Thursday, April 26, 2018

Block of the Month 8—Quince Blossom

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.

Last month at this time, I (Kara) was wondering if spring was going to ever arrive here in Germany. Well, it has not only arrived, but burst forth with warm temperatures and stunning floral displays. Every day, I walk the dogs in an orchard filled with apple trees and garden spaces, so I had been hoping that spring would be magical as far as blossoms go—it did not disappoint! Here is a little glimpse of our orchard and the source for this month's block.

If only I could waft the scent of the blossoms through the internet, but we will have to make do with pictures and with the stitching of our quince blossom block.

While many of the blossoms in the orchard would make a beautiful block, the call of the coral in these blooms was too hard to resist. This bush in our yard bears small fruit that look a little like what would result if you combined a pear and an apple. The flowers are a gorgeous color, and I had a River Silk in just the right shade.

Cotton Block

I began this block by transferring the stem and leaves to the back of the block using transfer paper. These were quickly back basted, and then appliquéd. Because I was using ribbon for the blossoms, I didn't need the petal to be transferred to the back. I used the pattern as my guide, and made a small dot marking the center of each flower. I used these to help me place the petals. 

Small dots to aid in blossom placement.

The green calyx.
The quince blossom has a calyx-type part that is green, so there are a few of those, made with 7mm green silk and a straight stitch, placed according to the pattern.

The pattern should be loosely used as a guide for the petals, made with a ribbon stitch. I used 7mm River Silk ribbon, starting at the top and working my way down to the last blossom. A silk pearl was used for the pistils, using—you guessed it—a pistil stitch. Using the 7mm ribbon for the blossoms creates a finished block slightly smaller than the pattern, but it still worked beautifully.

The finished block!

Blossom detail
Ribbons and thread used for the fabric block.

Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

River Silk #329, 7mm, ribbon stitch
May Arts, green silk ribbon, 7mm, straight stitch
Japanese silk pearl, pistil stitch

Wool Block

One of the joys of working with felted wool, is that the edge does not need to be turned under. Because of this, my vision for the wool block was to have 3D petals. That also means that I cut out all 25 little petals, but I think the end result was worth the extra work. I cut out petal shapes, checking the size with the pattern.

25 tiny little petals.

I eyeballed the placement of the petals using the pattern as a guide and a pin to hold them in place. Four or five back stitches down the center was all that was needed to attach each petal.

Put the pin in horizontally so that you can stitch around it.

The pistils were again  made with the pistil stitch, but this time I used two strands of floss. I added the green silk calyx, working them underneath the petals.

The finished wool block

Blossom detail
Ribbon and threads used

Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Weeks Dye Works, floss, Grapefruit, 2 strands, back stitch
Weeks Dye Works, floss, Saffron, 2 strands, pistil stitch
May Arts, green silk ribbon, 7mm, straight stitch

Spring time and blossoms of all kind hold a special place in my heart. My grandmother was the Blossomland Queen when she was younger and her picture is still painted on the Silver Beach Carousel, in St. Joseph, Michigan (you can read more about my grandmother and her aprons here).

I never could have imagined that someday I would be seeing such a blossom display here in Germany. Hopefully things are blooming where you are; if not, maybe you can stitch a bloom while you wait!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Aunt Sallie's Quilt," Samplers, and More Needle Treasures

A few months ago, my husband and I (Teri) spent a lovely afternoon wandering the small town of historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We passed the Entler Hotel, which houses a museum, and entered just in time to enjoy the exhibits—we had about a half hour until it closed. I had been there with a friend years ago and remembered seeing an album quilt on display. I was hoping to see it again.
Shepherdstown was founded by Thomas Sheperd in 1734. He was commissioned to start the settlement to create a buffer between the French and the Indians. The town was full of artisans, mostly of German origin; many of the artifacts in the museum reflect that artisanship. In case you don't live close enough to visit in person, I hope you'll enjoy this virtual tour of the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, in the Entler Hotel. 
The front room was the dining area, which included several clocks made by early clockmaker, Jacob Kraft. 

Desk and clock

Tools of Domesticity
Manual sewing machine and iron

An old ringer washing machine


Laundry rack

The Traveler's Room
The Traveler's Room: green plaid dress and triangle quilt, c. 1840s

Traveler's Room, c. 1840s
Guests at the hotel were expected to share a room, and perhaps a bed, with a stranger,
unless they paid an extra fee of 25 cents. Rooms were for sleeping only. 

