Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Choosing Backgrounds

Blessedness is what can be snatched out of the passing day, and put away to think of afterwards.
~Ellis Peters in The Leper of St. Giles


I collaged some photos of different fabric pulls for the next step in the fan quilt.  The top shows choices for posts and possibly a secondary sashing. Bottom left is background and more sashing ideas. Although a bunch of reds and greens were pulled for the wedges, the pile mysteriously decreased over time as other projects took precedence. When the wheels restarted, there were not enough soft reds. The crab prints on the right made me laugh. They might work as wedges; they certainly won't look the same cut into small strips.

Sashing, post, and background fabric choices for the fan/wheel blocks plus detail of crab fabric
Some fabric choices

Eventually I found two two-yard pieces of quietly printed cream fabrics in my stash {bottom left photo.} One includes a girl in a hat fishing. Now is the perfect time to use it.

This is improv so you won't be surprised to find I cut the fans down quite a bit. Why? At the larger size, only three background could be cut from WOF with lots of waste. That wasn't so bad {Scraps!} but I don't have enough fabric to create all the backgrounds. Decreasing the block size let me fit four across. Problem solved.

Paper pattern laid on fan to properly trim down the block
Trimming the fans to a smaller template size

There's also a simple trick to pinning: don't pin the seam allowances. Pinning between or near them lets them move and allows the new seam to curve rather than jerk from point to point.

Pin curves of the fan blades between seam allowances to create a smooth seam line
Pin curves of the fan between seam allowances

As usual, I cut the outer background with half-inch seam allowances on the two straight sides to give me some wiggle room when squaring the block. I find it doesn't help to make every template larger, just that final outer one.

Selectively oversizing the seams of some pieces gives more room to square the block
Squaring a fan quilt block

With the fans sewn it was time to settle the sashing. Another long-held idea was to use the red-and-white stripe. When the wheels were arranged it was too much for all the sashing. So... either between the arcs or around the wheels but not both. A light grey-brown worked as the alternate sashing, contrasting with everything else but not screaming for attention. It's not the same fabric as my original background plan but it's in the same family. So my color idea wasn't completely whacky.

Testing two fabric, red stripe and tan, to determine which looks better between the fan blocks and which looks better between the wheel blocks
Sashing layout choices

Next I had to pick a post and went with the lighter red on the right. Now I can sew the quarter-circle blocks into larger wheel blocks and contemplate a post for the stripe. {Those reds won't work.} These are not easy blocks for me nor have I seriously worked at low{er} volume before.

Testing a darker and a brighter red for posts in the Wheel quilt
Choosing between two reds for the post


The book cover features the ghostly image a St. Winifred in the foreground with Brother Cadfael under an arch behind her and a line of five monks in the background.

I started rereading the Cadfael chronicles, a successful 12th century mystery series by Ellis Peters which also adapted for television. In A Morbid Taste for Bones, Shrewsbury Abbey seeks to increase their prominence by acquiring the bones of a Welsh saint. When the leader of the local community objects, he is soon found murdered and Brother Cadfael must resolve the issues. It's even better than I remembered. This time I appreciated the descriptions of and the differences between the societal structures of the two countries as well as noticing the variations of religious practices, albeit both being Catholic. Of course, I devoured the maps of the region, city and Abbey.

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate)

The 26 yards of isolation gown material did not come from my stash. {I sewed it but am not counting it in my rate.} Masks total 250. This month's total took 7 more yards while the pillowcases used 7.5 yds. April = 14.5 yards. YTD = 62.5 yards.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


The most precious thing you can give someone is your time because you can never get it back.
When you don't think about getting it back, you've given it in love.
~Mitch Alborn in Finding Chika


Just a bit of quilting this week. Sort of. No sewing, only arranging the arcs. They required lots of moving/adjusting. Because the values occupy a narrow band, the colors blend into grey-ness. {That's not a word but you can see what I mean. The greens and reds seem to blend rather than contrast.}

Fan blocks set as wheels are arranged on the design wall in two ways
Arranging the wheel blocks into a quilt

But now... the original background doesn't work. It's much too strong against the sewn arcs. And there's nowhere near enough yardage either. Darn. This shot cotton in grey and brown has been pulled for every project for the last three years and never fit. Such a funky non-color. Of course I cut several before figuring this out. Audrey mentioned how much waste arcs leave - big melon shaped lozenges. She saved hers for an appliqué project. Mine are going into a bag for the future, too. They are simply too good to toss.

Sample of brown shot cotton background is place next to some of the fan blocks
This grey-brown is too dark for the background

Masks and Gowns

I made fourteen more masks and am almost out of cotton knit for the lining. Then a friend asked me to join a non-profit group sewing isolation gowns. There is little I can do to help right now other than stay home so I was honored to join. The group provided the fabric, velcro, and elastic. We provided polyester sewing thread. I sewed twelve this week. They need 10,000.

