Saturday, July 29, 2017

"C' Boss!" Cows Quilt

I can't type that phrase, "C' Boss!" without hearing my Auntie Irene hollering, early in the morning, and around suppertime, the lilt in her voice, going up on the 'CUH?' sound, and and emphatic on the 'Boss!' (a perfect fourth, if my musical background serves me still) Seeing, in my mind's eye, the cows come up from the pasture to the barnyard for milking, round ribs bulging side to side out over their dainty hooves as they plod along, udders swaying. My aunt turned 75 in December 2015. This quilt is for her. This might be the longest post I've written, fair warning.

It started in March 2015 when I saw LeeAnna's cow block that she'd made for Angela's Rainbow Scrap Challenge at soscrappy for that year.  Ding! Ding! I knew I had to make a cow quilt for my aunt.  I am so happy and proud to have another Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilt done!

The first two blocks, the blue and the pink, were made in record time. Then the cows sat for awhile as I concentrated on other things.  I finished the flimsy in January this year. I knew it wouldn't get quilted until we were back home, and my longarm, Avril, was set up in my sewing loft.
Anti-clockwise from the blue (January) girl: pink (February), Citron (March-yellow), purple (April), Ethel -(May-green) and Carib (June-aqua)
This is not a block (paper-pieced) for the faint of heart.  The red heifer was a heifer to piece, LOL, and so she got named Mary, as in Bloody for the drink, and because I might've muttered a few 'bloodies' and worse while I constructed her. Some of the cows named themselves; some have no names as of yet...but they might soon be getting one, thanks to my friend Helen of Word Weaver Art. That might be a subject for another post...or three, ha.
Anti-clockwise from the bull, a tad out of calendar order, the bull is Jethro Tull, black (August), Bloody Mary, (August-red), orange (September), Kahlua, (October-brown), lime (November) and Myrrh Tull, main wife of Jethro (December).
I quilted various motifs in their ears: feathers, pebbles, paisleys, figure eights, swirls and flowers.  The background got a super-fun swirl filler, which is based on the motif in the fabric.😉 It was an overcast and windy day today (Friday) so the photos aren't the greatest. I spied this London plane tree just outside the yoga studio in Windsor where I go to practice Ashtanga in the early morning. Threw the SUV in park and like a crazy person ripped open the passenger door, snagged the quilt, dashed to the sidewalk (of course I checked for both traffic and No Parking signs, but hey it was like 8 am) and set up the shoot:

Holy Cow! Holstein cow bark much?! How I love the bark of these trees I first spied in Nice, France! Little did I know I would live amongst them one day.

After I taught yoga in the late afternoon, I drove to my beloved, much-missed Lakeside Park and did the main photo shoot. A glint of sun, glowering clouds over Lake Erie to the south, but I and the quilt persevered.

The cows went to the beach:
They hung out in a tree, but some were too shy to show their faces:

They perched on a bench with a little encouragement:

They frolicked in the hydrangeas:

Man the gardens here are stunning this year. Our horticultural club has done amazing work, just ahh-mazing. Here's just one shot that doesn't do the riot of colour justice:
Can you spy the lake through the distant trees?
I always peruse sale sections of quilt shops IRL and online, for good backs.  I found this perfect one for the main backing at Sew Sisters Quilt Shop.  The farm animals doing yoga I found at eQuilter.

The quilt label is fashioned from some Laurel Burch purple paws fabric I got from Jake, a sweet reader who has become a dear friend, and also from border scraps. The label itself was given to me by another aunt, cousin to Auntie Irene. All in the family, eh?

I quilted a few surprises in the quilt.  Here is one:

The barn block got some special treatment too:
I followed the hay strands, did a woodgrain design on the door, vertical lines on the barn front, horizontal ones on the side to emulate the wood, and on the roof I did a slightly curving line to give the roof some dimension, and along the lower edge I quilted my aunt's last name.  On the purple mini-churn dash (finishing at 6"; the others are all 12") I did the same dot to dot design as I did in the large ones, such as the red one pictured here. I outlined the flowers and the cat in the centre of the purple churn dash, more symbols of what my aunt loves. If you look closely you'll see '75' in the lower right corner of that centre.

