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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pattern Testing Again

I ventured into the world of pattern testing again. It is an interesting process and depending on the designer can be a learning process for everyone.  This time I decided to apply to work with Linda Joyner Lehn who has been learning pattern drafting and has now produced her first pattern, Esterlyn's Jumper. The pattern will go on sale as a PDF pattern sometime in the next few days. If you are interested you can check out her blog Here.

With the 4th of July Holiday coming up, I decided to celebrate the season and also show up some of the unique features of this pattern. I don't have any children of my own, so I said I would make a size 12 months. Since finishing I have thought of someone with a daughter just the right size so have shipped the dress off to her in time for the festivities.

A couple of things about pattern testing. Some how it has never seemed quite fair that I spend time money and energy making up and untried pattern for no compensation except for the satisfaction of a job well done. This is especially true for me in the burgeoning business of children's clothing patterns, being without children. That's why I have previously opted for purse/bag patterns. You do get a copy of the finished pattern that you can use. 

The other thing you get, sometimes, depending on the designer, is the active participation in the process of making patterns better, clearer and as user friendly as possible. In this case I have to commend Linda Lehn. The group of testers offered her suggestions, gripes, improvements, and any other kind of feedback you can imagine. She took it all on board and used it to improve her finished product. In this respect she's a better woman than I am, and I admire her for it. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A New Favorite

Sometimes when I see the new block for the week my immediate response is, "I like this one!" Sometimes after I get it put together the song changes to, "...hmmm. I guess that'll do." This time I thought, "I might really like it when it's finished."

So, now it's finished, and I like it. However, it almost looked quite different. I think that I have mentioned that usually, choosing the fabrics for each block is the hardest part. My original concept for the colors for this block was that the larger corner triangle would be the sandy seashore, so I did it this way.

I really don't know where my head was. The very light fabric is a muslin that was on my cutting table from another project. The Japanese taupe in the smaller triangles is the lightest shade I have used so far in this series of blocks. The muslin was really too light and out of place. 

So I looked at it again and tried different fabrics out and finally decided that I preferred it if that corner triangle was the deeper sea instead. So I replaced the triangle with another fabric in darker blue. This is how it  turned out.

This block is called Waves of the Sea for Francis Austen. Another of Jane's brothers, Frank had a naval career. You can read his story on the Austen Family Album blog at:

Actually, if you look at this block the right way it looks like a fish, I think.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect

...or a facsimile thereof. Can you believe it? Here's another block done in the Austen Family Album Quilt - along series! And it's only Tuesday. I attribute this feat to a couple of things. One is that I was totally caught up on Sunday when this block was introduced, so was not playing catch up before starting the new block. The other is that this block has a very familiar look to it.

Cross Within a Cross
Compare it to the block for Jane's father called Cross Within a Cross.

Village Square

Then look at the one for Jane's brother James called Village Square.

Not to say I didn't make any mistakes along the way, but they were mistakes of not paying attention rather than because of difficulty.

Friendship Square
So, here it is, the Friendship Square in recognition of Catherine Knatchbull Knight's friendship with the Austen family and her status of benefactor to Jane's brother Edward, who she and her husband subsequently adopted and left their fortune to.  The story is found in last week's blog as well as this week's which can be found here.

So, I'm done - till next block. Oh, yes, I just remembered, I haven't done my homework for tomorrow's sewing group at church. So, on to the next task.

Comments are welcome on this or any other of my blog posts. What do you think?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Two new Austen Family Album blocks finished!

On Monday this week I got the good news that my dear Sensei in Japan had shipped the solid taupe fabric I needed. She said it would take about a week to get here. Both of us were shocked when it showed up here in Florida on Thursday! So I've been busy with the two blocks I needed to make to be caught up when the next block which should be announced tomorrow.

The London Roads block was named for Jane's brother Henry who had at first planned to be come a pastor like his father and brother, however he found a second career in the army and then on return to civilian lifeAusten Family Album Quilt.

became a banker in London. Jane spent a lot of time in London with Henry and his wife. He acted as her agent. You can of course read more detail in the

In this block I used lots of the taupe fabric which lets the street arrows really stand out.

Edward Austen, another of Jane's brothers, led a bit of a charmed life compared to some of the others and the block Good Fortune is for him. please check out this blog entry to get the whole story of the twists and turns in his life.

As you can see, these blocks are simple in comparison to some of the others. they went together fairly easily, with just the usual matching of points and seams to attend to.

Let's see what tomorrow brings with block #11 in this quilt block of the week adventure.

Which is your favorite so far?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Oh, the Shame of it!

Gentle readers, you may know that I have been aware from the beginning of this project that the possibility of falling behind loomed each week with the issuing of a new block. It has happened. I am now one block behind. (Covers her eyes with the back of her hand.) Sniff.

I did complete the Philadelphia block on time. If you look at Ms Brackman's blog that elucidates her reasons for dedicating this block to Jane Austen's aunt Philadelphia Hancock here. I felt a bit of kindred spirit with Aunt Phila and if you read about her you may be able to see why.

The following week, Eliza's Star was presented. it is named for Jane's cousin and sister-in-law, the Contesse de Feullide aka Mrs Henry Austen. She is portrayed as being lively, if unconventional. You can read more about her here. This block presented me with my biggest challenge so far. The inner square is bordered by a "frame". After reading the instructions, looking at all the examples, and cutting out the pieces I had no real concept how this piece was to be sewn together. I made an attempt and ended up taking it all apart again. It finally struck me that these seams I was struggling with were the quilter's nemesis, "the dreaded Y seam" multiplied by four.

I did find some help online by way of videos and step by step illustrations posted there by various quilting gurus. I gave it another try. It was marginally better, but my seams didn't match as they should. I was discouraged. On Wednesday of this past week I took the pieces to a friend at the Wednesday Morning Sewing Group at church. She was able to give me some guidance and advice.

Today I have finally completed this block.


However, that still leaves a block not even started, the one introduced last week called London Roads. Named for Henry Austen, another of Jane's brothers. This block looks like fun. You can see it here, but alas not here on this blog till next week. Oh will I be able to face you again if this task is not completed in good time? Tune in next time!