Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aviatrix Medallion, an Instagram Quilt-Along

Back in January, modern quilter Elizabeth Hartman showed off a pattern she was working on, called Aviatrix Medallion. It didn't really catch my attention, though, until in March she showed a version done in Kona Solids, with this as the center medallion:
(You can view the full quilt here, and I encourage you to look. It's a remarkable collection of traditional blocks turned into a stunning modern quilt.) As you can see from the picture above, the color shadings turn a lone star block into birds pointing toward the center. I've never seen this pattern before, but Hartman said it's a traditional pattern called Doves in the Window. When she published it, I purchased the pattern. To be honest, I found the whole quilt rather busy, but I was determined to make the center medallion, at least as a wall hanging.

In April Hartman announced she would be making another version of the quilt and she encouraged her blog followers to make it along with her. The quilt-along would be hosted by her on Instagram with the hashtag #aviatrixmedallion. I have an account there (I'm @QuilterPhyl) and I began following the hashtag as people posted the fabrics they were going to use. When I saw that some quilters were choosing fabrics that were different from the bright solids Hartman used, I began to get IDEAS. 

People, I was seriously stressed in April. I did NOT have time for IDEAS.

But look what I've been doing:

That's my center block above. I am using all batiks except for the dark grey background which is a woven linen. The contrasting texture is fun. I also purposely decided to stick to colors on the cool side of the color wheel.
I finished the center block above and decided I needed more color.
When I finished the first border I was still on the fence about making the whole thing or stopping right there. But I loved my colors and was having great fun on Instagram sharing my pictures and checking each day to see how others were doing. Oh what the heck...
And that's as far along as I am right now. While a few participants in the quilt-along are finished with their tops, others are just starting and plenty, like me are slowly plodding along. I have a skinny neutral border to add and two more colored borders. I also have other projects that need to come first (friends and family keep having babies!!!). But I sneak a little work on this into the mix whenever I can.

If you have an Instagram account and some time to spare, do check #aviatrixmedallion there to see the amazing variety of quilts being made from this one pattern. And I'll post a few updates to mine here as I make progress.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TBR Day. The Beekeeper's Ball / Susan Wiggs. 2014

This is my first TBR post since November. I am totally cheating.

This month's theme is RITA. Susan Wiggs has won 3 RITAs. This book was published June 24, so it's been on no one's TBR for more than 3 weeks. But it was due back at the library yesterday, so I had to read it and return it lest I start wracking up fines. My library TBR pile is often a delicate dance between books I have to read right away and books I can renew. And that doesn't take into account the books I own and would like to read.

Anyhow, my library has started this interesting program called "Quick Picks." In an effort to attract people back into the library, high-interest books are made available only to walk-in patrons. If you get lucky you can by-pass the reserve lists, but there is no renewal. The program has only been in place a month and I go over a couple of times a week to check what's on the Quick Pick shelf (the library is only 200 yards from the back door of the law library where I work). So far this one has been the only romance, but I remain hopeful.

This book was not even on my radar and after I started it I realized it was Book 2 in Wiggs' Bella Vista Chronicles. Fortunately this book was very readable even though I hadn't read Book 1, The Apple Orchard (2013). The blurb:

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past. 

But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own. 

The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future. 

It turns out that there is quite a bit more to this book than the blurb indicates. Cormac O'Neill (Mac) has come to Bella Vista to interview Isabel's grandfather, Magnus, and write a book about him. Isabel's grandfather had been a part of the Danish Resistance during WWII; Isabel's (deceased) grandmother was Jewish and survived the concentration camps. A surprising amount of the book takes place during the war as we learn about Isabel's grandparents and how they survived the war. Isabel hears stories she never knew about as Mac talks with Magnus.

Isabel has lived a sheltered isolated life. Mac is a war-weary globe-trotting journalist. For Mac, Isabel represents a home and a sense of permanence. For Isabel, Mac offers adventure and an opportunity to try new things. I enjoyed their story.

There's a lot happening in the book, and I do mean a lot; the romance does not take center stage. There's a character from Isabel's past--back when she went to cooking school--who stirs up bad memories. Old family secrets are revealed as Magnus tells his story to Mac. There's also some carryover from Book One. Tess, the heroine of that book, is Isabel's half-sister and Isabel is busy helping plan Tess's wedding. Beekeeping and honey are woven throughout the book. Each section begins with an interesting tidbit about bees and then a recipe using honey. Too bad I don't like to cook. The various dishes sounded wonderful. And finally I thought that the ending was rather abrupt. It's clearly a set-up to Book 3, although Wiggs' website gives no indication one way or another that a Book 3 is on the way.

