Friday, January 29, 2016

DCMQG 2016 QAL - Block 6

Block 6

This is the first of the theme blocks. I'll be showing you how to make a pineapple block (farmer stand) and a ship block (travel).

Monday, January 25, 2016

DCMQG 2016 QAL - Block 5

Block 5

Up next is the church dash block. This block has been around for a while and is incredibly versatile. It has gone by a multitude of other names according to Quilting in America, including but not limited to the following: Broken Plate, Double Monkey Wrench, Double T (published in Hearth & Home), Dragon's Head (published in Woman's World), Fisherman's Reel, Hens and Chickens, Hole in the Barn Door, Indian Hammer, Joan's Doll Quilt, Lincoln's Platform, Love Knot, Ludlow's Favorite, Old Mill Design (published in the The Farmer's Wife), Picture Frame, Puss in the Corner, Quail's Nest, Sherman's March (published in Capper's Weekly), Shoo Fly, and Wrench.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

DCMQG 2016 QAL - Block 4

Block 4

I like to call this block Japanese X and Plus Block, because it was first made popular in 2011 by Setsuko Inagawa in Japan (I would love to link to a picture of the original quilt, but unfortunately it seems to have been taken off Flickr). I've also seen it referred to just as X and Plus Block. Here's one belopminata made.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

DCMQG 2016 QAL - Block 3

Block 3

Our next block is made up of what I like to call four partial snowballs (seems fitting for snowzilla), I've also seen them called half snowballs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

DCMQG 2016 QAL - Blocks 1 and 2

Blocks 1 and 2

We will be starting out with 4-patches. This is your time to make sure you're using a scant quarter inch seam allowance and see if your blocks will come out the right size.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

DCMQG 2016 Quilt-Along - Introduction

Welcome to the DCMQG 2016 Quilt-Along (which I offered to host in a moment of stupidity weakness).


I made a button and everything (now if only I could figure out how to give people the code so they can post it to their blogs). But I think I'll need to create a landing page to link it to first, and that's not up yet.

So, I created a sampler quilt that combines some easy sewing with some skill builders. On the docket are basic patchwork, HSTs, precision piecing, triangles, improv, sew and slash (my term, I think), flying geese, QSTs, mitres, HRTs, diamonds, applique, easy paper (foundation) piecing, hard paper piecing, and curves. I even have an optional EPP project in the applique section.

The quilt has 32 blocks, ranging from 4"x8" (finished) to 32"x32" (finished). The finished quilt will be 96"x96" and I will also add instructions for a 48"x48" baby quilt. The baby quilt has to be simplified in a few places, otherwise some of the patchwork would become miniscule.

I will be adding suggestions on where and how you can incorporate some additional improv into the various blocks, either by linking to tutorials or listing out options.

So, without further ado... here is the sampler (please note that not all of the blocks are finalized, or I couldn't get them to look exactly right in EQ7, some of them are just placeholders for the actual pattern as I'm making this quilt right along with you all, just a few weeks ahead so I can iron out the instructions, but this is the general idea and this will be the layout and the block sizes):

Friday, January 15, 2016

Brigid of Kildare

Another one bites the dust.

9) A book recommended by another person or organization (like your library!) - in my case a Goodreads list

Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell

This book started out being a bit confusing. Normally I really enjoy books that are told from multiple points of view, but it took me a couple chapters to finally grasp that the stories were being told at different paces, starting at different points in time, especially that of the Roman monk Decius and Gaelic Brigid. The Decius POV chapters take place over the span of roughly a year and a half, from 470 A.D. to 471 A.D. The "Brigid: A Life" POV chapters start 456 A.D. and go to 472 A.D. And the Alexandra Patterson POV chapters take place over the course of roughly 1-2 weeks in the "present day."

The basic frame of the story is that appraiser, Alexandra "Alex" Patterson is asked to come to Kildare to appraise several artifacts thought to date back to the time of Brigid of Kildare and the nun who is the current "keeper" of these artifacts wants to sell them so they can use the money to spread the word about the "true" Brigid and the "true" Mary, Mother of God. In so doing, she discovers a hidden book, that she thinks might predate the Book of Kells and would therefore contain the earliest known iconography of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus that doesn't involve a general nativity scene. She also discovers two books in the abbey archives that date to the same time period, one a book of letters, and one a history of the abbey and Brigid.

The Decius POV chapters are all in the form of letters to his brother and you can surmise, that these letters those found in one of the two books that Alex finds in the archives. It starts with Decius being sent from his post as a papal scribe in Rome to Gael (Ireland) in order to ascertain just how much heresy is being carried out at the Abbey of Kildare under the female abbess/bishop Brigid. This is the time when the Italian portion of the Roman Empire is in serious decline and all but ruled by barbarian tribes and the Church is trying to figure out how to survive without the might of the Roman army.

