New Orleans House Project

Friday, December 23, 2011

Inspired by Christmas

I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever in 1988 - my youngest son was born December 14th of that year.  I knew I wanted a Christmas-themed baby quilt to welcome my little one home, but I couldn't find a single ready-made baby quilt with a Christmas theme.  I decided I would have to learn to make quilts, so my December baby would have a Christmas quilt.  I signed up for my first quilting class at the local quilt shop and I have been in love with quilts and quilt-making ever since.
This is the Christmas quilt I eventually made for my son.  I began the quilt in 1988, and I sadly confess I did not finish it until December, 1992.  Poor boy was 4 years old by then!
If I remember correctly, I used coloring book drawings to create the teddy bear appliques.  I used a fabric fusible to anchor the fabrics and machine satin-stitched the raw edges.  The facial features were hand-embroidered.  I outline quilted around the bears and stitched in the ditch around the blocks.  The finished quilt measures approximately 40" x 40".  Not sure what possessed me to put a ruffle on a little boy's quilt!

A few years later, I decided my oldest son needed a Christmas quilt, too.  I remember picking out some of the Christmas fabrics for his quilt at Mae's Fabrics, a discount fabric chain where I loved to hunt for bargains.  I've become something of a fabric snob since then, but at that time I had yet to be burned by poorly-made fabric!
This was my first log cabin quilt - log cabins are still one of my favorite patterns.
Do any of these fabrics look familiar to you?  I don't have an exact date for this quilt, but the fabrics are definitely late 1980s to early 1990s.  I wanted the quilt to have an ageless appeal, so I didn't use any novelty fabrics.  The quilt was long-arm quilted and measures 54" x 76".  
This feathered star wall-hanging was a gift for my mom, circa 1997.  The feathered star was inspired by a Radiant Star pattern in Marsha McCloskey's Christmas Quilts (That Patchwork Place 1985 - apparently reprinted by Dover Books).  I remember hand-piecing the star while my kids were at swimming lessons in the summer and hand-quilting the quilt during soccer practice in the fall!
More recently, I gifted my Dear Husband with this old-fashioned Santa wall-hanging.  My DH was also born in December, and his love of Christmas led to an ever-growing collection of Santa Claus figures.  We've run out of display space for more Santas, but we haven't covered all the walls yet!  The pattern was a kit from a local quilt shop:  Bright Hopes Quilting.
Old-world Santa
Snowflake and swirl machine quilting by Annie Kusilek.

  Wishing you joy and that special serenity of spirit that occurs during this most inspiring time of the year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Civil War Tribute BOM: block 2

The second block for the Civil War Tribute BOM is called "Thunder & Lightning".  I like the name (I grew up in the thunderstorm capital of the US) and I like the block.  I was not so happy with the cutting and piecing method provided in the instructions.
All of the half-square triangles (HST) in the pattern were made by one of the most time-consuming methods I know.  The HST were made by cutting individual squares, then cutting those squares on the diagonal, then piecing the resulting triangles together based on color/fabric.  Yes, only four of these blocks were needed for the quilt, but it still would've been faster to use some speed cutting and piecing methods.  I was afraid to veer too far from the written instructions, as running out of fabric before completing the blocks would not be a good thing.
Still, I finished all four blocks and added the spacer strips.  These blocks commemorated the first battle of Manassas, or Bull Run as Northerners are want to call it.  First Manassas was the first land battle of the Civil War.  You  may recall it from history class as the battle where many of the fine folks from Washington, DC rode out in their carriages to watch and picnic.  When the tide of the battle turned against the Union army, many panicked soldiers overran the picnicking citizens in their haste to retreat to Washington.  One of New Orleans' native sons, Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, was the commander of the Confederate army.    

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deep, Deep Sea is Done, Done, Done!

The Deep, Deep Sea baby quilt is done!  I spent a marathon day watching movies and hand-stitching the binding.  As soon as the binding was stitched, I washed and dried the quilt to get rid of the spray starch and pet hair.  It also helped achieve that well-loved quilt look!  We will probably go by to visit the new bambino and deliver the quilt tomorrow after the Saints game.
Quilt after the binding is stitched; washed & dried.

Back of the quilt featuring the Deep, Deep Sea panel.

Prior to stitching the binding, I snapped a couple of pictures of the quilt and the cradle my DH made for Baby Jourden.

The cradle has already gone to Baby Jourden's house, or I'd have a picture of the cradle AND completed quilt!

I'm thrilled this quilt is finished; this is the second baby quilt I've made in the past 2 months.  I'm ready to devote some time to other quilting projects!

Quilt Details:  Deep, Deep Sea fabric by Studio E
Snuggly Squares Baby Quilt pattern by Melissa Corry
Machine-pieced, machine quilted
Finished size:  42" x 42"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Exotic Bias Aggravation

I recently finished piecing one of the most aggravating quilts I've ever worked on!

