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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Remembering Granny and her quilts

When I married my husband more than forty years ago, I married into a very talented family of stitchers. His mother crocheted and did a little quilting. But the star of the family was his grandmother, Mary. Everybody just called her Granny. I don’t think I will ever forget her.


Granny and Jenny
Granny with her Great-Granddaughter, Jenny
Granny was a quilter. Well into her 80’s, she would spend her time in the family’s dark, damp basement, lit by only a lone light bulb hanging from the rafters where her quilt frame was set up. It was just outside the fruit cellar and coal bin in the house her husband built. My husband tells me she would be down there for hours at a time. She did all her piecing by hand and turned out some beautiful quilts. As she aged and things became more difficult for her, she purchased quilt kits from places like Lee Wards Creative Crafts, which began in 1947. In the 70’s, it morphed into the modern and well-known Michaels.

Years ago though, I remember going to the Lee Wards in Elgin, IL. It was huge. To me it was like a kid’s first trip into Toys R Us. But this was not just a store; it was an immense warehouse, with aisle after aisle filled with every kind of art and craft imaginable. I wasn’t a quilter back then, but I did knit and crochet. Even today, I love yarn almost as much as I love fabric. Get me into a place like that now, I’d have to bring a sleeping bag.

Granny's quilt
Granny died in the early 80’s, but she lives on in our memory and of one of the quilts she gave us. Each of his siblings also has one. Ours was from a kit she liked to make. Once she cross-stitched the quilt top, she completed the quilt, hand stitching simple quilting designs.

I never actually saw her quilt; I only saw the result of her work. She eventually gave up quilting because she could no longer go down the steep stairs to the basement. She also complained about her failing eyesight.

Despite that, she never gave up working on her crewel embroidery. My mother-in-law, who was her caregiver, often bought kits for her. Often times she didn’t care what the finished piece was; she just enjoyed doing the work. The pieces often doubled as Christmas presents.

I had never seen anyone do such beautiful hand work. It is hard to believe that her eyesight was failing, given the beautiful stitches she could make. There was never any evidence of it in her work. It was flawless.

I recall how she used to sit on the edge of her bed, with her back straight as an arrow and her feet flat on the floor, as the sunlight streamed through her window and onto whatever project she had in her lap. She began sewing after the breakfast dishes were done and worked up until lunch. After the kitchen was clean, she took a nap, and sometimes sewed in the afternoon until the sun went down.

I can’t help but think that in the back of my mind, knowing her, planted the seeds of quilting into my own heart, only to sprout a little later in my life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quilting and cats just seem to go together

I have finally started hand quilting my Dresden Plate quilt, although there are
challenges. 
Quilting with Ryan
Quilting with Ryan

One of them, at right, is pretty obvious. Ryan just loves to be where the action is. She loves hanging out with me, for which I am oh-so-flattered. She is the greatest quilting supervisor, and she is always positive. I don’t think she has ever curled up on or under a quilt she didn’t like.

I can’t say that I mind either. I considered quilting to be an enjoyable activity, so a few cuddles from one of my favorite cats fits right in. Ryan is one of four and we have her mom too. For me, quilting is therapy and so is enjoying our pets.

Finishing this quilt will take months, so a few minutes here and there to bond with my girl won’t hurt a bit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Blogging, comments, and quilting


I love quilting and I love writing which is why I started blogging in the first place.

CHQuilts actually grew out of another blog, CHMusings, which is, as the name implies, all about the things I ponder, what matters to me, and all 
that I love in my daily life. No question, CHMusings is personal. It is for that reason that quilting was often times a topic. When it dawned on me that I was writing about quilting quite often, I decided to start CHQuilts.

Funny, one of the most read posts in CHMusings, is about quilting, entitled, “New way to mark the quilt.” Feel free to check it out by clicking the link. 
Marking the quilt has always been a sore spot with me. One day I decided to try a new technique I'd heard about using Glad Press & Seal. 

