It Takes a Village to Make a Happy Quilt

Yesterday I decided I was ready to try something new in the form of the Happy Village quilt project. This is my November project for

It was also my October project, but let's agree not to talk about that, shall we? The book I pulled off my shelf is one of the oldest in my collection. This one from Karen Eckmeier.

The book makes it seem easy, and actually, I think it is. I'm farther along than I thought I would be after just a few hours. And I don't know how things go in your sewing room, but I always want supportive friends close by when I start something new.

The first step was to choose ten fabrics, and to make this bright village, the colors are listed in the book. Here's my group:

The first step was to cut from each fabric, one 6-1/2 inch square and one 6-1/2 x 2 inch rectangle. The rectangles are set aside for later use.

The squares were set in two piles to be cut according to a diagram contained in the book.

Although some measurements were provided as a guide, the author points out that the exact measurements aren't important. It's more important to get some similar shapes. Little cuts are made from each corner of the whole.

Then the large piece (on the left in the image above) is cut again into smaller pieces. Mine was cut wrong, but it was true that it didn't matter in the end.

Then, I cut the second piece. I went to great pains to measure the red stack and cut them just like it showed in the book. Still, I did it wrong, and so I marked the second stack more free form and worried less about the measurements. Honestly, it really doesn't matter.

After marking, I cut those too. You might notice the tiny little squares in the lower right and left corner. Those are 3/4-inch squares. They are set aside to be used as windows later.

Once the cutting is finished, you just start working from the center out on a 16 x 16 piece of batting. I really didn't expect to do the whole thing in one sitting, but there it is.

There are three things to keep in mind: 

1. Leave no holes where the batting shows through. 

2. Keep the light fabrics under the dark ones so there is no shadow showing through. 

3. I forget the third thing.

When I had these laid out, I decided to stop for the day and come back to it with fresh eyes today. I'll probably shift things around a little bit. It seems a little crowded there in the upper left corner. That was the last section I completed, and so I was trying to fit all the pieces into a small space. It isn't necessary to use all the pieces, but I'm just messing around with this for now.

The next step (once I'm happy with placement) will be to use the rectangles to create roofs, archways, windows, steps, and awnings. There are other suggestions for shapes as well, such as trees and flower pots. There are ways of cutting and ways of thinking about this listed in the book, and I'll say more about it as I go along. For now, it seems a good start, and I haven't spoken a single bad word...well, maybe one bad word. That's just to show that I care. I will say this, however: I think I would separate the squares into three or four piles before cutting. I was using sharp scissors, but I still got some weird cuts because of the thickness, and this really can't be done with a rotary cutter.

It was late in the day at that point, but I still wanted to spend some time experimenting with the sparkly threads for quilting snow on the Gingerbread Square quilt. This first snowflake was quilted with the Sulky white metallic thread:

The lighting is weird, I know, but I wanted you to get some idea of the sparkle. The next one was done using the spool I had in my collection with no brand name. I think it has a little more sparkle than the Sulky thread, but it pissed me off when it broke before I could even finish a single snowflake. Also, it seems to have a slight pink cast.

I cut threads and continued on. Within a few inches it broke for a second time. Grrrrrrr. Okay, so that made my decision pretty easy. I decided to go with the Sulky thread, although I might relent and try again with the no-name thread today. I haven't tried using a silicon thread lubricant on it yet, and so I'll do that and give it another chance. For now, I've been practicing some ideas I have for quilting the snow, and the Sulky thread is performing beautifully.

Initially, I had a YLI 40-weight cotton thread in my bobbin, but I switched to a 60-weight Bottom Line polyester thread. The Sulky is fairly thin and lightweight, and I think the lighter Bottom Line thread is a better choice.

This being Sunday, it's time for Slow Stitching with Kathy.

Slow Sunday Stitching

Yesterday I shared my progress on Hocuspocusville:

Kathy asked us to say something about the lighting we use for hand-stitching. My favorite lighting is this Black Diamond Headlamp.

