300 Quilts · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

I Hear America Singing

I finished the red, white and blue version (top only) of Shine: The Circle Quilt and I did it by the time of the Inauguration of our new President, my goal.

This is not my first red, white and blue quilt, nor my first Inaugural quilt. In 2005, I attended the Inauguration of President Bush while we lived in Washington, D.C.

It was a really cold day that day, and being from California, I wore long johns underneath my pants, two sweaters, gloves, a hat and scarf and I was still frozen as I spent most of the day in the 20-degree cold. When it came time to find a bathroom, that chick in the red coat behind me accosted me, admonishing me for leaving this site while the Inauguration was going on. Okey-dokey. Fevered believers, everywhere.

Fancy ticket from my Congressman, but then I scored a better one, thanks to my Congressman’s staffer:

Waaay less fancy, but lots closer to the action, as I was in North Standing, which meant I was in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pond. Unfortunately it also meant that I couldn’t see much of anything because of trees, but it was very cool to be there, anyway.

Two quilts came out of that time. The first one was a quick flannel quilt which I spread out on the floor of our apartment in Virginia and tied together while we were watching the returns come in from the Bush-Kerry political contest.

Flannel Squares on Point, quilt #58

Really stunning (haha), but I use it to this day.

D.C. Dots and Dithers, quilt #60

And this one, D.C. Dots and Dithers, which you can read about here.

But this post is about finishing the quilt top for my red, white and blue version of Shine: The Circles Quilt. I’m really happy to be at this point, and already have the backing picked out.

Because I knew I wanted to write about this on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021, we took it down to the most traditional government building we could think of: our very own Riverside County Courthouse. Some skate-boarding teen boys gracefully cleared out when we showed up.

I titled it after Whitman’s poem of the same name, where he asks us to listen to America, with its varied carols, and then goes on to identify the different workers he imagines, all building this great country of America (and which is always under construction). Yes, in the poem there is someone sewing, but I can imagine many more songs and carols in 2021.

Whitman probably couldn’t have imagined a female Vice-President in his day, nor women in Congress or the Senate. He wouldn’t have thought we would have women doctors, as they tend to covid-19 patients lined up working hard to breathe, a rhythmic straining that populates too many places these days.

We have carols of discord, tunes of tumult and shouting. While some of this has existed in my own home when the teenagers lived here, it feels harder when this cacophony surrounds us in our public lives during a pandemic. When it’s this noisy, it’s hard to put my head down and stitch a seam, concentrating on my own tune of color, patches and cloth.

We have our own carols, we quilters: the whir of the machine, the click of the scissors, the slice of our rotary blades through the cloth. Whitman’s genius of a poem is that he stretched to include all different kinds of work and workers, yet give us an insight into their lives, with “each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.” Yet in our singularity, we are drawn together, “blithe and strong” all of us with our “strong melodious songs.”

I honor our tradition of presidential inaugurations. When I was there in Washington DC in person, there was a sense of excitement, of an event, of something happening that was bigger than my own tiny quarrels in my life. Being there all day made me lift my head, look around and see all those people and to realize that we can come together whether our guy won or not, and commit again to this great experiment of democracy.

And that’s why I made a red, white and blue quilt.

from here

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I scanned that North Standing-Green ticket and used it as part of my label on that quilt.

Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

The Last of the Shine RWB Blocks: 22

Happy Birthday to this blog!
Fourteen years of blogging: writing, sewing, quilting, venting, writing-back-to-you, reading and I still love writing this. I still love reading your letters and with a few exceptions was able to write back to everyone. Like I said, there are a few exceptions, but I try to keep the conversation going, so comments are back on for this final post of Shine blocks.

Block 22: Double Rosette

This block was very nearly infected with a virus, but I made some quick switches, and saved the quilt from this fate. It starts at the beginning when I choose fabrics, not always seeing the end from the beginning.

First up, attach the teensy little blue points to the large two-color points, already seamed using the quick trick I’ve mentioned before. But it’s easier if you work from the back, aligning the lower edge, taking a stitch to tack it together, then work upward to the point/shoulders of the two:

I never glue down that lower edge, so if you have, straighten it out, then you can see the bottom of the patterns. Take a stitch while you are looking at them. No, take two stitches.

After sewing one teensy point onto the same side of all the Inner Rosette units, repeat the process to sew two of these units together: work from the back, tacking the alignment into place. Sew the seam.

Twos, the fours. Notice that I sewed my little point onto the LEFT side of all the Inner Rosettes.

The blue diamonds went on, keeping the little blue dot pointing towards the center (I’ll show you that in a minute). It’s easier to add the outer sections if you are working in segments.

All the outer wedges are on, units are sewn together and it’s time to go hunting for a middle.

