New Orleans House Project

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trade Card Tuesday: Elna Grasshopper

Today I'm stepping away from Victorian trade cards to share something a little more modern.  Postcards became the successor to Victorian trade cards in the early years of the 20th century.  Postage regulations made it possible for this type of card to be mailed for only a penny.  Postcards carried all types of illustrations and messages - including advertising.

St. Anne postcards usually feature pictures of young women and sewing machines.  The images are more romantic than practical: yards of frilly fabric and flower bouquets are usually cluttering up the work area.  St. Anne is the patron saint of seamstresses, hence the association with sewing machines.

The card was printed in France, and illustrates a Swiss-made Tavaro sewing machine called the Elna, later known as the Elna #1 or the Elna Grasshopper.  The machines were introduced in 1940, which sounds like a good timeframe for the postcard.

Although not specifically advertising the Elna Grasshopper, its distinctive color and shape jump right out at you from this card.  No longer mentioning St. Anne, the card is still a romantic depiction of a seamstress.  Another French postcard.

The Elna #1 was another entrant in the portable, electric sewing machine arena.  The machine fit snugly in its own (green) carrying case, which folded flat to make a sewing surface (not pictured in the card).  The machine and case together weighed in at 14.5 pounds.

I can't help but giggle every time I see this card.  The pose with the bird reminds me of the song "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" from the Disney movie, Cinderella.  But I think the model has a smirk on her face as if her inner thoughts are far from Disney-esque!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Log Cabin Therapy Goes Purple

I have been a fan of log cabin quilts from my earliest days as a quilter.  I think the appeal is two-fold:  the geometry and orderliness of log cabin quilt construction and the the therapeutic reverie induced by piecing log cabin strips.

One of the first quilt books I purchased as a new quilter was Carol Anne Wien's The Great American Log Cabin Quilt Book.  Published in 1984, this book pre-dates rotary cutters and suggests using a paper cutter to cut fabric strips!  The book has a generous helping of color pictures of log cabin quilts and I've thumbed through those pages countless times for inspiration.

Somewhere along the way, I started a stash of 2-inch fabric strips, ready cut for log cabin piecing.  When I had a hankering for what I call "mindless sewing", I'd pull out the strips and start piecing log cabin blocks - round and round and round the center square until my block was the target size.  I find there's something soothing about piecing in that round about fashion.  

I relied on log cabin therapy to help get me through some of the trying times caused by the flooding after Hurricane Katrina.  Our home was undamaged by the flooding and DH and I both had jobs to return to; we were back home within a month of the storm.  Our youngest son was still in high school and although his school took on over 15 feet of water, the administration made arrangements to hold night classes at another local high school that did not flood.  My job was reduced to just weekend hours for the first several months, so I had long stretches of time to fill during the week.  Out came the 2-inch strips and log cabin blocks were made with abandon.

I made one Courthouse Steps style quilt with yellow centers.  It turned out pretty cheery, despite its gloomy origins.  This one was gifted to a friend with whom I weathered several hurricanes in Florida.

This batch of traditional red center blocks were laid out barn-raising style.  I gifted this one to my friend Michele, who lost everything in the post-hurricane flooding.  When it came time to bind this quilt, I found The Perfect Fabric hiding in my stash - a red and black hot pepper print.  Perfect, as Michele loves hot, spicy food!  I brought it to her in December, 2005, at her temporary home in SW Louisiana.  

A recent log cabin post from Barb, of Fun with Barb, got me thinking about the solace of log cabin piecing again.  I decided I needed to try building some log cabins in a little more improvisational manner. 

I already had a pile of purple strips from another project.  The strips are different widths and not necessarily cut straight.  I started with two pieces that were roughly square and just started adding strips, log-cabin fashion, until I had a piece that could be trimmed to 6.5".  I probably should have made slightly larger blocks, but 6.5" is the width of my rotary cutting ruler, and that just made life easier.

Not the wonkiest log cabin blocks, but I'm happy with the result and the therapy was good, too!

I went back and added some pink LC blocks to the collection as well - so these can become part of the 2013 Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  Saturday is RSC share day, so do visit Soscrappy's blog to see what the other participants have been up to this week!

