The Modern Jane

May 31, 2010 § 17 Comments

Stack of Dear Jane blocks

My stack of Dear Jane blocks is growing slowly. She was calling to me this weekend and I finished 5 more blocks for a total of 15.  That’s makes me only 5 blocks behind my self-imposed schedule. No matter. I’m not keeping track. This is a journey.

March - April - May 2010 blocks

It’s hard to  imagine how much sewing the women of  by-gone eras had to do to become so proficient in their craft.  I still feel rather clumsy while hand-piecing these blocks. Some of them look pretty good. And some of them are rather wobbly looking.  It got me to thinking about all the modern tools we have to help us sew faster and with more precision.  What would it have been like to sew with so much less than what we have today?

Modern Tools

These are just some of the tools I’ve been using. Carolyn at work teaches machine applique and I use some of her techniques to prepare my pieces.  The Dear Jane templates are on my computer. I print them onto C. Jenkins freezer paper that runs through the printer, cut them out and iron to the back of my fabric. If there is any applique, Mary Ellens’ Best Press starch (it smells like lavender)  is “painted” along the seam allowance so that when it’s pressed under it crisp and smooth.  And Roxanne’s Baste It glue holds the piece in place while I stitch it to to the block.

Then there’s long staple cotton thread, electric auto shut off irons, rotary cutters, acrylic rulers, scissors with serrated blades and sewing machines with computers.  I can’t imagine what I would do with only a newsprint or cardboard template, needle & thread.

I’ve also been thinking about the thread I’ve been using, DMC 50 weight for the applique and Aurofil 50 weight for the piecing. Will it hold up without breaking when the whole quilt is finished?  What do you use for hand piecing or hand applique?  I’ve also been thinking that while I’ve set the goal to hand piece all of the blocks, I think I am going to machine sew all the blocks together with the sashing.  The one aspect of hand piecing that is still throwing me is not stitching through the cross seams when multiple pieces are joined together. I’m dreading the thought of how much work that would be when it comes to joining the blocks and the sashing. Hopefully the quilt police won’t stop me for mixing hand piecing and machine piecing!  Still, that’s a LONG way off to be worrying about it now.

§ 17 Responses to The Modern Jane

  • nicolette says:

    Such lovely blocks… did you handpiece these?! Gorgeous!

    I use Aurifil 50 for applique and Aurifil 40 for (hand)piecing.

    I only use freezerpaper to make my DJ blocks. Mary Ellen and Roxanne are new to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • whatktmadenext says:

    Beautiful blocks! The piecing is so crisp and precise.

    Thanks for the tip on the baste it glue. I’ve been struggling with the diamonds on B-5 so I might give this a go. You know, I have no idea how previous generations quilted – I couldn’t live without my machine or my rotary cutter. They’re absolute essentials!

  • Jacquelynne says:

    I just love your blocks! I can’t wait to see how the quilt looks when it’s done.
    I am not a member of the Quilt Police, but I would never fault you for mixing hand and machine piecing. I think our quilting ancestors would have used any time saving measures possible- I think they probably recognized even more than we do how precious time is!

  • Meredith says:

    I often think about sewing without electricty. Did they find time during the day? At night by candle light? The blocks look great. I like all the red. When I saw the quilt in person it really made her much more human to me. To see the wonky bits.

    I like the Alex Anderson Masterpiece. I have used it for both machine piecing and hand applique and sewing on binding. Hand applique I use Mettler.

  • Lynn says:

    This is going to be gorgeous when done. I love the little quilt on the side with the pieces you’ve completed hilighted.

  • RobinW says:

    I began by wondering how hand stitching was good enough to make clothes and wound up using the template, trace and cutout by hand method to make an entire queen size quilt by hand, even the long seams. During this adventure, I discovered that you can learn to make very small, neat stitches that are almost indistinguishable from machine work and that using a small needle helps. Also learned that the old saying is true, both babies and quilts take 9 months.

  • Jackie says:

    Since sewing was such a necessity back then and considered something of a chore, do you think they loved it as much as we do? Get as much satisfaction from it?

    I don’t think anyone would find fault with machine stitching the blocks together. I’m really enjoying your fabric selection as well as the socks in the posts below.

  • jennifer says:

    Anita, I’m really upset that you posted about the EQ extension with the DJ blocks. The only reason I was NOT starting this project was because I couldn’t just print the templates from my computer. Now I have to buy that…

    You blocks look great. I wouldn’t worry about the security of the hand-piecing. Your stitches will hold because you aren’t going to be stressing the seams. Also, once it’s quilted they will be extra secure. If you get really wigged out about it, just send it out to a longarmer for a dense overall quilting pattern. (That’s what I did on my hand-pieced grandmother’s flower garden.)

    I use Coates and Clark cotton glace’ thread for hand piecing and Mettler fine embroidery for applique. I like the glace’ thread because it doesn’t fray as easily, and I don’t have to fuss with thread heaven or beeswax, either.

  • pratima says:

    Your blocks look so adorable, Anita.
    It’s amazing how they crafted beautiful things with the limited supplies that were available at the time… so painstaking yet so resourceful and green.

  • Your blocks look wonderful! I think as long as you are using cotton thread with cotton fibres you should be fine…besides I think the threads of today have been engineered to be long lasting and not as harsh as the threads from yesteryear.

  • amy says:

    Your blocks look fab, Anita! I am especially fond of the block on the top of the pile. I generally use a three-ply thread when hand piecing — I worry a little about the strength of a two-ply for that. I’ve been using the 60 wt Presencia lately.

  • Helen says:

    Sewing without electricity, a scarey thought indeed! These are looking great Anita.😉

  • ranette says:

    I absolutely LOVE your DJ blocks and I think you are doing a marvelous job making them. I always mix techniques when I’m making a quilt…more interesting for me that way!

    I often think about the quilter’s of yesteryear and marvel at their resourcefulness and pure, raw talent.

  • amandajean says:

    wow, a journey indeed! your blocks are amazing. love that you chose red and white.

  • sharon says:

    I love the red blocks.Your quilt is going to be gorgeous.

  • your blocks are lovely Anita! I wish I had the self-discipline to stick to a schedule, even a self- imposed one!
    I mix and match sewing techniques as befits my temperament of the day.
    I do the crazy quilt thing anyway where there are no “rules” so Quilt po-po be damned!)
    keep up the beautiful creating!

    I remember when I was a little (5 or 6?) my g’ma lived in unincorporated scappoose ore. though the house was set up for electricity they didn’t have any yet, their house was off the grid for the most part, she would drag her hand work or the treadle out to the porch and sew there until the sun went down. they had cold water from the taps but drinking water came from the pump outside the kitchen door, and if you wanted a bath it was heated on the stove and carried to the tub!
    I remember asking G’ma why she didn’t have electricity, her answer was because it was simpler not to. as I get older I understand what she meant more and more!

  • Elisabeth says:

    Your dear jane blocks are so beautiful…
    Greats from Elisabeth

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