Monday, February 18, 2019

Duet: Nolia and Me

This past year I have had the pleasure of working intimately with a quilter from the past whom I have never met!

My sister's mother-in-law, Nolia, passed away years ago and she left many pieced tops with my sister (not a quilter) and her husband. I heard about these tops when my sister informed me they were on her 'burn pile' when she was in a frenzy of cleaning out the shed in her back yard in Texas.

You could have heard me gasp from my home in Maryland at this news....and my immediate response was "Stop in the name of the law and DO NOT BURN THEM! Send them to me if you do not want them!" Oy, the sacrilege. Right?

She then sent me four tops and decided to hang onto the others after I encouraged her NOT to burn them. She said they were bright and colorful and I was instantly interested although I had NO idea what kind of tops these would be.

These tops turned out to resemble Gee's Bend quilts in their improvisational  style. For a few months I meditated about what I might do to give these tops of  Nolia's a useful and purposeful life. This woman grew up very poor in the Cajun Louisiana bayous with no opportunity to even go to grade school and spoke mostly French. She had a sewing machine but could not figure out how to use it so she pieced all her tops by hand. And although she was not African American, I think she must have learned her style from her neighbors who were laboring in the sugarcane fields of the area.

This is the final result of the first top I worked with.....74" x 74"

And this is the pieced back.....

Nolia used ALL fabrics in her quilts regardless of weight or content....housecoat fleece, double knits, extremely thin polyester, slippery polyesters, satiny-feeling lining fabrics, denims, plain cottons, and more. Nothing was off-limits for this quilter! Here is the original top.....

 I quickly realized that I would have to deconstruct the blocks to get rid of extra fabric in the uneven seams and weed out the fabrics that were too heavy, too thin, or too slippery. I also did not want to use the preprinted fabric blocks. (the only other quilt where I have seen a preprinted block used was in my Gee's Bend quilt book!) And I needed the end result to lie flat for quilting. Hello, seam ripper.                  
Notice the way Nolia 'made do' with what she had on hand....... 

Extra fabric simply folded back to fit.

 Front band of clothing used 'as is'

                                           Doubled band with interfacing and slippery navy fabric.....

                                          Tape sewn into the seam.....and uneven seams

After deconstructing and repiecing enough blocks to form a quilt, I machine-quilted in into simple straight lines about 1 3/4 inch apart.

You will notice that Nolia used the Housetop block that is very popular with Gee's Bend quilters. I have grown to love this simple block! What still kind of puzzles me though, is how Nolia could get her pieced tops to look so good given the limited fabrics she had on hand....she instinctively knew how to add punch and of course, she used red as well. I actually added a bit more red of my own to this quilt in the name of Nolia!

I LOVED redoing and finishing this top and feel like I have had a hands-on lesson in improv piecing from a pro! I also relish this connection I have made with another woman in another time and place - our lives have intersected in our common interest in sewing bright scraps of fabric together into a pleasing pattern! I have named this quilt "Duet: Nolia and Me".


Monday, February 11, 2019

A little more progress

Slow going presently on my quilt for

I have nine blocks right now and yesterday put a post
up on my Mystic Quilter blog
showing them up on the wall, randomly placed. as below. I have
eleven more to plan.

The block third from the left on the second row
was originally like this in my first post

but it was just too bright, you can see from the top photo above
I removed the bright pink squares, substituted with something not as garish
 and added a softer colour border strip
on two sides. Now I'm happy. 

I gave some thought to sashing because of the multitude of bright colours,
I have a fabric which looked pretty good, today I decided a few minutes ago
to butt them up together to see if they could all play nicely
together. I think they could.
The photo below is the truer colour, time of day makes all the difference I think.

My decision will be made when all twenty are finished.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Lattice Quilt, My First Attempt at the UANDUQAL

I've finished with all the Lattice blocks now and am attempting to figure out the proper layout. You can read more about this quilt over at my blog. This particular quilt is a combined effort of trying to play with the #AHIQred' and also the UANDUQAL challenge of making an Unexpected and Unconventional inspired quilt. 
#UANDUQAL first attempt
It's not terribly obvious at this point, but I didn't try to center the lattice, just trimmed as I went. I'm hopeful that there will be a slight 'make-do' look and feel when all the blocks are finally sewn together. The book 'Unexpected and Unconventional' has been a favorite book of mine since it was first published. So much inspiration to be found within its covers! This isn't my first quilt made from that wonderful starting place and undoubtedly it will not be my last....

Saturday, February 2, 2019

NOT a Mystery Begins

This is the quilt from Unconventional and Unexpected
that Sujata suggested for our quilt along.

I knew from the beginning that I would not
be making mine in the style of the original,
so I've been waiting to see which direction
my version would take.

In the meantime, I ran across this vintage beauty
photographed by Ann Champion and shared on Flickr.

And my brain immediately leaped to a quilt design
I've made twice before.

This version was named Happy Happy Joy Joy 
(or HHJJ for short) was made 
during the 2016 Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

And this version, named Girly Girl,
 was made shortly thereafter
to celebrate our great niece's birth.

In HHJJ, I used strings to fill in the side triangles.

In Girly Girl, I used half square triangles.

So with the design method settled,
I moved on to my waiting fabric pulls.

I had pulled these scrappy pieces
shortly after Bonnie Hunter introduced
her 2018 Good Fortune mystery quilt.

I never planned to make her mystery quilt
but I was drawn to the colors and her inspiration.

This photo was taken by our DIL in the Forbidden City 
during one of her Asian business trips.

It captures Bonnie's inspirational color palette perfectly.

(I even used this photo as my desktop wallpaper 
back when I was working at the law firm)

I also had this fabric pull set aside
for the current AHIQ Red challenge.

Once I started looking, the overlap between the two
was obvious and they quickly became one project
that suits both the UandU QAL 
and the AHIQ Red challenge.

With the intensity of my colors,
it was clear the low volume prints
needed an upgrade.

This long-stashed Marblehead was my choice.

I pulled these four fabrics from the stash
to use for the quilt's pieced back.

Initially I was not going to add the narrow strips
along the sides of the center insert.

But when I cut one WOF strip of a well-aged red batik
and laid it alongside the first pieced center segment 
you can see the results -- Those rich red 1" strips 
simply HAD to be part of this quilt.

I'm planning a layout 5 blocks wide x 7 blocks long
for a top that will measure 50" x 70" 

8 blocks made, 27 more to go.

And when I trim the center strips to 4.5" wide,
these marvelous lengths are the cutaways.

I already have a plan to use them 
in another small quilt!

Hooray for the UandUQAL 
and the AHIQ Red challenge
and for shopping my stash to create this project.