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.
When I wrote a couple weeks ago about our pending kitchen remodel, I described the domino effect that accompanies so many remodels. In this case, our decision to replace three old windows in our kitchen launched the entire project.
I also mentioned a second domino effect. This occurred because we decided to move our current refrigerator to the basement pantry area. A second fridge always comes in handy, and we will be grateful for the extra freezer space when the garden produce comes on like gangbusters in late summer.
When we installed new cabinetry in the kitchen during the last remodel, most of the old cabinets were moved downstairs to the pantry, replacing steel shelving that got moved to the wall behind the furnace. That shelving became the repository for boxes and boxes of . . . stuff, mostly belonging to the Dear Husband. As a history professor with research interests that have continued since his retirement, Charlie has managed to fill dozens of boxes over several decades with newspaper clippings, travel brochures, road maps, magazines, pamphlets, and documents from his university years that may be of interest to the archivist.
The DH is in the process of going through those boxes and recycling a good portion of the contents. He’s doing so to make room for the goods I am taking out of the pantry so that the cupboards and cabinets can be removed to make room for the fridge. I’m also bringing a lot of items downstairs from the kitchen for the duration of the remodel.
Here’s a look at the pantry in the basement:
Those cabinets (except for one set that I’m saving) and all of the cabinets currently in the kitchen will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. That means I need to finish emptying them right now.
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!
You know it would take something major to keep me out of my sewing room.
For the last few weeks I’ve been distracted by a looming project: a major kitchen remodel. It all started with the decision to replace three windows that look out onto the back yard. The windows were installed in 1985 and while they have held up very well given their age, they are now cloudy.
Replacing the windows would require redoing the tile backsplash around them. Might as well replace the counters at the same time. I’ve been wanting to replace the laminate counters we have now with quartz. And oh yes, the flooring has plenty of dings in it from dropped knives so it’s due for an overhaul. The refrigerator is fairly new but the stove and dishwasher are nearing the end of their life expectancy so this is the ideal time to replace them.
You see where this is going, don’t you? It’s the domino effect.
I had really hoped to keep the kitchen cabinets as they’re only 20 years old. They are made of cherry but the stain has not held up well. In fact, the finish is completely gone in places from too much scrubbing, especially around the knobs. I’m afraid the original stain wasn’t applied very well and I haven’t been careful enough in maintaining it.
I looked into having the cupboard doors sanded and restained but they would not match the rest of the cabinetry, which has darkened over time. Having the cabinetry painted was an option but in the end I decided against it.
Going with all new cabinetry adds considerably to the final price tag but it means we can address some design issues. It also means that everything in the kitchen will be updated at the same time, an important consideration when it comes to selling the house down the road.
Far down the road, I trust. The Dear Husband and I have lived in this house our entire married life, almost 38 years. While I hope we have many more years here, it seems prudent at this stage of our lives to be thinking about what will make our house more attractive to potential buyers. The return on investment for kitchen remodels is quite high — around 80% according to some websites — so the DH and I took a big gulp and decided to go for it.
I’ve been poring over kitchen design magazines and photos on Houzz.com, walking the aisles at appliance stores, reviewing options for flooring, counters, backsplash tile, pendant lights — and lying awake at night thinking about it all. Usually when I can’t sleep my mind wanders to quilt projects. You see how distracted I’ve become.
I wonder how many kitchen remodels start with replacing one thing and end with a complete overhaul. In our case there’s a second domino effect. I’ll tell you all about it soon.
Today is National Quilting Day, a celebration of all things related to — of course! — quilting.
It seems fitting to celebrate with a shoutout to Billie Mahorney, who taught me so much about quiltmaking. I took classes from Billie at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop from 2005 until 2009, when she retired and moved to Idaho. How I wish I had discovered her sooner!
Here I am with Billie’s Star, the quilt I designed and made in 2015 in homage to Billie:
Among the many tools and techniques I learned from Billie were how to draft a quilt block and how to get sharp points on my stars — two things that came in very handy while making this quilt.
To read more about the making of Billie’s Star, click on this link.
To read more about National Quilting Day, click here.
. . . of making a Junior Billie Bag is that moment when the bag, until now a series of flat panels . . .
. . . becomes three-dimensional:
You are looking at the inside of my Junior Billie Bag, with the side panels/bottom unit pinned to one of the front/back panels. You may not be able to tell from the photo that there are 14 pockets showing. The other front/back panel (not shown) has five pockets.