I fell in love with a fabric group - Floragraphix IV by Jason Yenter - at my LQS.  I loved the saturated colors and retro, flower-power prints.
After a quick thumb-through of the accompanying pattern book, I chose a pattern that appealed to me and used the large-scale prints to advantage: Exotic Star.
As I worked on piecing the quilt, I realized there was one huge headache with the pattern.  Almost all of the triangles in the pattern are cut with the bias on the outside edges.  I used a lot of starch to help stabilize the pieces.  I sewed carefully, but still did some ripping to achieve the most accurate piecing possible.  Measuring and judicious trimming were also of great importance.
These triangles didn't come out too bad - if you don't look too closely.
The fabrics are as board-stiff as I could make them with starch!
Here's my finished version (roughly 72" x 72").  I only hung it on the wall long enough to take pictures as I'm afraid the bias edges will stretch.  Not sure how this will be quilted; I'm definitely taking it to my longarm artist, although I'm not sure she will appreciate all the bias edges, either!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pieces of the Past: New Home Sewing Machine Co.

I confess I have been in a bit of a funk lately and haven't felt much urge to sew.  I've finished about three-fourths of the quilting on the Deep, Deep Sea baby quilt, but otherwise have no quilting output to share.  I hope to finish the baby quilt by the end of the week - indeed, the precious baby arrived about 2 weeks ahead of his due date, so now there's a little more pressure to finish!  Once the baby quilt is done, there are several projects in various stages that should bring some satisfying sewing time.  I look forward to that!

In the meantime, I'll share some more antique sewing machine trade cards.  In response to a previous Pieces of the Past post, Kimber sent me a link to her beautiful antique New Home sewing machine.  Since Kimber shares my affection for history and antique sewing machines, I thought I'd share a few of my New Home Victorian trade cards today.

The first incarnation of the New Home Sewing Machine Company was actually named Johnson, Clark & Company/Gold Medal Sewing Machine Company.  That company was founded in 1860 in Orange, Massachusetts.  In 1882, the company reorganized and chose the name New Home Sewing Machine Company.  New Home merged with the Free Sewing Machine Company in 1927, but continued to make "New Home" machines into the 1930s.

One of New Home's favorite advertising themes was using "Before" and "After" illustrations of the virtues of their sewing machines.  An early image for Johnson, Clark & Co. shows Mother using a "noisy, hard-running old machine" which agitates the children and the dog.  The next image shows the peaceful household restored after Mother purchases a New Home sewing machine.

I shall exchange this Noisy, Hard-Running, Old Machine for a "New
Home", which my sisters, cousins and aunts recommend.
How quietly it runs!  It is really a pleasure to sew since I bought the
Light-Running "New Home".

Another before and after card pictures a fox who lost his tail in a trap.  He uses a New Home sewing machine to sew his tail back in place so it will never come loose again!
There was once a Fox who lost his tail in a trap. Meeting
his companions they mocked at him, so he bought
a Light-Running "NEW HOME" Machine, which
sewed it on so tight it never came off again.
A variation on the Before & After card is known as a "Hold to Light" card.  The image is designed so that when the viewer holds the card up against a bright light, the image changes.  Upon holding this card to the light, the woman sewing by hand is transformed into the beautifully dressed woman sewing with a New Home sewing machine.
"With fingers weary and worn"
"With eyelids heavy and red"
"A Woman Sat in Unwomanly Rags"
"Plying Her Needle and Thread"
By Holding This Card to the Light, You Will See A Happy Change in the Above Picture,
& What Caused It.
The verse on the card is actually from "The Song of the Shirt", a composition by Thomas Hood which described the tedious and tiring life of seamstresses before the invention of the sewing machine.  Sewing machines were advertised as time savers that would benefit women's health and well being, as well as allow them to devote more time to their husbands and children. Of course, the converse of this was that many men feared women would have too much time on their hands if freed from the labor of hand sewing! 

One of my all-time favorite New Home advertisements is a four page pamphlet.  The pamphlet cleverly illustrates an amusing Before & After scene demonstrating an unusual quality provided by a New Home sewing machine.
Act 1st - The Perplexing Question.
A New Home Machine or a French Sewing Girl.

Act 2nd - The French Sewing Girl Decided Upon.
The Arrival.
Act 3rd - The French Sewing Girl Duly Installed.
Act 4th - The French Assistant Did Not Give Entire Satisfaction.
A New Home Machine Has Been Purchased.
All's Well That Ends Well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Prodigy Parrothead Project

In a previous post, I alluded to my stash of tropical fabrics, some of which went into my Four-Patch Parrot Quilt.  Much of that tropical fabric stash goes back to the early 1990s, when personal computers and Gulf & Western music collided to make a magical signature quilt!

