Thursday, May 31, 2012


I'm hoping that "completion" will be a running theme this summer. And bringing big projects to completion is worth a bit of struggle.

My writing partner and I are inches away from getting our fully copy-edited manuscript to its next step (typesetting, yippee! must note that we do have a couple of weeks of detailed work to do first); I am waiting to here about some image reproduction permissions and then I can finalize small changes to a journal article (also about to be typeset); I just finished a book review that had been hanging over my head for a few months...AND oh yes, I have JUST FINISHED ALL 111 BLOCKS IN THE FARMER'S WIFE SAMPLER QUILT!


I was two blocks from completion last week, but put myself on temporary hold while taking care of some of the writing tasks mentioned above -- and also in order to give Melinda a chance to near completion of her own set of blocks (Melinda is actually making an additional 10, ambitious woman that she is!).

Yesterday I was back at the sewing machine, my 1947 Featherweight to be exact, not to work on the FW quilt but happily working away on the bear paw blocks for my king-sized Father's Day quilt (no pictures yet because my father deserves a little bit of a surprise); I have 24 of 30 blocks done. That feels good.

And then last night I read on flickr that Melinda was just 1.5 blocks away from being done -- so I kicked back into gear and gathered the template pieces for my remaining two FW blocks: numbers 104, Wild Geese, and 110, Wood Lily.

I cut the pieces this morning, put 'em together -- still using the Featherweight because it is so fun to use for piecing and my new little fabric guide had been giving me such good 1/4" seam results on the bear paw blocks (cue ominous music) AND.... pppfffffsssssssss...failure.

Both blocks measured at an exact 7" square.


What a way to wrap up this challenging, year-long project! With 60+ pieces in many of the Farmer's Wife blocks, the most miniscule inaccuracy in a seam can add up to a big problem.  I had faced this several times before, had discovered exactly which set of templates worked for me, and exactly which setting on my Janome produced exactly the right seam width...and yet here I was once again.  Apparently I hadn't learned my lesson, even after 109 blocks.

So I filed away the cute but oversized blocks, and remade them.

And now, ta da!  I can introduce to the world my final two Farmer's Wife blocks.

FW block 104, Wild Geese
Block 104, Wild Geese

FW block 110, Wood Lily
Block 110, Wood Lily

As I wrote on flickr, it seems appropriate that this particular project should end with some bumps: I learned a tremendous amount in making all of these traditional blocks (and using templates for the very first time!), but it was a steep climb at points. To quote the fitness DVDs that have recently (and of necessity) become part of my daily life, the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt kicked my butt, from start to finish.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

FWQAL week 1001

...not really, it sometimes just feels like I have been making these 6.5" blocks for the past 20 years.

My sweet and talented friend Melinda -- who is making the most fabulous FW quilt, beautifully pieced, no fabric used twice (!!) in what will ultimately be 121 blocks -- tells me that it is actually week 43.

So here we are.  I have just a handful of blocks to go.

First I want to say that I feel lucky to know two Melindas, both of whom are making Farmer's Wife quilts.  And I know that I am very lucky to have my online friend Melinda farming alongside me as we near the finish line. Having a partner in this venture has really helped to keep me fact it's hard to work on anything else right now. And since we are both planning to hand quilt our Farmer's Wife samplers, I'm hoping we can keep cheering each other on!

I am a bit short on time today (I have to help my son sign up for residence/the university dorms...AAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!), so I'll get to the point with my latest blocks.  The photos are not the best, but so be it.

FW block 57, Morning
block 57, Morning

FW block 38, Four Winds
block 38, Four Winds

FW block 89, Steps to the Altar
block 89, Steps to the Altar

FW block 105, Wild Goose Chase
block 105, Wild Goose Chase

FW block 79, Silver Lane
block 79, Silver Lane

FW block 67, Pine Tree
block 67, Pine Tree

FW block 53, Jackknife
block 53, Jackknife

FW block 93, Swallow
block 93, Swallow

I have received so many helpful and smart suggestions for the sashing colour -- thanks very much to everyone who has taken the time and energy to write to me on this topic.  I truly appreciate it.

I think I have settled on natural Essex linen for the sashing -- a choice which wasn't even in the running until it tumbled from the top shelf of my fabric cupboard when I was digging for navy blue. Since it was at floor-level, I decided to take a shot of some of my blocks with it -- and, viola!  I like it, I like it a lot -- especially against all that orange and sharp green and blue.

FW blocks on Essex linen

I have a book review and article edits to to do this week, and then June will bring an insane amount of work to my desk, as my writing partner and I do our final book copyedit checks, write and deliver a conference paper (jointly), and then each write a journal article. Oy.

 I can't really complain: this is all good work that I want to do -- but it won't allow me much in the way of (the ever elusive) work-life balance, at least not next month. So I'll continue to make hay/stitch when I can!

Best to all.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Farmer's Wife QAL, progress report

I took a bit of a break from my Farmer's Wife sampler project...and the quilt-along thing seems to have shrunk from hundreds of enthusiastic farmers to just a few...but I'm nearing the end of this massive project and I can hardly believe it!

Between last night and this afternoon I have made 7 new blocks, which brings my total to 98.  I am making all 111 block designs in the book, so I have just 13 to go.  Jeepers!