Combined with the pockets on the outside of the bag . . .
. . . this JBB has 23 pockets. Now you know why I call it the “quintessential quilter’s tote!”
It’s a lot of fun playing with pocket design for the outside of the bag. For the pockets on the left side above, I trimmed them in the same striped fabric I’m going to use for the binding. (While I love the look of striped binding cut on the diagonal, I opted to cut my strips on the straight of grain for this one.)
For the pocket on the right side, I started with a four-patch kaleidoscope (what I call a Four-Patch Wonder block) and made a double inset circle.
I sure do like that vivid blue against black and white!
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:
Do you ever start a quilt without having a firm plan in mind? It’s a tendency of mine. It seems I am always making test blocks and then deciding to proceed with a quilt without knowing what the finished product will look like. I just start making more blocks willy-nilly until a plan emerges.
Such is the case with my newest WIP (that’s Work-in-Progress for you non-quilters). Starting with my stash of cheddar and indigo prints from Penny Rose Fabrics and the Churn-Dash-inside-a-Sawtooth-Star block that Jenifer Gaston created for her Churning Stars quilt, I made 12″ and 18″ test blocks, subject of my last post. Where to go from there? Should I add some 9″ and/or 6″ blocks to the mix? Might be fun to play around with that.
When the bundle of fat quarters I found online arrived the other day, I got busy cutting 12″ squares from the cheddar and indigo prints:
Why 12″ squares? For the star points in the Sawtooth Stars, I’m making Flying Geese units using the method that calls for two different size squares and yields four Flying Geese units. A 12″ square is needed for the 18″ blocks and it’s also the largest to be cut from a fat quarter so I figured I’d better cut them first. After I had cut all the squares you see above, it dawned on me that I probably don’t want that many 18″ blocks. Oops.
That’s what happens when you don’t have a plan. Well, all is not lost. I can cut those squares into smaller pieces to use in smaller blocks. And I have enough fabric for two quilts anyway. One of the benefits of having an ample stash, right?
You probably know from my previous post that I’m going for a “controlled scrappy” look with my cheddars and indigos. Because of that I decided to make a bunch of Churn Dash blocks and a bunch of Flying Geese units for the Sawtooth Stars but wait to combine them into blocks until I can play around with the components on my design wall. That’s my current plan. If you can call it that.
For now I’ve made a couple Churn Dash blocks and Flying Geese sets in two sizes. The Churn Dash blocks measure 6½” and 9½” square, as they will go in the center of blocks that finish at 12″ and 18″ square:
The Flying Geese units below are half sets (i.e. there are actually four units in each set, not two) as I wanted to combine parts of four sets in one photo. The large units measure 4½” x 9″ and the smaller ones 3½” x 6½”:
The cheddars in this photo are not from the original fabric line but rather fabrics from my stash that I want to include in the quilt.
This WIP is destined to become a WISP (Work in Slow Progress, an acronym I learned just the other day) as I really must turn my attention to some other projects. Because these Churn Dash blocks and Flying Geese units go together quickly — and are fun to make — I’m going to make a few whenever opportunity and inclination coincide.
When I confessed in my last post that I was tempted to drop everything and start a new project, my friend Vickie responded at once with these words: “Resistance is futile. Give into the temptation.” Thank you, Vickie! All it took was that bit of encouragement for me to abandon my current quilting projects — only temporarily, you understand. I spent a delightful few hours Sunday afternoon petting my stash of cheddar and indigo fabrics, playing with possible fabric combinations, and finally making a couple of blocks using Jenifer Gaston’s Churning Stars block design.
I already knew Jenifer’s block was a winner. I tested it a couple weeks ago for the Junior Billie Bag I’m working on and couldn’t wait to make some blocks for an actual quilt.
Most of the fabrics I’m working with are from the “Cheddar and Indigo” line by Penny Rose Studio, a division of Riley Blake Fabrics. It came out in 2015. Here’s the entire line:
I had eight of the fabrics: four of the cheddars but only two navies and only two background fabrics. How perfectly providential, then, to find a complete fat quarter bundle for sale last weekend on eBay! It was not a bargain but I snagged it anyway. With a full selection from the line plus a few fabrics pulled from other sources I’ll be able to make what I call a “controlled scrappy” quilt.
. . . 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. . .