Modern Sunbonnet Sue's Musings

Musings from the mind of a modern day Sue:

March 2012 - Posts

Mola Applique Heart Block

The eighth block in our quilt guild's Applique Club project is done. The block was completed with three colors, which added to the complexity of the project. However, it wasn't complicated to do, but required step-by-step procedures.

To begin with, the pattern was traced onto the heart fabric, rather than the background fabric. Since the fabric for the heart is darker than the ground, I needed to use a light box to see the pattern through the dark fabric. I made a make-shift light box out of a cardboard box, glass from a broken picture frame, and one of my husband's portable lights in the garage. It worked perfectly, except for getting a little too warm. 

Mola applique designs originated from the Kuna tribeswomen of Columbia and Panama. The designs are made from brightly colored fabrics stitched into geometric images. Rows of stitching create the colorful designs. Three colors is the simplest pattern, since each color must be layered in the applique. More complex designs use many different colors.

Here is the completed Mola Heart block. The fabrics for the center designs were basted between the background and the outside heart fabric. The pattern was snipped in advance, to allow cutting the fabric for the reverse applique. Any instructions I have read, suggest basting around all the pattern designs. I learned, after completing the central applique, that the basting needed to be done in sections. Because the design moves out from the center with very little space between the shapes, the fabric needed trimmed so that it didn't extend into the applique area for the second fabric. I choose to baste around each section as the previous section was completed. At one point in the design, the background fabric shows through. Then, the fabric is cut away around the heart shape and the outside of the heart is appliqued down.

I am beginning to really enjoy reverse applique. I have decided to use the technique in my National Quilting Association challenge quilt. I don't want to give away my design, but it uses the Marinar's Compass pattern that is the required inspiration for the challenge. My previous posting about making a 4-inch paper-pieced block just isn't coming together. Designing is often a trial and error process, which can leave UFO's in it's wake. Someday, I will have to make something out of all my unfinished design pieces. That would make a pretty scrappy quilt.


Posted Sat, Mar 24 2012 8:34 AM by Pamela | 3 comment(s)

Modern Sue is a Grandmother, again

Life has a way of keeping us busy. And what a joy when that involves little babies. My new baby granddaughter, Carly Mae, is a week old tonight. Grandma has been busy. Her three-year-old sister spent three days and two nights at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Now, I know why we have children when we are young. By Sunday night, I was exhausted. Check out my new avatar to get a glimpse of my sweetheart.

Baby & Mommy stayed at the hospital a little longer than planned. CM had an elevated temperature and none of the tests could explain why. As a precaution, the doctors placed her on an antibiotic. Poor girl, she had to be poked far too many times for being so little. Labs, IVs; they even wanted to do a spinal tap. The pediatrician said she was "too strong" and decided not to try again after the second attempt. CM pulled out her IV, so they placed it in her tiny head. She caused such a raucous in the nursery, the pediatrician sent her out to Mommy's room. What a trooper. She sure let them know what she thought of all they were doing. Even though Mommy was discharged, they let her with the baby the entire time.

They both came home on Tuesday. Mom & baby are doing fine. Got home a little while ago from visiting her and her big sis. She is such a sweetie. She fussed, but Grandma was able to settle her down, for awhile. She kept opening her eyes and looking at me. I'm so blessed.

I'll get back to some quilting topics soon. I have the next applique heart block completed. I did some spray starch research. And, I need to follow-up with the next Mystery Quilt step.

Until then... Happy Stitching.

Posted Thu, Mar 22 2012 8:43 PM by Pamela | 1 comment(s)

Sue's Sunday Sewing & Other Such Things

I am sitting at my computer with the sun streaming through the upstairs window. The sunlight is decieving, though, with a crispness in the air. Flowers are peeking out of my beds, rushing Spring along. I suspect that we will have more snow and frost before it finally arrives -  as the adage goes, when March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion.

