Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Magical Year

Once upon a time, there were two friends who loved to stitch—so much so that we decided to join together and become a team, calling our business Through the Needle's Eye. We began designing and creating a fairy tale quilt, started teaching and lecturing, and began our blog.

In 2016, our fairy tale stitching included some fantastic experiences.

We designed several patterns in wool, having started with our ornaments last year. In fact, our first wool appliqué pattern, Marcia's Flowers, is available on our website, as well as at two local shops! Another pattern set is in the planning stages.

We taught a six-month crazy quilting class, including instruction on constructing the blocks, choosing and stitching motif designs, embellishing stitches with ribbon and beads, combination seam stitches, and finishing the project. We learned as much as our students in those creative classes!

We completed our Fairy Tale Album, which was accepted into a special exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in November, and it will also be included in the show in Chicago in the spring. It was such fun to see it there, especially seeing people study it to discover many of the stitched details.

A new granddaughter calls for a baby blanket, and what better design for a baby named Ella than to blow up the size of our Cinderella block pattern and work it in flannel? A few embroidered dimensional touches were her immediate favorite parts.

Among the many new projects in the works is a redwork quilt—using fairy tale motifs, of course! We were honored to be invited to teach at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg in 2017 and have been busy preparing for that. So many ideas; so much stitching!

Tonight, we celebrate the end of a wonderful 2016 in great anticipation of the year to come, which promises many exciting opportunities, both in our stitching and our personal lives. We can't wait to see how it all unfolds. 

So when the clock strikes midnight tonight, we won't worry that our carriage will become just a pumpkin. No, we will cling to our glass slippers and the sparkling promises they hold for the coming year—the next chapter in our happily ever after!

May you have a happy and prosperous 2017! 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Potts Palooza—Part Two

Last week, in Part One of our Potts Palooza, we showed you the Potts blocks that we made for our Block of the Month class, which will focus on embellishing appliqué with embroidery stitches. Today, I (Teri) will tell you a bit of the story of Margaret Potts and her quilt. At last week's Baltimore Appliqué Society (BAS) meeting, we were excited to welcome Priscilla Miller Hart, the great-grandaughter of Margaret Potts. Priscilla told us what she knew of the quilt's story.

Priscilla shared that Margaret began making the quilt when she was 18, presumably for her hope chest. She made fourteen of the 85 blocks in the quilt; the rest were made by family members (including two brothers,) neighbors, and friends—all of whom were Quakers. Margaret's family lived on a farm, north of York, Pennsylvania. It is surmised that the fabrics in the quilt were scraps from clothing, with fabric likely purchased from Philadelphia. The quilt—which is entirely hand-pieced, appliquéd, and quilted—was made in 1851-1858.

Margaret Potts with her husband
Pins indicate the blocks made by Margaret herself.

One of the tales I found most fascinating told of a time during the Civil War: the family buried the quilt in a copper kettle in the woods, where it remained for about two weeks. Evidently, they knew how valuable this quilt was to have thought to hide it when troops were in their area. Good thing for us that they did, for we can still enjoy its beauty today. And, of course, Margaret still had it in her hope chest when she married, though her husband only lived for a few years after they were wedded.

When Priscilla's father gave her the quilt, she had no idea how valuable it was. Her father had shared that he remembered seeing the quilt on Margaret's bed only on special occasions. When she received it, Priscilla kept it carefully folded in a pillow case in a cedar chest. She said at one point the quilt had to be frozen, to deal with a bug issue. Clearly, the quilt has been well loved and preserved, for it is still in pristine condition. Today, you can see it at the Winterthur Museum, where it currently is on display. So many of us can now benefit from Priscilla's generous donation of this quilted treasure.

Part of our celebration of Margaret Potts included sharing the blocks that members of the BAS had stitched. I believe that Priscilla was touched by the interest given to her great-grandmother's quilt, and she seemed to really enjoy the number of people who have continued the legacy of this heirloom by stitching its patterns. Here are some of the highlights from the evening.

Margo Cramer—one of the women who drafted the patterns—has been working on re-creating this quilt for some time. Having seen the quilt very closely, she is striving to replicate it with all its details, including the inked inscriptions.

One of Margo's exquisite blocks

Another of Margo's blocks

Two people brought in four-block quilts made a few years ago for a BAS auction. What a difference color choices make in a quilt!