Back in the early days of personal computers - when a modem was considered high tech - a group of fun-minded people met through a computer billboard service known as Prodigy.

These folks were attracted to a bulletin board topic called Parrothead Madness, drawn by their affinity for the music of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.  As friendships formed through online messages (no online chat functions at this time!) about Mr. Buffett's music and all things related, a plan was eventually formed to hold a meet-up in Key West, Florida.  The date was set well in advance, prompting plenty of planning and anticipation on the bulletin board.

I thought a signature friendship quilt would be a great way to commemorate this historic occasion.  The quilt would be raffled off during the visit to Key West, and the proceeds would all be donated to Save the Manatee, an organization Mr. Buffett helped establish in 1981.

Members of the Prodigy Parrothead Maddness board were invited to participate by sending me a half yard of a tropical fabric of their choice.  Yes, half-yard cuts are a huge amount of fabric, but fat quarters were essentially unheard of at that time (especially at chain fabric stores where I knew most of the fabrics would be purchased) and I thoroughly dislike quarter-yard cuts.

I pieced 25-block stars using the donated fabrics and white muslin, keeping the centers of the stars white so they could be filled with signatures, etc.  Each person who sent fabric received a pieced block by return mail, along with instructions for adding their artwork.  I even sent a block to Jimmy Buffett and asked for his autograph.

Eventually, a happy, gaudy, tropic collection of autographed/decorated blocks was assembled.  I found a fantastic fuchsia print for the sashing and quilted the blocks in a star pattern using silver metallic thread.  There was just enough time to enter the quilt in my local guild's quilt show before it made the trip to Key West.  I was stunned to receive an award in the Collaborative Quilt category and a Special Judge's Award for use of color!

Finally arriving in Key West, the quilt was seen in person for the first time by the Prodigy Parrotheads in attendance.  The folks at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Club hosted a party for the online feathered fans and the quilt was on display.

Yikes!  I can't believe this is the only full-size color picture I own of the quilt!

Many and more raffle tickets were sold, as everyone fell under the happy influence of the quilt (or was it the margaritas?).  Legendary Key West saloon-keeper and all-round character Captain Tony did the honors and drew the winning raffle ticket.  My memory is hazy, but I do remember a very nice monetary donation was made to Save the Manatee from the quilt raffle proceeds.

The Quilt-Maker, the Quilt-Winner & Captain Tony! (photo by Eric Ilasenko)
Even after making all 25 parrothead blocks, you can imagine how much tropical fabric I had left-over.  It was the beginning of love affair with tropical fabric and a never-ending stash!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Civil War Tribute BOM

I may be slow, but I am persistent!

I succumbed to this Civil War Tribute BOM subscription two years ago.  I was drawn to the blocks in the quilt, especially the center star.  Civil War reproduction fabrics are also favorites and I hadn't made a reproduction-style quilt in several years.  I knew I might not be able to start the BOM as soon as the monthly block selections began to arrive, but I did promise myself the quilt would not be a forever UFO.

Several months ago I was tidying up my sewing room and laid my hands on the BOM collection.  I made up my mind then and there to get the project started.  I rationalized I could easily make a block per month, instead of feeling overwhelmed by trying to complete the entire quilt from start to finish as a one-time project.

Sure enough, after an evenings' work, I had the first set of blocks completed!
Spinning Hourglass
It's very satisfying to finish one concrete step of the quilt in just a few hours.  I look forward to the challenge of completing the remaining 11 blocks.  I'm determined to stick to the block per month format, just to have the monthly reward factor!

Project info:  Civil War Tribute Block of the Month (2009)
Pattern designer:  Homestead Hearth
Fabric line:  Marcus Brothers Civil War Tribute Collection by Judie Rothermel

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not a Black Friday shopper...

I have no use for Black Friday sales.  My family is very low-key about exchanging Christmas gifts, so there is no need for frantic shopping.  And I really dislike crowds - not to mention crazy shoppers with pepper spray!

I did do a little online fabric shopping earlier this week.  One of my favorite online sites offered a fabric bundle called Around the World.
I was drawn to this FQ package by the selection featuring children of other countries:  Kokka Push Pin United Nations Natural .  I collect doll-themed fabrics and this one reminded me of some others in my collection.  Having some coordinating fabrics made the set very attractive!
The same online store also had a set of new Hoodie fabrics.  I've been a fan of Hoodie's fabric designs for some time, so these had to join my stash as well!
Hope your post-Thanksgiving Friday was a good one, however you chose to spend it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baby's Due Date Is Near!