Because this circle is so much larger than my templates, I trace it on to the dull side of freezer paper, but also add a row of dashes at 1/8″ away from the circle and 1/4″ away. As I tell you on the pattern, it’s best to make your circle a little bit bigger.

I went to the ironing board and with the shiny side of the freezer paper facing upward, I tack it in four places with the tip of a hot (cotton setting) iron, kind of melting the shiny side of the freezer paper to hold the seam allowance in place.

I then work my way around, smoothing it into place. I will smooth out any bumps when I hand-stitch it down. Notice that the seam allowance is closer to 3/8″ — I will trim it down after it’s sewn to the larger EPP circle.

I measure from the edges to the center circle to make sure it’s evenly placed in the center.

And even now, I didn’t see what was happening with that blue polka dot against those teensy blue points.

I carefully stitched the center circle on, flipped it over for its papers-in beauty shot. See the little blue dots in the Outer Diamond E piece? They are there to help you know which side goes towards the center.

NOW I see it. It looks like a giant virus. This just won’t do.

I dithered about what to do for a day or two, then took off the center circle.

I replaced it with a medium blue center. But after another day, I added the final dark circle in the middle. I kept thinking I should dream up some more EPP for the middle, but frankly, I was kind of . . . done. And so I called the last block of the series, finished. (See the photo at the top for the final version.)

So, at this point, the Shine Blocks are all a family: The first sixteen, the second batch of ten, making 26 blocks out into the world. I love it when I see other people’s blocks, so I’ll leave you with Linda’s final block of her quilt.

Shine on, everyone!

And Happy Birthday to me this week!
Illustration by @flora.forager

Because it’s my birthday this week, here’s a coupon code to get yourself a little present in my pattern shop!

The Fine Print: 25% off • Expires Saturday, January 9, 2020

Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

Happy New Year with Shine Block 20

This is the second of the three last posts for the Shine quilt done in red, white and blue, and these last three are all new blocks, found in the Nine More Blocks from Shine pattern in my pattern shop on PayHip. And yes, I know I put Block 21 before Block 20, but in spite of that I still think I’m doing pretty well these days. I have named this block Dresden Rosette, for every creation needs a name.

It all always starts with this, doesn’t it? I started Block 20 by doing the quick method of EPP, as described in the General Instructions: I pieced a couple of the fabrics together in strips, then laid out the pattern and cut/glued that to the paper. There are some tips in all the blocks, but I also think I did this in Block 19: Compass Star. Here I’ve paired up the Dresden-looking pieces:

The pairs were joined up to make a foursome, then the pieced diamonds were added to them, with one extra kind of hanging out there on the end.

Nothing prettier than a Dresden Rosette. But we’re not done yet. I’ve stitched the three sets together, but if you look at the photo at about 1-o’clock on the dial, you can see I’ve left one complete seam open. Trust me when I tell you it’s easier to sew the outer wedges on, if you have not sewn it into a circle.

Outer Wedges: On!
Final Seam: Sewn!
Now to hunt around for a middle…

Found the middle I wanted, and now am trying to decide between the two arrangements. You can which one I went for at the top of this post.

I’m sure you noticed all those little bits of seam allowances at all the tips. How do I handle those? Here’s three photos to show you. I first fold over and tuck under one side (#2), then fold and tuck under the second little bit (#3). Finally I stick a pin there, or quickly put in a couple of stitches.

Before
Photo #2
photo #3 (sorry about the color–I was outside and the sun shifted)

After it is all stitched down, I press. First I press from the top, then I set the circle on a well-padded surface, and really give some heat and steam to those protruding seam allowances. They usually fall nicely in line.

On onward to the last of the Shine Blocks. Again, I have turned off the comments for this post, too, as I’m doing them in such quick succession. My contact info is above in About Me, if you need to send me a note.

Gridsters · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Red, White and Blue · Shine: The Circles Quilt

Happy New Year with Shine Block 21

Something short and sweet for you today: how to make block 21. I’m posting these last few blocks of Red, White and Blue SHINE in quick succession, so others can these posts for references.

The going is quicker, so I swiftly moved from the above, to the layout below.

This is an easy block to start with, if you are just a beginning EPP-er. This block can be found in Pattern 121, the final nine new circles, and is available in my PayHip shop. The quick trick is explained in the General Instructions, as well as in other Shine Block instructions (on this website).

Follow the steps on the pattern. You can see I made the inner circle first, then added on the red/white star points. Then next is making the outer wedge-point-wedge units. Sew them in between the star points. Applique a small circle on the center. Appliqué the circle to the background square, deciding if you want the red/white star points UP, or the blue smaller points UP. You can tell from the first photo which one I chose.

We’ve just had Christmas, come through the bulk of 2020, and I thought a short and sweet post would be best. It’s touch and go as to whether I get the top finished by the Inauguration in January, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

In other news, I finished the feather for Jen in our Gridster Bee for December. She wanted organic-looking batiks for the feather part, and solid black for the feather’s shaft. You can see a whole bunch of the feathers here. The pattern was a free download from ZenChic designer Brigitte Heitland.

