Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Early Bird for The Splendid Sampler

A little over a year ago, I got an email from my friend Pat Sloan. The gist of the note: Both she and another quilty friend Jane Davidson were creating a year-long sew along and would I like to join by creating a block to share?

The concept sounded outrageously fun. Each of the 80 or so designers was asked tell a story in the space of a 6” square quilt block—the story of how sewing brings happiness to our lives—in 100 personalized tales, one per block designed. I couldn’t say ‘no.’ I’ve always felt that quilting, really isn’t about the quilt as much as it is about a community of quilters and our shared experiences.

So this is my story:
I’m a bird girl. I love birds! I also love the change in the seasons. Even so, I’m usually happy to see the cold, long winter end, naturally leading to splendid springtime. When I see the first robin, my heart sings! It means winter is over, days are getting longer, and warmer weather is within reach. Soon, I can stitch outside under a shady tree once again; my favorite, favorite quilty thing to do!
And so my block is a pieced interpretation of an American Robin, or in Latin Turdus migratorious. The quintessential symbol of the end of winter and the change in seasons - at least here in North America.




Right about now, you may be looking at the pattern and the long list of tiny pieces to cut, and you might be thinking this person (me) is off her ever-loving bird-brained rocker!




I’m okay, really!

Yes, this block has a lot of pieces, and some of them are really small, and weird sizes that involve accurate cutting along 1/8" ruler markings.

However, the block is almost entirely made from stitch-and-flip units. Easy, like making a snowball block—drawing 45-degree lines on the back of one fabric (usually a square, but not always). . .  placing fabrics right sides together so corners align,. . . sewing on the line, . . .




. . . trimming excess fabric to reduce bulk,. . . 



. . . . and pressing in one direction or the other.




As you cut the long list of pieces, notice that this block is constructed in units. Make a little ‘kit’ from the fabrics required for each of the seven units, plus the final background pieces and arrange the little kit-stacks in place on your work table following the unit diagram on page 1 of the pattern.




Build each unit one at a time, paying close attention to the fabric alignment instructions, the direction of the drawn line seams, and the pressing suggestions. Sew deliberately and as accurately as possible. Be extra careful with unit 7 as the narrow legs don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for fabric placed or sewn out of alignment. . . .




. . . Then replace each unit back into the block arrangement. 




Then sew the units into rows. And sew the rows together. 






Well, we all know that every early bird is searching for the worm, but he (or she) also needs to find a mate! The Early Bird and The Reversed Robin were combined into a wall-hanging for the blocks December 2016 release date.




By the way, my label, courtesy of an embroidery pattern from Urban Threads, shows the natural progression that occurs when nature brings two birdies together. . . .




Many, many thanks to Pat and Jane for including me and my early birdie block on this most splendid journey. Thanks also to you for following along and for all of your encouraging words along the way.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

14 comments:

  1. This is one of thee most amazing and peaceful blocks of the Splendid Sampler and your layout to ensure completion as well as the embroidered label make me smile and feel comforted by your gift. The times in the USA are troubling right now but this little block is such a sign that we do have control of our world by what we choose to do (sew) and the friends who help us create (your efforts and sharing of this pattern). Thank you!

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    1. MaryAnn, you are so very welcome. Thank you for your kind comments!

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  2. Ever since I met you last summer at the Calico Gals meet-up in the middle, I've been looking forward to your block. I actually noticed it on the cover of the Splendid Sampler book, and was looking forward to it, not knowing it would be yours! One of our favorite activities at my house in the spring and summer here in Syracuse is to sit on our back deck and listen to/watch the birds in our trees. We love cardinals best, but the robin is such a perfect choice for the happiness of spring, especially in the midst of the darkest, grayest part of winter here in CNY. Thank you!

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    1. Yes, indeed, she is a little feathered cover girl! Aren't the cardinals amazing this time of year? A bright pop of color in all the gray (or white when there is snow). That event was really fun this summer. Thanks so much for your nice comments!!

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  3. Beautiful block! I'm really surprised to see this. I'll try to make it, although I didn't start with the splendid sampler blocks at all. Birds are also my favorites. Thank you for the pattern!

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    1. I do love the birds, too. I hope you enjoy making my little robin!

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  4. Joan,

    I love your block(s) mostly because I LOVE robins! I too wait for winter to end with the arrival of the first robins. I must be getting old because I have been mentally keeping track of their return the last few years. Sometime around Ash Wednesday the last couple of years. (Next I will be writing it on the calendar like my MIL!!) For me their return is like the light at the end of a very long tunnel, with just a little way to go. Although, a little way can be 2-3 months long in Minnesota!

    Thank you for sharing your talents and the adorable robin blocks.

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    1. Colleen, I feel the same way, tracking the return of the migratory birds. I'm happiest when I see my first hummingbird. Like you, I keep track. The hummingbird feeder is up by May 1, and I'm on the lookout starting around May 8! You aren't the only one who can tell the date by the birds in the backyard! Thank you so much for your comments!

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  5. I don't normally enjoy paper piecing but this design was a must try!
    Thank you for posting it and the excellent instructions and visuals. The pair of robins has made an excellent table topper!

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    1. But the original pattern isn't paper pieced (I'm not a fan of paper piecing either, and I didn't create the PP templates). But I'm glad you gave it a spin and enjoyed the results!

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    2. . . . by the way, I'd love to see a photo of your runner. I do love this block too!

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  6. I first saw your block on the cover of the book that has been made with all the patterns. I was so excited and looking forward to adding that block to my quilt. Thanks for the darling design!

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    1. You are so welcome! Yes, I was excited to see The Early Bird on the cover, too!

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    2. Thank you for send this to me. Will bookmark it so I can read it when I am ready to do this block.

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