I felt like a rockstar last week when I completed all 49 blocks of my original 7 x 7 sampler quilt design:
It is decidedly more traditional than the quilts I’ve begun in the meantime.
In my original design, I included a border on either side to round out the queen-size requirements. I chose this over another row of blocks. But I’m not sure how well the quilt-as-you-go method would work for borders, and I also felt silly avoiding 7 blocks when I’ve already come so far. So… I have a new goal of 56 total blocks (design below).
Since I started working on the quilt in September, I typically completed either 4 blocks per week or absolutely 0 blocks. This means I completed about 7 blocks each month for 7 months. Of course, this includes the time spent graphing my blocks, cutting fabric, and all the preparatory work, plus the holidays and a death in the family where progress halted. Could it really take a whole ‘nother month to finish a portion of a project that I had nearly written off as complete?! On the other hand, I made room for some fun new blocks that I only discovered after cutting all the pieces for my original 49, so I am excited in spite of myself.
My sister’s dog, a pit bull, wanted to be sure he wasn’t missing dinnertime when he heard me moving around.
You may recall that last year I started what I thought was a Dear Jane quilt, only to discover it was probably closer to a Farmer’s Wife or Sampler quilt. However, my blog has received a fair bit of traffic from people searching for Dear Jane information. (My thanks to WordPress for showing the search terms that lead people to my blog!) I thought I could help by redirecting Dear Jane searchers to the info that helped me determine my quilt isn’t actually a Dear Jane:
My Time with Jane by Miriam Bruening. Displayed at the Madison Quilt Expo, September 2012. Photographed by the CraftProwler.
Free Blocks of the Month (BOMs) for Dear Jane quilts are available here.
The Dear Jane complete autographed book and templates are available here, and the Amazon copy of the book is available here.
Note: A woman named Brenda Papadakis seems to be the leading expert on Dear Jane quilts. Two of the links above go to her website/book. Internet rumor is she also responds to email requests and is a very helpful person in general.
A ton of block tutorials are available on this website. The tutorials are linked on the right side of the page, just below the Google members.
Another blogger has drafted her own Dear Jane templates and posts photos online here. Scroll to the bottom left of the page to see additional redraft links.
Dear Jane foundation piecing tips are available on this blog.
Hope this helps some of you Dear Jane enthusiasts!
I must admit I didn’t get much sewing work done last week because I had a birthday to celebrate. So far, being “old” is awesome! My boyfriend and friends threw me a surprise party. Since then, I’ve been working on three different projects:
1. Scanning & organizing family photos. My grandma’s health is failing, and I would really like to honor her by organizing some photos to share at the funeral that will likely happen this weekend. While the circumstances are not great, it has been incredible to see how meticulously she kept photo albums, indicating how much she valued the people in them. She also had some interesting documents from my grandpa’s service in World War II.
2. Sampler Quilt. I finish a quilt block every now and again, and I’m done with 23 of the 49 total blocks. (My original grid below shows I’ve finished 24 blocks, but one of them turned out ugly, even if the measurements were correct and the corners lined up. I felt cheated.)
3. Barn Quilt. My sampler quilt requires use of a sewing machine, so the project has limited mobility. But ever since I crocheted the edge of a baby blanket, I have enjoyed working on smaller projects during my lunch break. (Much of the Windy Hill onesie was done in my car.) I have decided my new “mobile” project will be a “barn quilt.” There will be 13 embroidered blocks, each featuring an image from my childhood in South Dakota. Examples include my grandparents’ house, the house I grew up in, our barn, my dad’s 1980 Buick LeSabre (which we had looooong after the 1980s), our mailbox, the first tractor my grandpa bought brand-new, etc. This is general layout, minus some of the photos I’m still collecting:
I plan to use a patterned tan-and-navy border in a primitive style–and since I already purchased 5 yards from Primitive Gatherings, this plan is almost certain to become reality! I also purchased several skeins of matching embroidery floss and traced the main lines of four different photos, so I am ready to begin as soon as I finish the most urgent family photos.
This project was originally inspired by the Barns of Wisconsin set I saw featured at the Quilt Expo in Madison (September 2012). I thought I was being clever by using a color other than red and including buildings other than barns, but I have since learned that bluework is a popular style of embroidery, and I discovered this set of quilt blocks, too. Mine will still be one-of-a-kind and feature images that are special to me, so I eventually found peace with not being as original as I’d hoped.
A month or so ago, I received a spam message in my work inbox that was forwarded from a legal organization I belong to. The solicitation related to a quilt expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s probably the only spam message I’ve ever appreciated.
