Thursday, June 30, 2016

Farmer's Wife Block 103 "Whirlwind" and Farmer's Wife 1930s Block 5 "Anne"

I made not one, but TWO more 6" blocks for my Mish-Mash Sampler (Farmer's Wife, Farmer's Wife 1930s, Vintage Kansas City Star, and other block sources yet to be selected).

This is Block 5 from the 1930s Farmer's Wife book, "Anne:"

FW1930s Block 5, "Anne"
Anne was foundation paper pieced.  Next we have a block from the original Farmer's Wife quilt sampler book, Block 103, "Whirlwind:"

Original Farmer's Wife Block 103, "Whirlwind"
I almost didn't make this block at all, for two reasons.  First of all, the block that was photographed for the book reminds me of a swastika, and I didn't want any swastika blocks in my quilt.  So I reversed the block so it "spins" the other direction (counter-swastika) and used a contrasting fabric for the center square, and selected the sweetest, most cheerful fabrics I could find.  Happily, my resulting block doesn't remind me of Nazis.

Original Farmer's Wife Block 103 "Whirlwind"
I used my EQ7 software to explore different fabric options for the block without cutting into my stash prematurely.  I played around with my "virtual stash" in EQ7 until I had a block that I liked, and then went through my ACTUAL stash to find similar fabrics to the ones I'd used in the computer version.  I find that I use my EQ7 software a lot for tasks like this, just playing with ideas for a single block, versus designing an entire quilt from start to finish.

EQ7 Block Design with Similar Fabrics
The second reason I almost didn't make this block is that I'm not a fan of all the extra seams.  To me, a patchwork seam is superfluous if it is adjacent to another patch of the same fabric and it is possible to sew the block without that seam.  Making the block as shown in the book with all squares and half square triangle units is easier construction, but those additional seams disrupt the flow of prints, add unnecessary extra bulk, and more importantly, sewing partial seams or set-in seams or whatever is a new (to me) skill that I've never tried before.  So I gave it a go.  Again, EQ7 to the rescue -- I found a similar block in the EQ7 block library, edited it to remove the unwanted seams, sized the block to finish at 6", and then printed out templates on cardstock.  I rotary cut the center square and the pink QSTs (quarter square triangles), and cut 2" strips for the diamond patches, but used the diamond template in conjunction with a rotary cutter and ruler to subcut those strips into accurate diamond units.  Another reason to love EQ7 -- the ability to print my own templates or foundation paper patterns for any block in any size. 

By eliminating those unwanted seams, I reduced the number of patches in this block from 21 to 9.  Even with fewer pieces, it still took me awhile to piece this block due to the fiddly set-in seams.

Assorted 6" Sampler Blocks
So I learned something new today -- yay!  :-)   Looking at my blocks on my design wall, I still don't feel like they "go together" all that well, and I still don't care.  These are very process-oriented blocks for me, each one is a self-contained challenge to learn something new.  Maybe they'll end up in a quilt together someday, and maybe they will end up divided up into several quilts.  Just making a bunch of random 6" blocks with no set purpose in mind feel deliciously decadent!  However, other UFOs have been languishing.  I think I'm going to have to make another giant pineapple log cabin block before I make another 6" sampler block.  Remember this project?

17 3/4" FPP Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks
I started that project almost exactly two years ago, June 28th of 2014.  It's intended for my own California King bed, and although I love how it's coming out, there are something like 97 seams in each block and they are time-consuming and monotonous to construct.  So I do one or two pineapple log cabin blocks, and then I have to switch gears and do something else for awhile.

I need to put in some serious hours on my business web site design today, but tomorrow we're going up to Davidson College to pick up my younger son Anders.  Yippee!  He's been gone for three long weeks at Duke TIP Summer Center Studies for 7th and 8th graders, taking an intensive course in academic debate.  He's been having a great time, staying in the college dorms, having a taste of independence, and getting to know other bright kids from around the country and around the world, but I've MISSED HIM!  Can't wait to get him back in my studio, watching Tom & Jerry cartoons and cackling with laughter as I sew.

Missing Studio Accessory, Laughing Bean Bag Boy, Returns Tomorrow!
Meanwhile, I'm linking up with Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.  And I'll be checking out everyone else's projects at the linky parties over my second cup of coffee!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Farmer's Wife 1930s Block 4, "Ann the Cat Burglar"

I made another something!  Another 6" foundation paper pieced block from the 1930s Farmer's Wife book.  Meet Block #4, Ann:

My Version of 1930s Farmers Wife Block 4, "Ann"
To me, this block has a strong mid-century modern vibe.  Like The Jetsons, vintage Tom and Jerry cartoons, and Alfred Hitchcock movies.  The floral print fabric with the little black cats reminds me of children's book illustrations from this era and the largest patches were just the right size to showcase the kitties.  The watercolor blue batik fabric made the sharp pointy shapes in the blocks look like prisms -- or jewels! -- to me.  So, putting it all together, this block is my quilty interpretation of the 1955 movie To Catch A Thief, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.  These are the thoughts that amuse me while I'm sewing tiny bits of fabric together.
Argentinian Movie Poster for To Catch A Thief, with Kitty Cat
So anyway.  I paper-pieced the Ann block as usual.  In the book, all four of the triangles that meet in the center of this block are the same color, but I have an aversion to unnecessary seams in my quilt blocks.  If I'm going to go to all the bother to sew those seams and fight the good fight to match them up properly, then I want contrasting fabric so I can SEE the fruit of my labors in the finished block.  Hence the two lavender triangles.  It was either that or substitute a big pink square for the four triangles.