Today, I need to pick up my Mystery Quilt project and get the next step out to my MQN quilt group. I have far too many projects going that require finishing with deadlines. Weekly, I must plan out my sewing schedule, in order to meet these deadlines. It keeps me sewing, but I miss out on QCA. I see that I am behind in reading about the next QCA Mystery Quilt. Likely, I will not be able to participate. I did just finish my MQ V, but have other projects waiting to be started. Namely, a quilt for my expectant grandson, due in May.

I have fabrics selected for this quilt, but am still planning the design of the quilt. My daughter is an avid reader. She was planning to study to be an elementary school teacher, and selected a fabric panel depicting Eric Carle pictures from The Hungry Catepillar to make a wallhanging for her future classroom. During a bus trip to the Des Moines AQS show in 2010, I purchased coordinating fabrics. I have decided to use these fabrics to make the baby quilt for her first child. She had asked me quite some time ago to make this, so my daughter has probably long forgotten about the fabric panel. I'm hoping it will be a surprise.


These colors are so bright and will make a wonderful quilt for a child. I recently found the purple fabric online at Ethelbird & Eliza Kids Fabrics. I have purchased fabrics from them in the past and have been very pleased. And, they are a Michigan company, so I am supporting my LQS, so to speak. I have solicited ideas from some of my quilt friends. So far, the plan is to use the large panel shapes with smaller blocks surrounding them to fill in the needed space. I am planning to purchase a neutral color, likely white, to make pinwheels. I am also thinking of adding some tumbling blocks somehow. The dot fabric will be used in the border. I'm still accepting any ideas, so give me your thoughts.

I am also working on finishing the embroidery on a wallhanging that will have the baby information for my youngest daughter's baby. Unfortunately, I cannot add the baby name, birthdate, and weight information until after the baby is born. But, we are close, since she was due last Wednesday. Patiently waiting.

I also began a "research" project, yesterday. Many of you are familiar with Mary Ellen's Best Press. I have not been a fabric starcher for my sewing projects, and do not care to spend the money for this product. However, I have a project that calls for using it on the fabric in making a scalloped border and I can see the benefits to this step. I have purchased pre-made starch in an aersol can to use when pressing my dresser cloths, but decided to find alternate ways to produce a product for use in this project. I did an online search for starch and Best Press recipes and am testing out some of them. I prepared four different products yesterday and tried them out on pieces of muslin fabric. Since everyone has a different idea of what they are looking for in a fabric starch, I hope to make conclusions about the recipes, so that others can decide what will work best for their sewing needs. I also plan to do a cost analysis. Check back at a later date, if you are interested in my "research".

Well, there is Sue's agenda for the remainder of the day. I may have to take a walk in the sunshine, as well. I cannot resist the call of Spring.


Posted Sun, Mar 11 2012 1:11 PM by Pamela | 1 comment(s)

Folk-art Pa 'ndau Heart Block

Many of you have been following the applique heart quilt that I am making with my local quilt guild, Mid-Michigan Quilters' Guild. My current block is the alternate pa 'ndau example that I used for the class sample. For this block, I found a website that sells items stitched with the pa 'ndau design and interpreted it into my heart block.

Here is the finished block. Some of you will instinctively see that the shape of my heart is incongruous. The lesson I learned: Do not sew on black fabric in limited lighting. I mistakenly cut the fabric outside the drawn lines and had to turn under and applique with the available fabric. Thus, the left side of my heart droops down. I wasn't about to discard my block because of this gross error, after putting some time into the stitching.

The ground fabric was preapred by tracing the design onto the black flannel using a white marking pencil. I purchased this pencil at a national quilt show a few years ago and really like how well it marks. The brand is Bohin, from France, and works like a mechanical pencil. Several colors are available for use and I chose a black and white, which can be exchanged using the same pencil depending upon the value of fabric that needs marked. The reverse applique of the block is done in a wool, which worked perfectly, since the turn under seam comes from the ground fabric. Another aspect of this block, that I added, is the running stitch through the center of the reverse applique shapes. I observed, in many pa 'ndau designs, that the Hmong women had also done this technique. I decided to do the same technique to keep to the original intent of the stitchery. I used a #8 red perle cotton thread to complete the running stitch.

