April Showers

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Drizzle, sprinkle, spate, shower, pouring – the nuances of rain are well grounded in my psyche from growing up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But in spite of the frequency of rain, I don’t recall using an umbrella very often.

unverella (2)

Umbrellas have a long history of use as decorative as well as practical accessories. Now you can even find specialty umbrella shops, like Bella Umbrella in Pike’s Market in Seattle. They carry unique, beautiful umbrellas that may make you wish for rain. That is where I purchased a “Thomas the Train” umbrella for my granddaughter.

I was inspired to create my own umbrella collection in anticipation of the upcoming spring, based on a pattern from Quilt’s for a Rainy Day, by Quilter’s World magazine. The original pattern had all the umbrellas open but I wanted to end on a sunny day so I choose a blue background, rather than grey, for the final panel and made the umbrella partially closed. The original magazine version (designed and quilted by Chris Malone) also had rick-rack and three-dimensional flowers on the border but those embellishments seemed too much with the bold print I used.

April Showers

April Showers

I don’t miss the gray, rainy Oregon winters, but sometimes I still miss the long, green springs. Here in Vermont April may just as likely bring snow as rain, but I think that my new umbrella collection will make me smile regardless of the weather.

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Sunny Pansies

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Both my mother and grandmother grew pansies. I remember my mother tending flower beds that adorned the front of our house and I remember my grandmother’s flower beds, and at least one of her floral print dresses that featured pansies in various shades of violet. According to several sources “pansy” means thought, or remembrance. When I saw this pansy fabric it certainly reminded me of my mother and grandmother and their love of pansies.

Sunny Pansies

Sunny Pansies

Working with bright, sunny colors is a great antidote to the long, sometimes gray winter days in Vermont. There are only four fabrics in this quilt: dark yellow, light yellow, violet, and the pansy print. The pattern design, by Lynda Milligan, is “Sunrise in the Garden” from McCall’s Quilting, June 2006.

I quilted it on the long-arm, using a flower edge-to-edge design and variegated yellow thread. Now it is ready to be a surprise present, and I hope the recipient will also find it a cheerful reminder of two women she knew who loved pansies.

Close-up of Sunny Pansies

Close-up of Sunny Pansies

Dress Up Days

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In January Dana, a friend of mine, approached me and asked if I could make something out of her childhood clothing. We looked over the many items she had in a large plastic bin. There were beautiful dresses by name-brand companies. There were infant velour outfits, a bib, a Girl Scout vest with several badges, a cheerleader’s jumper she wore in first grade (!) and a sports shirt of some kind. All in all, a great variety of fabrics and colors. Dana thought a crazy quilt might be a good choice and I agreed completely.

Clothes prepped for cutting and sewing

Clothes prepped for cutting and sewing

Before I started cutting or sewing I took a picture of each item of clothing. The next step was to remove all embellishments. I kept buttons, lace and badges in separate plastic bags. I cut the clothes into large pieces that could be cut into smaller strips and pieces as needed. This gave me a better idea of what I had to work with, and I separated things mostly by color, with one stack devoted to prints.

Dress Up Days - front

Dress Up Days – front

I used a foundation for the piecing, a neutral lightweight cotton. This is a typical crazy quilt technique that works well for sewing the random sizes and various weights of fabric into a coherent square. I tried to mix colors, fabrics, and angles as I sewed. Many of the embellishments were added as I made individual blocks.To help avoid a square by square look, I created a few partial squares so that columns could be offset. The blocks were arranged in what seemed like a pleasing configuration and then sewn together. A few more embellishments were added in areas that seemed too bare.

Crazy quilts typically have a “false back” – a piece stitched through the foundation but not through to the front. This gives the quilt some stability and covers the stitching that can show through to a “real back”. I opted to have the false back also serve as the batting in order to eliminate the need for another layer. I used drapery lining which gave a nice hand to the finished quilt, but didn’t add bulk or fluff.

Dress Up Days - back

Dress Up Days – back

The back was chosen primarily for the yellow, Dana’s favorite color, and the polka dots fit in with the playful aspect of the piece. The back pocket was made from the front of a dress. A treasured stuffed pig needed a home, so I added four buttons to keep the pocket closed along the top. Piggy can be safe inside, along with an envelope holding the photos of the clothes. And there is still room for Dana to add other mementos if she so desires.

The quilt was tied using grey perle cotton. The ties were placed randomly so as not to detract too much from the colors and pattern already established, and also to stabilize where most needed. In other areas buttons were used by sewing onto the front through all layers.

The name of the quilt, Dress Up Days, refers to the past when Dana wore these clothes, and also reflects the many beautiful, well-made dresses that were used in its construction.