More blocks done over the past week. I’m not posting about all of them, but I am putting them all in a Flickr set for anyone who’s interested.

I know you’re supposed to match your thread to the main fabric.  But I was enjoying myself.  It’s still pretty.

I have already done 10% of this quilt!  The enthusiasm surely can’t last… as surely as this horrid Winter is over, I will be out and about and into other things as well.  That is what patchwork is for, perhaps… a form of hibernation.

In other news — I have done a bit of a Spring Winter Clean around this blog.  If you’re interested in a particular project, you can click on it in the sidebar and see all the relevant posts.  Nifty!

I’ve always wanted to try a Dresden Plate block, and this is my first attempt.  Not too shabby for a first effort, but, uh, room for improvement with that centre circle placement!  Ah well — trying new things and improving is what this quilt is all about.

There are a few different types of Dresden Plate block: the most intriguingly different from this are blocks with no centre (ooo hard, no room for fudging!) and those with round petals rather than blades.  They’re going on the list.

Patches in this block: 18

Patches so far: 977

(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

I’m slowly finding more moments of time for patchwork.  What a joy it is to build something so simple and so sweet.

Plenty of quilters will fussy cut to get geometric patterns happening in their hexagons, but I’m going to show you something with a twist:  how to use large prints and motifs.  Such as this beautiful bird print.  I wish I could remember the name of it so I could get more, but as I have only a tiny amount left I want to preserve it in my quilt.  However the birds are each twice the size of my patches.

Though I haven’t shown it here, this is a great opportunity to use print motifs that have been sliced in half when your length of fabric has been cut from the roll, or are near the selvedge.  It also creates a sense of movement and difference, when it’s sewn in with plainer flowers, that I like a lot.

First, lay a patch over one motif.  You will need two motifs so two opposite halves, or one half and one whole, work nicely.  Consider carefully where the edge will go and how the patch will sit in your overall design.  Cut around the patch, leaving a generous — and I mean generous, like half an inch — seam allowance.

Pin the patch to the back of your paper and baste with your preferred method.  Then lay it over your second motif.

Nice!  You can hardly tell there’s a patch on there.  OK, now you need to lay a second paper patch nest door and pin it in place. 

Cut again, using another generous seam allowance.  With the pin still in place, finger press the fabric around the paper to mark placement.  Then remove the pin and move the paper to the back.  

The next step is the trickiest stage.  You will need to reposition the paper exactly, which usually means a couple of tries for me.  Take care that the sides match up as nicely as the long side.

Baste the paper to the second patch.  Check that everything’s still in place.  If not, you will have to take the basting out and try again — like I said, you need to have a lot of seam allowance and it’s fiddly.  But it’s worth it, as long as you’re not trying to fussy cut an entire quilt!    O_o 

Match them up and…

Sew together as per usual into…

A birdy flower!  Hooray!   Now you may cut away that bulky excess seam allowance.

Try this out for yourself — and please tell me in the comments if anything seems confusing, I’ll edit the tutorial. 

I have been very lax with blogging and I do apologise but on the up side, I have a super-exciting new project which I hope I can share with you soon.  In the mean time, there’s a special post coming up next in which I will share a way of making darts that will change your life for the better!  See you soon…

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

This fussy cutting business is a lot of fun.

Thank you so, so much to all of you who bid and commented on my quilt auction for the Victorian bushfires.  The response was really humbling: so many of you, from such disparate places, made such generous bids.  Nettie was successful with a bid of $380 plus postage for a vintage sheet cot quilt.  It’s made to order in blues, purples, and pinks.

Extra surprises came from Josie, who threw in $50 just because she’s a sweetheart, and Dan’s aunt Ange, who offered to donate $200 for a tiny scrap quilt she could use as a wall hanging or on the table.  How could I say no?

And that’s how I managed to donate more than I earn in the average week — certainly not something I’d be in a position to do without your help.

Nettie and Ange’s quilts will be in the mail today, along with copies of the thank you letter sent by the Red Cross. Thanks again to all of you for your kindness.

I’m pretty sure this is my favourite.

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.