Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Peace and Quiet and Quilting - 'Up North' in Minnesota -

I recently returned from five days 'up north' at our cabin in the woods. Here we find respite from phones, airplanes, and all the trappings of the real world and experience a quiet that makes your ears ring and a serenity that we crave.

The lake is small - no motor boats or jet-skis. We have an old red Coleman canoe and a row boat - which I believe leaks - no one has used it in a long time! The kids used to fish but these days we mostly swim or sit on the dock and read, take walks and enjoy the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing in the morning.

Relaxing to me includes quilting. I don't seem to need a break from that. In fact, with no other obligations I sew totally guilt-free in the woods! I always bring more than enough sewing projects. Here's what I brought this time:

..... the Tumbler. I love this project!  I am using those rectangles from the c. 1900 top I ripped apart - (see three entries last May growing pile of yo-yo's - I'm now in the assembly stage. little crazy quilt - the project I put off the most...not sure why.... old Log Cabin quilt that needs some repair. 

I brought some pre-cut strips to applique over the worn ones. Didn't get much done on that. It will be on-going!

...some Flying Geese strips. I leave my old SewMor mechanical machine at the lake. No photos of the boring strips but how about this machine!
 I call it my Cadillac!

We have a small 'fat' tv which is only good for movies. If we get really desperate we watch one - or a DVD of old Alfred Hitchcock episodes.
If we think of it we turn on the radio once a day - on the hour - to hear a bit of news....usually they cover one or two stories briefly plus local weather - sometimes a baseball score.
Mostly we prefer the sounds of the woods; the loons with their many vocalizations from peaceful to frantic but always somewhat haunting, owls who-who-who-who-ing, hummingbirds - you got it - humming (and squawking) as they dive bomb each other for the sugar water in our feeder, the breeze gently ruffling the leaves above, grey squirrels scurrying below, and if we're really lucky the lights flicker and a loud clap of thunder warns of a coming summer storm.

By the way, my husband may not quite agree with the idyllic picture I've painted. Turns out there IS some work to be done now and then!

I hope you, too, have been able to get away from it all for at least a little while this summer and that you had your quilting and a good book along for company ....and maybe someone to do the heavy lifting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New (old) Top II - Swastika

69" x 81"

The ancient symbol depicted in this  pieced block has had various positive meanings in many cultures and religions over thousands of years; good luck, well-being and fertility to name a few.
The design enjoyed a brief surge of popularity early 1900's to about the 30's. This seems to be the time period of most of the quilts using the design that I've come across.
Once the design became the symbol of the Nazi party it was naturally associated with the ideologies of that party and is now largely stigmatized in the western world. In fact, it is currently out-lawed in Germany. (See wikipedia for more information.)

I purchased this top together with the Jacob's Ladder in my last post. Dealer Bill Wivell admitted he wanted to 'get rid of it'!  Clever Bill tried to improve his odds calling the quilt "Tumbling Logs" on his price tag.  I smiled at him. No one was fooled but...nice try.

It is backed with a plain white cotton sheet. The blocks are set in a zig-zag setting.
It's another example from one of my favorite time periods. I love the fabrics - especially the pink plaid used for the generous separating strips and borders.

It is a good addition to my collection to be used in lectures. It definitely gets attention and provides a chance to educate the audience about this symbol as used in early quilts.

Now here's an interesting/curious quilt I saw at an exhibit in the historical society of Sanibel Island, FL, in 2007. It was shown folded so this is the best photo I cuold get.  I hadn't seen this block before - I had to get a closer look..........

...........and then  I realized what I was seeing.......

It was a Swastika quilt. Someone had appliqued squares - almost (but not quite) a match of the original blue - turning the swastika into a closed square or window pane. She did a great job; even matching hand quilting to the rest of the quilt.
The innocent maker, pre-WW II, would have had no idea her quilt would someday cause such discomfort and offense. Someone had an idea of how to make the changes that would allow it to still be seen and used.

c. 1900
When my son came over and saw this quilt folded over a railing in our home he said, "MOM!" and I knew right away what he was thinking.
I've always called it 'Fly Foot'. In fact, a bit of research indicates that the name is probably derived from Fylfot - (yes, that's the spelling) meaning four footed.....again click here for more about that.

The symbol is not exactly like the swastika shown in the first two examples but you will find many examples of this variation when you search the Quilt Index using the word Swastika.  Alternate names include Whirlygig and Devil's Puzzle.

 Did you notice the polka dot sashing?! 
Quilts have provided a pathway into history for me - giving it new excitement - making it real and fascinating! Everything about textiles is related to the bigger picture; fibers, dyes, economy, technology, politics, women's issues...on and on. Phew....time for a change of pace.

Next: Summer Break: 'Up North'

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New (old) Top I - Jacob’s Ladder

69" x 80"
I keep saying I don’t need any more quilts and yet I bought two more at the Minnesota Quilter’s show this year from dealer Bill Wivell. (with the encouragement of a couple of  bystanders  - you know who you are!)  I thought I’d blog about both of them in this entry but have decided that each one deserves its own post.
Nothing beats a classic blue and white for me…. this one has a variety of shirtings as background and a single blue polka dot. I loved the diagonal graphic created by the placement of the darks and light in this Jacob’s Ladder; another block name with a biblical reference.

Actually, I guess you could called them summer spreads as each is backed with what appears to be a white cotton bed sheet. It’s hard to say whether that was done when the top was made or if it was added later. It does indicate to me that they likely came from the same household if not the same maker.  There is no tying, tacking or quilting. I believe them both to be from the turn of the century - 1880-1910.

The piecing is essentially a 9 patch composed of five pieced 4 patches (each corner and the center) and four half square triangles.
Placement of light and dark elements as well as block orientation creates a strong diagonal in this example...a block like this provides many opportunities for interesting arrangements.

54" x 72" Made by Margaret LaBenne c. 1995
As seen on page 242 Georgia Quilts; Piecing Together a History
Here's a variation I made in 2006. I used 9 patches from a group exchange instead of 4 patches.
89" square
Can you isolate the block?
Back to my project......
Damaged Block
Though the top appears to be unused, one block is damaged – it feels crisp, is torn and looks pinched somehow. I've decided to remove the backing and  take off the top row of blocks, replacing the damaged one and possibly a couple more that are stained. The quilt will be a square when I am done - a versatile shape– on a bed or wall. I wonder if I should add a border?

Next: New (old) Top II - Swastika

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Medallion Update - Almost there!

I first posted about my medallion project last May. Click here if you'd like to go back and see that first post.  Also, see July for the first update.

I  have now added the red coping strips and another round of checkerboard squares.  I appliqued circles in the four corners of that border to bring in the compass center shape, bringing it to 63" x 73".

I was so excited about the vertical hombre stripe I added to get to a rectangle but it kind of bugs me now - I may applique circles across it.....

I think I’ll be adding two 6” borders  all around to give me my finished size.
Now I have some thinking to do - I want to use large enough pieces to feature some of the interesting prints in the collection. I’m leaning toward the final border being triangles. I'd like to get the top completed relatively soon.....

Meanwhile, here’s a small medallion I did last year. It's hanging on the wall in my kitchen/dinette.
36" x 36"
The center appliqué block is a Lori Smith pattern. I just kept going around it with different borders or frames – my first taste of the dreaded 'MEDALLION MATH'…and quite a challenge when I decided I had to have the pinwheel round 'on point'.

Even with some previous experience, my bed size medallion is not proving to be that much simpler. The planning holds me up – there are so many options and no one ‘right’ way which is both the good and the bad news!