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.


  1. Thank you for sharing the exquisite details of this quilt! I'm amazed and inspired by it!

    1. Thank you, Mary! We are so glad you stopped by for some inspiration!