Back in the Saddle Again

Have you ever wondered exactly how you ended up where you ended up?


It’s usually one of those moments when your conscious mind makes an appearance and your autopilot self politely steps out of the way.   As I came back to awareness this week, I realized it had been six long months since I had really participated fully in the world around me.

During those six months I blithely moved through life working fulltime and overtime, being mom, grandma, Josie, Aunt Jo and Chief Bowl Filler (for Angel the dog and Lily the cat).  Winter moved to spring and the stress began to ratchet up  Husband needed both hips replaced, travel baseball multiple nights and weekends, school starting, more overtime, more demands, more responsibilities and less me.

At some point I think I just went into autopilot and never came back.. until now.

So where we’re at in the movie:

  • Husband recovering slowly but surely from hip replacements
  • Fall baseball over with a couple months break before spring training
  • School routines established
  • Work life is crazy, but I’m having an ongoing epiphany about how I want to spend the next five years (and guess what, it’s not what I’ve done the previous five!)
  • Home life is crazy and ditto..

It’s time to re-engage and start taking some of those next steps.  I have some ideas percolating that may actually amount to something- stay tuned!

Boxes Under the Bed – What’s Under YOUR Quilt?

As a long-time lover of all things antique, over the years I’ve been the friend or family member that gets the “old sewing stuff” that no one wants. This can be anything from rusted straight pins, to fabric scraps, to sewing patterns and wonderfully- old quilting patterns!  Sometimes I get these collections in envelopes or cardboard boxes, sometimes in paper sacks and once even in an old sewing basket!

Farmers Wife Mailing Envelope

I’ve always treasured them, but just recently I found that the Alliance for American Quilts not only encourages documentation of quilts and quilt makers but also quilt ephemera (Boxes Under the Bed project).  All that old sewing stuff I’ve accumulated over the years has a formal name- who knew?  Ephemera is an interesting word that sums up this “stuff” beautifully.

The Quilt Alliance has a wonderful page that lists the steps to document and submit quilting ephemera; I’m preparing (this may take a while) the first collection for submission and I thought I would share it with you!

This particular group was given to me by a friend of a friend years ago (1990’s sometime?).  Someone heard I was a quilter (VERY new at the time) and gave it to my friend to give to me.  I’ve since lost touch and only have the name on the original Farmer’s Wife mailing envelope to guide me: Mrs. John Rupright;  the mailing address shows RR 1, Marysville, Ohio.

The collection consists of a mailing envelope containing newspaper clippings, cardboard templates, some old needles, fabric patches and an Alice Brooks pattern.  Another envelope inside this larger one also has similar items (I’ll detail that one next time).

Here’s the Alice Brooks “Shooting Star” pattern:


ShootingStars2I was looking through some of the quilt templates to see if they matched this pattern, but the only thing I found that looked close were these:


They match pattern piece F minus the seam allowance?  Hmm… not sure if that was planned or not.  Maybe she was hand piecing and adding the seam allowance when she cut out the fabric?  The more I think about it, the more that makes sense.

Then we have these lovely articles from Better Homes and Garden – Ruby Short McKim (1932) and the Farm Jounal:



I’m actually kind of liking that Firecrackers and Rockets block;  I may need to play around with that one.  And here’s Alice Brooks’  Wheel of Fortune pattern from the Toledo (OH) Blade.


There were a small number of fabric patches (next time), but there was also one small section of a pieced block:

Ocean Wave 1

Looking at this poor piece makes me want to invite her over for a bottle of wine (hey, it always helps MY piecing look better!).   The dark triangles were all cut a bit too small and the pieces didn’t fit well together, but she persevered to get at least this small section done.  Looking at the back , you can see the struggle continues.

Ocean Wave 2

I found a smaller mailing envelope in the mix that said “Ocean Wave,”  so I wonder if she got the pattern or template from someone else?   Then got frustrated with the pieces not matching well and quit?

Whooaa Nellie,  that sounds like me and the “Dreaded Basket Quilt” I blogged about here;  could it be that across the decades her collection of ephemera could teach me something about perfection not being the goal at all?  That loving what you create, loving the process- the good, the bad (and yes even the ugly), is the true expression of ourselves as creative beings?

I’m looking at all of her old quilting “stuff” with new eyes;  machine quilting articles, less than perfect templates,  complicated patterns- she was an adventurer!   And while her collection tells us a little bit about who she was, it tells us lot about who WE are;  she’s  leaving a trail for us to follow;  we can do no less than to become adventurers in our own right.

Be bold-  love your work, your process, no matter what.  Do it for Mrs. John Rupright :)

Channeling Barbara Brackman – The Auction Mystery Quilt

Have I mentioned before that I love antique quilts?  Maybe once or twice?

Over the years (as my budget waxed and waned) I’ve collected a number of antique quilts and quilt tops.  Not a large number and most of them in semi-sad shape, but I love everyone of them like children.

