When I see more news about movie in my travels I’ll be sure to share it here. And if anyone knows how to get in touch with Sarah Polley (or can do it directly) please remember I’m the perfect gal to write the music for this movie.
At our house, our televisions are mostly silent – we’ve given up cable and use Netflix or online viewing (and only very rarely). Because this form of entertainment uses up costly bandwidth we read a lot more or play games or listen to audiobooks and music. I recently was able to get a digital version of The Civil War Love Letter Quilt borrowed through my local library and thought that my visitors might find it as interesting as I did.
The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865, which correlates with the time that Grace Marks would have been in jail and (hypothetically) making the quilt blocks in the Atwood book. As quilt block patterns then were mostly passed along from friends and family the designs, if not the names, would have been similar throughout North America. The Civil War Love Letter Quilt uses letters sent from men engaged in battle in one form or another to their loved ones back home, and takes a phrase from each letter to name a quilt block. The blocks are traditional and contemporary but the names all seem to be new.
It’s a fascinating read, because it features letters from men who are instructing their families from afar, dealing with death and disease themselves, some of whom die before reaching their loved ones again. One fellow signed up for battle and didn’t even go home to say to tell his family and say goodbye – and later died on the battlefield. There are various instances of men’s ideas of what women were supposed to represent at the time: fragility, flightiness, home-serving, pure. It’s not an ideal pattern book if you are looking for modern-day sewing patterns but if you have some reproduction period fabrics and like to create quilt blocks the old fashioned way, this book will be right up your alley. Any of the blocks would be fantastic in any fabric design, though – there are 121 patterns to be foundation pieced or pieced by hand or machine and I can picture them in the fabrics from Grace’s time or modern batiks.
These love letters from a distant era are a great way to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit and get acquainted with life as a Civil War soldier, with the added bonus of dreaming of the quilts you’d make with the blocks from each featured letter.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! 🙂
How To Do Your Own Snow Dyeing
- Prepare all surfaces by covering with plastic (best) or several layers of newspaper. Powdered dye flies everywhere so don’t be afraid to really extend your work area protection.
- Thoroughly wet the cotton or cotton-blend fabric you’ll be dyeing. Squeeze out excess water until just damp; drape and arrange as required in plastic tub.
- Prepare your dye – mine is a simple “just add water” brand. Bear in mind that the more dilute you make the dye, the weaker the colour will be; the snow will make it even weaker. Choose colours with care or wild abandon. I’ve had success with using red/blue/purple and blue/green/yellow together but also using a single colour of varying dilutions. To use the latter start with a single bottle of strong dye, use until about half done, add water and repeat.
- Pack the bin that you’ve placed the fabric into with snow. No need to remove the fabric to add the snow. Just put it on top and cover the fabric.
- Apply dye as desired. Swirls, lines, it doesn’t matter as you can’t really control the results. Allow to sit in the protected work area for several hours (probably four to eight hours, depending on the temperature of the work area and how much snow you’ve used).
- I like to periodically drain the water and dye from the bottom of the bin every half hour or so. Alternatively you can leave it (which may affect the finished effect) OR you can set up a rack over a sink to allow it to drain itself. I don’t include this as more than an option to consider as it carries its own risks, advantages, challenges, and results.
- Once all snow has melted, or you’re happy with how the dye has saturated through the fabric (remembering the colour will appear darker when wet) carefully remove fabric from the bin and rinse. Wring out and wash without detergent separately from regular laundry or as directed on the package of the dye you used. Remove from washer and test for colourfastness – I like to wet the fabric and wring it over a white paper towel. If any colour appears (I’ve never had this happen) another rinse is in order, but if the water never runs clear the piece is not colourfast and not suitable for most quilts.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for snow dyeing! It’s a fun, fantastic way to get some beautiful and unique fabric for your quilts using our frigid, annoying, fun, Canadian winter season as inspiration. Have fun! 🙂
Here are some of the results:
So here I am, waiting for my Photoshop to respond so I can start re-sizing the photos for the Secret Drawer pattern, and in writing this I’ve decided to attach the photo for the finished block so you can compare it to the initial “fail” block. Well, it’s a fail for making an exact replica of the block in the book, but not a total fail because I do like how the blunted spool-ends make the centre square POW! right out at you. I might make it into a table runner or a pillow cushion. Anyway, I hope you are having an enjoyable summer so far – our weather’s been all over the place but here’s a photo from 6pm that I tweeted today 🙂
I’ll admit that on top of some commissioned quilts to make and an aching frozen shoulder the slight complexity to the Secret Drawer block has made me reluctant to tackle it. But on Tuesday I challenged myself to create three things that didn’t already exist and so I gave it a shot.
I made a spool block that was an immediate fail: the block was a rectangle rather than square. So I tried again, ending up with square spool blocks that were much more promising but when the block was finished the points were blunted and it was smaller than I had wanted it to be.
I received a nice camera since the last tutorial and pattern, though, so I have some fantastic photos of a block in progress that didn’t turn out 😉
So the Secret Drawer has its secrets, I guess. I don’t know why I can’t crack them. I’m trying to avoid having to do a template and set-in seams. I did try something new I’d never seen before (stitch-and-flip with oversized flips) but this caused the blunted points, which I happened to like but don’t represent the block in the Alias Grace book.
I’m trying again today. I have the pattern written out and ready, just a few measurements need to be tweaked and the block sewn and photos re-taken and the downloadable file made. I’ve got a heated bag of buckwheat in a stuffed monkey cover slung over my back (giving a new meaning to the phrase) and calculations and ideas loose in my brain. In the meantime I hope you’ll share the bloopers you’ve made while making up patterns or sewing quilt blocks 🙂 Group hug!
I’d heard that it was in poor shape and might be re-opened as a museum of some sort. Along with its brutal history of violent punishments, daring escapes, and “celebrity” prisoners I do hope that it would include Grace Marks. Seeing the coarse prison garments sewn by the women inmates, the cells they were kept in, and the experimental medical instruments they were forced to endure procedures with would certainly be enlightening.
Here’s an extremely interesting CBC article on the more notorious Kingston Pen inmates (including a section about Grace Marks):
The day after I blogged about my process of creating the blocks and original patterns I produce for this site, I clicked on a quilt-related link from a Twitter buddy. The page I ended up at was called Blogging the Process: My 3×6 Bee Blocks. Not only is there a nifty idea for quick and easy quilt blocks, it proved that I so many others are thinking that the journey is part of the creative process. I’ve had that page open ever since then 🙂
That blog post by Two More Seconds leads to Rossie Blog’s “Process Pledge” and if you’re interested in reading more about writing your ideas out – even if you aren’t sure if you’re explaining things right, or don’t have an answer for what you’re trying to do – check out the post and the hundreds of bloggers/photographers who have signed up to take the Pledge. There are also prompts to help you “get some process posts going”. Brilliant!