Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Blue Hatchets Quilted

The constant happiness is curiosity
~Alice Munro


Straight lines with the walking foot are one of my go-to quilting designs. They are relaxing, quick, and easy. There is something meditative about repeatedly halving the distance between previous lines. It makes a good time to think.

I moved the darkest set of hatchets to the center and divided the swans and goldenrod into two rows each.
Blue Hatchet  quilt 4

When some friends and I made a trip to Berkeley for Freddy Moran's Face the Year exhibit, we stopped by Stonemountain where I  purchased the back for a "future quilt." The day has arrived. It works perfectly with these hatchets and there was just enough leftover for the binding.

Front and back of Blue Hatchet quilt

Don't you love it when things work out so well? It's a good change from being a smidge too small... or yards leftover.

Blue hatchet quilt folded

This was supposed to restart my baby quilt stash but within a couple of days was needed for one of DH's co-workers. Actually, I love sending them to their forever home so quickly. While everything is fresh and new. So a sweet baby boy slumbers on it. 

Quilt Specifics
Size: 38" x 38"
Design: Hatchet
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Metler light blue cotton thread
Quilting: Walking foot parallel lines
Approximate yardage: 5.625 yds

Previous post: Laying out the blocks 


Somehow I haven't read Laurie King for a while but just picked up the next in her Mary Russell series, A Letter of Mary.  Archeologist Dorothy Ruskin visits Mary and her husband, Sherlock Holmes leaving them with an old manuscript concerning Mary Magdalene. When Dorothy is killed soon after, Mary and Sherlock question, murder or accident?

Monthly FUR (Fabric Use Rate) 

March came in like a lion. Two baby quilts and napkins used 15.875 yards this month. YTD = 17.875 yards.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Reprise with Blue

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, 
and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.
~Marilyn Monroe


It felt good to clear out some of the older yellows and greens. Now another baby quilt will be needed and the blues could use a combing through. Except for the clear blue with swans, these are all soft blues with a grey undertone. The swan fabric is also light blue although much more clear but the swans and their white shape relate to the cranes on the left and the white leaves on the right. Plus, they fill out the 64 blocks needed for this quilt. Ha. 

Now they just need to be blended in a bit better. BTW, it was late when I took this photo so the colors are off.

Blue Hatchet quilt blocks

The next day was spent rearranging blocks until settling on this arrangement. The two fabrics that had the most blocks are separated into two columns and the darkest blue is moved to the center. Everything looks better when the seam allowances disappear.

Hatchet 4 blue baby quilt top

Pulling fabric for the back meant a short search through the stash. It's getting lower which is good for me. My plan is to use up the fabrics that are more than ten years old... or to donate them. Of course, some will be kept because they could make a special part... such an a flower center or an eye or a wing. More pictorial quilts are brewing in my mind but I need to clear some space in the workroom before they can come to the fore.


At a New York City nightclub Clary witnesses three teenagers murder another. Then the body vanishes and no one else saw anything. Cassandra Clare based her YA Mortal Instruments series on the thought that "all the stories are true." Angels, demons, werewolves, vampires, fairies. Clary's take on everything is unexpected - both by the other characters and by the reader.  I'm looking forward to more of these and I'm way behind.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Placemats and Napkins

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Finally. Two more kawandi placemats complete. There were only three birds so these have none and the scrap colors are much louder. I decided to pull a smaller, coordinated collection of scraps from the bag to add cohesion... Maybe. Reds in the first round established strong perimeters. I tried adding tiklis but am still not good at it. They usually occur to me after a round of stitching. 

Kawandi placemat 4

The dark pink across the top {and on the right side} is a gift from Sujata. It's Indian cotton, finer than lawn. What a difference it makes when stitching. The needle slides through like butter. Somehow, all the loud prints ended up in the previous placemat and this one was left with only quiet fabrics for the center. Still, a plate will cover it.

Kawandi placemat 5

Last week when washing the napkins, it came to my attention that they are permanently stained. Well, they've been used for several years. Clean ones are needed. At first I whined because there's not enough yardage of any of the fabrics that look like napkins. That means they won't match. Oh, boo hoo.

These fabrics have been sitting on a chair for too long. I'm starting here and will pull any fabric that is at least 22" square to make a napkin. A glorious riot of prints and color. Take your pick when you come over. 

Woven cotton prints with purple or white backgrounds
Cloth napkins

It took more time than I thought to make them. Cut, press the seam, pin the folded seam, turn the corners, sew, and press. The first ten are done. The old napkins are going to compost.


Oh, boy. Time for the third mystery in Martin Walker's Bruno series. Black Diamond refers to truffles but the story also involves attacks on various Asian businesses. 

Enjoy the day, Ann

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Pi Day 2021

It's Pi Day, the only time American dating makes more sense than European style: 3/14. Time to review all the circles I made this year.

My largest circle quilt was the Wheel although it's not back from the longarm quilter.