Last but not least, I do have one last purple house to share this month.  I didn't make any additional scrappy house blocks this month as I already have a bunch from last year.  But since log cabins are also houses, I figure I can sneak in one more!  This is a classic "shotgun double" - two residences side-by-side in a long, one-story house.  What caught my eye about this house (besides the color purple) was the stained glass windows - just a slightly different twist.  Can't wait to go hunting for next month's house color - whatever it may be!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Night Slowdown

My goal for the weekend was to finish this baby quilt.  Success on that front, although I still need to mark it for quilting and get it bin-basted.  This is just a teaser, I'll wait and show the entire quilt when it's finished.

I did discover a new favorite fabric staple while making this quilt.  Kona Snow from the Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton line, is a soft white that works perfectly with pastels.  I had ordered a yard from an online site just to see if I liked it as a staple, and was very pleased with how it worked with the Hushabye fabric.  Best of all, I can get it at my local Hancock Fabrics, so if I need it in a hurry I can get it right away!

Next up, I finished hand-quilting this mini quilt last night while enjoying a fire in the fireplace and some TV time with my DH.  I took a quick pic outside this afternoon before attaching the binding.  Hand-stitching the binding to the back of the quilt will be my project for tonight.  

While I was outside I snapped a pic of one of my camellias, too.  They're blooming a little late this year, but it's a joy to see them!  The bushes are covered with buds, so I'm hoping for a nice, long stretch of blooms.  Camellias are certainly associated with Southern culture, but a New Orleanian is more likely to associate them with the Camellia Grill!

If by chance I get the binding sewn down on the mini hearts quilt, I've got my Abundance quilt ready for hand-quilting.  I should have plenty to stitch on during the season finale of Downton Abbey, right?

Be sure to drop by Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching to see more projects with a hands-on touch!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Orleans 1850 Revisited

After petting my New Orleans 1850 fabrics a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to return to my LQS and purchase some more of the fabric line so I'd have enough for a large quilt.  I finally had the opportunity to visit the store last Friday, and imagine my surprise when I walked through the front door and saw this:
Not only had the shop owner found a great pattern, she wisely had the fabrics already cut and kitted up!  I really like how the gold fabric almost twinkles against the purple in the star blocks.  It wasn't part of the original line, but really adds some sparkle to the quilt.  I also really like the large upholstery-style stripe for the outer border - great use of that fabric!

The pattern is "Pyramid" from the book Traditional Fat Quarter Quilts by Monique Dillard.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you I bought a kit for the quilt.  I won't be able to start working on it until several other projects are complete, but I think I'll put some of the fabrics on my design wall so I can admire them while I'm waiting!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trade Card Tuesday: Tying Up A Valentine

In honor of Valentine's Day: 
The Thread That Binds The Union
President Grover Cleveland married Francis Folsom in 1886 - the first wedding to be held in the White House.  Miss Folsom was 21 years old when she married the 48 year old President.  She became a popular and well-liked First Lady, and advertisers took advantage of her popularity by featuring her likeness (along with the President) in all kinds of advertising - all without her permission!

Be that as it may, this is a charming card with cupids tying the knot for the Presidential couple.  The advertising on the reverse describes Merrick Thread as "the best six cord soft finish spool cotton for machine and hand sewing".  The company also sold ready wound bobbins for sewing machines - and we thought that was a 20th century idea!  The card is copyrighted 1886.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Catching Up With Grandmothers Choice

I've fallen way behind in the Grandmother's Choice BOW sponsored by Barbara Brackman.  I was hoping to be completely caught up by now, but there have just been too many other projects clamoring for my attention.  Here are blocks 15-20; now I'm only 4 blocks behind.  Some of these were quick and easy, others were quite challenging!  The block on the upper left - Old Maid's Ramble - took a few tries to assemble properly.  And the block on the upper right - Mother's Delight - has the colors mixed up, resulting in a completely different block than illustrated.  Oh well, finished is better than perfect!

Saturday, February 9, 2013


This week's scrappy sharing is brought to you by the color violet, or the V in the famous rainbow mnemonic, ROY G BIV.  I just learned something about violet - at least if Wikipedia is to be trusted on the subject.  Apparently violet is a true color - with it's own spectral wavelength, whereas purple has no spectral wavelength and is simply the combination of the colors red and blue.  
My goal this week was to create a violet house block.  I think this one came out OK!  Most of the fabrics are from Kate Spain's Cuzco fabric line.