I have turned off comments for this and the next two posts, as I am finishing up the SHINE block construction information; hope you won’t mind. If you want to get ahold of me, my email can be found on the About Me tab, above.

Covid-19 Times · Shine: The Circles Quilt · Something to Think About

Christmasy Shine Blocks • Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

The sign on the door of my sewing room as I sew a special gift for my husband.

Okay, you just have to see the creativity of my friend who pattern-tested all the later Shine blocks — the last few I’ve been talking about. The originals, you are familiar with. Now I’m doing them in Red, White and Blue. But my friend Linda, of @lkhomework (she used to teach school before she retired), did them all in Christmas fabrics, and she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.

Such wonderful eye candy, perfect for Christmastime and to help get us in the mood for this very different season in 2020.

As you can see, she plans a diagonal set for her blocks.

Yes, I realize I should have imprinted the number of the block before I posted them, but I didn’t. Here’s an index of them all, in mix of the original colors, illustrations and RWB:

Block #1, which is based on a traditional pattern, morphed into Block #7. Linda used both of these variants to great success. I think her quilt is going to be just fabulous!

And today the December QuiltMania newsletter was published, and with this, their series of my SHINE: The Circle Quilt blocks ends. The first 12 blocks can be downloaded by subscribing to their free newsletter; they will send you the link (details here). They will live at QuiltMania until early 2021, when they will come back home here to stay. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with QuiltMania, and feel like those scary disorienting days of covid are behind us, when I first made the offer to QM for them to use my patterns, in order to do my own little part to help keep interest in their excellent publications.

More than other years, I find this Christmas to be such a mix. I wrote on Instagram about seeing someone contemplating a jump from a freeway overpass. I had just come from visiting a friend who had successfully completed her initial phases of a stem cell transplant, the cells giving her another chance at life, and I’ve thought about these two contrasting experiences for days.

She, working so incredibly hard to keep life, to beat her disease, putting up with all manner of incredibly painful and difficult treatments and procedures. And then to see this young man who appeared to have cut open the chain mesh fence that shields our overpasses from just such desperate decisions. Our traffic was slowed, and as my car neared the bridge, I could see the man clutching the fence, holding on, having given himself a second chance as the fireman secured a belt around him, preserving his life. It was a different kind of second chance than my friend fighting cancer. Hers, a grueling year-long journey. His, a reconsidering of a tragic decision in a split second.

And so our year continues with such contrasts: thousands of people dying from the pandemic, while we turn inward to try and find the joy and the happiness, aware that just around the corner, ennui and disease and depression await. It’s a dance in the best of times, but made so much more complicated this year with its seemingly endless conveyor belt of tragedy. With hearts so tender, Christmas sewing is a tonic: the snowmen and Santa, the holly and ivy, the red and green, patchwork and stockings and gifts and delights.

And so I rejoice in Christmas.

I light the candles on our kitchen table and set out the soup. Over dinner, my husband and I (a covid-bubble of two) talk over the news, before moving on to the detritus of our day. I relish the lights, delight in the sight of our miniature tree and my husband’s nutcrackers, all anchoring symbols of familiarity, grounding us and keeping us tethered.

I rejoice in carols: a favorite song can move me to tears, so close to the surface are the emotions of this season. I might post again before the year is out, but you may be too busy to respond; it’s less than two weeks until we close out the official holiday of lights and gifts and slide on into the new year. To wish you all the best as you make your way to 2021, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of Christmas (click on the link to listen). Sing along and enjoy!

Shine: The Circles Quilt

SHINE: The Circles Quilt with QuiltMania • Final Group

My original Shine quilt had sixteen blocks, done in multi-color fabrics, a bright and sunny quilt. I built them one-by-one, drawing them on paper at first, and had them free here on my website. When QuiltMania and I agreed to collaborate (complete details in this post), I pulled them from the website, with the caveat that I wouldn’t release them until March 2021. But today, I have for you again, a new free EPP pattern, as well as news of an updated pattern.

First, the final three blocks from the collaboration, first in the original, and then in the red, white and blue. (I like the changes all except one: it’s a real oddball in RWB. I’ll bet you’ll spot it right away.)

Shine Block #10, original
Shine Block #10 in Red, White and Blue
Shine Block #11, original
Shine Block #12, original
Shine Block #10, in Red, White and Blue

I’m sure you spotted it: that Dresden, Number 10. I’ve got to re-do all the white blades, but at the time I didn’t have any extra fabric from the original Minick and Simpson line I’d chosen to work with. Since then, I’ve added a few more pieces from various lines, and I can now re-do that block.

