Monday, May 20, 2013

Red Sky at Night - Bonus Project Quilting Challenge

"Red Sky at Night" 16.25" x 29.75", made for Project Quilting Bonus Challenge: Tradition Times Three, May 2013

Quick recap of the challenge: "Tradition Times Three"

1. Use 10 of the 12 fabrics in the "Project Quilting Bundle" from the Fat Quarter Shop in the top of the quilt.
2. You can add two additional fabrics.
3. Choose a traditional block and use it in at least three different sizes.
Because some of the fabrics in the bundle had a nautical theme, I decided I wanted to use a quilt square that also had a water theme. I went to my "5,500 Quilt Block Design" book by Maggie Malone and started looking for a block.

I found the "Sailboat" block. I noticed if I turned the sailboat block sideways and made a small alteration, it would look like a fish. In the spirit of the challenge when I made the sailboat block, I made the altered block even though it isn't obvious because I used the same fabric for all three pieces.

I reviewed the fabric in the bundle and decided I not to use the one in the upper left hand corner or the one below it (too much contrast). I did use them on the back of the quilt.

I added two medium blues (the second to the bottom and third to the bottom on my quilt) because I felt the jump from the lighter blues to the navy blue was too much.

I pieced my three traditional blocks (the sailboat is 12" square, the larger fish 6" square, and the smaller fish 4" square) and I enjoyed using the striped fabrics for the boat and for the fish. I've used striped fabric before for bindings and borders but haven't really incorporated them into the designs like I did with this one.

I didn't like using the checkerboard fabric as it turns out the squares are exactly square. One piece got turned sideways and it didn't line up like I expected it to.

I decided to use a scalloped quilting line for all of the quilting: the waves in the water (variegated blue), the fins on the red part of the fish (red), on the boat and the sail (cream), and in the red background on an angle to represent the wind pushing the sails (cream).

I did a facing for the binding and added two buttons for eyes on the fish.

As always, you can click on any photo to see it larger.

To see the other entries go to the Tradition Times Three page (sorry, there will be clicking involved but there are only nine entries so it's not too bad).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Reviews: "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini and an autobiography of Elizabeth Keckley, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

If you're a regular reader of Jennifer Chiaverini's books then her recent book "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" might seen a little different. Not only is it not an Elm Creek Book novel, it's based on an actual person, Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who became Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker.

Because Jennifer relied heavily on Elizabeth's own memoir "Behind the Scenes or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House." I decided to read both books. And even though the memoir was originally published in 1868, it is still available today.

Although there is a lot of overlap in the two books, "Behind the Scenes" covers more of Elizabeth's life before she became Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker. It includes her time growing up as a slave, how she was able to save enough money to buy her freedom and also the freedom of her son George, and how she moved to Washington D.C. as a free woman to become a dressmaker. "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" includes what happens to Elizabeth after her memoirs were published.

Elizabeth first met Mrs. Lincoln on the day of President Lincoln's first inauguration. She remained as her dressmaker until shortly after the president was assassinated. It was after that time that Elizabeth was encouraged to write her memoirs, and although she thought she was presenting Mrs. Lincoln in a good light, Mrs. Lincoln wasn't pleased with the memoir and cut off all contact after that. Sadly, the book got bad reviews and Elizabeth never many any money from it.

Along with reading both books, I was able to attend a lecture and book signing sponsored by the Warren County Historical Society when Jennifer was at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, in January 2013. She's a gracious and entertaining speaker and it was interesting to hear about her process for writing this book.

It is believed that she made a quilt using the scraps from Mrs. Lincoln's dresses. That quilt is owned by the Kent State University Museum although it is my understanding that it is not displayed regularly.

We recently took a trip to Washington DC and the Smithonian National Museum of American History has an exhibit of dresses worn by the first lady. The purple velvet dress (left) that was worn by Mrs. Lincoln is believed to be made by Elizabeth.

Before we went on our trip we watched the movie "Lincoln" and Elizabeth is a character in the movie, although you wouldn't know that she was a dressmaker.

On a personal note, Elizabeth's son George attended Wilberforce University before he enlisted in the Union Army where he died during the Civil War. In 1892 Elizabeth taught dressmaking at Wilberforce, which is about 10 miles from where I live.

Here's a link to an article in the New York Times about Elizabeth Keckley.