Wednesday, 29 April 2015

550 flowers.

240 women from four continents made this quilt. I've been wondering if that's actually a world first. It's possible don't you think?

Early in March, I read with shock and tears, that Rachel's long awaited baby girl, Eleni, had been born with complications. When I put the call out for flowers on my blog and Instagram for Rachel and her family, I didn't expect this.

I didn't expect people to jump to their needle and thread immediately, or offer to stitch them to squares. I didn't expect the offers to help, the gifts of thread and fabric or money towards postage costs. I didn't expect the unbelievably beautiful outpouring of people's own stories. Of both grief and hope. Loss, infertility, longing, waiting. You had been here before. You were so thankful for this way to participate. You took up paper piecing for the first time, you chose colours that were meaningful to you, you were not held back by international postage or time constraints.

I never anticipated the depth of meaning this would have for the online quilting community, or for me. How wonderful this has been to watch grow to overflowing (see #flowersforeleni on Instagram), to see what we're like as a group. Lately I've read blog posts about stolen work or undervaluing ourselves. But look! We are generous and creative! We pull together and come through for people. We feel each others' losses and joys.

I certainly didn't expect to receive 550 flowers. It created quite the creative challenge. I realise now, sitting and looking back over the experience, that I really expected to use all of them. If I had my time over, I think I'd give myself permission to use one flower from each person to make a special quilt for the Hausers, and ask for help to make donation quilts from the rest. But instead, I organised them into piles by colour, then pulled out a group of well matching ones, mostly pink and aqua because they far outnumbered the others, for a single bed quilt. I figured the most useful size, long term, would be a single bed size. Perhaps for Eleni herself.

Then I set some aside in a rainbow for the back, and wrote the names of all the contributors on this fabric by Anna Maria Horner. I made the quilt top in my typical scrappy fashion of having all my squares by the machine, and sewing two that looked good together, and then sewing those two into bigger squares, and so forth, till I had 16 really big squares that I laid out on my lounge room floor to check it looked good. And I don't know if it was just late or bad lighting, or the quiet voice reminding me that I was making a quilt representing 240 women to a quilting legend, but I wasn't happy with it. I left it for a day, laid it out again, unpicked some of the squares that were bothering me, replaced them, and then felt much better about it. It's tricky with a quilt you look at in great detail. It's so hard to know if those same ill-fitting bits will stand out to someone else or not. Tim said I should have done the front in a rainbow too. He's so helpful!

I was so thankful for Heidi's, from Buttons and Butterflies, immediate and generous donation of batting, thread and quilting, so that I could ship it to her in the States a little lighter, and then it would be closer to its final home. I can't wait to see what she'll do with this giant.

I can never express how thankful I am for how you all jumped on board with this project. I really think it's one of the most significant things I've ever done. It has been a great source of hope and comfort to me over the last eight weeks, reflecting on the deep and generous beauty in people. I hope it does the same for Rachel and her family as they realign their expectations and routine, and their sense of normal. My friend Jem, who has triplets with muscular dystrophy, says grief in this kind of parenting isn't something you work through and then move on. It comes in waves, with each reminder of difference and loss. And there are great joys too. A different, beautiful view of success, an openness to help and generousity. I'm glad we've given Rachel a quilt (or two!), as a long lasting, beautiful, practical expression of our prayers and support, our cheering them on, and weeping with them. It's a gift for the waves.

Linking up with Fabric Tuesday and Wip Wednesday

Monday, 27 April 2015

T Block - Red Sky at Night

I had a little giggle when I read a while ago, as I was collecting stories and information for this quilt, that there was a quilt block specifically dedicated to espousing the benefits of total abstinence from alcohol. I have to admit, I rolled my eyes at the various movements that have gained traction throughout history. I'm often sceptical of any form of fundamentalism, even if there's good motives behind it.
But today I've been reading in more detail about the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and I've realised I jumped to judge too soon. These women were actually brave, intelligent, energetic and resourceful women who had little voice in their society, and used any means they could to be heard.
The WCTU formed in Ohio in 1873, as an organisation committed to women's and children's safety and rights. They focused their attention on domestic violence (especially related to alcohol), custody issues, land ownership, women in work, and suffrage. They organised rallies, published tracts, worked in education, lobbied government, prayed outside salloons, and made quilts. There were, of course, some cultural curiousities: they wanted to ban golf on Sundays, for example, but on the whole, they were committed to promoting the value and equality of women.

