Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Surely you jest(er)!

The  Free Motion Challenge teacher for August is Wendy Sheppard, who blogs at Ivory Spring. In her lesson, she showed us a quilting motif modeled after a jester's hat, like this:

stock photo : jester hat isolated

This was a real challenge for me, trying to wrap my head and muscle memory around the motif, especially moving from one "hat" to the next.  There were a lot of scribbles doodles like this.

I felt like I wasn't improving at all after pages and pages of doodling!

Finally, I printed out Wendy's drawings of the motif and darkened them with a Sharpie, then traced over them until I better understood the design.

The drawings started getting better, and I got brave enough to approach the sewing machine!

And actually, the quilting didn't turn out too badly.  I had a few places where I boxed myself into a corner, and a few places where the quilting wasn't uniformly dense, but all in all, I and pretty happy with the results. 

 I felt like I really learned a lot this month.  As I was doing the quilting, I was able to keep my machine speed and hands consistent, and I also think I am beginning to "get" all of the parts of the process, especially being aware of where I am stitching and where I want to go next.  Perfect? Certainly not, but I am making progress!

Whenever I spoke to my mother on the phone, she would tell me she was a "happy camper."  Well, this month, I'm a "happy quilter!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quilts in the Mercer Museum (finally!)

A few weeks ago, Dave and I drove down to Doylestown, PA to the Mercer Museum to see an exhibit of Mennonite quilts from the collection of Paul and Rita Flacks.  We had never been to the Museum and were thrilled to find an enormous, wide-ranging collection of items from every day American life in the 18th and 19th century. (See previous post.)

But the real reason we were there was to see the quilts, and they did not disappoint.   Outside the gallery, two spectacular quilts served as previews for what was inside:

 This applique signature quilt is breathtaking!

Here is one corner to show the mix of traditional applique and broderie perse.  Notice that lovely appliqued tulip border.

This broderie perse quilt is also just gorgeous!

A close-up of a motif.....

When we walked into the gallery space itself, we were immediate struck by the vibrant colors of the quilts.

This applique quilt was stunning. 

While the blocks were beautiful, what made it stand out were the bias striped borders.

This school house quilt is different from the usual pattern: there is piping along the roof and wall seams of each school!  It certainly makes the contours of the schoolhouses stand out!

I've been following a Postage Stamp Quilt challenge online (I'm not participating, just watching with interest) so I enjoyed seeing this example of an interesting way to use those tiny little pieces.

This beautiful applique quilt with its background of Lancaster Blue had so many interesting elements.
Notice the borders are just cut off at the ends.  No tricky corner construction for this quiltmaker!

What she did spend time on was lots of beautiful berries, and a reverse applique border to die for!

My favorite quilts in the collection were from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.  They all had a very similar, controlled color palette and used that palette in different ways to create stunning quilts.
Three of the quilts were pieced (except for the basket handles.

I just love the combination of the maroon, the bright yellow and the Lancaster blue in this basket quilt.

The Irish Chain is one of my favorite patterns, especially in this color palette.

And look at this quilting!

Again, the use of these colors just made this quilt stand out!  Those Lebanon County women know what they were doing.

The last quilt in the show (at least it was closest to the door) was this appliqed beauty, again, in that Lebanon County palette, although with cheddar instead of a subtler yellow.  And notice the chevron quilting.  Just lovely.  This made me want to go right home and make a pomegranate quilt!

These were my favorites from the Mercer Museum show.  I especially enjoyed looking at the hand quilting on each one and returned home with new determination to practice, practice, practice!

To see more of the quilt from the Mercer, take a look at Inspiredbyantiquequilts.blogspot.com
(And look at Kathie's beautiful quilts, too!)

Up next time, trading blocks and drawing jester's hats!

Enjoy your weekend.  Find time to quilt!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax— Of cabbages—and kings"—and quilts!

 A few weeks ago, when I read Kathie of Inspired by Antique Quilts' post about her trip to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA to see a collection of Mennonite quilts, I said to Dave, "Let's go!"  Ever up for a road trip, he agreed and that very day we drove down to Doylestown and discovered the wonderful resource that is the Mercer Museum.  Henry Mercer was a collector of Americana, particularly every-day objects and handmade tools that were used in daily life before the Industrial Revolution.  His collection reached 30,000 objects, so to house them, he build a concrete museum that was completed in 1916.

What a treasure trove!  The museum has six floors that surround a center space (you could call it an atrium, but it's crammed with stuff hanging from the ceiling and the columns, things like buggies and wagons and whaling boats (complete with harpoons!)

 Each of the floors has niches or rooms in which are displayed tools and equipment for every part of 18th and 19th century life in America.

 Although Mercer found objects at flea markets and auctions, one of his big purchases was the entire contents of the Feasterville, PA country store.  In this corner of the store are all the sewing and clothing items.

Sewing items

Match your needle to your machine!

I have a young friend who is starting a business teaching canning and preserving.  This room holds everything she would ever need if she wanted to do it the old fashioned way!  That big kettle in the back is for apple butter.

 The baking equipment hasn't changed much!

Madeleines, anyone?

Bowls, baskets and molds

 But sewing certainly has!  I'm glad I don't have to heat my iron on the stove or wash my clothes with a washboard (although we certainly had a washboard when I was a child and I remember using it for stubborn dirt!)

 This little beauty is only one of several sewing machines in the tailor's room.

 This is only a small selection of the rooms in the museum!

Mercer also collected painted Pennsylvania chests. Here are two beautiful examples.

 And cast iron stove fronts!

 Mercer was a ceramicist and made painted tiles.  This is a wall of tiles telling Bible stories.

 My favorite is Adam and Eve.

If you are at all interested in American History, I'm sure you would enjoy at trip to Doylestown and the Museum.  On the same campus is Mercer's home which is open to the public and the Michener Museum, and art museum named for the author.  We are definitely going to return to see what we missed!

 In my next post, I'll show you the gorgeous Mennonite quilts that led us to the Mercer Museum in the first place.