Thursday, March 20, 2014

Genealogical Happy Dance

From pages 157-8 of the Necrological Reports and Annual Proceedings of the Alumni ..., Volume 3
 By Princeton Theological Seminary. Alumni Association, Joseph Heatly Dulles

Yes.  The obituary above might seem boring.  Unless, of course, you are me and have been searching for your great-great-grandfather Alexander Cruikshank's birthplace for over 30 years.

Family history since the 1880s claimed Alexander was born in Scotland.   U.S. censuses suggested that Alexander was born about 1823.  Older immigrant relatives claimed to be born in Ireland.  In fact, Alexander, of the three siblings born outside the United States, was the only one who ever told the census enumerators anything about a birthplace in Scotland.  Around 2000 I found court documents for alien registrations from St. Lawrence County, New York that stated that Alexander and his older brother Robert were from Ireland.  

My dad immediately claimed these government records, where the men had actually gone into town and sworn on a Bible in front of a county official, had to be wrong, wrong, wrong, etc.  I tried explaining about the Scots-Irish, but Dad never believed me.  There was also a lot of prejudice against the Irish in the 1800s; Scottish heritage might have been more "approved" by people living outside the upstate New York county where most of the immigrants told the census takers that they were born in Ireland.

It never occurred to me to look for a necrological report about alumni of Princeton University.  (Actually it never occurred to me that Princeton University published necrological reports.  I also did not know that Robert had graduated from Princeton University.) Thank goodness for's search engine and Google Books.

Irish genealogy is difficult because of the paucity of records.  (There was a huge fire in 1922.)  Finding a county of origin in Ireland is the first necessary step for any research in Ireland.  Finding a county of origin for a family who arrived in the United States around 1825 is all but impossible.  However, Robert's obscure obituary may be the key to more discoveries someday.

Yes.  Even books with the most incredibly boring titles can make you happy.

Note: The name of the county is actually spelled Monaghan.  County Monaghan is just south of the six counties which make up Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow Day Conversation

The following really happened early this morning as the snow, predicted to be quite heavy, began to fall. Lots of closings are reported. (The conversation is accurate, but I may have forgotten the actual wording.)

IT Prof: "You like to shovel snow when it's not so deep and then shovel again: right?"

Me: "Yes. I think it's easier to shovel twice."

IT Prof: OK. "Wake me when you decide to shovel."

Then IT Prof returned to bed and promptly fell asleep for 3-1/2 hours. I didn't wake him up because the snow needs to pile up a little more before I'm ready to shovel for the first time today.

If the Winter Olympics included sleeping events, I think IT Prof could win the gold medal for the USA in several events.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fruit Basket: W22B1

I'm sorry.  Even though we don't own a dog, apparently it ate my homework.

Not really.  The Farmer's Granddaughter Quilt Along Fruit Basket block from our Forum group at the Missouri Star Quilt Company's website is late being presented because of too many excuses.  If you do not tolerate excuses, you probably would be much happier skipping the next few paragraphs.

The first excuse is that the first time I sewed the block, I discovered afterwards that templates #46 and #46R did not print out lengthwise correctly on my printer.  The second excuse is that when I enthusiastically cleaned up the SD card in my camera on the car ride to a family wedding, I accidentally deleted all my photos of the Fruit Basket block. The third excuse is said out-of-town family wedding.

Here is an example of the fourth excuse, or how we spent our free time on the said family wedding trip.

My husband (aka IT Prof) is goofing with our younger daughter (aka Swan) by reading her a children's version of The Wizard of Oz as a "bedtime story" when we were at IT Prof's mother's house for the family wedding.  Swan lives in Minneapolis, so we do not get to see her much.  Hence, we try to make the most of our time together and usually end up being silly (or at least what we think is silly).  Our older daughter's son, Omaha, failed to realize that Grandpa's reading of the book was a joke when he walked in the bedroom, so all of a sudden reading The Wizard of Oz became a serious endeavor in order not to disappoint Omaha.  After all, from Omaha's perspective, it makes perfect sense for Grandpa to read a book to Aunt Swan.

