Next Steps on Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Now that December has come and gone, I am trying to spend more time in the studio – and it’s back to the Jack’s Chain quilt. Knowing that I did not have enough of the background blue hand dyed fabric, I had to fiddle around with a final layout for the top. I finally decided that a center 3 square by 5 square strip, with a strip on either side using the new fabric would work for me.  I shopped around a few quilt stores and found a darker, but similar hand dyed blue.The center strip of the quilt top is completed and I am working on the rows with the new fabric. This pattern is not as circular as the original, more difficult pattern; it is more wavy.

Working on strips

A new addition is little hexies that I have hand appliqued in the middle of every other block. {Looking at the photograph, I am now wondering if I should make one for every middle, but will wait until I have finished with all the blocks…}

Hexie middles

It has been hard to find time to work on it, but I am back to making one square a day.

Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Jack’s Chain is a quilt pattern I have admired since I first saw it – in the July/August 1998 issue of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine! In the accompanying article, Nancy Elliott MacDonald said that it was called Rosalia Flower Garden when it was published in the Kansas City Star in 1939 and then renamed Jack’s Chain in Primarily Patchwork by Puckett and Giberson. When you Google the name, you will find lots of lovely variations.

A Jack’s Chain square is made up of 6 nine patches (easy!) around a hexagon with inset triangles (not so much!). Over the years, I have tried to draft and simplify the pattern, but never quite figured it out, but quilt designer Nancy McNally did. She calls her version Rock Around the Block and has added a lattice with a (red) churn dash square in between each chain. Several weeks ago I was so excited to drive to the mountains of North Carolina to A Stitch in Time for a class with her.

Nancy McNally's Rock Around the Block

This class was labeled Intermediate and – wow – there is a lot of sewing involved. Should you want to make this quilt, the pattern is in the Summer 2015 issue of Fons & Porter‘s Scrap Quilts magazine. (Nancy does not presently own the rights to the design.) I would suggest you go to her website to buy the triangle template. In each square, you need 16 of those triangles and it’s so much easier to rotary cut a stack of the background fabric than trace around template plastic. Jack’s Chain was designed in the 1930’s, so the quilts would have been made with lots of pretty prints and a white background, which most of the class chose to do. I have been using pale fabrics a lot recently so I opted for a dark background to make the nine patches pop.

Nine patches with template

I have been sewing away and have decided not use the churn dash/lattice piece. I love the way that the chains continue to circle, which you will see when I sew all the blocks together. Some quilts on the Internet have a hexie appliqued in the middle, which I may add as well. Nancy’s quilt is 12 blocks, but I want this quilt to be sized for a queen bed. I bought all the blue hand dyed fabric on the bolt, but it is not going to be enough. Oh phooey! I have to shop for fabric…

Debbie's Jack's Chain

It was a lovely day in A Stitch in Time. The owner, Maxine, made us lunch so we could sew, sew, sew, and I got two squares completed. (They are my closest Sweet 16 dealer and a Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler store.) The store has lots of great fabric and goodies to check out, and her daughter is Bonnie Christine, designer extraordinaire. Franklin, NC is a lovely mountain town, located pretty close to the amazing towns of Highlands and Cashiers. Most of the ladies were from there, either owning a second home or living part-time in their campers. These mountain towns are a huge draw for Floridians, escaping the heat. It’s a two-hour+ drive for me, so I spent the night and enjoyed my mini vacation very much.

Patchwork Couch-Pillows

I have been eyeing these tiny  blue and white quilt pieces and feeling fairly sure that they weren’t going to become a quilt, but I’d pieced quite a lot and didn’t want to throw them out. One day genius struck and I took them downstairs to the new couch and these four squares fit perfectly on the (matching) (dull) pillows that came with the couch. Yippee!

Tiny Delectable Stars

This is something that I do frequently. Matching pillows on a couch are pretty dull… Here is a couch-pillow slipcover that I made for the Colorado brown loveseats using fun bits of fabrics in my stash.

