Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Leader-Ender Challenge

Everyone knows I am a huge fan of Bonnie Hunter and her revolutionary leader-ender method of making quilts. My leader-ender project for the last 4 years has been the small Alamo Star block and I keep making a few of those every month. Every year Bonnie announces a leader-ender challenge and twice I joined in on her project.
Here is the list that I can remember:
2015 Tumblers (I made a mini version called Tiny Tumble) 
2014 Lozenges
2013 Split 9 Patch
2012 Spools (I am working on my spool quilt layout)
2011 Cheddar BowTies
Bonnie announced the 2016 leader-ender challenge this week and it's the hourglass block. At first I wasn't tempted because I was thinking that I've made so many of those blocks over the years. 
But then... I remembered the Clarissa quilt. 
Clarissa quilt

On the way to the Vermont Quilt festival in the Spring of 2011, I had the opportunity to see an amazing quilt at the Shelburne Museum which became one of my all time favourite quilts. Here it is! I posted about it here and have always thought I would love to make a variation of this quilt. It looks like now is the time to start my own leader-ender Clarissa hourglass quilt.

This quilt was made by Clarissa White Alford and contains 6,048 pieces of fabric!
It was made by a woman who raised 9 children of her own, plus 6 children from her husband's 1st marriage for a total of 15 children. That makes her a total superstar in my opinion!  Can you even imagine her life back in the 1800's??  It is believed that she made the quilt while living in Quebec when in her 80's. It's amazing not only that she survived all those years, after raising all those children, but that she still managed to create a lasting work of art in her last years.

I looked at that quilt a long time in 2011. I was inspired by the story of it and by the beauty and longevity of the quilt. Here is a close up of one of the 42 blocks all made with hourglass units...and hand quilted!
I don't know how many blocks my Clarissa quilt will be, but I started the first one today.

The first block was pieced on my Singer 301 short bed sewing machine named Ethel. The sound of this 301 machine is soft and lovely... it's such a calming pleasure to sew with her!

But look what happened! First of all, because I don't have a pattern and am making this up based on a photo, my math was off (big surprise!) and my first block turned out to be too small. 
And secondly, how did the bottom right hourglass block not work out as planned?!?
Clarissa made everything in life and in quilting look easy, and it's not. I think I'm calling this quilt "Clarissa was a Superstar"!


  1. I haven't don Bonnie's L/E Challenge since my Bow-tie. That was 5 years ago. I like Clarissa's version. Looks lik you're using that 'froggin' thing already today.

  2. Absolutely stunning quilt! I can see why it is a favorite. ALMOST tempts me to join in--almost.

  3. Love your post today. Good story to go with a great quilt. I guess I have lost some of my multitasking skills with age. I cannot seem to work on two projects going on at the sewing machine at the same . That Bonnie is a super star or an energizer bunny herself.

    1. I have a hard time working on two sewing machine projects at the same time too. I chain piece and that becomes my leader-ender endeavor.

  4. Cute 301. Not bad, since you hadn't done the math. I've mixed up fabrics before. Since it's a sample block, it's ok. Save it and put it on the back of the quilt.

  5. Interesting post! Clarissa's quilt is beautiful. You've made a great start...almost :-)

  6. What an amazing quilt! I look forward to seeing it grow.

  7. Are you going to use scraps for your hour blocks or colors like you show in your one block?

  8. Keep searching Pinterest to help you out

  9. Oh you are so naughty. I LOVE LOVE LOVE triangles and small fiddly pieces. :-)

  10. I was resisting the temptation to join, too - I am still far from finished with my tumblers - but after seeing the Clarissa quilt I may have to give in! What a beautiful quilt! Thank you so much for sharing....I can't wait to get off work today so I can start digging through my scraps!

  11. Fascinating woman! And impressive quilt! I can't even begin to imagine the hours and hours it took her to make this. I love that you showed your oopsy. Makes me feel not so bad when I make them. :)

  12. Darn it, Kathy,...I have to make one! I just love some of the vintage quilts.

  13. Clarissa is amazing! How big are each of the small hourglass blocks? I've never done a leader/ender project, but this may be the time to start!!

  14. That is one amazing quilt, and one amazing woman. I am always in awe of the ladies of the past and their enormous families. How they ever managed to do anything other than slave over a hot stove is beyond me. But lots of them left magnificent quilts for us to marvel over.

  15. Hi I'm so glad I ran across your post. When I saw the challenge I instantly thought of this quilt. Of course, on the bucket list. I purchased the pattern from, I believe it is still available from this site. It includes traditional hand piecing templates, as well as, machine piecing instructions and quilting stencils. Other patterns, are also available from this site, reconstructed from museum quilts. You have encouraged me to get started. Thanks.

  16. Thanks for the reminder of the Clarissa quilt. I bought this pattern years ago (2001 Vermont Quilt Festival ?) when I ran away from home for a milestone BD. Think I'll dig it out and consider!

  17. Unbelievable. This is a terrific choice. Can't wait to see how it progresses. I hope you leave that block as is. Will make a good conversation piece for someone.

  18. what size are your hourglasses. I love the quilt and story.