Give Me the Simple Life, my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt, is home again after hanging for three days at last week’s Northwest Quilting Expo. I entered my quilt for judging in the traditional category and received the judges’ comments when I picked my quilt up this morning.
Here’s what the judges said:
“A very compelling combination of a primary color palette. Presentation inside scalloped sashings is so appealing and beautifully executed.” Credit is due Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts, who designed Hazel’s Diary Quilt and cheered me on every step of the way as I posted my progress on Instagram and on this blog.
“Hand appliqué stitch is very well done.” This comment means a lot to me because I took on the challenge of making this quilt to become proficient at needleturn appliqué.
“Machine piecing is precisely done.” Thank you, judges.
“Quilting motifs are well chosen to fill the spaces.” Kudos to Kazumi Peterson, whose free motion quilting skills and precise ruler work greatly enhanced the finished product.
“Outside edge of quilt should be straight and corners square.” This comment caught me by surprise. Were the corners really not square? I used a square ruler to trim my quilt before attaching the binding. Of course I got out that ruler and checked the corners. The first three were perfectly square. But guess what? The fourth corner was an eighth of an inch off!
I know there are many other imperfections in this quilt but all in all, I am very happy with how it turned out. Most of all, I am glad that it’s done!!
I hope I’m not overloading you with pictures of Give Me the Simple Life, my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt. All you saw in my last post was the folded quilt because it’s too big to photograph on any wall at home. Here it is pinned to the wall at Montavilla Sewing Center’s Lake Oswego store:
I’m so excited it’s finally finished! I started working on this quilt in January 2018; my first post about it shows the original quilt designed by Shelly Pagliai.
The last thing to do was sew the buttons back on that had to be removed before longarm quilter Kazumi Peterson could work her magic. Buttons? Yes; three of my nine pieced blocks have buttons in the center of the appliquéd flower.
Coco was very interested in what I was doing:
Fortunately, I got that last button sewn on before she could bat it off the quilt and have a little frolic with it.
A word about my backing fabrics, neither of which appears on the front:
My goal was to find fabric that looked like it belonged on the front and was light enough on the back side that it wouldn’t show through. Guess I was a little nervous about all that white fabric on the front of the quilt. The light red paisley print was a lucky find but I couldn’t get enough in one continuous piece of yardage to cover the entire back. I could have ordered the rest online but feared the dye lot would be different so I filled in with a green print that complements it nicely.
Give Me the Simple Life has been accepted in Northwest Quilting Expo’s big quilt show coming up in Portland Sept. 26-28. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, please come and see my quilt in person!
It didn’t take forever to bind my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt; it just felt like it. This quilt is big. After trimming and binding, it measures about 95″ square. That’s 380″ inches of binding to tack down. I take about three stitches to the inch so I figure there are close to 1200 stitches in my binding.
This quilt is also heavy. Think about it: queen size to begin with, it contains eight blocks with lots of little pieces (which means lots of seam allowances on the back side), appliqué in the center of each block, reverse appliquéd scalloped borders around the blocks, and more appliqué in the center medallion. Even with wool batting, which I specifically chose because it’s the lightest of the batts, the quilt packs quite a heft.
I usually hand print my quilt labels but this time I printed one on my inkjet printer using instructions from a fellow quilt guild member. (Thanks, Marcia!) Here’s the label ready to be tacked down on the lower right side of the back . . .
. . . and here it is stitched in place:
I named my quilt Give Me the Simple Life, though the making of the quilt was anything but simple. As the label indicates, the quilt pattern is from the book A Simple Life: Quilts Inspired by the ’50s by Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts. The name I gave my quilt is both homage to Shelly’s mother Hazel Ilene, who was the inspiration for Shelly’s book and the quilts and projects in it, and a nod to the 1945 song of the same name, with music by Rube Bloom and lyrics by Harry Ruby. For you music trivia lovers, the song was first recorded by Bing Crosby singing with Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra. To hear it, click here.
The quilting — all free-motion and hand-guided — is by Portland quilter Kazumi Peterson. I am so impressed with her abilities. And I am completely in love with this quilt.
The indoor lighting is not ideal but I think you can get a sense of Kazumi’s amazing quilting. Here’s a close-up of the center block . . .
. . . and here’s a shot of the full center medallion:
The white background in the interior of the quilt is filled with spirals and pebbles. All of the pieced blocks have extensive stitching in the ditches and Kazumi carefully quilted around the appliquéd flowers and leaves in the middle of each block and also the ones in the center medallion:
In the setting triangles and gray border I asked for free-motion feathers. Here’s one of the corner triangles . . .
. . . and one of the side triangles:
I was so happy a couple weeks ago when I got the top finished. “I’m finally done!” I remember thinking, completely forgetting that when it came home from the quilter it would still need to be trimmed, bound, and labeled. Okay then! I’d better get busy.
