East Dakota Quilter


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Mardi Gras Quiet Book

In a recent post, I mentioned I was working on a project with a palette too specific to share without giving away the intended recipient. Today is the big reveal!

mardi gras quiet book cover by EastDakotaQuilter

A dear friend of mine moved to Illinois from New Orleans several years ago to be nearer her husband’s family. She enjoys visiting her hometown several times per year but sometimes receives negative comments related to Mardi Gras. I’m not sure Midwesterners (which I am) tend to understand that Mardi Gras can be so much more than just the Girls Gone Wild fodder of Bourbon Street. The last two years, she has posted this article about the fun things she’ll be doing with family. I wanted to help her celebrate her hometown and teach others about the nicer traditions by making her kids a Quiet Book with a Mardi Gras theme.

This is my “design wall” to show how the fabrics coordinate (definitely a cohesive palette!). My design wall was created by sticking fabric to the wall with washi tape–hardly high-tech.

design wall for mardigrasbook by EastDakotaQuilter

Below are photos/descriptions of my quiet book pages.

history of mardi gras by EastDakotaQuilter

I wanted to start the book with the history of Mardi Gras. Even though my friend’s not Catholic, religious influences played a big part in forming the holiday.

hold_hands by EastDakotaQuilter

The objective of this page is to have the boy hold his mother’s hand and move to the sidewalk.

club nola

 

This page represents the musical influence of New Orleans. It was intended to look like one of New Orleans’ distinctive buildings with large, shuttered windows, plantation-style white doors, and European details. I decided to skip the shutters and doors at the last minute because they would have hidden the band members. I decided I liked the balcony appearance without them.

jazz band finger puppets

The band members are also finger puppets!

make king cake by EastDakotaQuilter

The pages above relate to baking a king cake. The spoon and whisk pull out of an elastic holder and are connected with a strand of embroidery floss. The refrigerator doors and cupboards on the opposite page open to reveal the ingredients for king cake. The refrigerator has detachable magnets with photos of the kids and their parents(redacted to protect their identity).

I wasn’t sure whether I could make the magnets stick to fabric or felt, so I had to find a way to sew them on. I repurposed a piece of plastic packaging to achieve this. I heated a pin until it was red-hot and pushed it through the squares of plastic I had cut and marked. I melted a set of holes in each corner. Then I attached once piece of plastic to each magnet, two per photo (one for the fridge, one for the photo itself), by sewing it to the fabric/felt. It worked pretty well!

mardi gras quiet book by EastDakotaQuilter

Once the king cake is mixed on the previous pages, it’s time to bake and serve the cake. The oven comes with an oven mitt. (See the discussion about my Pinterest board below for sources.) The finished cake is a puzzle, and there is a detachable knife and felt numbers to count the pieces.

mardi gras masks by EastDakotaQuilter

On this page, the kids can select a mask for the little girl.

fright night image by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night boy by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night girl by EastDakotaQuilter

Some suburbs celebrate “Fright Night,” which is very similar to Halloween in that kids dress up in costumes. For this set of pages, there are several costume options for the boy and girl.

mardi gras parade by EastDakotaQuilter

mardi gras parade loot by EastDakotaQuilter

Toys from the page on the left can be detached and put into the bag on the right, which mirrors the catching of “loot” during the many parades of Mardi Gras. I also embroidered a ladder, which is how young children are able to see the parade over the heads of adults. My friend pointed out that if she has trouble keeping track of any of the pieces, she can put them into the bag on this page – it’s huge!

mardi gras krewe by EastDakotaQuilter

There are numerous “krewes” at Mardi Gras, including the Mardi Gras Indians and Bacchus. On these pages, the kids are asked to look at the characters on the left to determine which of them belongs to the krewe on the right.

mail a letter by EastDakotaQuilter

felt mail by EastDakotaQuilter

On these pages, the kids can select one of the polaroid photos I took of them (and their favorite stuffed animals) this weekend, put them into a buttoned envelope, and mail them home to friends to share the Mardi Gras experience.

Processes:

I used the thickest Pellon interfacing I could find to stiffen my pages (interior design strength!). I thought it would be easier than quilting each page with batting in the middle and mostly liked the result. Unfortunately, the Pellon was not like the sticky-on-both-sides interfacing I’ve used before, so I wonder if I shouldn’t have sewn pages together in the middle in addition to the sides.

I elected not to use metal clips to hold the book together because I feared it would turn into a Noisy Book! I also opted against sewing the thick pages into a binder-type binding because I was lazy and it sounded hard. In the end, I used a hybrid of the most common forms of quiet book binding to make my binding with eyelets and ribbon.

