Thursday, January 18, 2018

Free Block of the Month 5: Scabiosa Columbaria

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe that we are well into 2018, but I hear it came in with a bang for all of you in the states. I (Kara) kept hearing things like cyclone bomb, arctic temperatures, and the like. Here in Germany, it has been unseasonably warm; my daughter and I were even able to go on a hike to a local castle ruin and waterfall.

Castle ruins at Bad Urach on an unseasonably, sunny day!


The wasserfall.
The view through a castle arrowslit.



But alas, it still is winter here, and the gloomy weather has returned once again. Those brief respites in the weather give us hope for spring, the warmer weather, and the return of flowers. That is why this month's block is a flower; the Scabiosia Columbaria to be exact.


This flower is scattered throughout the meadows almost all summer long, and is still showing it's lovely face well into autumn. The pattern is based on the above picture and can be stitched with or without the bee. As always, I put together two blocks; one in wool and one in cotton. The cotton block came together quite easily, but the wool one...let's just say we will learn from that one.

Cotton Block


I was happy that I had two sizes and colors of River Silk ribbon that would work for this block, along with a beautiful pearl cotton from Weeks Dyeworks, called Peoria Peony. A floss from The Gentle Art and a few other threads, rounded out my embroidery supplies.


















My stash came through for the base of this flower when I found this purple fabric, reminiscent of paper marbling. I had never found a use for it until now, but I liked the way it would add some visual texture to this flower.













I promise that the next block will not have so many French knots, but for this flower, that stitch was obvious. In hindsight, I would have padded the center, but I was pleased with the outcome, regardless. The first French knots were stitched in a circular fashion around the center. Then I used the 7mm ribbon to make ribbon stitches, leaving space to come back around with the 4mm ribbon (I eyeballed the length). After the ribbon stitches, I added a few more French knots, putting them on the ribbon as well. Using one strand of the light colored floss, I randomly added a few, small, straight, stitches in the center. A number 5 pearl cotton for the stems and leaves, using a chain stitch and two rows in the thicker parts of the leaves, almost completed the block. All that was left to do was the bee, and I will explain that a little further in the post.

The finished cotton block.

The little straight stitches add another texture.
Two layers of chain stitches worked for the
thicker part of the leaf.


Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

River Silk, light violet ribbon, 4mm 1951 and 7mm 109
Weeks #8 Pearl, Peoria Peony
The Gentle Art, 6-stranded floss, Jasmine using 1 strand
Painter's Threads, #5 pearl cotton for chain stitched stems
Chameleon Threads, #12 silk pearl for satin stitched bee body
Sock weight, black alpaca yarn for satin stitched bee tail
White 4mm, silk ribbon for ribbon stitched, bee wings

Wool Block

As alluded to, this block gave me a few teaching moments—as we like to call them. It started out the same as I gathered my supplies; some of the threads I used again, including a gold, silk pearl I purchased in England.


I love the Mokuba ombre, picot-edge ribbon on the left.

Since I didn't pad the first flower, I decided I would for the wool one. First, I added my French knots to the wool circle before I stitched it to the background. By doing this, I hoped to keep a little more puff than if I added the knots after it was stitched down. I stitched three quarters of the way around the circle, added a little poly-fill stuffing, and then stitched it closed.

French knots added before stuffing.

The purple, Mokuba, ribbon was what I decided to use for the petals. This ribbon makes wonderful little flowers when gathered in a circle, but I had never tried to stitch with it. My first mistake (I should know better), was to use a needle that was too small for the ribbon and the layers I had to go through. My second mistake was not paying attention to the length of my petals. The needle was easy enough to fix—I switched to a 22 chenille needle and the ribbon went through much easier. However, I didn't notice the length of my petals until I had done about 7 and those were the ones that I had struggled to make with the smaller needle. I guess my eyeballing skills were lacking for this flower. This is where I had to ask myself the question, "Can I live with it the way it is?" or as someone once said, "Can you notice it from the back of an Amish buggy?" I have no idea if that is a real saying, but the sentiment is the same.