Well, since I didn't finish this post yesterday as planned (but our granite countertops got installed!!), and it is now a most glorious morning, I took a few post-wash shots. Here is the barn block:
Still very windy today

Avril just hummed a merry tune as we quilted together. I changed threads a lot, perhaps the most of any quilt I've quilted so far.
The majority of threads are Essential from Connecting Threads cottons, one Sulky rayon, one Aurifil cotton, two Exquisite polyester, and all the swirly background and churn dash blocks were quilted with So Fine.
That photo was taken after I'd washed and dried the quilt for 10-15 minutes in the dryer and then laid it flat to finish drying overnight. I absolutely love how the threads all sunk in so deliciously. There are a few several more photos of the crinkly texture, don't worry!

Here's another I always like, the rolled or folded up shot:

I know I need to do a comparison post of the various battings I've used. For this quilt I used Warm n Natural and I am in love with it all over again. Light, but warm, lovely to quilt through and lovely texture after washing. Speaking of texture, don't you love the design etched into the stone bench?

This quilt will be leaving me shortly, sniff. I know it's going to a good home, where it will be much-loved and, much-used (I will make sure to tell my aunt that!) This might be a big part of why there are many photos in this post, that and the fact that I've fallen horns over hooves in love with it and want to record every bit of it...

I free-motion quilted a simple flowing lazy daisy and leaves motif in the border. I showed you how I do the rolling forward, rolling backward on a longarm in this post.  There you'll get the tutorial for how to stitch the churn dash blocks in one pass, no breaks, either on a domestic machine or a longarm.

I machine-stitched the binding to the front and then machine-stitched it to the back from the front, by stitching in that ditch. This is my preferred method of binding a quilt, as it most resembles the hand-stitched to the back method. Gluing it down to the back side is key to catch that edge with my stitching! The little bit of stitching you see on the right is the stay-stitching done on the longarm, which I need to sit and pick out; I always match the thread used to stitch the backing down with both the border and the binding fabrics so it's next to invisible.

Was I happy and vindicated, as I said on Instagram earlier this week, that I hang onto fabrics that are several years old! This binding fabric I picked up in a sale section of a quilt shop in Fort Myers, FL maybe 7-8 years ago! I knew it would work some day as a great binding or a backing. I already used it for that very thing in Uncle Frank's con fuoco quilt!


Not only does this quilt have a lot of meaning and symbolism for the recipient, is also has a bit of a story all of its own.  This quilt has brought into my life a most cherished person, someone I would not have met had I not started this blog, and written of things dear to my heart, shared personal stories, thoughts and beliefs, not just of my soul, but of my quilts. Helen of Word Weaver Art found my blog when she saw a photo of a one of my cow blocks pinned on Pinterest.

You need to go check out painter extraordinaire Helen's blog,  especially her cow paintings (that takes you to a recent one of Cookie Dough). Helen started commenting on a few of my posts, and we started to really connect, I mean really. What at first appeared to be two women with little in common (she tells the story so well in this post) soon proved to be a deep connection on multiple levels.  We talked about process, colour, teaching, reading, writing(!), life after 50 and after retirement, and more.  She has watched and loved my herd of cows slowly grow over 2+ years, and now be finished.

I mentioned that not all the cows have names.  She thought I should name each one of them, and I heartily agree. On the Jethro Tull the Bull post, she actually wrote a limerick for his favourite wife, sexy Myrrh Tull, pictured below, bottom right...

The Christmas cow known as Myrrh Tull
Could never be thought of as dull,
She was brazen and bold
With her eyes of gold
Mooing "Come hither" to Jethro the bull.

