Thursday, May 31, 2018

Progress In the Garden

I (Teri) love to spend time in my garden, or in any garden, for that matter! My garden is much different in our new home, but one thing remains constant: I have portulacas planted along my sidewalk—a long-standing tradition as a tribute to my great-grandparents' garden. (See A Walk Through the Garden.) We have had a rather odd spring this year, with warm temperatures late in arriving and such a plethora of rain that sunshine is sparse. But my hostas and coneflowers are huge and already sporting flower buds, so they must be happy. And when my garden is happy, I'm happy!    

Kara and are are always looking to gardens for inspiration for our stitching, as I'm sure you've noticed if you have been following our two block-of-the month series. Our In the Garden series is really coming along! Have you been stitching along with us? We know quite a few who have ordered each pattern, and are likely wondering what we have planned for them. Well, the time has come for us to start assembling them into a quilt! We have only two blocks left to complete (four more to release), but we thought you might enjoy seeing the progress thus far. And it is never to late to jump on board the garden wagon!!

Let's take a peek at the quilt progress. The captions include links to the original post with more about the blocks. It has been such fun seeing the blocks go together. I can hardly wait until it is finished!

A mix of seasons! This section of the quilt includes the next two patterns to be released:
 Hydrangeas in June and the Butterfly Bush in July.

Such a colorful garden!

"in the Garden"—Hummingbird and Fuchsia



I'm getting so excited to finish putting it all together; but alas, I have to take a short break—to work on our new designs for the Academy of Appliqué . . . so many fun things to do. We have such a "hard" job!! I wouldn't trade it for the world!

So, here is our quilt top at this point, with floor shining through where the two missing blocks will go. One is made and en route from Germany, and the other is still in progress. It won't be long now!


We would so enjoy it if you would join us In the Garden! Patterns are for sale on our website ( and are available in digital format as well as in hard copy, which includes the ribbon needed to complete the block. Oh, and fear not, we do plan to create a quilt pattern, with directions for assembling the quilt from all your blocks. Of course, you may wish to create smaller projects from your blocks, which is another garden path you can take.

Hope to see you In the Garden!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Block of the Month 9—Poppy

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.

Everything is green, green, green, here! It seemed as if I (Kara) blinked, and all the trees had leaves. The orchard and fields are laden with wildflowers of all kinds—buttercups, daisies, yarrow, and so many more. On each walk with the dogs, I discover a new flower in bloom.

With so many flowers to choose from, it was a bit difficult to decide on this month's block; however, when I saw this patch of poppies the other day, I knew that they would win the monthly flower contest.

Such a vivid red!

Cotton Block 

Our guild had a yard sale the other night, and one of our members was selling her silk collection. Of course, I had to help her out by buying a few pieces. She had a beautiful red silk that was perfect for a poppy. 

Poppy bud out of green cotton
Appliquéd and ready for embroidery.

Doing the black pistils around the center seed head in turkey work, was a no brainer as that stitch with black wool or alpaca,  would be perfect. You can watch a great video tutorial on that stitch here.

I drew a small circle in the center. 
Turkey work loops done around the drawn circle.

Loops clipped and ready for a trim
I trimmed carefully and separated the strands to fluff them.

I knew I wanted the seed pod in the center to be dimensional, so I created a stuffed seed pod with a few stitches, some gathers, and a little poly-fill.

I cut a small 2" square of green fabric and used a slightly smaller than 1" circle to trace around the outside and inside of the circle. (I used Karen Kay Buckley's perfect circles.)

I used pencil for the outside circle and white for the inside circle.

Using the inner circle as your guide, make 6 straight stitches, forming a star shape as shown.

Trim excess fabric around circle.

With strong thread take running stitches around the outside edge of the circle to gather. 

Add a small amount of poly-fill before gathering, and then pull stitches tightly. 

Take a few stitches through the gathers to secure them. 

Knot off your thread but leave your needle threaded.

Attach the seed pod to the poppy by taking the needle through to the back.

Take 2-3 stitches to secure, making sure to catch the fabric of the seed pod with your stitches.

Using two strands of light green floss, make a series of straight stitches on the poppy bud as shown.

Finished cotton block poppy

Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

Stem—Painter's Threads, 4mm silk ribbon, Cezanne: stem stitch
Pistils—Black, alpaca, sock-weight yarn: turkey work
Seed pod and bud—Weeks Dye Works, Dried Sage, 2 strands: straight stitches

Wool Block

The wool block was put together the same way, although I used a chain stitch with perle cotton for the stem, instead of a stem stitch with silk ribbon. 

I love this bright, hand-dyed, wool from DKW.
Chain stitched stem with #8 perle cotton.

Finished block

Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Stem—#8 perle cotton, variegated green: chain stitch
Pistils—Black, alpaca, sock-weight yarn: turkey work
Seed pod—Weeks Dye Works, Dried Sage, 2 strands: straight stitches
Bud—Gentle Arts Simply Wool, Dried Thyme: straight stitches

Poppies are so cheerful, and this block goes together quickly. Hopefully you will enjoy stitching this little bit of brightness and will add it to your flora and fauna collection. Only three more blocks to go in our series. If you have stitched any of the blocks, we would love to see them!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tattered Elegance

If you read our blog on a regular basis, you know that Kara and I (Teri) love a quilt with a story. Okay, we know that every quilt tells a story, so it would be accurate to state that we just love quilts. But figuring out the story in a quilt is half the fun of studying one. Sometimes we know the history—it's always a blessing if we have some written provenance—but then there are the quilts that find their way into our hands about which we know nothing. This gem is one of those. And so the fun begins!

