A Book Instead of a Quilt

The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This amazing book caught my interest with the first paragraph, and that without the ‘in medias res’ beginning. Oh there was back story, but the actual plot began in Chapter 1 with two girls stealing fruit.

The pace is leisurely for the first two thirds, then speeds up, the style descriptive and immediate. There were few characters, though towns and other activities were implied. The characters were well developed with flaws and virtues–all but one, who had no redeeming qualities.

Much of the book was about ideas never stated (the Orchardist himself, Jane and Della, sometimes Caroline Middey, though she was the most likely to speak) or about inability to speak (Clee). Angeline was more the one who wanted to know than one not communicating. Each had their own type of isolation, though there were also relationships.

The novel deals with aging, birth, the growing up of children, and the diminished abilities of the elderly, always matter of factly, sometimes understated. Never heavy handed philosophizing.

This is a rare book that remains excellent through the ending. (view spoiler)

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Another Start–The Ocean Quilt

Perhaps the title should read, Another Shift in Priorities.  December suddenly seems close and I have two projects due then. So all other pieces in progress move to the back burner.

The ocean quilt has been planned for a long time, in general concept: Work the traditional ocean-wave block into it. A diagonal line. Tans to one side for beach. Blues to the other for water. It is the details that have not gelled. Should the shapes be square, diamond, or triangle? Should they be the same size or variable? Then along came curved strips, and I was ready to begin.

The traditional ocean-wave block looks like this.


And it is usually set in an all over pattern. Here is a link to Kat and Cat’s quilt so you can see the overall traditional look. Some day I may try that, but not for this quilt.

My first step was to gather many blue fabrics; now that is one of my favorite parts of planning. The other day I got them out and arranged them dark to light.


Some of these are fat quarters, which went well when I was thinking small pieces. I may have to get creative now that I want longer, wider strips.

Now come some less interesting steps, like cutting squares and sewing half-square triangles (HSTs).


Here are 480 2-inch squares, patiently waiting. I did avoid drawing the diagonal lines with the Clearly Perfect Angle tool from New Leaf Stitches.


I think it was meant for modern machines that are mostly in white cases, but I can see the three places to align the squares. (It is set up so you can either sew with a 1/4 seam allowance as I am here or directly from point to point.)

But I don’t know any way to avoid pressing and trimming. Since those steps are not very photogenic, there will be a pause until I have something interesting to show you. Meanwhile, linking up with Kelly’s Needle and Thread Thursday.


Filed under quilting

NW Quilting Expo Sampler

Although I am back from vacation, there is too much unpacking chaos for me to get back to quilting yet. However, that didn’t stop me from heading out to the annual NW Quilt Expo in Portland OR. I saw probably 3/4 of the 700 quilts hanging.

Three special exhibits caught my attention:Western Modern Quilt Guild’s Native American themed challenge, Cover to Cover’s interpretations from two novels, and Latimer Museum’s antique quilts. A couple photos from each.

From the Native American challenge, I appreciated most the quilts that though inspired by history didn’t closely reproduce traditional native images, rather creating new ones.

This one gave the traditional Crossed Canoe block a new meaning.


Fishing Hole by Nancy Schaefer

Schaefer described deriving her design while watching the fish ladders at the Bonneville Dam and thinking back to a time when salmon were so plentiful they could be speared from a canoe.

This quilt also referenced salmon.


Tails and Fins by Beverly Shoger

Shoger, noting that salmon linked the coastal tribes, chose to represent them by abstracted tails and naming the better known groups.

This quilt was based on a collaboration.


Shaman’s View by Kathy White

White’s granddaughter had done a senior project that included shamanism. She drew a sketch that White translated into fabric.

Cover to Cover Book Club Quilters is a group that designs quilts based on novels, usually doing two a year. One was Gone With the Wind. There were quilts showing Tara, quilts with abstractions in blue and gray, and quilts representing grand living and the Atlanta fire. This humorous one caught my fancy.


Flowered and Southern Fried by Patricia Goodwin Andrews

(Not so humorous from the chicken’s point of view.) Andrews says, “It’s Saturday and this chicken has another day till it is Sunday and southern fried chicken day.

The group’s second book was All the Light We Cannot See.


The Map in Her Head by Dianne Kane

Several of the quilts referenced Marie-Laure’s blindness; the fabric selection in this one appealed to me.

Last, but not least, are the antique quilts from the Latimer Museum collection.


Nine-Patch Medallion

This one was dated ~1840.  It looked to be double-bed size.


