Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's Giveaway Time!!

Snowblowing the first two feet of snow.
This past weekend, we experienced a huge blizzard, with high winds and over 30 inches of snow. Depending on where you live, that might not be such a big deal, but here in Maryland, that much snow can be a bit paralyzing. It takes quite a while for all the roads to get plowed, and ours was among the last to be cleared, so we were snowed in for four days. Both Kara and I (Teri) got a lot of stitching done though, when we weren't shoveling our respective driveways and sidewalks. Kara was working on some baby quilts and a wool project. I finished a model for a beginning appliqué class we will be teaching and worked on the appliquéd baby blanket for my new granddaughter.

Blizzard stitching: model for our beginning appliqué class

Fortunately, we experienced no power outages, so our time was pretty productive. I can be perfectly happy staying home for several days, unless I CAN'T go out, and then that is all I want to do. Instead, I enjoyed the beauty of the snow falling outside my window, and I watched movies, stitched, made soup, and read. And shoveled the front porch and sidewalk. Twice. But I digress.

For the past two weeks, we have written about a Baltimore album-style quilt that we helped to make for a dear friend. (See Here's the Story of a Lovely Lady... and Zooming in for a Closer Look.) We love Baltimore album-style appliqué, and we hope you have been inspired by some of the blocks from that quilt. To further inspire you, we thought it would be fun to do our first giveaway. We would like to offer you a copy of Elly Sienkiewicz's 30th Anniversary Revised Edition of Spoken Without a Word. 
Book cover, with cover pattern stitched by Bette Augustine

Remember the pineapple block from last week's post? Its pattern was also included in Elly's first book, printed in 1983. It is one of 25 patterns included in the book, most of which were drafted from antique Baltimore album quilts. (The butterfly pattern on the cover was drawn by Elly's mother.) The original book has been reprinted within this edition, along with many pictures of contemporary models of the patterns.

I worked as Publication Manager with Elly on this book. The best part of the job was communicating with so many of the lovely ladies who stitched blocks or quilts using these patterns. I was blessed to have "met" stitchers from Australia, Canada, and many states in the U.S., learning some of the stories of their quilts. The needlework is stunning and inspiring. And we'd like for you to have a copy! If you already own the book, it would make a great gift, so we hope you will still enter.

Kara and I teach a couple of classes using patterns from the book. The blocks we've made are pictured below.

Eight-Pointed Star With Sprigs of Berries, by Kara

Eight-Pointed Star With Sprigs of Berries, by Teri

Rose of Sharon, by Kara

To enter for a chance to win this book, Spoken Without a Word:
  1. Leave a comment on the blog. (If you are reading this in email, just click on the title to head to the blog site.)
  2. In your comment, tell us what your favorite fairy tale is.
  3. To be entered in the drawing, your comment must be in by Monday, February 1, at 12 noon, EST. 
We will be choosing a name from the entries at random and announce the winner next week. Please be sure that we have enough information about you to identify you. For instance, if you don't want to include your last name, tell where you are from so we know which "Mary" likes Cinderella, such as Mary from Timbuktu.

Thanks for visiting! It's always a pleasure to hear from you, and we can't wait to learn what your favorite fairy tales are. And just so you know, there is more to come about fairy tales in the future. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Zooming in for a Closer Look

Last week, Kara shared the story of the Album quilt that we made and presented to our dear friend, Bette. This week, I (Teri) would like to share some details of that quilt with you, along with a few more detailed stories of our making of the quilt. So put on your glasses; we have a lot of beauty to behold!

I'll start with a block that Kara made. She really likes birds, and she tends to want to put a bird on everything. (Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit!) But I thought it was a bit humorous that of the four blocks Kara picked at random, two of them had birds. Bet you can guess which ones she chose to make! I think she was pretty happy when she got to the bird after all those acorns.

Kara's bird in an oak wreath

Almost every week, Kara and I got together with our friend, Jo Ann, to stitch and work on our blocks. It was wonderful to be able to encourage and inspire each other. Jo is incredibly creative and not afraid to try anything, so she gave us a lot of courage to attempt some new techniques. Watching her work on this monument was a thrill. She set the bar high, pushing me (maybe both of us) to expand my horizons and take risks.

Jo Ann's monument block with birds made of ultra suede

We had quite a discussion about what these were supposed to be. Jo made them cactus flowers, with blooms made of hand-dyed velvet. This design is also in my cornucopia block, but I made them strawberries, since it was filled with fruit.

Jo's ruched flowers are stunning!