Most of the posts I write come from my own experience. I try to write about as many teaching moments, or should I say learning moments. I'm learning new things all the time, as a former city girl who lives in the woods after moving to the Arkansas Ozarks. I do believe I have found my niche here.

For the record, I also write two other blogs, CHBlog, which has a political bent and CHontrack, which showcases my interest in NASCAR, have lost some appeal for me lately. I’m sorry to say, they have been a bit neglected lately. I still write in them from time-to-time, but honestly, I’d prefer to spend my days quilting.

I’ve found that the more I learn about quilting, the more I want to learn. There are always new questions, new techniques, and new ideas. There will always be a new quilt inside my head. 

I’m not a professional blogger by any means, I just write about things that interest me, but the one post about marking the quilt seemingly has sparked some interest. I love it when folks make comments. I love the conversational aspect of quilting and blogging. And I love the constant flow of information. It comes in so many forms. Quilters are generally curious and caring. Quilters love to share, and learn from one another. Quilters are a complete inspiration to me. There are so many aspects to quilting that I love, but meeting other quilters certainly ranks high on that list.

So thank you to everyone who reads these posts; thank you to everyone that can relate in any way to quilting, and of course, those who comment on this and all other platforms from Facebook to the Quiltingboard to Craftsy pages, etc. I love the conversations. I love learning from you all, for you make me a better quilter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Just trying to make a point

I’ve decided to begin a new quilt project—a medallion quilt taught by Lynette Jennings for Craftsy. I remember Lynette Jennings from watching "Simply Quilts," so I'm thrilled to be one of her students.

This was a free class offered as the 2016 Block of the month from Craftsy. Since I wasn’t able to participate when the class was first offered, I am glad to be able to catch up.

The hardest part about this quilt so far, is picking out the colors. There are a lot of them. I could have just purchased the kit, but isn’t that why I buy fabrics? It took a little while, but I think I have this all sorted out finally.

This quilt looks complex, so I’m really anxious to get started. I do love a challenge. The first class was to make the hourglass blocks in the center along with the first border.

I had a heck of a time with all those points and bulky seams. It occurred to me that I have spent so much time practicing my skills in piecing and cutting, that I have neglected part of quilting that is really helpful—the pressing.

As I was putting my rows of three blocks together, I could hear Lynette Jennings' words echo in my head, “Press the rows in opposite directions.” Unfortunately, I heard her voice only after I finished putting the entire center together. I was not happy with my results, so I decided to take apart all the pieces and sew them again, pressing each row in opposite directions. 


Here are the before and after photos:
BEFORE
AFTER

A big improvement! Clearly, the before and after show that this little exercise was well worth my trouble. And despite my husband telling me I’m crazy for ‘unsewing’ that entire middle section, I’m glad I did. Besides, that is just how I roll.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Spray basting, plan B

I admit it; I was pretty bummed about my first attempting at spray basting a quilt, detailed in an earlier post

But that is behind me. What I didn’t reveal, because I only realized it later, is how important it is to read directions. I had no idea I was supposed to finish the bonding process by pressing the piece. Needless to say, my failing to perform that all-important step, resulted in the layers not sticking together. Once I realized my mistake, I was a little bummed. Beyond my own foolishness was the knowledge that I had to spray baste the whole quilt all over again. I knew it would be even be more challenging this time, since I had already quilted an entire motif, right in the center of the quilt that I would have to work around.

I decided that working on the floor was just not an option this time around, so I cleared off the dining room table, put the leaf in it, and set out to flatten out my quilt, upside down. Of course the table wasn’t big enough to accommodate the entire quilt, but I moved it around, folded back some at a time to spray every little nook and cranny, keeping the back as wrinkle-free as possible. Then I pressed it, as it sat on the table. I’m sure that wasn’t good for the table, but a woman has to do what a woman has to do. I made sure I kept the iron moving and it didn’t appear to get too hot three layers down. Once the back was all sprayed and pressed, I worked to secure the quilt top to the bottom fabric and batting which was now one layer since it was stuck together. I walked around that table a gazillion times, folding, smoothing, spraying, smoothing again, and finally pressing. Finally, it was all done. When all else fails, read the directions. So for now, I’m a fan of spray basting. It is so much easier than all those darned safety pins or sewing.

