Reading Instead of Sewing, Again

Facts & Fabrications-Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery: 8 Projects 20 Blocks First-Person AccountsFacts & Fabrications-Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery: 8 Projects 20 Blocks First-Person Accounts by Barbara Brackman

The history is in summary form, but there are endnotes with further sources.

The book opens with a brief discussion of myth Vs. historical method. This is followed by an abbreviated history of slavery from the beginning of the slave trade to emancipation and migration. Although I am fairly familiar with the topic (having read The Great Migration, I learned some new detail (the migration to the plains). And the quotations from diaries and WPA recorded oral histories added an important dimension.

Brackman links each stage of the history to a quilt block by the name of the block, a story telling method she links with the 20th century. The idea is to create a mnemonic for remembering the history.

The block patterns and quilt layouts are clearly explained and illustrated, but she refers readers to other how-to books for basic quilting instructions. She also includes suggestions for adapting the history and sewing to children (in formal and informal settings)  and includes possible discussion questions.

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Practice Stitching Curves

Buried among my orphan blocks were these strips of squares. It amazes me how almost modern the print, and the setting is even gray.

O-strips

They have a long history, only part mine. They lived in a basement among other sewing things, as squares, not strips. I don’t know how long they had been there, but they smelled musty, so much so that I got accused of smoking (in a non-smoking apartment) when I pressed them. The owner of the house was moving to a nursing home, and her relative, who was in my guild, was giving out the UFOs. This was at least ten years ago.

I took them along to a retreat as a filler in case I finished other projects faster than expected; sometimes it happens. I did,  so stitched the squares into these strips. It was before rulerless cutting was in vogue, but these irregular squares appeared to have been cut without a ruler or marking. Add to that my inexperience at machine piecing (hand piecing comes out right because you sew on the seam line) and irregular 1/4 inch seams, the strips were quite wobbly.

So they sat, waiting for me to trim them straight and do something about the bubbles. Also they needed something to  double them to make an adequate sized quilt.

They were sitting out when a member of Sunshine (link in the sidebar under quilt groups) issued an Olympic challenge–make a quilt using the Olympic colors while watching the Olympics. Noting that the colors in the print were all the colors except black, I started to plan.

Instead of trimming to straight edges, I decided to use Sherri Lynn Wood’s curved seam approach to the irregular edges and darting to control the bubbles.

And I ended up with this.

O-top

Close to 40 x 60

If I can find my black, I’ll border and bind it in black. The border is needed because darting shrank some strips to 39 1/2, and that is without quilting or binding seams.

Now, about sewing curves. As you can see, these are quite gentle. I marked match-points on the first seam and noticed that they always met. So I didn’t mark any more, nor did I pin other than the first pin so that I’d start in the right place. I didn’t have to redo any seams.

Now we are told that it is easier to stitch when the concave curve is on top. In the past when I had S-curves I’d even start twice so that both halves could have concave on top. But on these gentle curves I didn’t bother. Yes, it is a little harder with the convex on top, but I developed a trick or two as I progressed.

This is one time to watch the needle. Even half an inch before the needle is too far away to match edges. I stitched till the two fabrics diverged to almost make a V at the needle, then with needle down, slid them gently together. Sometimes I had to repeat this every 3 or 4 stitches until I got around the convex spot.

Another thing I have read is to lift the top fabric high to aid in matching. I did not find that necessary. What is necessary is to handle the top and bottom fabrics separately, sometimes one in one hand and one in the other. Maybe lifting the top one high helps some to handle them separately, but I found it the dual handling that matters.

Occasionally at really tricky spots, I used a stylus (well, I never bought an official stylus, I just used my seam ripper) to hold the two edges in place near the needle.

One caveat: I don’t know how sharp a curve will prevent my method from working. I’ll keep using it till it doesn’t work and report back.

About the yellow curves. Here is a slightly better photo with them out of the fold of the sofa.

o center 2

At first I was going to sew straight strips, but it seemed better to continue with curves. For the first seam, I cut the blue and yellow together. Stitched. Then pressed away from the fabric that would become the narrow strip (toward navy in this top). I cut the fabrics for the second seam separately. I cut the yellow irregularly in what looked like pleasing variations. Where I wanted the yellow to disappear, I made sure to cut only 1/4 from the previous seam. Then I used the yellow as pattern to cut the navy.

Now to go hunt the errant black fabric.

 

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Reading about Race

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of RaceWaking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I appreciated reading this meditation on growing personal awareness of whiteness as a race, not as neutral or a norm. It is not an easy lesson to learn, and Irving shares her missteps as well as her successes.