The Brigid POV chapters start out with her life pre-abbey as she is being trained as a warrior, scholar, and general future co-ruler of a kingdom, as she is the daughter of a king. In that time period, the women of Ireland were incredibly strong, allowed to become judges, priestesses, etc., which is at odds with the views of the Catholic church at the time of women as vessels and chattel. Brigid's mother, the queen Broicsech is instructing her and her foster brother in the gospels (both approved and those decried as heresy by the church). This is also the time of Bishop Patrick, who comes to visit and eventually passes his title of bishop of Ireland to Brigid after she has taken her vows, started converting the Irish, and founded her abbey.

Although confusing at first, I really enjoyed the character development off all three of the main characters and was endlessly fascinated by the Gaelic culture of the time. I've always thought it was ingenious that the Catholic church would subvert local traditions to bring people into the fold (you can see this in the book with the celebration of Imbolc and other pagan holidays that Brigid turns into Christian celebrations), but from this book I learned that that wasn't the original intent of the Church and such practices were considered heresy by Rome.

St. Brigid of Ireland attributed to St.Joseph Catholic
Church in Macon, Georgia (Wikipedia Commons)
It also reminded me of the fact that there are other gospels out there, not just the "official" four that you find in the Bible. The book continues to discuss the Gospel of Mary the Mother, which would be a fascinating read if it actually exists and would certainly update the view of women held by the Catholic Church for a modern audience. The book made me do some additional research, as it is historical fiction and not a biography, and I found out that Brigid really did exist, she's one of three patron saints of Ireland (only one, Patrick, that I've even heard about and I spent a semester in Ireland and saw the Book of Kells in Dublin).

Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in knowing more about Ireland during the transition to Christianity, Rome during its fall, and modern day art appraisal. If you're not interested in any of that, it's still a fun historical fiction book that is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I finished another book on the list.

9) A book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, children to adults

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

The book is told from the point of view of Katie, a little Japanese-American girl born in 1951. The story spans from when she is about five years old to when she is about twelve. It details her daily life with her older sister, Lynn and younger brother, Sam, including a move from Iowa to Georgia and the struggle her family goes through when her sister gets lymphoma.

It was really interesting to read about post-World War II Japanese-Americans living in the deep South where Jim Crow was still in effect and no one, including Katie, was sure where Japanese-Americans fell in terms of "colored" or not. You also see the conditions in a hatchery and chicken processing plant and the drive to unionize to better working conditions for the workers (workers had to wear pads because they were not allowed to go to the bathroom outside of scheduled breaks, had to stand 12+ hours a day plus repetitive motion, and only had one 30 minute lunch break). It also struck me that some of the things the parents do to be able to continue working when they have no one to watch their kids would get them jailed or their kids taken away in this day and age. From letting their 11-year-old daughter, Lynn, watch their 5-year-old daughter, Katie, all day, to leaving Katie and her brother in a car all day while the mother is working in the chicken processing plant, these are just not things that parents can get away with anymore.

I think a kid would like this, since the protagonist is a spunky little girl who adores her siblings and has various adventures. As an adult, I enjoyed the book because it gave me insights into a time period and a culture I know little about and had some interesting insights about living life that are worth being reminded about. It is also a Newbery Medal winner and extremely well written.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Braille Alphabet Quilt

Final Stats
Name: Braille Alphabet Quilt
Dimensions: 42" x 51"
Pieces: Front - 238
Pattern: Thomas Knauer's Braille Alphabet Quilt with some very minor modifications 
Technique: Patchwork
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons - Kona Ash and various prints
Quilting: Machine quilted on my EuroPro

Started with my usual, asking the expecting mother-to-be, one of my friends and coworkers, what the theme of the nursery would be. This is her second, so she said she'd be reusing her first son's alphabet stuff and grey. Great, except I didn't want to do the standard alphabet thing. A quick internet search later brought up Thomas Knauer's Braille Alphabet Quilt-Along and although he hadn't finished the posts at the time, I figured out the pattern and decided on the size of each square based on the fact that I'm lazy and didn't want to piece the back. So I wanted to keep the front under 44" across. That's how I ended up with 3.5" squares, which ends at roughly 42" wide. I found the backing fabric first and then grabbed two fabrics for each color for the front. I cut up the rest of my Kona Ash for the background.

I laid out the background squares first. The braille alphabet works by having six dots in a 2x3 grid, where some will be raised to indicate the letter. So A has a single raised dot in the upper left section, B has a two raised dots in the upper left and the middle left sections, etc. Applying this to the quilt, each "block" is a 2x3 patchwork where the background squares are the smooth sections and the prints are the raised dots. Seems completely random when you first look at it, but when you know what you're looking at, it makes so much more sense. Thus I got a non-obvious ABC theme. After laying out the background squares I then filled in the prints, trying not to get the same color or the same print right next to each other, although I had to put some of them kiddie-corner to each other in the lower portion where the "dots" became more frequent.

