New Orleans House Project

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Civil War Appliqué BOM Update

I've been participating in Barbara Brackman's Civil War appliqué BOM projects for the past two years.  
In 2019, the theme was Hospital Sketches, featuring stories about hospital care during the Civil War.  This year's theme is Cassandra's Circle, focusing on the lives of Confederate women in the social circle of diarist Mary Boykin Chestnut.

I used stash fabrics (except for backgrounds) for the Hospital Sketches blocks, but found my stash lacking in appropriate sashing and border fabrics. 
Happily, I found some suitable fabrics this spring and completed the flimsy.  I had to tweak the exposure on the photo quite a bit to even get the outer border fabric to show up - it's a dark blue paisley.  

This project was a great experience in choosing fabrics for appliqué.  I still have much to learn, but I'm enjoying the process!

This month's block for Cassandra's Circle is called Texas Star.
Several options were suggested for the center star image.  I liked the crossed five-pointed stars.  I especially enjoyed cutting the wreath using a folded paper (freezer paper in this case) technique.

Non-appliqué department
We're having a really prolific year of jalapeños.  So far I've made pico de gallo and pickled jalapeños.  I chopped up another batch and froze them.  And more were split, seeded, and roasted, then frozen.  And still the peppers keep growing!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lone Stars in my Eyes

One of my goals for this year is to rev up my Lone Star quilt making skills.  Ultimately, I'd like to have a stash of Lone Star pillows to give as Christmas gifts.  Most of the intended recipients are residents of the Lone Star State (Texas), hence that specific quilt block choice. 

I made one large Lone Star quilt many years ago.
It was a gift for my mom, completed sometime in the mid-1990s.  She decided it was "too pretty" to use, so it remained packed away for years until I convinced her to hang it on the wall of her new house.  Now I get to pet it every time I visit her!  

My guiding star for making that Lone Star quilt was The New Lone Star Quilt Handbook by Blanche Young and Helen Young Frost (1989).
The "new" in their technique was the use of strip piecing, followed by rotary cutting diamonds from the assembled strips.  After making that first Lone Star, I knew I wanted to make more.  I had no idea it would take so many years for me to return to this quilt pattern.

I have been thinking about Lone Star quilts since January.  Searching the internet, saving pictures to Pinterest, returning to my library of quilt history books - all looking for inspiration and motivation.

I already had a fat quarter bundle whispering to me about becoming a practice Lone Star block (Chesterfield by Studio RK for Robert Kaufman Fabrics).  And when yesterday turned into Waiting for the AC Repairman Day, I knew it was time to start practicing!
Since I knew I wanted a small-ish, pillow-sized star, I followed an online tutorial from the Hopeful Homemaker which used 1.5 inch strips.  The current star measures about 16 inches.  I imagine I'll add some type of border, but the general idea is for the finished quilt block to fit an 18 inch pillow form.

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the background fabric for the star, assuming I'd find something appropriate in my stash.  This is an off-white Moda Grunge fabric.  I'm not crazy about it, especially since there's not much contrast with the light-colored paisley fabric in the star tips.

Then I remembered I had this Color Weave fabric (P & B Textiles - alas, I don't think they're still making this line), which I think will be perfect.  Fortunately, I have at least a yard of the fabric, so I should be able to finish an entire pillow.  

On a completely unrelated note:
We have a bluebird family in residence at our camp!  We haven't had any bluebirds for several years, so we enjoyed watching them build their nest.  I'm going up tomorrow to check on the garden, and I'm looking forward to seeing them!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Full Circle: An Appliqué Challenge

I was finally able to take some pictures of my finished Quilty 365 quilt - aka Full Circle.  The quilt was the result of a challenge from Audrey of Quilty Folk to appliqué a circle every day for a year.  My circles wound up being sort of a fabric journal of the year, hence the calendar-like layout.  

Since the majority of the quilt was appliquéd in 2016, there are 366 circles, as that was a leap year.  As I did the stitching, I also kept a written journal of the rationale behind each fabric choice.  

Local long-arm quilter Cindy Braiwick really outdid herself with the quilting.  She came up with lots of special patterns for the circles, which really added a whole 'nother dimension to the quilt!

Not every circle has fancy quilting, leaving some circles to speak for themselves.

My son David suggested the name Full Circle.  

The finished quilt measures 76 inches by 90 inches.

Lots of memories in all those circles!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Cassandra's Circle BOM Block Three

During April, I got distracted with face mask sewing and other projects, and didn't get around to stitching my Cassandra's Circle block until late in the month.  I managed to finish block three well before the end of the month, but I forgot about posting my results.