Sometimes books on interracial communication leave me fearful of saying anything at all. Irving answers that fear by speaking of the need to get over ourselves, to get over needing to be seen as a “good person” or a “good anti-racist,” but to be willing to be vulnerable.

Irving admits that her white culture could be different from that of other readers due to differences in social class. And while much of what she describes rings true to me and I admit white privilege, there are some networking advantages she had that were not available to me. Those differences do not negate her message that we need to own our privilege and see its flip side in privilege withheld from people of color. And I can identify with the dominant white cultural dictum to avoid conflict, hence avoid discussion. Yep, I was raised like that.

Irving’s book is not about white do-goodism; in fact that is one of the stages she went through on her way. Nor is it about diversity training. Rather it is about recognizing and confronting systemic racism and our place in it.

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Block-of-the-Month Assembly

Three months out of the year I won the guild block-of-the-month pile–ending up with 26 after making only 15. Back in February, the pink ones quickly became a top (back made, but yet to be quilted). More recently I won the red-blue-gold nine and the totally scrappy six.  Along came a straggler that thought I had won pastels.

The straggler became a top for a doll quilt for the Toy and Joy project.

BOM pastel doll

I’ll be making doll/teddy bear quilts till the minky fabric is all used up, but the bag just doesn’t get empty. However, the fire fighters have requested more infant sized quilts (36 x 36). So I’ll shift my attention.

Nine 12-inch blocks easily make 36 x 36. Here are the red-blue-gold.

BOM red-blue-gold

The six block group required more thought. I laid out five.

BOM-5

I could use the sixth and make three more, or I could do something else. I thought and thought.

Once, long ago, I’d offered a challenge for people to send blocks with sides in any multiple of 3-inches. At the time I’d wanted to practice designing a quilt using variously sized blocks. What I didn’t anticipate was that without a color limitation, they wouldn’t play together even if I could arrange the space. I grouped them into color sets and put them aside. Maybe I should get them out. I arranged and rearranged the blue and white ones till I got four 12-inch blocks and added them in.

BOM plus 4- top

I decided it worked and sewed the top. The one remaining block will be combined with novelty fabric to become another doll/teddy bear quilt.

Now the two await backs.  I have multiple small pieces of flannel from which I’ll be making scrappy backs until it is gone. I have until the November or December meeting to finish these. Next in the stranded-block line up are the Foot Squared Freestyle (F2F) blocks–I still have to make my three as well as assemble blocks.

I’ll be linking with Let’s Make Baby Quilts (button in sidebar) when the link is available on Friday. And people visiting from that linky might also want to see the heart quilt on this blog entry, also a baby quilt.

 

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More Lotto Block Tops

As I assembled these tops, I pondered my process for grouping unlike  blocks.There are many features to play with: color, shape, value, intensity . . .

  • I look for exact pairs (or groups when there are more than two).
  • I look for similar colors and balance them–usually into corners.
  • I fill in the empty spaces with similar or coordinating colors; sometimes blocks that match in color add different colors as well, and that new color leads to a criteria for selecting other blocks.
  • I evaluate shapes and shift blocks around.
  • I consider values and shift blocks around.

Sometimes, of course, the block that is the right shape is the “wrong” color or value, so I shift around and go for the Gestalt effect that is pleasing.

I’d started this process toward the end of July (here), and after a reading break,  I made five more tops. This first one is about similar shapes first, then color considerations.

lotto 9 with stripes

42 x 42

I had some of the stripe left that  I’d used in the first batch,  just enough for sashing/borders by adding the yellow cornerstones. The plan is that the stripes unify the different colors.

Another top where striped fabric comes to the rescue:

lotto orange striped borders

42 x 60

This one started out with framed pictures as the unifying idea, then framed anything, then 9-patch blocks that had a novelty center. Finally the Shoo-Fly block that sorta fit. Next I shuffled them around till I liked the look of the colors and shapes.

The next one was arranged mostly by color; secondarily by shape. The yellow center block might have looked good in the bottom middle, but so did the one with green.  Either one would have balanced the top center.

lotto lavender and aqua

42 x 42

The border and cornerstones tie those two blocks to the other more aqua ones; however, there is purple and green in the prints of the corner blocks, which suggested the addition of the two center purple/green blocks. Aqua around the center block was to keep the top from becoming too purple.

