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.

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?