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Child's Alphabet Quilt

There sure is a lot of traditional type stuff on my blog lately. I haven’t really been in the “art studio” for several months. Initially that was due to the holidays and low-light blah winter months.

Lately it is more due to the fact that I am concentrating almost all my efforts on clearing out and staging our current house and searching for somewhere smaller to live.

6H is for House blog
Maybe a house like this is the right size for me

Yes, we are planning a move and it’s an overwhelming and time consuming process, to say the least. I’ve been trying to stay a little secretive so I don’t jinx anything, but when someone wants to know what’s going on in my life, well…… this is it right now.

Yesterday I was going through the master closet where there was a pile of old quilts stacked in the corner. I pulled them all out and will have to make decisions on what to do with them. They are old family quilts and I have them because I seem to be the archivist of the family.

Of course I wanted all these quilts and coverlets when we cleaned out various elderly relatives’ homes, but they really do no good sitting in the back corner of a closet. And they are not in fantastic condition either, so probably no one beyond me is going to want them.

1Full quilt 75x80 blog
Alphabet Quilt 80" x 75" made in 1930 in Massachusetts

Among the pile I found this gem – it was made for my father by his grandmother. I did a little research and discovered that the alphabet blocks are made from Nancy Page designs. The block patterns would have been printed one at a time, in “serial” fashion, in the newspaper for the public to use and make. In my search I also found many similar quilts made using the Nancy Page patterns. It is very fun and interesting to see quilts similar to mine from various parts of the country!

2XYZ by AFHC blog
Made for my father by his grandmother, Annie Florence Hill Clapp, in 1930

I think I’ve decided what to do with this old, worn quilt. It is not useable as is, but it is such a treasure that I’d like to remake it somehow to prolong its life. The alphabet blocks themselves are in fairly decent condition – some wear on some of the fabrics and some of the embroidery has disintegrated also. The green background fabric is browned and aged, but most areas are actually in fairly good condition as well.

3Number 30 blog
Nancy Page's pattern uses the number "37" and the quilts I've seen also use "37". I believe my great-grandmother used the number "30" for the year she made the quilt - 1930.

My thought is to take it apart and salvage the blocks and probably re-do the missing embroidery. You can see the stitching marks where the embroidery used to be.  The quilt, or perhaps ‘coverlet’ is a better description, was tied, not quilted, so taking it apart would be easy. I would also need to wash it (gently by hand, of course!) and I’d rather only wash the parts I want to use. I especially don’t want to wash a heavy batting if I’m not going to use it.

5Damage at top blog 4Torn D block and top blog
The top edge is especially torn and stained

I could probably re-use the current green print as a sashing. I would put a new stronger backing fabric on and a new cotton batting. And, although I haven’t hand quilted for years, I’d be willing to hand quilt this piece. My thought is to make it as a wall hanging because I don’t think the blocks would stand up to use without getting too damaged.

This is all just an idea at the moment because I don’t have time to take it on as a project. (Remember that part earlier about moving?) But if I make the decision to disassemble the quilt, then I can wash the blocks and fabric and condense the size for packing up to move. That’s really my motivation at the moment.

Of course, none of this deals with the 8 – 10 other quilts in that pile! If you're interested in seeing more, just Google "Nancy Page alphabet patterns".

When I put the question out on Facebook – whether or not to take it apart or leave it as is – I got nine responses to take it apart and remake it so it could continue its life as a family heirloom. Two respondents strongly felt I should leave it as is.

What do you think? 

Until next time -


Be Prepared

I'm trying to finish a small piece in time to send it off to the SAQA Trunk Show. As is often the case, I have gotten a late start. Here's where things stand so far. (click on any of the pictures to enlarge)

Select fabricsSelect fabrics


Create backgroundCreate background


Piles of flowersGood thing I have plenty of flowers made already


Stitch leavesI do need to stitch more leaves, though


Audition-flowers-leavesLoosely auditioning the flowers with some leftover leaves from another project


Be PreparedMy motto........          HA! NOT!!

I'll let you know if I get it done on time. In the meantime check out the other blogs over at Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays. I bet some of them have actually finished something!

Until next time -

Nine-Pointed Stars

....... or, what to do with all those scraps.

I haven’t done any “Serious” work in the studio lately. Yes, quite facetiously, “Serious” with a capital “S”!

The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year always seems to be a studio lull for me. The biggest difference this year is that I made a decision not to beat myself up about it. Just go with it as it happens same time, every year. I think it’s some combination of colder weather and shorter days.

I did make a batch of oven mitts that I showed in the previous blog post. It was fun making something just for fun!