Shine Block #17

And this time around, I just wasn’t feeling the love for Circle #10, so that’s why I made Circle #17, which is a bonus block for the newly reworked Finishing Pattern. An overview of the complete set of new blocks can be found on the Shine page, here.

Here’s the front of the newly re-done other Shine pattern, the one that had the last four blocks from the original Shine quilt (13-16). The four on the top are those original Shine Blocks. I did sell the original version in my pattern shop on PayHip, but then I got to re-doing everything, and adding more, so now instead of just four in that pattern, there are nine blocks. It’s my understanding that if you have already purchased just the four blocks pattern, that you can go in a re-download the nine blocks version. But if you haven’t purchased it, you can now get nine instead of four EPP blocks to make.

I originally had this as a free download for the first part of December 2020, and many of you took that opportunity to get a free block. You can now find this in the Shine EPP blocks pattern, listed above. I hope you enjoy making this.

All the pieces laid out. If you are just starting on this EPP journey, there are a lot of tips and hints given in all the original block pages, and just quickly reading through them you’ll see I always keep a line drawing of the block along with a color representation with all my prepared pieces.

I use the quick trick found in the General Instructions in the Nine More Blocks Pattern, and seam some of the two-part pieces on the sewing machine. Then I lay out the pattern piece and randomly cut around it, trying to maintain a fat quarter-inch seam allowance. The blue dots on the pattern remind you which way to place this (dots are nearer the center), as it is slightly asymmetrical.

Because those narrow tips will be sewn into a tight space, I really trim down the seam allowances at the tip.

I swab on a line of glue with a 1/4-inch glue stick, as I like working with the pen shape (you can see it resting on the first photo in this series), but a regular school glue stick works just fine, too. Just don’t glob on too much glue. After laying down the glue, I carefully fold it over, as my pieces are printed out on 24-lb. paper (a little heavier than regular printer paper), not cardstock (although I suppose you could use cardstock, if you want to).

First iteration. I don’t like the look of the bigger blades — too wimpy.

I like the darker fabrics used in the big blades, but now the slices of circle in the center get lost.

Okay, now we’re rolling. I occasionally do have to swap out some pieces, but not often (it’s a little harder to gauge color and value when only working in red, white and blue).

I sewed the circle slices onto the bottom of the shorter blades, then sewed each of those to a companion blue-bladed pair.

I then started sewing the inner wedges together. This is my typical night-time EPP photo, as I like to hand-stitch while watching TV at night. I used the shortcut trick also on those smaller two-toned blue triangle pieces. Then, keeping track of which side goes where, I am now sewing on the side pieces in light red/white.

With the two side pieces on, I check to see if there is a gap. This one’s perfect with the edges lining up, but the next example will show you where I’ve been getting a gap:

But I just sewed that little seam together anyway. A sixteenth of an inch gap will flex just fine once you get those papers out. But leave them in at this point!

I fold the wedge unit with right sides together, and whipstitch that 1/2-inch seam closed.

I like to keep laying it out to check how I’m doing. I’m doing fine, so I keep going.

Time to sew the wedge units in-between a red point of the star and a blue point. Start at the top of the point, lining up the units, RST, and sew down into the valley. Take an extra stitch, re-fold and re-line up the pieces, and sew back out of the V-shaped valley.

Two done.

I sewed them together. What color of thread do I use? On this seam, I sewed from the blue side, with the white/red side behind it, meaning, when I hold the two pieces together, the blue is nearest me. And then, because of the way I stitch, I used white thread. What kind of thread do I use? A fine one, either cotton or polyester, whatever will get the job done. Don’t use cheap thread, either, as it will twist and knot and drive you crazy. I always use my friend Rachel’s soft beeswax thread conditioner, as it helps the thread behave (and your hands will thank you as they become nice and soft!).

All four done. Now to sew those together, then sew their wedges in between.

All done! I love a good from-the-back EPP picture. I will now remove the innermost papers, but keep anything on the outer ring, as I need them for the next step. Sometimes I will press the block before removing the papers, if I remember.

I carefully pin it to the background, then sew with an invisible appliqué stitch. I have tips and trick for dealing with the seam allowances in the earlier pattern posts, but basically I fold them carefully to the inside, then keep stitching. There are more photos, earlier, if you need them.

Now I will for sure press the block, but only on a padded surface (my ironing board is really well padded), letting the seam allowances sink into the padding. I use Flatter as a pressing aide as it is starch-free, and I use a bit of steam to help settle down all the pieces into each other. If you have a wild and wooly seam allowances from one of your blocks, it’s okay to trim them now, but only a bit. If you trim too closely, you’ll compromise the strength of your block.

In the original illustration, the colors bring a dimension that I can’t get with the red, white and blue: the wedge points sink into the background and the bigger points come forward. Have fun choosing colors for yours and making one of my Shine blocks!