It's rechargeable, and it puts out a nice bright light. The one thing I don't like about it is that it's made for bicyclists and that means it has a flashing red light at the back. It can be turned off, but sometimes I forget. It doesn't really matter (aside from its comedic value) except that it runs the battery down faster. It'll last for about three sessions of embroidery for me...maybe about 5 hours...and then it takes a couple of hours to recharge.

It's not the sort of thing you'd want to wear out and about...unless you're hiking, or biking, or something like that. (Warning: Scary Picture Of A Woman With A Very Bad Bedhead Ahead. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.)

Yes, she does have kittens on her sweatshirt. Anyway...my headlamp puts a nice bright light right where I want it. Using that lamp I can see that I have a vast expanse of unstitched hoop in my lap.

Better get after it. What's on your agenda for Sunday?

14 comments from clever and witty friends:

Debbie said...

Whoa, that is some jig saw puzzle you created! Very interesting, and look forward to the result.

Suzanne said...

I have never seen a quilt top construction that way before...very interesting.

quiltzyx said...

I wouldn't have guessed that is how the Happy Village starts out! It's going to be interesting seeing it come together. Good thing your cheering squad is there!
I can just picture you in the early morning doing your embroidery with a warning red light flashing!!! LOL
The snowflakes and snow practice look good. I'm thinking I might take a machine quilting class this month that my fellow guild member Anne Sonner is teaching. Have to see how my energy is coming back.
As soon as I'm done here, I'll be tackling the rest of Mt Laundry, all towels today. And maybe getting rid of some science experiments out of the fridge. Wish me luck!

Anonymous said...

My husband has a light like yours that he uses when he needs to add more gas to the generator, when our power is off in the middle of the night....for some strange reason, he used to think that I enjoyed being out there in the total darkness holding a flashlight so he could see where he needed to add the gasoline! So I got him this little light, which, in total darkness, puts out an amazing amount of light... who knew that I should borrow it for handwork?!
I took a class a few years ago that Karen Eckmeier did for another one of her patterns...landscapes, I think it was. Anyway I bought the pattern you are doing now, but it is filed away somewhere (lost, if truth be told!))and I had completely forgotten about it until you first posted your Happy Villages pattern a few days ago. Looking forward to seeing yours progress!
Glad to see that the supervisory duo is close at hand! How would we ever complete anything without them....
Sandra B

claudia said...

Every time I read about your Happy Village, I go to Amazon and think about ordering the book. The only thing holding me back is the fact that I have so many projects going on and a lot waiting in the wings to be started. I really don't need one more thing to feel guilty about!
I love your posts! You are so uplifting.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

The Village looks like a fun play project. Yes, cutting small odd shapes would work better with a thinner stack of fabrics. I like the look of the Sulky thread better - I wouldn't want the 'sparkle' to overtake the quilt.

Deb said...

The construction of the Happy Village in quite unusual and I look forward to seeing it progress. Those sparkle threads used for the snowflakes are pretty I would use the sulky too. Your Hocuspocusville block is coming along nicely. Happy Stitching

Quilter Kathy said...

What a fantastic idea... and I love the photo!
Hope you enjoyed some slow stitching time on hocuspocusville today!

Dana Gaffney said...

I like the Sulky better anyway, it's more subtle and it doesn't break, what a pain. Now the houses look like fun, a puzzle where you can force the pieces together.

Lyndsey said...

That's an intersting way to make a quilt and sure looks like fun. I like the sulky thread better. I find it works really well in my machine and have very few breakage experiences.

Judy1522 said...

It will be interesting to see the happy village as you work on it. You picture wearing the headband made me laugh it made you look like the lady that does the plumbing commercial for D and F plumbing on tv. I also wear a head lamp for handsewing and they do work great for that.

Stitches said...

I just recently got the Happy Village book, I hope to construct a village that my daughter took a picture of on their trip to Italy. I thought this book would help me with her way of construction..but I will continue to watch you make your quilt. looks very interesting!!

Brown Family said...

Happy Village looks like a lot of free form cutting.. I am glad the curl in the Sulky was not a problem. I like the looks of that light! I have struggled for years to find the tight light!

Kate said...

You got lots done. Looking forward to seeing your village come together.