So imagine my delight, while digging through a basket of crazy quilt pieces (and yes I do mean cut up pieces) at a local antique auction, I found a couple of quilts buried at the bottom-  a vintage basket quilt and this drop dead gorgeous scrap quilt tied with cotton string:

Whole Quilt 1

 My heart just about stopped (I save this type of enthusiasm only for antique quilts and winning lottery tickets).  Two of the block corners have triangles and two of the corners have pie shaped wedges with an end result of alternating quarter-square triangle blocks with a wonderful circle shape.  You can somewhat see the block shape in this picture.

Quilt Block 1

Pinks and browns and conversation prints, oh my!

Quilt Block 3

Ditties and squigglies and that wonderful pie shape that comes together at the corner of the blocks.

Quilt Block 2

But oh, the mystery.  The fabric *appeared* to be old, but it was hard to tell for sure across the entire quilt.  It even *felt* old;  there’s a small gap in the binding and I could see cotton batting complete with cotton seeds.   The backing was all in the same pinkish striped fabric:

Backing 1

Given the range of fabrics and age, this quilt may have been a result of someone’s scrap bag collection across many years and quilters.
And the icing on the cake was the intriguing block pattern.  I think I’ve seen it before, but can’t put a name to it.   The auction was crowded and it was hard to get the entire quilt out to assess, so I had to make do with evaluating just the parts that could be pulled out of the basket.

Of course, the minute I cross the quilt-inspection line to “intrigued,”  most generally the quilt comes home with me (I mean who needs to eat EVERY day).   The auctioneer pulled those two quilts out of the basket and the bid was on choice;  fortunately it was late in the auction and not too many people were left.  I got choice for a very good price and took them both!

As a quilt historian wannabe, I’m planning to channel Barbara Brackman and do some research on this one.  Is it an old top that was finished and tied much later?  Maybe new(er) blocks mixed with older ones in order to complete the quilt?  What are the fabric ages?  Can I identify them definitely?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll get measurements, more (and better) pictures and start working through the blocks one by one to document the fabric.  Stop by Pinterest to see my progress-  I’m thinking I may need to recreate this one from my own stash :)

Keeping It Real – February Edition

Well, this was supposed to be in the blog post where I updated you on the significant progress made on my Jan-Mar UFO project.  Yeah, that and my unicorn farm.

It’s been a bad week-  working lots of hours, my laptop died (it had been limping along for a LONG time), I had several conflicting personal deadlines and of course, I had my UFO goal for the month of January looming.  I had expected to be much farther along on this project by now and was feeling the pressure.

So in spite of previous experience that SHOULD have told me NOT to do this  (those little voices in your head are sometimes worth listening to, you know), I went downstairs to the basement studio very late one evening determined to trim the nine blocks to size. 

And before you ask (with pity in your eyes and horror over the massacre to come), yes I looked in Elly’s book to confirm size.  Yes, I double-checked my ruler prior to cutting.  And yes, I abstained from hard liquor and mind-altering drugs before going to the basement (although it was tempting afterwards). 

So I trimmed the first block:

Ellie block 1

Notice anything?   Okay, I know these are really poor pictures (yet another result of this week), but let me point out the seam allowance.  A little skimpy, right?   Of course any sane quilter would have looked at this and stopped in their tracks.  

Me?   Oh no, I just plowed along and pulled the next block to trim.  As I trimmed the second block in my sleep-deprived and Bonnie-Hunter-quilt-cam-listening distracted state, from a distance I noticed these seam allowances were REALLY small.

In other words, non-existent.

Ellie block 2-1

I bent over to take a closer look and saw this:

Ellie block 2-2

The caption on this photo should read: “You can’t fix stupid.”

So I carefully laid down the rotary cutter, stepped away from the cutting table and went back upstairs to bed. I was in denial busy the rest of the week, but yesterday it was time to accept what I’d done with grace. 

So I considered taking the easy route and making these two blocks into pillows- or maybe matting and framing them. And pretending like that was my plan all along- anything but admit to the world at large that in a moment of stubbornness I trimmed the blocks too small and ruined them.

But… I’m all about real. In my dealings with work, family and yes, even quilts (driver’s license weight information is off the table). So to maintain my integrity and to honor all those other quilters from history who’ve done the same, I’m going to add back the dang strips that I cut off. I’ll have to probably unsew part of the applique to get the strip on, them re-applique the affected parts back on. And it will probably be painfully obvious that I did so in the finished quilt.

Maybe in a hundred years some other quilter will be looking at my fix and consider it charming. And with her own quilty mistakes, feel better for being part of the larger community of quilters who “keep it real” every day :)

Oh and the other seven blocks? They’re whispering to each other fearfully on the corner of the cutting table; I can’t hear what they’re saying but it sounds like they’re trying to trade places with the Oct-Dec UFO!

BBWQ Happy Dance for January!

Yep,  it’s official-  the Benjamin Biggs Wedding Quilt block 1 is DONE!

As you can tell, I favor a somewhat controlled scrappy approach to the fabric choices;  I’m loving how this first block came out (insert happy sigh here).

BBWQ - Block 1

BBWQ - Block 1 Detail

I’m going to jump over and post it on the Benjamin Biggs Wedding Quilt site, then I have to get busy on my January-March UFO project.

