Category Archives: antique quilts

a UFO completion

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

PHDYesterday I finished a Phd from 1999. How do I know that date? The issue of Miniature Quilts magazine (Do you remember that one? It was a favorite magazine of mine!) where I found the directions was folded up with the nearly complete project. All it needed was a binding. Fortunately I had not trimmed the backing off yet, so I was able to do a “faux” binding, wrapping the backing up over the edge to the front. Quick finish. I wonder why I hadn’t finished it back then when there was so little needed.

The project looks like a drunkards path project, with killer small curves but…it’s not. Squares were fussy cut from two fabrics: a black background with white polka dots, and a white background with black polka dots. The polka dots were about 1 inch in diameter originally, so the curvy portions on the “drunkard’s path” blocks are about 3/4″. Makes it look like I really worked hard at the curve piecing, but I had none to do. Just sewed my fussy cut blocks into rows and bam!, there it is.

Don’t you love projects that look like you really fussed, when you know how easy it actually was? The trouble is, too many of us give away the secret in a self-effacing way. “it was so easy, all I did was …” We should just keep quiet and let our admirers think we are genius quilt-makers.

Do you have a pattern secret you can share with the rest of us who are in the club? What pattern have you made that makes you look like a genius, even though you know it was a cinch?


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a little of this, a little of that

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Were you able to spend any time at your machine during our recent arctic spell? I’m working on some Dresden plates for a class, and trying to come up with a fabric adaptation of a knitted shawl pattern for myself. It’s cold in my favorite reading spot and I’m trying to find the perfect shoulder wrap. If it works, I’ll be sharing it in a demo at the shop.  I love that classic Dresden plate pattern, but not so much in the classic way–with 30’s reproductions and lace. I’ve been exploring to find other ways to use the plate or fans and have found some that are “out of the box”. I’ve made a wreath with the blades in the past, but these are beyond that. The internet is such a great source for inspiration. I started with a google image search and then just started following links. Amazing how much time goes by before you even know it. Here are two of my favorites so far. click here, or here.

I get inspired to make soup when it’s cold and blustery like it has been. Nothing quite so comforting. Here’s a good-looking recipe that I think I’m going to try soon. I’ll have to make a good list for the grocery store first. The light clam chowder version that is in the sidebar looks worth a try too. Click here for the recipe.

Heading out for a walk now with my canine companion. It will seem like a heat wave!

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Simplify again.

Back again, it’s ME.

Yesterday since the selection of TV shows was so dismal, I started to go back through some of the things I’ve recorded on the DVR. I was way behind on the Sewing with Nancy shows and started there. I watched two episodes of a series where Nancy super-sized some of Grandma’s favorite one patch quilts. She did the tumbler block (thimble shaped) in one episode and Grandmother’s Flower Garden in the second. Those hexagon pieces are the latest pre-cut from Moda, joining the jelly rolls, charm packs, etc.  I’ll be interested to see how the designers show new quilters how to work with them. Usually the dreaded “Y-seam” puts people off. In Nancy’s technique she actually used half-hexies, (trapezoids to me the former math teacher), to completely avoid the Y-seam issue. You can watch those shows at her website I believe, since most of her past shows are archived there. Yep, I found it for you. Click here to watch Grandmother’s One Patch Quilts.

BTW, do you remember that at each of our guild quilt shows there is an award given specifically for grandmother’s flower garden quilts? Maybe you’d like to go for it; check out Nancy’s idea.

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a bit of quilt history

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I received an e-mail this morning from a member ( our former president, Mary D.) returning from a vacation to Utah and some National Parks. She included some photos and a link to the story of the Panguitch Quilt Walk. I had heard this story before but had forgotten it. I also enjoyed seeing her photos of the hanging in the visitor center, near Bryce Canyon National Park,  with its stitchery and miniature quilts included.  I did a little internet search and am also including a link to “Utah’s Patchwork Parkway”. Cool concept. Enjoy. You can click on any of the photos for a larger view (which will not have the right hand edge cut off!).





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the charm of traditional blocks

Hello all, It’s Mary Ellen back again. Between the garden, and the sewing machine I haven’t had much time at the blog lately. So I’ll try to catch up a little bit today. I taught a class today on designing your own “drunkard’s path” layout. Part of the class was also learning how to stitch that curve in the block without any puckers. I must say all the students were successful at that. YAY! Accurate cutting and very few pins are the keys in my book. I used Anita Murphy’s drunkard’s path book as a resource (thanks again, Helen). We also went a bit high-tech and used Google images to see SO many gorgeous variations on it. I had brought color photos, but one of the students had her iPad with her so we went on the internet. The students were floored by the versatility of the “module”. I think that’s what determines if a design idea will become a classic-how much can you infuse your own creativity into it to make quilts that are completely your own. No one else has your quilt.

Another quilt pattern that has stood the test of time is the Dresden Plate. Again so much versatility-change the number of degrees in the “wedge”, round tips or pointed tips, set it in to a circle or applique it on, include a trim into the curve of the block, make the wedges from strip sets… And on, and on. I absolutely love this Dresden plate block.dresden wheel This variation ( visit her site for more of her versions!) looks so modern, doesn’t it? I think I’ll be trying this soon-I already own the ruler she uses in her tutorial. And another cool thing about this one is that you get two blocks for the price of own, since you are flipping the ruler back and forth along a strip set. Love when that happens!