I pinned lots of inspirational photos/graphics of Mardi Gras and New Orleans to a Pinterest board. It was secret so my friend wouldn’t know about my project, but I have since made it public. You can check it out here.

I made my book 8 1/2 x 11″ so I could use a standard-sized sheet of paper when designing and sizing my images. It also made it easy for me to test out different options in MS Word.

Making a book for kids when you can’t remember the skill levels at each age is kind of difficult, but I had fun using different claps, closures, and notions. I didn’t really think this would become as time-consuming as it did. I somehow thought I could do the whole book in just a few hours after I did the planning. HA! I can only laugh at myself in hindsight. I could probably have made a whole quilt in the time it took me to complete this project. You might be able to tell which pages I worked on at the beginning versus which ones I had to rush to be done before I went to visit my friend this weekend! But I’m not complaining about the time spent; it was mostly relaxing (when I wasn’t sewing pages together backward).

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Book Review: The Stitch Bible by Kate Haxell

Since the new projects I’m working on aren’t quite ready to be revealed, I thought it might be fun to do a book review this week.

Background: I decided to do my first embroidery project in September 2012. I found a pattern I liked and completed it as the first square of my sampler quilt. I did stem stitch for the entire thing since instructions came with the pattern, and I used all 6 strands of my embroidery floss. Since then, I’ve been poking around on Pinterest and finding many new projects that would require enhanced skills. (Check out my Embroidery board on Pinterest!) I’ve read about different techniques and how most embroidery experts use fewer strands of floss. When I found The Stitch Bible by Kate Haxell, I was really excited. I admired it online for months before deciding to buy myself a copy. A major reason for the hesitation was that, due to copyrights, the only photos I could find were of the cover; I wasn’t sure what to expect inside. I didn’t see it at my local stores, although I have to admit I didn’t look especially hard.

Stitch Bible

Pros: There were some things this book did really well. First, it had really detailed stitching tips. The stitches themselves appeared in the usual A-B-C format graphically, but there was plenty of supporting commentary. Not only did the book cover each stitch extensively, but it also included a wide range of stitches. Finally, the book did a good job of laying out the more basic aspects of embroidery, such as selecting the correct fabric, which needles to use, how the different threads/yarns compare, history of each type of embroidery, etc. Some of the tips were things I’d already read, but many were new.

Neutral: I thought this book would cover many filling stitches for traditional embroidery. Instead, the book split its time among freestyle, hardanger, blackwork, crewelwork, goldwork, pulled thread, canvaswork, and drawn thread–in addition to the basic overviews I’ve already described. I personally would have preferred less of the canvaswork, for example, and more of the blackwork section (featured on the cover). But I do understand this is a matter of personal preference.

Cons: The book covered a limited number of projects: one for each topic. Each project might incorporate a few of the different stitches in that genre, but the photos were so pretty and the stitches so well-described that I found myself wishing for more project ideas. (Internal dialogue: Now that I know how to do the stitching, where would I use this technique?) The other disappointment for me was the lack of photos. Most of the book was comprised of stitch diagrams with just a few photos to show the technique. The photo on the front is a good example. It shows various filling stitches and a fade-out effect and represents almost the entire blackwork section. The photos were so pretty, and I really would have loved to see a photo of each stitch next to the diagram. (Once I have followed the directions, I want to know: Did I do it right?!)

Conclusion: This is the only sewing, craft, or embroidery-related book I have purchased, and I don’t regret my purchase. I find that, combined with the internet, it will be very useful. The book names the stitches and diagrams how to create them. I can supplement with the internet to see what the finished products might look like and how the stitches have been used in other projects.


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New Project: Palette Defined

I have taken a break from both my barn quilt and my sampler quilt the past week or so. Instead, I am focusing on two new projects that are time-sensitive. For one, even the palette would be too much of a give-away, but for the other, I’ll be working mostly with Lotta Jansdotter’s Bella line, plus a few additional fabrics that came from my stash. (This is more exciting than it sounds; I have never had fabrics stashed before!) Here’s the lot of them:

bella_fabric

I actually offered to give this fat quarter bundle to a blogger with a longer history and wider following since I didn’t have a plan for it and worried I would have it (unused) longer than the colors would be trendy. Perhaps my offer of sending it for free sounded suspicious because I never heard back. Guess it worked out for me! The bright colors are an exciting change from the sampler quilt’s autumn fabrics. I look forward to the variety.


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Quilt Planning & Practice

Quilting – Sampler Quilt

I paid to have both of the quilts I’ve pieced so far quilted for a variety of reasons: my domestic sewing machine is old , I didn’t want to bunch up the quilt under the arm, I was afraid I would ruin my patchwork by sewing crooked quilting lines, having someone else help was too inexpensive to pass up and a time-saver… But I wanted to take a new level of ownership with my sampler quilt. I wanted to do the piecing and the quilting. Plus, I wanted to highlight the shapes of some of the blocks with the quilting, and I thought it might seem lazy if I had someone else do it within such specific parameters. So I needed to learn about quilting.