I added a Fleur de Lis to my block to represent my city - New Orleans.  I learned a lot about all the variations in fleur de lis designs as I was figuring out my block addition.  

The next block in the series - Texas Star - has already been posted, so I guess I better get busy choosing fabrics and stitching!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Au Revoir April!

Greetings from New Orleans/South Louisiana, where new cases of Covid-19 have slowed and hospitals are less overwhelmed.  Still, our governor has continued shelter at home orders for an additional two weeks.  I'm thankful for that, however painful for our economy, because I don't want to see a spike in new Covid-19 cases and subsequent deaths.  Our local hospital (where my husband works) was hit hard by the virus and is still struggling to keep up with the patient demand.

This time of year New Orleans would be in the middle of festival season, specifically our beloved Jazz and Heritage Festival - fifty years young this year.  Of course this year's Fest was cancelled, but in the spirit of resilience, local community radio station WWOZ has been broadcasting previously recorded Jazz Fest performances, so we can have a bit of escape from day-to-day reality.  Jazz Festing in Place follows the timetable of the real fest, broadcasting from 11 am to 7 pm from now through Sunday.  Tune in via if you need a little musical escape!

As for quilting therapy, I seem to be taking comfort in wrapping up UFOs.

This Sawtooth Star and Uneven 9-Patch quilt has been kicking around the studio for several years.  At this point, the quilt was just shy of being queen-sized, and I kept looking for fabric to add as a final, un-pieced border.  Earlier this month it occurred to me I just needed to add some additional Sawtooth Star and Uneven 9-Patch blocks, and the quilt would be the size I wanted.

I cut twenty-four additional blocks and stitched them up.  Then I removed two of the borders and added an additional row and column to the body of the quilt.  I made a few additional Flying Geese blocks for the outer border, stitched everything back up and soon had a finished flimsy.  

I also finished hand-stitching all 350-something inches of binding on my Full Circle quilt...and made a label.  Full pictures of the quilt coming soon!

I need to stop digging around in the UFO bins.  I pulled out this stalled project and decided it would be a quick finish, if I would just focus on it!  Lots of the small four patches were already stitched, so it was a matter of cutting more of the larger squares to make double four-patch blocks.  These are all leftover fabrics from my Grandmother's Choice quilt - so should I call this Grandmother's Choice Leftovers?

I've also been trying to do some hand-quilting on this Schoolhouse quilt every day.  I enjoy hand quilting, but I really struggle with trying to improve my stitches.   Practice makes perfect!

Gardening and yard work have taken up lots of my shelter at home time, too.  These shots are from the containers at our camp (note: we shelter in place at our camp, just like at home and the camp is only an hour from New Orleans).  We already have lots of tomatoes that are close to being ripe.  I picked quite a few of the jalapeños in the picture above, and made pickled jalapeños with them last week.  Mint seems to almost grow wild at the camp, and we use it for Mint Juleps as well as Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

At home, we demolished our 30-something year-old in-ground swimming pool earlier this year.  Now we have an amazing patch of lovely green grass (lower left pic).  Dear Husband built the rolling planters in the top picture, and I filled them with Knock-Out Roses, Agapanthus, and Bird of Paradise.  The round terracotta pot is full of basil - we've already made our first batch of pesto! The hibiscus bloom is from plants along the back fence, and the remaining pictures are the newly re-done front yard landscaping - lots of daylilies!

And now to wrap up the month with good wishes for everyone.  I hope you all continue to stay safe and healthy and take comfort in your stitching!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

TGFT! (Thank Goodness for Fabric Therapy)

Good morning and welcome to Week Three of "Sewcial Distancing" and Fabric Therapy.  For all the times I may have felt guilty about my pile of UFOs, or the size of my fabric stash - right now I'm grateful to have both.

Oh, and surprisingly grateful for social media, too.  Instagram has been a soothing escape from all the pandemic news/noise.  I have been trying to post there more frequently, mostly to let friends and family know I'm still doing OK (a.helman on Instagram).  My family also uses GroupMe, a group text messaging app, to stay in touch and check up on each other.  The governor of Florida has decreed travelers from Louisiana must be quarantined for at least two weeks, so I couldn't visit my family even if I needed to.

Do your UFOs speak to you?

This batch of swap blocks started calling my name early this week.  I came across the blocks as I was digging through the UFO bin, looking for a different project.  That night, as I was falling asleep, the blocks started making very insistent noises about getting assembled into a flimsy.  

