Pillow Block Quilt

I was in Wisconsin this past weekend, staying with my parents and visiting with family. One evening, my mom asked me to go into my old bedroom and get a quilt out of the closet. It’s been a while since I opened that closet, and of course, it’s filled with all new things since I left. But I was hit with wave of nostalgia when I saw this quilt that my grandmother—my mom’s mom—had made.

(Sorry for the weird light on the picture—the colors at the top are pretty close to accurate.)

I’m not sure what type of quilt it is, but for my purposes, I’ll call it a pillow block quilt. It’s the quilt I most associate with my Grandma Horvath—she made a bunch of them. Each square is sewn by machine on three sides, then a square of batting is inserted, and the fourth side is hand-sewn to the next piece, closing that fourth side in the process. So the blocks are kind of like individual pillows sewn together to make a quilt.

Over time, and with washings, some of the pieces of batting have gotten wadded up a bit, making those blocks look a little like raviolis. The brown and yellow fabric in the center of the quilt are the leftovers from a blouse my mom made for herself.

Instead of batting, some of the quilts have pieces of nylon stocking in each block. Grandma was using everything she had, and with herself and three daughters, she had a lot of old stockings. Note: quilts stuffed with nylon stockings are super heavy.

After a bit of searching around the house, I found another of these quilts that Grandma made. On this slightly smaller one, she sewed half-square triangles to the outside blocks to get straight edges on the quilt.

While I was in the Grandma Horvath frame of mind, I thought I would take a picture of Grandma glasses, too. My sisters and I fondly remember drinking from these glasses every time we visited Grandma. So when the time came to move Grandma from her apartment to a nursing home, we pretty much insisted Mom take the glasses. I love that the palette of the glasses is almost identical to that of the smaller quilt.

Grandma was probably best known, though, for her braided rugs. I couldn’t find any of those around my parents’ house to show—funny how they seemed to be everywhere at one time. But I’m hoping to track down a few for a future post. For now, I’ll raise my Grandma glass to toast my crafty Grandma Horvath.

Solids vs. Shot Cottons

Some members of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild really know how to rock the solids. At show-and-tell, they share these amazing quilts they’ve made completely from solid fabrics. Bold, geometric designs with rich, solid colors. You’ll see what I mean by checking out this quilt from CMQG founder Heather Jones.

So when it came time to start a new quilt I had in mind, I decided I was going to use a solid for the background. I went down to Sewn Studio, which has a great selection of solids, and picked out two potential blues.

Lovely both. I ended up trying the darker of the two, and made a few blocks with the blue and my prints. And I didn’t like it. At all. There was something about those particular prints, maybe, and the blue combined that just looked flat to me. It was then I decided to take a look at my stash of “solids.”

It turns out, I don’t have a true solid in the lot. They are all shot cottons. Shot cottons are fabrics that are woven from threads dyed in small batches, so the tones will vary a bit within a bolt and could vary quiet a bit between bolts. Many shot cottons have different colored threads for the warp and the weft.

I’ve washed the fabric above, and you can really see the different thread colors that are woven to make each piece of shot cotton.

I’m pretty sure we can blame my mother for the fact that all my solids are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons from Westminster. She’s been a Kaffe Fassett fan from the very beginning, and when he came out with his shot cottons, she flipped for them. So when we’d be shopping together, I’d usually end up with a few in my bag, too.

I guess it’s not too surprising, then, that the solid blue fabrics just weren’t doing it for me. My next stop was the Fabric Shack. And there I found a blue that makes my heart sing.

Yes, the tone if very different from the solids blues I’d gotten earlier. And I see now that those tones weren’t quite what I needed. But I think the texture of the shot cotton has something to do with it, too. I just like the variation, the movement, the interest.

With rise of modern quilting and the heavy use of solid fabrics by those quilters, there are a lot more true solids on the market—many more than even just a few years ago. I know I’ll be unable to resist some of the colors, so I’m sure I’ll be bringing a few more home. And maybe I’ll even figure out a way to work them into my projects. But for now, I think I’m still a shot cotton gal.

Finished Girly Quilt

And here it is—the finished girl quilt for Ronald McDonald House! (Here’s a link to the first post I wrote about this quilt.)