Cutting out, sewing, and finished isolation gowns for area hospitals during CoVID emergency
The design is very basic but the protective treatment on the fabric means we cannot iron it. Finger pressing bias strips for necklines and ties while wearing masks and gloves. The masks aren't difficult to use but I have trouble pinning and finger pressing in gloves.

The good news is this first batch is on its way to a New York hospital. Even though new cases are declining, staff is seriously short of gear and these should help until commercial manufacturers can ramp up.

Coronavirus Study

Stanford Medicine started a daily survey to predict future outbreaks and help direct medical resources. You can help if you live in the United States. Here's the link for more information and to sign up. It took me about two minutes to fill out the original questions and less than a minute for the daily update.


Once the gowns were finished I was, too. For relaxation I read The Secret Commonwealth, the second book in Phillip Pullman's Book of Dust series. When Pan witnesses a murder the victim entrusts him with his wallet which brings echoes of their old adventures. The clues lead twenty year old Lyra on a search for a city haunted by daemons.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Taking the Wheel

"You may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now,
because the world is yours and it is up to you.
Now especially since man has the strength to destroy this world,
it is the responsibility of man to keep it alive, in all its beauty and marvelous joy."
~Susan Cooper in The Silver on the Tree


Combining regular spring cleaning with the deep cleaning pushed me to sort and cull. Clothing, dishes, books, cleaning supplies. Everything is getting a second look. Is it being used? Is it needed? Does it need replacing? Of course, cleaning also brought a bunch of UFOs to the surface. Like this one.

It's been a while since starting the first wheel. The plan was to make a very scrappy wheel but the narrow wedge ruler I found seemed a better way to start/practice. So I quickly sewed one up... and what a mess. The middle was loose; the background was missing. I finally unsewed them into quarters with the idea of re-sewing the circle after the background was attached. I pulled a variety of pale yellowish greens {not chartreuse} and red-on-white prints that intrigued me. And that's when it sank into a UFO.

Red and white stripe for sashing is paired with brown shot cotton and a Burberry-style plaid for possible background to the fan arcs in the quilt
Possible backgrounds and sashing for the fan/wheel block

Last year Sujata proposed the UandU QAL to recreate a quilt from Rod Kiracofe's fabulous book, Unconventional and Unexpected. There are so many to choose from and every time someone posts their own progress I want to make that one, too. Looking through it last week I was struck by three quilts with the same design - just like my old sample. Sort of. Well, enough to make me dig through the pile.
Three pages of quilt photos from Rod Kiracofe's book show three examples of fan and wheel blocks made into improvisational quilts
Unconventional and Unexpected: Wheel of Fortune, p 66
and Fan, p 146

The one with the Lone Star reminds me of last year's baby quilts. I want to make more but am running out of sufficient yardage to make the background. Here's a possible way to get away with less of a single fabric.

Wheel and fan quilts are traditional blocks that have been revived recently. Several people have created designs with unique names which are still the same basic block: a small center {quarter} circle, a wide arc sewn with wedges, and a curved background to square them up. The difference I see between wheel and fan is the center sashing. Also, wheels are frequently appliqued to a single background.

My original plan was to make very large wheels, 20-25" wide but the ruler was shorter. Clockwise from top left. After cutting ten-inch WOF I laid the wedge ruler on top with my regular ruler next to it. Removing the wedge ruler gave me a long side to cut. Next I replaced the wedge ruler, lined up the longer ruler to its left, removed the wedge ruler and cut the left side of the wedge fabric.

A collage of four photos show how to extend a short ruler with a longer one for accurate cutting
Extending a short ruler with my regular ruler for cutting

Despite a very limited color palette, or perhaps because of it, there are special issues to address. Value becomes even more important. Fabrics work differently after they are cut than they did when they were originally grouped. The darks and the lights below paired up well until they were cut. Then there was too little contrast within a single fan and too much contrast from one fan to the next.

The blades of the fans are moved around to create more contrast between pairs of blades and less contrast between the fans themselves
Changing out blades of the fan block
My solution was to move the blades around until the values of all the fans were closer. These were switched between four sets to balance them better. Almost done cutting blades.

Adding green centers to the fan arcs before sewing them together
Laying out parts of the stash fan blocks

Taking the bull by the horns or the circle by the quarters. It's finally moving forward.


Still making masks. Sixty-two more this week brings the total to 127 and more to come. I made significant progress on DH's t-shirt quilt as the leftover material made mask lining. Most of the large logos are stabilized.


The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper is on my shelf but this is a re-read for me. It's another series catalogued as children's books. While on a Cornish holiday, three human siblings join their great-uncle Merry, Will Stanton {Old Ones}, and later, Bran Davies, searching for artifacts of power that enable the Light to defeat the Dark. Cooper blends English folklore and Arthurian legends with Celtic and Norse mythologies to create a new tale of mankind's passage to adulthood. That's what I read in the quote that begins this post and why this is a relevant set of books for adults to read also.

Of the five contemporary fantasy novels the first received a Newbery Honor while the fourth won the Newbery Medal as well as the first Welsh Tir na n-Og award and the final book also received a Tir na n-Og award.

