Friday, April 10, 2020

The Third Block Contest 2020

Back in January and February when most of our lives seemed normal, Alewives Fabrics hosted their annual Third Block contest. Last year was the first I heard of it and this year I kept an eye on their Instagram feed because I did not want to miss it! :)

Alewives kits up four fabrics that you can purchase. Then you make patchwork of the crosses blocks from them and post them on Instagram. Then they pick some winners and give them gift certificates. Sounds like fun, right!

Here are the two examples that Alewives posted to get the juices flowing:

And here's the fabric that was in the kit:
(You can see I borrowed this picture from aimeesews because I was not smart (or patient) enough to take a picture when I got the fabrics.)

I'll start with my entries. I was sure I could get four because I did that pretty easily last year and that's pretty standard from four fat quarters, but I even got a fifth this year! Yay, me!
I knew as soon as I saw the pink on the peacocks that I would want to use that "line" to form some shape. I was so pleased with how this turned out. I got the idea for the center from seeing other blocks that were posted. I was tempted not to look at any until I was done so I could say everything was original but then decided to get over myself. I really like the snowflake that takes shape in the middle.

So much so that I used it in my second block too!
 My third block:
 and fifth:
It was pretty slim pickings by the last block, but I liked the squarish shape created by the black lines (with white dots) around the outside.

Here is what was left of the fabric.
The contest started on January 8 and I bought my kit the same day. You had until February 29 to finish and post your blocks. I posted my last one on January 29. And then waited and waited for the announcement of the winners! But in the meantime, I enjoyed many wonderful blocks. If you want to see a full selection click #thethirdblock. (It will show posts from every year, not just 2020.)

Here a small selection of blocks. I can't even say "my favourites" because there were so many I liked and can't post them all here! I'll start with a collage from Alewives so you can see a bunch:
Here's another collage of the blocks done by stitchified:
And some assorted blocks:
 From top left, clockwise the blocks above were designed by: makkaroni_art, mgstanton, rosemary.lynch.96, and greta_evans4119.
Again from top left, clockwise: cottagethreads, makkaroni_art, greta_evans4119, and thefiberchick. Check out that stripe work!

All of those blocks were made from the same four fabrics (though not all of the blocks used all four). Isn't that crazy!!

The contest ended on February 29 and the winner would be announced on March 4. I noticed they left themselves some time to decide this year. Last year the said they would announce the same day but then had to post a delay notice because they couldn't decide!
The large block in the top right was the big winner ($100) and the rest were runner ups ($50). Yes, that is my first block in the lower left corner. Yay, me! I still haven't used my gift certificate but I do enjoy thinking about what I'll do with it.

I don't have room for any more blocks in my full sized quilt so I will be doing something else with my five blocks. Maybe a wall hanging with four of them. Maybe a table runner with all five. I have the scraps of leftover fabric set aside in case I want to use them in the borders. But it will have to wait because I can't stop working on my blocks for the Lucy Boston quilt right now!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Vintage Quilt Remake

Quilting is more fun than Housework
Once or twice a year, Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework hosts a quilt adoption event. Click here if you would like to read more details about this spring's event and you can see all of the adoptions that were linked. The basic idea is that you can offer any unfinished project, set of supplies, or anything quilting related to any takers for free. You can decide if it goes to the first taker or if you'll have a random draw or if you'll make a decision based on some other criteria.

I love looking through all of these items and unfinished projects each time. I mean, it's basically second hand shopping for quilters! I work to be very cautious about how much I ask for. One of the main points of this event is to get these project finished/items used--it's not just to have these items sitting on someone else's shelf!

Having more time these days and experiencing a resurgence in my sew-jo led to me asking/offering on two items. The first was an old quilt top:
You can read the original offering and story here at Life's Little Adventures (item #4). I can't say exactly what drew me to it, but I liked the blocks, the basic colour scheme, and of course that it was old. My original thought was to "rescue" the blocks from that "horrible" fabric that was sewn between them.

When I got the quilt top, I realized the strips between the blocks were not a big collection of random ugly fabrics but was mostly just two ugly fabrics:
and the more I saw them, the more I liked them!!

I was still resolved to disassemble the quilt. The blocks themselves were sewn by hand:
with skillful stitches, at least by my estimation. They did not handle the seam intersections in the best manner so I wonder if they were a garment sewer by training and new to quilting. Or maybe she just didn't worry about which way to sew down seam allowances.

The blocks were sewn together and the strips sewn on by machine. By my limited knowledge, the fabrics in the strips were much newer (a decade or two?). Those two things make me think that it was a later sewer who did this part--the block maker's daughter or granddaughter perhaps. I also don't think they were as experienced as sewers.

