Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas..."

...when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief', and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter.
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.
Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away!  Dash away!
Dash away all!

Featured in today's post is a customer quilt I had fun designing the quilting for.  I love Christmas, and this quilt just bursts forth with it.  

If you look closely you can find swirling snowflakes and other organic details.  My favorite challenge was incorporating the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in the border, a part of which has already been cited in my post today.  You can see a bit of it at the bottom of this evergreen block - upside-down.   

Here you can see the "...dash away, dash..." portion of the poem next to the star blocks.

FYI, the stockings at the beginning of this post number sixteen and represent all the members of our family.  They were recreated after June's Black Forest Fire took the originals, and were made from fabrics donated by the ladies in the Piecing Partners Quilt Guild. They and so many others took part in our miracles we are so grateful for this Christmas season.

On this night before Christmas, I hope you can stay snug in your bed a little bit longer and think on the miracles that have formed your blessings this year.
Merry Christmas to one and all!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Wintry Woolen Wrap

For the holiday season, 
this simple woolen quilt not only warms you from head to toe 
but decks the halls when displayed on the back of a bench or easy chair.

Its colors are perfect for a man.  In fact, the actual block fabrics were repurposed from men's trousers, suit coats and vests found in my husband's closet (I asked first!) and on the racks at Goodwill.  The only yardage purchased was black and red felted wool and plaid flannel backing  - which is perfect as a cozy barrier from itchy wool on chinny-chin-chins.  

After the snowflakes were machine-appliquéd to each woolen  block, the rows were quickly pieced and ready for the long arm quilting process.  I stitched 1/4" away from every seam  and appliqué-stitched around each snowflake.  Solid woolen blocks form a border, of sorts, around the snowflake blocks. Inside each of the 'border blocks' I shadow-quilted a snowflake using my laser light on a pattern I enlarged especially for this process. My son-in-law loved it last year as his Christmas present!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vintage Series VI - Sunbonnet Sue

Come with me again to the
Carriage House 
for a peek at the charming
1930's quilt,
Sunbonnet Sue, 
Dutch Doll.

I am delighted to feature my maternal grandmother's quilt in this post, a tied Sunbonnet from the '30's made in Iowa. Although the phrase "Sunbonnet Sue" dates to at least 1908 (when a song by that title appeared in that year's Zigfeld Follies), quilters - or at least the publishers of quilt patterns - didn't refer to the block by that name before the early Depression.  By the end of WWII, when Work Basket magazine issued a pattern in November 1945, the name had stuck for good - at least in the Northeast and Midwest.  In southern Indiana and in states from Kentucky southward, "Sue" was called "Dutch Doll" - a name that persisted until the publication of national quilt magazines in the 1970s began to eliminate regional quilt pattern names.

Before that - going back as far as the 1870s - it was probably Kate Greenaway who introduced what we know as the "Sunbonnet" design - a young female figure usually in silhouette, whose wide-brimmed hat obscures her face.  As a motif on quilts, the 'sunbonnet' seems to originate from the 1878 publication of Greenaway's first book, Under the Window, in which Greenaway dressed her figures in redwork embroidery - a craze which began in the late 1870s.   
As opposed to the "Sues" made almost three decades later who are shown with no faces, these redwork designs were sewn with sweet expressions.  However, for my post, redwork is not being shown!  What you see here is a classic representation of a change in dye technology which made cheerful - and colorfast - pastel prints possible.  Quilters went crazy mixing these charming fabrics in their quilts in Dresden Plates and Double Wedding Rings - and in the sweet dresses and hats of Sunbonnet girls.  There were many patterns issued in many magazines with different names, but all of them consisted of blocks repeated over the whole quilt top, each of which contained an identical appliquéd figure in profile, sometimes embellished with embroidery, as my grandmother's quilt skillfully displays.  

She was the wife of a rural postal carrier and the mother of four children.  The picture, below, was taken in 1939 with her family - my mother seated in front of her.
And here I am many years later getting ample attention from her and my mother.  Oh, how I would have loved to have lounged around in their dresses!  So feminine.
Thank you for visiting me in the carriage house again!  I hope you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.  As for my house, we extend our thanks heavenward for rich blessings, which include friends such as you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vintage Series V - Jacob's Ladder

Get a steaming mug of something wonderful, bring along your imagination, and take another brief moment to step back in time with me...