Not to take away from Myrrh's glory or her shining eyes (lamé fabric) but here you can really see the daisies in Citron's ear (remember she prefers la prononciation française, 'see-trohn') and the dot-to-dot in the churn dash blocks, thanks to the sun and the laundering.
Helen started something; well the cows did too, because as I made each one, they started to take on a type of personality. However, Helen recognized it, and ran with it. Two other bloggers wrote poetry for Jethro...
Nita of Nita Dances wrote, (I've added a word here and there so the rhythm is correct for limericks--didn't teach 'em to my grade 7's for well over a decade without having the form cemented in my brain, ha):

Old Jethro the bull
Massive head hanging low
Shuffled over to Myrrh Lynn Tull:
"I do say my dear,
I don't mean to leer,
But your udder is stunningly low."

Lara of Buzzin' Bumble chimed in with a little naughty poetry after that:
Jethro may be small, but he can handle his harem;
It's a good thing you only sewed his head--
Because his dangly bits could scare 'em!
Speaking of massive...and dangling 😳😜I fought the wind again at the park trying to stuff the quilt between the massive trunks of this favourite cottonwood of mine. Think old Jethro is either busy with one of his herd or he's has indeed scared a few off with said dangly bits and they've hidden!

Helen wrote another limerick, this one for Bloody Mary, top left in the photo above:
The red cow is named Bloody Mary
She is difficult and quite contrary.
Her nostrils may flare
And cause Sandra to swear
Which is totally unnecessary!

Helen it was who said each cow needs a name, and in looking back I see that the turquoise one named herself, a bit of a pun too, Carib. Short for Caribbean and for carob that comes from there. Of course you know the yellow one named herself Citron. Each one needs a story of sorts, and wouldn't it be something to see a children's book with each cow featured in her own story, the quilt of them all at the end, with instructions for a doting nana to make one?! Helen's idea again, my additions to it...oh the possibilities when great minds, and creative spirits collide! I've witnessed and been a part of this time and again, mainly through my teaching career, but also outside of it.
Cows hanging out on the bridge

Power of a great mind, creative spirit and serendipitous 'mistake' is another sidenote to this quilt. In rereading the Jethro post, I saw the note where I'd inadvertently reversed the rail fence sections of the churn dash block and got an entirely different-looking block.

Well, that block led to this:
Which led to being published in Benartex's Modern By the Yard e-zine!

Quite the story this quilt has! The cows have travelled back and forth to Florida, some of them twice, and soon will hop onto a plane with my husband to be delivered (finally!) to the birthday girl.

Quilt Stats:
Pattern:  cows are by Piecemeal Quilts; bull is from Quilting in Amsterdam; barn is basically my own, explanation is here; layout is my own design.
Size:  68.5 X 71.75" after laundering: 65.5 X 68.5 (wow! 3" shrinkage!)
Fabric:  scraps from my stash; background and border are purchased, Moda 'Swirls' and Red Rooster 'Mementos' by Gudrun Erla respectively. Backing is Windham Fabrics 'Farm Chic' by Kate McRostie and elizabeth's studio by Willow Creek
Batting: Warm n Natural
Quilted: on Avril my Avanté
Threads:  pieced with Gütermann cotton; quilted with Superior Threads So Fine 50 wt #403, Essential 50 wt cotton by Connecting Threads, Sulky Rayon, Aurifil 50 wt cotton, and Exquisite polyester.

Linking up
Crazy Mom Quilts
Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Busy Hands Quilts
Cooking Up Quilts


  1. You see if your friend is called Helen , she must be good ! I love your cows or as we say , coos . And I love the limericks , poetry , quips et all .

