Monday, November 24, 2014

Breaking the Log Jam

If I'm honest, I have to say I am well tired of this Austen Family Album Quilt project. If you have been following this blog, you will know that I have had my difficulties here and there with patchwork techniques I'd not been familiar with and with color choice and placement. I had finally managed to get to block #27 King's Crown for George III. There were difficulties with the measurements given on the blog, which our erstwhile blogger, Barbara Brackman did correct in a day or so. I had of course attempted the cut before I saw the correction, so had to re cut one piece. If you look at the examples in her blog, you will see that in my version I added another jewel to the crown.  As always if you are interested in finding out how the reign of George III affected the life and times of the Austens, please look here.


Next came Crossroads which tells the tale of Jane's acceptance at age 27 of a proposal of marriage from a 21 year-old Harris Bigg-Whither and what happened next. This blog entry describes much of the difficulty of finding a mate in this time in history.

This block as you can see involves the motif known as "Flying Geese." I've always liked the look if them but had never tried them. After getting this block cut I started the construction. That's when the log jam occurred. I sewed the triangles together in 12 little birds and then sewed one set of three together. Major Jam. It was quite uneven and crooked. I hated it and it sat in the sewing room for at least three weeks. More likely, a month. I kept thinking, if only this had been a paper piecing pattern. I knew I could have rocked it. Last week I gave drafting a paper pattern a try, but I already had the pieces cut. Theoretically I should have been able to make it work.

Today, after letting my brain work on the problem for quite a while I decided to mark where the seams should be after carefully measuring. It's not perfect, none of my blocks are, but I think it's a decent effort.

So, two more blocks down and there should be eight more to go. As my math is notoriously bad, I will consider this a good estimate and soldier on. Almost there really, considering where I've been. I have the next block cut and ready to sew. I have seen the blocks up to and including the one in yesterday's post (#36). Lots of triangles, the mention of an inset seam which I think is likely the dreaded Y-seam, renamed to sound less ominous. So a bit to go, but I must finish now that I've gotten this far, I think.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Never Fear, Dear Readers!

I have not abandoned my endeavors in completing this chronicle of the Austen Family Expressed in fiber art. I have merely fallen behind in my assignments. Again! I have not totally caught up, in fact a new block was posted yesterday, however I thought I would offer you this update just so you know it's still a going concern.

The next block in the series is titled Fanny's Favorite and commemorates the life of Jane's eldest niece, Frances Catherine Knight. If you are at all interested in learning more about the distinctions of "class" in Victorian England please read Barbara Brackman's post here.

The block itself is a bit complicated with lots and lots of little pieces. Here's how mine turned out:

Just the choosing of the colors and then cutting accurately took me a long time and if I had it to do over again... (I really doubt I ever will.)

So this road block has been surmounted. Onward and upward, another color choice conundrum. I've used up a lot of the lighter brighter colors in my collection which is causing some difficulty.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Hop Goes On!

Evelyn in the Cotswolds
If you remember from my post last Monday I invited my friend at "Evelyn in the Garden" to continue the Around the World Blog Hop with a little introduction to her creative world. She has made good her promise and her blog can be found here. Please visit. She is, compared to gray hairs like me, a relative newby to the creative sewing scene. Young. Fresh. Gotta love her.

I would have thought you were crazy if you had suggested to me when I was at University that I would be able to teach sewing using things like the "Chat" function on Facebook. That's how I assisted "Evelyn" in a recent project where she had stepped out and started sewing something she had researched on the Internet. She's in the UK, I'm in Florida. When we signed off I really felt we had visited together. It was great. Oh yes, she was able to make a present of her project to a friend.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Around The World Blog Hop

My friend Jean at All Points of the Compass has invited me to be a blogger in the Around The World Blog Hop. The discussion on tap is the creative process. I will be using some general questions to tell you about my experience.

1. What am I working on?

At the moment I am participating in a Quilt-Along. This block per week challenge has been running for 26 weeks so far and has 36 blocks total. The subject of the project is the family of Jane Austen.  Each week the blogger Barbara Brackman chooses a block and relates it's name to someone from the extended Austen family. She does a great deal of research and I've learned lots about the history and way of life of that era. The blocks have a wide range of difficulty level and I have learned so much by working each one out. Her blog is posted here. I post each block as it is finished here on this blog with a brief synopsis of the blogpost. I chose at the beginning to use fabrics I had collected while living in Japan; not silk, but cottons mostly in solids, stripes and woven patterns.

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

My general background in sewing goes back to the days when I wanted new outfits for my doll. My father encouraged me and was really talented in being able to tell me how pieces should be cut and sewn together. He and my mother could both do embroidery. In the early Sixties I started taking Home Ec in Junior High School. Subsequently I majored in Home Economics Education at University. However I have always been primarily a garment sewer.

With reference to quilting in general I have to state at the outset that my experience as a "Quilter" is quite limited. I learned a lot about color theory while working at a Fabric Shop where they also sold quilting cottons. I was asked to teach different individual techniques that were being promoted by the sewing machine company the store was in partnership with.

This jacket is from my sewing shop days and was made in anticipation of a trip to Japan. The fabric is a quilting cotton and the laces are from my stepmother's stash. The techniques used include all kinds of machine "Heirloom" stitches, and piecing the parts together.


That being said, I have to credit any abilities I have in quilting to a combination of all my life experiences and then being guided so skillfully by my experience with quilters in Japan. I was so fortunate to be able to participate in twice monthly classes with a well known Japanese Quilter who thankfully is not only quite talented, but bilingual, and we lived in the same city. Her influence on my life radiated out to much more than quilting, to the point she has "adopted" as her younger sister! Sensei's first instruction to me at my first class was to "design my own quilt"! The result, a bit more than a year later was my "Japanese Memory Quilt"

There is quite a bit of needle turn applique on those blocks. I have to give credit to the talented fellow Left Hander and Left Handed Quilter, Julie, an American living in Tokyo.  To learn the technique I sat behind her on a couch as she sat on the floor working on a huge Hawaiian quilt, a gift for the wedding of one her kids . You can visit Julie on her blog: My Quilt Diary. There's probably a photo of that quilt in her archives.


Julie talking and hand piecing.










Sensei teaching a class at the 2011 Great Quilt Festival, Tokyo Dome

























I later produced a baby quilt for a dear friend that was composed of 16 bear paw blocks that I called: "4 Bears for Maiko chan." In my haste to get it finished I threw caution to the wind and didn't pay much attention to the distribution of the colors of my scraps. Live and learn.



3. Why do I create?

I learned something about myself when I agreed to supply some little calico cats in baskets for a friend's shop some years ago. It is almost physically painful for me to make something exactly the same way twice. I may follow a pattern exactly the first time, but am thinking all the while how I might do it differently the next. So you see, I create, I just have to.

I have tagged my dear friend who writes a blog called "Evelyn in the Garden" to write the next blog in this series of "Around the World Blog Hop." She lives in the UK and we met in Japan. Our friendship not only spans miles and years, but age differences. I think you'll enjoy her perspective. On October 6 you can find her blog entry at: http://evelyninthegarden.wordpress.com/

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: http://austenfamilyalbumquilt.blogspot.com/ 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!