All-in-all I thoroughly enjoyed the book even though so much was going on. Magnus and Eva's story in Denmark was really interesting. I was a little disgruntled at the abruptness of the ending and the fact that the next book is probably pretty far out on the horizon. On the other hand, when I went over to the library yesterday to return it, I went upstairs and found The Apple Orchard. I'm looking forward to reading that.

Oh, and no new romance on the Quick Pick shelf. Bummer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Forgotten Seamstress / Liz Trenow. 2014

(UK edition cover)

Back in March or April, Sonomalass tweeted me about the May release of this book by Liz Trenow. This is a book centered around a quilt that brings together two very different women. She thought (rightly!) that I might be interested in a book wherein the quilt tells part of the story.

It should be no surprise that most quilts have a story to tell. The story might be "simple": a quilt is made out of love commemorating the birth of a child or grandchild, a wedding, a friendship, etc. Sometimes the stories are very complex, and even heartbreaking. I highly recommend a visit to the website for Sacred Threads, a biennial exhibit of quilts devoted to the themes: Expressions of Joy, Spirituality, Inspiration, Grief, Healing, and Peace/Brotherhood. There's a link to a gallery of quilts that tell some rather complex stories. A long time ago, when I was a novice quiltmaker, I went to a lecture by Pepper Cory and she showed us antique quilts she'd collected and told us some of the stories behind them. One in particular was particularly eye-opening. It was red and black on a background of white, colors of anger and grief. The quiltmaker had had a tragic life and that quilt was a sobering reflection. That's when I first learned that not every quilt is made from a happy place. For many women, they were and are an important form of expression of the totality of life's experiences.

The Forgotten Seamstress is about a young woman named Maria, an orphan with exceptional sewing skills who becomes a seamstress at Buckingham Palace before WWI. Her exciting new life takes a turn for the worse when she loses everything and is committed to an insane asylum. Maria spends most of her life in that asylum where she creates a quilt that tells the story of her life--a story that no one is willing to believe. The centerpiece of the quilt is scraps of fabric known as the May silks (scroll down to 2nd picture for a gorgeous view of the wedding dress), fabrics that were created specifically for the wedding gown of Princess Mary of Teck. In many ways Maria, and the book, celebrate the fine art of hand sewing and elaborate embroidery.

The Forgotten Seamstress is also about Caroline Meadows, a woman in her late thirties, who finds the quilt as she helps her mother clean out an attic. Caroline is at a crossroad in her life. She's just ended a long-term relationship, she's lost her job, and her mother has Alzheimer's and needs to move to assisted living. Caroline wants to return to interior design, her original career track. The quilt fascinates her and as she researches its origins, her own story becomes entwined with Maria's.

The book goes back and forth between "transcripts" of Maria narrating her story to a sociologist and the present day story of Caroline. I thought it was a clever way to craft the story. There's even a romantic subplot as Caroline becomes involved with a reporter named Ben who helps her research Maria's story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and once I got started I was hooked. I definitely recommend this multi-faceted tale.

Readers (and quilters especially) should be interested in this page of Trenow's website. Trenow collaborated with quiltmaker Lynne Edwards (no website found) who made Maria's quilt and provided a pattern for others to make the quilt for themselves. (It's tempting, but no, I have no plans to make it.)

On a separate note, I know I have had few postings here over the last 6+ months. I haven't done a single TBR Challenge book this year. I didn't intend to disappear. But sometimes life takes a turn--not necessarily for good or bad, just a turn. I read like crazy and started half a dozen new sewing projects (finishing none) to cope with the turn my life took. But finally I can say that the road ahead looks a little straighter these days so I hope to show up here more often. Time will tell, but I sure am going to try.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's Auction time again!

For the 10th year in a row, author Brenda Novak is sponsoring her annual online auction for diabetes research. For the 6th year in a row, I have a quilted item in the auction.

In case you haven't noticed the dearth of blog posting this last year, I have to say that it's been a busy, and at times, stressful year. Blogging has been low on my priority list. Knowing I shouldn't add to an already full plate, I decided to donate a quilt I made last summer. I made it for fun and it's never been used. It's just waiting for a good home.

So if you, or someone you know, needs a baby quilt, I hope you'll bid on it. Here's a direct link to my quilt on the auction site. Please feel free to "like" it on Facebook or tweet about it.

The quilt is made from a charm pack of the "Amelia" collection of fabrics by Me and My Sisters Designs for Moda. I used a soft flannel for the backing and quilted it simply with Aurifil 50 wt. white cotton thread. It measures about 45" x 50".