Wheel quilt top

I also appliqued circles on several quilts including the String Tulips

String Tulip quilt 2

and Mars on my newest grandchild's Christmas stocking

Christmas stock with Mars

and the Shadow Star sashing. The eight-pointed stars also look circular, probably because they are drafted with radii, and arcs.

Shadow Star quilt top

Speaking of eight-pointed stars.... I finished Lone Stars

Lone Star quilt

and LeMoyne Stars

LeMoyne Star quilt

and a string star. I'm counting all of them as circles. 

String Star quilt

We're having chicken pot pie with apple pie for dessert. What about you?

Enjoy your pie, Ann

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Third Hatchet Quilt Gifted

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.


All the blocks were made and trimmed traditionally but there was no plan for the layout. As last week's post showed, I worked through all the variations I could think of... and ended with this well-regulated arrangement. The value changes were just too great between the yellows and greens otherwise.

The quilting is my usual/common organic lines with a walking foot. I start by SID the main seams, then come back and halve that distance. And then the halving is repeated until the distance looks good or I'm tired of quilting. Simple. And it works.

Yellow and green hatchet quilt

This interesting fabric printed with hexagons has been waiting in my stash for several years. While the aqua is not on the front, the background is yellows, tans, and odd greens that blend well with the front. 

Yellow and green Hatchet quilt with view of back

The mother likes yellow. A lot. This is the last in my stash... although there are more cut squares squirreled away. 

As soon as it was washed the quilt went into the mail to be there for her new son. It arrived just before he did. Good enough.

Quilt Specifics
Size: 38" x 43"
Design: Hatchet
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose cotton
Thread: Metler green cotton thread
Quilting: Walking foot parallel lines
Approximate yardage: 6 yds

Previous post: Choosing the layout.


This is the first of four Wayfarers books by Becky Chambers who started writing in the evening after her paying gig. When she lost that job she raised money to finish this book on Kickstarter. 

A young human joins the Wayfarer as a clerk. The old ship drills wormholes between distant galaxies and has a multi-species crew. They are asked to drill a new path to a new planet inhabited by a violent species which also has a rich energy source nearby.

This unique story doesn't cover bloody insurrections. Instead it tells backstories of the various crew and their evolving relationships. Very enjoyable and I look forward to the next in this series. {I'm late to the party but I'll space them out a bit.}

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

String Tulip QAL Month 2

The main thing is to have a gutsy approach and use your head.
~Julia Child 


Welcome to the second month of the #AHIQStringTulipsQAL. How did the first month go? I anticipate many inventive variations of the ESS blocks. And explosions of color and creativity. 

Three people have already shared the blocks they've finished to date. Look at them all and compare how the choices they made change this block. Each has interpreted the basic directions to suit herself. None is "more right" than the others. It's simply a matter of choosing your own way.
  1. Sharon at ascensionheart already finished all her ESS blocks. Wow. Her light sides make the Xs stronger and the colors are bright and cheerful.
  2. Maureen posted hers on MysticQuilter as well as on the AHIQ blog. If you read her blog you'll know she's a master gardener and this shows in the sophisticated prints and selections that make her Xs look like flowers in bloom.
  3. Kaja's blocks frequently use of a blue and white plaid at or near the center strengthens her design. Her free-spirited placement of values make the Xs weave from side to side.

This time we'll decide on the center background, and cut and sew the tulips. More thinking this month and a bit more time to finish the ESS blocks. 

String Tulips quilt

Size the Center

Before making tulips, we need to calculate the size of the center of the quilt and choose a background that works with the borders. Remember we are working like a kawandi - from the outside in. Measure your blocks to determine the center size. For my baby quilt, the sum of four string blocks finished is the finished size of the center. Add seam allowances. 

Then add another inch or two because sewing the appliqué often causes the base fabric to shrink a bit. Just remember to re-square the center when the the appliqué is finished. {I learned that from Audrey. Thanks!}

My blocks are 5.5" unfinished or 5" finished. Four of them equals twenty inches finished or 20.5" for the unfinished length. I cut my center 22" and marked a 20" perimeter with washable marker inside it to locate the maximum extent of appliqué. If it pulls the center in, there will still be a bit more "open space" before that seam; i.e., the final seam will be between the marked line and the outer edge.

Choose the Background Fabric

Over-planning kills creativity. My quilts are more creative when I just play with the strings first. The end result is much freer than if I plan the center and try to match strings to it. So now that you have a free-spirited collection of blocks, look through all your stash with open minds for unconventional and unexpected combinations... as Rod would say.

A twenty-two inch square is larger than a fat quarter. Some choices. 
  1. Use a larger piece of fabric like String Tulips 1 which I cut from 2/3 of a yard.
  2. Piece the background from a single fabric like String Tulips 2 where I sewed the extra width from a half yard to enlarge the background.
  3. Piece several different fabrics together. These could be four quarters or an off-centered arrangement. Audrey’s Seedpod quilt is a lovely example. 
  4. Sash the center.
  5. Think of another way yourself.
Lay the ESS blocks around an open center and place different fabrics inside until you find one {or more} that pleases you. It's surprising what pops so try many values and colors. Don't worry about the tulips until the background is settled.