Brown batiks

In the Colorado Summers, I covered the loveseats with denim slipcovers and made these two cases from my wonderful Asian fabric stash. I hand stitch one end of the cover, so it’s easy enough to rip out the stitches and change the brown covers to the blue ones. (I’m too lazy to sew zippers…)

Asian blue pillows

This Delectable Stars pattern was made using foundation piecing and this is what it looks like when all the paper is (carefully) ripped off. Quite the mess!

Paper piecing detrius

I love to sew triangles, but they are nasty when it comes to pressing. It involves some careful pressing and then a lot of mashing with a steamy iron.

So many triangles

And here it is quilted and in place on the couch! I quilted it way more than I needed to do for just a pillow, but I wanted to be sure to highlight the piecing pattern. And it was good practise for the big Delectable Stars quilt, should I ever finish that one.

Blue pillow

 

An Exciting Friday Finish!!!

It has been excessively hot and humid here; we’ve had days and days of over 90 degree heat. The gardens are growing away and though it’s time to re-plant some veggies, they don’t need my attention. And of course the weeds are growing too, but oh well. So I’ve been indoors more, working on the Double Nine Patch quilt top. Sewing the squares together on the diagonal means that they get quite large and unwieldy and do not fit on the design board anymore.

Double nine patch sewing

This middle strip is 104″ long and if you are good at geometry, you get that!

Too big for design wall!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I don’t often finish projects, so this is A Red Letter Day. The Double Nine Patch top is nearly done! In looking through my blog posts, I found that I started it last July, so this isn’t a bad finish for me…

Triple Nines!

To complete the top, I need to decide how long the border strips will be, so that the quilt will tuck under our thick new mattress. The color inspiration was the scrap of fabric on the headboard. Though the windows have shutters and don’t need curtains, I plan to make some to break up all the wall space. {And re-paint the walls…}

Triple Nines color inspiration

I actually finished on Thursday and was all set to photograph the quilt on our bed – but – His Nibs was napping and I didn’t want to bother him. ;-D

Gizmo's nap

I’m doing a little happy dance now…

Fiddling with Color

I promised myself that when I started making the extra 5 wheels for the enlarged quilt design, that I wouldn’t be too fussy. As I said in the last post about this – my plan was to quickly pick colors and sew them. Ha! With the wheels done, I thought I should assemble everything on the design wall and give it a look. Ha again!

Double Nine Patch mock-up

The wheel in the bottom row, middle, bothers me. Even Peter noticed it when he eyed my progress the other day. It’s not that I need them to match or I would have used the same fabrics for each wheel. But that one sticks out! Why? I finally decided that it was the yellow that offended me and made the wheel way colder than the others. Truth be told, most of the wheels are not in my “color comfort zone”. I have been purposely trying to make them cool and not as ferociously bright as I usually make my quilts.

Wrong colors...

One of these oranges looks like it will help that wheel be friendlier with the others…

Better color...

The topic of being too fussy and re-doing projects is often kicked around by those of us who make things. I have learned over the years, that if it bothers me, it bothers me and it had better come out! The last thing Peter wants to hear before we get into bed is “Why didn’t I change that wheel? I do not like the colors!”.

Once I sew this wheel, I am going to stop being overly critical of the others and get the double nine patches done.

What are you ripping out today???

Back to the Double Nine Patch

At least I’m trying to work on it! The yard has been very demanding this year and the weeds have been dreadful. It hasn’t helped that we have bought a lot of perennials and shrubs to plant. And the vegetable gardens have been producing like mad. English peas, spinach and lettuce are done, but we’re enjoying snow peas and squashes and carrots. The baby tomatoes are still green; the big ones starting to flower. Strawberries are here for another week or so and peaches started awhile back. Life is good!

I can be very messy and scattered, but I am careful with quilting projects. I never throw away anything while I am working on a top. Nothing goes in the trash until the binding is sewn on the quilt. It’s a good practise and it’s made life easy to get back to making more wheels for the Double Nine Patch quilt. The original quilt had four wheels and now I need a total of nine, so I have been creating lots of colorways. This time around I’m not being so particular in the fabric choices! I’ve been rooting through the batik shelves and cutting wedges in colors/fabrics I like and pinning them up. And then I start moving them around to see who plays well together while referencing the four that are completed. This is the view from my desk area where it’s easy to see what goes with what.

More wheel colors

When I am happy with a color combination, I sew it together. (3 to go.) Slowly, but surely, I am making progress.

Making wheels

I went to the fabric store the other day and the fabric I used for the backgrounds of the original four is gone, so I chose a new one. That will mean some re-arranging of the original blocks, but it’s always fun to have to adapt. And really, the scrappier the better.

Blue & White Quilts

O my! I was digging through a box yesterday and came across three quilt tops. I dragged everything out and took them downstairs to the great room, where we have a new (blue) rug. Of course I knew they would look good with it – blue and white is a no-brainer. The question is – how many blue & white quilts does one woman need???

This pattern is called Delectable Stars and is from QNM January/February 2000 and was designed by Brenda Henning. I began these two quilts when we were living in an apartment in Chicago as I house hunted. That was 2005. I sewed on our little diningroom table during the day and cleared everything away before Peter got home. I called them “Chicago Blues”, after the jazz scene, not the way I was feeling. This is the baby version and the squares are 11.5″ . I just love the woven feel of this setting. The little rows of triangles are paper pieced and I do remember drafting them and then asking Peter to print out the papers for me at work.

Tiny Delectable Stars

What I do not recall is why I felt the need to make two sizes of them… The big squares are 18″. Perhaps if I continue to piece both sizes, I will do a different layout for each one. (Several other ideas for settings are shown in the article and they are all interesting.) We’ll see. It’s not as though I don’t have a million WIP’s!

Blue & white quilts

The spinning stars is a later UFO and in searching my blog, I see I started it in 2011. I was making another colorway of this design and I lost it – probably left in the trunk of a rental car. Here is a template you can buy from Pat Yamin. I just ordered another as the original must have been with the lost quilt.

Spinning stars

It is clear need to catalog my WIPs and decide which of them I may actually want to complete… I downloaded this quilt organizer from Stately Type – it might help. (They also have some very fun t-shirts for us creative types.) So little time, so many interesting things to do and so much yard work! ;-D

Dresden Star Designing

I am anxious to make something with the Dresden Star pattern, by Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts. It is an interesting pattern with an unusual construction technique. In Edyta’s class, we bought a kit, which included fabrics, the pattern and templates. At first look, I was fairly sure I didn’t like the fabrics but I figured I could work with them…

Dresden Star pieces

During lunch, I went to her booth and bought a few of her (lovely) batiks to add in. Even adding more fabrics didn’t do it…these ain’t my colors.

Dresden Star layout idea

I understand why teachers supply kits. With a kit, they know that you have everything you need to make the pattern with little fuss and bother. Many years ago, I was in a class where we needed a lot of fabrics for a very scrappy quilt pattern. A local woman showed up with a suitcase of fabric! She proudly laid the fabric pieces out on a table for the teacher to see and admire. The teacher was appalled as the woman had bought the whole Fall and Winter collections of Hoffman fabrics. It was 100 plus fat quarters! The upshot of this was that the woman spent the whole class fiddling with her stash and never got to sewing. She couldn’t make up her mind or perhaps couldn’t bear to cut into the fabric. I am certainly guilty of fretting over fabric choices so I have come to terms with kits. When I got home and looked at the class project, I knew that the colors were not going to work for me. So I finished up the Dresden Star that I started in class to practise more of the technique and think where I wanted to go next, color-wise.

In class, Edyta recommended a large, medium and a small print as well as a stripe and a dot. I really didn’t like the large prints, so I looked for  teeny, tiny and medium prints. And I think one of the many reasons I like her quilts is that she mixes batiks in as well. I cannot understand why quilters can’t just see batiks as fabrics! I thought it would be fun to use a batik flower fabric for the middle and dark purples for the stars.

Debbie's dresden star fabrics

Here is the final cutting. Much as I love those batiks, I decided that the flower-y middle was too busy!

Debbie's dresden star cutting

After sewing the star, I had a lot of trouble deciding on a background for it. I won’t show you all the fabrics I pulled out and auditioned! I wanted a background to blur or tone down the colors, because I think that’s what I like about Edyta’s quilt. This water-y batik seemed to do what I wanted. But I don’t love it…it doesn’t sing to me. I’m not sure what I will try next.

Debbie's Dresden Star

 

 

Procrastination – Sometimes A Good Thing!

There are UFO’s in several closets and I rummaged around last week to find this quilt for our bedroom which I was calling the double nine patch. Sometime ago, I picked out the background fabric and then tucked it away a closet.

Double nine patch background

Procrastination was a good thing in the case of this quilt, because a few weeks ago, Peter and I bought a new mattress. The old one was 25 years old!!! The sales lady kept explaining the features of all the mattresses on sale and we just looked at her, because ours was so basic. The men who came to bring the new one and take away the old one had been doing that job for 20 years. “I’ve never seen a mattress like this one!” they told us. (Needless to say, we are very much enjoying our comfortable new mattress.)

The point of all this is that the new box springs are much smaller, but the mattress is much, much thicker; so much so that the quilt we’re using does not tuck in at the bottom. It’s annoying because it means that every morning the bed needs to be completely re-made. Thus new quilt needs to be a good bit larger.

I put the pieces I’d already sewn on the mattress and moved them around and determined that the best thing to do is to make 9 wheels, instead of 4. Using the original design, there would have too much border. So back to the machine I go…

Nine wheels

 

Laundry Basket Quilt Class

I’m not sure when I started to notice quilts by Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts. I really don’t look at quilt patterns – it is rare that I buy one (I like to draft my own) and am always confused when someone tells me “I just finished a “blah-blah-blah quilt”, the latest quilt design by so-and-so.

When looking at the AQS Phoenix class list, I was delighted to see that Edyta Sitar would be teaching a star class. In the morning, she explained the construction and design of many star shapes, and this was the class project, called Dresden Star. It’s quite an interesting variation and before I found this class, I spent a good amount of time, to no avail, trying to figure out how to piece it.

Laundry Basket Quilts Dresden Star

Edyta brought many quilts for us to look at and I discovered this pattern, called Dresden Bloom, a variation of the Dresden Star. O happy day! Everything about this quilt just sings to me – the pattern, the colors, the setting – and I couldn’t wait to get going!

Laundry Basket Quilts Dresden Bloom

First though, here are some other great star pattern ideas. Edyta called this one a Twirling Star. I envision it in much brighter colors…perhaps a Summer throw in red, white and blue… or red, blue and yellow…

Laundry Basket Quilts Twirling Star

And this one is quite the beauty, and it’s called American Beauty! I have to look over my notes as I can’t remember how it’s constructed. (It’s a more complex variation of a simpler star.) We were encouraged to take as many pictures as we wanted and attach them to the pattern sheets so we would remember each pattern and I need to do that.

Laundry Basket Quilts American Beauty

But back to the Dresden Star. It has 16 points, which means 16 different fabrics can be used ( or 8 or 4 or 2). Here is the fabric pack that I got. Edyta explained that in order to get a nice assortment of fabrics she chooses a small, medium and large print as well as a stripe and a dot. It works for me!

Dresden Star fabrics

The lighting in the room was very odd, and made everything look a bit freak-ish. This is the best shot I got of Edyta, holding up the string piecing of my table mate. This was a whole day class and it went by much too quickly. I have taken a lot of classes with many teachers over the years, and Edyta is truly superb. She’s patient and funny and knowledgeable. She managed a class of 25 with no trouble and believe me when an instructor can’t do that it’s a loooong day! Her instructions were very clear and she repeated them as many times as we needed to hear them. Unlike many teachers, she was on her feet and working with us during the whole class. If she is teaching anywhere near you, I would suggest you sign up ASAP.

Edyta Sitar

In case you too are obsessed with the Dresden Bloom quilt, here is a close-up so you can see the wonderful quilting and fabric choices. Feel free to drool…

Laundry Basket Quilt Dresden Bloom close-up