Thursday, March 29, 2012

National Quilting Day secret sister gift

The mail brought a gift in honor of National Quilting Day, which was very welcome on a gloomy day.  We had drawn names in one online group I belong to, and Debbie M. got me.  Was I lucky!  Debbie had made me a potholder and a matching microwave pouch for baking potatoes (?).  Along with her sweet note were a pigma pen which I will need for an upcoming signature swap, folding scissors which will put in my traveling sewing kit right away, and a bias tape maker.  I've never used one of the latter, so it will be fun to play with.  
Earlier this month, I sent my former Dear Jane  secret pal, Pat, a package.  It's really fun to think of things to send, and it felt just like "old times" (2010).

Rest in peace, Melissa

The horrific news of the murder of a St. Johnsbury teacher has everyone in Vermont stunned.  These things just don't happen here where the air is relatively clean, the people are generally helpful and caring, and we often walk around at all hours without fear.  It is always a relief to return home after time away because it appears, on the surface and in our homes, that Vermont is a safe haven.   But there is evil everywhere,  sometimes even in our own backyards.   

My heart goes out to her two year old son who may have seen the whole thing, and I think back to when my son was two.  He would have been very aware of what was going on, even at 9:00 at night.  He probably would have been half-asleep, making it a nightmare he may keep having throughout his life.   It appears that Melissa had a strong support system in her family, friends, co-workers and students that will be there to support her little boy as he grows and deals with what will be a horrible memory.

I don't think Vermonters will change their style of living and giving mutual aid when asked, but an event like this does give us pause.  Perhaps we should be a little more careful when a friend reports creepy phone calls or odd requests for help.   In our neighborhood we do watch out for each other, realizing that many of us are aging.  But we should remember that listening to intuition and speaking up can be OK and may well save a life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Name that block

Tuesday was a sunny day, perfect for handsewing.  I have had Aunt Eliza's quilt, made during World War I (I think), for several years since Paul's mother passed away.  His sisters asked me to repair it, and I did stabilize a large number of seams Tuesday.  Every time I thought I was finished, I found another one that was coming undone.  It was entirely handsewn, perhaps because there were many inset seams. 
Last year when I was volunteering at the historical society, I asked a quilt conservator what to do about the holes and ragged binding.  She said the holes were not made by insects but were most likely made by use, folding along the centers all the time, and catching the edges on the bed springs when tucking the quilt in.  She recommended covering holes and the entire binding with bridal illusion (a fine tulle).  I found I could not see well enough to do this fine work, and because the quilt is quite stained, I'm not sure it is worth spending the money for restoration.  While working on the quilt I also noticed that Aunt Eliza's stitches were fairly large and the quilting was not decorative, leading me to believe that she really made the quilt to be used anyway.  I think it is best stored as is, and perhaps gotten out for display now and then.  So it's going back to Carole one of these days.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd try to identify the 8" blocks that were used.   The blue and white blocks are Puss in the Corner or Uneven Nine Patch.  But what about the other block?  There was a note with the quilt that called the quilt "Joseph's Coat," but I don't think that's the name of the block. I looked through Jinny Beyer's encyclopedic book of patchwork patterns and every book in my collection but couldn't find it.  Maybe someone out there in the blogosphere can help?

My attempt to make a block similar to this one with my sewing machine was really awful.  I can now understand why Aunt Eliza did it all by hand!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quilts in the VHS collection

Last night, Jackie Calder, Curator of the Vermont Historical Society, gave a slide talk of the quilts in their collection to our guild.  It was fun to see some of the quilts I helped re-roll onto acid-free rolls or sewed hanging sleeves onto last year.  They have become old friends to me.

These two Carolina Lily quilts were made by Mrs. and Miss Bolster.  They are perfect!  The quilting is amazing, and I love the darker beige outer border on Mrs. Bolster's.  A Barre history room is opening in VHS this July, and some of the 11 quilts in the Bolster Collection will be temporarily on display then. 

Monday, I attended a volunteer luncheon at VHS followed by a walk through the new exhibit spaces.   A new gallery, opening after the Barre history room, will feature Vermonters in the Civil War.  Jackie said that during that war historians estimate that 250,000 quilts were made and sent to the front.  Of those, only 20 have been documented as surviving!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More stackin' and whackin'

I had some leftover triangles from the stack and whack quilt, so I cut a few more.   The missing blocks have white backgrounds, and yesterday I put them all together into a 24" square.  Now for some borders.  I have plenty of the orange but think they will be chocolate brown along with a wide border of the print.  That orange is going to haunt me, I think, because I bought way too much.  I foresee a lot of orange bindings in my future!