I thought about the message for a long time. Given how short a time I’ve been making quilts and the limit of my skill so far, it seemed like a bit of a stretch that I’d need to attend a quilt expo to get ideas. Not to mention the fact that I just started a project that could easily take me 10 years to complete. I discarded all these arguments because Madison sounded like a really nice city to visit for a quick overnight trip. Entrance wasn’t expensive, and since I work in the suburbs an hour and a half from my Chicago apartment, I reasoned I’d already be almost halfway if I left from the office Friday afternoon. I really just wanted to see what colors and patterns other people use–beyond an internet search, which has been my only experience so far–and this seemed like a fun opportunity to do so.
I felt a little out of sorts when I arrived. Everyone else came with at least one other person. I didn’t know where to begin, and I didn’t have an expert with me to consult (or even someone whose presence would force me to pretend I knew what I was doing). Luckily, the quilt contest exhibit was right by the front entrance. I decided to start there.
WOW! I saw hand quilting, machine quilting, appliqué–you name it! And these weren’t lazy quilters like I am. My favorite was a quilt that won third place in its category, Dreaming in Color by Dorinda Evans of Madison, Wisconsin:
I also loved this border on a quilt called Tangerine Rose by Lynn Droege of Overland Park, Kansas:
This quilt (Geisha Fans by Barbara Fuller of Baraboo, Wisconsin) mixed quarter Dresden blocks with normal, square blocks, which I thought was interesting:
This quilt, Chicken Soup by Sheila Hixon of Lakewood, Wisconsin, made me laugh more loudly than was appropriate at the expo:
Another of my favorites was an embroidered-block quilt called Barns of Wisconsin by Sue Brooks of North Freedom, Wisconsin:
Here are some close-ups of the detail in her quilt:
I bought some embroidery patterns from a vendor that are in a similar style. My plan is to review the templates and use them as a stylistic framework to create my own patterns of barns and farmhouses that were part of my childhood. This was based on the success of my first-ever embroidery project, which I began in my hotel room the night before the expo. When could someone ever be more excited about quilting than the night before a quilt expo?! But I didn’t want to lug my sewing machine with me, so I needed a more mobile project that would expend my extra creative energy. There’s a block of my newest quilt that had a letter “B” on the layout I drew. I figured if I gave the quilt as a gift, that would be a great place to embroider the couple’s name, and since my boyfriend’s last name starts with B and most of his siblings are unmarried, they seemed like likely candidates. Then I got more realistic and thought how hard it would be to part with a quilt after making dozens of personalized blocks. So I picked a pattern I liked for myself instead, Sarah Jane Studio‘s October–which matches the autumn theme of my quilt colors.
After I finished looking at the contest exhibit, I had just enough time for coffee before I went to Nancy Zieman’s class: Nancy’s 30 Favorite Sewing & Quilting Techniques. My mom learned how to sew by watching PBS’s Sewing with Nancy, so I had all the giddiness of someone about to meet a favorite celebrity.
And she was funny! Some of my favorite moments:
Nancy commented on the course title. She said, “Some of these tips are better than others. With 30, they won’t all be winners!”
Nancy said her favorite method of organizing projects is to roll the pieces of fabric into a large towel so they don’t get crease marks. An audience member jokingly asked, “How many towels do you have, Nancy?” Nancy responded, “Only *I* know that!”
At the end of the presentation, I even helped take down the quilt that was a backdrop for her presentation! That’s right: I touched a quilt Nancy sewed! Haha. She was gracious enough to take a photo with me before I left, too.
After class, I walked up and down the rows of stalls. I saw lots of cool things and eavesdropped on more than a handful of conversations. I overheard one lady say to her friend, “There’s a light-up quilt. I guess that’s the new thing this year.” I thought to myself, “Yikes! I don’t even know what the old thing is!”
I need to learn how to use wool and felted wool. There was lots of it, and it was so pretty!
My favorite booth was for a store called Primitive Gatherings. They had such a fantastically gorgeous selection of fabrics. When I walked past on the way to Nancy’s class, I stopped a few seconds to grab a business card (well, slip of paper) and drink in the colors. Afterward, I was surprised there was a line just to get into the booth! A lady walking by said, “That makes sense. It’s all in the name.” Apparently, this place is famous. I bought a bunch of fabrics for the back side of my Dear Jane quilt. Since I’m thinking of doing quilt-as-you-go, I could make each square a different fabric. They’re so pretty, maybe I’ll even use that side as the front!