The fifth excuse is Omaha.  He does not go to daycare in the summer, so IT Prof and I have opportunities to see him more often.  For example, we've been driving to the opposite side of the metropolitan area a lot lately to do things with Omaha.  (That is a good comment, not a travel complaint.)  When we attended soccer camp practice, the coach wore Omaha out.  Our daughter probably appreciated that.

However, excuses are just that.  I apologize to all my quilting friends for delaying the presentation for the Fruit Basket block, especially since one of the templates you have might be wrong.

For those of you who know me, you realize that I was disappointed to realize that the Fruit Basket block is essentially a 25-patch.  How do we measure out 1.2 inches exactly with our quilting rulers?  We don't.  So, I actually intended to use the templates again for this block.  Of course, my templates #46 and #46R being too short did not help.  However, you can easily make new templates with template #34.

In order to make templates of the correct length, copy your template #34 and draw lines 1/4" inside each of the sides.  These lines mark the the seam allowances, so the inner square is the size of the finished square.  Trace a copy of this inner square four times.  Line these four squares up on another piece of paper and tape or glue them down.  Make a second row of four squares and tape or glue them down.

Next, draw a diagonal (in different directions) on one end of each line of squares.  This should end up giving you one trapezoid that looks like template #46 and one trapezoid that looks like template #46R.  But, before you cut anything out, please remember to draw a 1/4" seam allowance on each side of each trapezoid.  Then you can cut the trapezoids with added seam allowances out for your patterns.  If my explanation is unclear, please contact me and I will try to do a better job.

You will need three different fabrics for this block, one light; one medium; and one dark.  In my block, the light fabric is cream, the medium fabric is a slightly lighter red than the dark fabric, and the dark fabric is red.  The Fruit Basket block needs:

Light fabric:  one piece from the new template #46; one piece from the new template #46R; seven pieces from template #38; one piece from template #47; and two pieces from template #34.

Medium fabric:  three pieces from template #38.

Dark fabric:  one piece from template #33 and ten pieces from template #38.

Since I'm me, I feared sewing the triangles correctly, so most of the time I did use the HST method.  In order to get my trimmed HSTs to the right length, I used template #34 as a pattern for the unfinished HSTs I used in the modified 25-patch.

Below is my slightly-altered-from-what-you-would-use-with-the templates layout.  The medium and dark pieces are ironed in half along the diagonal.  That's why the big cream square looks wrong.  I only needed two squares of the medium fabric (because the HST method yields to HSTs from two squares), but the layout really needed another square of the medium fabric ironed in half along the diagonal to be perfect.

I also found that keeping all the pieces laid out next to my sewing machine really helped me keep all the different triangles oriented in the correct directions.

Please remember that I used my template #34 to trim my HSTs to the correct size.  I sewed along the diagonal on my red squares for the two flying geese units instead of sewing 1/4" on each side of the diagonal for the HSTs.  I used two light rectangles from I made from template #34 and a dark red square from template #34 (ironed in half along the diagonal and sewn along the diagonal) on the right-hand and bottom edges. If my method has not confused you yet, please be careful to align the diagonals of the dark red squares in different directions on the end of the rectangle.  And, surprise!  I actually used template #33 for the two pieces to make the larger HST.

The photo below shows what my layout looked like after I trimmed all those HSTs, etc. and sewed most of the HSTs or flying geese in pairs.  I also sewed the bottom right-hand-square to the bottom row trapezoid and triangle.

Now you can see that the rest of the block involves only the straightforward sewing of rectangles or squares together.  (In other words, at this point, I no longer had to worry about the decimal lengths of the 1.2"-, 2.4"-, or 4.8'-long pieces.)

Here is what my layout looked like after I sewed the first row (except the right-hand-side) together, the second row (except the right-hand-side), and the combined third and fourth rows together (except for the right-hand-side).

Then I sewed the upper rows on the left-hand-side together.

Next I sewed the right-hand-side of the top part of the block to the big square in the upper left-hand part.

All the block needed at this point was for the bottom row to be sewed on.

So, the last parts of the Fruit Basket block were fairly easy to sew together.  And, again, please contact me if my presentation is confusing.  (It actually is a little confusing for me, too.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Four Winds: W19B2

To recap, I have been guest presenting some of the blocks from the Farmer's Granddaughter Quilt Along in the Forum of the Missouri Star Quilt Company's website.  You do not have to be part of the Quilt Along in order to be able to understand how to make this Four Winds block.