Thanks, as always, for your support and encouragement. It means the world to me and my family. Type 1 Diabetes is personal for us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Quilts Made Modern / Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. 2010

Authors Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr run Modern Quilt Studio and I am an avid fan of their work. They've published several books now, as well as a magazine. This particular book is the first one I ever purchased about modern quilting. While there are a lot of great patterns and ideas for quilts, it was the first book that helped me understand what modern quilting is and how to think about design. I'd been anxious to use the book and I ended up choosing a pattern from it when I was given this group of Amy Butler fabrics by QBFFT.

In my mind, those fabrics did not lend themselves to something traditional. With the exception of the one solid, they seemed to fight with one another. I had to find a way to get them to work together. As I perused this book, as well as other pattern books, I kept coming back to this one photo, despite how different my fabrics were from the ones used in the book.

This quilt is called "Improv." The individual blocks are pieced using an improvisational technique. There is a degree of structure to get you started, but then it becomes kind of random. I began by cutting my 10 fabrics into strips of several different widths. Then I cut about half of those strips into small pieces 2-5 inches long. I tossed all of the small pieces into a container, mixed them up, and then randomly sewed them to the longer strips. Like this:

Here's my container of small pieces:

I wound up with small units that I sewed to more strips. Then I began to randomly sew those units together to create larger units:

Until I had a stack of blocks:

The blocks were supposed to measure 6.5 x 6.5 inches. But I wasn't paying attention at first and I soon realized my blocks were nearing 8 x 8. So I made 35 7.5 x 7.5 inch blocks. It was easy to get carried away.

I loved being forced to just sew units together. This really put me outside of anything I had ever done before. After auditioning the squares against various solids, I settled on this purple.

And here are some close-ups:

It's randomly quilted with spirals.

I'm really happy with how this turned out. This book not only gave me a great way to use those fabrics, but it taught me to think very differently about the kind of quilts I want to make. It's a tremendous resource for anyone interested in modern quilting.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

QBFF Challenge--FQ Exchange

Two years ago I blogged about a challenge the QBFFs and I had organized. We exchanged 2.5 yards of fabric. Each of us had to take the fabric we were given and make a completed quilt for the person who gave them the fabric.


These are the fabric collections we exchanged. The fabric for my quilt is to the left. The fabric I received is above on the far right.

It took 2 years for the last of us to finish her quilt. I actually finished mine in late 2012, but I couldn't reveal it until now. Below are the finished quilts.

The rules were pretty simple. We had to use some of each fabric, we could only add one more fabric, and the quilt had to be at least lap sized (bigger than a crib quilt, smaller than a bed quilt).

QBFFA and QBFFC exchanged the two collections in the upper left above. Here are their completed quilts side-by-side:

Here is the quilt QBFFT made for me. I absolutely love it! I think I need more yellow in my life:

Finally, here is the one I made for QBFFT. I used an interesting pattern, and I will blog more about it shortly.

We're already hard at work on our next two challenges! It's a great way to stretch our abilities.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Very Special T-Shirt Quilt

Fellow blogger SonomaLass, did me the great honor of bidding on my Brenda Novak Auction item last year. She won a t-shirt quilt made by yours truly and I'm pleased to say I finally finished it. My first finish of 2014.

The previous time I had done this, the winner was someone I worked with. When I needed to talk to her about fabric choices, I could just pop over to her office. This time all of the consulting was done long distance and I had a lot of fun going to the shop, taking pictures of various fabrics and sending them to SonomaLass for her to choose from. I even set up a Flickr page to document my progress on the quilt. (If you go look, the pictures are arranged in reverse chronological order.)

So here's a look at the finished quilt:

One shirt was "re-created" by printing the images on printable fabric. That stuff soaks up ink so nicely. It also soaked up some of the red dye when I washed the quilt. I was a bit surprised to say the least, because I had pre-washed the red twice to get as much excess dye out as possible. So in the following pictures you can see one block is slightly pink instead of stark white. Frankly, I rather like the effect.

And here are some closeups:

 And finally, a look at the back.

It always makes me nervous to cut into someone else's precious memories. Then once the top is finished it takes me a couple of weeks to get up the nerve to start quilting. I don't know why, because once I get started, it really is easy and rather fun. All turned out well and I'm grateful to know it will be loved and used.

By the way, it is not lost on me that today is TBR Challenge Day. This is the second month is a row I've missed. I have no excuse for January. This month I blame the Olympics.

Speaking of the Olympics, every time I see the Sochi Olympic graphic my heart just smiles. So beautiful. They need to market the fabric to quilters.