For one thing, the machine stitches were far too small. My guess is someone didn't know what a conventional stitch length was so they went for what they thought was as strong as possible.
In fact, the close tiny stitches actually put the fabric more at risk as the many needle punches can weaken the fabric, and also put it at risk of tearing since the seam is stronger than the fabric.

Or maybe they just had no idea you could even change that setting and used the machine with whatever settings the machine was already set to.

Also, uneven seam allowances
show a sewer who didn't know how to control the fabric as they sewed or that it would affect how flat and straight the final product would turn out.

I proceeded with trying to take out all of those tight tiny impossible stitches. The first go was with a regular seam ripper, which worked but was pretty tedious. Someone on Instagram suggested a tool that was basically small electric hair clippers. The method was to pull apart the two fabric pieces and snip the thread with the clippers. The tension on the fabric would then pull out the next few stitches, you'd snip again and just zip your way up the seam.

So I tried it with our hair clippers with mediocre success. Our clippers were not quite as sharp perhaps. (Although don't say that to my husband who takes great pride in keeping everything very sharp around here!) But the main issue was that the stitches were so small, there was no "pulling out the next few stitches" with the tension on the fabric because the stitches were too close together.

Then I switched to using a razor blade instead. I'd put tension on the fabric, pulling the two pieces apart, press the blade against the stitches to cut them, and go down the seam that way. It was quicker than the seam ripper, although at higher risk of cutting the fabric instead of the stitches.

I only had one damaged part:
although I can't remember if that was done with the clipper or the blade. Probably the clippers.

But finally I had all of the blocks separated from the strips of fabric and from each other.

I have never worked with fabric this old. I was mystified by the strips of twill tape that were sewn into the fabric in random places, completely unnecessary to the piecing of the blocks:
Google searching has failed me. I came to the conclusion that this was reinforcement sewn in from when these were used as seed, sugar, or flour sacks. I think some of the fabrics go back to 1930s or 1940s sackcloth. Some of them are a very odd texture, like they've been coated. I assume this was to treat the fabric so it would not allow flour or sugar to leak through.

The other interesting thing was how precious this fabric was (fabric in general, I'm sure). If the piece was a tiny bit small, they would sew a piece on, no matter how close to the seam. Check out this small square:
 Can you see all the seams?
Holy cow!! Just to get a little 3" square--a piece many quilters now would consider waste. (Of course, not if it's the last little bit of a fabric you need to complete a pattern!)

Sometimes they matched the pattern
 other times they didn't bother:
Or more likely not that they didn't bother, but because it wasn't possible with the fabric they had available.

A lot of the blocks are dirty and faded:
but what can you expect? Some of them may be nearing 100 years old! (I can't decide if this fabric was originally blue or red. Or maybe they really did throw in one random purple block.)

I did wash the fabric and blocks once it was disassembled. The water came out pretty grungy so that certainly affirmed the decision. No damage was done as far as I could tell, so I was grateful for that.

Once I had the blocks apart, what now?

I tried a layout of just the blocks:
But I didn't like that. Too cluttered. But it did help determine where I wanted the blocks and demonstrated that I could use all 25 blocks in an "on point" setting. If I added some sashing between the blocks I thought I could have something!

But before I could do any sewing, I had to get the blocks to the same size. I measured each one and got measurements from 10.5" to 11.5"...that's a big range!

Not much choice but to cut them all down to 10.5". The blocks were uneven and did not lay flat. I tried to centre the centre square as best I could and just laid the square ruler on top to make it as flat as possible while I cut.

You might be asking how I could just cut the edges of the blocks off since they were hand sewn. Wouldn't the stitching come out? I asked myself the same thing. At first I thought I would just mark the new boundary of the block and try to match it with the sashing.

But then I thought I could cut the edge everywhere but the seam, like this:
So I have the edge I can match to the sashing, but haven't cut through the seams. Pretty clever, right? They remind me of the little notches that you leave when you're cutting out fabric for sewing patterns.

With that done and some careful sewing*, I got the sashing onto two sides of each block.

(*Remember that when you have to sew two pieces together that aren't quite the same length, always sew with a "baggy bottom". I.e. put the longer piece on the bottom where the feed dogs will ease it into the seam.)

And here is the top with the edge triangles and the rest of the sashing:
I really had to get creative to cut all the edge triangles from the fabric that was originally sewn between the blocks.

Then I realized that I read the chart I was using incorrectly and the corner triangles are too small. That elicited a big sigh from me, I can tell you. But since I first realized, I've been mulling it around and I think I have a solution I like.