I finished the top of the quilt before I gave birth to my own son in February and then it sat there for a long time. I finally managed to get it basted and then it sat for another long time. In the meantime my friend had had her son, shortly after I had mine. I took it to the DCMQG quilt retreat in November with the intent to finish this quilt, even if I did nothing else (actually it was my second step after finishing my bee blocks). My friend had plans to come to DC for our work all-staff meeting and holiday party, so I wanted to have it done to give to her in person. And I made it. Got it quilted with the cursive uppercase and lowercase ABCs in the corresponding braille letter blocks, and some sort of fun design in the couple "spacer" blocks (I think I did a leaf, a star, a heart, and a swirl). And I got it bound as well. The only problem was that I a) forgot to embroider my initials and the year in the lower right corner like I usually do and b) forgot to take any decent pictures. The only picture I have of the completed quilt is the fuzzy one of me holding it up.

I may have to ask my friend to take a few pictures and send them to me. I really did enjoy giving it to her in person though. Just in case you're wondering, I finished the last of my bee blocks too. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

I Am Nujood

So I finished my very first book.

8) A memoir, biography, or autobiography of someone who is still alive:

This story is told from the point of view of Nujood, but the book was actually written by Delphine Minoui and the story was told through a translator. While the subject matter is interesting, a child bride in Yemen who has the courage to seek a divorce from her abusive older husband, and although Ms. Minoui clearly did her best to keep the perspective as childlike as possible, the book does not read like a child could have written it and that makes it a little disorienting.

On the whole I did learn some things about Yemeni culture. The juxtaposition of rural versus urban culture was very interesting and also horrifying from a Western perspective. The feminist in me was definitely horrified at the idea that women have almost no rights in Yemeni culture, everything has to go through a male relative. Fathers negotiate marriage contracts and the daughters have no say in the matter. Women are forced to marry their rapists to avoid dishonor to the family and adultery is punishable by death (for both parties at least).

The book on the whole is also depressing in the fact that although Yemen finally passed a law in 2009 making the minimum marriage age 17, it was overturned because it was contrary to Islamic law (the Prophet Mohammed apparently married a 9-year-old, which is often cited in the book as the path to a happy life). In 2014 a proposal for a new constitution was made, making the minimum marriage age 18 for both genders, but I can find no evidence that this constitution has been put into place or this provision enforced.

On the whole, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read more about what child brides go through, wants to learn about Yemeni culture, or otherwise wants to be severely depressed at the modern world. Unless you are willing to read it with your child and explain sex, rape, and various other "advanced" topics to your child, I would not recommend it as a book for children.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I'm Participating

To step away from my usual routine of posting about my quilting exploits (or recent lack thereof), we bring you:

For more information or to participate yourself in this Montgomery County Public Libraries initiative, you can go here:

For a quick side-note: According to Goodreads (which I've been trying to keep updated over the past year) I read 51 books in 2015 (of which about 7 were books I read to my son, though I've read way more than that to him over the course of the last 10 months, and 2 of which were compilations of 3 or 4 books, so it kind of evens out). For my full list, you can go here:

So because I read that many books in 2015, I didn't think reading 12 books over 12 months, even if there are very specific categories associated with these 12 books (plus one bonus if you happen to dislike one of the categories or just can't find anything), I wanted to challenge myself a little further.

So my goal is to read only books by female authors with some sort of female focus (heroine, protagonist). 

I've made a tentative list of possibilities for each category here and my goal is to do a minor review of each book once I finish it:

1) A book by a local author or set in the DC/MD/VA area (if you're from somewhere else, just insert your own state here - I chose to limit myself to books set in MD, since that's where I live): 
 2) A book from a genre you don't typically read (any one of the non-fiction or memoirs books could go here as well for me):
3) An Audiobook (any format):
  • Any one of the other books, or really any book that strikes my fancy, or I'll sub this out for the bonus book, since I'm only really a fan of audiobooks on car trips
4) A graphic novel or comic book:
5) A book by an author whose race, religion, or ethnicity is different from your own:
6) A book published this year (this seems too easy since most of my favorite fantasy authors have books with strong female characters):
7) A non-fiction book: 
8) A memoir, biography, or autobiography of someone who is still alive:
9) A book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, children to adults:
10)  A book that has been made into a movie (many options here, but I've already read Hunger Games and Vampire Academy):
11) A book recommended by another person or organization (like your library!) (I cheated a little here and just used Goodreads as the organization and chose some books from the Awesome Women of the Ancient World list that looked interesting):
12) An award winner (it was actually surprisingly hard to find something that matched my criteria of female subject, female author, and adult book):
Bonus: A book that takes place in the future:
  • The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (dystopian, I was supposed to read this in high school but never actually read it - one of two assigned books I skipped, the other was The Old Man and the Sea and I have absolutely no desire to revisit that one)