Sunday 11 January 2015

Annual Pilgrimage to the US

 Oh my goodness, I have just seen when I last posted on my blog! Time passes so quickly... and I was so worried that I had not posted since I returned from my "annual pilgrimage" (as my work colleagues call it!), to the USA... but not since August??? I have some serious catching up to do!

So, firstly about my trip...

After 10 years of travelling up and down the NE coast of the USA ,I was invited to visit Texas before the annual Dear Jane retreat in Shipshewana, Indiana. It was my first trip to Texas and I had a wonderful, wonderful time. Importantly though, it was a relaxing time with a mix of visits and stitching.

After my trips to Washington DC, Williamsburg VA, Charleston SC, and Boston MA not to mention Indiana of course and all points in-between, I was not prepared for the wide, wide open spaces of Texas. I knew the state was big, but this BIG?

On the interstate between San Antonio and Houston

Ranch outside La Grange, Texas near Woman Hollering Creek (wouldn't that make a wonderful address?)

We visited the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange Texas...
Crossing the Colorado River, La Grange, Texas
The Texas Quilt Museum, La Grange, Texas

Inside the Museum
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs inside the museum, so this is the only one I got, although I thought I had a photograph of myself and my friend in front of one of the quilts, but it has mysteriously disappeared, so I wonder whether the button was pushed or not! The visit coincided with an exhibition of contemporary quilts from a private collection - not really my and my friend's thang, but enjoyable none the less.

Next to the museum is a lovely "English Cottage" garden with box lined parterres, which even in November were still displaying roses, Michaelmas Daisies etc. 

About the wall mural
Wall mural
Wall mural

Next door to the museum is a wonderful knitting and quilt store called The Quilted Skein.
When you enter there is a mass of colour - knitting wools and contemporary quilt fabrics (Kaffe Fassett etc), but go through to the back and there are all the reproduction fabrics which resulted in a few squeals of delight from me as I discovered a couple of reproduction fabrics I had been searching the net for the past six months!

Inside The Quilted Skein, La Grange, Texas
Living in a 350+ year old cottage, I love looking at other old houses and buildings and La Grange had a few for me to see...

This one was near Woman Hollering Creek
I wonder how it got that name?
My late father was a model railway enthusiast which rubbed off on me and my brothers. My father though, unusually, was interested in US railways and Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railways in particular. I was my father's gangerdancer, someone who lays the track, and so whenever I see anything related to the railways on my visits to the USA it reminds me of my father.

So when we came across the old railway station in La Grange, I had to take a picture...

Old railway station in La Grange, Texas

A caboose (and I didn't have to look that up!), but I am not sure why there is a traffic cone on its roof!

I wanted a picture of a Long Horn cow! I couldn't come to Texas and not see long horn cattle. My friend frequently, patiently stopped along the road side until I got the picture I wanted!

Somewhere in there was a long horn cow, but he was being somewhat overly protected by donkeys!

Finally, finally I got the much wanted picture and wow, does he have long horns!

This has not been a very quilty blog entry, but the next entries about my trip will be more quilt related, I promise. But in the meantime, back to La Grange, Texas - this is a photograph of the Town Hall

La Grange Town Hall

But then I spied this stone carving on the tower - wouldn't it make a wonderful design for a Baltimore-style block?

Detail on the tower of the La Grange Town Hall 

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?