Create Tulip Templates

Because the crossed tulips are radially symmetrical, I only needed a quarter of the design {in my case that's ten inches of paper} to plan my tulips. I taped two sheets of graph paper together, marked off the side measurements and added a main diagonal to keep it symmetrical.

I wanted three separate petals that filled up most of the space. My working sketch shows how I enlarged the tulip repeatedly to fill the area and create larger outer petals. If you don't want such full-blown tulips, adjust your sketch. Paper is cheap.

Tulip sketch fills
a quarter of the center

If you choose to use leftover ESS blocks as your side tulip petals {as I did}, double check that the templates {and seam allowances} fit inside a scrap block by laying them out and making sure there's room for the seam allowance. Here's mine laid over a string block on my light table. 

Checking template size against ESS block size

Once the tulip looked okay, fold the sketch along the diagonal and cut both sides at once, choosing the side that looks better to you as the cutting template.  Or make both sides different. You're the designer here.

Tulip template folded and cut

Trace that tulip on a new sheet for backup. Adjust as needed. {That's where the copy came in handy.}

If you want room for additional applique {such as those circles, leaves, or birds which may be centered between two quadrants} make the tulip smaller.  If you don't want to use ESS blocks for a petal, the templates can be longer. A narrower center template will draw the tulip together. 

Templates with seam allowances on all sides

When you're satisfied, cut your template into the three pieces, trace them, and add seam allowances. If you choose to raw-edge applique your tulips, they only need seam allowances between the petals themselves.

You are welcome to use my tulip template for a twenty-inch center. Cut and add seam allowances as required.

Pick Tulip String Colors/Values 

Consider what values will show up best on your background. The green and chartreuse center of String Tulips 1 is a dark medium which meant the tulips needed to be much darker or lighter to contrast. The medium values of most of my ESS blocks got lost. So I sewed more blocks before making all the tulip petals. {That's how the black tulips were born.} On the other hand, lighter tulips fit String Tulips 2. No new blocks were needed. 

My current ESS blocks work well with the pink background but the prepared tulip {in the middle} gets lost. If I want to use this background, the tulips should include strips like the dark set or possibly the whites. 

Strip choices for tulips
against a pink background

Determine Strip Direction

Most antique tulip quilts run the strips across the petals but I ran them vertically the length of the petal. What would other directions look like?

Tulip petal template on ESS block

Warning 1: Because several seams crowd the bottom of the tulip, vertical seams can make it difficult to turn a seam allowance on the outer edge. If you choose vertical strips, try to space them so bulky seams are minimized. Remember there are two more seams when you sew the three pieces together.

Warning 2: The 1.5" rule for the corners of ESS blocks applies here, too. Is there enough room to turn the last string under or will it just be multiple seam allowances?

The center petal can be more strips running the same direction or perpendicular. Or it can be a single piece of fabric. {I chose the latter.}

Pin the templates to your fabric or strip sets and cut them out. OR cut paper templates and sew new strips on top of each of the eight petals, remembering that the side petals of each tulip are mirror images. 

Two string tulip petals,
back of left side and front of right side

Prepare the Tulips

Sew the side petals to the center petal. Pin together matching start and ending points. Start a few stitches from the first pin and backstitch to it. 

Backstitch at the beginning
and end of the seams

Then sew straight to the final pin and backstitch a few stitches. This stabilizes the sewing and makes turning the seams under an easier task. 

Stabilized seams with
more ease to turn seams

I folded and pressed seam allowances around the tulip. I like the end result but it is bulky. There are many other choices. You can needle turn the tulips, finish with raw edges, sew them with interfacing and turn. What else? Use a method you like. And I'll try to write more about this process.

Tulip on light background

Next month we'll attach stems and tulips to the background. In the meanwhile, play with your ESS blocks and choose an exciting background. Then seriously consider the strips that would create a showy tulip. 

 There are many ways to imagine the center. Consider what else you want to add and make sure you have enough room. There was a beautiful applique quilt from Pennsylvania at the American Folk Art Museum a few years ago. Do any of these motifs strike a spark with you? Would your tulips prefer to be in a vase or set individually? Have fun!


PBS picked up a new series from the BBC, a remake of All Creatures Great and Small. I've been watching weekly. The scenery and costumes are wonderful, the cast is great. The storyline is still amusing and has been updated to include backstories of the women. {And the original series is still good.} It inspired me to re-read James Herriot's memoirs about his Yorkshire veterinary practice which started  in the 30s. It's a respite for these past few weeks. 


As I drove by the VA on my way to pick up groceries I saw a long line of cars extending into the street and around a corner. Of course I slowed down for a looki-loo and am sure it was a vaccine site for our veterans. Congratulations to them all!

Enjoy the day, Ann