There's a number of quilt patterns, either designed in this period, or renamed, for the temperance movement. Many people associate the Drunkards Path, Temperance Tree, and this one, the T block with the WCTU. Quilts were donated to the homeless or women in need, auctioned, or made simply to represent affiliation. Sadly, however, not enough evidence actually exists to suggest they were designed by the Union, for the Union, as has often been assumed. The T Block's first publication in 1896 in the Orange Judd Farmer, makes no mention of temperance or teetotallers. The strongest evidence of affiliation are quilts with the letters WCTU embroidered on the back, and these exist on quilts of various patterns.

Still, it's kind of cool to think of quilts becoming an integral part of the women's rights movements, don't you think?


You will need:

Red: Five 4.5" squares, two 5" squares.

White: Four 4.5" squares, two 5" squares.

 1. Remember our half square triangle method? Match up four 4.5" squares of each colour, sew around the edges, cut into quarter diagonally, and trim to 2.5" square.

2. Cut the 5" squares in half to make triangles, and sew the reds to the whites. Press and trim to 4.5"

3. Layout as above.

4. Sew the small triangles together the make a larger white triangle. Press and sew two white triangles together to make a square of flying geese

5. Sew into three rows. Press the seams in the direction with the least bulk. That is, facing out on the outside rows, and in in the middle.

6. Sew the three rows together!

I'm so thankful for the right to vote (most of the time!), access to health care and education and the legal system, though I know there's still room to grow. And I'm thankful for quilting as a form of expression, of speaking up, of giving voice to things we can't say. It makes me wonder how I can use design more to express the values in which I believe.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Cut Glass Dish - Red Sky at Night Quilt

Have you guys seen Julie and Julia? It's about two ladies, living about 40 years apart. Julia Child is a famous American cook living in Paris (the film is about how she became famous) and Julie, I forget her last name, is a New Yorker who starts a blog, writing and cooking her way through Julia's French cook book. I like it because the women are normal everyday women, who slowly start pursuing their passions, and little by little, they both chase, and are surprised by the opportunities that arise.

Anyway, over the last couple of weeks, while preparing for my craft market stall, I've had this movie on occasionally in the background while I sew. I like sewing to familiar movies. I can still know what's going on even with the interruption of my machine noise. This film has encouraged me with my Red Sky at Night challenge, even when I've wanted to skip a week, or say, "WHAT! How is it Monday again already??"

Saturday night at my craft stall was a complete washout. It rained and rained and rained. And it would have been fine if it had just rained, and I had just sold nothing, but this was one of those comical series of unfortunate events. We opened up my marquee bag, and the wrong one was in it. Last time I'd lent it to someone, they'd accidentally put the wrong marquee back. This wrong one was old and leaky. The rain leaked onto my tables, and the black dye in my tablecloths leached into my beautiful quilts and pillows and scarves. It was devastating.

But yesterday, as much as I didn't feel like it, and I knew you would forgive me, I dragged myself away from the fireplace, and made my Cut Glass Dish block. And I realised that as much as I often wonder what the heck I was thinking with this quilt, when I actually just sit down and make these blocks, they are incredibly soothing and satisfying. For someone who gets itchy when locked into a timetable, I'm learning a quiet joy in have this one little thing I do for me each week.
In the film, Julie comes home from a hard day at work one day and says,
"I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say 'nothing' I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort." 
Today, that's how I feel about fabric and thread.
The Cut Glass Dish block was first published by the Ladies Art Company, America's first quilt pattern mail order catalogue established in 1889 in Missouri. The Company was founded by Henry and Emma Brockstedt, and grew to include cross stitch and other textile arts. The LAC website includes lovely snippets of history about the founders, and pictures of the original catalogues (not so much that I could find our block), that I thought it was better to direct you over there rather than try and rewrite their work.