Back in November of last year – my gosh, where does the time go? – I received an email from a woman in Canada named Tammy asking if I could help her track down a dahlia quilt pattern. She included photos of a quilt that her mother-in-law, then 89, had given her in the 1990s. Tammy’s mother-in-law thought she might have received the quilt as a wedding gift when she got married in 1952 and that her husband’s sisters might have made it.
Here’s a photo of a block with sashing strips and cornerstones:
The block measures 10½” square and the dahlia blossom measures 9½” from tip to tip. You can see that the appliqué pieces were turned under and zigzagged in place by machine. Here’s a detail of the appliqué:
Tammy searched the Internet and Pinterest as well as several quilting websites and blogs but could not find the exact pattern. She did find somewhat similar blocks like the Friendship Dahlia and the Star Dahlia but no block in which the white “star” formed between each of the printed fabric petals is the background of the block rather than actual pieces appliquéd in place.
She reached out to me because she had seen my posts on a mystery quilt my husband’s niece inherited. It turned out to be a Star Dahlia quilt but Tammy thought I might have come across her version during my quest. Tammy is not a quilter herself but her birth mother is and would love to make a quilt using this block. That was a great incentive to help.
If I couldn’t find the exact block, I thought, perhaps I could create it. Having embarked in early 2018 on a huge needleturn appliqué project – Hazel’s Diary Quilt – I thought it would be fun and useful to reproduce Tammy’s mystery block while practicing my needleturn skills. “This is just the kind of challenge I love!” I told her.
I too searched online but could not find a block exactly like the one in Tammy’s quilt. I did find a couple of dahlia blocks that seemed to match the outline of what I was already thinking of as “Tammy’s Dahlia.” The Friendship Dahlia Diagram on FieldGuidetoQuilts.com was a good start:
I also found a lovely version on Barb’s Block and Border blog of a Friendship Dahlia quilt made by her mother in the 1950s using a pattern in Aunt Martha’s Favorite Quilts: 17 Quilt Patterns Pieced and Appliqued, first published in 1935.
In both versions I could see that if the lines of the petals were continued to the center circle, the block would look very much like Tammy’s Dahlia. Using the software program EQ7 (in which I am not very proficient), I attempted to draw the design . . .
. . . and then created a mock-up using “fabric” made of paper. What I mean is that I photocopied a piece of fabric (in this case a print from Fig Tree that I’ve been hoarding), cut out the shapes, and glued them onto freezer paper:
Right away I could see that the white star shapes were too narrow compared to Tammy’s version. Every few weeks I would head back to the computer and play around with the software. Here are just two more of numerous versions I worked on:
And here is my first test block made using actual fabric:
This block measures 9½” from tip to tip so it’s the same size as the one in Tammy’s quilt, sized for a quilt block that finishes at 10½” square.
My second test block measures 11″ from tip to tip, sized for a 12″ finished block:
Both blocks turned out reasonably well but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted the inside tip of the petal to come to a point like some of the ones in Tammy’s quilt. It’s tricky because the curves of the inner point are convex rather than concave. Just a couple days ago I made a test petal — and nailed it!
I sure couldn’t have done that a few months ago.
Tammy has been wonderfully patient while I worked on this project in fits and starts. Now that Hazel’s Diary Quilt is off being quilted, I am at last free to turn my attention back to Tammy’s Dahlia and, with the help of a graphic artist, finish this project in the next few weeks. I am so looking forward to the day when I can forward the pattern to Tammy and she in turn can give it to her birth mother.
I’ll be sure to show you the final product. If there is interest, I will post the pattern on my website as a free download.
My version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt top is finished — all 97½ square inches of it! Take a look:
I actually finished it on Wednesday. No room or wall in my house is big enough to lay the quilt out flat so I photographed it yesterday at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego, where I teach, because the design wall there is just tall enough to hold the quilt.
Here are some shots at home as the quilt top neared completion. I was standing on a desk to take this one:
I really appreciate how the grey border calms down the bright colors in the interior of the quilt.
Shelly Pagliai’s original design calls for a narrow white border followed by a double border of scrappy squares that finishes at 3″ and then another fairly narrow white border. I skipped the first white border and added a strip of my main focus fabric in place of the scrappy squares:
Think of how much time I saved! That wasn’t why I did it, though; I had planned to use a floral border there from the very beginning. I cut my final white border 6″ wide, thinking I might trim an inch or two off after it’s been quilted.
And speaking of being quilted . . . the quilt top and back were delivered this morning to the longarm quilter. I’m excited about being done with the top and very excited about the prospect of someone else quilting it for me!
