Still Life With Donkeys

Earlier today, my favorite SIL posed the question: What are you working on?

Honestly?  I’ve been having a love affair with 9-patches.  This weekend I put a check mark on a reproduction quilt top begun ten years ago.  I had the field of blocks complete, and the cheddar sashing mostly done, when I began cutting the wholecloth borders.  Then… full stop.

Now there’s this thing about the fabric I used in the border.  It’s kind of ugly.  But I kind of love it for all of its ugliness, and it was a millennium fabric done for Quilt For The Cure, so it was kind of like guilt free spending at the time.

Sort of.

I had long suspected that it was a reproduction fabric, and I’ve since found the likely source – the backing fabric used on a pineapple quilt, supposedly dating to 1876.  The website where I found the quilt listed is called 1stdibs; a site self-described as “the world’s leading online marketplace for the most beautiful things on earth.”  And the price tag for the quilt?  $4,995.00.

(yowza)

lady liberty 1876 1stdibs

Lady Liberty 1876 1stdibs

A little artistic license was used in recreating the Quilt For A Cure fabric.  We still have the beehive, cornucopia, and wheat – all symbols of prosperity and abundance – but the corn has gone AWOL.  Lady Liberty, her shield, and anchor remain, but Anno Domini and MM were added to the anchor… and that leads us right back to where we started: millennium fabric so ugly only I could love it.

Quilt For A Cure Millennium Fabric

Rewind to ten years ago: I botched the border cuts.  Devastated, I folded everything up – toe-tagged it, bagged it, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early yesterday morning: I was flipping through an old quilt magazine (American Patchwork & Quilting – February 2005), when I stumbled across the pattern for the not-quite-forgotten quilt.  The pattern is called Civil War Soldier Patch, by Julie Bragg.  What originally caught my attention ten years ago, was that the quilt was based on the dimensions for a U.S. Sanitary Commission cot quilt.  During the Civil War, hospital quilts and blankets were made long and narrow to cover the body, but not drag on the floor, and that translates into a perfectly sized quilt for a couch potato like me.

Imagine this: any Saturday night, with something on TV that is probably too violent, too graphic, likely something by Quentin Tarantino.  The floor is littered with candy wrappers, spilled soda and popcorn.  But my nifty new quilt never has to brawl with movie night detritus, it hangs nicely above the muck.

And I remembered why I’d buried the quilt top – those pesky borders – but I gave myself a stern talking to.  “Get over it, it’s a utility quilt, get it done”, I told myself.  So back up on the design wall it went.

I thought that this morning I’d try snapping an interesting photo or six to share, but real life, in the form of my pair of donkeys, got in the way.  Some photos have just noses.  Some photos have just ears.  But most of the set-up shots have a stealth attack involving one or more donkeys.

Still Life With Donkeys

“Oh.  You wanted to take a photograph of that old thing?  Really?”  So I settled for a standard “let’s spread it out on the grass” shot , sans donkeys.  See the cotton field across the road?  A few more weeks and it’s picking time.

The soldier’s quilt finished at 54.5″ x 84″ (app. 138×213 cm).

Soldier's Quilt

Still Life With Donkey

I’ve also been playing with Miss G’s bag of orphan blocks, fifty two of which are 9-patches.  Let me tell you about those blocks – Miss G, being a housekeeper all her life couldn’t gift me with (probably) old and musty fabrics.  She laundered them all.  And yes, they frayed, but her heart was absolutely in the right place.

So after much blocking and pressing, I cut all fifty two blocks down to uneven 9-patches, and that’s when they began to take on a life of their own.  I decided that a riff on the Sister’s Choice block would be a good place to start, and I knew that I wanted to use two different blocks in the quilt.  But the second block eluded me…  time to go stash diving for inspiration.

When I surfaced, I had found four fabrics: a black gingham, plus three more fabrics that had been given to me (again, from my favorite SIL).  One was a red/white check that reminded me of growing up on the road, seeing the Purina logo on storage silos in the rural towns we passed through.  The second was a bit of gorgeousness: an entire vintage feedsack in blue with a ditzy fan and flower motif.  Lastly, a good green.  Love me some green in everything!

