Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Tale of Two Templates

I have probably shared this photo here before but the story behind it is part of my post, so I will share it again.

In 1998, while I was volunteering at a local heritage center, I became acquainted with the master quilter that did the quilting demonstrations at their Heritage Festivals. She was hand quilting a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt that she had made using the English Paper Piecing method. Though I had been quilting for years, I was unfamiliar with this technique. She told me to come back the next day with some fabrics and hand stitching supplies and she would get me started.

I really didn't have much of a stash at this point, so I raided my mother's (which consisted of a whole lot of 1980s calico prints, it appears), promising to share with Mom what I learned. The next day, after receiving a plastic template and excellent instructions from my mentor, I proceeded to clumsily attempt assembling a flower.

Following my volunteer shift I went to my mother's and traced my template onto a plastic cottage cheese lid and cut it out for my mom to use. I shared with her what I had learned and away she went, while I plodded along, slowly making a flower now and then. The following year my Mom's quilt was completed (pictured above)--hand pieced, appliqued to the border, and hand quilted and bound. I was still making an occasional flower.

I don't know if the precut hexagon papers were even available then, but our local shop didn't carry them. We used our cottage cheese lid templates to trace and hand cut each cardstock hexagon from those annoying subscription postcards that fall out of every magazine you pick up. I didn't even want to think about how many I would eventually need to cut, but in my mind I was sure I was going to make at least 60 flowers.

This was my "Lady in Waiting" project (as my teacher had so aptly called it). For years I kept a baggie in my purse with the necessary supplies to make one flower. I pulled it out while waiting for my children at piano lessons, orthodontist appointments, track meets, and basketball games. I made up dozens of little "kits" so that I could grab supplies for a new flower in a heartbeat, on those rare occasions when I actually finished one. 

I am exceptionally slow at hand stitching, no matter how much practice I get, which has created many embarrassing experiences related to this project. I carried this around for so long that many times people who had seen me working on it years before, would see me pull it out and say, "Oh, are you making another one of those quilts?" I would have to explain that this was the same old one. But the most embarrassing was when I was helping check in quilts at the county fair once, about 8 years after I had started this quilt. As usual, I had my little baggie out on the table, stitching away when things got slow. Up came a young woman, carrying a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt to enter in the fair. I knew her--she was the same age as my youngest son, and at this point they were both 18. I was marveling over her quilt--she had even hand quilted it. Then she explained that years ago she had seen me working on mine in the waiting room when she came for an orthodontist appointment. On their way home she told her mother she wanted to make what I was making. They went home and looked it up online and she figured it out and made it. And there I sat--still making flowers.

Since cutting out the hexagon papers was such a chore, my Mom saved a bunch of hers when she removed them from her quilt top, and she offered them to me. I was elated. The cutting of the hexagons was so tedious to me--actually the whole process was tedious to me, but I wanted the end product, so I kept plodding.

After I got a little over half of my flowers stitched (almost two decades later), I stalled. Just could not bring myself to whip one more stitch, or baste one more hexie. I decided that my quilt would not be as large as originally planned and just maybe, if I started assembling some of what I had made, it might spur me on to further progress. WRONG!
As I sorted through the flowers and tried to decide what type of "path" I wanted between them I discovered something extremely disheartening. My flowers were different sizes. The ones I had made using the papers I cut out were smaller than the ones made using the papers my mom had cut out. Depending on the angle of your pencil when you traced around the template, and whether you cut out on the line, or inside or outside the line, you could use the same template size, but end up with very different sizes of papers.
It was enough of a difference that I couldn't see how I could assemble a quilt top using both sizes. You can see above, I have one of the smaller blocks on top of one of the larger ones. Too much of a difference to just "ease" in. I was sick at the thought of all that work, and I couldn't put it together. I dumped everything into a box and shoved it into a dark place where I hoped to forget about it indefinitely.

Last year it started to haunt me. Do I just give it all away, or is there some way to save it? I finally came up with a plan and prepared what I needed, but hadn't done anything with it until now. On a short road trip last week I took it along (instead of my other hexie project that I struggle to work on), and I now have my first two blocks finished, and two more prepped and ready to stitch. Gotta love those calicoes.
Though applique is not my favorite thing, I think I am far more likely to finish the quilt this way, than if I had to stitch more flowers. I have all the muslin cut and ready. It is so easy to pin on a flower and start stitching, but since it will just be a travel project, it isn't going to set any records getting finished.
 