  2. What a great quilt. Horns over hooves? LOL

  3. I smiled from start to finish!! And as for Jethro, he should be very thankful you do not purchase your milk like this
    " Get your tinned milk in a can, the best milk in the land!
    No teats to pull, no need of a bull,
    This milk is so creamy and rich,
    Just punch a hole in the bottom of the ***** !"
    Asterisks as that word is not really the best for publication ( it rhymes with RICH) on your blog.
    A stunning photo shoot in every location, And a gift for your aunt, we need to see photos when it is presented to her.I am sure you did cartwheels when it was all finished.

  4. Such a fun finish! You have quite the herd there. Love the limericks, too fun! Yeah for blog friends as well. That's such a great story.

  5. Your aunt is sure to love the quilt and the story that goes with it.

  6. That is such a fun quilt, with so many good stories to tell! Looks like it was a lot of fun to photograph all over town!

  7. Thanks for sharing the entire fascinating tale of Jethro and his herd. Loved every bit of it.

  8. What an amazing quilt! No wonder you wanted to record every bit but of it before you send it to your aunt. Goodness, how thrilled will she be to receive it - so much work and meaning in every block. Marvellous!

  9. I am completely wowed by your quilt and the wonderful story. A unique and absolutely wonderful gift. I am so happy you shared it.

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful story of the cows!! You have a lovely way with words and tell a story so well.

  11. What a wonderful quilt AND story! Loved all the pictures too!

  12. Fantastic photo shoot for a MOOving quilt and story. Congrats! on your finish.

  13. So this is the cow quilt, I am embarrassed to say I was oblivious to the making of this wonderful quilt. I can say though, my sister-in-law and her husband used to have a dairy farm and named one of their cows after me supposedly for my black hair. Your photo shoot adventures are just as interesting. You deserve a big MOO!

  14. Thanks for all the pics, history and information! You had the perfect layout for this quilt and the perfect recipient!

  15. Awesome quilt and story (and get photos of the quilt too!)

  16. Wow! Absolutely awesome and what a great story.

  17. The quilt is stunning and what a sweet, sweet gift it is going to be for your Aunt. How lovely that it will be delivered for her birthday! I love the extra length of the post and details (all those fun poems!) and you can never put in too many photos for the quilting crowd!

  18. Oh, I love this post, and love the stories about this quilt I missed somehow! I wanted to say it hasn't been that long since you started this Lovely, but time is passing incredibly fast for us. I toast your finish, your Aunt Irene, and you, Sandra. It's 4 o'clock and legal.

  19. Holy cow!!! That is one lucky recipient. Each block took love and patience.
    Horn over Hooves - now that is an expression worth remembering. I will file it away for future use.

  20. Oh, your aunt is going to love this. I hope you include the limericks and cow names. She might have some ideas for some of the names based on her memories, too. It must have been so much fun picking out all of the fabrics. And then to think that a published pattern came out of a boo boo. See? No mistakes, only creative opportunities. I really appreciated your tutorial on doing all that quilting without breaking thread, and I really love the swirly quilting and the lazy daisies. I know how hard it is to giveaway a quilt you've become fond of (and how heartwarming to actually give it away), so photo share to your heart's content.

  21. This is a bovinely beautiful quilt. I bet your aunt will treasure it. It has such a wonderful story so far, but its story is really just beginning. So many memories in one quilt.

  22. Favorite thought: "oh the possibilities when great minds, and creative spirits collide"
    Favorite mind picture: "round ribs bulging side to side out over their dainty hooves as they plod along"

  23. What a wonderful finish, fantastic story telling as always...and the pictures are amazing.. I love it all...your Aunt is a very lucky lady. And yes the crafting community are special, to spread and share love and creativity with everyone to all corners of the world. Thank you... Hugs from across the water xxx

  24. It's an absolutely beautiful cow quilt Sandra and I know your aunt will love it. Yes a very long post but well worth the read.

  25. Thanks you for the entertainment! It's an amazing tale (tail?) of Jason and his harem, .. er, ... herd! The result is terrific!

  26. Your aunt will absolutely love that quilt. It's so special. Your did a beautiful job. LOVE all the photos!