The gingham became points for the Sister’s Choice blocks.  The red check, blue feedsack, and that good green became Hens & Chicks.  The blocks finished at 14″, and the entire quilt top is 70″ (177.8 cm) square.

Twelve of Miss G’s orphan 9-patches down.  Forty to go.

Sister's Choice/Hens & Chicks

Sister's Choice & Hens & Chicks

It Was A Scrappy 4th of July

A typical 4th of July for me?  Long hours anticipating the pyrotechnic portion of Independence Day.

I did my best to dodge all thoughts of mundane chores – mowing being one that could be put off – managing to stay distracted until the time when my in-house grill master could work his magic with the all-American hamburger.  Then, just a short wait for the crump, crump… crump, of fireworks.

Sitting up on our little bit of a rise in a flat terrain, I anticipated good views from both the back porch and the front porch – yay!  If you can imagine me trotting through the house from porch to porch, greedy to see all of the fireworks, then you’ve got a true picture of what a little kid I can be.

In the meantime, the clock would be ticking incredibly slowly, not at all like the biological clock of Mona Lisa Vito (My Cousin Vinnie): “My biological clock is [tap-tap-taps her foot] TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.” – so I pulled out some scrappy bits and pieces to fashion a quilt with a patriotic theme, it was the 4th after all.

Inspired by a timely post called Olde Glory, a free pattern from Temecula Quilt Co., our flag and American roses would be my starting point.  Then I stumbled across a few miniature spool blocks left over from an older project.  I had almost all of the components ready to while away the hours.

Mission accomplished – the doll-sized quilt will finish at 18.75″ x 21″ (47.625 x 53.34 cm).

A Scrappy Fourth

Ostrich Humor – Anyone?

ostrich

OSTRICH, n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe…  The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly. — Ambrose Bierce

Occasionally, when meeting the world head-on sounded like a drag, I’ve been known to do a fair Struthio camelus imitation.  I’ve had my head in the sand a lot lately, but I’m still kicking, nonetheless, and no, I don’t have a nest of eggs that needs checking on.  I’m aware that the ostrich effect is a myth except when describing behavioral finance… but I still like the metaphor.

Lots of books, music, and movies have gone under my wheels since I last posted.  My binges have included, but not limited to, all 10 books in the Bernard Samson series by Len Deighton, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse have been my constant quilting companions, with side trips accompanied by the likes of Steve Winwood, Cream, and Joe Cocker.  Movies: too numerous to list here, but here’s a hint – puredee escapism.

Elmer Tipton OK F2 TornadoThe weather here in Tornado Alley has finally driven me back to the computer; we’ve had a couple of “holy cow that was kind of close!” tornadoes blow through – friends and neighbors sustained damage, but our little piece of paradise is, so far, intact.  And the rain… we went from exceptional drought and near-dead lakes to ground that’s reached its saturation point and flooding in the last 3-4 weeks.  Highways to anywhere have been closed and a nearby town is dealing with evacuation procedures.  We’re in moderate drought now, but I have it from a reliable source that as soon as the new statistics are tabulated we should be listed as merely abnormally dry… huzzah!

The most recent quilting check mark – which, incidentally, rhymes with aardvark, airpark, autarch, ballpark, blue shark, bookmark, chop mark, debark, demark and D-mark – that I’ve seen lately, is my scrappy red and black version of Barbara Brackman’s Threads of Memory project.  The finished top measures 72″x87″ or app. 182×220 cms.

threads of memory barbara brackman quiltI still need to get three blocks plus borders finished on my Fig Tree & Co. fabrics version of the same quilt.  Never fear, I will get there one of these days.

On another quilting note: I finished quilting and binding my Bonnie Hunter Easy Street quilt from 2012 (seriously, 2012).  I was somewhat eager to show it off here, but disaster managed to strike first.  The pre-washed mauve fabric that I’d used as backing fabric bled…. and bled and bled and bled.  I’ve used every commercial product I could think of, and it’s still bleeding.  All of my nice white background fabrics are an ugly pinkish-mauve, ditto the greens and the aquas that I used.  But there is a silver lining – the purples are still purple.  My last ditch alternative is going to be using an ammonia solution – cross your fingers please – otherwise it’ll be designated as dog bedding.

