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.

Fun Finds & News…

The other day I had an appointment in Flat Rock, NC and afterwards, drove to Hendersonville to my favorite antiques’ mall. Last time I was there, I whizzed through and didn’t find anything of interest, but this time, there were so many fun things to peruse. I thought I would share.

First up is this amazing lunch box. Not only did I love the charming motifs, but the handle was leather. The tag said it was from the 1960’s and though I am sure I did not see every lunchbox in that decade, I don’t remember any with a leather handle. (Anyone else?) How elegant. The patterns were different on both sides too… I believe I carried a red plaid lunch box that probably was my sister’s. I would have adored one like this.

1960's lunchbox

Keeping to that era, I found a cute sewing machine for the Junior Miss! I learned on my mother’s Singer Golden Touch & Sew, but I am sure I would have enjoyed using this one. I had never seen small and miniature sized sewing machines, until I taught some Japanese women to quilt when we lived in Shanghai. They all brought tiny machines – one was not electric and the wheel needed to be turned by hand.

Singer Junior Miss

And this little car made me think of one of my grandmothers. She had a (gigantic) Chrysler Imperial that was the peachy color of this tiny car! It looked so trendy parked under the car port of her Winter home in Florida. You did not want to drive with her though – she was about 5′ tall and looked through the steering wheel.

Tiny colorful car

This picture is of the (fabulous) top of a tea and coffee tin from Holland. I love the red and those of you who know me will understand why I wanted to buy it so much… I finally left it as it was quite big and I could not really find a use for it. {sigh}

Dutch tea & coffee tin

There were quite a few very nice quilts to look at. This is a yo-yo quilt, sewn together and lined for use on a bed. Quite a beauty and tons of work! For those who research and enjoy old fabric, this certainly is a treasure trove of a woman’s scraps. I photographed it for you, Kerry. Such a disappointment that you only made a table runner…

Antique yo-yo quilt

If you look carefully at this quilt, you will see that it is made of shirting fabric. It’s quite well used so it’s hard to see.When I was a docent at The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, we had a whole show of quilts like this one. Some of the quilters attended the show and were former Southern textile mills workers, who made shirts. At the end of the day, they would “dumpster dive” and grab all the fabric scraps to make quilts. This pattern is a log cabin.

Shirting quilt

And last but not least, I have been mulling over how to present our news in a clever way, and here it is!

Retirement cross stitch

My DH Peter retired in December and so this year will be a whole new experience for us! He has worked long and hard to “provid for me in the style to which I was accustomed” as my father requested that he do when he asked for my hand in marriage. Congratulations and thanks, dear one… let the adventure begin!

 

 

 

A Thought For The New Year

Hollyhocks

Begin doing what you want to do now.

We are not living in eternity.

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand –

and melting like a snowflake.

                                                 ~Sir Francis Bacon

Dreaming of Christmas

Me and MLW

A Florida Christmas many, many moons ago!

Here I am hanging the wonderful (Vogue Knitting) stocking that my mother made and my cousin with her “Florida stocking”! My grandparents wintered not far from Disney World and each year sent money to their daughters for a trip to Florida – or to put in the savings account. The two of us, the youngest of all the cousins, loved the (overnight) trip down on the train, from Trenton, New Jersey. Seeing poinsettia growing in the ground, having molded ice cream every night for dessert at the clubhouse and generally being spoiled by all the older people in the neighborhood was our idea of great fun.

Hope you all have a special Christmas…

Gingerbread House Fun!

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman

Finding a Christmas Tree by Julie Bauman

 

Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver

Year of the Rooster by Gail Oliver

 

Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

Poinsettiaville by Glenda Tant

These fun gingerbread constructions are the prize winners in The National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn, located in Asheville, NC. The Inn is the perfect place to visit in December and was bustling with guests and those of us who came for dinner and to see the houses. Below is the grand prize winner! Beatris is from Ontario Canada and I have been wondering ever since, how she got her lovely creation to North Carolina!

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Dream House by Beatriz Muller

Aren’t they great?

Late Fall Colored Placemats

To my mind, Fall has two sets of colors – early Fall when everything is bright and sparkly and late Fall, when the colors are weather-worn and dull. I know many people don’t enjoy late Fall or Winter, but I do! It’s so nice to be indoors and making. (The current trendy name for creating, or crafting, which I do dislike.)

