(which needs an iron!  That’s the problem with cameras these days — they show you things you miss in real life!)

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I made a block for my sampler quilt.  Seriously — the last one was in April last year.  0_O !!

So then it’s appropriate that this be something special, something I’ve been saving.  Like a tribute to the ‘Sundial Coverlet’, a patchwork and applique extravaganza held by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London:

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O14716/patchwork-quilt/

It’s around three metres squared — an enormous quilt worthy of the largest of king size beds, and then some.  I seem to remember reading somewhere that beds used to be a lot larger in the 18th century.  Any historians out there who could back that up with some actual facts?  There are ducks and stars and pinwheels and all manner of geometric motifs, all dancing around a sundial and a date from long ago.  I’m just going to go out on a limb and imagine that 1797 is the date it was finished, but that would be because it’s the date a modern quilter would use, and I may be wrong.

In any case, I’ve been in love with this quilt since I saw it reproduced in Kaffe Fassett’s V&A book oh, around ten years ago, before I had made any quilt more complicated than a puff patch.  Kaffe and his team didn’t reproduce any of the applique, instead choosing to recreate the impression of the patchwork in their version — they were working with time constraints, of course, and the quilter who took this on would never see the light of day again!

I chose two particularly appealing applique blocks to reproduce, one with scissors and thimble, the other with a clamp and heart.  A clamp was a sewing tool back in the day — one might clamp the end of the seam to a table, then stitch towards it.  Makes sense for a straight and even line of stitching.

I took a photo of the quilt from Kaffe’s book with a macro-enabled camera, cut the photo down into the pieces I wanted, blew it up in Photoshop until I got around about the right size, and then used the Trace tool in EQ to create applique shapes.

Could I have drawn it freehand and saved the bother?  Probably,  but this way makes me feel a lot more connected to the mysterious quilter who made all these wonderful, magical blocks.  It must have taken so many years.

Patches in this block: 5

Patches so far: 878

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It may be autumn here in Oz but this tulip pattern seemed like a lovely one for Easter.  Plus, I got to practise my applique.

Happy Easter to you all, unless you’re Greek Orthodox (Hi, Aspasia!), in which case I will save my felicitations for next week.

Also, apologies for the magical disappearing photograph in the bushfire quilts post.  I changed the Flickr settings so as not to look like I was showing off (hey! look at my donation!) but didn’t realise making it private in Flickr would make it private everywhere else.

Patches in this block: 18 (yes, I AM counting the background)

Patches so far: 873

Unexpected ‘incidents’ with inset seams aside, it’s been far too long since I tried doing a historical reproduction block or learned a new skill.  But I should have been smart enough not to try both in one go!

This picture, sticky and yellowed at the edges from a combination of time and cheap glue, has been sitting in my old visual diaries and nagging at me (‘Show me! Make me!).  It’s part of an old photocopy I made while visiting America in 2002.  I had two days to myself and spent them, nerd that I am, taking ridiculous numbers of photocopies at the New York Public Library: quilt books and out-of-print Richard Brautigan poetry.   Ahh.  Here is the full original: the block is at A6 (6th across, top row).

Way back then in the library, I fell in love with this sampler quilt.  It’s long ago been separated from the notes I took of the maker(s) and even the title of the book it was in. I feel sure the block I chose to copy was done in Turkey red.  It represents a hand (possibly, probably, traced from a real hand), wearing an abstract thimble and decorated with a heart. 

These complex applique samplers were almost always done as gifts from a group of friends to a new bride or a departing friend, hence the heart.  I think it’s a touching and imaginative design, one that I’ve not seen before nor since.  I decided I’d like to copy it.

To make a block design, I took the photo above (a photo of a photocopy: classy) and blew it up by about 1000% on the PC.  Then I traced the design on to fabric and proceeded to reverse applique the design.  Nooooo… tried to reverse applique the design. 

This method worked surprisingly well; it would be much more problematic for detailed picture blocks like Baltimores.  

Somewhere along the line, I forgot that in the original block, the hand is skewed to face the corner.  No problem, because the white fabric points where the fingers meet the hand is so knobbly and frayed that the block is unusable.  You can see in the photo that the lines get wobbly there.  The fabric is also bubbled and knobbly.  One look at a quilting frame or a wash tub and this baby’s just lint.

