Friday 28 July 2023

41 Country Quilting Projects: Geese and Tulips Pillow


I have seen this book in thrift stores several times.
Now that I've completed a number of the 50 projects, I'm beginning to understand why. Yes, I know lots of quilting books end up in thrift stores. I know because I've bought lots of them there. But it's not often I see the same one multiple times. And it could be because it's just not a really great book. I question whether or not anyone ever tested the patterns. Ideally, a pattern should be tested by someone who is not the designer, to determine that the instructions are clear and adequate to actually produce the end product. Someone needs to "follow the recipe" to make sure they can actually make the "soup". 😊 Otherwise, you end up with a book like this one, where the measurements are not always correct, supplies are missing from the supply list and steps in the assembly are missing altogether. I can't imagine being a novice quilter tackling some of the projects in this book, hoping to be successful, even some of the ones rated as "Easy".
This pillow was one that was rated easy. It definitely was not. Some of the instructions are rather silly: to make Template A, draw a 7" square and cut in half diagonally. Why not just cut out the 7" squares of fabric and cut them in half? Why would I need a template for that? Or "When ready to appliqué, remove paper before fusing pieces to background fabric." I appreciate that some people might not be aware of this necessity, but considering the fact there are really no detailed instructions for the appliqué, it's rather ironic that they would include this. Nowhere in the supply list is there any mention of embroidery floss or instructions on how else one would get the flower stems and eyes into the picture.
Fortunately, I have rudimentary embroidery skills and recently, when I was searching for an apron pattern, I came across my embroidery supplies. And since I've never done a French knot, I also had beads available that worked for the eyes. 
Finally, after attaching two double-sided ruffles, I had to struggle with all of that bulk to get the back of the pillow attached with a ¼" seam. That was about as much fun as sewing the stuffed biscuits together when making the Rainbow Biscuit Quilt
In spite of all that, I love this pillow. In the book, it's done in blues and white, which I normally love, but it just didn't do it for me. The geese and tulips looked cartoonish and I considered appliqéing something different on this pillow. Remember, my goal is to complete every project in this book. And I decided to go ahead with the geese. And, while they are rather odd looking, the fabric, the colours - whatever it is - it just "sings" to me. 
If you happen to have or see this book, you will notice that my appliqué is reversed. Rather than trace the design onto paper or directly onto the fabric as the instructions suggest (another weird idea), I chose to trace it directly from the book onto the fusible web. And since the fusible web goes onto the back of the fabric, the design was reversed. 
Do I intend to continue with my goal of completing every project in this book, in spite of the book's shortcomings? Yes, actually, I do. I like a challenge. And I believe I figured out the project count in this book. Under one title, there may be more than one project. So, for example, under "Mini Patchwork Ornaments", there are 3 different ornaments, each considered a project. With this pillow, I have then completed 9 projects, and hence my countdown now states 41 as that is how many I have left to complete. 

A Couple of Fabric Panel Projects

As I mentioned in a previous post, Fair season is almost upon us. This year, I plan to actually keep my Fair Exhibit Hall/Bench Show books, so I can refer to them throughout the year and plan my projects accordingly. That way, I won't be left madly scrambling at the last minute trying to get projects finishes so that I can enter them. We'll see how that works out...
One of the classes in the Sewing Section is Aprons. Somewhere in my stash is this lovely fabric.

It would be perfect for an apron. I didn't even buy it that long ago (the date on the picture is June 7). But can I find it now? Noooo!
There was, however, the pink John Deere apron panel.

But somehow, submitting an apron made from a panel to be judged in a fair bench show didn't seem right. But then I thought that if I had made the same style of apron from a pattern, there would be no more cutting or sewing involved than making it from a panel. The only difference would be in laying out and pinning the pattern. And since I ended up lining the apron, I did that as well by pinning the apron part of the panel to the lining fabric in order to cut it to size. 
Why did I line an apron? Well, in spite of being licensed fabric, it was really thin. I imagine one little splatter of whatever I was cooking would go right through it onto whatever I was wearing. That kind of defeats the purpose of an apron. Furthermore, not only were the finishing instructions for this apron inadequate, but not really what I wanted to do. The instructions say to finish all raw edges with serging or zigzag stitching, and then folding the edges under and topstitching. Even though that would be on the inside of the apron, I didn't consider that very functional or attractive. And trying to turn under those curved seams around the underarm would be rather challenging. Initially, my plan was to just finish the raw edges with bias tape, and I purchased an appropriate green to do so. But when I started handling the panel in preparation for cutting, I realized that it was just too flimsy. I was concerned that, once the straps were stitched in place, a good tug on a strip could rip the fabric. So, I pulled some fabric from my stash and cut out a lining. It finishes the edges much nicer than the instructions suggested. 
A couple more weird things about this panel: it doesn't say to cut the neck strap in half, but it would have been much too long otherwise (at least in my opinion); and the pocket linings were square whereas the pockets are rounded. So, this wasn't my favourite fabric panel.
Another class in the Bench Shows is for Christmas Stockings.
This panel was from Northcott. It had much better instructions and the fabric quality was better. The instructions said to use a piece of ribbon for hanging, but I chose to use a piece of the lining fabric and where I placed the hanging straps is different from where the instructions said (I don't remember where they suggested). I quilted them using the Cardinals pantograph from Urban Elementz.
Even though it's one of my smaller designs, it was still rather large for these stockings. I like to have larger designs because they work up quicker when quilting a quilt, but they don't work as well on a smaller project. Of course, you can't necessarily have the detail in a smaller design, but I may have to pick up a few just to use for quilting smaller projects. 
At least one Christmas in July project finished. 