If you look closely at the picture above, you will see a little bee flying above the top flower. Jo had the idea that we should put bees on our blocks, because Bette was our Queen Bee, leading us all as we worked at the Appliqué Academy. Kara and I loved the idea and proceeded to place bees on our blocks as well. You can see Kara's bee at the base of the wreath on her bird block above.

My first block was a basic wreath with leaves and buds. I am not sure what kind of leaves or buds they are supposed to be; I'm certain the leaves aren't rose leaves, but my buds are rather rose-like. The calyxes are made with wool to add interest. To make the wreath, I braided three bias strips of fabric, appliquéd it down, and used a fly stitch on top. Each bud is tacked with a bead.

My wreath of leaves and buds

With Jo's guidance, I tried stumpwork for the first time to make the wings on my bee.

Jo Ann's sister, Jan Vaine, has also been quite an inspiration for both Kara and me over the years. She taught us her method of Perfect Placement appliqué, and we have been hooked on a back-basting type of appliqué ever since. While I was venturing into the unknown making my bee's wings, Jan was using stumpwork embroidery to make the petals of her flowers. Her work is exquisite!

Jan's urn with doves and floral heart block

Detail of Jan's dimensional flowers

Last week, we showed you one of Bette's blocks, with her teeny tiny stems, for which she is well-known. Bette is the master of minute detail, and her work is amazing, as you will affirm when you examine her other block. She is truly an artist who strives to better her needle skills with every new piece she stitches.

Bette's block, depicting the end of the Civil War

Detail: date appliquéd with ultra suede

Detail: photo transfer on urn

Detail: flower crocheted with fine thread

Detail: padded acorns with knotted caps

Kara had fun creating the variety of flowers in this block. With all the birds in these patterns, I'm not sure how I didn't get one at all!

Kara's urn of flowers...with a bird, of course!

Detail: A bee and a flower made of wool and ribbon

My second block was a cornucopia, which I shared in November, here. This block offered so much more variety and was lots of fun. As I was planning what fabrics I would use to make each fruit, I decided to include a lime. It seemed appropriate to place a coconut next to it, though by scale, it is a bit too small. By the time I finished that block, we were tired of having the song "The Lime in the Coconut" stuck in our heads. (It may have been sung a few times in our stitching sessions.) If you'd like the song stuck in your head, take a listen by clicking here.

Detail: my lime and the coconut, surrounded by plums, a peach, and apples.

There were ten of us stitching blocks for this lovely quilt, from six states across the U.S. Bette was so kind as to send it to us for a lecture we gave in the fall for the Baltimore Appliqué Society. While it was here, I took some photos of some of the blocks. Here is a representation of the other stitchers in our group of friends.

Doris's block, so bright and cheery

Kathy's lyre block, with her ruffled ribbon rose

Lou's block, with dimensional pineapples—Lou made four blocks for the quilt and is Jan and Jo's mom.
She certainly passed down her talent to her daughters!

Megan's flower block, perhaps geraniums 

DeeDee's dove and anchor block, with lovely folded rosebuds and calyxes

We hope you have enjoyed exploring this Baltimore album-style beauty with us. The patterns were all created by the Baltimore Appliqué Society from the 1847 Samuel Williams Quilt, which resides at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I hope you have found some inspiration from these blocks. And we also hope that you, too, have found a group of stitching sisters, tied together by your love of needle and thread.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Here's the Story of a Lovely Lady...

No, this post is not about Carol Brady, but of a Baltimore album quilt's path to different lovely lady. This story begins in 2013, in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the tail end of The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy.  This was my (Kara's) first year working at the Appliqué Academy, so I was the newbie on staff at the time. What an amazing experience it was to work at an event such as this! I marveled (when I wasn't running up and down stairs between classes) at the level of detail and thought that was put into this week-long gathering filled with classes, lectures, and fun. The chief mastermind behind a lot of that thought and detail was the lovely lady I previously referenced. 

Lifelong friends were made, and even though we were exhausted by the end of the week, we still had fun. It was the last night at the Academy, and we were all sitting around the table in our "headquarters," and someone brought out the Samuel Williams Quilt patterns. A suggestion was made that we, the staff, each pick four block patterns at random and complete two of the blocks by November to be made into one quilt. We decided to raffle the completed quilt at the following year's Academy, deciding to choose a charity at a later time. We all liked that idea and proceeded to pick our four block patterns.  This was one of my four:

Let's just say I wasn't thrilled about making all those berries, so this was not one of my first two. Jan Vaine chose the background fabric and three coordinating fabrics for us all to use. The coordinating fabrics had to be in each of the blocks for continuity.  Most of us followed those rules (you know who you are if you didn't.) Around September, Jan and her sister Jo sent an email asking what our thoughts were about making this quilt for Bette Augustine (that "thought and detail mastermind" mentioned in the first paragraph.) All of us thought this was a brilliant idea, as Bette worked tirelessly all year to make the Appliqué Academy such a wonderful event and had been doing so for many years. Bette was making blocks as well, so we kept up the ruse of a raffle quilt for her benefit, and we stretched the truth when we said the longarm quilter hadn't yet finished the quilt and it wouldn't be ready in time for the Academy.