Then in 1929, Ruth Finley published "Old Patchwork Quilts: And the Women Who Made Them." Today's block is included in the book under the title "Winged Square". Other names include Golden Gates and Prism Block, both from the 1930s. (source: Barbara Brackman's The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.)


You will need:

Red: Nine 4.5" squares

White: Six 4.5" squares.

(note, what you actually need to end up with is three red 4.5" squares and 24 2.5" red and white half square triangles. You can get to these in your favourite method. Below is mine.)

1. Take six of the red squares, and the six white squares, and sew them together around each side.

2. Cut in half diagonally, then cut in half again.

3. Press open trim to 2.5"

4. Next, you will sew the triangles together into squares of four. Start by sewing into pairs, all facing the same direction. I imagined all of mine pointing to my right hip, so I could remember. :)

5. Sew the triangle pairs together into squares and lay out as below.

6. As we have with each of our nine patches, sew into rows of three, press and sew the three rows together.

There's something so wonderful, in all the chaos of weather, and markets from hell, to make a block that dates back to the 1880s, don't you think? I do love this old, old craft!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Strawberry Basket - Red Sky at Night

"Flat Iron Patchwork," a beautiful and interesting mix of checks and triangles, was published by the Ohio Farmer on 23rd July, 1896. Since then, it's been called Steps to the Alter, Dish of Fruit, and finally in 1930, Strawberry Basket. (you can see it in the 1930s booklet here!) I've been wondering whether that first designer had fruit in mind. And what happened in the early 1900s to inspire women and farming journals to come up with prettier names for their blocks. A sweet block like this begs a sweet name, don't you think?

I've been wrought with emotion, making Strawberry basket this week. I'd always had in mind that I could photograph it as a little picnic, a champagne breakfast, reminding me of mine before my wedding nine years ago. I would write about quilts for brides, even though I don't know if this was made specifically for brides, like a Double Wedding Ring, which wasn't designed till the 1920s, but the name Steps to the Alter suggests it may have been.

Then on Wednesday we received an email from friends in town asking us to pray for their neighbours whose daughter, due to be married on Saturday, was missing. And soon after, we read the awful news that Stephanie Scott, a young teacher in Leeton, NSW, was killed, and the school cleaner had been charged with her murder. Driving into town today, the streets of Canowindra are lined with yellow balloons and streamers in memory of her. When the young guy at the checkout asked if I wanted help carrying my groceries to my car, I nearly cried. The kindness of this lovely town. The hope of a wedding. It just makes it all the more devastating.

Quilts have a long history connected to weddings (and wars, and political agendas, but we'll talk more about those another time). I've read stories of brides making a dozen quilts before her wedding, of families giving quilts to celebrate engagement. Before quilts were merely practical and beautiful, they were rare and expensive, a gift for royal weddings as far back as the 1300s. Henry VIII had as many quilts as he had wives, and loved them for their prestige. (The quilts, not the wives, apparently!) For me, the quilt's long tradition as a wedding gift, accentuates it's uniqueness as functional art. We received paintings for our wedding, and towels and cutlery and kitchenware, for all of which I was grateful, but a quilt so wonderfully dances all over the lines between utilitarian and artistic.

And my heart just breaks for the Scott family who didn't have their wedding this weekend.


You will need:

Red: Three 4.5" squares, Eleven 2.5" squares, One triangle cut from half a 5" square.

White: One 4.5" square, One 4.5" x 2.5" rectangle, Seven 2.5"squares, and one triangle cut from half a 5" square.

1. Using one red and one white 4.5" square, make four 2.5" half square triangles like last week.


2. Sew the red and white 5" HSTriangles together. Press and trim to 4.5".

3. Lay out your block as below.

4. Pair up your little squares next to each other ready to chain piece. Take special note of the pairs with triangles - they don't all sew to the square next to them in the same direction!