In one place I saw this block called Puss in the Corner, but since then I haven't been able to confirm it. When I search for Puss in the Corner blocks, they are shown with half-square triangle pieces. If you have a name you use for this block, please leave it in the comments below. I'd like to know how to refer to it. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 Planning Party: First Quarter Update

If I went through the trouble of doing some planning for 2020, maybe I should go through the effort of some updates too! (For the original list, see this post.)

After the first quarter of the year, here are status updates for the projects I listed:

1. Quilting my Nocturne Star: no progress. The top, back, binding, and thread are all still hanging out in the same box. I haven't used the batting intended for this quilt, so I still have all of the necessary pieces.

2. A wall hanging from an orphan block. At the retreat in February, I sorted through my blues and yellows to see what I had from the first wall hanging and what else may work
and then cut up a lot of little squares.

Not long after getting home, I sewed the first border of rectangles together and attached them to the center block.
I couldn't find enough of the fabric I wanted to use for the next border. It was a light orange with blue flowers that was perfect in the first block. I did some more looking but never did find any. (Except for the squares of this fabric in my plaidish quilt. I was giving them the side eye for sure.)

When I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer for some to magically appear and wanted to move forward, I worked with what I had. I had enough for 10" of the 12" border. So I grabbed another fabric that isn't the same but I kept mixing them up in my mind, so I figured they were close enough to the same. I put the new fabric in just the corners, leaving the center for the orange fabric.
Not terrible.

Then I decided to press on and sew on the next border, which was also a set of squares. It would have been smarter to strip piece this--make one set 6" wide and then cut them into 1.5" strips--but I didn't think of this on time. So I sewed little 1.5" square together, one by one.
And then they were too long. By a good amount:
I think I can make each seam a smidge bigger and make it fit, but for now the whole thing is in time-out.

3. Sashing Lucy Boston blocks
This got seriously derailed by the Third Block contest in February, but I was able to finished 4 so far this year

and am working on the fifth:
This last one will be block #28 to be sashed, which means...I'm half way! Wow, imagine that!

4. Joy to the World quilt bottom (back)
Good news here, I got the back done!
This got a big push by the #sewthescrapoutofMarch sew along on Instagram (and being home all day every day) and I definitely wanted it off of the design wall.

Here's a close up of the border print:
Carefully chosen by the fact that it was the only red fabric I had enough of to do the borders.

5. Antique red fabric quilt
I bought more fabric for this quilt, bringing in some teals that I think will really help, but nothing else done. If I do the Boston Common pattern I'm looking at I really will need that design board the Joy to the World quilt just vacated.

6. Cashmere "memory" blanket
I got a good start on this one at the retreat in February. The blocks were cut and sewn into rows. Soon after getting back, I sewed the rows together.

I started the hand embroidery to sew down the seam allowances on March 3 and finished in about two weeks. (Another reason my Lucy Boston blocks were slowed down.)

I finished the label just in time to say I did it on this post. I hope to deliver it on Thursday.
Although intended for a couch, here it is
laying on my queen sized bed.
7. Calligraphy
I completed the online "drills" course I started. That was a great start. I did not sign up for any of the following (not free) courses that actually teach letters. I just looked at examples and started. I made these 4x6" cards to hang on the prayer board at church.
I am interested in hand lettering, which is a great thing to combine with calligraphy. Here's the design I put on the postcard I swapped at the retreat.
I'm learning that calligraphy and hand lettering are more about the layout than how well you can make letters. (Although of course you need both.) I took a class on hand lettering at Make South Bend a couple years ago, and both of these experiences have taught me that it's more like drafting than writing.

Here's a fun habit I picked up from the calligraphy drills instructor:
She loves to decorate her envelopes, and apparently I do too. It takes a long time though, so please don't be offended if any mail you get doesn't look like this! :)

I am not keeping up with regular drills so I'll have to "get in shape" before I do any serious calligraphy projects. I also haven't experimented with the "big" brush pen. I could do the same drills with the big tip pen and see how that goes.

8. Skate more
I managed to skate twice in January at the new local skate park:
And a picture to prove I was there:
It was nice. I think after that the weather was iffy and I had things that filled the time gap where I would have went skating. Apparently it is a good thing I didn't get the season pass.

9. Take a trip with Troy: no progress
And now that we are self-isolating (self-isewlating in my case), getting to the grocery store is considered a major trip.

10. Pray more.
I'm definitely doing this, and with all the time at home that I could want, I have lots of opportunities for it. I have kept up a daily practice of Lectio Divina each morning, and small groups that I was getting together to pray with are trying it on Zoom. It's not great, but it's not horrible either.

Well, all in all, not bad I'd say. This might have been a better goal list for the first quarter of 2020, than for the whole year! But then again, I do have that whole quilt to quilt (#1).

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...