My next challenge is to quilt with or without a hoop. I tried using a large oval hoop, but that was just too cumbersome. Then I dragged out a smaller round one, which was a definite improvement. But, it is actually so much easier to quilt without a hoop at all. Hand quilting got a little easier, once I got the feel of it again. I recently watched Alex Anderson of Simply Quilts and The Quilt Show fame as she spoke about learning to hand quilt. She said to give yourself about 20 hours to get comfortable with hand quilting. I’d say that is about right.

It will be more fun to quilt when it gets cold outside. There is nothing more relaxing than quilting and snuggling all at the same time. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Accommodating my quilting bucket list

I’ve wanted to make a rag quilt for some time. I’ve also wanted to make a string quilt. Add to the mix, my desire to make a little quilted rug for my bathroom. I had a quilted rug before, but decided to use that as a table topper for my new file cabinet. So, I had nothing in front of the sink. That is no place for a naked floor, so I put all my bucket-list desires together and came up with a plan. 

This is the result. 



I took some leftover scraps from a yellow quilt, cut them into strips and made a few blocks. I got tired of that, and figured nine was enough, so I just alternated them with a few neutral yellow blocks. I made them all 6 ½-inch squares. Then I cut the same number of squares for backing, and a similar number of 5 ½ inch squares of batting. I placed all three together sandwiches together and sewed a simple “X” across them to hold them in place. I sewed a ½” seam between the squares.

 It was all done in one day. While watching TV that night, I snipped the seams, rather closely—in fact—close enough to make my fingers sore. I got it slightly wet and threw it into the dryer. The more I wash it the better it will look. For now though, it suits my purpose. I can’t wait to make a full size quilt with this simple method, but not until I invest in some ratchet scissors for all that snipping.

I have been saving old blue jeans just for this purpose. And, I have the cutest pink heart flannel to go with it. One of these days, I will actually get to it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Quilting never ceases to amaze me

I just realized that one more aspect of quilting--one that I had never even considered--is how it has improved my writing.

No, I don't mean writing as in crafting a blog post, I mean my actual handwriting. I'm a handwriting fan, always have been and always will be. When I heard that some schools wanted to do away with teaching handwriting, I was livid. I think it is a vital communication skill that is also a well-rooted tradition. Imagine if John Hancock and other signers, simply printed their names on the Declaration of Independence. But that is another blog post in another blog. In fact, I already wrote it. https://rural01.blogspot.com/2012/07/cursive-writing-should-always-be-taught.html

But back to quilting. I've noticed that since I've been free-motion quilting, I have to consciously try to keep straight lines straight, without marking the fabric (because I hate to mark). I have learned to judge distance from seams and other lines of quilting; in essence training my eye. I used to be embarrassed about my writing, because it was always uphill. I compensated by always buying stationery with lines. 

I'm old enough to remember when we used to write letters to friends and family. I always loved to communicate, so I wrote lots of them. I used to receive many compliments on my penmanship. When I was in grade school, it was my best class. I remember once my mother-in-law had to send out thank you notes for some occasion. I was honored that she asked me to write them because she liked my writing. Personally, I don't think it is anything special, but I do enjoy writing, even though most of my writing is done on the keyboard now, like everyone else. 
grocery list

I did notice though, while writing a shopping list or addressing an envelope, or whatever I write, that I don't write uphill anymore. Oh, there is still a little hint of it, but not like before. By the way, please don't judge my handwriting skills from this tiny snippet. And by all means, don't judge my spelling skills here either. Who spells strawberries with only one "r"? 

Anyway, you get the point...This is just another reason to love quilting.