I was disappointed when the $60 I spent didn’t get me one of their printed bags. This is actually very stupid. I mean, I have a ton of printed bags. I usually avoid getting more because I don’t want to store them. But the salesperson told another woman she had to carry the bag with the logo out, and then I unconsciously waited for him to tell me the same thing when I made my purchase. (I was browsing when the other woman checked out.) No luck! Like I said, I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I don’t really need another bag. And with as popular as they are, it would’ve been impractical for them to print bags for every customer, regardless how little each spent. I get it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the booth itself. I asked if I could take a photo and was told I couldn’t. But it was the absolute nicest way to be turned down. The salesguy looked a little uncomfortable when I asked, frowned a little. “It’s okay if I can’t,” I said. “I understand you’d want to protect your brand image.” He looked relieved. “Sorry,” he said. “Boss’ orders.” He could’ve just said no. Instead, he looked like he wanted to say yes and was struggling because he couldn’t. I don’t care if he was the boss and it was his own decision, it was nice of him to humor me like that! And I really can’t fault anyone for wanting to control their own branding. What I do have a photo of is the fabric I purchased from them:
Shopped out, I went to the extension part of the quilt exhibit to look around. Again, the quilts were a lot more elaborate than anything I could (or would choose to) make with my old, very plain sewing machine. Here were some highlights:
Not A Farmer’s Wife by Carolyn Vogel
Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar
I left fairly early. I was glad not to have to wait around for an expo partner and congratulated myself for having decided to go alone, after all.
The weather was fantastic. I thought about driving straight home, but I didn’t want to waste such beautiful daylight hours. Instead, I drove to the capitol building in Madison and sat outside on a bench, working at my embroidery piece:
I had a great day and am glad I went to the expo. In the end, I think the target audience is people who are much more into quilting and batik fabrics than I am, but it was still a nice way to see a wide variety of fabrics all at once. Would I consider going again? I really don’t know. But I couldn’t have asked for a better first quilt expo experience!
In April 2012, I got to go to Purl Soho in NYC, the store behind the Purl Bee blog. It was kind of bizarre seeing in-person the projects I had seen so meticulously photographed for the blog. Naturally, I treated myself to some fabrics. Since I was in the middle of a half dozen projects (most of them unrelated to crafts/sewing), I put the fabrics in the busted-up UPS box that serves as my sewing room. It’s pretty classy.
Now that I’ve finished most of my other projects, I’ve started thinking about what to do with the fabrics. I have two sets: my “citrus fabrics” and my “autumn fabrics.”
I love and am inspired by color, so of course I bought the fabrics before I had any idea how I would use them. I overbought for the bird quilt, so I decided to show more restraint in quantities when purchasing fabric from Purl Soho. The result is I have a half-yard each of the 7 autumn colors and two yards each of the citrus colors. Fabric. Fail.
What I needed was a way to stretch my fabric by supplementing with some kind of solid. So now I’ll do a variation on a Dear Jane quilt with my autumn fabrics, using a cream solid to tie the pieces together AND make the fancy fabric I bought go further.
Even reducing the number of pieces by roughly half wasn’t enough to complete the quilt, though. See, I planned for fat quarters of 18 x 22″. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the fat quarter dimensions don’t take into account selvage, crooked cutting or lazy ironing, etc. But it was a surprise when I first measured.
I used an old-school cut-and-paste method to ensure I’d have enough fabric for all my blocks. I had planned very carefully, but based on the optimistic measurements:
My first idea was to buy a coordinating fabric and make some of the blocks from it. I did this, got it home, and was disappointed how poorly it matched the other fabrics. Then – DUH – I checked the selvage to see who the designer was. I quickly identified the fabric as Robert Kaufman’s Quilter’s Linen line. Which appears not to be a fabric being sold anymore this season. Ugh! Fortunately, I did find a website with most of the colors I needed. I only had two fat quarters of each color to begin with. Now I have an additional half-yard of each, so I’m back to over-buying!
The best part of making quilts is the design planning. Below are sketches of the quilt blocks I plan to make. I used seven colored pencil colors that don’t really coincide with my fabrics but that are easy to distinguish on paper.
The original Dear Jane quilt was sewn by Jane A. Blakely Stickle, finished in 1863. There are whole groups of women called Janiacs who follow Jane Stickle’s original pattern. I knew nothing about Jane or her quilt when I conceived the idea for my quilt. I wanted to put together lots of different blocks for variety. I searched for Pinterest photos of quilts with different block designs. Other pinners had these posted on boards with names like “Dear Jane Quilt.” Seemed pretty straightforward. I have heard of quilting bees where each person contributes a block toward a quilt, and I imagined a few of Jane’s cousins sewing quilt blocks (next to a warm hearth, of course) and mailing them to Jane for her project.
After reviewing the history of her quilt and searching for images of Dear Jane quilts online, I can no longer tell whether the only Dear Janes are those that follow her original design or whether each quilter has some creative license. I hate sewing circles and isosceles triangles, so I gave myself permission to omit those designs from my quilt. I won’t do Jane’s border or scalloped edges. And my squares will probably be 12”. With quilt blocks using grids of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, 12” blocks will be easier to calculate than 8” or 10” squares. So I just found quilt blocks I liked and decided to call my quilt a Dear Jane anyway. Probably half the squares are “farmer’s wife” blocks. Mis-named with great excitement, I can’t wait to get started sewing!
P.S. Please feel free to comment if you know whether Dear Jane quilts have to follow Jane’s original design.