The other constant I have over the winter months is some kind of small “making” project. At least it's something creative happening until I can get Serious again. And it keeps my hands busy during the evening and helps keep me awake while watching TV. Otherwise I conk out too early!

In the past my winter makings have been origami stars. This year I started on a different star project. I actually started making these to be part of a grander concept – a quilt series I thought of doing. I don’t think I’m going to implement that idea, at least not for now.

Nine pointed star1

But I did start making the 9-pointed stars. These are made from fabric scraps that I’ve saved for so many years it’s not funny. Some are larger remnants of fabric, most are teeny bitty scraps. And I’ve kept them and moved them around numerous times over 40+ years, which is crazy.

Nine pointed star3

The simple reason for the 9-pointed stars is that I like to be different. The number “9” also related to the concept of my imagined series of quilts.

        Nine pointed star2 Nine pointed star5

I know I should toss this stuff, but by now I figured if I’ve saved it this long there must be a reason. I think it’s sentiment. There are scraps from dresses and garments I made when I was young. There are fabrics that were parts of quilts I’ve made. There are leftovers from curtains I made for all those apartments I lived in. Some fabrics came from clothing that I would cut up for quilts. I would shop at rummage sales and buy old clothing for the fabric. One of the fabrics came from a blouse my mother wore – how can I throw that away? Some came from my sister – she made things too and would give me her leftover scraps because she knew I liked making patchwork.

Nine pointed star4

I decided if I had saved the fabric this long then I should use it. The stars are 4” finished, so each star point is pretty small. So I can cut the points out, get as much out of each piece of fabric that I can, then finally, throw away the even smaller scraps. Don’t you know that I am having a hard time throwing away the tinier scraps? But I am (mostly).( And I'm only using my older, vintage fabrics. The stars don't include the more recent savings in my stash!)

Nine pointed star6

Do you recognize any of the fabrics from your own stash or history of sewing?

Nine pointed star7

I don’t know what I will eventually do with these stars. Maybe I will do the “grander series” at some point…. maybe. For now I’m just making them. And somehow they will put to use all the fabric that I’ve saved and toted around all these years. They are a way of keeping hold of some of those sentimental memories.

Until next time -

Final Project 2013

On the spur of the moment I decided to take on a last-minute December sewing project, making gifts for some of the near and dear on my Christmas list.

It started when I took up the offer presented by Maria Shell, who was giving away patterns for her Artful Oven Mitts. She has made a slew of them and they are really fun and funky looking.

Oven Mitts final batch blog

These have all the qualities of a great gift – they are artful and functional, hand made with love and care, and you don’t have to go to the mall!

Maria is still giving away patterns if you’re interested in making some yourself. The pattern comes with well written instructions; in addition Maria has a good tutorial on her blog so I won’t spell out instructions here.

I will show you a couple of things I did slightly differently and offer a few suggestions gleaned from my experience in stitching these.

First of all, don’t make a dumb math mistake like I did. I had nine people on my gift list. So I prepared enough fabric for 18 mitt sides. Quilted everything up and started cutting out the mitts. I assembled some mitts and then came my DOH! moment (similar to an A-HA! moment, except for dumb stuff).

See, I wanted to give pairs of mitts. And 18 mitt sides makes 9 mitts, which equals 4 ½ pairs.

Most people have two hands. Fortunately, everyone on my list has two hands. And giving just one mitt to a person seems inadequate. They need to have a pair of mitts.

I am neither math challenged nor math averse, yet for some reason I kept having trouble visualizing and planning how many pieces I needed for each one gift. So….. do your math properly!

4 pieces (2 left and 2 right) = 2 mitts = ONE PAIR!

My list was quickly shortened, because as I mentioned, I started this all at the last minute. I’m sorry if you didn’t make the cut. Really, I am. I meant well.

ONWARD! .......

I love the patchwork mitts, but you can also make them with whole cloth. I made some with these fun retro prints. One upside to the whole cloth is that they’re a little easier to turn right side out.

           Oven Mitts 50s kitchen blog  Oven Mitts retro housework blog


Maria’s pattern has a very squared-off thumb crotch. I modified my pattern and rounded off the thumb crotch. I found it easier to turn and I like the line better.

Oven Mitts squared crotch blog  Oven Mitts rounded blog


Stay stitch the edge inside the cutting line before cutting out the mitts.

Oven Mitts staystich edges blog


With a laundry marker I drew laundering instruction symbols on one side of each mitt. Mark it enough distance from the edge that the binding doesn’t cover it, about 5/8” up.

Oven Mitts laundry symbols blog

Although the instructions do not call for it, I finished my seams with an overcast edge. I used a simple zigzag stitch to finish the seams. If you have a serger now would be a good time to use it.