Today we'll be talking about a Biblical favorite: Jacob's Ladder. Womenfolk.com says we seldom find a quilt pattern with just one name. Besides Jacob's Ladder, this pattern has been known as Underground Railroad, Road to California, Off to San Francisco, Gone to Chicago, Stepping Stones and Trail of the Covered Wagon. All these names have one commonality; they all speak of going somewhere.

It's fun to imagine what might have inspired these names. It may be a trip through the garden using stepping stones.  (Certainly the 'elf house' I found photographing my quilts sparks the imagination)!  Yet again, the name for a quilt might been a long journey west in a covered wagon. Women might well have dreamed of traveling as they were sewing on this quilt.

When Marie Webster wrote the first known book on quilting in 1915 she referred to the Jacob's Ladder pattern in this way, "The bold and rather heavy design known as 'Jacobs Ladder' is a good example of a pieced quilt." She showed a black and white picture of this pattern with the caption, "One of the most striking quilts having Biblical names."  Biblical names were often used for quilts in a time when reading the Bible each day was a part of family life.

Another writer, Ruth Finley, wrote a later book on quilting in 1929. Finley mentions the Jacob's Ladder pattern as being of "shadowy pre-Revolutionary origin" but present day quilt historian, Barbara Brackman, points out that no example of a quilt in this pattern has been identified that was made before the beginning of the 20th century.  We need to be aware that during the early 20th century quilt history was often romanticized and people did not yet have the guidelines for good quilt history research that we use today.

All quilt history and authenticity aside, the 20th century Jacob's Ladder hand-pieced blocks in this quilt top were truly sleeping beauties.  Originally, they were sewn together with hideous green polyester-blend blocks to form the quilt top.

I knew I wasn't purchasing a 100% vintage quilt top, but I saw some potential for a useable, beautiful finished piece.  So, I carefully picked each green block out and replaced them with contemporary white muslin blocks.  I machine-quilted the refreshed quilt top in feathers and  TAH DAH - a sleeping beauty awakes!

I thank you again for stopping by to chat about vintage quilts.  When you're antiquing and happen upon a less-than-beautiful quilt top or blocks, take another look.  Use your imagination.  What could it look like when reworked?  Using your imagination is a part of that creativity I've spoken about many times in my blog.  It's what the pioneer women did on the road when they named the quilts we treasure and admire today.  Ignite your imagination - go somewhere with it.  Who knows?  Perhaps the project you're working on now will inspire the future. 
   Until next time!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vintage Series IV - Dresden Plate and Snowball

Welcome back to the carriage house!  Today we're going to go inside to see how my friend has renovated a tiny room into her art studio.   While there we'll take a peek at two quilts from my vintage collection: a Dresden Plate and Snowball.

The popular name for the first quilt, Dresden Plate, reflects the romance of the Victorian Era with its love of elaborate decoration on household items and décor. 

Dresden, Germany was a center of 19th century romanticism movement in art, one that included the fine decoration of porcelain. The plates were embellished with elaborate design using flowers, fruits and foliage. The beautiful plates would surely have been admired by women of the early 20th century.

The Dresden Plate quilt pattern was one of the most popular quilts made during the 1920s and 30s. It was first published in the 20s but not always under the name Dresden Plate. Grandmother's Sunburst, Friendship Ring, Aster, Dahlia and Sunflower are all names associated with this pattern.

This quilt is made of blocks with fabric appliquéd in a series of radiating "petals" with flat sides, radiating from a central circle which is more representative of a flower than a plate.
A few Dresden Plate quilt blocks are made with a smooth outer circle. More often the ends of the "petals" are rounded or pointed. Occasionally the pointed and curved forms are combined. 

Next; the Snowball pattern, which is one of the best-known of all Amish quilt blocks.  The one featured here is an early 20th century charmer.

The Snowball pattern is one that fools the eye by creating an optical illusion. From a distance, a snowball block looks like a round circle, but it is actually an octagon, an eight-sided figure.  

Close up, you can easily see that the snowballs are easily formed by taking a square of cloth and sewing a triangle across each of the 4 corners.  

Here I've zoomed in on the backing, which shows the feathering detail I've quilted in and around each snowball.  This quilt was fuuuuun to quilt!

For those of you who are anxious to see what this studio looks like without the quilts, I've included a shot.  It's how my friend spends some of her summer days. 