I said I was not weaving rag items for a while, but I have various guests coming who will enjoy a weaving demo and one in particular who is staying long enough and might enjoy weaving a runner or some placemats for herself. I have changed things up a bit though – I’m making some finer ones. I enjoyed the 8/2 cotton that I used for the dish cloths, so I sent for these yummy Late Fall colors from Halcyon Yarn. The color is off a bit – the tube that looks grey is actually a paper bag sort of brown.

Late Fall placemtas

With a finer warp, I need to use finer strips of fabric, so I have been cutting them 3/4″ wide. Here is placemat #1 woven and hemstitched.

Late Fall placemat

I am writing this on a cool, cloudy morning, hoping for some more rain. When I came upstairs, I pulled this cat bed out of the closet and I see Jasmine has already claimed it. I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are!

Jasmine's basket

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.

All About Hand Dyes & Batiks

The other day I was looking at paint chips and the guys behind the counter were discussing what scallions, shallots and leeks were, or were they different names for the same vegetable? It was quite funny and eventually I had to go talk to them as none of them had a clue. In that vein, I have noticed that many quilters don’t know much about hand-made fabrics either. It doesn’t matter, I guess, but since I love to make many of these fabrics, I thought I’d tell you about them. (By the way, most quilt store owners don’t know either and it’s too bad that the manufacturers don’t educate them.)

Everyone points to the luscious shelves in the quilt stores and says “There are the batiks”. In most cases that’s not entirely true – many of them are hand dyes. Here is a selection of hand dyed fabrics from my stash.

Hand dyed fabrics

Hand dyeing to most people would be the stack of reds, yellows and oranges at the top left of the picture. That is a gradation that I dyed. The color is fairly even, but has quite a different look from commercially dyed fabrics. I mixed up water and dye in buckets and immersed the fabric in to take up the dye. Most of the other fabrics are drizzle dyed. Look at the orange strip at the left. Can you see that someone (probably) spread the fabric out, wet it and then dripped dye on it? The upper right fabric has many colors drizzled on and the colors mix together to make some new colors. The pattern, if you want to call it that, is random. The middle background piece is one of my favorite background fabrics. It’s just a white piece of fabric with all sorts of colors randomly dropped on it, leaving lots of white space. Some hand dyes look like they have a pattern and it may be that salt was dropped on the dyed fabric. I remember doing that in art class and fun things happen.

Here is a selection of batiks.

Batik fabrics

Right away, I hope you are seeing that there is a pattern to these pieces. Wax is applied to a chop or tjap and stamped on the fabric. The red and white dotted fabric in the top left is the simplest version. I’m not sure if the dots are stamped or dropped, but then the fabric is immersed into the dyebath. The wax resists the dye. The fabric is washed and then the wax is removed. The other three examples are much more complicated and I can’t quite decide how they are made. They are certainly made using stamps and are then hand colored or perhaps dyed in a dyebath. Multiple waxings and dyeings, I assume. The square in the middle is traditional batik that you would find inSoutheast Asian. The flower was stamped and then painted, sort of like a paint by number. You can see on this piece that there was a lot of bleeding, but it is so pretty.

If you go to Southeast Asia, this is the sort of batik you will find. This is part of a sarong, (as is the flower above), made in Bali, and it is all done by hand.

Antique Balinese sarong

When a batik is done by hand, one uses a tjanting. I have tried my hand at it and it is not an easy technique. There is a fine balance between the wax being too hot or too cold. And then, of course, one needs to be skillful enough to draw a design on the fabric. Look how fine the lines are! This beauty is an antique.

In a quilt class I recently took, the teacher and a student were talking about how the quality of the batik fabric was so good, and the teacher said that it was because of the batik process. That’s not true. When you dye a fabric, you want to use a tightly woven fabric. Imagine dyeing a piece of burlap – or a sheet. The burlap is so loosely woven that the dye wouldn’t show up much. Sheets are made of very densely woven fabric, so they take up the dye and show the details in a batik well. When you buy hand dyed or batik fabric, you can count on the manufacturer using the nicest cotton.

So perhaps now you understand why these types of fabrics are so expensive.

To thank you for reading the whole post, here is a giveaway – – – a selection of batiks and hand dyes for you to make a pillow top or tiny quilt or just admire. Leave a comment and I will draw a name on Monday the 21st – before things get too crazy! (Sorry, US only!)

Batik & hand dye giveaway fabric