Speaking of dogs: we lost Boomer this spring, one of a pair of big yellow dogs that lived with us, but we’ve since acquired a pair of litter mates as company for Boomer’s brother Jack, who badly missed having a wing-man.

Tank & TillyHave been puzzling over so-called designer dogs since our new puppies are a Labrador/Rottweiler mix, and what to call them.  Labrador/Rottweiler is a mouthful, so I’ve been reading about hybrid dogs with names like Yorkipoo, Alusky, and Labradoodle to name just a few of the recognized crossbreeds.

Where do Tank and his sister Tilly land?  Officially, they’re Labrotties, but I think instead that I’ll follow the Labradoodle logic and call them Labradotties if asked.  The name rolls off the tongue easier and sounds like a lot more fun.  Besides, Labrottie, when said aloud, makes me think of some old and dignified Italian breed.  Too much responsibility to put on a pair of rough and tumble puppies.

Where’s Lilly?

Remember these fabrics from Miss G?  I had thought that it would be the absolute last fabric that I would find a spark of inspiration in.

Key West Hand Print FabricI often surprise myself – these bright Floridian prints that are so unlike anything that I gravitate towards were the fabrics that caught my attention when I was trying to decide where to go next while exploring Miss G’s treasure trove.

I had read that Lily Pulitzer often used Key West Hand Print Fabrics as a source for her fashions.  On further investigation, I learned the fabrics printed for Lilly Pulitzer, Inc. had the name “Lilly” incorporated into the the design itself.

But of course I just had to know if Miss G’s Key West Hand Print fabrics were Lillies, so the hunt began, and as it turned out, these fabric scraps are ALL Lillies.

Sometimes the Lilly is easy enough to find.  Other times not so easy.  Then at other times, after days of hair-pulling frustration, I’d find the next Lilly.

I’ve plumb forgotten to mention that the fabric has inspired me to begin a new quilt.  The pattern I drew up is based on probably the most famous dress designed by Lily Pulitzer: The Jacqueline Dress.

Can you find the Lilly in the following examples?  Here’s a tip – look for the dot on the “i”.

Hey – I Found My Stuff!

Miss G, who incidentally happens to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 92 to 96 years young – depending on who’s asking –  has long enjoyed going to estate sales and auctions.  When it comes to hauling her loot home, Miss G gets it there by way of her Fire Engine Red Dodge Ram pickup truck.  She drives it well enough while peeping over the top of the steering wheel (Miss G is five foot nothing, after all), and she does drive it straight as an arrow, if really, really, really slowly.

Coming from a generation that shies away from throwing things out, she sorts through her purchases, then tries to find suitable homes for the items she doesn’t need or can’t use.

Over the last several months, Miss G has decided that I was the candidate mostly likely to use some of the goodies that she’s been saving up from sales: all things quilt related plus sundry items she thought might interest me.

Cereal box templates that were shared between quilters and sent via the US Postal Service.  When could a person mail a letter for three pennies?  The answer is anytime between 1851 and 1958 – but judging by what was stamped on the envelope above, 1940 would be today’s correct answer.

There’s even a wee treasure, a 2½”x4¼” envelope in beautiful condition that’s chock full of Peter Pan fabric samples – colors that go by the names of Copen, Orchid, Canary, Cameo and Coral Bell.

There also seem to be enough pre-cut fabrics ready to be rocked into a Dresden Plate quilt.

Scads of patterns cut from newspapers and magazines, yards of vintage 1920s fabrics (about 90 years old!), with all of the motifs for an Oriental Poppy quilt cut out and many already basted.  You can see in the photo below that even the original pattern has been preserved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then there are the orphan blocks.  Lots and lots of orphan blocks.  I’ve got a stack of Nine-Patch, a veritable tower of Improved Nine-Patch, blocks that I don’t recognize and haven’t identified yet, and so many hours went into making these blocks – they were all hand pieced, the stitches small and even.  So how can I ignore them?  Can I leave them to languish in bins and boxes?  Or should I simply pass them along to another quilter?  The answer to all of the above is, I can’t.