10-Minute Block Tote Bag


Another UFO in the bag, pun intended. 
I don't remember what year I started this tote bag, but it began with a desire to try the 10-minute quilt block. Haven't heard of the 10-minute block? Neither had I, but you can find it on YouTube. 
I finished four 10-minute blocks, with the intention of making them into a tote bag, and that's as far as I got. Actually, I shouldn't say "finished" because I hadn't even stitched down the centre piece. 
I'm trying to get more of my UFOs finished. And having fair season rapidly approaching has been a good motivator. There is a class for tote bags in the bench show and I decided to drag out these blocks and see if I could finish this project. But first, I had to find the rest of the fabric. I seemed to recall using some of it for something, but couldn't remember what. And surely, I didn't use all of it... But there wasn't any other fabrics with the blocks. Finally, thank the Lord, I found the fat quarter bundle, and then I just had to decide what fabric to use where.
All along, I had planned on putting this saying on the reverse side of the tote bag. My fabric choice for the letters was probably not the best because it makes the words less distinct. But it's still legible.
I quilted it using the Cable & Feather pantograph from Golden Threads. I purchased it at my Handi Quilter vendor when they were trying to clear out their pantographs. I don't know if Golden Threads even exists any more. I couldn't find them when I googled, so I can't share a link to the pantograph. 
I'm happy to have this project off the UFO list. It's ready for the fair and after that, it will be my shopping bag for when I visit the fabric stores.

