Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pseudo Grandma

Every once in a while real life interferes with quilting, for better or worse. This time it's a good interruption! I know you probably have actual grandchildren, but so far the closest I can get to that dream are my daughter Lisa's two cats and, now, her 10 week old puppy. Is he cute, or what? His name is Ozzy, and so far he is the best pup in the world: Friendly, quiet, calm, playful, affectionate, smart and (almost!) housebroken. I say this as a completely neutral observer, just like a "real" grandma! We're going to my sister's cottage this weekend, and I can't wait to see the little fellow there. It will be interesting to see how he'll react to the other dogs, and especially if he'll follow them into the lake. He's supposedly an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, though he has no papers to prove it. He shows no inclination to herd the cats (as if it were possible) but he did a perfect point when a flock of birds flew over! So, we think perhaps his heritage is more complex than advertised. It doesn't matter --- he's definitely a keeper.

Lisa just bought her first house, complete with a huge fenced-in backyard. I can't prove it, but sometimes I suspect she bought the house for the dog. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) She can't move in until October 1st, but getting the puppy couldn't wait. So, for now, they are stuffed into her small apartment. The cats are not totally sold on either the move or the pup, but they'll adjust eventually. Maybe.

Design Style Guide Team Blog

On the third Wednesday of every month, I'm the designated blogger for the official Design Style Guide Team Blog. Check out today's entry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Block Failure

I had to buy a light box to trace the patterns for my Baltimore Album quilt. It's not a "professional" model (those were really pricey!) but for my purposes it's perfect. As I wrote in the last post, I wanted to start with an easy block. I'm working from books by one of America's best applique artists, Elly Sienkiewicz. Elly's favorite method, and the one she considers easiest, is called cutwork applique. (Or, in the case of the block below, reverse cutwork.) The first step is to trace half of a block pattern on freezer paper, then fold the paper and cut along the traced lines, sort of like making paper snowflakes, like we all did as kids. (Come to think of it, I wasn't very good at that, either!) The freezer paper cutout is then ironed shiny side down onto a fabric square, which is then pin-basted on top of another fabric. You cut the top fabric away on the traced lines, fold each edge under as you go, and sew this folded edge to the bottom fabric. Easy??? Elly, if you ever read this: I love your quilts, but you lied to me! Good grief, I found cutwork applique to be the most frustrating thing I've done since I started quilting. After the first few leaves I almost threw the block away and started over, but then I thought perhaps I should finish it as an practice exercise. I made it a little more than halfway around before I decided that I didn't even want to practice this technique, because I wouldn't make a quilt this way if you held a gun to my head.

The block actually looks kind of pretty in this picture. Trust me, it's not! It's full of frayed edges, visible stiches, and curves that don't properly curve. And it took way too long for something this poorly done. As my son used to say after I made him taste a new food, "I can't like it!" So, yesterday I cut pieces for a new "first" block, which I'll attach to the background fabric in the "normal" way. I'll have to rethink about half of the other 24 blocks I chose; if I can convert the patterns to attach in the old way I'll still use them. Otherwise, I'll either choose other patterns or make doubles of 12 blocks, using different colors.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One (Difficult!) Block At A Time

Is this a gorgeous quilt or what?! I ceated only one block, second from the right in the bottom row (close up photo below.) This Baltimore Album style quilt was a 2005 charity project sponsored by the Elly Sienkiewicz Applique Academy, to raise money for cancer research. The Academy requested applique blocks made from a pattern in any of Elly's books, using a specific background fabric and to include somewhere in the block a specific pink fabric, both of which they provided. Each block was to be dedicated to a friend or relative who died of cancer. Mine was in memory of my cousin, Pam, who died at age 40. Quilters are empathetic and generous people, I've found, and enough blocks were collected to make five quilts! These were auctioned on eBay, and if I remember correctly, this particular quilt was sold for about $5,000.00.

I've been wanting to make myself a Baltimore Album quilt ever since. It's a huge undertaking, and I kept telling myself I needed to improve my skills before I could attempt it. I had purchased most of Elly's books, and I guess I'd hoped to absorb the art of applique via osmosis. (As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?") Who was I kidding? There's only one way to improve a skill, and that is to practice it, over and over (aka: the hard way!)

Now that I've finished Brenda's applique quilt, I find that I miss having an evening project to work on while I watch TV or chat with my husband. I'm on the machines or at the computer for most of the day, but something about handwork is very soothing and relaxing for me. So... it's time to make the leap from wishing to doing. I spent the last few days choosing patterns for my 25 blocks. I'm going to alternate baskets of flowers with floral wreaths, except for the center block, which will be a peacock. The wide borders will also be appliqued, which is a first for me. If I can manage to complete one and one-half blocks per month, I can show it in the 2010 Ann Arbor Quilt Show. (How's that for not procrastinating?!) Yesterday I auditioned fabrics from my stash, and washed the ones I plan to use. Antique Baltimore Album quilts were usually done in red and green on a white background, often with accents of yellow. I prefer the more modern style, which allows the use of many colors, which is what I plan to do. I've cut out the first pattern, which is a heart shaped, reverse-applique wreath, and have basted it to the first block. I think I understand the next directions, and I'll start stitching as soon as I'm done blogging. I plan to post each block as I finish it, so you can follow my progress. I'm starting with the less complicated blocks and will work my way to the most difficult.Hopefully by the time I get to those I'll know what I'm doing!