Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Bonus Feature!

Awhile back, my friend Deb Rowden put a picture of this lovely sougan in her blog, Deb Rowden's Thrift Shop Quilts. I love Deb's quilt — the colors are beautiful, and it has a funky and playful charm. And, it's one of our Sunflower Pattern Co-operative's designs from the book Calico Cowboys. While this isn't technically a thrift shop quilt (Deb used purchased quilt-store fabrics for her version), this pattern was created from a "waste not, want not" philosophy.

Sougans, also spelled suggins or soogins, were utilitarian quilts made throughout the southwest for cowboys camping on the range. Often they were pieced of rectangles of rough wools or denims. For our take on a sougan, we used large rectangles of varying plaids set in a brick pattern. The stars were a playful addition, probably not seen in most sougans.

An unexpected bonus led to our two-for-one thriftiness. Our sougan actually started with this quilt, Cactus and Cottonwood, from the same book.

These 24" blocks featured approximately 18" stars that were appliquéd to the backgrounds. When we cut the background fabric away from the back of those stars, we found the bonus — 9 large stars made of the background fabric. We couldn't let those go to waste! So we made Sougan Under the Stars with background plaids in blue-jean colors.

The best part of making this quilt is that the large rectangles sew together very quickly, and most of the stars are placed so that you can appliqué them onto two-row sections of the quilt. No hassles trying to get a large quilt background under the needle! After the appliqué is finished, the quilt top goes together quickly.

Now that I've seen how wonderful Deb's version looks in the soft creams and oranges, this reminds me that I had intended to make some more of these quilts from my stash. Maybe a purple background, or soft reds?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting four for the price of one

My method of machine appliqué uses a freezer-paper template for every appliqué shape in the quilt. But if I have multiples of the same image, such as the 40+ stars in the Midnight Garden quilt pictured in my last post, I can save time by cutting 4 freezer-paper shapes at the same time.

I trace the shape once for every 4 copies needed for my quilt. So in Midnight Garden's case, I traced 11 stars onto freezer paper. I placed the traced sheet of freezer paper on top of 3 more sheets of freezer paper, all with the shiny side of the paper facing the same direction. Then, I use the iron (steam off!) to tack the sheets of freezer paper together. I do this by touching the tip of the iron to the stack of freezer paper for one or two seconds as shown at right.  I tack each shape in several places, taking care not to get too close to the edge of the piece. The freezer-paper coatings will melt slightly, making the four sheets stick together. After I cut the shapes out, I can peel the four pieces apart.

I have gotten so used to cutting out 4 shapes at once that I actually think it's easier to cut a nice, smooth line on a stack of four sheets of freezer paper than it is to cut one sheet at a time. (I use Fiskars Micro-tip 4" scissors; they are inexpensive and stay really sharp for a long time.) So I usually cut 4 of everything, even images for which I need only one template. Sometimes I use the extra paper templates during the quilt design process — I try out fabric for a shape, think it looks good, cut it out and glue down the edges, then decide I don't like that fabric after all. So I grab another paper template and try it again.

But my favorite way to use the extras is to save them for another quilt. For example, I loved this baby quilt pattern, Love Letters, that we included in the Daughter of the Homestead pattern. So I made a bright version for Elijah, a family friend.

After I finished Elijah's quilt, I had 3 more sets of paper templates left over, ready to use the next time I need to make a baby quilt fast. Not to put any pressure on anyone to produce grandchildren....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So we're in!

Happy new year to all of you!

During the season of the New Year, I love reading all the wrap-up/prediction columns in newspapers and magazines. Here's something I learned from the Dec. 30 Kansas City Star, in an article entitled "10 home trends worthy of a new decade" — Quilts, hooked rugs, needlepoint, and chintz are going to be popular elements in home decor in the 2010s.

Wait, didn't all of us already believe that, at least for our own homes? But now we're validated!

Patricia Shackelford, Kansas City author of the nationally recognized design blog "Mrs. Blandings," says that the new decade will see a return to the interior design sensibilities of Sister Parish, Kennedy White House decorator, who used heirlooms or pieces with history.

Good news for us quilters, who often like to needlepoint, knit, hook rugs or make other handcrafts as well. And what to do with all those finished quilts, rugs, etc, but to put them on our beds, walls, table tops, and anywhere else there's a spare space?

So, here's to being in style! (At least in our home decor; let's not even think about my wardrobe!)

BTW, the article also quoted Parish's granddaughter, Susan Bartlett Crater, talking about the coming popularity of black walls. Dark walls make smaller rooms look bigger, Crater said, adding "Black also pops color in a sophisticated way." Again, quilters have known that for years! I tell you, I felt so smart after reading that article!

Here's one of my favorite wall quilts, Midnight Garden from Butternut and Blue, Quilts from the Civil War. No black background, but a nice dark blue made all the light colors pop.