Traveler's room: hexagon quilt and coverlet; c. 1840s

A Room Full of Stitching
48 Star Flag: Crocheted by Mrs. William Tennant during WWII.

Sampler, stitched by Helen Blackford, 1850

Detail: Sampler, stitched by Ann Huffman, 1819
Detail: Sampler, stitched by Ann Huffman, 1819

Turkey Track quilt; 1875

Aunt Sallie's Quilt
I was not disappointed! The quilt I remembered is still hanging, though I may have made it just in time. I was told that it will soon be taken down for preservation purposes. I was only able to see half of it, but it was enough to fill my heart with joy.

Aunt Sallie's Quilt, 1856; Historic Shepherdstown Museum, Shepherdstown, WV

I loved that Aunt Sallie's Quilt was used to spur a modern version in a local high school art class. In the true spirit of an Album quilt, the talents of many students were combined to create this quilt. What a wonderful way to inspire young minds to pick up a needle; even if it is just a seed planted in their minds for the time in their lives when the busyness of life has settled a bit.

The museum has patterns available for the quilt. Perhaps you might wish to create your own version of Aunt Sallie's Quilt. Or better yet, a group working together to create an actual album quilt. Any takers?! To read more about the museum, you can visit the website by clicking here.

Well, the museum had closed, and it was time to stroll up the street to go home. I hope you have enjoyed visiting the quaint town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and the many needle treasures of the mid-1800s. Thanks for joining me!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"In the Garden"—Dragonfly and Fern

As far off as it seems now, summer will be upon us before we know it, along with the warmer temperatures. Our gardens will be green (hopefully), and the insect life will be buzzing. Dragonflies are nice because they don't bite, like some of the other summer insects, and they come in all different sizes and colors. They are beautiful when the sun hits them just right, and that's what we were going for with our most recent pattern—the Dragonfly and Fern.

We've used a variegated, shimmer, ribbon-floss from  Painter's Threads for the body, and a little bit of organza for the wings to simulate that little bit of shimmer that dragonflies have. A few little beads to give him some bling, and he is ready to fly!

Here are some tips and pictures to help you make your summertime dragonfly and fern.

First I glued my entire pattern onto freezer paper and then cut out the fern as one piece. Then I ironed it onto the green wool that had been backed with fusible. I don't often use fusible, but because the fern was one big piece with lots of leaves, everything stayed in place better this way. Cut out the wing pieces and the body piece. You will iron the wings onto two different colors of wool, but the body piece will just be used as a guide for your embroidery.

Freezer paper fern ready to be ironed onto wool

Once the fern was ironed onto the background, I whipstitched all the way around the fern. Then I used an angled blanket stitch for the leaves in a lighter shade of green floss with two strands.

I use Weeks Dye Works "Bullfrog" floss as it had some great color variations in it.

With the fern stitched down, I positioned the wings in place. I pinned a piece of organza ribbon over one wing and blanket stitched it down with one strand of floss. Then I carefully trimmed around the excess organza around the wing, being careful not to snip my blanket stitches. It will be easier if you do one wing at a time

Two down and two to go!

The wings trimmed.

Now to the dragonfly body! The tail is made by making chain stitches with the shimmer ribbon-floss. I used the body pattern as a guide for how long the tail should be. My tail was made up of 9 chain stitches at about an eighth of an inch each. After the chain stitches were finished, I added a 7-8 wrap bullion knot—made up of 3 strands of dark teal floss—in each chain stitch.

The effect of the bullions in the tail is subtle, but they add depth.

The rest of the body is made up of French knots using the ribbon-floss. Three bullion knots make the head. 

Use one strand of floss and a straight stitch for the legs.

The final touch was to add some tiny beads to the wings using a feather stitch. Add the bead to your needle as you make each feather.

This block went together rather quickly, and hopefully it will for you too! The ladies in our class enjoyed working with the ribbon-floss and the organza—both of which are included in the pattern when you purchase it.

Lots of happy stitching!

Until the warm days of summer grace us with their presence, we hope you will enjoy stitching this block—and all the other blocks in our In the Garden series. To order your pattern, click here: