Archive for the ‘Handcrafts’ Category

Another Birthday Present: Dear Jane

December 19, 2008 @ 8:36 am | Filed under: , ,

It is astonishing how much attention my hubby pays to my enthusiastic chatterings. Especially when the topic is something he has absolutely no interest in personally, like, say, quilting.

One of my birthday presents was a book I’ve been hankering after: Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt by Brenda Papadakis. I learned of this book, and of the incredible Jane Stickle quilt itself, from a link on Twiddletails, one of my favorite crafty blogs. Anina, the Twiddletails blogger, has a second blog called (for now, at least—yesterday a bit of a trademark dispute arose over the name) Dear Baby Jane, an amazing site on which Anina posts step-by-step photo tutorials for making every single block in the Jane Stickle quilt.

This is no mean feat. Jane’s quilt is a masterpiece. Every single block of this large quilt is pieced in a different geometrical pattern. Many of the patterns are traditional quilt blocks; many seem to be unique to Jane.

An autographed corner square tells us that Jane pieced the quilt “in wartime, 1863,” and that she used over five thousand separate bits of fabric. A farmer’s wife, she lived in the little village of Shaftsbury, Vermont. She was born in 1817, which makes her roughly a contemporary of Charlotte Tucker Quiner Holbrook, the maternal grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whom I wrote about in my Charlotte books. This is one of the many reasons the Jane Stickle quilt intrigued me when I first read about it at Dear Baby Jane. Charlotte was born in 1809 (along with Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Louis Braille, British statesman William Gladstone, Charles Darwin, and Felix Mendelssohn—some year, eh?) in Roxbury, Massachusetts. As a young woman, Charlotte worked as a seamstress, advertising her services in the local papers. By 1863, the year Jane finished her quilt—four years before Charlotte’s granddaughter Laura was born—Charlotte had been living in the “big woods” of Wisconsin for decades. Jane Stickle, meanwhile, lived her whole life in the Shaftsbury, VT, area, and instead of a storytelling granddaughter, the legacy she left us was her incredible wartime quilt.

Here’s a link to a good-sized image of the Jane Stickle quilt—dubbed the “Dear Jane” by Brenda Papadakis. (Contemporary versions of the quilt are nicknamed “Baby Janes.”) I don’t know if it’s kosher to post the image itself, so I’ll just stick with the link. The color scheme is what’s known as and “around the world” pattern: the blocks move through a range of shades in concentric circles (more or less) beginning in the middle of the quilt.

A whole Dear Jane subculture exists in the quilting world, both online and off. There are many gorgeous quilts modeled after or inspired by Jane Stickle’s masterpiece. On the Dear Baby Jane blog, Anina leads an online community of quilters who are piecing the quilt a block at a time, two blocks a week. (Marvel at the photos here.) Just reading Anina’s instructions has been a tremendous education for me. (I was sorry to read, yesterday, of the trademark stickiness and the possibility that Anina will take down the entire blog. I am hoping hard that this does not come to pass.)

My indulgent but wise husband will read this and fear that I am poised for a dive into the world of Dear Jane creators, but he need not worry. Having never completed so much as a simple block quilt (Rilla’s little quilt is still only half quilted, if you can call the mess I’m making “quilting”), my attempting a Baby Jane would be something like a starling chick trying to soar with the flock while it is still in the egg.

But oh how I love to look at the gorgeous variations others have created, and to read about the gradual progress of people attempting the ambitious project right now. And I can’t wait to dive into my new birthday book to learn more about Jane Stickle and her quilt.

Wee and Wonderful Indeed

November 25, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Filed under: , ,

I took a leaf from Jenn’s book today and raided our scrap bin to make a spur-of-the-moment flannel quilt top for Rilla. We are in the process of transitioning her to her own bed in the girls’ room. (My three big girls share a room, and we’re adding a trundle for little sis.) This is something that’s always on the to-do list during a pregnancy, moving the toddler out of our room to make way for the newborn, but I admit I’ve been a bit lax with it this time around. Rilla still nurses a little at night; that’s part of it. And also, she’s very cuddly. Toddlerhood passes so quickly, and I like to savor every breathy little snore of it.

A month or two ago, we set up a (bedraggled old) child-sized futon next to our bed, and Rilla has been starting out her nights there. At some point in the night, she climbs into bed beside me. She’s like a cat, the way she sort of pours herself under the covers and curls up next to me with a contented sigh. She’s also like in a cat in the way she’ll turn on a dime and hiss and snarl at the blankets because they have offended her somehow, and she’s all flailing paws until the malevolent covers are no longer touching any part of her body. A mercurial little creature, is my Rilla.

Yesterday we moved the futon into the girls’ room. She thought this whole “sleeping with the big girls” thing was a pretty swell idea right up until bedtime, when suddenly it was The Most Offensive Idea Anyone Has Ever Had in All of Human History. But I snuggled up beside her in the dark, and her sisters whispered to her, and the devious plan I’d carried out earlier in the day—feeding her marshmallows at naptime instead of putting her down for a nap—paid off pretty quickly. She sighed, and sank, and slumbered, and when her limbs began lashing at the covers I knew it was safe for me to slip away. (Sob.)

Jane and I thought a special new blanket for her special new bedroom might help ease the transition. Rilla doesn’t have a blankie she’s attached to, though she does like the little patchwork baby quilt I made her before she was born. It’s way too small now, of course. So this morning Jane and I pieced together the remnants of the same cozy flannel plaids and prints I’d used for that baby blanket nearly three years ago and came up with a sort of wonky, large-patch quilt top. We’ve got a big piece of pink plaid-and-polka-dots to use for the backing. I’ve never actually quilted anything before, mind you—the baby quilts I’ve made are just patchwork tops with flannel backing, no batting in between. I need to go buy some batting tomorrow and we’ll see if we can pull this thing off.

In the meantime, the quilt top seems to have passed Miss Rilla’s muster.

The little embroidered kitty with flower umbrella at the bottom is a pattern from the Wee Wonderfuls “Tulip Fairy” Stitchette set, which I bought a while back and forgot about until today. That blank pink patch was just begging for a bit of embellishment. And I have to say, I am completely enchanted. The Stitchette pattern is a reusable iron-on which took all of ten seconds to transfer to our fabric. Suddenly everywhere I look are blank bits of fabric crying out for a little Wee Wonderfuls snail, or the mice pouring tea from that cunning acorn teapot, or that kite-flying ladybug, oh the cuteness of it all.

Special ’Livery

November 12, 2008 @ 8:20 am | Filed under: ,

Have you ever pre-ordered a book and then forgotten you’ve done so? And then months later you get the shipping notice, and it’s like a little piece of Christmas in your in-box? That’s what happened to me the other day when a certain online book retailer notified me that my copy of Alicia Paulson’s long-awaited Stitched in Time: Memory Keeping Projects to Sew and Share was on its way. It’ll be here today. (You may know Alicia from her delightful blog, Posie Gets Cozy, which was the very first handcrafts blog I ever subscribed to.)

Hurry on over, Mr. UPS Man; we can’t wait to get cozy with this book! (Good thing I got all caught up on my Cybils reading yesterday. I can’t peruse any more nominees until the next batch of library holds comes in, or until another nice fat packet arrives from a publisher. Which may well be today. We’ve been keeping Mr. UPS Man hopping lately. And may I just say he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet? One day he brought us a bag of clementines from his neighbor’s tree—he said he’d been given so many he couldn’t eat them all and he thought maybe my kids would enjoy them. Don’t think I’m unaware this is all Rilla’s doing: she charms him daily with her warm reception as he jogs up our driveway with packages stacked high. “Hi dere! You ’liver dat for me?”)

Handcrafts Blogroll: Who’s Missing?

November 10, 2008 @ 8:10 am | Filed under: , ,

I’ve added a list of my favorite handcrafty blogs to the very bottom of the righthand sidebar. What it really is is the handcraft folder from my Google Reader—I’m sure this is very old news, but I just figured out that I could make individual folders on my Reader public, and therefore accessible via link or RSS. Nifty. One of the options available is sharing the folder as a blogroll, so: there you go!

If you’re a craft blog addict too, please check out my list and let me know of any gems I’m missing!

Saturday Snapshots

October 18, 2008 @ 10:48 am | Filed under: , ,

I promised to show a picture of the table runner I made. It’s not a great picture, but that’s okay because it’s not a great table runner. But I’m pretty pleased with it. The runner, I mean. The other side is the same green floral as the ends here. The checked fabric—which has green in it and isn’t as orange in real life as in this photo—was a long scrap from the curtains I made for the kids’ craft room.

I had fun with Flickr’s “add a note” feature if you want to click through for commentary on the photo. Well, actually, it’s another photo almost exactly like this one, revealing what happens when Scott walks into the room.