Precut Fabric Patches, Ready to Piece
After I added the little "wings" to each block quadrant, I shot them with some Mary Ellen's Best Press in order to get them to lie nice and flat after pressing.  Those skinny spikes created a seriously bulky seam allowance.

3 Quadrants Completed, 1 Still Needs "Wings"
Then, once all four block quadrants were constructed, I carefully peeled away the foundation papers.  I had noticed from photos online that some quilters have difficulty aligning seams at the center of this block, and it's because the foundation piecing sequence results in all four of those center triangle seam allowances to be pressed in the same direction.  So after I removed the foundation papers, I carefully re-pressed the seam allowances on the blocks with pink center triangles so those seams were pressed towards the blue batik fabric.  I made sure to press the "wing" seams in opposite directions as well.  That allowed me to nest those seam allowances for a more precise match.

Papers Removed, Matching Seams Pressed Opposite Directions
Also, I almost never press my block seams open, but I did it for the seams joining the block quadrants on this Ann block.  Ridiculous, crazy seam allowance bulk from these intricately paper pieced blocks -- no way would I try to hand quilt through those seams!  I left my stitch length at 1.5 (shortened for paper piecing) when I joined the segments together as an added precaution against the pressed-open seams pulling apart.

Seams Matched and Pinned for Stitching
Once the foundation papers are out, I'm joining the block segments the way I do traditional piecing.  Each of those seams is carefully matched and pinned, raw edges perfectly aligned, and notice how my pins are inserted with the heads to the left and nothing extending past the raw edge of my fabric?  That's so the pins don't get hung up on my little 1/4" seam guide.  I love, love, LOVE using the #97D Patchwork Foot with Guide for piecing on my Bernina 750QE.  It's one of my all-time favorite presser feet, especially in a situation like this where I'm going over impossibly thick seam allowances.  With dual feed engaged and full contact with the left dog, watching the raw fabric edges rub against the fixed metal guide the entire length of the seam, it's amazing how much more control I have to land each and every stitch exactly where I want it to go, even on a 9 mm machine.  And no, Bernina doesn't pay me to say that (but they totally should).

Joining Block Halves with Patchwork Foot 97D and Seam Guide
So here she is, up on the wall with her pals.  These intricate little blocks, each one unique, reminds me of a box of Godiva truffles:

Rose Dream and 1930s FW Blocks 1-4
By the way, although author Laurie Aaron Hird shows on point settings for both of her Farmer's Wife sampler quilts, I've already decided on a straight setting for my own blocks, and I'm keeping that in mind as I'm cutting my directional prints.   I absolutely LOVE those little black kitty cats in my Ann block!  My Rose Dream block still looks out of place to me, so it may or may not end up in the same quilt with these Farmer's Wife blocks.  Reasons: 1. So far, all of my FW blocks have white in them, but the background of the floral print in my Rose Dream block is ivory.  2. The Rose Dream block is the only one with curved seams.  3. The Rose Dream block only has two fabrics, whereas the others have three or more.

Next up on the agenda is Block #5, Anne (with an "e").  Looking at my wall, I decided that I need some yellow, so these are my fabric picks:

Fabric Selected for Farmer's Wife Block 5, "Anne"
I think I'm going to use the print fabric for the background and the two blues for the little pinwheel in the center of the block.

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Visa och Berätta måndag at Bambisyr med sin Quiltglädje (Bambi's blog), Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, Design Board Monday at Bits 'n Bobs, Moving It Forward at Em's Scrapbag, and Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, and Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, and WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog.  Happy Stitching!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Quilter Goes Rogue: Slipping a Rose Dream In Amongst the Farmer's Wives

6" Rose Dream Quilt Block
I made something yesterday!  Well, actually I made it bit by bit over the last few days, one wretched little curved seam at a time, and I finished it yesterday.  It probably took me 15-20 minutes to pin each pair of opposite curved pieces together.  Once they were pinned, they were easy enough to stitch, but then pressing the little devils without distorting the bias was challenging as well.  I probably should have starched the fabrics before I cut out the pieces.

This Many Pins
The Rose Dream quilt block, first published in the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1930,  first caught my eye when Charise of Charise Creates featured it as the first block in her 2012 Vintage Quilt Block Quilt Along.  So I've had this block in the back of my mind for four years.

Charise's Rose Dream Quilt Block
I love Charise's fresh modern take on vintage style.  She has a knack for finding very special fabrics and uses them in interesting ways, often fussy cutting a word or pattern motif for a detailed effect.  Notice how she has centered a strawberry in one patch, an ornate teapot in another, and the text in the tiny center squares.

