Sunday, 31 August 2014

Another wet August Bank Holiday... and some retail therapy!

A little late with my post...

Looking out on another wet day
We had yet another wet August Bank Holiday Monday, but was I glum? No, it was a PJ and TV and stitching day - yea!!

I worked on the August block of the Benjamin Biggs Quilt, I even tidied out my work basket. This was a Christmas present from my youngest brother and sister-in-law. I holds a lot of my stitching ephemera, but the four most important tools are out on the table - my applique scissors, needle threader (the best tool I have ever purchased!), size 11 John James needles and... a toothpick!

I finally finished the block at 11.43am this morning with just 12 hours to go until the end of the month, but I have now caught up!

Block 8 - Sarah Groff, Monoquacy (Monocacy), Maryland 1848
Gay Bomers has done a little research into this block and believes that Sarah's "... full name is Sarah Naomi Groff. She was the daughter of Eli G Groff and Amanda Biggs, Benjamin Bigg’s sister. She was born in 1838, making her 10 years old when signing the square appliqued in this block. We found Sarah listed in the 1850 census with her family and also with Richard and Martha Gilson. Two of the Gilson daughters, aged 14 and 16 also have blocks in the quilt."

There is some debate about the spelling of the town in which Sarah lived. Gay states that several of the towns were spelled incorrectly or had different versions of spelling - this frequently occurred due to how the inscriber said the town's name and then spelled it and is often seen in censuses. So it is quite conceivable that there would be derivations between Monoquacy and Monocacy, as it is known today.

... some retail therapy

In the previous week I had a little bit of retail therapy at Puddleducks in Sevenoaks.The navy blue was immediately put into the above block and the other two blue fabrics will appear in subsequent blocks.

The red fabric is for Di Ford Hall's BoM in QuiltMania called Mount Mellick. I haven't started it yet, but I am auditioning the fabrics; and the green fabrics were purchased because they are green and I liked them!

I also ordered from Sandi at A Quilts of Many Colors in Leo, Indiana my collection of fabrics for the AQSG competition. The collection is called Circa 1825 from In The Beginning. As I am planning on attending the AQSG seminar in Indianapolis next year, I thought it would be fun to join in the competition of making a small wall-hanging. You have to use at least 8 pieces from the Circa 1825 fabric collection and can either design your own wall hanging or base your design on a quilt from that era or any other time period you like.

The problem for me was trying to find someone in the UK who stocked the range. I spent two afternoons 'phoning up and down the country. It was surprising how many shops had not even heard of "In the Beginning" never mind the fabric collection. I finally found a quilt store in Oxfordshire, but they only had two bolts of the collection and were not intending on stocking any more of the range. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and finally turned to Petra Prins' shop in Zutphen who, yes were stocking the range but the cost of postage and packaging was horrendous. So I turned once again to the USA and Sandi at the above store was able to help.

The box arrived on Thursday, even Barney got involved in the unpacking...

What's in the box, Fiona?

Where are the cat treats?

My collection of Circa 1825. There is the most wonderful border print and I love the wavy print as well. Not sure about the bright blue fabric though.

From the same collection, but I had hoped it would have been greener, but all is not lost... I have plans for the aqua fabric on the left.

Now to start designing...

Have a good week!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Benjamin Biggs Quilt - row 1

I have a few days off work! So I am doing an autumn clean of my home in the mornings and rewarding myself in the afternoons and evenings with stitching. I even got my sewing machine out! :-)) The lid of the carrier creaked somewhat as I opened up the case (I hate machine piecing!). It needed a little dusting and oiling, but I eventually succeeded in stitching together the first row of the Benjamin Biggs BoM and then the first two blocks of the second row. 

Row 1 - stitched together 21st August 2014
Apologies for the poor photograph, I don't have the floor space in my little cottage to lay out the completed rows, so the not very taut washing line had to suffice. 

I am pleased with progress thus far and I will return to block 3 - the blueberry wreath below to make some minor adjustments after I have completed this month's block.

I hope you have time to stitch today.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

"...finished is better than perfect"!

Last night I finally, finally completed the March block of the Benjamin Biggs Quilt.