Don't know if I'll get to that border or binding today, though.  I have quilt guild tonight so have to put together a crackers and cheese tray, as well as something hearty for lunch (eggplant parmesean and marinated green bean salad, I think).   Yesterday I started working on this month's step of the guild mystery quilt which is beginning to look like something now - and quite a nice something, using Christmas scraps.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Triangle tablerunner

A few years ago, my Dear Jane secret pal Karen sent me some triangles made of heavy paper for piecing similar to hexagons.  I used a charm pack called "serenity" and found I could get two triangles from each square.  The basting was easy after Kim showed me how to use paper clips to fold the edges over.  But slip-stitching took me a long time.  Perhaps it was the colors, perhaps it was the size of the pieces.  But I just couldn't see to sew them by hand that well.  I finally finished this very small tablerunner on Flimsey Friday a couple of weeks ago.  It didn't take long, and it looks quite sweet on the guest room bureau.  I can re-use the triangles and probably will someday.  Those triangles make a nice take-along project.

The Hunger Games

While on vacation I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a book all the kids seems to be devouring.  I am curious to see how the movie coming out this week will do.  It is a very captivating story with a plucky heroine.  All the popular elements are there - dystopia, war games (albeit with humans rather than on a hand-held device), survival, a little romance, family loyalty.   I'm going to order the next two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, to see how or if the trilogy concludes.  I hope it's a happy ending like the Harry Potter series had because I do think we all, regardless of age, need a sense of hope for the future.

The society that heroine Katniss Everdeen lives in is extremely restrictive and focussed primarily on survival.  Freedom is a thing of the past.  Schooling and, therefore, thought appear to be discouraged.  Only in the capital (somewhere near where Denver is now) do people have enough to eat or any culture at all.  People in the outlying 12 districts serve very distinct roles - producing food, mining coal, etc. - in order to provide the capital with luxuries.  Yet every year they gather round their TVs to watch the Hunger Games where two children from each district ("tributes") compete to the death.  The districts sacrifice their children for entertainment.  The underlying themes of the book are sad, yet Katniss and her co-tribute, the baker's son, prevail.  I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Not Shop Hopping... so far...

Friday was the first day of the Vermont Shop Hop, featuring 16 shops around the state.  The first couple of years, I tried to hit at least the northern shops, but now that I'm retired and have plenty of time to bomb around the state shopping (and less cash to do so), I stay home.  The good thing is that the participating shops are open on Sunday and Monday during the hop, so if I need something on those days I can run down to my LQS, A Quilters Garden

When I popped in there a few days ago, there was definitely excitement in the air.  I just needed some fat quarters for a gift basket and thread to finish my stack and whack, which is now a "flimsey."  After I finished it, I laid it on the bed to decide about quilting - do it myself?  take to Lisa?  I finally decided to defer my decision until I get the two quilts Lisa is longarming back.  But I think I will do it myself although it is twin sized, a little larger than I usually tackle.  It's a traditional layout with sashing that I can anchor before perhaps stipling the stars.  I've been looking for a 1930's print with peach in it for the back, but that can wait.  The flimsey is now hanging in the closet with two others which I will quilt myself this spring.

Friday I decided to play around with the left over stacked fabric to make pinwheels, and I have almost enough 6" blocks for a table-topper.  Oh oh... another flimsey!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring mug rug

I signed up for a seasonal mug rug swap this year.  Each of us receives a different "secret pal" each time and, since Cathy in Florida has received hers, now I can show a picture of it. I was going through quilt magazines as I do periodically to weed them, and saw a baby quilt with kites.  I had a small piece of blue sky fabric (it looks gray in the picture but it really is light blue) and thought a kite would be just the thing for spring.  I love the binding on this best of all.  Have had a yard in my stash for a long time, and am hoarding it for bindings.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Charleston, continued

One of the best things about Charleston was its walkability, and we spent quite a bit of time, despite some downpours, walking around.  Most of the homes, while expensive, are privately owned and we could peek into their small but lovely gardens.  At left is the garden of the Nathaniel Russell House which is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers tours on the half hour.  It was elegant and airy.  There is an amazing three story circular staircase, "cantilevered" as our guide, Madame Jardine, noted.  I remember how each step supports the next from building a dollhouse some years ago.

