Picture Piecing

I love a three-day weekend, but, wow, do those three days fly by, or what? Saturday was a fun sewing day with my quilt group, Seams Sew Easy, and our sister group, six lovely ladies from our Guild who invited us over to show us what they learned in a class they took last year with Cynthia England. Cynthia authored this book (which has been in my library since 2005, but never read) and is one of my quilting idols:

Her method involves foundation papers, but you piece it from the front or “right” side of your fabric, not the back as in traditional paper piecing. This is the block I made on Saturday:

Check out my friend Emma’s star block here. It comes from this practice pattern in the book:

The idea is that you can take any photo or image, and adapt it using Cynthia’s method, into a quilt block or quilt top (Like the American Flag in the photo).

I wasn’t sure what to do with my little practice block. When I got home and moved onto my next project (Beth’s Sew Connected 2 January Bee block), I realized my little star block matched her fabrics perfectly so I made a “stars outside the cabin window” block, for Beth:


Saturday also brought some “sunshine in the mail” for me, in the form of a bright yellow Hancock’s of Paducah envelope. (Don’t you LOVE those yellow envelopes!?):

My new supply of Kona Cottons for some upcoming swaps and Bee blocks:

1000 Pieces, and Counting

In my last post, I showed my recent library loan reads, and mentioned the book above deserved a post of its own. This book was published in 2007 by Sue Reich. She collected 1,000+ snippets of newspaper posts spanning 100 years of “news-worthy” quilting announcements. The newspaper coverage of our craft in the 19th Century apparently spurred an un-official “contest” among quilters to create the quilt with the most pieces, referred to by the author as multitudinous quilts. You’ve probably seen one if you enjoy looking at vintage quilts, a quilt made of those meticulously small postage stamp sized squares, or triangles, or hexagons, HAND-sewn into a bed sized quilt. There are images throughout the book of these multidtuinous quilts, mostly from private collections (sorry, the photos I included here are from my collection, not from the book).My sweetie and I both enjoyed reading this book. The colorful language of the newspaper reporters and editors is delightful, sometimes rather unkind to the quilter, but always astute and thorough. I included some of my favorites here…

This one, obviosuly written by a man, will infuriate any quilter today… from the Zanesville (Ohio) Daily Courier…November 8, 1877:

“Another silly Ohio woman has just completed a quilt containing five thousand pieces. A woman who should spend her time over such worthless nonsense, when there is so much useful and beautiful work to be done in the world, ought top be ashamed of herself.”

Apparently in his eyes, the quilt that kept her and her husband or her children warm on a cold Ohio night wasn’t considered beautiful, nor was it useful.
Many of them are much more favorable than that and often tout the stitching prowess of the very young (8-9 years old) or the very old (80 years plus!) I love when they counted everything, like this one, because it reminds me of notes left behind by my grandparents noting details and counts of mundane daily facts.

“Miss Eliza Kidd, of Keene, KY, is only twenty years of age, but has immortalized herself by finishing a crazy quilt containing 58,841 pieces, 562,897 stitches, 21 spools of threads abd 30 yards of cloth.” –from the Defiance (Ohio) Democrat, January 1, 1885.

And this one just makes me laugh! From the Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Journal, August 9, 1884:

“The girl with soft gray eyes and rippling brown hair who walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 pieces of neckties and hat-linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.” HA!

and should you feel your modern day schedule is too busy or full to get any of your crafting done, to say nothing of your household duties, consider this grand old gal’s accomplishments from the winter of 1854/1855. From the Bangor (Maine) Daily Whig & Courier…June 23, 1855:

“ONE ‘OF THE OLDEN TIME’ A lady of Plainsfield, Mass., aged 80 years, has this past winter, made with her own hands, 17 quilts, consisting of 4300 pieces cut by pattern, worked 978 scallops, cut and made 8 dresses, knit 3 pairs of striped mittens, made butter from two cows, besides the general housework for a family. She has also written over nearly a quare of paper.”

Just reading her list of finishes makes me feel like I want a nap! This is a book I recommend any quilt admirer and history buff track down. It is a very quick read, extremely insightful and entertaining, and the photos of vintage quilts are truly inspiring!

So…have you ever counted the number of pieces in any of your quilts?

Library Love

Do you utilize your public library? If you aren’t using it, you are seriously missing out. This was my haul from this week…

The two on the top are my non-quilting “reads”, a novel on CD to listen to while I sew, and a nutrition book to read before bed each night. The rest of these babies…all quilting…all the time! And some brand-new, very recently published titles! I mean seriously, these are still on the “new” shelf at the Barnes & Noble stores!