Block 3 - ?Barbara Walters or Waiters, Emmitsburg, Maryland 1848
I have been working on this project since March, but I didn't begin with this block, but instead decided to start with February to audition my colour choice for the fabrics and then try and keep up with the each block of the month whilst also catching up. The plan was working well until I got to the March block. it has driven me up the wall. The stems have been unpicked so many times and the central wreath is still not circular and it's the third attempt! Some of the berries are not to my liking and I even had problems with a couple of the corner buds, but last I decided ENOUGH - "...finished is better than perfect". Unfortunately, though I think I will be revisiting this block to a least sort out the stem in the top right hand corner which looks too thick where is joins the central wreath.

Block 7 - Ann Winterrs, Emmitsburg 1848

This block went together so much easier, no unpicking whatsoever! I particularly like the blue fabric in the flowers which has been in my stash for some years. It always feels good to be able to finally use a piece of fabric which you bought just because...

Now on to August's block. Have a good stitching week.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Finally... Quiltmania as an e-magazine!

At long last... Quiltmania is now available as a (regular?) e-magazine!

It was back in December, when I discovered an app on the Apple news-stand for Quiltmania and I quickly downloaded it, thinking that at long last I would be able to buy and store the magazine on my iPad without having to sign for a year long subscription or traipse from one quilt store to the next (my LQS does not stock it) trying to purchase copies. I was also keen to participate in Di Ford Hall's year long BoM called MountMellick.

I was so disappointed when January came along, then February, then March; I  could not download the e-magazine - despite having written to Quiltmania (even in my schoolgirl French!) and with no response, whatever I did I just couldn't get the app to work, so I gave up and followed everyone's adventures with the BoM through Facebook hoping that one day the app would suddenly spring into life.

Suddenly today the app was working, so I now have the 4 missing e-magazines downloaded onto my iPad at a good price that does not include postage and packaging or my travel costs of getting to Dorking for the nearest supplier of the magazine. Each took an age to download, but that could be because I have a weak broadband connection. But now I can peruse each magazine at my leisure.

An example of one of the articles on the iPad with Xenia Cord
Each magazine contains all the articles, plus wonderful pictures (which you can zoom in and out of for a closer look) and all the projects including the usual clear directions. Some projects have accompanying videos. Whilst there are clear cutting instructions/diagrams just as you would find in the paper version, if there are any templates that you require then you have to email Quiltmania for them and they are sent to you by email.  This could be a pain if you're all fired up (like me!) to get on with a project, but following my experience in December, the patterns/templates were emailed to me within 24 hours, so pretty good really.

So now I am ready to join the MountMellick BoM wagon. My fabrics have been long stored in a plastic crate waiting for this moment, so the time has come to prep and hopefully tomorrow the templates will arrive in my in-box!

But first I have to finish March and July's Benjamin Biggs BoM. They are nearly done...

Monday, 14 July 2014

A new block and a new old block

I've been beavering away trying to catch up on some of my projects - I need to have a sort out as to what is a UFO and what is actually a WIP. I have far too many projects on the go and I need to concentrate on just two or three at one time, although knowing me, this number will no doubt increase as I prevaricate as to which ones I want to work on...

Firstly though, a finished block...

Benjamin Biggs Album Quilt - Block 6 for June 2014

June 2014
I changed the centre circle from the blue I used for the leaves to a brown - the same fabric used in the berries which I fussy-cut. I was very lucky that the flowers fitted just inside the size of the berries.

B1 - Original block

Unfortunately, the name of the original maker has faded away, so sadly we will never know who made this block. 

Now to try and complete March's block and the July block and then I should be all up to date. 

As it is a block of the month I wonder whether I might be permitted an extra WIP? Once I am up-to-date of course... :-)

Beyond the Cherry Trees Quilt

Do you remember this block?

I completed it back in May 2013. Apart from a wonky bottom edge, easily rectified, I never really liked the fabric for the bowl. I loved the fabric, it's one of my favourites and handles beautifully, but the background colour was too green for the quilt which has no green in it.

So I planned to change the bowl fabric at some point and then I saw the perfect piece in Shipshewana - only a fat quarter, but more than sufficient for the bowl and here is the finished block...

Block D5 bowl restitched

I think the fabric is much more in keeping and helps to balance the flowers and leaves above. Despite the pattern being printed the same size as all the other blocks the flowers, buds and even some of the leaves are much larger than on the other blocks, so it looks much heavier. I am much happier now and have just noticed that the design in the centre looks like a parrot!

So that's two WIPs now to choose the third - definitely the Spratley Quilt, but I need another WIP as well - which one will it be...?