What could I do?  Out came the blocks and soon they were arranged on the design wall and ready for assembly.  This might be one my oldest UFOs, as the blocks date back to 1998-1999.  The block exchange was between the members of the Treadle On mail list - Treadle On being a group for folks who collect and use vintage and antique (non-electric) sewing machines.  

The blocks actually cover two swaps; the first used reproduction-style fabrics, the second used novelty fabrics relating to the block maker's geographic location or other personal interests.  Not only is it a fun catalog of fabric prints from that time, but each block is also inscribed with the maker's name, location, and type of sewing machine.  The blocks are from all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe.  The oldest sewing machine dates to the mid-1880s!

I also have an appliqué block I plan to use as the quilt label.  This was my prototype block for a Sunbonnet Sue quilt put together by the Treadle On leader, "Captain" Dick Wightman.  I called the block "A Sewing Machine Named Desire", inspired by Treadle On members' constant hunt for that antique sewing machine that made their heart go pitter-pat.  My appliqué sewing machine is embellished with gold embroidery, including the name "Desire" and a crescent moon and stars (Crescent City being a nickname for New Orleans).

On other fronts, I made 350-something inches of bias binding and attached it to the Full Circle quilt.  I will try to stitch on this a little each morning - avoiding TV news and maybe binge-watching more Outlander.

Christmas prep department:  I put my AccuQuilt Go to work cutting Christmas trees and holly leaves.  I found a bargello table runner pattern online - Dec la Table - and since I had appropriate fabrics already in the stash, decided to give the pattern a try.  I've been wanting to make a bargello or Trip Around the World style table runner ever since I saw Diane D Knott's Mardi Gras table runner!

I didn't follow the exact instructions for the table runner, as the pattern in written to be done quilt-as-you-go style.  I just made the flimsy, then cut out some Accuquilt shapes instead of using the designs in the pattern.  I haven't fused the shapes in place yet.  Plus, I wanted to use metallic thread to outline all the appliqué shapes, but my metallic thread stash is not to be found (I think I pitched them all in a fit of cleaning; all of the threads were old, so probably not a great loss).  If anyone has any metallic thread recommendations, I'd love to hear them!

And now I've spent way too much time in front of my computer, so it's time to move.  I hope everyone is doing well, practicing good health routines, and not running low on toilet paper! 😃

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Fabric (and other) Therapy - Week Two

It's been another week of Fabric Therapy and social distancing.  

New Orleans is pretty shut down now - just about the only things open are grocery stores, pharmacies, and health care providers.  We are the hot spot in the state of Louisiana for COVID-19 infections and deaths.  Last night the mayor issued a Shelter in Place order, but the rules aren't that much different from what most of us are already doing.  

My Dear Husband is on call this weekend, so I decided to head to our camp in Mississippi to do a little spring cleaning.  I've been doing a real deep cleaning, plus re-organizing closets and cabinets; thinning out stuff that never gets used, etc.  I turned on Radio Margaritaville to keep me motivated - happy music and escapism!

I discovered a four-pack of these in the refrigerator while I was cleaning.  We must have purchased them last summer and forgotten about them.  I enjoyed one as I was cleaning, and between the ginger beer and Radio Margaritaville, I had a mini Caribbean vacation.  These are non-alcoholic, but with a little rum, they'd make a great Dark and Stormy!

I wanted to take my English Garden quilt outside for some photographs today. but it's been overcast and raining off and on.  Instead, I put my quilt rack to work and opened all the binds and curtains for as much daylight as possible.  Dear Husband made this quilt display rack several years ago.

My local LAQ, Cindy Braiwick, had a fun time with the quilting.  I tried to photograph her efforts, but the lighting and busy fabric weren't helpful.  She used lots of rose/flower designs, including individual flowers and buds in the background areas of the Sawtooth Star blocks.

Label attached.  I started this quilt in the spring of 2005.  Fifteen years later, I'm loving it!

My binge-watching this week has been Outlander, Seasons 2 and 3.  Not really enjoying Season 3 so far, but I think I'm only on Episode 3.

While binge-watching, I stitched up block 2 of Barbara Brackman's Civil War appliqué BOM:  Cassandra's Circle.  This block is Mulberry Wreath.  I had fun doing the fussy cutting.

And that's the news that's fit to print for now.  I hope everyone continues to stay safe and find helpful coping mechanisms for this stressful time.  Virtual hugs to everyone!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Fabric Therapy When We Really Need It!