I have been distracted by other events lately, and progress on the Deep, Deep Sea baby quilt has been slow.  I did spend some quality time with the quilt last weekend, so there's a good chance the quilt will be finished before the baby arrives (he is due in late December).
As I was piecing the squares, the thought occurred to me this pattern would make up nicely using some of the coordinated Christmas fabric collections that are now so widely available.  In fact, Kate Spain's "Flurry" came to mind!  (BTW, I have no affiliation with The Fat Quarter Shop, I'm just a happy customer)
I've decided to use the Deep, Deep Sea panel as part of the quilt back;  I'll piece it with some additional fabric as it's not large enough alone.  
I'm auditioning binding fabric:  Caribbean green with a little turquoise here.

Solid blue, more of a royal blue, here.
Decisions, decisions...

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Orleans Sunflowers

I have always had a fondness for sunflowers.  Their cheerful yellow blooms seem to be sunshine, personified.  After the devastating floods following Hurricane Katrina, sunflowers bloomed in the most unlikely places all over New Orleans, symbolizing the rebirth and resilience of my city.  I started envisioning sunflower quilts.

I discovered Anita Shackelford's Arizona Sunflowers quilt a year or so after the flood.  Somehow a forlorn copy of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting got left behind on the magazine rack at my local grocery, even though the magazine was months out of date!  The Arizona Sunflower quilt graced the cover of the magazine, and I snatched up that lone copy just for the sunflower pattern.
Arizona Sunflowers from Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, Sept/Oct 2006
As usual, it took me several years to get started on the quilt.  I decided to change the colors just a bit, aiming for muted blues in place of the brown baskets and border.  I also wanted to challenge myself to doing needle-turn applique for the sunflowers, leaves and stems (the pattern is written for machine applique).  I had never done much hand applique, so I turned to my favorite tutor - Google - and experimented with applique methods until I found the technique I liked best.  I began appliqueing the sunflowers late last fall and finished piecing and assembling the quilt last month.
New Orleans Sunflowers!
I'll be the first to say I made several mistakes with the applique process.  For example, the instructions led me to applique all the sunflowers, but there was no mention of leaving some un-stitched areas in which to insert the ends of the stems.  When it came time to applique the vines, I had no desire to snip any of my hand applique stitches, so I just tucked the cut ends of the stems inside themselves and appliqued everything down as best I could.  The baskets were also kind of a bear to piece.  I wound up hand-piecing the base of each basket and even then some of my corners got cut off!
My original thought was that I would also hand-quilt my sunflowers.  Now I'm feeling less inclined to do so.  I'm rather reluctant to quilt through all those triangles in the basket blocks - I really dislike stab-stitching through all those layers.  I think I will be asking one of my favorite machine quilters to collaborate with me on the quilting!
I'm sorry I couldn't get the blue baskets and border to show up better!  Here's one of the sunflowers next to the backing fabric.  I just need to finish trimming the fabric layers under the applique and get the backing pieced.  I'm so ready to have this hanging on the wall and making me smile every day!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pieces of the Past: St. Anne's Virtual Sewing Machine Gallery

Several years into my quilting life, I came across a treadle sewing machine in an antique store.  I was captivated by the colorful flower-like decals on the cast-iron machine head.  I rationalized that a quilter should have a connection to the quilters of history, and an antique sewing machine was a great connection.  The machine came home with me.  It proved a decorative conversation piece and my young sons loved to mash the pedal up and down.

Fast forward several years - another antique store - another sewing machine.  This one was in a charming wooden box and had a hand crank instead of a treadle.  It followed me home as well.  By that time, the internet was just beginning to demonstrate its usefulness as a research tool, and I immediately took to the web to find out more about my new machine.  I discovered a network of antique sewing machine resources and I was hooked!

It didn't take long to discover that as much as I loved the hunt for antique sewing machines, my house didn't have room for a huge collection.  Instead, I focused my collecting energy on sewing machine-related Victorian trade cards.  Victorian trade cards (sometimes called Chromos) became popular in the late 1870s when new technology came along that made color printing easily and inexpensively accessible.  The cards were used for advertising products and services; they became wildly popular due to the novelty of color printing and romantic images pictured.

It was easy to find sewing machine cards for sale online and I developed a nice collection.  As I acquired new cards, I was inspired to learn about the history of the sewing machines and the various sewing machine manufacturers in the US and abroad.  For several years I maintained a website - St. Anne's Virtual Sewing Machine Gallery - devoted to sewing machine trade cards.  Eventually I pulled the plug on the site, as web design and coding became ever more complex and sophisticated - I just didn't have the time to keep up with the changes!

I still am on the lookout for new cards, and thumb through the collection albums on a regular basis.  I hope you don't mind if I bring out some of these old chestnuts from time to time!  They are a great window into the past - giving a peek at the everyday life of seamstresses who stitched before us.

More Sewing Machine Cards