Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Change or Chance?

The Austen Family Album Blogger, Barbara Brackman wrote this week about the changing fortunes of  Jean-Francois Capot de Feuillide, who was "an officer in the Queen's Guards, the Queen being Marie Antoinette" This of course, as has been discussed previously,was during the era of the French Revolution. What connects him to the Austen Family was his marriage to Eliza Hancock, Jane's first cousin.

It is suggested that the name of this block might have been Wheel of Chance rather than Wheel of Change as printed. Either seem to fit the life of Capt. de Feuillide who took chances with his fortunes during drastically changing times. You can read the more complete account on the Austen Family Album blog here.

Construction of the block appeared a bit more intimidating than it turned out to be. When I first saw it I thought, "be careful what you ask for" after last week's lament.

Lots of rain here in West Central Florida this week. Yesterday my morning walk was delayed by a half hour. Today I gave up on the idea altogether. It has brightened up considerably in the last quarter hour, but looking at current radar I see that there is more stormy weather headed our way. Lovely weather for the water birds in the area. I wonder if  they're eating the frogs that inhabit our retention pond? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Old Maid's Puzzle for Tom LeFroy

Block 23 in the Austen Family Album Quilt commemorates the brief encounter/romance/acquaintance of Jane with a young Mr. Tom LeFroy. Apparently this relationship was not to be encouraged beyond the Christmas Holidays in the year 1795 due to Tom's lack of a fortune and Jane's lack of a dowry to bring to a marriage. It was unwise for such equals to marry in this case in those times.

If you would like more details you can of course visit the Austen Family Album Blog here.

The block itself I personally found to be rather uninspiring. It is shown to be composed of triangles and squares of different colors/prints. While being relatively simple, it had a rather unfocused feel to me. (Is this what others think of Old Maids, one wonders.) Neither am I impressed with my finished product. I guess there have to be a few like that. "You have to take the duds with the fluffies," as a college friend opined, likening life to a bowl of popcorn.

Sunrise in Fairway Villas
I have started a new regimen to try to keep up stamina and health. I get up relatively early and go for a brisk walk. I found a route which Google Maps tells me is just short of two miles. There is a gentle downhill side and a gentle uphill side. I've only gotten one blister - due mostly to a new pair of shoes. In general the early mornings are cooler and so far I have avoided walking when there is a real threat of a storm.

A rainbow at sunset

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Four At Once

Oh my, I hope to never do that again. The dreaded getting behind a week turns into a month all too quickly! I have, however redeemed myself and gotten all caught up once again. Whew.

It was one block in particular that gave me trouble and my drive to get three blocks cut out last week stalled over it for a few days till I got the colors properly sorted out. That, however turned out to be just the beginning with that block. You see, the corners are made of squares and half square triangles. You start by cutting the squares at 2 inches. So, a lot of pieces and a lot of matching of seams to get it looking right. I worked on the sewing for quite a while. Every once in a while I had to take a break because my head would no longer cope with figuring it out. The block is called, "Best Friend for Martha Lloyd." Martha was Jane's friend.

If you look at the Austen Family Album blog at: you will see that there was a block the week before this one that I haven't shown you. It's called "Crosspatch for Mary Lloyd Austen." It's set on the diagonal, but not too difficult. I redid several joins to get them to match better, but that may have been a function of tiredness by that point. The word crosspatch reminds me of books like "The Bobbsey Twins" I read in my childhood. It is quite descriptive of the type of person who is not agreeable and a bit of a troublemaker, but not much used today.

Next I put together the block named: "West Wind for Tom Fowle." Tom was engaged to be married to Jane's sister Cassandra, but a stint as a Navy Chaplain took his life before they could be married. Find the full story on Barbara Brackman's blog.

Since my labors put me past another Sunday, there was one more block to make before I could say I was truly caught up. This block: "Friendship for Anne Brydges LaFroy" is to honor a woman who mentored Jane in her writing, being a published poet herself. This block is a slight variation on a nine-patch and went together quite easily.

So, now I have a little break till next block. I really would prefer to not get left behind again!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Indian Star

This week's block in the series Austen Family Album is named Indian Star. It is to commemorate the family friend, Warren Hastings. His actual role in relation to the family is not well defined, but many situations brought them together. He was Governor General of India when Jane was born. For Barbara Brackman's account of his life please visit her blog here.

Even though this block design appeared in America and commemorated Native Americans it was chosen in this case for it's name. To relate it more to the country of India and thus to Mr. Hastings I went to the Flag of the Nation of India shown at right.

Using the colors of the flag, I constructed the block. It was fairly easy in comparison to some of the others presented more recently and contained some familiar elements. I'm learning to place the pieces a bit more accurately and was reminded by the writer of the blog, La Sewista! that different jobs are best done using specific pins. I remembered the Clover Quilting Pins I got in Japan.They are quite long and quite thin, making them ideal for pinning matching points.

I'm still searching for an appropriate sashing fabric. I haven't gotten all the boxes out of my "Sewing Vault" to see if I have something suitable. I'll keep searching as I'm now on the downhill side of the block piecing.

What's your challenge this week? I'd love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

16 & 17

Blocks #16 and #17 were chosen in honor of Jane's Uncle James and his wife, the Leigh-Perrots.