I spend a lot of money on books. I used to work for Barnes & Noble and took full advantage of my employee discount. My sister once said to me, while helping me move to a new apartment, “Seriously, Doris, more time at the library, less time at the booktore.” Apparently the number of boxes labeled “books” seemed excessive in her opinion. But, I’ve always used my library, everytime I moved to a new community/city/state, one of my first stops would be the library to apply for a card. But sometimes, I try a book on for size from the library and go buy a copy for my own bookshelf anyway. Like this one…

This book is actually ten years old, but the info is still extremely relevant. The author, Lee Cleland, made 15 different quilt patterns up into quilts, making five identical quilts of each one (yes, 75 quilts for this book, alone!) Then she quilted each one completely differently to demonstrate how “quilting makes the quilt”. You can kind of see on the cover there three different versions of the same quilt design. I have a used copy on its way to my mailbox already! The patterns for making the 15 quilts are in the book as well.

I’m recently obsessed with string quilts, so this book is thrilling me to tears! And speaking of obsessions…
Ruth B. McDowell is my FAVORITE quilter of all time, my ultimate dream is to take a workshop with this woman…I own every book she has published, except this one….which is as awesome as all the others…

And my sweetie and I have both been enjoying this one…it is a compilation of quilt related newspaper clippings from the early 1800s through the early-20th century. I will have to do a separate post highlighting some of the gems from this book! It has kept us in stitches…no pun intended!

And finally, I am mastering free-motion quilting!!!!!!! Don’t look too close (if you enlarge this pic) ’cause it is my true effort, meaning not on a practice sandwich. It’s a small scale meander on my French Roses quilt. There are definitely a few ugly spots in there, but most importantly, my machine is finally fixed and I am able to do this!!!! YEAH!

Maggy is there to provide assistance, as always… Thanks, Mags.

A Fabulous Find

I found this book at an Antique Store not long ago, for the exorbitant price of $4. It could have been marked $40 for all the information it holds! It’s titled The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing, and my copy is a second “new” edition printed in 1946. It’s in great shape other than a little shelf wear on the beautifully embossed cover.
I love the little image on the front cover. And the image that really sold me was this title page photo of the smart war-time woman with her wool hat, jacket and adorable wool handbag (pattern included in this book!)There are instructions (and patterns!) for making just about anything for you, your family and your 1940s home in this book. It covers curtains, table linens, upholstery,
embroidery, clothing for the lady of the house,
Clothing for the kiddies, Tools of the trade, including what you will need in your sewing room and how to best set it up, And, how to be a thrifty recycler in those post war years. The caption under this photo reads “First quality material such as Government issues should not be wasted. The adorable coat for the little girl is made from a tar’s jumper, while the small boy’s suit was once his sailor-daddy’s ‘bell bottom trousers’. See the chapters on tailoring and Repeat Performance for helpful hints in accomplishing a make over project of this kind.”
You know I love a good recycling project!

The illustrations are awesome throughout this book. One of my favorites was this royal pair:
Touting the importance of a dainty, elegant bridge cloth. I recently acquired two bridge cloths with matching luncheon napkins in my vintage linen haul in June. Here is one of them and a deatil shot of the clever embroidery:
The napkins (I don’t have a photo of these yet) are equally adorable.
I think every 21st Century sewer/quilter/seamstress/crafter should have a volume like this in their library. I’ve seen others, and they amaze me at what a wealth of information they are; covering a multitude of topics in one binding. Our contemporary publications tend to focus on one topic or technique. This one will be a treasure in my library for the rest of my days, no doubt.

UFQ #20: Nearly Insane

..or the UFQ to end all UFQ’s…

Most quilters have heard of a Dear Jane quilt. A challenge beyond challenging. Lots of quilters have started Dear Jane quilts, there is even EQ software to help you do your own Dear Jane quilt. My challenge? The Nearly Insane quilt. Heard of it? It’s sometimes called a Salinda Quilt. Few quilters seem to have heard of it. It’s recreated from a quilt made in Pennsylvania around 1870 by Salinda W. Rupp. Here is a photo of her original quilt:


It has ninety eight 6″ blocks. That’s right, 98. No two are alike. It measures 90 x 90. I started making one (a Salinda Quilt, or a Nearly Insane Quilt) in February 2004, as part of a year-long class. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened this month’s issue of Australian Quilters Companion…

…and found this!