Do you have a 21 year old UFO? Surely someone out there has an older one--something you actually work on now and then. Tell me about it in the comments.

Until next time,
Janet O.

41 comments:

  1. Having trouble reading your blog. A picture from another blog covers most of it. ???

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    1. Thanks for the heads up. I have removed that blog from my list temporarily , until that photo is no longer her thumbnail.

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  2. Same here....missing the good part of the story....

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  3. Here too. Wonder if it's the same blog. Puppies from Katy's Quilts posted this morning.

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    1. Thanks for telling me which blog--don't know if I would have figured it out very quickly, otherwise.

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  4. Me ha encantado leer tu entrada. Te he entendido perfectamente cada vez que dejabas y volvías a coger tu Ufo. Llevo 12 años con la Dear Jane, espero que ya que quede poco para acabarla. Un saludo

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  5. I carried around the blocks from my first quilting class for about 29 years. Finally, 2 years ago, I decided it was time to finish it. I remade one block and put it together, and decided it needed hand quilting. That took another year to finish. So, 30 years later, I completed the quilt!! Amazingly enough, I still loved the fabrics!! Your mother's quilt is beautiful, and so are your blocks!! Great plan to applique them!

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  6. I'm not sure I have a UFO that old, but probably close. I do have a vintage set of Dresden plate blocks that were gifted to me by a friend and I've not done anything with then for the same reason you had with your flowers. Hopefully some day I'll figure out what to do with them. Your Mom's quilt is beautiful!

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  7. Dolores in MichiganJune 15, 2019 at 12:04 PM

    I too have a grandmothers flower garden packed away! I bought the calico material and away I went making the hexies. I was very new to quilting so I really didn't know much. So once my hexie flower was completed I attached it to the background hexies I made. So I'd say I'm about 75% complete. Well life gets in the way and, of course, there are so so many other quilting projects that one must start and my grandmothers flower garden got pushed to the very bottom of the pile. I'm not so sure I have enough of the calico material to complete it!! Your mom's grandmothers flower garden quilt is absolutely beautiful! I just may inspire me to dig mine out and work on it!

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  8. After a workshop on that quilt, the leader asked me what I had learned. I said, "I learned that I never want to make that quilt!" My hands and fingers just cannot do that small hand work! Yes, I do have 'old' blocks from my first BOM that I've never put together, and also my 50 Civil War blocks that I need to get together; I was proud of each of those blocks, but they are in a box in the closet! (And that's not all either!) I'm guilty as charged! ---"Love"

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  9. Now that is tenacity, my friend!! They ARE looking' good!! And if I can help, you know I am here and that I LOVE making hexie flowers!! I always love a project I can do while watching baseball at night!!

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  10. Way to go Janet! I love a quilt with a story. You have persevered so long and the end is in sight. My oldest project was 30 years from start to finish but I didn't work on it for 30 years - I made the top and quilted it 30 years later so that's not really the same. So nice to hear that you inspired that young girl while in the waiting room. Who knows who else you inspired along the way.

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  11. Love your quilt story...I adment I have a few much smaller "little quilts" that are in a box..not done...maybe never..so congratulations as to re-visiting yours...I have a feeling you will go for it!! My oldest project is Dresden blocks made of late 20's fabric (very vintage) that we blought at an Auction 5 years ago 50 of them. The Dresden circles were finished but not a middle circle or appliqued on block! So, every one in a while I get the box out and work on it I have "42" done..so I am going to get them done!!! I Know you will to!!

    Have s grest weekend!!!

    Hug's, Carolyn

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  12. Cottage cheese templates? that's hysterical.
    Your mom's quilt is just beautiful!
    And your remedy for using the unmatching flowers is brilliant!
    I have a bag of hexies waiting for completion, although mine are all sewn together!
    I don't believe I have any ufos that are as old as yours... I went on a purge a few years ago and got rid of projects that were so old that I had no interest in finishing...
    there you have it--- I kind of cheated! Don't tell!
    ;-)

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  13. A perfect solution! This is going to be one gorgeous quilt when finished....and I imagine you will add the "just right" amount of quilting to accent the flowers too! :-)

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  14. I know that feeling when things are not going to match, it is horrible! I just cut up some mini hexis into a backing for a little purse to the horror of my girlfriends. But it was wavy and never going to work, but as a purse back it will look impressive....taken me a few years, not 21, but I do admire your persistence. And I brought bigger papers (better quality as I had your issue with smaller ones) to make hexi flowers to applique onto squares LOL! As I had seen a lovely quilt I liked, as I knew I would never sew all the hexis to one another!