Here's my New Orleans house inspiration for this week.  I snapped this with my cell phone camera last fall.  DH and I were walking from our car to a favorite restaurant one evening when I noticed the houses in the neighborhood were painted in a variety of rainbow hues.  I almost ran up and down the block snapping pictures before all the sunlight faded away!  

The style of this house is known as Craftsman, or Bungalow.  The style was popular from the early 1900s until about 1950.  One finds this type of house in more "modern" New Orleans neighborhoods.  I found yet another guide to New Orleans architecture online and if you browse through to page 14, you'll find a fantastic purple Craftsman-style house illustrated.

Some leader-ender spools got made, but that's about the extent of my sewing this week.  I'm hopeful next week will be more productive - I have a baby quilt that needs to get finished!

I'm linking up with the rest of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilters over at Soscrappy' blog.  Hope everyone has a sew-ful weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Orleans 1850

A recent visit to one of my local quilt shops resulted in some New Orleans-flavored stash enhancement.   The Quilted Owl specializes in reproduction fabrics and they had just gotten a shipment of these drool-worthy fabrics!
The line is called New Orleans 1850 and was produced by Newcastle Fabrics.  There are other colors available - I just succumbed to the purple.  You can view the entire line on the Newcastle website.

During the decade before the Civil War, New Orleans was often called the Queen City of the South.  The economy was bustling and the social and cultural life of the city were flourishing.  For a glimpse of what household life was like for well-to-do families, check out the pictures from the 1850 House Museum.

I haven't decided what I'll make with my New Orleans 1850 fabrics yet.  Since February is a purple month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilters, maybe inspiration will strike soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trade Card Tuesday: Some Early Singer Mfg. Co. Cards

I come from a family of folks who love puns and wordplay.  I think that's why I get a kick out of these early Singer Manufacturing Company trade cards.
The expression "never too late to mend" is not used much these days, but reminds us it is never too late to apologize or make amends to someone.  On the other hand, maybe the saying just means a Singer sewing machine can make repairs even at night - by candlelight!
Traditional Christian marriage vows often use the phrase, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder".  The sentiment expresses the belief that the bonds of marriage, made in sight of God, should not be broken by man.  Or maybe our Singer sewing machine Cupid just believes in a literal joining of husband and wife!
This card has my favorite wordplay, since the word tares is now about as antique as this sewing machine.  The phrase about the devil sowing tares comes from one of Jesus' parables in the New Testament.  In the story, the devil sowed weeds, or tares, in a man's field of wheat.  The story as told by Singer is just a little bit different, though!

The reverse of each of these cards lists the number of Singer sewing machines sold in the years between 1862 (12,489) and 1880 (538,609).  The last date is a good indicator the cards appeared sometime after 1880, which is about the time trade cards started becoming a popular advertising medium.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


The Rainbow Scrap Challenge color for February is purple.  That brings me all the way back to the initial inspiration for the New Orleans House Project.  It was during last year's RSC that I made my first purple house blocks, which in turn inspired me to open my eyes to rainbow-hued houses all around the city.  I'm looking forward to sharing a month's worth of purple scrappy house blocks as well as purple New Orleans houses!

Is it just an interesting coincidence that the RSC color for February is purple and the birthstone for the month of February is amethyst?  Even more coincidental is the fact there is an Amethyst Street in New Orleans.  I looked, but the neighborhood is a little too posh to support a bright amethyst house!

How's this for a purple house?  Complete with a pink flamingo in the front yard!  I snapped this pic shortly after Christmas; I like to think the owners have subsequently changed the Christmas decorations for Mardi Gras decorations.

I've worked up a few leader-ender spools in purple, too.  Most of my purple fabric was stashed at our camp, where I'm working on a long-term string quilt from left-over purple and gold fabrics.  We managed to escape to the camp this weekend (New Orleans is a little crazy right now with Mardi Gras and that Super Football Game happening simultaneously!), so I'll bring back a big assortment of purples to play with over the next several weeks.

There will be lots of purple to see over at Soscrappy's blog, where all of the Rainbow Scrappers will be sharing their amethyst quiltings for February.