I vastly underestimated this block’s degree of difficulty, and/or my decidedly average skill in applique.  Plus, black thread was not a good choice.  After I made the heart I switched to white, but the damage was done.

I’ve decided to go on a little self-guided applique course, starting with reading this book.

Despite trials and tribulations, I still think that this is a neat way of copying basic designs and I hope to use it in the future.  I’m especially pleased with the results since the only image I have of the quilt is a terrible and tiny photocopy.  But I want this block in my quilt — badly, I now realise — and I’m only waiting on applique skills before I can also make this composite block with figures from the Victoria and Albert Sundial Coverlet.

I’ll let you know how it goes…  if you have mad applique skillz, please tell me how you learned them!  A book I can read?  A site I can look at?  Don’t say ‘grandma taught me’ unless she lives in Brunswick and can be bribed to teach me.  I have chocolate, jelly babies, and a decent stash of novelty egg cups.

First of all, thanks to everybody who helped me out on the colour scheme.  I’ve put in a monster order at equilter of these lovely Kona packs (in greens, blues, and warm tones)… there seemed to be general agreement that dark blues and some light yellows were the go.

Second… here is the first circular pattern I’ve ever drafted all by myself in EQ6.  It’s a miniature intertpretation of a block in an old signature quilt made for and by a young American lady.  Helen Hayes did a full sized machine pieced/machine quilted reproduction which you can see here (full quilt) and here (detail).  She did change the position of some blocks, but it’s a pretty close repro.

This was the first seriously difficult bit of appliqué I’ve done.  It’s also the second bit of appliqué I’ve done, period.  If I’d stopped to plan, I would have realised that the tiny tiny points on each of the small appliquéd orange pieces were way above my beginner skill level, and I should have modified them or read a book about appliqué first.  On the other hand, I’d already drafted it and I wanted to finish it.  Soon.  Plus, as my helpful resident masculine quilt advisor pointed out, real flowers aren’t symmetrical anyway!

Here it is, at last: by the way, the creases won’t survive hand quilting, so they aren’t a worry.

One thing that did go remarkably well was the piecing.  The angles seemed a bit dodgy (as you can see in the photo below), but it all went together quite easily.  Curves are getting easier. I followed some advice picked up from Alice on the Indiana Puzzle block: not stretching the fabric and keeping stitches small and relaxed.  This has helped enormously.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the stages of Block Nine.

Thanks to Anina over at Dear Baby Jane for the freezer paper appliqué technique!

Patches in this block: 26

Patches so far: 224

Success! I’m so pleased now. Thank you so much to everyone who’s kindly left a comment or sent me a Flickr message. In the end, I didn’t use any one person’s plan, but made a kind of mix of three or four good ideas. I made it with applique as it seemed that moving very small curves around was hard to do if I wanted to keep the fabric stable (that is, it’s necessary to stretch a seam to sew it, and the small ones don’t cope as well as big ones. You have to stretch the whole block at once, because of the size of human fingers.)

First, I made one full 16-patch block to use as a background, and four small 4-patch blocks for the circles:

Then, I cut the circle onto thin cardboard, and pushed a pin through its centre and the block’s centre, for precision:

Then I cut around with a 1/4″ seam allowance, basted, pulled the seam allowance in, and ironed it flat before removing the cardboard:

and appliqueing it to the background.

Again, push a pin through the centre of each piece so that it’s perfectly in place. When you’re done, very very carefully pare away the background fabric behind the circles. Leave a 1/4″ seam allowance. Do not do this before all the circles are in place, because having a whole piece behind the applique lends it all a degree of stability that was lacking in my first try at this!

I’ve never successfully appliqued before. I’m so chuffed. Thanks again, everybody!

By the way, there’s a good reason for the orange patch. But that’s a story for another night. I graduated from my MA program last night, and my partner and I have been moving house all week. Sleep time for me! Quilt history in the next few days… (mmm, tantalising).

Patches in this block: 36

Patches so far: 174