The charity asks that all quilts be washed before they are donated, so this is the washed version. I didn’t pre-wash the fabrics before I made the quilt, so once washed, it ended up with a slightly puckered, soft look, making it extra cozy.

My dragonfly pal made it through the wash pretty well. The writing I had done on the wing was a bit light to begin with, and it seemed to fade in the wash. So I’ll go over it again—a little darker this time—before I send it off to its new home. Fly away, dragonfly pal, fly away!


Playing with String Blocks

Watch out. I have string quilts on the brain again. I’ve already made a string quilt wall hanging and a string quilt top. But this weekend, I got string-quilt inspired again, thanks to the Roar charity quilt I made recently. I ended up loving the fabrics in that quilt, and I thought the scraps would make a cute string quilt mug rug.

This time out, I decided to make my own string block pattern. I had a lot of scraps of the No-Show Mesh stabilizer left from the other projects, so I cut out 6 x 6-inch pieces. Next I made marks on the stabilizer with permanent marker as shown below. The wonky triangle at the top would be the same fabric for each block. The line down the center was a guide to make sure that the first piece I placed was straight.

I aligned the first piece of fabric with that center line and sewed it on with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

I pressed the first strip to the right, and I kept adding strips and pressing until the blocks were complete. I then trimmed each of the eight blocks to 6 x 6 inches.

I loved making the blocks—adding each string and seeing how they came out in the end. But once the blocks were done, the REAL fun began. Because once the blocks were done, I could start playing with the arrangement! My first inclination was to keep the triangle fabrics together.

I liked what was going on with the strings in this layout, so I reworked it a bit to make the strings the focus, rather than the triangles.

With a bit more playing, I realized that offsetting the triangles made kind of a cool shape, too.

Finally, I hit upon an arrangement I wasn’t expecting at all. In this one, the triangles form borders to the strings in the center. I kind of love it.

I’m not sure yet which arrangement I’ll go with. I’m not even sure I’ve hit upon all the potential arrangements. I may have to play with my blocks a bit more, just to be sure.

Special Day with Emma Rose

The very first Special Day was probably 9 or 10 years ago. My oldest nephew, Jacob, was 4 or 5, and I decided to take him out for a day—just the two of us, doing whatever he wanted. I don’t actually remember what we did on that first Special Day, but over the years we’ve gone to movies, to the Newport Aquarium, to Kentucky Horse Park. And as Jacob’s sister and brother and cousin got older, they got to go on their own Special Days, one for their birthday and sometimes one for Christmas, too. The only criteria: the kid has be able to handle him/herself in the bathroom. And they had to pick someplace to eat other than McDonald’s.

When it’s my niece Emma’s Special Day, I can usually count on something girly or crafty being on our agenda. Back in 2007, our Special Day was a trip to Disney Princesses on Ice. And how can one not get dressed up for an afternoon at Disney Princesses on Ice?

My husband, merely my boyfriend at the time, was our chauffeur. Emma and I sat in the back of the car as he drove us, drinking sparkling cider and feeling very fancy.

As she has gotten older, our Special Days have included sleepovers and bigger projects. In 2010, Emma and I took on our first sewing project together: a stuffed owl.

This past weekend, Emma and I celebrated her upcoming 11th birthday with a Special Day sleepover with a new agenda: prepare and serve a lunch for her family to earn points for a Girl Scout badge. On the menu: apple lettuce salad, spaghetti and meatballs and peppermint fudge—all made from scratch.

After I picked Emma up, we went to my house to look through recipe books, then we made up our list of ingredients and headed to the grocery store. We decided to make the fudge that night, so we wouldn’t need to worry about it the next day. Emma’s latest favorite color is blue, and she made the peppermint stripe in the fudge the prettiest shade of blue using food coloring.

The next morning, we dove into making the meal. Emma has been a great help to her mom in the kitchen, so she was already a very good chopper.

We rolled the meatballs (a task I doubt either of us will be doing again soon), made the sauce, assembled the salad, and somewhere in there had time to create a scavenger hunt for her family (the goal: finding the seating chart) and get in a little coloring, too.

It was a great, creative weekend—creative in the cooking sense, which I hadn’t been in a while—with a pretty awesome girl.