In the grand scheme of things, once the quilt is finished, no one will know
if the petals are too long, too short, or just right!

I decided I could live with the too long petals, primarily because my fingers hurt, but also because it was likely I wouldn't be able to salvage the beautiful ribbon once I ripped it out. I still liked the effect of the petals with the ribbon, even if they were longer than the pattern and the real flower.

Capturing the bee in the picture was a thrill, and I knew I wanted to include that little guy into the block. I started with a little bee shape cut out of very thin batting, to give me a guide for stitching. Holding the batting piece up to the pattern helped me to match the size.


Bee batting base (You've got to love alliteration.)


A couple of stitches to anchor the base.
I started stitching with the black, alpaca thread in the middle to anchor the base down. and then continued with satin stitches, decreasing gradually in size towards the tail.



















The finished bee!
Using the gold, silk, pearl, I added a few stitches for the upper body, and then came back with the black for the head and one straight stitch of black in the middle of the gold.


Even though the petals were a bit larger than the pattern, I was still happy with the way the wool block turned out. It didn't stitch according to plan, but I do think it shows off the ribbon well. Sometimes we just need to turn our mistakes into opportunities.

Again, I used a chain stitch for the stem.

The finished wool block

Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Mokuba picot-edge ombré ribbon in purple for petals (source: Quilter's Fancy)
Variegated silk floss in purple for French knots
The Gentle Art, 6-stranded floss, Jasmine, using 1 strand
Painter's Threads, #8 pearl cotton for chain stitched stems
Chameleon Threads, #12 silk pearl for satin stitched bee body
Sock weight, black alpaca yarn for satin stitched bee tail
White 4mm silk ribbon for ribbon stitched, bee wings


Sometimes, things don't go as planned, but we make them work—a philosophy on life and needlework! To rip or not rip? is sometimes the question, and more often than not, I rip—but not this time. The patterns for these blocks are meant to be a foundation for our own interpretation, based on the threads and fabrics used. Every block that each of us finish, will most likely be different from the rest, and that is a good thing! I hope you enjoy this month's block and its challenges. And we would love, love, LOVE to see pictures of your work on these blocks! Our collection is growing, and it would be fun to see how everyone interprets these blocks in their own style.

Download the Scabiosa Columbaria HERE

To see the other blocks in our stitch along:
Goldenrod
Fly Agaric

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Quiltfolk Road Trip to Cape Cod

My ideal vacation involves a road trip and a few quilt shop visits. Nothing nears the warm sense of “home” I (Teri) feel in a shop filled with the friendly faces of those who share my passion. Imagine the joy of finding myself on a road trip to Cape Cod last fall, visiting three new shops in one day! Not to mention the fact that I was taking this road trip with the staff of Quiltfolk magazine: I would be writing articles about three of the shops for Issue 05. 

I have been a fan of this publication since its first issue in December of 2016. Kara and I discovered the Quiltfolk booth at Market in Houston that fall and were instantly drawn to their vision, which mirrors our view of the value of the stories of the quilts we create. I couldn't wait to read the first issue when it arrived, and it did not disappoint. I eagerly awaited each issue and devoured them, each time visiting a new state and "meeting" many fellow quilters. I was excited to be joining the team as a writer.

Quiltfolk display at 2016 Market in Houston 

In late September, I left warm sunshine in Maryland to fly to Boston, where an uninvited guest named José was expected to make his arrival in eastern Massachusetts, as well. The remnant of that hurricane enveloped us with gray, rainy weather. We rose early, and armed with our morning coffee, braved the storm and headed to the Cape with a packed agenda—three quilt shops and a gathering of guild members. The bleak weather was no match for the warmth we met as we visited with Cape Cod quilters. The three shops we visited that day were unique and different, but each resonated with me in some special way.