A few months ago, we received an email from a regular attendee at the Academy of Appliqué, Ann D'Hondt. She made our day, to say the least! 

Hi Teri! I'm a "regular" at Barbara's Academy and a follower of your website, on which I love the wandering variety of subjects! Keep having fun and sharing with us! So, now I know who to gift my very vintage but a tad fragile crazy quilt! It has a lot of life and love to give and will be fun to study for sure! It was gifted to me as someone who appreciates and restores, but crazy quilting is not in my skillset. Will put it in your hands at the Academy! Ann

We were incredibly honored that she had thought of us, as we have been intrigued by crazy quilts since we helped our friend, Jan Vaine, re-create a crazy quilt for her book, Patchwork and Embroidery Revisitedseveral years ago. We were indeed hooked and have taught several classes on crazy quilting as a result. We have both purchased several for our collections. Ann's generosity was an amazing gift—this stunning, earth-toned (my favorite!) crazy quilt to examine and study. Yes, it is a bit tattered, but within those tatters are some elegant stitches. Let's take a close-up look together, shall we?

While many of the fabrics around it have deteriorated, the embroidered silk Forget Me Not ribbon is intact. I love the use of the blanket stitch at the top and bottom, as well as the stitch combinations on either side, with just the colors reversed.

Here, the stitcher just outlined the motif on the velvet print with a fine embroidery thread.

Name this motif! Often, the stitched motif is the only thing that has remained; but here, the embroidery threads have broken down, leaving just a hint of the design on an intact velvet background. What do you think it is? A hunter? Soldier? What is on his head??

Another mystery motif... Flowers? What do you think?

This one, above, is an example where the silk fabric has shattered, but the embroidered frog motif is hanging on for dear life. Below, our jump-roping girl has survived on only the warp threads of the silk background, while the fishing boy resides on the pieces of background silk that have not yet fallen away.
Aren't these two dear?

The velvet has stood the test of time much more successfully than the silk. Notice how the detailed embroidery is in nearly pristine condition, compared to some of the other motifs we have seen.

Even the velvet motifs held up well, as you can see in the leaves above. The stitcher has created some lovely seam treatments using interesting combinations of fairly simple stitches. While most of her threads were pearl cottons, the variety of thread thickness adds variety and interest.

Is it worthy of noting that the two examples of painted motifs on the quilt both happen to be daisies? Intentional or accidental? 

This leaf motif might have gotten lost in the midst of this silk patch, but the surrounding stitch combinations help to give it balance. Still, it could have been centered a bit better. With such attention to detail throughout the quilt, I'm certain there was a good reason for the motif to be so close to the edge, with nothing below. 

I love these seam treatments! And that star in the middle (above) is made of carefully couched threads. Note the creative use of basic straight stitches to create some lovely combination seam stitching, below.

These urns are probably my favorite motifs of the quilt. They are so detailed, and each one is about the same size, yet unique. There was actually another, but like some of the above motifs, the stitching on the red velvet disappeared. I had in fact missed that urn the first few times I examined the quilt. Now, the one in the lower right corner above...I think might be an urn with something in it. I have a hard time seeing anything but the top of a king's face with a crown. I'm pretty sure that's not what it is, though. Any thoughts?
Two opposite sides of the quilt have what appears to be silk ribbon stitched along the edge, as at the top of this photo above. The other two sides were folded under and stitched, as below, though most of that has come undone. I couldn't visualize how the quilt would have looked finished, or why the ribbon was only on two of the sides. But then . . .
. . . I pulled out the beautiful piece of lace that was in the pillow case with the quilt. Thinking it was "just" a piece of lovely lace, I had set it aside and thought little of it, except for that is was exquisitely elegant. But then I laid it out and took a closer look.
About half of the lace has the same "ribbon" edge as that on the quilt sides, and the other half does not—probably not a coincidence. Then I noticed that the lace was pleated to create a corner, below. 
This lace had at one time been the border of the crazy quilt.

Oh, to have seen this quilt in its heyday! It might have rendered me speechless, in all its beauty!! (And that's saying a lot.) The warm colors, matched by the stunning three-inch wide lace trim, and its masterful embroidery must have made quite a statement to those who visited the home where it was displayed. For surely it was a piece that was proudly exhibited, for all to see. Such artistry should not be hidden. Unfortunately, we do not know the story behind the making of this quilt, but that doesn't mean it isn't full of stories!

Can you see the beauty amidst the tatters and shattered silk? I know I can!

With humble gratitude to Ann D'Hondt for her generosity in gifting us this stunning quilt.
May it live a long and happy life, bringing joy to all who see it,
until we someday must pay it forward and gift it to another,
who can continue to share its beauty.
Thank you, Ann!!

Afterword: I learned some interesting things about shattered silk as I researched this topic. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, silks were treated with metallic salts so that they would have more sheen and weight, which broke down the fabric. Silk was sold by weight rather than by the yard, so the heavier the fabric, the more that could be charged. Laws against weighting silk were passed in the 1930s, so if you come across such shattered silk, it is likely to be older than that decade. To read more about this fascinating topic, read Shattered Dreams: What Makes Antique Silk So Fragile? and Caring for Your Textiles (Victoria and Albert Museum).