Also – I did not use pins. I rarely use pins when sewing. By the time you layer and quilt the fabric it is sturdy and stiff enough that you can simply lay the 2 mitt sides (right sides) together and seam them. A walking foot or dual-feed is good for this. Use a ¼” seam.

Speaking of layers, I added an extra layer of low loft cotton batting to the insulating Insul-Bright layer. Maria’s instructions do not include the cotton batt, but the Insul-Bright package recommends it, so I used it.

Referencing Maria’s pattern/instructions for the hanging tab: I cut and stitch one long piece for the tabs and cut the 5” lengths from this.

For the edge binding: use Maria’s pattern – cut exactly and use an exact ¼” seam to join the ends. Once again – I do not use pins to attach the binding. Hopefully for this step you have a free arm, or what I call a sleeve arm, on your sewing machine. Set the binding inside the mitt, right sides together, place around the free arm and start stitching with a 3/8" seam. TRUST that the binding is going to fit! It will appear too big/long, but it is not. It fits exactly and as you go around the edge and turn it on the free arm, what looks like excess binding is going to ease in to a perfect fit. Trust it.


Turning these things right side out is a bitch! The whole cloth mitts turn more easily than the patchwork mitts with their multiple seams and, at least in my case, heavier home décor fabrics. Turn over a “cuff” first and go from there. I found that kind of rolling them out from the heavy side seams worked well. Turn the larger “hand” part first, then the thumb. Maria uses a screw driver to help poke out the thumb. I was reluctant to do that and managed it with my fingers.

Oven Mitts turn cuff blog


Expect a lot of waste after cutting out the mitts. I am typically a saver of every scrap and this is hard for me. Now that the fabric is layered and quilted I’m not sure I can use the excess for something else. Then again, I might just find a way! Or, I might just have to throw it away. It’s too bad so much gets cut away, but it is necessary. Oh, well ……

Scraps from cutting mitts blog

I really enjoyed making and gifting these Artful Oven Mitts. I even made a pair for myself. Maria sells them at a gallery near her and they are priced at $60. each – yes, each, as in per mitt. Considering the materials and time that go into them I agree with her pricing and think it is totally fair. That said, I’m not convinced most people will pay $60. for one oven mitt, even as cool and beautiful as they are. So for me they will be made as a labor of love and gifted to those who will appreciate them.

As for how well they work? Well, no one has broken down and used them yet! Including me.  I actually mended and washed my crappy old oven mitts to avoid messing up my new Artful Oven Mitts! But I will use them one day soon, I promise.

Remember, you can get a free pattern from Maria to make your own mitts. She is aiming to give away 100 patterns. (Scroll down to the bottom of her post to see how to request a pattern.)


Until next time -



P.S. I'm linking up over at Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays". Why not click on over to see how others are wrapping up 2013 and diving into 2014!

By The Numbers

I’m still working on my Radical Elements piece.

I laid out all the cut up pieces of credit cards and now I’m “stitching” them together with wire. Very much like a scrappy patchwork quilt only not fabric and thread.

As with hand piecing and quilting it is a time intensive process. Because I’m working with a deadline I’m keeping track of my studio hours so I can gauge how long this will take me. (Actually, I keep track of my studio hours on every project – helps me with pricing, time spent, etc.)

As soon as I started “stitching” this I thought, “Oh, crap! This is going to take forever!”  The reality is, there are a finite number of pieces to be joined together, which means it absolutely can get done. I just want to have an idea of how long it will take so I can sleep a little easier.

I marked my board into thirds so I have benchmaks along the way. It's a little easier to envision reaching the pink arrows than all the way down to the blue arrows!

By the Numbers blog
ink arrows - a third of the way there          Blue arrows - the end in sight

Here’s how it looks By The Numbers, 1/3 of the way so far . . . . .


Total Hours spent            25

# of days worked             6 out of the last 8

Average work day           4 hours 10 minutes

Longest studio day          6 hours 30 minutes

Shortest studio day         2 hours 40 minutes

# of 18” strands of wire (standard cut)      32

Feet of wire used               48 feet

Square Inches complete    264 sq. in.

Average time to determine stitch path, drill holes for wire, and stitch an 18” piece of wire   45 minutes


Twenty five hours in the studio is a productive work week for me. So, I figure two more weeks to get this entire thing pieced together and that doesn’t include constructing the additional layers that are going to be part of it. And somewhere in the middle of that I’m throwing a birthday bash for my old man who turned 60 this month!!

Slow and steady . . . . .

Until next time -

Addendum: I'm linking this post up to Nina Marie's "Off The Wall Fridays"  Check out what all the other artists are up to this week. I know they all love comments, too.  smile

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