Sunday, March 21, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends

This is the quilt, "With a Little Help From My Friends" that I was talking about last time. I set the blocks on point, with setting triangles and the second column was offset from the first by 1/2 a block making it a "streak of lightning" setting. (The setting triangles zigzag down the quilt!) I decided that this quilt would have "a lot" of quilting on it which is part of the reason it took so long to finish. Our group consisted of 8 women, the right amount to fit around a quilting frame at one time. We met on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday mornings at a member's (Miss C's) home and quilted on our hostess's quilt. We actually had at least three quilts going at any given time, though. On the first Wednesday of the month one member Miss A, would bring the pieces for blocks in baggies and hand them out to everyone else. We had a month to piece them together and get them back to her. Also on the first Wednesday, Miss B would be receiving all of her blocks that people had pieced and would have the next month to set them into a top, sandwich the quilt and get it on a frame. And finally we would begin quilting on Miss C's quilt! We rotated around the membership and made quite a few quilts in the time that I was a part of the group! Most members had a new quilt going every rotation, but I didn't want any UFO's so I kept them working on this one. Though a bit unusual, it was a fun way to work a quilting group. I remember when we first arrived in Germany I overheard a couple of women in the base exchange talking about a quilt group. I said I wanted to join!!! They told me I had to be invited to their group. :( I had never heard of that! In retrospect, I think I actually had stumbled upon the group that I eventually ended up joining which, by the way, initially was mostly spouses from the flying squadron. I made some good friends there!

As for the quilt I made, all the quilting took quite a bit of time and I still hadn't finished it before we moved from Germany. But that wasn't the only issue I ran into. As I said I wanted lots of quilting and had designed the quilting for the blocks as cross hatching and a feather in the setting triangles. So far so good. I also went with a large feather pattern for in the blue border. Here's where I ran into a couple of problems which rather intimidated and stalled me, literally, for years!

The first problem I encountered was marking the quilt pattern on the blue border. Huh! It's a relatively dark blue border..a light marking pencil ought to work just fine I thought. Seemed simple. But in practice, it didn't work well at all, because the fabric design has a lot of white on it. Of course the blue marking pen didn't work and the purple one doesn't stay around long enough to adequately mark enough of the feather and it, too, wasn't much contrast. I really needed something to stick well so I could mark it all at once, and also be able to go away from it for a day and it would still be there when I came back. As I recall, I ended up using a yellow pencil, but it still wasn't easy to see. By the way, the other patterns were quite simple to mark...the feather on the white I marked lightly with a lead pencil and erased after. The cross hatch was marked with 1/4" masking tape, one or two strips depending on the width needed.

The second issue was that the border on the ends was wider than on the sides. I hadn't figured that into the equation when I picked out the quilting pattern. Actually it never occurred to me that the two borders were that much different in size when I thought about the quilting. I started quilting on the ends and as I got to the corners I saw that the pattern was too big to round the corner nicely and go up the sides! So I had to re-design the pattern smaller and make it flow around the corner.

Little things that make a difference in how easily the project goes together! Some things you can anticipate and others you just have to puzzle through along the way. I had other projects going during the time I was "working" on this quilt, but I sure was happy to put the last stitch in this one!

By the way, our quilt group ended up disbanding when we left Germany. Up until then, the rotations in and out of the group had been a couple at a time. This time all but one member was moving on. It was sad, but we had a great time celebrating and documenting our work. We took all of the quilts the group had worked on and arranged them on the walls of the castle up on the hill in Landstuhl. It is such a picturesque place and we took lots of photos of quilts and people. (Maybe I'll post one at a later time.) I still keep in touch with some members after all these years later! Such is the nature of quilters! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Sign of the Times

So I'm sorry that I have been a bit out of touch. I seem to have been out of town on Tuesdays for the past few weeks and don't have the photos I wanted to share on the "out of town" computer. A lame excuse, I know, but anyway...

One thing I wanted to mention to you is about "signing" your masterpieces! You did that for my Christmas present quilt and I'm glad! That's one that I will treasure and keep and I want everyone to know who made it!! I really wish I knew a little more about the maker of my antique quilt. It would have been nice if she had signed hers too! I'm hiding behind my hand as I tell you to sign your quilts, because I don't sign all of my quilts. Truth be told, I am more apt to sign the ones I sweat over, ones that I think may last the test of time, and ones that I think need an explanation for their coming into being.

A quilt that fits into all three categories is the one I made with my quilt group when we lived in Germany. It took a long time for me to finish it (more on this in a later posting) and many friends helped along the way. I had everyone who worked on it, both in the quilting and the piecing of blocks, sign a piece of muslin that I eventually attached to the back of the quilt when I finished it. I almost ran out of room for signatures because people rotated in and out of the group as they moved away to new assignments. There were many who stitched on it. Appropriately, I call this one "With a Little Help From My Friends"! It sure is a nice way to remember the friends from that chapter of our lives! Reading the list of names transports me back to a Wednesday morning meeting! For the label, I took a scrap of the muslin that I backed the quilt with and lightly penciled lines for signatures. I provided a fine line fabric marker to use and also another scrap piece of muslin that they could try out the pen on before signing the actual label. When I finished the quilt (years later!) I blind stitched the label on the backing by hand.

I did the same sort of thing for Grandmom and Grandpop B.'s 60th anniversary quilt because it was a special one that needed recognition for the event that prompted its making.

For Grandmom and Grandpop L.'s 50th anniversary quilt (shown above) I did something a little different. Since each item on the quilt had a special significance that wouldn't necessarily be apparent, I made a label with the date, event and quilt maker on it, but attached it to the back like a pocket. I then typed up a page which identified each object and explained the reason for including it and tucked it into the pocket. That was a fun quilt to make. I even managed to get a wedding photo to include without giving away any hints as to why I wanted it! Surprise quilts are so much fun, don't you think! :)

There are muslin quilt labels that you can purchase, fill in the data and attach to the quilt. There are also woven labels like you'd see in the back of garments with sayings like "Made with Love for You" that you can buy. You can also have these kind personalized. Beware with these, though, if you try to add a date to the label with a fine line fabric marker, the ink will bleed and it is not very attractive. This brings up a good point....if you use a marker, try it out on the fabric first to make sure it prints as you want it. (That is one reason I, generally, will not mark on the quilt proper. Having said that, I will write my first name and the date made on the back corner of a charity quilt...) Computer software is available to make your own labels...have not tried this yet, maybe someday.

Ciao for now!