By Colleen Hughes

By Linda Bobo

Blocks made by Polly Mello

More blocks by Colleen Hughes, in a different colorway

Vera Hall's group quilt top made with Potts patterns

The President's Quilt, with blocks made by 49 members of BAS for Past President Marcia Gratton.
How fun to see so many different interpretations of one block pattern!
Don't you just love the way she set them into her quilt top?
I thought it might be fun to compare some of the same blocks made by different people. Take a look:

I made this version of the block with batiks. As with the block you saw in last week's post,
I used a star stitch for the center, but it is much smaller. I also gathered the bud on this one.

Kara's version in batiks, using cast-on and pistil stitches in the center


Even when stitched in the same general colors, fabric choices can make such a difference in the final look of the block. The same holds true of design choices like flower construction: stitching a whole flower unit or individual petals. The variety of flower centers was such fun to explore!

I love this background fabric. How cute is the fussy-cut bird in the center of the flower on the left?

Again, fabric choice makes quite a difference. 

It was such an honor to hear Priscilla Miller Hart tell the story of this incredible quilt. It means so much that she has done all she can to preserve its history and to share the stories this treasure can tell. As quilters, I'm sure we all hope that our descendants will cherish the value of our work and act in a similar fashion. Thank you, Priscilla, for giving all of us the opportunity to appreciate your great-grandmother's quilt, and even re-create it with our own unique flavors!

If you would like to try your hand at some of these blocks, you can purchase the pattern at Or you could join the BAS (we have members near and far), and get one of the blocks in your newsletter every month—free! 

Have a happy, healthy, stitchy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Wishes

From our houses to yours, 
we wish you the happiest of holiday seasons. 
May your new year be filled with 
many blessings and stitching adventures.
Teri and Kara

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Potts Palooza—Part One

Back in April of this past year, we showcased the Margaret Potts Quilt and our versions of a couple of the blocks. In our blog post, Potts of Flowers, we shared that the Potts quilt was made by Margaret Potts and quite a few of her closest friends and relatives. The quilt was passed down through the family and was donated to the Winterthur Museum by Priscilla Hart Miller. 

Starting in January, we will be teaching a six-month block-of-the-month class at Patches Quilting, in Mt. Airy, Maryland, with more blocks from the Potts quilt and amped up embroidery! As we were putting this class together, we knew we wanted to teach some new and interesting stitches to our students. We also wanted to keep the fabric choices simple, so as to better highlight the embroidery and thread choices. The threads used were DMC, Valdani, Gentle Arts, and Weeks as those are the ones carried by our quilt shop. 

Today, we will give you a close-up peek of which blocks we will be doing and some of the unique stitches we chose for edging the fused appliqué. The buttonhole stitch was used on all the appliqués in the original quilt, and while that look has a simple beauty, we wanted to get a little more creative this time. So along with some old favorites stitches, we will be introducing some fun, new stitches in the class. Enjoy!

Potts Block #31

As this is the first block of the class, we have kept the stitches simple

Potts Block #32

Love the variegated DMC floss around the center

Potts Block #13

The Valdani pearl #12 makes a beautiful spiral trellis stitch

Potts Block #19

The cable chain stitch was done around all the blue flowers in this block

Potts Block #12

The Basque stitch gives a lacy edge to this flower

Potts Block #30

One strand of light purple and one strand of dark purple floss
gives a lovely variegated look to the edge of this flower.

If you live in the area—MD, DC, VA, PA—please join us at Patches Quilting and Sewing once a month for the next six months, (January to June, 3rd Saturday of each month, 1PM-4PM,) as we make these six blocks. Since our focus is on the embroidery, we will use fused appliqué; however, the same embellishment techniques could be used for needle-turn appliqué. You can contact Patches at  301-831-0366 to sign up. All you need to bring to the first class is a pair of scissors!

While we are doing six of the Potts blocks, there are 85 in the original quilt. Our hope is that through this class we will develop some "Potts Groupies" who may continue on with the rest of the blocks. For now though, we will stick to the six, as an 85-month block-of-the-month class might be a bit excessive! Stay tuned: next week we will tell you about our visit with Priscilla Miller Hart, the previous owner of this antique gem, as well as sharing interpretations of some of its blocks by other members of the Baltimore Appliqué Society.