4? Country Quilting Projects: Rainbow Biscuit Quilt

The book: 50 Country Quilting Projects by Margit Echols, 1990

The project: Afghan Quilt, pp 236 & following
The first comment I want to make is about the name of this quilt: Afghan Quilt??? Either it's an afghan or a quilt, but not both. In this case, it's fabric with batting (or stuffing, in this case) and backing, so it must be a quilt. I'm not sure if the designer called it that because it's about the size of an afghan (though afghans can actually be any size) or because the layout of the blocks reminded her of an afghan. Either way, I consider it a rather silly name for a quilt and I prefer a more imaginative name, like Rosy Sunrise or Pink Lemonade, since the quilt in the book is done in shades of pink. Or, since it's laid out similar to a Trip Around the World quilt, how about Biscuits Around the World? Wait a minute, that gives me an idea. Since there are over 200 biscuits in this quilt and about 200 countries in the world, I could do an individual biscuit to represent each country in the world. <sigh> So many ideas, so little time...
My real concern about this quilt pattern, however, is not the name, but the inaccuracies in the fabric requirements. The quilt in the book uses 5 different fabrics, not 6 like mine, but that isn't the issue. The squares for the biscuits are 4". Allowing for selvages, you can count on 10 squares per width of fabric strip. The pattern calls for 3/8 yard of fabrics B, C, & D. Three eighths of a yard equals 13.5". Fabric B is fine at 3/8 yard, requiring only 20 squares or 2 strips. Fabric C, however, calls for 28 squares, which would require 3 strips or 12". That's cutting it pretty close to the 13.5" in 3/8 yard, especially if you have to allow for uneven cuts. I prefer a bit more margin for error than that. But 3/8 yard is definitely not enough for fabric D, which requires 36 squares or 4 strips, 16 inches. And with fabric E, the pattern only calls for 1-1/4 yards, or 45", which is really cutting it close to the 44" required for the 11 strips. If it weren't for the fact that I live in Canada where we use the metric system and I had to do some conversion before purchasing this fabric, I might not have caught these errors and I wouldn't have been very happy. In case you have this book and would like to make this quilt, here is what I purchased in metres:
Fabric A - blue - 0.6 m (In the pattern, fabric A is also used where I have the red squares as well as for the backing. The requirements in the pattern, 3-1/4 yards, should be sufficient for this).
Fabric B - orange - 0.3 m
Fabric C - yellow - 0.4 m
Fabric D - green - 0.5 m
Fabric E - purple - 1.2 m
Fabric F - red - 0.3 m
Calculating for just straight squares is pretty simple, so I'm at a loss to understand the reason for the errors in fabric requirements. I certainly hope that this is not an issue throughout this book as I've already purchased the fabric for the Iris Medallion quilt, which I plan to make for my oldest sister.
Back to this biscuit quilt - I just called it the Rainbow Biscuit quilt - as I mentioned, the one in the book is done in shades of pink, and has lace edging and ribbon ties. Mine is for one of my great nephews, so pink, ribbons and lace wouldn't have been appropriate. 
My original plan was to make this quilt for Canada's Sesquicentennial  As I was perusing the book,300 Years of Canada's Quilts,  I found this statement, " Anna Strum of Mador's Cove, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia made an elaborate and beautiful quilt for her only son in 1874. Of German descent with a strong heritage of featherbeds and down quilts, Mrs. Strumm made what is now called a 'biscuit' quilt. Each little 'puff' is filled with uncarded wool..." (p. 52). This quilt can still be found in the Desbrisay Museum in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. Unlike the book, however, the museum exhibit states that the quilt was made in 1877 of many types of fabrics stuffed with cotton, and contains 945 squares. (I was able to find this information online before the museum changed their website). Personally, I lean more towards what the book states: sheep can be raised in Canada, but not cotton. And since Canada had not yet developed a textile industry, I question whether "cotton stuffing" would be readily available to make this quilt. An interesting connection, Bridgwater is only 25 minutes from Lunenburg, where the Bluenose II is located, the schooner featured in my pixel quilt.
So, the biscuit quilt was in existence around the time of confederation and at least one was made in Canada not too many years after confederation. 
(For some interesting background on the history of the biscuit quilt, see Those Peculiar Biscuit and Puff Quilts). 
My plans don't always turn out the way I planned them and this quilt never got finished until this year. It's actually incredibly tedious making all of those biscuits. But the most frustrating part is stitching them together. The instructioins in the book say to complete each biscuit individually and then stitch them together in rows and then stitch the rows together. It was really a struggle trying to get all of that bulk under the presser foot on the sewing machine in order to stitch them together. I just got quite frustrated with that process. 
When I finally got back to this quilt this year, I continued to do what the book said until finally I got the brilliant idea to stitch a row of unstuffed biscuits together and then stuff all of them and stitch the whole row closed at once. Yes, it was much easier that way. But still I struggled to get those bulky rows together. And sometime during the process of trying to push all that stuffing togehter and force it under the presser foot, I managed to get my finger too close to the needle and did something that I don't think I have ever done before in my 46 or so years of sewing: I hit my finger with the needle. 
Thank the Lord, it wasn't too serious. It didn't hurt that much, but bled a fair amount. I poured hydrogen peroxide on it and then applied a bandaid. I still can't figure out exactly what happened. The needle must have hit my finger nail and then entered the skin beside the nail. But it went in more parallel than perpendicular. I'm sure my guardian angel was doing his job. Since this project, the lowest thread guide on my sewing machine - the last one before threading the needle - has been bent. I have no idea how that happened or if it's in any way connected to my injury. I'm not rough with my sewing machine, so I really have no explanation for it. 
My next brainstorm for completing this quilt was to stitch the whole row of unstuffed biscuits to the previous - already stuffed - row. That way, I was only dealing with the bulk of one row of stuffed biscuits, not two. That worked much better as well. My final brainstorm didn't happen until I was going to put the binding on, but that was after I came up with a couple of not-so-brilliant ideas. 
The instructions in the book said to put the quilt top and the backing right sides together and stitch them together, leaving an opening to turn. Then turn it right side out, stitch the opening closed and sew a bar tack over a ribbon in multiple biscuit intersections, but not all of them. As I mentioned, this quilt is going to a great nephew, so I didn't want ribbons. I also didn't want to tie the quilt. My experience with tied quilts is that the knots work themselves loose with wear and laundering and I'd have to go back and re-tie or replace them. I also don't think they look as nice. And I wanted quilting around every biscuit, not just a bar tack at certain places. So, I decided to mount it on the longarm and stitch between all of the biscuits. And to compound my foolishness, I also decided to add a layer of polyester fibrefil batting... All of that bulk really became quite unmanageable and my quilting between the rows tended to go in whatever direction the biscuits pushed it. Definitely not nice straight rows. Nevertheless, I got it done. But now, because I chose to quilt it on the longarm, I also had to bind it, something I wouldn't have had to do if I'd followed the method in the book. And I had added to already incredibly bulky quilt by including batting...That's when my final brainstorm came in. I decided to use the Brother sewing machine. Its ¼" foot is narrower on the left side than the one on my Janome. That meant the bulk didn't have as much presser foot to fit under. Even so, I nearly ended up crying - and considered burning the quilt - while fighting to get the binding on. 
Thank God, it's finished. There are a few more biscuit projects in this book, but they are all smaller projects and I at least learned a few tricks to make the going easier while constructing this quilt. 
Here's the fun backing fabric I chose for this project. 
And I lost track of my countdown of projects I've completed in this book, as seen in the title of this post. I haven't quite figured out how the author counts 50 projects, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.