Of course it’s back to work tomorrow, unless the weather becomes severe and my company cancels.  I’m as bad as the grandkids;  we all get up early in the morning and huddle around the radio like it’s WWII and Radio Free Europe- waiting on news from the front (school and work, that is).    Isn’t it funny that none of us can get out of bed early when we have to, but let there be a possibility of a cancellation and we bound out of bed at 5 AM,  run for the radio and set up camp, lol.

For all you in the midst of winter like us, stay warm and keep an ear open for the radio.  Work cancellation = quilting time… whoot!

Grow Your Blog

Hi, I’m Jo Young-  thanks for visiting my quilting blog!

DadandJoI’m a wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. I live a Walton Family lifestyle; my son, his wife and three children, all live with my husband and me in an 1890’s farmhouse in the country. Another son lives close by. We round things out with our dog Angel (a mini Pomeranian) and Lily the (queen) cat.

While many times it’s a challenge for all of us to share one house, I feel very blessed to have our family close.

I made my first quilt in 1996; machine pieced and hand quilted, I fell in love with the quilting process and never looked back. I enjoy making all kinds of quilts, but antique reproduction quilts are probably my favorite.

Someone once asked me my why I quilt… my answer?

Quilts talk to me (don’t tell my therapist); the tattered antique quilts tell me stories about love and weddings, babies and hard times and letting go. The quilts I create today capture my stories and leave recipients to weave their voices with my own, ready to be shared with another generation.

I blog to give all quilts a voice, a part of the story. Join me in the journey!

Dessert First- I’ll Have Apple Pie, Please..

Apple Pie Ridge Star that is;  the first Benjamin Biggs Wedding Quilt block from Just Takes Two has been posted.


As you may recall from this post, I’ve committed to the BBWQ block of the month.  There’s already activity on the group’s blog site;  it’s amazing how generous these ladies are about sharing!  The Just Takes Two ladies (thanks Brenda and Gay) provide the historical background of the block and then you get the added insight from BBWQ blog members who post-  how great is that?

Anyway, with the block pattern posted I knew I could postpone no longer;  I headed to Red Rooster Quilts to choose a background fabric.  This was not a trivial matter- 10 yards of fabric and 24 months of applique blocks equals a long term quilting relationship.   I browsed the store (one of my favorites) and struggled;  I didn’t want anything too cream/vanilla yet all of the whites I looked at seemed too stark.   I referred back to pictures of the original quilt, then considered some of my past applique project backgrounds.

Then I saw this fabric (Noteworthy by Sweetwater/Moda) and fell in love:

It’s a white (sort-of) on off-white print.  A delicate looking paisley background with just the right amount of movement to catch your eye.  I paused, then reconsidered.  And reconsidered again.

White on white means typically there’s some level of rubbery-like texture to the secondary pattern.  And that texture can be a major pain to needle through whether with hand quilting or hand applique (ask me how I know).   I walked around the quilt shop another good 30 minutes selecting then rejecting alternatives, then finally ending up in front of this bolt of fabric again.

So of course I threw caution to the wind and we got married bought the fabric.

Of course I rushed home to get started.  First off, wash the fabric.  I’m a washer;  after years of listening to arguments on both sides, I just find it simpler in the long run to wash the fabric up front.  From there I cut the first four background blocks, put three away and started auditioning the reds and greens.  With my choices made, I started the block preparation.

20140111_Quilt__011Some of the ladies on the BBWQ blog back baste their blocks, but while I’ve watched a few videos, I keep going back to the method I’m comfortable with:  glue stick and pencil.  I’ve had really good luck with the Sewline gluesticks.  I’ve used them for several different types of applique, and they seem to go on nicely and wash out without a problem.

Most applique blocks like this are appliqued in layers, so using freezer paper, I marked the large red bottom piece and cut it out.  Using the gluestick, I positioned it  and appliqued it in  place.

20140111_Quilt__008Next layer includes the green paisley pieces;  the picture shows the taped-together pattern on my lightbox with my block laying on the top.

It’s hard to see, but I use the glue stick to lightly attach the next layer of applique shapes on the block, using the pattern shadow under the block to ensure the correct placement.

Once they’re tacked in place, I applique them down.  I typically glue one layer on at at time, though I’ve seen other quilters glue everything in place at once.  I work full time so sometimes it takes me a full month to get the block done-  I prefer to assemble the layers in smaller batches.

20140111_Quilt__016Here I’ve put the next layer in place-  the flower bud and leaf for the corner flowers in the block,  The final layer is the bud stem which has been marked in pencil for the stem placement.

Many quilters draw the entire pattern on the background fabric and use the drawn lines for the applique piece placement;  I didn’t do it for this block but will probably do so for the next one.  I may also bite the bullet and try back basting as well.  So many quilters recommend it and it’s hard to argue with the beautiful results.

And how is the background fabric working out?  So far it’s needling a little bit on the rough side, but I’m so pleased with the overall look of the block, that I don’t mind.

Hopefully will have a finished block to show you in the near future!