I’ve been in a very handcrafty mood lately, as my last couple weeks’ worth of posts probably make obvious. I tried my hand at the zipper pouch from Bend-the-Rules Sewing, inspired by Jenn’s lovely pink patchwork pouch. This was my first-ever attempt at putting in a zipper, and, well, it zips. Just don’t inspect the ends too closely…

And now that it’s finally feeling cool enough (in the mornings, at least—we’re melting by noon) to think of baking, I’ve been pining for my lost sourdough starter. We suffered a little fridge snafu a while back, and room temperature was way too hot for my starter, which had been living in the freezer through the hot months. It got moldy. Sob. Also, ick.

So I’ve been tempted to order a new one, but I thought first I’d try my hand at starting one from scratch. Some sites describe this as a ridiculously easy undertaking. Other sources say ominous things about poor success rates in arid climates, which we certainly have here in the decidely dry eastern half of San Diego County. But hey, a cup of flour and a cup of water is pretty low overhead for an experiment. So on Thursday morning I mixed up a batch and put it in a warm corner. By Friday it was already looking promisingly bubbly.

I fed it twice yesterday, and this morning it looks frothy and vigorous. (Blurry photo: snapped hastily in the midst of getting breakfast for my little people.)

Think I’ll give it one more day to get established and maybe try it in some biscuits tomorrow. Just about time to move it into the fridge, too.

And finally, a little backyard beautification project: the kids are decorating our side of the neighbor’s big ole wall with sidewalk chalk. It’ll last a long time here in did-I-mention-it’s-very-dry? San Diego County. I think we’ve only seen rain once in the last four months.

Inspiration

October 17, 2008 @ 8:48 pm | Filed under:

1. pink back, 2. summer sunrise quilt, 3. First Doll Quilt, 4. FlockTogetherFront, 5. SewConnected embroidered patches, 6. Polka Dot Estates, 7. baby quilt, 8. raspberry lemonade back + binding, 9. aqua and red, 10. candy corn quilt, 11. spider web, 12. february block, 13. Virtual Quilting Bee – February 2008, 14. february block, 15. 8crayonsA

OK, this is strange. That last picture, the crayons one, is not one of the photos I starred as a Flickr favorite for this mosaic. I have no idea why it’s jumping in there instead of the one I picked. Crayons are always kind of inspiring, though, so I’ll roll with it.

Virtual Quilting Bees: Bee Still My Heart

October 16, 2008 @ 4:35 pm | Filed under: ,

Picot Peek

October 13, 2008 @ 6:29 am | Filed under: ,

Jennifer asked for a photo of the crochet project I mentioned in my weekend crafting notes post at the notes blog. I actually happen to have one already, which is unusual for me. (I still haven’t gotten around to taking a picture of those uneven curtains you were all demanding to see the other day.) Jane and I were working out the pattern for these little picot square table coverings I’m making to hide the scratches on our cheapo end tables, and I liked the way her color sketch looked next to the squares. (The squares are as yet untrimmed, unblocked, and unjoined, obviously.)


This is the Picot Square Tablecloth pattern from Vintage Crochet, a most delicious book. I’m making two smaller cloths instead of one big tablecloth. There are pink and cream colored squares, too. I stole the yarn from another Vintage Crochet project I have in the works: the ripple stripe blanket. It’s a long-term endeavor. You can see a wee bit of it creeping into the frame at the top right.

I like these starry squares because they’re so quick and finite. Thinking in terms of “this square” is much less intimidating than “this big huge project I’d like to finish sometime this decade.”

Rilla inspects to see if it passes muster.

Hmm, I’ll need to see the pink one before I can make a judgment. I like the green one, though. It matches your bag.

I Bet the Snails Smelled Worse

August 4, 2008 @ 5:10 pm | Filed under: , , ,

I already put this Blue Yonder post in my Google Shared Items, but I know from my stat counter that only about a dozen of you will click through, and this post is waaaay too funny to be missed: Purple Daze.

“I want you to know that my house stinks. It stinks really badly. It stinks like a man from Tyre.”

We took our own little purple dye rabbit trail once, but I wasn’t ambitious enough to promise a tie-dyeing session of our own. (This is possibly a case of the shoemaker’s children going barefoot. Goodness knows I wrote enough natural dyes in the Martha books. Matter of fact, the part where Auld Mary uses stale urine as a color fixative was one of the favorite parts of the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate attorney, who, along with the heir to the estate, had to approve all my manuscripts before they went to press.)

Anyway, my hat is off to intrepid homeschooling mom Stefani for following through on her stinky, stinky promise. Those are some gorgeous shirts, by the way.