I played more drastically with color in the next one. The closer to the end, the fewer to swap around.

lotto squares sashing

42 x 60

I started with the matching pink blocks and added the pink-brown-green. I’m not sure which came first the 36-patch or the aqua in the corner. The bottom center balanced the top center’s dark value. Originally I had the orange and aqua 36-patch in the lower corner to balance the upper aqua, but it was too dark. Dark seemed to fit the center better. Then, because the colors were so varied, I made the sashing and borders in as many of the colors as I could and tried to spread them around. It isn’t the world’s best design, but this is, after all, a utility quilt, so making do is okay.

And the last one is a surprise.  Looking at them tossed on the floor–the 12 rejects from the other 9 tops–I had decided they didn’t play together at all. I decided to take a photo to show that.

lotto A-layout

Instead of putting the blocks away, I started moving them around until they became a workable group.

Lotto A top

36 x 48

Isn’t it amazing what just a little rearranging will do?

That concludes my current batch of Lotto blocks, collected over about 6-7 years and 9+ winnings. I still have Blocks of the month from guild to assemble and my Foot Squared Freestyle blocks to arrange. Maybe in a day or two.

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Belated Sisters Post

Yeah, most of you have seen this quilt before, but this is a better photo. I didn’t get to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show this year, but my quilt did. And posting about it fell through the cracks with my grandson’s visit. But my online friend Tierney visited it and caught a photo for me. It is so nice to see the quilt hanging, flat, and with quilting visible.

At Sisters whole

The hand is because the day was windy.

Portland Modern Quilt Guild had an exhibit area and set a theme: modern traditional.  The traditional was the 9-patch blocks   (after I ripped apart a 36-patch top I didn’t like), the modern, the Layered Curves, my favorite “score” from Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. (A ‘score’ is not a pattern, but a starting idea that can guide–limiting or changing as one progresses.) While using improv fabric in traditional patterns is fun to do, I enjoyed this reversal of putting the traditional in the made fabric.

For those new to my blog, here is a blog post with links to posts about the history of construction.

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Lotto Tops

I’ve been making lotto blocks for Sunshine  (an online Yahoo group for making charity quilts) and winning them back occasionally for the last several years. Although there is a monthly theme, it is sometimes a challenge to make all the blocks play well together.That, plus choosing colors for sashing and borders, is all the design work involved–sometimes it is enough to stretch my brain. Sometimes I keep one block that doesn’t work into groupings in the hope of getting some mates later on. Sometimes I make blocks to add in. Sometimes i make do.

I have won bright blocks a couple times, boyish prints, novelty prints, floral prints, and a couple color groupings, most recently blue and yellow. I finally gathered them all together and started making tops.

Lotto 1

42 x 48

This one was a color experiment.  I am not unhappy  with it, but not thrilled either. It was intended to be 50 inches long, but I’d been cutting 3 1/2-inch strips for sashing and forgot to shift to cutting for 4-inch HSTs. It was easier to make 8 more HSTs than to start over. Then 4 more because I’d forgotten to add in the width of the sashing. I decided that was enough HST work for a while. On to straight borders.

Lotto 6

42 x 50

I was considering a narrow red border then navy, then I remembered the striped fabric.I’d wanted something to tie in the “extra” colors in a couple of the blocks. The planet print block, lower left above the Ohio Star, is one that had been waiting for mates. Happily there was a space themed block in this blue and yellow set.

The next quilt tops don’t have a border–they can be used as is, or I may add a border later when I dig into fabric for backing.

Lotto 2

42 x 42

This one also benefited from waiting. I’d laid out the arrangement sans the middle top and bottom blocks. I’d wanted something somewhat like the white, gold, red blocks. These came in a more recent batch.

Lotto 3

36 x 48

This one had been laid out ahead, but I’d had only one purplish block. I was happy to be able to add two more from a more recent winning in place of what I’d made do with before. Most of these blocks are from the boyish-print month. See the big bugs? Another top that benefited from its time out. If I add borders, they will be dark green or blue.

Lotto 4

36 x 36

I gave about one-minute of thought to setting these blocks on point, but 33 inches or 50 inches seemed too hard to work into the preferred measurements of the groups. I decided that baby quilts are often wrapped on the diagonal, so the hearts would show then. These were from the floral month winnings.

Lotto 5

36 x 48

This one started out with orange as the unifying feature. Needless to say that got to be too orange. So I swapped out blocks one by one until I got it toned down just enough.

When I have pairs of matching blocks and am working with a big variety of blocks, my formal balance instincts kick in even though I like to work asymmetrically otherwise.

I still have enough blocks for 4 or 5 more quilts, depending on what size I make from them.

ETA: Linking with Oh Scrap! because at least some of these blocks were made from other peoples’ scraps and Move it Forward Monday (links in sidebar).

 

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