Original Rose Dream Pattern, 1930 Kansas City Star

The vintage quilt below that I found at an auction site online (thank you, Google) is similar to how I imagine most 'thirties quilters would have used this block pattern when it was originally published, combining a solid background fabric with an assortment of prints as per the newspaper instructions:

Vintage Rose Dream Quilt
The original Kansas City Star pattern was for a 13" finished block, and Charise redrafted her block to finish at 12" and offered a free PDF with templates along with an excellent tutorial for piecing the block.  But I decided to make a 6" version of the Rose Dream block out of this solid red and this small-scale floral print so I could sneak it in with the other 6" blocks I've been making from the 1930s Farmer's Wife book.

Fabric Picks for my Rose Dream Block
After all, the Quilt Police is NOT really a thing, so who's going to stop me?  Although the three blocks I've made so far for this sampler quilt have all been from the 1930s Farmer's Wife quilt book, I do have the previous book with the 1920s inspiration letters and block designs and had planned to make only the blocks I felt like making from either book and then mix them up together once I had enough for a quilt.  Because, really, it's my quilt and I can do whatever I want with it, right?  I could even resize some of the 4" Dear Jane blocks a little larger and put them in with the Farmer's Wife blocks, too.  Scandalous, right?!

So anyway, back to the Rose Dream block.  First I thought that I would just print Charise's templates for a 12" block and then use the copier to reduce them by 50%, but then I realized that Charise's templates include 1/4" seam allowances that would be only 1/8" seam allowances after reducing with the copier.  The original newspaper templates did not include seam allowances, but the scanned images of the newspaper clipping that I found online were not actual size, either.  I thought of trying to do an old-school grid enlargement on graph paper, the way Anders did his Spiderman drawing enlargement in art class this year, but then I remembered TECHNOLOGY.

BlockBase Software from EQ
Barbara Brackman's BlockBase for EQ to the rescue!  BlockBase is an add-on to EQ7 quilting design software that can also stand alone as a digital block reference library.  My husband and sons got it for me for my birthday or Christmas or something.  Why didn't I think of it earlier, before I wasted all that time messing with the photocopier like it was the 1980s or something?!  In BlockBase, I was able to enter the keywords "rose dream" and this block came up immediately, ready to print in whatever size my little heart should desire. 
Rose Dream Fabric and Templates, Ready to Cut
That little square measures exactly 1" including the seam allowance, so I cut those squares out with a rotary cutter and ruler instead of using the cardstock templates like I did for the curved pieces.

Rose Dream with FW 1930s Blocks 1-3

Right now they don't really go together very well, but I don't really care.  Once I have a whole boatload of 6" blocks that don't really go together, I'll sew them all together and it will be a "scrappy sampler."  If I find some more blocks with curved piecing or applique like the Rose Dream block, that will help. 

One of my kiddos comes home tomorrow afternoon!  He's been in Florida with our high school youth group choir, singing at a variety of Lutheran churches and visiting amusement parks with his church friends.  The house has been VERY quiet all week.  I'm almost looking forward to the sound of video games on the PlayStation!

I'm linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, and Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, and Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fathers' Day 2016, Minus a Father

Dad with Anders at Scholars Academy Holiday Feast in 2010
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was that I had to get over to the hospital to be with my dad in the ICU.  Then I remembered that he isn't there anymore, because he died last Tuesday and we had his funeral on Friday, two days before Father's Day.  My first Father's Day without a father.

Anders, Dad and Lars, Anders' First Birthday 2004
My dad was only 69.  It wasn't "his time."  His whole body shut down on him way too early before he got to see any of his grandchildren graduate from high school, let alone dance at their weddings or hold a great-grandchild in his arms.  It's not fair and it sucks.

Dad Taking Selfies at Lars's Confirmation, September 2015
The funeral service was beautiful, just the way he wanted it.  Dad picked out all the music he wanted and although there weren't many in the congregation, the choir loft was packed full of singers.  Because there's nothing else we could do for him except sing.

At the Funeral: Sister Susan, Cousin Allison, Me, Sister Janice, & Cousin Kerri
It was nice to have my sisters, aunts, uncles, and a few cousins together at the funeral, especially since they were flying in from California, Iowa, Minnesota, Chicago, New York and New Jersey on short notice.  But having everyone together like that WITHOUT Dad just made his absence so much more conspicuous, so surreal.

FrankenWhiggish Rose Applique
I worked on some needle turned applique while I was sitting in the hospital the first week, back when we thought that he would get better and come home.  I can't even look at it now.  It's the same project I was working on in the waiting room when I took my dad to all his doctor appointments and speech therapy appointments.  It's like sickness and death are stitched into it and now it's foul.

I did go in my sewing room yesterday, looking for something cut up and sew to take my mind off Father's Day, but nothing felt right.  How can I do something so frivolous when my house still smells like the lilies my sister-in-law sent to the funeral home, when we haven't even gotten the ashes back from the crematorium?  All I can do is clean.  Thankfully, both of my boys are away doing fun summer things this week.  They needed a break from all the sadness and my dad would want that for them.

I don't need anything, and I'll be fine.  Just not today.