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  15. I love the story of the young girl you inspired in the waiting room. Your mom's quilt is beautiful and so yours will be one day soon. I don't think there are any 20+ year projects hanging around, though it did take me fifteen years to finish our marriage quilt.

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  16. Such a good story. Worth the telling. The solution perfect. I find English paper piecing slow. I would like to think I would get faster at it if I would apply myself but I don't much have the desire.

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  17. Great story to add to your GFG Quilt. I have made flowers but never put them together with a path. I like them on a square of Muslin. My oldest ufo is my Prairie Sampler from the 1990's.

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  18. Janet, that is great story. I love the title! 20 years in the making, but at least your working on another chapter. I love that fact that you and your little baggies inspired a young girl to make her first quilt. I've got a few oldies too. I just have kept them hidden away. Keep going! Thanks for sharing and maybe inspiring some of us to dig deep and pull something out

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  19. I actually really enjoyed reading this story Janet - thanks so much for sharing. As you know I am not really a "quilter" as such but I do have many incompleted projects, dolls, table runners, cushion tops etc ... whiling away their hours in a box up high. I think all us creative folk have these UFO's. I also have half started painting projects in my (rapidly filling up) sleep out.

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  20. Oh, good! I'm not alone! I have one that I started in June 1993 while in temporary housing. The blocks are 4" Job's Troubles and it was the project that I carried to doctor appointments, music lessons, cross country events, etc. The top is together but I stopped at the borders--a common stopping place for me as I have other UFOs that came to a halt when I got that far. But the Job's Troubles quilt will get finished one of these days as it has started to yell at me from its dresser drawer. I'll send you a picture when I get it done. In recent days I finished the top of a Christmas quilt that started out as a block exchange in 1995. It goes to the long arm quilter's on Monday! Hooray!

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  21. What an awful moment that must have been, when you realised the blocks were not the same size! And your solution is wonderful.

    I have a project that is maybe 15 years old. It was a block of the month that I made with my close friend and quilting mentor, we each made our blocks, shared pics, for about 10 months. Then two big problems were revealed: the blocks were alternating applique and pieced, one of each per month, so a lot of time involved. We did stuffed work on the appliques--which was fine for my hand quilting friend, but impossible for a long arm quilter to machine quilt for me. All my applique blocks were useless. AND the pieced blocks came out all sorts of random sizes, some maybe my fault, but others were mistakes in the directions. At that time I rarely quilted, and had forgotten things like checking size. My friend blithely said ''Oh yes, I [she] always redraft and rewrite any patterns myself." We were both garment designers and trained pattern makers, so yes, it made sense. Too bad she didn't mention this in January. So all my pieced blocks were useless too. Her quilt is lovely. To make the quilt I would have to start from the beginning---and I don't want to,lol. Not sure why I never threw the project away, maybe remembering my friend who has since passed away?

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  22. You are hard on yourself, from where I sit you are one dedicated quilter! i had a similar project that I fell out of love over (my tastes have changed so much) I decided to get rid of what felt like a noose around my neck and sold it! Your quilt will be lovely and does it really matter how long it takes? I have quilted many quilts for my customers that have taken them years to make for one reason or another, one was a double wedding ring quilt that had been started 20yrs ago. Keep going. Kiwi Hugs xoxoo

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  23. Quilting is supposed to be a fun hobby, not a race. So what that it's taken you 20 years to progress this quilt to this point. That's ok, what is great is that you've come up with a plan B and your quilt is still going to be lovely but different than what you first envisioned. I've had an embroidered flimsy hanging over the door into my sewing room for, probably at least 10 years that I had embroidered 15 years before that. I'm still thinking about how I want to enlarge the quilt. It's not an UFQ, it's a project in waiting. Someday I'll get the additional borders on there but I'm not in a race with anyone. Happy Stitching!

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  24. What a wonderful story and you are persevering! I love that part especially. Oh I have had long term and long forgotten UFOs but probably none that beat yours!
    It is a great solution, one that I thought of before I scrolled down as I read and I'm glad you came to that conclusion. I also wondered, knowing you don't like applique', if they could be machine appliqued to a background square.
    the finished quilt at the top is a beauty to be sure.

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  25. I love this story!!! Especially the part about the 18 year old girl...lol. My grandmothers flowers ended up appliqués to a whole cloth (sheet) quilt I made. And it’s one of my favorites! I am happy that you are continuing on with yours. Your mom’s quilt is amazingly beautiful!!!