Once all the staff had assembled in Williamsburg, we presented the quilt to Bette. You can see by the look on her face that she was surprised.

Bette's surprise
Bette with her good friend, Elly Sienkiewicz
Taking a closer look at the quilt
Everyone showing Bette the blocks they completed
Exclaiming over the beautiful border chosen by Jan Vaine
So because this quilt was a surprise for Bette, she didn't realize that she was making two blocks for her own quilt. Not only is Bette a splendid event organizer, she is also an accomplished appliqué artist, as seen in this exquisite block:

Bette will be teaching at the Kathy Dunigan Academy of Appliqué in February of this year, and you too can learn how to make the smallest of stems just like these:

This label, made by Jan Vaine, represents the loving hands that created this beautiful quilt, but it doesn't adequately express how much love went into it. This was the perfect sentiment to describe our feelings for Bette:  "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom." 

The making of this quilt and the experiences we shared at the Academy bonded us together more closely than we could have imagined. Stitching sisters are a wonderful gift that we have been so blessed to have been given.

The Stitching Sisters
This is the completed twenty-block quilt, made with love for our "sister," Bette.  Next week, we will show you close-ups of the blocks and share some of the stories that came out of the making of this quilt.  Join us next week!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Crazy Quilting—Start to Finish

The title of this post sounds a bit intimidating, but it is the goal of a new class Teri and I (Kara) will be teaching at our local quilt shop. We have taught a beginning crazy quilting class that primarily focused on learning the basic embroidery skills needed for seam stitches and motifs; however, we really didn't have time in a one-day class to teach how to piece and embellish the blocks. Quite a few of our students wanted to learn those skills as well, so a 6-month class was born. The class doesn't start until January 16th, but we thought we would bring you, our readers, along with us as we take this crazy quilting journey.

We began preparing for the class by putting together a sample that consisted of four different blocks. Each one is a little different, which allows for a few different techniques in assembling them. Assembling crazy quilt blocks is inherently somewhat random, but the way one person puts them together may make sense to that person and not to another. That's what Teri and I discovered.  I tend to be more exacting in my process, whereas Teri is confident in eyeballing the pieces and putting them together with great results. Our students will get a little bit of both methods, and they will be able to choose the method that best suits them. Here are the four different blocks before embroidery:

We tried to incorporate different fabrics, many of which were sourced from local thrift stores.

We each finished two blocks, but before we started, we put together the 4 patterns and planned out our motifs and embellishments. By doing this ahead of time, we avoided duplicating our efforts.  The side benefit of this "worksheet" was that it allowed me to plan out my seam stitches and thread colors ahead of time.

Some people—like Teri—would rather choose their seam stitches on the fly, (stitching pun intended,) but planning things out helped me to contain some of my stitching chaos.

This is my "contained" stitching setup.

For the motifs in this sample, we chose images from our upcoming fairy tale project. You may recognize a few of the motifs from our December ornament series. I used the press and seal method mentioned here to transfer the images to the block.

Snow White's apple
The Beast's castle
The Nightingale
Sleeping Beauty's nemesis, the spinning wheel and its spindle
The wicked queen's crown from Snow White

The flowers in this piece of silk sari were highlighted and
beaded to help them stand out.
A beaded seam stitch and an antique button

We worked in some beading in various locations. Sometimes we used them in the seam stitches and other times in the motifs themselves.

One of the requests for this class was to learn how to use silk ribbon in a crazy quilt so we incorporated a bit of silk ribbon embroidery as well as an off-block silk flower.

A silk ribbon flower using the ribbon stitch

A gathered flower using French wired ribbon, with embroidered ribbon leaves

Lace appliqués and a bit of French lace trim were used to highlight certain areas of the blocks. We also used a piece of gathered silk ribbon embellished with beads to enhance the vintage postcard center of one of the blocks.

The lace flowers really stand out on the thick brown wool
we used.

The French lace trim and beaded ribbon highlight this
vintage postcard.

There are so many creative opportunities in a crazy quilt, and we can't wait to see how they are used in this class. We are looking forward to this journey that we will be taking with our students, and we plan on bringing you, the readers, along with us. Stay tuned for more updates as the class progresses.

Can you find any other elements from fairy tales in the motifs?