Handwork Happiness – A Review

Given that it’s still too cold in most places to get out and do outdoor things, sitting inside with a project that can be done indoors, either at home or elsewhere, is the perfect solution to keeping yourself busy while possibly multitasking by listening to podcasts, audio books, or that movie you just love and have seen 100+ times to the point of not needing to actually look at the screen because your memory takes over and plays it in your head without ever having to look up. You know the ones…

On a particularly cold wet day last week, along came a copy of Better Home & Gardens Handwork Happiness as a thank you for participating on a Quilting Research Panel. After opening the envelope and seeing what a treat I was in for, I made myself a pot of hot tea. I think it was Harney & Sons Serengetea as it needed to be caffeine free since it was late evening by the time I had settled myself in my favorite chair, put my legs up on my footstool, and covered my legs with a warm throw. Once I’d stirred honey into my tea I was ready to begin my perusal of this unexpected gift.
Mag-BHG-Handwork Happiness 2020
As the cover states, there are 20 projects from which to choose. Choosing which one to do first will be a much more difficult task than the actual execution of the project. I did notice that some of these projects have been printed in past publications. In fact, the first project presented is one such reprint. Why am I sure this is the same project? Two reasons: 1) Because there’s a photo of it on page 11 showing an alternate color scheme which was the one originally given in that long-ago publication, and 2) because I loved it so much when I saw it the first time that I bought the paper templates from Paper Pieces needed to make the hexies. Alas, that’s as far as I got though. I’ve thought about starting it several times over the years but have long since misplaced the magazine in which it was published. That’s why having it republished might mean you pay for the same real estate twice, but it also means it’s much easier, and quicker, to find the instructions without having to go through tons of saved publications.

Techniques for the projects in this publication cover hand embroidery, hand piecing, big stitch quilting, English paper piecing, wool appliqué, and even cross-stitch which seems to be making somewhat of a comeback. If you already know how to do all of these techniques you can jump on any one of them in a heartbeat. If not, here’s a perfect opportunity to learn something new. You may find a technique that you absolutely fall in love with or one you try and realize just isn’t for you. That’s the lovely thing about our quilting/sewing/crafty world. Not everyone will love every technique, and that’s perfectly all right. Thankfully, there are so many options from which to choose it means there’s something for everyone who is truly interested in learning and in working with their hands.

The cost of this publication is $12.99 in the U.S. That’s only $.65 per project! Even if you only liked half of them you’re still coming out way ahead when compared to some of the quilting books that are available and especially individual patterns. I don’t mean to sell either of these formats short, but I sometimes think, and I’m speaking from personal experience here because I’m guilty of this too, we look at the price of special publications, in the form of magazines, or bookazines as some are labeled, and think they’re too expensive. Oftentimes it’s because we feel we’re just paying for a lot of advertisements. This particular publication, however, only has three ads and two of them, the one on the inside front cover and the one on the inside back cover, are by All People Quilt (APQ), the very folks that put together the magazine. The third is on the back cover and by Riley Blake Designs who was a 2019 sponsor for APQ’s 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. So, from page 4 to 95 it’s all the information you need in order to execute these projects.

I’ve not been in either of my favourite bookstores lately, but this publication should be on their shelves. According to the APQ website, it was supposed to be on newsstands starting January 31. There appears to be a corresponding podcast, #456, but I’ve not had a chance to listen to it yet. See…when one is involved with needle and thread there’s never a reason to be bored nor is there any validity to the statement, “I can’t find a thing to do (sigh).”

NOTE: There are no affiliate links in this post. All links are given for reference and ease of use only.

The Lost Have Been Found! Hallelujah!!!

Last year, or was it the year before that (?), Donna and I decided we’d do a quilt together. She and I have both taken to small, not necessarily mini, quilts and thought that a doll quilt would be the perfect thing to create. Being small the concept was that it wouldn’t take us a whole year, or longer, to complete. What is it they say about best laid plans…?

Deciding just which doll quilt to make is never an easy task, but there was one thatPic-KTracy-Doll Qlt-30s I’d wanted to make for a very long time. I took my book with the quilt design in it to our sewing circle meeting and showed it to Donna. She liked it too (she is so easy going), so it was decided that it would be THE one with which to start. The design was by Kathleen Tracy and was originally in one of her books, which has since gone out of publication. However, Martingale included the quilt in their 101 Fabulous Small Quilts book, a must-have book for those who love small quilts, so you still have the opportunity to make that quilt too if you’d like.

Miss Kathleen’s quilt used heart-shapes to make a flower design which is so sweet. I had already bought the pack of papers that were required (no need going into how long ago that was before Donna and I decided to make the quilt) and while we were waiting for her pack of papers to arrive we set about choosing our fabrics. She decided to do hers in solids while I stuck with my personal favorite: ‘30s reproduction prints. Since I have a LOT of ‘30s prints I thought making each petal from a different print would be good. I’d need 60 prints in order to do this. Nooooo problem. All I’d have to do is decide which print went together with the others. Now, you might think that deciding on how to arrange the prints would be an easy task because I always say you can’t go wrong with ‘30s prints. But then, at this point you really need to take into account who it is doing this project—ME. Nothing ever seems to be so straight forward, much less easy, when I start thinking and putting things together. Those who know me well know that decision-making isn’t my strong suit. This little quilt started giving me a headache from the git-go. For non-southerners that means “from the very beginning” and the word “git” is really the word “get” but we don’t pronounce it with an “e” but with an “i” sound, a particular pet peeve of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Hardy.