A tiny sliver of the goodness at Tumbleweed:
shelves organized by color, and reproductions
Our first stop was Tumbleweed Quilt Shop, where we met with the manager, Mary Carlson. The shop was extensive; my budget could take a big hit if I lived close to Tumbleweed. Mary talked about how she encourages her customers to enjoy their quilting and have fun—not to fret over every little "mistake" they make. “Don’t worry about it; cover it with a quilting stitch or something," she advises. "Step back, like you’re at the door of the bedroom—can you see it? And if they say no, I say okay; if you’re not entering it in a national show or putting it in a museum, it’s not a problem, right? So relax!” Yes, we should all heed her sage advice; our quilting should be fun! We have often told our students much the same thing: those 'errors' are really design opportunities for more appliqué or embroidery! The entire staff at Tumbleweed was welcoming, sharing their stories and projects as if we were longtime friends.




I left with my purchase of this lighthouse panel,
to stitch the story of my trip to Cape Cod.
After lunch—a lobster roll, scallops, and clam chowder, of course—we headed to our next stop, Quilt-ish of Cape Cod. Owner June Herold is all about stories, and she is quite the storyteller about everything Cape Cod. Most of her quilt and fabric designs reflect the stories of the cape. Her customers all leave having learned something about the area; but June has the ability to draw stories from her visitors as well. She shared some fascinating tales that she had heard from patrons, often spurred on by a fabric panel depicting local life, like the one of all the lighthouses on the cape. One particular tale was told by granddaughters of the lightkeeper in Narragansett Bay when the hurricane of 1938 hit. "They told me, 'Our grandfather saved a number of people; only six were left, and the storm tossed all six of them out to sea, including my great-grandmother. All six of them died, but the sea tossed him back. Our grandfather survived.' They tell me unbelievable stories," June exclaimed.


We next visited the home of one of the members of the Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod, the largest guild of the area. What a pleasure it was to hear the stories of their stunning work. Not only are they incredibly active as a group—making and donating quilts to those in need, and putting on an annual quilt show which draws tourists in droves—but they are also prolific in their individual art work, with many varying styles. 


Our final visit was to Cape Cod Quilts and Cottages, owned by Pat Murphy. Pat's charm and wit were delightful—sunshine on a rainy day. Pat is one who grabs every opportunity to live her dreams. Formerly an Army sergeant and then mayor of a Connecticut town, she is currently fulfilling her dream to own a quilt shop. And she rents cottages. (Sounds like the PERFECT vacation destination...a cottage by a quilt shop!) One quilt in particular really grabbed my attention in Pat's shop: her 9/11 quilt, below. My eyes kept returning to this riveting piece; I asked her to tell me more about it.

Quilt remembering 9/11, by Pat Murphy, Cape Cod, MA
I told her that it was hard to look at this and not have an emotional response, reliving aspects of that day. Pat responded, "I’ve taken it down a couple of times, but whenever I do, someone comes in and says they’ve brought a friend to see the 9/11 quilt. So I put it back up. I used to have it a prominent spot in my office, when I was mayor. It helped when people came in with a trivial complaint; it gave perspective: your day could be worse." She pointed out many of the items in her border. "I’m an old army sergeant, so I had to put in some patriotic stuff. Computers were down, so I included computer board fabric, bricks from the crumbled buildings, and fabric with twin towers all needed to be in the quilt. And photos of the first responders. It was really about the people. This quilt was my way of getting rid of that anger everybody had that day." Indeed, I could feel that emotion when I looked at her piece—a striking visual reminder of the blessing, and the cost, of our freedom.

"The explosion was created with dryer lint and tulle.
I already had the fabric with the people." 

Pat included this poem, written by a friend (Ron Crowcroft)
who is a naturalized citizen.  She said they would read this
poem each year at the  9/11 ceremony when she was mayor.
"It was a tearjerker, so I'd have someone else read it."
You can read more about Pat's quilt by clicking here.