I took a group shot at 96, auditioning a light gray solid as a potential sashing fabric (inspired by my online friend Melinda...not to be confused with my face-to-face sewing friend Melinda -- hi Melinda!).

FW group shot, 96 blocks


 Anyway, here are the newest ones.

FW block 72, Railroad
block 72, Railroad

FW block 75, Rosebud
block 75, Rosebud

FW block 81, Snowball
block 81, Snowball (happy to find I had left some of the easy ones to the end!)

FW block 80, Single Wedding Star
block 80, Single Wedding Star

FW block 78, Shooting Star
block 78, Shooting Star (a bit wonky, but I like it and it's a keeper!)

FW block 86, Squash Blossom
block 86, Squash Blossom (with peekaboo bears)

FW block 87, Star Gardener
block 87, Star Gardener

So there we are...lots of work done and lots still to do.  But, wow, I am (IamIamIamIam) actually going to make a full Farmer's Wife Quilt.

Holy moly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bloggers' Quilt Festival

The "Bloggers' Quilt Festival" coordinated by Amy of Amy's Creative Side begins today.  I have discovered so many talented quilters and beautiful quilts through these biannual linky is definitely worth checking it out!

I am usually pretty shy about putting my work forward for all to see (but also love to get feedback on the things I makes for an odd combination, huh?).  I participated in the BQF once before and it was great fun.  So here it goes -- drumroll -- my entry for the Spring 2012 BQF is

Berry Patch!

Berry Patch!

This wee quilt made last winter (can you see the cold in these photos?) is one of my all-time favourites -- and my affection for it is heightened by the fact that I didn't have high expectations for it, I was just following my nose, playing around with "granny squares" (inspired by Jolene in this tutorial), some stashed Kona plum, and scraps I had cut into 2.5" squares a few weeks earlier (conveniently!).

The purpley-plum palette was a little bit of a challenge, and before I knew it this project had fully occupied my brain.  I find that the projects I end up most attached to are the ones that aren't smooth sailing, that present certain design problems.  This colour palette did just that.

The turning point for me was when I threw all my squares down on a yard of black and white Annie's Seed Catalogue (I had used one scrap, the berry for the centre of a granny square, ultimately placed at the centre of the quilt).  Suddenly the squares came to life!  I ended up scrapping 3 squares that just weren't playing nicely, but am so, so, so happy with the others, sashed in black and white.

I machine-quilted in the ditch along the sashing and then hand-quilted with perle cotton around the very centre square and then the perimeter of the nine-patch formed by each granny. I also hand-quilted in the outer border of plum solid, lines about 3/4" apart.

Berry Patch, detail

The backing fabric was one of my absolute favourites from my stash, Alexander Henry Viva.  I'm so happy that I get to see it every day.

Berry Patch back

Berry Patch, label

Thanks so much for coming by, and I really do love to get comments (and answer every single one!) -- so please feel free to add your voice.

And now it's time to go look at the green grass and get warmed up...! But when I'm next at the computer I'm going to explore all the lovelies linked at the BQF and you should too. You can click on the button below to get there.

Amy's Creative Side

Friday, May 4, 2012

little things

Deep in writing, deadline and road trip looming, some little things are still being sewn.

Yesterday I whipped up two little bags for our friends' daughters, whom we will see soon...can hardly wait.

2 little bags

This was a nice opportunity to use some favourite fabrics (Far Far Away II and Ruby Star Shining, to be exact), and to finally make some fabric-covered buttons (and hair elastics for the closures). No pattern...all easy as pie, plenty of time left in the day for a haircut and some editing.

little bag #1

little bag #1

little bag #2

a peek inside

Made a wee version for Frida too, perfect for carrying along a dolly on the bicycle ride to school.

getting ready to ride

carry along

I have also dipped into my new stash of Oakshott fat-eighths -- my half of the CoulourBox I split with Melinda.  Ooooo, they are lovely.

I am teaching myself hand-piecing using Jinny Beyer's wonderful book Quiltmkaing by Hand.  I have had this book for over a year -- long enough for Penelope to chew off one corner.

I love this book (and so does Penelope, who was been nibbling the lower lh corner)

Beyer describes how she uses her pattern "Columbia" to teach beginners (!).  It's pretty impressive looking, but she breaks it down into stages of piecing that work from the simple (straight lines, joining squares) to the more challenging (curves and Y-seams).

"Columbia" from Jinny Beyer's _Quiltmaking by Hand_

For this first hand-piecing project I am using a range of blue Oakshotts -- combined with a couple of yellow and chartreuse shades too, white Essex linen, and a blue border print from 1001 Peeps -- so many favourite things in one project!  Yay!

fabrics for "Columbia" (hand-piecing project)

I have made a little progress, and these ultimate "little things" are coming along with us on the road trip next week.

learning to hand piece

"Columbia" in progress

progress-to-date, "Columbia" hand piecing

I'm sorry to be abrupt, and that I haven't been able to keep up with online quilty frineds, but I mustmustmust get back to work.  I am feeling the pressure of needing to complete the writing of a one-hour keynote (which will be videotaped, gulp).

Best to all!