I have prepared my last block for the quilt, a Mola design. This uses the same reverse applique technique, but is done with multiple colors. So, I am in the home stretch to finish the quilt. Borders with leaves and cherries is next on the list of shapes to complete. I plan to use a freezer paper on the bottom technique that does not appear to be familiar with many. I saw this technique demonstrated many years ago on public television and also in a Rodale Press book on applique. Check back at a later date to see how this technique is done. I will be sure to take pictures of the stages, so that everyone can follow along easily.

Until next time... Happy Stitching!

Posted Sat, Mar 10 2012 7:52 AM by Pamela | with no comments

Sue's Sunday Morning Musings 2

A longtime quilt friend cleaned out her library of books and brought some to our Kiltie Quilters group. We were welcome to take any, and the remaining she planned to donate elsewhere. She indicated one particular book I might enjoy, knowing that I collect older quilt books. The book was The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting by Marguerite Ickis published in 1949 by Dover Publications. Alas, I already have the book in my collection, although her book was in much better condition. Someone else can enjoy the book filled with illustrations and history of early 1900 quiltmaking.

Instead, my eyes glimpsed another book, 101 Patchwork Patterns by Ruby Short McKim published in 1962 by Dover Publications. Many of us know the name in association with the Kansas City Star. She was an artist and designer with many of her early patterns published there. Ruby was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame of Indiana in 2002. You can check out quilt patterns from the publication at Kansas City Star Quilts. McKim is best know for 101 Patchwork Patterns, with all the patterns available online at this website.

The book contains many oldtime patterns, which we seldom hear of or see today in quilting. Patterns such as Beggar Block, Sky Rocket, Rising Sun (appliqued), Little Beech Tree, and Fish Blocks. Of course, there are also many familiar blocks, with Midwestern regional names, since we are all familiar with some of these blocks having different names. The book contains pattern templates, which many modern day quilters have never used. I can use this absolute, because many of you will nod your heads and indicate how thankful you are for the rotary cutter and mat. For those of us that have been quilting before it's advent, we can remember using templates. One of my first quilts was an Ohio Star baby quilt, that I cut from cardboard templates, tracing around the inside stitching and outside cutting lines on each triangle and square, then cutting out with scissors,  and piecing by pinning the blocks together at the drawn corners to ensure accuracy. Looking back, my Ohio Star is the only quilt that I made in this fashion. I was thrilled to purchase a rotary cutter and mat and give up my templates. My daughter still possesses that baby quilt I handquilted for her back in the 1980's.

I enjoy reading through these old quilting books, to understand quilting history and the thoughts of past quilters. I chucked over the following excerpt, from 101 Patchwork Patterns, titled "Apartment Quilting":

     "Maybe this should be "compartment" quilting, but still it was originated for the woman who lives in tiny rooms, efficiency all over, even to finishing her full-sized quilts therein, to its last lovely stitch. This may be done in an apartment that can't accommodate a large picture frame, to say nothing of quilting frames! One young thing wrote, "We even have collapsible tooth brushes, and yet, I am quilting mine own quilt."

We can all relate to this woman's ingenuity in finding space to quilt regardless of where we live. We all talk about how we store fabric, lay out large quilts to baste, and quilting on our domestic sewing machines. Many of us also yearn for a mid-arm or long-arm machine to quilt our own, rather than sending them out to someone else to finish. And, we get our husband's involved in building us storage shelves or converting rooms or garages into our sewing studios. Space is certainly a commodity we seek. Interesting that our predecessors suffered from the same ailment sparked by the "quilting bug".

Welcome to the modern world of quilting. It really doesn't change much. We've just evolved into purchasing stashes of fabric and every gadget and gizmo that comes along, so that we can produce as many quilts as possible. Instead of templates, we use our Accu-Quilts. And, there is any conceivable gadget available to assist us in our quilting. What more can someone possibly come up with in the quilting world. But, 10-15 years from now, there will be, I'm certain, a plethera of new gadgets available to the quilter, and we will all be clamoring for space to house it.

Happy Stitching!

Posted Sun, Mar 4 2012 7:45 AM by Pamela | 3 comment(s)