Happy Mail!
Oh yes, I did mention a second surprise in my mailbox. I’ll tell you all about Happy Mail #2 in my next post.
Back in August of ’18 I finished the interior of Domestic Bliss, Block 8 of Hazel’s Diary Quilt:
Even as I moved on to other blocks in this retro sampler quilt, I knew I needed to come back to Domestic Bliss and redo the four outer hearts. I had chosen Fairy Frost fabric and found that the metallic finish made the fabric a little stiff and difficult to needleturn. In addition to the curves not being smooth, I had drawn around the templates with a silver gel pen, which showed on my finished block. No amount of dabbing with a damp Q-tip would lift the ink. I now had two good reasons to redo the hearts.
But I didn’t return to Domestic Bliss until the other eight blocks in Hazel’s Diary Quilt had received their red scalloped frames. That took the better part of four months. Finally I could put it off no longer. Off came the hearts:
I wish I could tell you that the replacements hearts went on easily. Alas, no. Over a couple weeks I probably appliquéd — and then removed — each heart at least twice. Today I managed to get the last one on to my (almost) satisfaction.
But I felt the block needed one more thing. Can you spot it?
Now I’m ready to get started on the last red scalloped frame!
Work continues on my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt, the lovely sampler quilt Shelly Pagliai designed in memory of her mother. I finished appliquéing the red scalloped frame on Block 1, Missouri Farm Girl, yesterday. All that remained was sewing a tiny black star in the center of the yellow flower.
Missouri Farm Girl was the very first block I made when I started this project at the beginning of 2018. I’d been postponing affixing the tiny star until I had many more hours of practice in with needleturn appliqué. I thought I was ready. Nope. Not ready. (Did I mention that star is tiny?)
After a couple of failed attempts, I turned to my button collection, rifling through several antique spooners and celery vases to find a button that looks like it belongs in the block. I think I found the perfect one:
. . . is something we are not having in Portland, Oregon at the moment. There’s snow on the ground and “frozen mix” predicted for eight of the next nine days. C’mon, Portland! Where’s that teaser week of balmy weather we usually get in February?
Despite the inclement weather forecast, I can claim a spot of Fair Weather inside the Portland White House, namely in my sewing room:
That’s the name of Block 10 of Hazel’s Diary Quilt, the gorgeous sampler quilt designed by Shelly Pagliai that’s been the focus of much of my sewing and needleturn appliqué efforts over the past 14 months.
Here’s the block on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:
Don’t you love the swirly motion provided by the stems in the center appliqué?
Seven blocks are now framed in red and up on my design wall:
These blocks measure 18½” square. Set on point, they measure about 26″ across and take up a good portion of the design wall.
Progress is slow, partly because I’m not very fast at needleturn appliqué and partly because I’m working on other projects. One of them: another appliqué design totally unrelated to Hazel’s Diary Quilt that has a special story attached to it. I’m getting very close to revealing it so stay tuned.
And I’m longing to dip into my stash of indigo and cheddar fabrics to make some blocks using Jenifer Gaston’s Churning Stars design. I know I shouldn’t be starting a new quilt but the pull is very strong. I don’t think I can resist. . .
Fancy Farm Girl is Block 9 of Hazel’s Diary Quilt, the sampler quilt project I embarked on a year ago. Here’s that Fancy Farm Girl on point, as she will be in the finished quilt, sporting her red scalloped frame:
She joins four other blocks that have been pieced and framed:
Progress has been slow on the appliquéd frames. I discovered I can’t work on my needleturn appliqué in the evening while watching television because the light isn’t great. (How on earth did previous generations of quilters do such beautiful work by candlelight?) I’m also hampered by a certain calico cat demanding lap time (and who am I to deny her?).
Four additional pieced blocks are awaiting their frames. One of the nine blocks will go in the center of the quilt as part of a medallion. I’ll pick the block for the center after all of them have been framed. Of the five so far, Fancy Farm Girl is the leading candidate. Do you have a favorite?
. . . the Christmas decorations are getting putting away. Little by little the days are getting longer. And little by little I’m making progress on my needleturn appliqué on Hazel’s Diary Quilt, following the directions in Shelly Pagliai’s book A Simple Life: Quilts Inspired by the ’50s.