Have a good week of stitching.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ta Dah! - Block 5!

Finally finished Block 5 of the Benjamin Biggs quilt.

Block 5 - May 2014 - Mary Shaw, January 18, 1847
 Rather than alternating the bud and leaf as on previous blocks I decided to keep the setting of the original block maker - She set the buds so that they were facing each other on one side and on the other the leaves face each other. I have been pondering why she did it? It is the only block in the entire quilt where this occurs. So I decided that I would follow suit so that for future generations they can also be driven mad in trying to establish "why on earth did she do that?".

Blocks 3 and 6 are all prepped and ready to go on my rail commutes.

In the meantime, the World Cup has started and, as usual it is wall to wall football on television. It's all the hours and hours of analysis by the "experts" that gets me... It's only a game with 22 men kicking a football around a field trying to get it in one of two goals, for goodness sakes!!!

I have been saving up recorded programmes to watch and I have got out the "World Cup quilt" which makes an appearance once in every four years! Will I get it finished this time?

Monday, 2 June 2014

May's flown by...

May just flew by and I just couldn't get my needle and thread out quite as much as I would have liked.

We had a big family reunion for my Aunt's 80th birthday celebratory Sunday lunch - roast beef with all the trimmings (including a humungous Yorkshire Pudding!), followed by bread and butter pudding with fresh fruit... yeah!

And then it was back to the marking, marking and yet more marking! I felt I was going to drown in it all.

The garden went to pot and where once I had a lawn, I now have a meadow, which Barney seems to enjoy!

But I did get one block finally finished...

Benjamin Biggs Quilt

Block 1 - Apple Pie Ridge Star made by Sarah Ellen Landers 

I was determined to use my theme fabric which is the floral fabric. I was beginning to have second thoughts about it when I realised that the background colour is very similar to the overall BG fabric, but I like it and so it stays!

The design is called the Apple Pie Ridge Star  - it's an unusual interpretation - with the "tear drops" in brown, it is usually all in one piece and resembles a fleur de lis design. It originated in the hills of Virginia, near Winchester (very apt considering my connections to Winchester, England). According to Brenda Papadakis, "the first examples of APRS appear in Quaker quilts [of the] 1840’s-1850’s", which coincides with the popularity of the Baltimore Album Quilts  of which many have a similar design, although many BAQ's were made by Methodists.

Brenda goes on to say that "during the 1750’s, apple trees were widely planted around Winchester for their produce. The high road name was changed from Ridge Road to Apple Pie Ridge by 1801. One of the legends about the renaming of the Ridge Road is that during the Revolutionary War, Hession prisoners of war walked north to the Ridge on Sunday afternoon to enjoy the delicious apple pies baked by the Quaker women."

Blocks 3 and 5 are already prepped and are in various stages of applique and now June's block has come out, so my needle and thread will be hopefully, whipping up a storm during June - they should keep me occupied whilst the World Cup is on!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great month - stitching!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Benjamin Biggs Quilt - Block 2

I finished the April block last night and I prepped the January block this afternoon for my rail commutes this week. Hopefully, I can complete the January block in time for May's block and then I will only be trailling March - a bit confusing I know, but I am just trying to catch-up.

Block 4 - April 2014
It's Easter week and most people are on holiday, so should get quite a bit of work done, both on the train and in the office.

March or is it April?

Okay this should have been posted in March, but I've been just too busy with work to post so here goes - March has seen PROGRESS and a NEW START!

Beyond the Cherry Trees 
I've finished another block - the 19th - two blocks in two months - I am on a roll!!

I've lost count of how many blocks I have completed, I think this might be block 20?

Benjamin Biggs Quilt
Now I have to ask myself, do I really, really, need another project?? Should I really, really finish a project first???!! I am blaming a certain somebody who lives in Texas for putting me in this quandary - as if I should really, really be asking myself these questions in the first place, especially when I already know the answers to them! 

Answer - YES and nooooo!

So herewith the Benjamin Biggs Quilt - a free BoM available from Gay at Sentimental Stitches and Brenda at Dear Jane. This month's block is available now to download from Gay's site and then the May block will be available from Brenda's site - the patterns are being published on the 1st of each month.