Somewhere on Pinterest in the last year, I found an article that said rows of quilting should be 4-6″ apart. I am planning to use this quilt-as-you-go method with my sampler quilt, and I figured the 6″ guideline would be close to what I was planning. Some squares might be a little farther apart, some closer. Could it really be that big a deal? Having determined my quilting method, I promptly put the issue out of my head.

Now I have only a few of the 49 blocks left to piece. That means the time for quilting is almost upon me! Terrified, I revisited my previous research. I found this excellent article on Sew Mama, Sew! about the requirements for different types of batting. The article says most cotton battings (which I’d planned to use since I have leftovers from some baby quilts I made to practice) require quilting every 2-3″ because cotton shifts much more than polyester. That really doesn’t fit with the quilt blocks I made, which will be [about] 12″ finished.

My new plan is to use a blend: the Warm & Natural brand Amy suggests in her article. It was 50% off when I went to the store last week, and it says you can go 10 whole inches (!!) between quilting lines, so I bought 3 packages of queen-size batting. I plan to make my quilt 3 layers thick for extra warmth if I can manage it in my sewing machine. (For some reason, this makes me a nut job to other quilters.) The lady behind me in line at checkout couldn’t help telling me how amazing the brand is… and about the rag quilts she’s making for her granddaughters, one of whom is picky and a teenager. I love fabric outings where everyone wants to tell you about their current projects!

warm & natural batting

All that said, I wish I could use the batting I already own. My boyfriend (Johann) was funny the other day when he asked in a nonchalant way, “Oh, is this fabric new? It looks good…” He was quiet a minute, then added, “Didn’t patchwork quilts traditionally used to be made with leftover fabric from stuff like clothes?” Nuance is not normally his thing, so I found this endearing–not that it stopped me from buying 10 yards of fabric for the sashing and border. At this point, I figure I’m in so deep with fabrics and batting, I don’t want to ruin the whole thing by putting some ugly, low-thread-count sashing all over. I selected Moda’s Warm Memories in Chocolate Brown. I had an amazing afternoon looking at all of Moda’s fabric collections, past and present.

sashing

Embroidering – Barn Quilt

In the same way I have traditionally not quilted my own things because I was scared I’d ruin the patchwork, I was worried I would ruin a piece of embroidery I’m working on when it came time to add knots. I am making a tractor for my barn quilt, and I wanted to include rivets. Too many rivets. I’ll be a regular Rosie the Riveter by the time I finish!

French knots aren’t my thing. When I do them, they look floppy. Below are some French knots I did on the first quilt square I completed for the sampler quilt. They’re buttons on a coat. They’re ugly and really uneven.

french knots

Since the next-most-popular knot seems to be the colonial knot, I decided to try that for my tractor rivets. No practicing first, of course. (How often I have regretted this enthusiasm!) The finished product isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than the coat buttons!

colonial knot

I had read that colonial knots consist of figure eights around the needle (with the thread) and that you need both hands. That advice was useful on both counts. I used the graphic from this website to make the knots, and I pressed the knot against the fabric while pulling the thread through to keep the knots tight. Whew! Much more even than the embroidered coat buttons, which I have chosen to consider “charming” and homemade.

Another concern is the traced lines. Each block will be based on a photo from my childhood. Once I’ve finished drawing the template, I size it and trace it onto the fabric. (Wish I could freehand it, but let’s be serious.) I tried air-soluble ink, but that left me with NO LINES when I let the project sit for a few days. Not good. So I switched to water-soluble ink. I read that even water-soluble ink can dissipate in time due to humidity in the air. Since I don’t want to wash my quilt right away, even though the DMC floss I’m using is supposed to be color-safe, I am going to try to use the humidity concept to my advantage and take out the water-soluble lines with a steamer. Wish me luck!

tracing lines

Block Arranging – Sampler Quilt

While I don’t spend much time practicing the more critical techniques like knots or quilting, I spend all the time in the world drawing and computer imaging what the finished quilt will look like. I want to see the result well before the pieces are finished. Below is an image that shows where I started with my sampler quilt (a grid on two different-sized pieces of paper where I drew every quilt block I liked that didn’t have circles or applique or otherwise look too difficult) to where I was mid-stream (closer color approximations since I didn’t have the correct colored pencils when I did the drawing version) to how I expect the finished quilt to look with sashing, using a combination of finished block photos and computer images for blocks I’m still working on.

13 left progress