It aptly illustrates that whether we create using a medium of paint, food, words, clay or fabric, all women need to connect the beauty within to the beauty without.  

So, go create!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Vintage Series III - Grandmother's Flower Garden

Welcome back to the Vintage Quilt Series!  Today we're going to explore one of my favorite vintage quilt patterns, Grandmother's Flower Garden.  
I'm not the only one enamored with its beauty. Barbara Brackman reports that the Grandmother's Flower Garden was the most popular pattern after 1925. She tells us, "...many women who never made another quilt finished a Grandmother's Flower Garden."
“Modern" quilters loved the endless color combinations and ways the blocks could be set together with this pattern. 
She relates, "Another matter of pride is the number of small hexagons in the finished quilt, often many thousands." 
Although many Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts do not contain many thousands of hexagons they still represent a great deal of labor.  
The most common way Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts were made was with a central hexagon and rows of hexagons surrounding it with an interconnecting row of white or in some cases green for grass.

The size of the hexagon used can be varied as well. Earlier quilts tended to use hexagons an inch or less across while 20th century hexagons tended to be larger.

The vintage quilt top featured here had thousands of 1" hexagons pieced by hand. Desiring to use it, I needed to quilt it up king-sized, so I added yellow borders. The hexagons were quilted in continuous curves, the flowers in a floral pattern, and the borders in luscious feathers.  Quilting by machine was an arduous task - I can't imagine quilting it by hand.
FYI:  The backdrop for this post was my friend's late 19th century home, the same that was featured in the Vintage Series I & II.  Pictured at right (and above) is the carriage house situated at the end of her back yard.  More than 100 years ago it served as the shelter for the master's carriage and horses, as well as two small rooms for the groomsman's family.  On a post is a hand-written record certifying the birth of a baby in 1896 and a solemn statement, witnessed by another man, to the father's promise to quit smoking in the same year!  No doubt the mother didn't like smoke around the newborn baby!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Layered Toffee Cake

The Layered Toffee Cake at the Grand Re-Opening was a hit!
Here's the recipe, as requested:

TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 20 min. YIELD: 12-14
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup caramel or butterscotch ice cream topping
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 prepared angel food cake (8 to 10 ounces)
9 Heath candy bar (1.4 ounces each), chopped

In a bowl, beat cream just until it begins to thicken. Gradually add the ice cream topping and vanilla, beating until soft peaks form. Cut cake horizontally into three layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate; spread with 1 cup cream mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup candy bar. Repeat. Place top layer on cake; frost top and sides with remaining cream mixture and sprinkle with the remaining candy bar. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 12-14 servings.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vintage Series II - Fan...or Faux?

We're revisiting the Vintage Series this post, featuring the fan.  Some of you may just enjoy the pictures, and others will savor the history right along with me.  Either way, I invite you to stay a while.

Besides, who could resist a good book with a comfortable quilt?  So, linger and read a bit here on what makes that quilt so appealing...
Marin Hanson, in writing about Nancy Cabot and Her ‘Exotic’ Quilt Patterns, tells us "in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, quilt designers had an affinity for exotic or oriental patterns. In the era of Charlie Chan in the movie theaters, the words “oriental” and “exotic” were often used interchangeably and quilt patterns that had an exotic flair were all the rage."
"One designer who heavily promoted this trend was Nancy Cabot, the pseudonymous quilt pattern columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Because her column was widely syndicated, quiltmakers all over the country would have been familiar with her exotic patterns, which ranged from Japanese Poppy to Chinese Gongs to Persian Poinsettia. Often, however, many of Cabot’s patterns were exotic in name only. As with other early twentieth century designers, she recycled traditional patterns and gave them new names, likely in the hopes of adding appeal for a new generation."
"Fan motifs had been around at least since the late-nineteenth century Crazy quilt craze. They were transformed into repeat block patterns and became popular in the early twentieth century, with names like Grandmother’s Fan and Imperial Fan. Cabot took variations of these and gave them exotic names". 
One of these that Cabot renamed was the Chinese Fan (c. 1943), a gorgeous predominantly pink one I've featured as the background of my blog site.  (Can't see it using your iPhone, tablet or email?  Check it out on my blog by clicking on www.ppatchworks.blogspot.com). Regardless of the origin of its name, I simply like it! The fan variation quilt in the pictures shown with this post is lovely, as well, and deserves a fan or two, no pun intended.