The Benjamin Biggs Quilt - Lafayette, Indiana
The blocks are being published in block order which helps with the planning, but then that means you need enough of the fabric you will be using for the applique, from the beginning of the project i.e. it will be harder to blend in new fabrics if you suddenly add them in the last row. Hmmm... and I rather enjoyed how Gay did the Beyond the Cherry Trees Quilt patterns because we never knew until they were published which block you would get next.

Now, in true Fiona fashion, I am not going to follow the traditional red and green of this quilt - I have instead decided on blues and yellow-browns. Originally it was going to be pinks and greens from my stash, but then on a visit to Puddleducks to buy some background fabric I-spyed some lovely Jo Morton blues and browns on the shelf and that was it! I have added to the pile from my stash and will continue to do so as the project progresses, but I am very pleased with the current selection, but amazed how not all blues go together, but maybe they will blend better once in their blocks.

Fabrics for the Benjamin Biggs Quilt
I have selected a Makower Essentials fabric as the background - it is in an ecru colour to give the whole some warmth and since it is one of their basic fabrics, I can buy a metre at a time without worrying that it won't be on the shelf the next time I go into the shop.

Each of the original blocks is a finished 16" square and whilst that's a usual size for me (e.g. Beyond the Cherry Tree quilt blocks), I had to ask myself do I want another quilt that measures 100" square? So I have decided instead to make my blocks 14" finished, making a quilt that will be 90" square. As you know, I like to stitch on my rail commute to work and the other week there was a happy happenstance because the width of the tables on the train are... 17" - so ideal for prepping the blocks!

Prepping on the train

and here's the first block completed... It's block 2 for February, but I wanted to start with a simple block just to see how the colours work and then progress from there.

February 2014 block
I have decided to alternate the blocks between blue leaves and stems in one block and brown leaves and stems in another - well, that's the plan!

So what has happened to Phebe with the new start? Well, there has been a little and I mean a little bit of stitching. I have to admit I am struggling for the motivation, I suppose it has something to do with having done the centre block before. If I could only get over this hiatus...

Thanks for stopping by...

Friday, 7 February 2014

It's raining, it's pouring....

Rain, rain go away
[Don't] come back another day!

Will this wild weather ever stop??? We are being lashed and battered on a daily basis by storm force winds and rain. Large parts of the southwest, southern and southeastern England have either been or are being flooded, and currently we here in the Southeast of England are on amber alert - be prepared for possible evacuation and damage to people and property. Some say that we are about to be hit by another storm brewing out in the Atlantic which will be worse than the 1987 storm - I putting it down to scaremongering!

There are some sorry stories though of flooding on the Somerset levels and the waves have been fearsome along the south coast affecting transport. Trains on Southeastern railways are now travelling at just 40 mph because of high winds blowing down trees and other obstacles onto the track and there have been a number of landslips. The river Medway burst its banks over Christmas flooding Tonbridge town centre and the village of Yalding and there were power outages for large parts of Kent - a pretty miserable Christmas with no electricity to cook the Christmas lunch and no heating.

I could say that "I'm alright, Jack",  as I live up the side of a valley and my cottage is set on top of an embankment, but when the rain comes down, the road outside channels a torrent of grey looking water as it picks up chalk deposits from the surrounding Downs and heads for the Guzzle in the middle of the village. How much more the surrounding land can take though is difficult to say and I haven't been across the field behind me which has a dew pond in it - I wonder whether the pond has become a lake? I know however that Church Lane is flooded.

Barney is not a happy cat - he definitely does not like the rain and he has had to resort to his litter tray more often than not.

But, he definitely knows where the best spots are to keep warm... in MY bed!!

My stitching has been slow in recent weeks, but I finally finished another block...

Beyond the Cherry Trees
This is block 18, although I have another two blocks "on the go".

Block 18

I had had difficulty in choosing the fabric for the basket. The fabric on the other basket in the quilt had a strong design feature, so I knew I needed something to offset it and I found this fabric in Caroline's Cottage in Rome City, Indiana back in November. Got home and decided it was just perfect for the job, cut out the fabric and put the remainder of the fabric away, only to find... yes, I already had the same fabric in my stash!

Phebe Quilt
Well, this is growing slowly - too slowly really and will be my focus for this weekend. I have now chosen all the fabrics for the centre block except for the urn - I just cannot make up my mind, so I'll decide once I have a few more pieces stitched down including the hillock
Phebe progress as of January 2014 :-(
Thanks for looking in!