It's been a crazy week, for sure! 

I've been relying on sewing, reading, and binge-watching shows from streaming services to keep down the stress levels.  

One of my goals this year is to make lots of quilt-oriented Christmas gifts.  To that end, I pulled out a well-aged jelly roll (Flurry by Kate Spain) and looked for some inspiration.
I'm not a fan of jelly roll pre-cuts - I think they're too limiting - but I really liked this fabric line, and the jelly roll was ON SALE!  Once I settled on a pattern recipe (this type of pattern is all over the internet), it didn't take long to sub-cut the fabric strips and assemble all the parts.  The border fabric also came from the stash - a Moda Grunge called Sugar Cookie.

I love the crisp, colorful look of the fabrics.  They're festive, but don't scream "Christmas".  Not sure who the lucky recipient will be, but I've made a start on my goal.

I've been making Carolina Chain blocks as a leader-ender project this year.  The Flurry quilt needed lots of leader-enders, so...
I chopped up lots of teal and aqua fabrics, as that's the theme for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  This is just a few of the RSC blocks; I think I'm actually going to end up with enough blocks for two quilts by the end of the year.

I've been working on hand-stitching the binding on this quilt (English Garden by Kaye England).  I decided to get 'er finished this week and dialed up Season 3 of The Crown (Netflix) to keep me entertained while I stitched.  I finished the binding and hanger, just need to appliqué the label and the quilt will be finished.  Pictures soon.

One of my favorite forms of escapist reading is mystery/detective stories.  I think it comes from my childhood love for Nancy Drew.  I've read many different authors over the years and I love finding a new-to-me author with a series of mysteries that capture my imagination.  My latest find is the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman.  Tess is a private investigator in Baltimore, Maryland and I think I enjoy the descriptions of Baltimore (a city much like New Orleans) as much as the detective adventures!

Stay safe out there, everyone! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Cassandra's Circle BOM: Block One

I couldn't resist playing along with Barbara Brackman's 2020 Civil War BOM:  Cassandra's Circle.  

The Civil War history focus for this BOM is the diary of South Carolinian Mary Boykin Chestnut.  

The BOM project itself will be a much larger quilt, including a large center medallion, and an appliquéd border.

I decided to stay with reproduction style fabrics for this year's BOM.  Several years ago, I inadvertently purchased two identical fat quarter collections from Penny Rose Fabrics:  Civil War Times.  I decided to put them to use on this project - I should have plenty of fabric!

The January block, called Washington's Plume, is also the center medallion.  After prepping all the pieces with the freezer paper/starch method, I used invisible stitch machine appliqué to attach the pieces.  As much as I have learned to enjoy hand appliqué, I wanted to get the block finished by the end of the month!

The February block, Mulberry Wreath, was published last week.  I have been contemplating how I can represent the leaves on the wreath using just my fat quarter fabrics, i. e. not adding any green fabric.  Luckily, I just learned a new-to-me appliqué tip from @Red_Alfreda (Mary Jenkins) on Instagram.  
Photocopied fabric
Her tip was to photocopy fabric to help plan how to cut shapes for broderie perse appliqué.  I figured the technique would work for auditioning appliqué shapes, too.

Now I can contemplate which fabric layout I like better before I even cut into my fabric!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Once More with the Veggie Leftovers

Wendy at The Constant Quilter has been encouraging quilters to make monthly mini quilts for the past few years.  I've always enjoyed seeing what different quilters created each month, but I never thought I would make time for a new quilt (or twelve!) since my pile of UFOs was so huge.

However, after seeing January's mini quilts, I was inspired to at least pull out a small UFO and finish it as my own February mini project.  I don't know if my quilt strictly qualifies as a "mini", since it measures 25 inches on each side, but at least it's now a Finished Object!

My mini UFO started as an exercise in using up waste triangles from an earlier quilt.  I had a batch of small HSTs left after making snowball blocks using these vegetable-dyed, woodblock print fabrics. 

Once the center was complete, I used some striped fabrics from the same collection to make mitered borders.  There wasn't enough of the black and blue stripes to make an entire border, so I used both colors.  

The quilt top needed batting (pieced from scraps), backing (found a piece of light brown floral in my stash), and binding (leftover Moda Grunge binding).  I pinned up the layers, did some outline and ditch quilting, then hand-stitched the binding and added a hanging sleeve.  A quick trip through the wash and some drying and blocking and I now have another project crossed off the UFO list!