When Michael McCormick, Quiltfolk's Editor in Chief, first called me to talk about the possibility of doing some writing for the magazine, I was—as you might imagine—thrilled. I am learning that one is never too old for new adventures, or even brand new ventures. By nature, I am not a risk-taker, but I am learning how to step outside my comfort zone. Not that it could ever be uncomfortable talking to quilters!! 

I so enjoyed spending the day with the Quiltfolk staff, watching (and being a part of) the behind-the-scenes workings of the magazine. It was different for me not to be taking pictures, as that is often a big part of my quilt shop stops. But observing Leah, the photographer, work her magic was a great learning experience for me. My day was filled with lessons: don't fret the mistakes and have fun stitching; tell your stories; and strive to live your dreams. In fact, I never know what my next dream might be. Sometimes they just fall into my lap!

My first printed by-line

I have only given you a glimpse into one day of the Quiltfolk road trip through eastern Massachusetts. Issue 05 is packed with more quilt shops, quilters, and quilty goodness. I hope you'll check it out!

To learn more about Quiltfolk magazine and how to subscribe, click here
To read our previous posts about Quiltfolk, check out these posts:



Thursday, January 4, 2018

To England We Will Go!

As a child, I (Kara) lived in England for three years, and since then, I have always loved everything British. My parents bought a VW camper, and we explored the British Isles with enthusiasm. When my husband mentioned that he had to go to the UK for work, I immediately began to look for things to do in that particular area. Of course, my first search was for quilt shops, and I discovered Bee Crafty; a quilt shop just outside of Huntingdon. I navigated easily through their website and much to my delight, found a paper-piecing workshop held on one of the days I could visit. The class was "1000 Pieces Patchwork With Carol"—an ongoing group, as I discovered—most working on a Millefiori quilt, La Passacaglia, by Willyne Hammerstein.  I called the shop, chatted with Polly, and signed up for the class. 

I have always wanted to make one of these quilts and have been lurking on the Facebook groups devoted to La Passacaglia. I even have all the papers and stencils, but because of lack of time, and a little bit of fear, have never started. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin. Many of the finished Millefiori quilts that I have seen have utilized a lot of fussy cutting that creates all sorts of interesting designs. While I like that look, I decided to keep my start simple, with no fussy cutting, especially since I would need to bring all my supplies with me on the plane.

My palette to start.

The cab dropped me off about a half hour before the shop opened, but the shop owner, Maddie, and her manager, Polly, graciously let me in. They were chatting with a fabric rep, and I realized quickly that I could never be a quilt shop owner, as I would want to buy ALL the fabric!!


One of everything, please!

Maddie and Polly were amazing hosts and let me wander around the shop before the class; they even made me a cup of tea! Whether it's quilting, embroidery, or knitting, Bee Crafty has just about everything you might need.

Yarn, paper-piecing, and embroidery supplies
Christmas fabrics and more
The class is one that is ongoing as the project is quite large, so many of the ladies have been working on their quilts for a while. Some of the ladies had already moved on to a different quilt from the book. Carol, the instructor, got me started and suggested that I look for a few more fabrics to brighten up my palette. It was a hardship to go shopping for fabric, but somehow I endured the task. 

The store is well lit and I was able to find a few fabrics to enhance my stash for this quilt.

Carol also brought in a paper-pieced Christmas quilt top that she had done. It was amazing! There was so much detail, with something new to look at each time you looked.  It was all ready to be hand-quilted.

I especially liked the fussy-cut snowmen.

A finished Millefiori top was brought in to share; unfortunately, I can't remember the maker's name, but the quilt was stunning and inspiring. I have looked at quite a few, and this one is one of my favorites.

What a beauty! I hope I can finish mine someday.

Everyone brought a bag lunch (mine was created from the hotel breakfast buffet), and we even had tea served to us by the wonderful Maddie and Polly. After lunch, we kept stitching, chatting, and drinking tea. The workspace at Bee Crafty is spacious and so well lit. What's not to love about a class where you are served tea multiple times throughout the day?

