Thursday, January 25, 2018

"In the Garden"—Cardinals and Holly

We are spanning the seasons In the Garden! The January block in our BOM series is Cardinals and Holly, seen prolifically here in Maryland in the winter. How about where you live?

We're having a wonderful time in our monthly classes at Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks. A number of ladies have been there every month, and some just choose a favorite block or two and join those classes. We tell some stories, and share quite a few laughs. Stitching with friends is always a fun time! If you can't join us at the shop, you can still stitch along with us: the patterns are available on our website——and the Cardinals have joined the garden.

Here is a photo tour of how these birds took flight.

The branches were stitched first, and then all the other components
were stapled to the background to keep them in place while stitching.

I like the puff that is achieved when I appliqué and embroider
the units; I miss that when it is fused.

With everything in place, this made some great car trip stitching
when we traveled from Florida to Maryland.

I used Valdani #12 pearl cotton for the center vein.
To be sure I stitched the arc in the outer veins, I marked them
with my chalk pencil, which easily disappeared after stitching.

Whenever I stitch a bird, I feel oddly compelled to include some feather and fly stitches.
The tail is filled with "feathers" and the wing with "fly"—of course!

I stitched the berries in place, and thought that I could be finished.
But it is winter, after all, so I decided a bit of snow might be nice.  

I added random straight stitches and knots with Weeks Dye Works floss—aptly named Snowflake.
Do you know how many variations of white floss there are? It took me a while to find just the right one.
I confess, the name helped me decide!

A few size 15 beads added some sparkly ice to the snow.

Mr. Cardinal looks rather happy!


We had some Show and Tell with blocks—in progress or finished—from previous classes.

Kara and I are enjoying creating our wooly/ribbony garden. Embellishing with embroidery is always our favorite part, and these blocks give us plenty of opportunity for that. The Cardinals and Holly pattern is now available on our website, both in digital and hard copy format, as well as all the patterns in the series thus far.

We would love to have you join us In the Garden!

Cardinals and Holly

Past posts in the BOM series:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Block of the Month 5: Scabiosa Columbaria

Thank you for your interest in our Flora and Fauna blocks! They are no longer free but will be part of a future quilt pattern.

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.

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: