Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do You Dare To Dresden?

Today is the start of Madame Samm's "Dare To Dresden" Blog Hop over at Sew We Quilt.

For six days, she and Christine from Quilt Monster In My Closet will organize a blog hop where quilters can show off their Dresden projects. I am looking forward to this for two reasons.  The first is that her first hop of the year, "In Your Own Words", was a very interesting hop to the blogs of quilters who showcased projects that featured their favorite words or words that said something about who they are.  If you missed it, check out the daily posts starting here and a Pinterest board of all the featured projects here.

The other reason that I am excited about this hop is that I hope it will entertain and inspire me as I work on the finish of my own Dresden adventure:  my Merrimac Dresdens top is on the table being prepped for layering and quilting.

Hopefully while the hop progresses, I can make some progress on this one.  It is the first of my 2013 Finish Along First Quarter projects.  I'd love to be finished with it by the time the hop ends.
So hop on over to Madame Samm's and maybe you'll find the Dresden project of your dreams!

Friday, January 18, 2013

First 2013 Finish

Happy dance, happy dance!  The Underground Railroad and Pioneer Sampler wall hanging is finally complete!  I put on the last of the binding on Wednesday and ran out and bought the rod to hang it as well.  Now heeerr's the samplers!
Pioneer Side

 UGRR Side

And yes, it is reversible!

So a little (o.k., a lot of) background:  these samplers are from the books of the same name published by Eleanor Burns of Quilt In A Day fame.  The Pioneer Sampler was the first QID TV series I ever saw back in 2003 (my second year of quilting).  I fell in love with Eleanor's techniques and loved the shaded colors of her quilt not realizing then that it was to be "my style".  That same year I heard mention that the UGRR book was also going to be released and vowed to eventually get it too. 

And the episodes can still be seen on

After seeing the UGRR series when it came on TV and once I had both books, I realized an important history lesson.  Although I had always known about both of these two movements in U.S. history, I had never really taken note of the specific time period they occurred in.  By the time I got the UGRR book in 2005, Civil War Reproduction fabrics were all the rage.  I was surprised to realize that all of these social movements were happening around the same time!  Needless to say I immediately decided that both of these samplers had to be made in the CW palette and began collecting stash. 

But I also felt that these two needed to be part of the same quilt since to me they represented two sides of the same coin:  a difficult and hazardous flight to a new place for a new and better life.  As intense as we feel our own time is, imagine living through an age where the political upheaval of the War was going on along side the fight over slavery and the migration of thousands across country to establish new homesteads, towns, cities and states.  The idea to make this a reversible quilt was furthered when I read an article in a back issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.  In the November, 1996 issue (#287), Elizabeth Akana gave instructions in a "Quilters Workshop" article for making a rod pocket between the layers of a two-sided quilt (“Invisible Sleeve” with Kaye Jesse).

Like most projects this one progressed in dribs and drabs.  I started piecing the blocks in 2010.  Wanting a wall hanging, I planned to make both with  6" finished blocks.  Easy enough for the UGRR since that book provided instructions for both 6" and 12" blocks.  But the Pioneer book only provided 12" blocks so that meant I had to redraft them myself to the smaller size as I went along.  I got them done but didn't put the tops together until 2011.  At that time, to even out the tops so they could be made back-to-back (the Pioneer sampler is only 12 blocks while the UGRR has 15) I added text blocks with information about each that I printed on muslin that I tea-dyed and prepped with Bubble Jet Set (the UGRR text was provided in the book and the Pioneer text was information I had collected from reading while making the project.  You can see close-ups of the text in this post).  They got layered because I hoped to push myself to finish the project by joining Myra's PHD Challenge that year.  I was disappointed when I didn't get them finished but appreciated that I managed to get them that far and was determined they would not languish forever. It also helped that Myra extended the Challenge into the new year!

By this time I decided that I wanted to hand quilt the two pieces.  But admittedly daunted by that prospect (well, that and I had a lot of other projects on my plate), I let it sit until December when I started on the hand quilting in the hopes of putting this one to bed as my last finish for 2012.  Didn't happen but once it was underway there was no chance of letting it flounder any longer.  After quilting in the ditch around the blocks, sashing and sashing squares (and finding that rather difficult to do with all the seams), I was not sure I wanted to quilt the blocks themselves.  I felt the power in the samplers were in the blocks and their story and since this was not a show quilt, it wouldn't suffer from the lack of extra quilting.  Not to mention it would save me about another two months of work! 

But once the centers were quilted, I felt the borders still needed something---so I set out to find a stitch pattern--nothing too complex--to finish them off.  I found two great but simple cable designs in the book "Quilting With Style" by prolific hand quilters Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham

You can see the stitching better from the back.
Since the borders had no seams, they were far easier to quilt (a note to myself for future hand quilting endeavors) and the stitching finished off the borders perfectly.  By now I really wanted this up on the wall!  I was willing to bind it, live with it for a while and (heretical for me) be willing to go back and remove the binding and quilt them more at a later date if it really, really, REALLY bothered me. After tack stitching the wrong sides of the two quilts together, it was on to the binding.  And THAT almost didn't happen when I couldn't find the fabric I had planned to use for them, then found it but realized it wasn't going to work after all!  But scraps to the rescue!  Like many, I keep the leftover lengths of binding from my projects.  It just so happened that this plaid binding....

....leftover from making this quilt in 2008....