Stay safe. Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Fail and a Few Finishes

'Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.'
                                    'I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve.'

My mother used to quote the first two lines to us but I didn't know the author although I'd read many of Frost's poems. I'm fortunate to have a large family that gets along. We write; we call; we visit. What a blessing to just belong to this group; people who have known you all your life. {Although I'm now old enough that's it's generally me who has known them all their lives.} In another sense, family encompasses a larger group. We all share this beautiful blue marble, the only home all of us have ever known. That makes us all one family. Please make good choices. Stay the course.

Pine tree blocks arranged on point might be a possible border around the Shadow Star blocks
Tree blocks as a possible border for Shadow Stars

The trees were supposed to border the Shadow Stars but they don't have enough weight. Is that because they are on point? Would bluer green leaves make a difference? Would colored setting triangles? {As opposed to the empty whiteness of now.} IDK. The trees don't seem to have a relationship with the stars even though I deliberately made tiny triangles to echo the tiny squares. Now it looks like they should have related more to the star points. {Does that make sense?}

How easy it is to see problems with a digital camera. Disappointing but not a complete loss. They will be useful somewhere else once the "much too dark" trunks are replaced with lighter fabrics.  It's not exactly a fail as they will wait in the Parts Department until becoming a different quilt.

On the other hand, I found a useful way to move several older pieces of fabric along. They were purchased specifically with my grandchildren in mind but never made it into a quilt. All will be moving to larger beds this summer in a musical chair progression. Out of the crib to the trundle bed. {What do you call the crib mattress without the sides? The one that is barely off the ground.} Out of the trundle bed to the toddler bed. Out of the toddler bed to the twin. So these fabrics will become pillowcases to celebrate their growth.

Many people posted pillowcases with enchanting crocheted edging. My grandmother taught me how to do this so I added it, too. Mine look more old-fashioned. Well, not exactly, but they aren't as bohemian chic as the ones I've seen online. But they look adorable to me. For two cents, I'd keep them for myself.

A blue print with bunnies and a pale green print with pink and white swans are sewn into pillowcases with white cuffs and white crochet edging
Pillowcases with crochet edging

Other animal prints made nice cases, too, but crochet didn't fit their theme.

Novelty prints of owls and foxes are used to make three pillowcases.
Children's pillowcases

Cases can be made with cuffs or a flap - an extra bit of fabric to hide the pillow and keep it inside the case. Mine just have the cuff but I may try the flap later and want to keep the instructions in one place. My {standard} pillows measure 18.5" x 29.5" so my case should finish 20" x 31". Yes, it could be narrower but this will be easier to get on and off. DH's king-size pillows are 20" x 36" and need pillowcases that finish 21" x 40".
  1. A pillow with a cuff
    • Three-quarters of a yard for the main fabric; a third of a yard for the cuff
    • From main fabric, cut a single piece for front and back 41" x 28" each.
    • From alternate fabric, cut front cuff 41" x 10".
  2. A one fabric pillow with a flap
    • Cut one piece 21" x 75.5". 
    • Use the other half of the fabric to make a second pillow.
  3. A two fabric pillow with a flap 
    • Seven-eighths yard for the front; one and one-quarter yard for the back.
    • Cut front piece 21" x 32.125" and back piece in another fabric 21" x 43.625".

Closeup of the crochet shows seven double crochets form each shell of the edging
Shell crochet edging
Crochet edging supplies:
  • a thick tapestry needle with a rounded end 
  • a steel crochet hook size 2
  • Size 8 pearl cotton in any color you choose (one ball edges three cases for me}
  • washable marker
  • ruler or guide marked 3/8"
Crochet edging:
  1. Mark the pillowcase at 3/8" intervals about 1/4" from the edge.
  2. Use the tapestry needle to make holes without breaking threads in the woven fabric then
  3. Make a single crochet in the hole followed by 3 chain stitches.
  4. Repeat around the edge of the pillow.
  5. Slip stitch into the beginning.
  6. Two chain stitches.
  7. Seven double crochet in the first opening {the 3 chain stitches}, 1 chain, 1 single crochet in the next opening, 1 chain. Repeat around the edge.
  8. Slip stitch to the beginning of this round. 
  9. Tie off and bury threads.
Seven pillowcases finished. Three with cuffs only; four with crochet.

And twenty-five more face masks. No more sheeting or pillowcase ticking and only two yards of batik left. I line them with 100% cotton t-shirts. One good thing is that I'm finally progressing on DH's t-shirt quilt.


Cover of the first book in The Book of Dust trilogyEach of my children grew up with a different books series which I read as they did. They certainly made interesting dinner conversation. For the oldest, it was Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The original book, The Golden Compass {known as The Northern Lights everywhere else in the world} was made into a movie and recently into a television series.

Recently I discovered a prequel trilogy is being published. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage begins shortly after Lyra's birth and concerns how she arrived at Jordan College. I'm ready to reread the original books.

My contributions have been to stay home, make masks, and donate money to my favorite charities.  It's all I can do. Stay safe everyone.

Enjoy the day, Ann