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.


In honour of Block 16 (which makes a nice 4×4 set), some progress shots.  I think it’s about time to update the WIP page, too.

I’m so over that idealistic plan to only post photos of my mini hexes when they’re sewn together.  I will post again when they’re done.  Glory!  Glory, I say!

I’ve cut the pieces for Block 15 again (third down, second along) as it’s not like the original and very wonky.  I also cut pieces for Papa’s Star, and I’m really looking forward to sewing it.  Any Dear Janers done this block in hand piecing?  I’d appreciate your advice.

Unrelated: I’ve decided to join NaNoWriMo and make a book as well as my crafty things.  Note, I did not say a good book.  It may be gibberish. But it will be a romance, it will be 50,000 words long, and I will write it between 1 and 30 November.  I’ve put a progress ticker on the sidebar so you that you all know where I’m up to, and so that the guilt of everybody knowing makes me actually finish.  If you’re planning on doing it, too, send me an email and we can be online writing buddies!

Also totally unrelated but exciting: we’re going to meet a litter of schnauzer puppies on Saturday.  They’re about seven weeks old, I think.  Sooooooooo excited!  I’ll take the camera so there can be many puppy photos on Saturday night!

I woke up this morning thinking ‘Marmalade! I can show everyone the lovely jars of marmalade I made!’. Not so lucky: the MQA had already discovered it for himself, and scarfed half a (large!) jar. So, if you want to see it all dolled up, make some! I don’t know any easier jam recipe, or any less likely to fail.

Super-easy super-chunky marmalade: Cut four oranges and two lemons in half. Slice very thinly. Remove pips, place in a saucepan, cover with 1.5 litres water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 mins. While that’s going on, put 1.5 kilos white sugar in an oven dish, and bake at 180C for 10 minutes or until it starts to smell *just* caramelly. Add, stir to dissolve, simmer for another 45 minutes or until a sample placed on a cold plate crinkles to the touch. Ladle into sterilised jars and hide from your boyfriend until you have a pretty picture for your blog.

In more blog-related news, I received a lovely comment from Linda, who is quite rightly wondering whether I’m still making sampler blocks:

“Anne, I have made a mini Dear Jane (50 blocks) AND have made some of the blocks for the Sundial Quilt. Please continue to post about these quilts!!”

First things first — Linda, I’d love to see pictures! Send them along so we can all see!

Second — Linda’s comment came at a good time. I haven’t posted a sampler block in aaaages, and a general clean-up of my sewing corner last weekend shows why. I have works in progress coming out my ears:

  • Finish closures on Very Hungry Dress
  • Finish apron from Very Hungry Fabric
  • Quilt and bind cot quilt
  • Quilt the blue sampler quilt
  • Finish the big hexagon quilt
  • Continue with mini hexes and sampler
  • Make Mum and Dad two vintage sheet quilts

And that’s not counting things like my box of strawberry-themed fabric that I’d like to use someday, the box of 1″ squares, the folder with miniature blocks in it, or the hat box full of favourite bits for a happy scrappy. Oh boy, and it really doesn’t count the ‘someday’ fabric.

I get incredibly excited about new projects before I’ve finished the old ones. Nothing much to worry about — we all need variety, especially in a hobby. ‘Having’ to finish things is for working hours. More fixably, too much of this was to be done by hand, and I’m loving the sewing machine much more right now. Not to mention that having a million hand projects is intimidating. It’s all very well having something to make slow gains on, but divide the time by five and I rarely see any convincing progress. So, I think I might start making some of the sampler blocks by machine, and quilt the blue sampler by machine. Guild friends will cry heresy, but I’ll have two more pretty quilts before I’m in a retirement home. For the next little while I’ll pick a project and work it through to completion. This week: cot quilt.

Time to celebrate with a progress shot, no?

They’re all wrapped up in plastic so that they don’t collect dust and who knows what else in our crazy house before I’m finished making their neighbours!

I made this to practice gentle curves. I like it. It’s wonky around the edges, which had me worried for a while. However, it seems to be the right size and I’m reasonably certain that the wonk will go away once there’s sashing around the edges. Thank heavens for that, and for quilting – that crease is annoying.

Patches in this block: 17

Patches so far: 288

Get the pattern as PDF

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

I like this one. Not too taxing on the mind (I needed a break after that Indiana Puzzle block!) and not too long in the making. Plus it seems to dance somehow. Not sure why the photo sees a shadow on the right hand side, because there isn’t one.

The next block will be different, promise – not a Jane Stickle block. Maybe a cookie cutter or a Sarah Morrell Album Quilt block.

Patches in this block: 24

Patches so far: 198

Get pattern as PDF (please read the user info first)