The Four Winds block is actually a 36-patch.  That made me happy because I could return to rotary cutting and counter some of the problems I have with templates on account of my awkward short fat fingers.  However, you can use the templates if you prefer.  Only templates #13 and #19 are used in this block.

You will need four fabrics for the Four Winds block:  a background fabric; a medium light fabric; a medium dark fabric; and a dark fabric.  When I made my block, my dark fabric contrasted with the medium dark fabric a bit more than the contrast in the block in the book.  As it turned out, I personally preferred the bigger contrast.  So, I recommend you look at the photo in the book and the photo of my completed block and choose the level of contrast you like better.

When you cut your pieces from the templates, you will need:

Background fabric: fourteen pieces from template #13 and four pieces from template #19.

Medium light fabric: eight pieces from template #13 and four pieces from template #19.

Medium dark fabric: twenty-six pieces from template #13.

Dark fabric: eight pieces from template #13.

If you use rotary cutting to obtain your pieces, you will need 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" squares and 1-7/8" x 1-7/8" squares for the HSTs.  (If you leave a little fudging room when you cut for your HSTs like me, please cut the squares 2" x 2" instead.  I do a lot of trimming with my HSTs, but the results please me better.)

The diagram in the book makes an interesting point.  The first three rows, if turned upside down, are the same as the bottom three rows.  Since I used rotary cutting, I only needed half as many squares as template-cutters' triangles.  After I pressed along the diagonal of my lighter 2" x 2" squares, my layout for the top of the block, EXCEPT for the piece in the upper right-hand corner.  I didn't have enough pieces to present that piece as a HST, so, please consider the replacement square as only a placeholder.

This is almost what your layout for the top half of the block will look like:

I found that I really needed the layout for this block in order to keep all the different colors and orientations of the HSTs straight.  In fact, I had to piece each row one at a time in order to keep everything organized properly.

After I sewed a few HSTs together, this is what my layout for the entire block looked like:

You will notice that the photo above was taken after I sewed the 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" squares in the first row into pairs and that I now have the correct pieces in the upper right-hand corner.  After I had the squares in the first row paired up, I sewed the pairs together.  I repeated the same process for each row.

While I was piecing the block, I found that the tiny pieces had trouble staying in the correct sewing position underneath my feed dogs on the machine.  I found my purple Thang to be invaluable.

The Thang allows me to keep my HSTs in place as I stitch.  There are other tools available; the Thang is just the one I like.  I also discovered that my pieces required less manipulating if I sewed toward the seam between the triangles instead of from it.

Also, I just happened to press the seams between squares on my top row towards the darker side (i.e., towards the right).  Then I pressed the seams in each following row in the other direction.  I ended up with only one awkward seam intersection when I sewed the 36 squares together.  I also found that when I sewed two HSTs together, the seams nested together beautifully.  That meant I did a lot less seam ripping than I normally would on a block with lots of tiny pieces like Four Winds.

This is what my layout looked like after I had all six rows sewn together.

After I had the six rows sewn, I sewed pairs of rows together.  It generally worked out better for me if I pressed the seams between the rows open instead of towards one side.

Then I sewed the pairs of rows together to get the completed block.

To be honest, the above block was trimmed before I photographed it.  However, I really liked how the Four Winds block went together with a great deal of precision.  So, while Four Winds block has lots of pieces, it actually turns out not to be that hard.  The small size of the pieces is the most awkward part of the piecing.

I hope you all enjoy making this block.  If any of my explanation is unclear, please leave me a comment, either here or in the Forum.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Flower Pot: W19B1

Flower Pot is the third block in the Farmer's Granddaughter Quilt Along for which I am the guest presenter.  For those unacquainted with set-in seams, this block may look a bit intimidating.  However, I took a class on piecing hexagons recently and think I can apply what the teacher showed us.  The two set-in seams in the Flower Pot block are not too bad.  In fact, they are actually a gentle introduction to the topic.

This may shock you, but I actually used templates and only templates in this block.  The dimensions were too weird (i.e., irrational numbers) for me to want to redraft the pattern.  So, I am actually going to describe the piecing of a block in the manner of the book.  And, this time the templates all seem accurate.