Anyhow, there were questions that had to be answered before I could decide on exactly which prints to use. For example, should I make use of geometric prints only such as checks, dots, or squares in each flower, or should I use only floral prints in each flower. How about using solids in amongst the prints? What about the conversation prints with cute cats, dogs, sheep, children, etc.? At this point my creative mind had created too many choices, too many decisions.

While I love ‘30s prints, I really love the conversation prints, just so you’ll know. They’re the ones that always call to me, “Use me! Use me!!!” Some might think that the conversation prints are for use in a child’s quilt only. I was actually told this several years ago by an experienced quilter when we did a BOM using ‘30s prints because she didn’t want them in her quilt. While I didn’t argue with her, well, not much, I didn’t agree with her then any more than I do now. After closely studying several vintage quilts from that era, I have come to the conclusion that conversation prints were not used only in quilts meant for children. I can’t say that every quilt made back in the ‘30s or that used ‘30s prints, often called feedsacks, have conversation prints in them, but the quilts that I own or have looked at closely have at least one or two floating around somewhere. If they’re not on the top then they may very well have been used as part of the backing. So, I have no qualms about putting conversation prints into projects I make using ‘30s prints regardless of the age of the end user.

OK, back to my decision-making dilemma. Another question that had to be answered was, “How do I arrange the prints in each flower?” Do I make the flowers using the same color, i.e. all red prints, all blue prints, all green prints, etc.? Or, do I make each petal a different color? If I make each petal a different color, do I repeat any color within a flower? Do I use a print more than once? Now are you beginning to see why there was more to making this little quilt than I’d initially thought about when drawn to it several years ago? By now you’re probably thinking I’m a fruitcake or too easily get wrapped around the axle about my fabric decisions. In all honesty, I’d have to plead guilty to being both, usually in tandem.

Eventually, we both had our heart-shaped papers and had decided on what genre of fabric we were going to use. Now came the time to actually work on the project. Donna took a trip and worked on her hearts. She decided that she wasn’t doing a very good job at them, especially at the top section where the heart dips down into a point. When I tried my hand at it, I didn’t have any better results than she had. Then I took a trip. While I was at the beach, thinking about what we could do to make our hearts look like hearts instead of what they looked like, which wasn’t really hearts, the light bulb came on. Why not use hexies instead?! Hexies are much easier and we could make small flowers using ½” hexies. I had some ½” shapes with me, so I laid them out in a flower shape next to a flower using heart papers (not fabric-covered papers by the way, just the papers) and discovered that they were roughly the same size. Viola! Problem solved! When I got home I got in touch with Proj - Doll Qlt - Hexies - VarietyDonna, suggested we use hexies instead because they were much easier, and she agreed that we should do that. So, our version of Miss Kathleen’s little quilt was born and began to take shape. Of course, now I had gone from needing 60 prints to needing 72 prints, but since I have way more than 72 different ‘30s prints that wasn’t going to cause a problem at all. Here are some of the ones that haven’t been made into flowers yet.

Donna and I have known each other for several years now, but apparently, she didn’t know me as well as I thought she did. She was so diligent in getting her hexies covered and turning them into flowers, worrying that I’d have mine done before she got done. Truth was she’d finished several flowers before I’d even gotten started. Imagine that… It was all of those decisions that I had mentioned beforehand that had me stymied. By the time she’d finished four flowers, I’d just decided on what I wanted to use for the center. Originally, I was going to use a print that had several flowers of different shapes. Then I realized that I’d have to repeat some of the flowers so that each of the twelve centers wouldn’t be unique. Scratch that idea. I finally decided on a yellow dot print that I’d use for the center of each flower. That would make life easier and have the added benefit of giving the viewer a focal point, or place for the eye to rest, when looking at the 72 different prints amongst the flowers. With that decision, I got the twelve centers whipped up in no time flat. Of course, while I was doing the center hexies I was still trying to decide what to do about the petals.
Proj-DBennett-Hexis x 3
Donna finished her flowers loooong before I did. Here are three of her flowers. Aren’t they lovely!? In fact, mine are still not finished, but I have a very good reason why. It’s because I lost them. Yes, I lost them. I had kept them in a little tin that I take with me to our sewing circle but took them out and put them by the cash register so I could show them to a lady who said she thought she’d like to start making hexies as she needed some handwork to keep her occupied in the evenings. She didn’t come to visit on the day I thought she would, and my little pack of six completed flowers, centers, and petals was moved. And then they were moved again, and again, and again… Then they were lost, and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I searched in all the places where it would have made sense for me to put them—probably a dumb thang, a dumb thang to do (for those who remember Gomer Pyle). Just so you’ll know, you never look for something you’ve lost in a sensible location. If the lost item was in a sensible location it wouldn’t be lost now would it. I also looked in quite a few nonsensical locations but to no avail. Alas, my little packet of flowers, etc. were nowhere to be found. Bummer…

My adorable little flowers were lost for a good two months or more. I finally decided that they’d gotten buried under something, and since they were so small, fitting inside of a plastic zip-top snack bag, it would be decades before they were unearthed. I finally decided over the weekend to make new flowers as it wasn’t fair to keep Donna waiting any longer on putting her quilt together. Tuesday, while looking for something else that was lost because it had been moved from where I normally had kept it, this time due to the construction in the front room, I found not only what I was looking for but I found my flowers. Hallelujah!!!

Now that the lost have been found you can see what I finally decided to do as a layout of my petals. Do you see any kind of plan going on? There is one, kinda, but I won’t say that I’ll carry it out on all twelve flowers. Time will tell really. Pic-EPP 30s Flowers 2 - 2018
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