Here is a closer view of the trapunta and hand quilting. Notice some of the old fabrics are beginning to shred. Those early dyes were harsh.

The next one was dated ~1880 and looked to be twin size.


Ohio Star

The center square in the Ohio Star blocks looked to be about 3/4-inch on each side–the blocks about 4 inches.

If you live in the area, you have one more day to see the show. I hope the rest of you enjoyed the sampling.





Filed under Craftsy Class Project, quilting

Sunny Lanes–more tips than tutorial (and weather update)

Last year I participated in Foot Squared Freestyle (F2F). The time came for me to receive my blocks, and I did (link here if you want to see them all; scroll down to March for mine). I had planned to make my three after I saw if any color/shade was needed to balance things. I’d also made Sunny Lanes for everyone and planned to make one for me. That is what stalled the process. I needed yellow-orange and didn’t have any. I finally bought some and prewashed it, but by then I was on to other projects. So I am finally back, and here is my finished Sunny Lanes.

sunny lanes orange finished

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Since I made one for everyone, I thought it would be fun to see what variety color differences can make for one block pattern. (There are only 11 because I started a month late.) A reminder of the rules: Members could make any pattern 12 1/2-inch block using the colors chosen by the recipient.

After seeing all those, you want to try one, right? I foresee a quilt in my future using scraps for the squares and a unifying pair of colors for the HSTs.

A 12-inch block requires 8 HSTs (Cut four 4-inch squares of two colors–I allow oversizing and trim to 3 1/2 inches.) and 32 2-inch squares (they will finish at 1 1/2 inches).

When I have plenty of fabric, I cut 8 squares of each potential color and make my HSTs and play around. I add the extra squares to my collection for scrap quilts for later use. So I tried three color groupings for the current block.

I started out thinking I wanted the medium brown in the corners, then saw the bright red beside the stripe and thought I’d like it. Last I tried the gold, just in case. In the abstract it was my least favorite, but I ended up liking it best. I thought the medium brown too distracting and the red too bright. I wait till the 4-patch pieces are sewn to fiddle with the direction the corner ones will go–sometimes a diagonal line, sometimes more rounded. Much easier to rotate one piece than four each time.

After making 3 or4, I finally had a system.

Three challenges for assembly: keeping the HSTs going the correct way, keeping the colors where you want them, and pressing the seams so they will nest when assembling the next seam (of course people who press open don’t have to worry about the latter).

I lay the pieces out on my 15 1/2 square ruler.

I start chain piecing with the small squares, L to R, top to bottom. I do not cut them apart until after they are pressed, and I leave the thread bunny (or leader/ender) attached to mark the top. I press seams in alternating directions. That way each pair will nest.

SL string

It would have been smart to show the wrong side, but you can see some of the fold directions. And the thread bunny.

I snip the pairs in twos as I lay them in their place on the square ruler. Then, again moving L to R and top to bottom, I stitch each four patch segment.

This time pressing is a major issue only for the center 16 squares because they will meet up. The corner ones do not matter. I lay all pieces back in place on the ruler and carry it to the ironing board. I press the seams in the two in the center-left column down and the ones in the right up.

Now you have the choice of assembling the center and the pairs of HSTs then assembling the whole as if it were a 9-patch block or assembling row by row. I have found the latter easier as it requires fewer breaks.

I sew pairs down one side, then down the other, then sew the middle seam, making four strips. I lay them out and press in alternate directions. Nothing left to do except the final joining seams.

I hope to see some of your variations on Sunny Lanes.

10/3/17 Linking with Quilting Jetgirl’s and Late Night Quilter’s Tips and Tutorials

And after I come back from vacation, I’ll lay out blocks, make my last two and start setting them together.

BTW I will be without WiFi on most of vacation, so won’t be responding to comments till I get back.

Also while catching up on blocks, I finally made June and July for the weather quilt.

June block

June 14 1/2 x 14 1/2

Yep, that orange is for highs in the 90s and that is what we had at the beginning of June, 97 to be exact.



July was cooler and pretty boring colorwise. Too bad I hadn’t planned on different colors for each 5-degree increment.

And here are all the blocks so far.


There will be cream sashing between eventually. Most weather quilts are done in rows (some samples here) instead  of blocks and look better, but I’ll finish what I started.

See you in three weeks.


Filed under quilting, Tips and Tutorials

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.


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.


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.



Filed under quilting, Tips and Tutorials, Uncategorized

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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