You will need a background fabric, three other fabrics for the flower part of the block, and a fifth fabric for the flower pot part of the block.  I won't be referring to medium or dark fabrics with this block because you have a lot of latitude with your artistic choices for this block.  The pieces needed for the Flower Pot block are:

Background Fabric:  three pieces of template #3; two pieces of template #13; two pieces of template #20, and two pieces of template #42.

Flower Fabric #1: one piece of template #40 and one piece of template #40R.

Flower Fabric #2:  one piece of template #41.

Flower Fabric #3:  one piece of template #41R.

Flower Pot Fabric:  two pieces of template #13 and one piece of template #39.

Here is what my fabrics looked like when I had finished laying them out for the block.

The "trickiest" part of the block will be the set-in seams for the template #40 and template #40R pieces.  Therefore, I chose to tackle the flower part of the block first.  Then the flower pot of the block ended up seeming simple.

The first two pieces you need to sew together are one of the background template #13 pieces to either the template #41 Flower Fabric #2 or #41R Flower Fabric #3.  The second pair of pieces you need to sew together will be the one you didn't choose in the previous section.  It doesn't matter which one you choose to do first.

Here are what my first two pairs of fabric sewn together look like.

You can choose what piece to sew on to the above sections next, but I chose to sew the background template #20 pieces to the pairs shown above.  It is important to mark the seam line 1/4" away from the edge on both your first pair of fabric and 1/4" away from the edge of the right triangle (between the two shorter legs) on background template #20 piece.

This what the two sections look like pinned together.  Can you see the pencil-point dot on the top pinned part?

The photo below shows one of the background template #20 pieces sewn to one of the first pairs of fabric.  The other one will be just the mirror image of the first.  It is difficult to see my seam line, but it's OK to start on the edge of the fabric on the left side.  However, you must stop 1/4" from the edge on the right side.  Do not press the seam at this time.  You will find it easier if you can fold the seam in different directions when you are dealing with the inset piece.

Now comes the part where you sew either template #41 piece or template #41R piece to your new three-piece section.  (You may find it helpful to lay out the pieces again and check the picture in the book.  That should help in keeping the pieces straight.)

The photo below shows one of my inset pieces pinned to a three-piece section.  Once again the 1/4" is marked with a pencil (although it is difficult to see in the photo).  I found it helpful to feel where the seam line on the three-piece section was and match it to my pencil mark.  It is also much easier if you finger fold the seam allowance on the three-piece section away from where you will be sewing the inset piece.  (In the photo below, the seam allowance would be folded toward the bottom of the photo.)

Next you should twist your template #40 (or #40R) piece of fabric and pin the other two parts of your inset seams together.  (Do not sew within a 1/4" of the point where the three seams will meet.  Also, please remember to finger fold your seam allowances out of the way.)  Below you can see what my fabric pieces looked like after I had sewn them together.

Now you can press the three seams with your iron.  There will be a sort of natural direction each seam wants to lie.  In the photo above from my block, the top seam wants to lie to the right, the right-hand seam wants to lie towards the bottom, and the left-hand seam wants to lie towards the bottom.  You should be able to tell what to do with your inset seam because it will be easy to press in one direction and not in the other.

I hope I have not hopelessly confused you.  If you have any questions, please comment in the Forum.  I will do my best to be more clear.  (We can keep working together until I am.)

This is what my newly pressed sections looked like.

Next, you should sew these two sections together.  Please remember to be careful matching your points, so your flower is beautiful.

Now you can relax a little bit because the hard part of the block is completed. Your reward is that the rest of the block should go together quickly.

The photo below shows my next layout after I sewed the two sections of the flower together.

And this is what my flower looked like after I sewed a background template #3 piece to each side of the flower.

The photo below shows what my flower pot looked like after I sewed each background template #42 piece to the corresponding flower pot fabric template #13 piece.

The photo below shows what my flower pot looked like after I sewed the side seams.

The last background template #3 piece is then sewn to the bottom of the flower pot.  Then you can sew the flower to the flower pot.  (Be careful to maintain the point on the bottom of your flower.)

This is what my block looked like after a little squaring up.

Isn't piecing a block easier when the templates are the correct size?