....turned out to have the perfect coloring to be a good finish for this project as well.  Bonus:  it was already cut!  This was a brushed cotton fabric and although I used the "fuzzy" side on the original quilt (which was made with brushed cottons and flannel), for this quilt I used the flat cotton side which is more in line with the fabrics used in these quilts. Although I usually add my bindings by machine, I did this one by hand to insure that it was presentable on both sides.  It took a little finagling to cover the join where the two quilts form the sleeve but it got done and I even figured out how to add a label!


So the first finish for 2013 is in the can and I hope it won't be the last!

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Finish-A-Long Quarter 1

As has been my habit for the last few years, it's time for another finish challenge.  I am hoping this time my habit will also be to get all the things I pledge finished! 

The 2013 Finish-A-Long is a quarterly challenge which is being hosted by Leanne at the She Can Quilt blog.  The interesting thing about this one is that the hosting duties pass to another quilter each year.  Leanne is taking over from Rhonda at Quilter In the Gap who hosted in 2012.

The rules:  post a list for each quarter of what you'd like to finish and then post the results at the end of the quarter.  The other good thing is that you can commit for each quarter individually -- so for me that means no extra guilt going forward if I don't get anything done this quarter.  Seems simple enough.  Looking back, I realize that the key for me is to try to avoid getting too diverted by introducing too many other/new projects at the same time.  I have to fully commit to the project I want to complete if I am going to get it done.

So I am going to make it easy for myself.  I'm limiting my commitments to four for each quarter in the hopes that I can designate one for each month and if I do really good, get an extra one completed as well.  Also with the quarterly deadline, I really have three months time to give to each project.  Should be doable right?

So for me the list is:

1.  Quilt Brrr!.

This one was on my list list for Judy's Patchwork Times UFO Challenge last year.  I took on too many new piecing projects and let all the quilting I needed to do fall by the wayside.  But I have long desired to have this for my winter bed quilt so there is no time like the present!  I am also encouraged to see that Vicky at the LA Quilter blog is starting on this one so watching her work on hers will further encourage me to get mine done.  Finally this also plays into my quilt word for this year -- PRACTICE.  I need to make it a priority to embrace the opportunities to "practice by doing" and banish the initimidation factor that the quilt stitching has on me once and for all.

2.  Quilt Merrimac Dresdens.

This was also on my UFO Challenge list last year  and is part of a Civil War series of quilts that I want to display in my house.  As I am also FINALLY in the process of finishing up another CW project (see this post) that was on my list for Myra's PHD (Projects Half Done) Challenge last year, I'd really like to also get this one done to continue to build up my display.

3. Finish the Modern Twist Mystery Quilt

Each year the Planet Patchwork website hosts a mystery quilt on either the Sunday after Thanksgiving or New Year's Day.  The projects are designed by Merry May (aka Merry Meyhem).  I've often read (most recently on Vicky's blog) that what you do on New Year's Day is what you'll do all year and I really wanted to start off 2013 just right so I took this one on.  The center of it is completed and I have an idea to tweak the borders beyond what the pattern called for so I have a little more work to do on this.  Also since it's my first new project of 2013, I'd also like to start a new trend -- start it this year, finish it this year!

4.  The bonus project: Quilt Check It Out.

This was the Planet Patchwork post-Thanksgiving mystery back in 2007.  At the time, I took it on because I wanted to make a neutral quilt and had just the right values and amounts of fabrics in stash to do the mystery.  But then I got stumpled on how to quilt it so its sat ever since.  I'm a little more confident in my quilting than I was then and have been thinking about ideas I want to try on it (not to mention I now have a neutral colored couch that it would look good displayed on).  And how great would it be to get both mystery quilts finished!

So that's my list.  Wish me luck and the same to you with yours!!

UGRR/Pioneer Update

Well 2013 is starting off promising!  After getting these sampler tops completed in 2011 , I fully expected to quilt them as part of Myra's PHD (Projects Half Done) Challenge in 2012. 
But I really wanted to hand quilt them and then was stumped about what to do for that.  I was admittedly disappointed when I let them remain undone as 2012 was coming to a close.

But I finally decided to step it down a notch.  Looking at the Quilt In A Day books that these projects were drawn from, I realized that many of them were quilted simply-- the blocks and borders just stitched in the ditch.  That seemed to me to be simple enough.  To me, the blocks themselves were powerful enough that they didn't necessarily need additional stitching which admittedly would be difficult for me to do by hand given the amount of piecing in them and the size (6") of the finished blocks.  Since getting these displayed was more important to me than how ornately they were quilted, the week before Christmas I decided to get started.

To date, I've completed the ditch quilting of the blocks on both tops and am now working on the borders.  I wasn't going to quilt the borders but decided they did need a little something more.  I found two cable designs in Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham's Quilting With Style book that added just enough without being too much for my current hand quilting skills or patience. 

I am happy with the progress on them even if my quilt stitches are still far from proficient.  I learned a lot doing this one:  how important the thinness of the batting is in getting good stitches (need to test for that in the future) and why it may be better to do larger blocks and outline stitching or a wholecloth for my next hand quilting project if I want to get my stitches per inch down. I even came to the heretical (for me) decision that once they were up, If I wasn't satisfied with the level of quilting, I'd take them down, take off the binding and add more quilting.  We'll see if that happens though!

I am very happy that this is finally moving toward completion and hope to be able to display them in the coming weeks.