A small group of quilters, the Kilmore Kwilters, each made there own Nearly Insane quilt as a challenge put to them by one of there members. The article says at least 14 of them were to be on display at the quilt show in Victoria last month. Oh, how I wish Iowa was not so far from Australia. I would have loved to see them in person!

These blocks are all so different, and drafted by a 19th Century Amercian woman we know very little about. But, my she must have been intelligent. A wiz at mathematics. Had a great eye for color. She must have been extremely creative. Patient. Resilient. Determined. Above all, determined.

The quilt got the name Nearly Insane by Liz Lois, who researched and drafted the block patterns for a book she published in 2003:


The book tells her story of making her own Salinda/Nearly Insane Quilt over the course of three and a half years, along with five other women. Her pattern book has a line drawing for each block, but no instructions on how to construct each block, only general instructions for making the quilt. The class I took, was taught by a wonderful quilter, talented beader, and all around fabulous person, Lisa Caryl. Lisa redrafted each block and developed paper piecing foundations for many of the blocks for us.

Here’s mine…

PROJECT NAME: Nearly Insane Quilt, UFQ #20

DATE STARTED: February 2005

ORIGINAL PURPOSE: Taking a twelve month class where I would learn to paper piece, English Paper Piece, and almost everything wise I now know about quilting. Getting to spend time with my new friend, Toni. Getting to make a great new friend, Nan. Getting to know and work with Lisa.

CURRENT STATE: I have 50 blocks made, out of 98. Over half way there! I’ve kept all my patterns and completed blocks in this giant three-ring binder through the process:

Here is my progress sheet, I’ve colored in the blocks I have done (I think I’m a little behind on coloring them in…) There’s my English Paper Pieced star, a block I should not have used light thread on, because my stitches now show. Oh well. Live and learn.


A few more of my completed blocks. They are all made of batiks. This is when I fell head over heels in lust with batik fabrics! I love that one on the bottom right…


Some are pretty challenging. Block #18, here is mine…has 229 pieces in it. That’s right, I counted ’em ’cause I though Liz Lois had to be mistaken. Nope. Keep in mind this is a 6″ square blocks. Those are some seriously small half-square triangles.


My points aren’t all perfect. Do I care? No, I made a small block with 229 pieces in it. It’s done. I don’t ever have to do it again. I’m good.

REASON FOR NOT FINISHING IT: It has 98 six inch blocks. ’nuff said.

PLAN FOR FINISHING IT: It will be done. One day it will be done. I mean, only 48 more blocks to go, right? And setting and sashing, and quilting and binding….I think a reasonable deadline is the end of 2010. That gives me 28 months. I can make two blocks a month, with four months to spare for setting, quilting and binding them. That’s totally doable. Don’t ya think?

Here a few more of my blocks:

I’ll keep posting as I make my two blocks every month…

Oooh, that’s gonna leave a mark…

I haven’t spent much time at the computer lately, as a matter of fact, I haven’t spent much time doing anything lately. I took a spill last week on a rain wet floor, and I seem to have cracked a rib–a first for me–it makes breathing difficult, lifting a challenge, sleeping impossible, and just about everything else uncomfortable. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine (a.k.a. “happy drugs”) I’m once again sleeping, sitting in my office chair a few hours at a time, and getting other little things done. Anyone that knows me knows I have a hard time just sitting still and resting, a.k.a. not getting anything done!–so it’s very good to be ambulatory again.

I wanted to complete my Independence Day project by Independence Day…but it probably is not going to be done. This is the magazine shot of it:
Mine will also have a pieced border made from Sandy Gervais’ “Red, White and Bold” line, and I’m not using wool to do it, simply because I can’t get the right colors of wool locally, and not being a big wool person, I don’t want to order it online and have wasted scraps left over after paying shipping, etc., on it. Mine will be all cotton. This is it so far…my Mom did the first four letters for me when she was visiting this weekend:
I’m starting to get into embroidery, maybe it’s all the vintage linens I found that have such lovely embroidery on them, maybe it’s fellow blogger, Cassie, who inspired me by recommending this book:
This is the coolest book, it’s a free-form kind of embroidery and the author, Aimee Ray, includes all kind of fun projects like pimping your sneakers, making an awesome lampshade, or your own ipod or cell phone holder:
Super cute stuff, and it’s stuff I can work on while my torso is mending!

The other thing I have been doing is locating and listing all my UFOs (or UFPs, or UFQs), unfinished objects (projects, quilts). I’ve found some from almost a decade ago! I’m going to be blogging about those in upcoming posts and hopefully blogging about their completion in the coming months!