5. Next, sew your pairs into squares! You should now have our traditional nine patch.

6. Sew into rows of three. Press and sew the rows into your 12.5" block!

And then say a prayer this week for the families and students affected by this horrible crime.

Jodi. xxx

Thursday, 9 April 2015

To Market, to Market

I've got my first craft market in ages coming up in nine days, and I've been working like a mad woman, staying up till all hours getting things done. Each year, Canowindra, a tiny town of less than 2000, holds a massive, week-long, Hot Air Balloon Festival. 10,000 visitors come from all over to watch and participate in balloon competitions, take rides and photos, and join in the other festivities the town puts on. The week culminates in the Balloon Glow, an afternoon of markets and food and glowing balloons which stay grounded but look amazing. I signed up for this market at the beginning of the year, not because I was super keep to get into making and selling little things again, but because I thought it would be a fun way to participate in a new town, and join in with an artist friend who's sharing her stall with me.

The market has some challenges. We've just changed from daylight saving here, and it gets dark at 6pm. We have not power to our stall, because that's all been given to the food venues, so we'll be relying on battery powered lights. The market goes from 4pm till 8pm, and we're relying mostly on food traffic - people who've brought the family out for dinner. With that in mind, and also because I've had to temporarily drag myself away from other big projects in which I would just love to bury myself, I've made a real mix of items. I have three main ideas driving me for this market:
 - I have a WIP box full of half made dresses and quilts that could be finished with minimal effort.
- It's going to get COLD as soon as the sun goes down.
- I'd kind of prefer to be making other things, and I don't know how the market will go anyway, so I'm following my whims a bit. I'm partly making things I just feel like so I don't mind so much if it flops. I'm also thinking of things I can give as gifts if I come home and don't feel like listing it all on Etsy.

I've started to cut voile and flannel for kids scarves. I plan to sell them around the $20 mark. Autumn here has nice sunny days and the temperature drops at around 5pm. I'm trusting there'll be people there exactly like me who turn up at these things ridiculously unprepared for weather changes.

I've made a collection of quick, colourful baby quilts that I cut with my Accuquilt from scraps. I'm not sure if they'll sell, but I do have a Paypal card reader that I'm hoping will make folks more likely to make an on-the-spot purchase.

With the left-over Terra Australis quilt blocks, I've made oven mats. Where have these been all my life! I've run out of Insul Bright already but I could make them forever! I need to decide if it's worth heading to Spotlight tomorrow (an hour away) to buy some more.

All the locals I've talked to recommended souvenir-y items, so I've used these discarded linen dress pieces that I lost inspiration for years ago (the rest I cut into the checkerboard quilts), to make balloon pillows. And I find it so curious. I haven't enjoyed this at all! Why do I love pumping heat mats through the machine and not zig-zagging around balloons? Whatever the reason, I've made 6 of these and I'm done. I had notions of balloons on wraps skirts and mini quilts, but these are all I'm going to do. I'm super curious though! I wonder if they'll all go quickly?

When Karen from Karen Lewis Textiles sent me her Flowers for Eleni, she also generously included some of her hand-printed fabric scraps! So they've become the inspiration for these log cabins. These are completely in the 'whim' category. And my decision about going into town tomorrow will determine whether they become more heat mats or a baby quilt. Which would you choose?

I'll end with this - I have really enjoyed my name change in this project! Selling under Tickle & Hide (which would have had benefits because I still have banners and cloth tags), would have made me feel a bit stuck with selling kids things. I know I wouldn't have had to, but my new name has made me feel, for the first time doing a market stall, that I really can play and try new things out. Make what I feel like and what I think will sell, rather than keeping within a brand. So while I'd really like to be stitching flowers in this autumn sunshine, that's been lots of fun!

(And I'm so thankful to my Care Circle friend Gina, who's taken over 50 flowers for me to stitch over the holidays so I can get this done!)

Joining in with Wip Wednesday!