Aunt Jane was at one time accused of shoplifting some lace from a shop in Bath and was imprisoned for 7 months without bail till her case was tried. She was ultimately acquitted, judged a victim of a scam by store employees to extract money through extortion. Aunt Jane could have been sentenced to death or to transportation - the term used for deportation to the penal colony at Botany Bay. The block called Lucky Pieces was chosen by Barbara Brackman to honor her. See the whole story here which includes a link to pictures of a quilt made by women in the penal colony.

I had some difficulty with this block. Although color choice, which slowed me down at the beginning of this project, has gotten easier, the blocks have become more complicated. This one is all triangles, 28 of them. With triangles you always have the possibility of stretching pieces out of shape on the diagonal edge, especially as the instructions for these blocks do not have you make Half-Square Triangles, rather triangles are cut and pieced individually. It could be worse, Ms. Brackman could have opted to present the block with the original parallelograms and Y-seams. We got the triangles instead. My first attempt at sewing the center pinwheel together ended up with the colors in the wrong orientation to the outside triangles so I didn't have the longer pinwheel blades. After consultation with my mentor, Carolyn I got them turned the right way around and spinning properly.

Uncle James was a man of means and as was the norm in that time indulged in what was considered "the Good Life." This included a diet high in alcohol consumption as well as indulgence in rich foods. He had the physical complaints to prove it and sought the healing properties of the "waters" at Bath on a regular basis. You can read a more complete synopsis of his life and the ravages of the Gout which afflicted many of the upper class of that era, here.

The block chosen for him is called Water Wheel. With only eight triangles and the rest squares, it was a relative piece of cake. It commemorates the time Uncle James spent seeking relief from his maladies in various baths and hot springs.

With this block I have reached the halfway point in piecing blocks for the Austen Family Album Quilt. I'm thankful I did not see, and have not seen the complete set of blocks. I certainly would not have attempted this project. As it is I have been able to complete each one, even though some are more difficult and present problems I am not acquainted with. I'm sure there's a good lesson in there for me.

Here's a photo of all of the blocks completed so far. I just recounted to make sure there are indeed 17.

I have placed the ones in the foreground on a fabric I'm considering for the sashing between blocks. It is a roll of kimono fabric; 95% wool and 5% nylon. I'm not sure how it will be with those blocks that are really light in color like the one on the far right. I'm open to opinions. As you might have noticed I have added a button to my blog that indicates that constructive suggestions are welcome, so please leave a comment below.

Here's a closer view of the fabric.

Are you working on something challenging? How do you cope with the difficult parts?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chirashi - A Mixture

I feel a bit at loose ends - fairly usual for me, I think. This being retired business is not for sissies. Here are a few things I have spent time with recently.

Hawaiian shirt "muslin" - I have had this pattern for a long time. I thought that the casual style would suit me. I had done some pattern alterations some time in the past, so I plunked it down on this blue plaid that was a gift. What ensued was a shirt that was really quite huge on me. So huge that I think I total rethink is necessary on the casual shirt front. The construction was good practice. I did a double yoke on the bias and sewed it a la Trudy at Hot Patterns' tutorial. It worked well. The plaids matched mostly except for the sleeves which for some unknown reason were really gigantic. The fabric has a high percentage of polyester, so did not press well. So, being finished and wearable by someone larger than me, it goes into the Hospice Resale Store bag. The pattern has been unceremoniously disposed of. No Tears.

I have been making attempts in the world of quilting for a while. I decided to invest in a new foot for my old machine.  I sprang for a "Quarter Inch Foot" recently, and whether or not the old machine continues to work long enough to make it a good investment, I'm hooked.

The Viking Husqvarna version has a little sled runner on the right hand side which really ensures easy piecing. It has been a boon. It makes the fact that an "even feed foot" is totally out of the question for this machine due to the price and non-universality slightly easier to bear. Most days I don't know if I hope the machine continues to survive or bites the dust.

The triumph of the week is another quilt block in the Austen Family Album is "King's Crown for the Regent." If you go to the blog post HERE you can read a story of the monarchy during the lifetime of Jane and her family.

Here's my version of the block done in Japanese cottons and featuring the taupe fabric common to all the blocks so far. There will be 35 blocks in total for this series.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blocks 13 and 14 in the Austen Family Album Quilt

I have now completed blocks 13 and 14 in this Austen Family Quilt-along. One was relatively easy, the other was a bit more difficult. I have ordered some of that Best Press stuff and am hoping it will help with some of my pressing issues.

Crosses and Losses is in commemoration of Jane's brother Charles who followed his brother Frances into a career in the British Navy. If you want a more complete story on this or any of the quilts in this series, please go to: for Barbara Brackman's analysis of the Austen Family story. The reason for this choice stems from the practice at the time of the Navy using "prizes" to encourage enlistment and aggression. The bounty of a captured ship was shared with the underpaid sailors. I used lots of the background taupe to highlight the gold and jewel colors in the smaller figures and the green of the larger one.

The block for this week is titled Home Comforts and is for George Austen II an older brother who was born with a developmental disorder. When Jane was 4 years old, he was 13 and was placed in a boarding situation where others with unknown debilitating conditions were cared for in Monk Sherborne.  

Several children in the extended Austen clan had difficulties. Ms Brackman discusses this from the viewpoint of a Special Education teacher.

The block has more pieces than others in the series and unthinkingly I used some fabrics that were just a bit thicker, and this added to my difficulties with seam joins and pressing. Live and learn. Name of the game.