After the tour, we had to buy an umbrella and stay in the gift shop to wait for the rain to stop.  Unfortunately, it started pouring almost as soon as we left, but the next day we were able to take a picture of the outside.  Further along Meeting St. toward the Battery and White Point Gardens is the Calhoun Mansion, built by an ancestor of John C.  It has been furnished in the Victorian style, unfortunately, and is oppressively overstuffed with collections, "artwork," and excess.  Our guide told us that it is privately owned by people who live there about 10% of the time.  They use the many items on the dining room table, except the blue glass finger bowls.  They are clearly among the 1%.   There was a large but rather poorly painted portrait of a lady in the dining room which the guide said was painted by "Marie Cazog."  I was relieved that she had not mispronounced "Mary Cassatt," one of my favorites from the Shelburne Museum.

About a mile up Meeting St. from the Battery is the Charleston Museum which we enjoyed.  There was a collection of botanical quilts and historic clothing, as well as a good display of artifcats from early Charleston.  Videos discussed the cultivation of rice in the area which the slaves brought knowledge of from Africa.  The Civil War was also covered sensitively.   We wished we had visited the museum before our last day, but when we went earlier in the week the building was full of school tours.  There was a food and wine festival going on in Marion Park, named for Revolutionary War hero "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion.
Across the street from the museum is another house in the Federalist style, the Joseph Manigault House, designed by Gabriel Manigault, an amateur architect responsible for several Charleston homes.  This shows the back of the house from the garden which also featured a cute temple gate.  The original colors inside were soothing with the walls a light turquoise and woodwork painted gray.  The house also had a circular staircase in its front hall.  It was a nice end to our trip to Charleston.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cobblestone Quilt Show

As Paul and I were walking to catch the ferry to Ft. Sumter, we spotted a banner announcing a quilt show in Charleston.  I was so pleased when he suggested we go on Friday.  It was in a large auditorium with plenty of space for larger quilts and vendors downstairs and wall-sized and smaller quilts in the mezzanine.
I was surprised to see two of the same, exact quilt - the red one in the center near the top - using the same Alex Anderson toile fabric line.  But it was pretty even in duplicate.  The vendors were around the perimeter of the room, but they bumped up against some of the show quilts.  I like them a little less integrated, I guess.  I didn't shop at all because we had brought quite a few clothes, not knowing what weather we'd run into.  So there wasn't room in the suitcase, and I don't need anything anyway. 
I  was impressed that they had a separate section for all the show winners, except Viewers' Choice.  It was kind of nice to see them arranged that way.  Because I have been thinking about various layouts for my Stack and Whack quilt, I was pleased to see this one. It's so bright and cheery.  I like that "twist and turn" setting and the accent colors, especially the lime green. 
Another quilt that caught my eye is this sampler.  I enjoy making samplers, probably because of the variety, and like to incorporate both pieced and appliqued blocks.  These colors are outside my "comfort zone" but it really is a nice quilt.  I like the scrappy half-square triangle border, too. 
Finally, my favorite quilt of the show was this map of the Charleston area.  It gives me quite a good idea for a future project.  It was beautifully quilted, and you can see the tiny dot that is Ft. Sumter right at the mouth of the harbor.

Charleston, part one

Paul and I went to Charleston, SC, for a few days last week.  It has been on our "bucket list" for a while, and when we were deciding on a trip to someplace warm, it seemed like a good choice - walkable, no car needed, relatively warm to us northerners, lots of historical sites.  And we weren't disappointed.  It was charming and a nice break.  Temperatures were in the 70's for the most part, and our hotel was centrally located.  A free trolley circulates through the city, and we rode it several times to get nice views of things we'd like to go back to as well as of the Citadel, which is a little farther out.

Even though it was overcast and a little rainy, we took a ferry to Ft. Sumter on the first day.  Situated right where the rivers come together, it served as a strategic point throughout the city's history, until after World War II when German U-boats sailed along the Atlantic coast.   Built with fill, there's very little land there and all supplies had to be brought in, including water.  There are nice little museums there and at the ferry dock.
After our tour of Ft. Sumter, we needed to get back to the hotel where Carole & John were waiting for us.  So we took a ride with Dustin!  He wove in and out of traffic handily, and we enjoyed chatting with him.  We all bemoaned the cancellation of Triple Rush by the Travel Channel.  It featured my brother's bicycle messenger company where a couple of Dustin's biking buddies work. 
After drinks in the hotel lobby, the four of us went to a rib place for dinner and shared a free peach cobbler.  Truly a nice day!  After breakfast the next morning, Carole & John headed northward while we walked up Meeting St. to the Visitor's Center and more...