I know this is probably quilters’ blasphemy, but if you know a few of these classics you would never need to buy another pattern, just investing in fabric instead! You could keep making quilts forever working from the tried and true “traditional” blocks, without making the same old, same old quilt.

Do you have a block that is your favorite traditional, classic block? One that has staying power because there is so much you can do with it? Share please!

What project’s at your sewing machine these days? I’ve got a stack of 30’s repro fabrics cut for a scrappy drunkard’s path block that I’ll be using for leaders and enders for a while, but that’s not the main project. I’ll be finishing my samples for my seminar class in a day or two so the photos can get posted at our “seminar central”! (If you’re wondering about photos of all the local teachers’ projects, their deadline to get the photos to us is June 1. They will be posted as I get them, and our web guru checks them out. Supply lists are due to us by the beginning of July for web posting, and will be snail mailed to all registrants close to Aug. 1) I’m then going to have to choose a cheery summer time project. I think I’m going to go patriotic so I’ll have something to bring out on all our national holidays. I have a few mats and table runners, but I think I’d like a good ole red, white and blue quilt for the back of the couch.

TTFN. More coming before long, I promise!

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love those hexagons

Hello all, Mary Ellen here again.

I think I’ll share a bit more hexagon love today. Nothing quite as neat as the way hexagons will nest together and provide so much more interestHexactly than some of the other shapes that will nest (tessellate actually). Even Mother Nature loves a hexagon–think snowflakes, honeycomb cells, crystals… There aren’t very many regular shapes that will do this-squares, rectangles, equilateral triangles. There are ways to construct shapes that will nestle nicely–but they aren’t easy to piece as quilts, and it would require a math lesson to talk about those, so I’m not going there.

Here’s a bit more of hexagon math for those who might want to design something of your own using this versatile shape. This is from the Quiltmaker magazine blog: click here.

At the Hexie Love board at Pinterest that Quiltmaker has set up (click here) you’ll find wonderful ideas for hexagons. Remember that in our guild show, we have a separate award for Grandmother’s Flower Garden. I would think that if you are looking for inspiration, and want to shoot for an award at the show, you could find lots of ideas at that board. There are many full size quilt ideas, but also quite a few small scale projects if you’re new to hexagons. Here’s a link to a little bit of history of hexagons used in quilts-goes back to early 1800’s in America. (click here)

Bonnie Hunter, our seminar national teacher for next year is working on an English paper pieced hexagon quilt that many of you will love. (click here) Tiny pieces, lots of scraps–know anyone who likes that concept?

Heading up to the sewing room to applique more purse handles on my quilt top. I’m working on a quilt called High Fashion which is made of stack and slash squares for the bodies of the purses and wonky appliques bias strips for the handles. I think when it comes back from the quilter eventually, I’m going to add some sort of fun embellishments. Or maybe just a different kind of binding/edging. Will hold off on the decision until I see the quilt “done up”.

Have a great gray day. TTFN!


Filed under antique quilts, English paper piecing, quilt history, quilt shows, scrap quilting, Uncategorized

the latest pre-cut

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Are you a nut for those gorgeous pre-cut bundles that every quilt store puts out to tempt us? I know we could cut them easily enough ourself, but we’d never get the little sample of every fabric in the line without driving some poor salesperson nuts cutting little bits for us. And the ladies behind us in line would be shooting daggers at us with their eyes. So much time is saved when someone else (actually some computerized machine) has done all the cutting for us. And then there are all the beautiful patterns written specifically for pre-cuts…I could go on and on.

It seems, from the ads I’m seeming of late in the newest quilting mags, that a new pre-cut is coming along–pre-cut hexagons. Don’t flinch at the thought of sewing those. They don’t require hand stitching. Here’s a free pattern and a very nice video (click here) of how to make a grandmother’s flower garden quilt from hexagons completely done on the machine. A little marking of your sewing machine’s bed and you’re good to go. Another traditional pattern, ready to be made in modern fabrics, with a modern technique. How cool is that?!

Moda’s got them now, but you know it won’t be long until the other fabric companies come out with their versions. Here’s the video of Moda’s Lissa Alexander talking about them and giving her hints at QuiltCon: click here.

And certainly you needn’t buy the hexagons pre-cut. What a great way to use up scraps–cut them into hexagons! If you own a 60 degree ruler or are proficient at flipping your regular rulers around, you can easily cut perfect hexagons from a folded strip. There are specialty rulers around that are made specifically for cutting hexagons as well. Just be certain where to measure for sizing your hexagons. Sometimes the given size of a hexagon is measured from point to point (ex. the 6″ Moda Honeycombs are measured that way) and sometimes, particularly for the hexagon rulers, they are measured flat side to flat side so you can cut them from strips. If you remember your trig from high school you can make the conversions back and forth! (oh no! some math! yikes!) Here’s a little worksheet to help you get started-now don’t freak out, I’m giving you advance warning. It does look like a math worksheet from your past! hexagon math I can’t help it-it’s second nature to me now!

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