Stacks of orphan blocks

Whaddaya Mean You Didn’t Use Templates?

To kick off my latest personal challenge, I’ve made a quilt out of a few of the orphan blocks.  The maker of these particular blocks knew how to stitch, but was maybe new-ish to quilting.  She or he didn’t bother to use a template, and as a result, few of the circles were actually… um, how will I phrase this nicely?  Circular.  When assembled, there was only one block that was within miles of being circular.

Not a problem – a few down and dirty stitches embroidered onto the top to give the impression of circularity, and “hey presto!”, a primitive style little quilt.  A phrase springs to mind, one I heard while watching White Men Can’t Jump when I was binding the quilt, and when I heard it I barked with shocked delight.  “You can throw a cat in the oven, but that don’t make it a biscuit.”  So here’s a photo of my Biscuit Quilt – it’s not symmetrical, it’s not traditional, but it’s a quilt.

The finished size of the Biscuit Quilt is 45″x54″ (114x137cms).

Biscuit Quilt made from orphan blocks by JoT in 2014

I’m Really Not Changing Horses In Mid-Gallop

Miss G didn’t limit herself to traditional quilting fabrics when she was piling up treasure for me – she also included vintage fabrics from the Key West Hand Print Fabric Shop that began operation about 1960 (think Early Jet Set Chic).  For today’s bonus round of fabric trivia, you should know that the Queen of Prep, Lily Pulitzer Rousseau, had many of her fabrics designed and printed at Key West Hand Print Fabrics.

Just for grins – a short history of the shop can be found here, a pictorial history of the shop is here, and an overview of Lily Pulitzer Rousseau’s link to KWHPF is here.

I am completely open to suggestions when it comes to these fabrics – I think that they will be my biggest challenge to date… smiling pink monkeys kind of creep me out.

Thanks Miss G.  You are a pip!

Key West Hand Print Fabric Leaflet

Key West Hand Print Fabric Cutting Room Floor

Key West Hand Print Fabrics

 

A Nearly Wordless Wednesday

A volume of Longfellow poems: Photo credit Carol Jost FanconiA school prize - but so sad that the person who inscribed the volume of poems to Gertrude wasn't an apt speller: Photo credit Carol Jost FanconiFamily record keeping, penned by Gertrude Saucier: Photo credit Carol Jost FanconiSaucier Children and facing page of the Longfellow volume: Photo credit Carol Jost Fanconi

Voices of the Night

Hymn to the Night

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Aspasie, trillistos.

I heard the trailing garments of the Night
      Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
      From the celestial walls!
I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
      Stoop o’er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
      As of the one I love.
I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
      The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
      Like some old poet’s rhymes.
From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
      My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there, —
      From those deep cisterns flows.
O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
      What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,
      And they complain no more.
Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
      Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
      The best-beloved Night!

 

[Edit: Serendipitous that Gertie chose the Longfellow poem that began with a variation on her younger sister’s middle name, don’t you think?]

The Saucier Family: One Last Word

The Saucier Family circa 1900

Top Row: Wayne, Gertie, Hattie, Lulu, Clara, Flo, JoJo, Jim

Middle Row: Stumie, Eugene Saucier, Louise Saucier, Ben

Front Row: Gene, Ethel, Mabel, Cack

It’s been over a year now since I posted a call for help on the photograph of the Saucier Family, and at last I feel that I can put a “period” to this topic.  My thanks go out to everyone who’s contributed gentle advice, corrections, family stories and anecdotes in the process of sorting out the facts.  Thanks specifically to generous cousins of the Cowan, Howell, Tappel, Fanconi, Saucier, Thomas, Cotrufo and Goodin variety, we have photos of each of the children later in life.  Some you’ve certainly seen before, but there are a few that may be a surprise.  There is one photo that I’ve cropped out of a group shot for lack of anything better, but over on the sidebar you’ll find a gallery where you can see the original photo prior to my snip-snip with digital scissors.

I’ve put the photos in the same order as they appear in the photo above, not in order of their ages.

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