Everyone hard at work,
including Carol, our teacher, on the right. 
A charm quilt in the making.



My accomplishment for the day.

I had a fantastic day visiting this shop, not too far from Cambridge, and can't wait for an opportunity to go back. Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming. One of the ladies I sat near, Gillian, even gave me a ride back to the hotel, so I didn't have to take a cab. Perhaps the most welcoming were Maddie, the owner, and her manager, Polly. They were so much fun and so helpful, even while preparing the shop for an open house the next day.


Maddie and Polly

Some of the other ladies gave me a few ideas of places to go the next day, one of which was the Lucy Boston home (Patchwork of the Crosses). Unfortunately, The Manor—Hemmingford Grey—wasn't open for visitors the next day, but I will try to get there on the next visit.  I did have a chance to visit a few antique shops in Huntingdon, and while I found a few gems, I didn't think they would fit in my suitcase.

Oh the things I could store in this lovely case.

Might not fit in the overhead baggage compartment.

What fun I had on this trip to England! I made some new friends, and I started a project that I had been a bit fearful of—all in one day. All the ladies at Bee Crafty prove my theory that quilters are some of the nicest people in the world.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Back-Basted Basket Weaving

In November, I (Teri) taught a workshop for the Baltimore Appliqué Society on this lovely flower basket block, made by Mildred Tahara. I wrote about this stunning quilt in the post, In Praise of Jane Austen: An Album Quilt, including close-up shots of the blocks Mildred made that will be BAS workshops. Elly Sienkiewicz designed the patterns Mildred used.

As I began stitching my model, I pondered the basket. My favorite appliqué method is back-basting, so I knew that would be how I'd construct my basket. I studied the baskets on both Elly's and Mildred's models. (Elly was kind enough to loan me her block.) When Elly first made the block, she used a solid piece of fabric and used reverse appliqué.

Basket, reverse appliquéd by Elly Sienkiewicz
What a perfect fabric for the basket!

Mildred also reverse appliquéd the basket with a single piece of fabric, but then she appliquéd the rectangles of white on top of it to give the basket an open look.

Basket appliquéd by Mildred Tahara

Since I was using Mildred's quilt as my teaching model, I wanted the basket to have the same look; however, I don't think I have the patience that Mildred must have, because I couldn't imagine me trying to appliqué all those skinny rectangles. So I decided to "weave" my basket, using the back-basting method. Here's what I did.

First, I marked every other spoke on the back, and basted them, using one piece of fabric. I then trimmed and appliquéd each of the spokes.

Next, I basted the cross-bar on top of those spokes, trimmed, and appliquéd it.

Here is the back of the piece, where the basket is marked. Note the light marked lines in the stitched spokes, which helped me place the first alternating spokes. Here, I am basting the remaining alternating spokes

The basting lines are marked on the outside of the spokes, so that when they are trimmed and the basting stitches are removed one at a time, the marked lines are my turning lines. 

As I stitched these spokes on top of the previous spokes and cross-bar, I got the illusion of having woven the basket fabric. But all I had to do was stitch straight lines...easy peasy!!

After the inside of the basket was finished, I basted one large piece of fabric over the entire basket design—the inside and the outside edges. I marked the basting lines with my white pencil.

First I trimmed—very carefully—along the inside edges and reverse appliquéd the inside of the basket.



After the inside was reverse appliquéd, I appliquéd around the outside edge of the basket, removing just a few basting stitches at a time, not more than an inch or so ahead of my appliqué stitches. 

You can see the woven look that is achieved.


And here is my finished basket!

I am nearly finished with the block. I just have a few flowers remaining to create and stitch. I will be teaching the second part of the this block in January, at which point I will share my version with you. It has been great fun to stitch this Flower Basket, inspired by both Elly and Mildred. 

There are many ways to stitch a basket. How might you go about weaving an appliquéd basket?