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  26. Cheering you on - when completed that quilt will have quite the provenance! You should definitely include all the info on its label - don’t forget the cottage cheese template part either. Your Mom’s quilt is a beautiful classic. Hmmm...my oldest UFO was finally completed last year - started in 1993.

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  27. I don't have an UFO that old because I started patchwork in sept, 2003 !!
    But I have some in an old wardrobe !! Oh yes !
    Your story is beautiful and your quilt too ! Go girl !

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  28. Oh Janet, what a wonderful story! And, your solution to the problem is perfect! I have every faith that you will complete it now. I have several OLD UFO's, too many to count. I give most of them away, but I do have a Jacques Cousteau quilt that I started in 1989 that I cannot seem to part with (or finish!). Good for you for sticking with it. It is worth it, it is lovely!

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  29. Great Story Janet. Yes, I have plenty of very old UFOs, even from before I started quilting a dozen or so years ago.... Your quilt will be a great example of persistence, that's for sure! I hope you enjoy the process of getting it one step closer to a finish.

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  30. Perfect solution!! I called my Dear Jane quilt a decade with Jane since it took me 14 years to hand quilt. Great quilts cannot be rushed!!! LOL

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  31. You came up with a great solution for using what you have already made. I'm sure that will be alovely quilt, despite not being what you initially planned. I think it's a beautiful bonus that your work, however slowly it progressed, inspired that young woman to learn how to make her own version.

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  32. My oldest UFO is one I started during Desert Storm, using fabric printed for the time... patriotic. Eagle center print was, I think, 18" and I added stars around it re-mastering them to that size... not easy for a novice! It just needs (I think) a final border, but ran out of that fabric, and the quality was not great, so had to look for some of similar quality (or lack there of). Now need to find the parts and get them together.

    When I began EPP I finally bought card stock to make my templates from, then with my paper blade on the rotary cutter and ruler I cut more paper foundations for hexagons and for tumbling blocks. Very difficult to hand stitch the jagged edges together so have had them in time out for a year or so this time. I saw on you-tube an easier way to stitch the pieces together with out the stitching showing on the outside so much... I need to get back to working on those two quilts.

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  33. Oh, I can only imagine how disheartening it must have been when you realized your flowers were different sizes, but your solution is brilliant and it will be absolutely beautiful! Your quilt will have a wonderful story behind it as well. I appliqued my EPP flowers for my quilt as well and built an Irish Chain quilt with it. It's one of my favorites. I always have an EPP project in progress. At the moment, I have 2 going. I splurged and bought plastic templates. I love the portability and it may take 20 years, but I enjoy adding to it one stitch at a time.

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  34. I'm glad you found a way to use all those wonderful blocks. My oldest UFO is not a quilting one, as I got back into quilt making about 10 years ago. My oldest UFO is a crewel needlework wildflower picture, I started in the late 70s. I keep pulling it out, seeing my errors and putting it away. Part of me says move it on, but I still like it. It's on my retirement project list to rip out the bad and finish it.

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  35. I urged my mother to finish one of her quilts she started in 1995. It was all hand quilted except the border and she just stopped and let it sit for years. My hand quilting is never going to equal hers so I pushed and begged and finally got her to finish. I put the binding on and am so relieved I will not have to finish this one for her! Sharon

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  36. I love this story! I am not even going to publicly admit to the ages of my oldest UFOs. Groan. Good for you, finding a suitable solution to show off your impeccable stitching! I think the path that you chose for setting them is the right path, because it’s yours. No worrying about how long the journey is taking, this is about far more than the destination, it’s about perseverance, sharing and learning lessons every step of the way!

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  37. Oh how frustrating! I like your plan though!...and maybe you have enough to make the size quilt you wanted in the first place since the squares will be bigger than just the flowers?!?!

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  38. Wow, this post hit a nerve, with 35 comments! It is disheartening to stall on a project and not want to finish it. Sometimes they haven't taken much time and it's easy to let them go, but this one seems to want a finish. I'm pleased to see those beautiful flowers (with their "vintage" fabric) sitting on muslin. It will be a gorgeous quilt, Janet, even if it does take you a few more years to finish it.

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  39. Oh my, i may have you beat, my own made up version of the flower garden has been worked on and off for maybe 35 years. I just pulled it out again, thinking i need to finish it, maybe i will, maybe i won't but once again i am working on it. I realized this time when i took it out that the paper pieces were cut out from a newsletter i got at my job when i first started and i've been at my job for almost 39 years. Good luck with yours

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