Some days are better than others. I run the gamut from feeling like my appliqué skills are visibly improving to becoming frustrated when a curve doesn’t turn out as smoothly as it should. When that happens, I simply put the appliqué aside and do something else. And I remind myself that when the finished quilt is laundered, its soft puckery texture will disguise a multitude of imperfections.
I thought you might be interested in a little change I made to the way the blocks are prepared for the reverse appliquéd red scalloped frames. In the photo below I have drawn around the plastic template with a white pen to mark my scallops:
Did you happen to notice the template doesn’t go all the way to the edges of the red fabric? That’s because I added an extra half inch all the way around. The red square measures 19½” instead of 18½”. I also added a half inch to the sashing strips around the pieced block it goes on top of so it measures 19½” as well.
I discovered with my first scalloped frame that no matter how carefully I pinned and stitched, the layers shifted a little during the appliqué process resulting in a block that didn’t measure 18½” square because the raw edges weren’t exactly even. The solution? Make the block bigger and trim it to size after the scalloped frame is attached.
This is what I did on subsequent blocks. With the pieced block and the frame in place, I machine basted around the outside close to the raw edges to hold the layers together. Next I cut out a big square in the center (yielding a generous scrap of red fabric for another use), revealing the pieced block beneath:
Now I’m ready to trim close to the drawn lines on a couple of scallops and start hand stitching around the block. Instead of using lots of appliqué pins to hold the red fabric in place, like I did on the first block . . .
. . . I can use just one or two pins to hold the layers together right next to the appliqué line because the basting around the outer edges (a little hard to see in the next photo) is holding the frame in place:
When I’m done appliquéing the frame, I’ll take out the basting and press the red scalloped frame nice and flat. It matters not that the edges of the two layers aren’t even because I can measure a perfect 18½” square, draw around the block on the cut lines, machine baste inside the cut lines to hold the layers together, and then trim the block on the cut lines.
When it’s time to sew the individual blocks together, they will all measure exactly 18½” square and the two layers of each block will be held fast by the stitching.
When I started working on Hazel’s Diary Quilt at the beginning of the year, my goal was to end the year with nine blocks completed. That may not seem like a very ambitious goal but these nine blocks came with a significant challenge: a lot of hand appliqué. Not just a different appliquéd floral design in the center of each pieced block but also a scalloped frame around each block applied using reverse appliqué. As if that weren’t enough, I set myself the additional challenge of using the needleturn method of hand appliqué.
I’ve shown it before but you really have to see Shelly Pagliai’s gorgeous quilt to understand what I have taken on:
You can see from looking at Shelly’s quilt that once those nine blocks are completed, there’s a lot more piecing and hand appliqué required to finish the quilt.
As of today I have all nine blocks pieced but only three of them have their red scalloped frames in place. You’ll see those in just a bit. For now I want to walk you through the nine pieced blocks, set on point per Shelly’s design.
These blocks measure 12½” unfinished. Once they have white border strips added and the red frames appliquéd on top they will measure 18½” unfinished. Set on point, they will finish about 25½” wide.
As dramatic as the blocks are above, see how much more striking they are framed. First up, Block 4, Coal Miner’s Granddaughter:
Next, Block 7, Aunt Ruby’s Choice:
And third, Block 3, Canasta, which I finished framing just yesterday:
Seeing these three blocks framed makes me eager to get started on the fourth frame!
Thank you so much for following along with me this year. I hope you’ll follow along in 2019 as I work to complete my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt.
Speaking of 2019, it is mere hours away! Have a safe and Happy New Year, friends, and I’ll see you next year.
I am so in love with this block! Here it is on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:
I think it may be my favorite of the nine pieced blocks that go into Hazel’s Diary Quilt, the lovely sampler quilt designed by Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts.
Tomorrow I’ll post pictures of all nine blocks. One of them will go in the center of the quilt as part of a medallion, and Fair Weather may be the one. I’ll wait until all nine blocks have their red scalloped frames before making a final decision.