The first piece of big news is that the center medallion is done! Take a look:
The appliqué around the outer edges of the medallion includes eight vines, 24 petals, four circles, 12 leaves around the petals, and 56 leaves along the stems. That’s 104 pieces total. That doesn’t include any of the appliquéd pieces in the center of the block — but then, who’s counting?
Here is the medallion on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:
The second piece of news is that I changed the layout. Not a huge change but a significant one. After writing a couple weeks ago about positioning the boldest block in the bottom left quadrant, a couple of my readers suggested trying it in the upper right position. I knew that wasn’t going to happen because I had auditioned that block in every possible position and was happy with its final destination. Still am. No, the change was prompted by my daughter-in-law, Jeanne Ann, who pointed out there was no blue in the upper right side of the quilt.
What I wound up doing was switching the position of the top two blocks. Here’s the “before”. . .
. . . and here’s the “after”:
(Boy, the time of day the photos were taken sure affects the colors.)
Now all four quadrants have a light blue in the background of one of the blocks. The two blocks at the top are the smallest visually in that they take up the least amount of space inside their blocks so it was important to position the remaining “heavier” blocks at the bottom.
Now take a look at the revised blocks with the center medallion in place and the setting triangle diamonds complete:
I was hoping to have the top complete by the end of July. Not going to happen, as there are mere hours left in the month. I do think I can have it done by next week, though. Now comes the big push!
I’m working on the squares that go in the setting triangles on my Hazel’s Diary Quilt. Of course I made it harder on myself by departing a bit from designer Shelly Pagliai’s design by adding a sixth on-point square (let’s just call them diamonds) in each corner block.
I assumed that if I added a sixth diamond in the center triangles, the strips would line up properly with the ones in the corners. Nope. The first strip of six diamonds was over an inch too long. Back to the drawing board. I figured that increasing the seam allowances by ⅛” would take care of the difference. My next test strip was the one on the middle right side. It turned out to be about a half-inch too short. (Yes, I will be remaking that one. The bottom center and left center strips haven’t been sewn yet; the diamonds are in place to show my fabric and color choices. I can already see a couple of changes to be made.)
Take Two for the top middle strip: I trimmed the squares to 2⅜” instead of the original 2½” and then simply took a full quarter-inch seam allowance rather than my usual scant quarter-inch. When I put my strip up in the center top of the quilt, it lined up perfectly with the strips in the corners. And only you and I know that those six diamonds are just a skosh smaller than the ones in the corners. I’ll bet if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t even have noticed, right?
And what about those appliquéd leaves in the center medallion that I wrote about in my previous post? The good news is I am well past the midway point. The bad news is that it’s slow going. I’m just not very speedy when it comes to needleturn appliqué. By the time I get to the last leaf (#56) in the medallion, I hope to report I’ve cut my stitching time in half.
The first 14 leaves have been appliquéd on the center medallion of my version of Hazel’s Diary Quilt:
My, what a difference they make! They add motion and color to what is already a pretty lively block. Since I used a large floral for my four corner blossoms, I’m using smaller prints for the leaves so they don’t compete too much with the flowers.
I realized early on that I would have to be very careful with color placement of the leaves, all because of one particular block, Coal Miner’s Granddaughter:
This was the third block I made and at the time I was very concerned that the medium blue I had chosen was too bright. (I actually considered making a new block but I worked so hard on that appliquéd flower in the center that I was bound and determined to keep the block in my quilt!)
When it came time to lay out the eight blocks that surround the center medallion I deliberately put the bold block on the lower left side, hoping to minimize its impact:
The obvious solution would have been to put the bold block in the center medallion but I reserved that spot for my favorite block, Fair Weather. My thought was to use smaller spots of the bright blue fabric elsewhere in the quilt to balance the bold block.
Here’s the center medallion with the leaves on the remaining three sides pinned into place . . .
. . . and here it is on point surrounded by the outer eight blocks:
You’ll see a bit more of the bold blue in the setting triangles (still to come) which include 2″ finished squares set on point. So what do you think? Is my strategy working?
The center medallion in my Hazel’s Diary Quilt may not be progressing swiftly but it is progressing nicely. The four corner blossoms are in place and now I’m busily cutting out the leaves that adorn the vines. I’ve even got the first set pinned in place:
The goal here is to have the leaves look randomly scattered in terms of color but in fact I’m planning the exact placement very carefully. I’ll explain why in my next post.
Needleturning the leaves should be a very enjoyable experience because I finally have the technique down of turning the points. It took me a long time to master that swiping stroke with the needle when you get to the tip of a leaf and start down the other side. Now that I have the hang of it I’m eager to practice it.
I’m also thinking ahead to the next step: setting triangles with lots of little squares set on point. To show you what I mean, take a look at designer Shelly Pagliai’s original quilt:
I’m thinking about making a small adjustment to the setting triangles that will require even more squares on point. Let’s see if I can figure out the quilt math . . .