Category Archives: Vintage Quilts

Hand Quilting – The Perfect Rainy Day Activity- March 20012

I did pretty well by my New Years Resolution.  I  quilted almost everyday in the month of January and I was down to the last row on the frame when I went on vacation.  The vacation was great but when I got back my hand quilting was at a complete stand still.  It has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things, but;  the week before last it rained almost all week and rainy days are just perfect for siting inside all snug and warm and sewing!  With the help of the wet weather not only did I jump start my hand quilting but….I finished, I finished, I finished!!!!!!!!!!!!    (to be sung not spoken)

Here’s the quilt fresh off the frame.

Here it is on the design wall, where you can really see the great impact of this old quilt.

This detail shows the batting.

I used a wool blend naturally gray bat from Matilda Bat Co. out of Australia.  It needled really well and had enough loft to help conceal some of the wonky parts of the quilt.  Suffice it to say I am very pleased with the end product and glad that at long last it is finished.  Cheers, CW

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Hand Quilting my New Years Resolution


I’ve been trying to finish hand quilting this quilt for ohhhh maybe three years?!#*@!!!  So I decided to make one of my New Years resolutions to work a little bit on it every day until it is done.   As you can see I have a pretty sweet set up for hand quilting.  I have a really nice view of my patio and the indirect Eastern light is great for actually seeing where I’m quilting.

I use painter's tape as a guide for my straight lines

The top I’m working on is a great old vintage top  made from a variety of indigoes and Mourning fabrics arranged in a very striking snail trail display.  Some vintage collectors might say finishing such tops is a mistake.  But I think old tops without any documentation might as well be finished and enjoyed.  I take lots of pictures of the front and back before I start so details of construction are recorded.

When I look at old quilts or tops to buy I am often attracted to the ‘odd ducks’.  Wonky blocks, off colors or patterns etc. despite the fantastic visual impact of this quilt top it had structural problems, which may be the reason that it was never finished.

Snail’s trail blocks have a lot of bias edges in their construction and that can lead to some pretty wonky blocks.   In the case of this quilt: while the blocks were all hand pieced the seams between the blocks were machine sewn. All that hand pieced bias fabric trapped in tight machine stitching made for some blocks being pretty ‘poochy’ in the middle.

detail of the pucker before quilting

No amount of stretching would ever get that completely flat.  My remedy was to choose a fairly fluffy , mostly wool blend batting.  Also I think quilting on a big frame helps keep fairly even tension over the whole surface of the quilt thus spreading or easing the  puckers in as you quilt.

same block after quilting

It’s not perfect by any means but it lays more less flat.   When the quilt is relaxed off the frame the fluffy wool batting helps to camouflage a multitude if sins!

I have hand quilted a few tops of my own construction but I find finishing these orphan tops is much more gratifying.  I find machine piecing  my own tops is much more efficient (and appropriate). I am not a great hand quilter so I try to match my quilting with the construction level of the top.

As to my New Years resolution… I’ve done pretty well.  I have quilted a little everyday since the new year and I have already quilted almost an entire row of blocks.  Just one more roll of the frame and I will be on my last row!!! Yahooooo!  Happy New Year! CW

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Fumagators!

Nov.2011

My son Sammy recently brought home some handsome carved wooden chairs from Africa.  When we set them up the next day we noticed some little piles of dust under one of the chairs and little bore holes above the little piles of dust.  Evidently the chairs were harboring insect hitchhikers!  We found a company that could fumigate individual pieces of furniture.  When Sam and I delivered the chairs the lady in the office pointed to a place in their garage/shop where we could place the chairs and she said she would put down a “blanket” to protect the chairs from getting scuffed up on the concrete floor.  What she spread on the floor was this quilt.

I was alarmed but all I said was ‘oh, nice quilt’.  The lady looked at me blankly indicating that it was just a “blanket” to her.  The quilt was pretty dirty and worn, it even had a foot print on the top indicating it had had some pretty hard use but I still felt bad to think that what had been a nice old quilt was going to end up as padding material.  As we drove away I thought I should have just offered the lady 10 bucks just to rescue the poor quilt from such a fate.  I resolved to do that when we returned to pick up the chairs.

When we returned I was surprised to find the chairs were now wrapped in the original quilt and a second quilt.

Without preamble I simply ask the lady if she would sell me the quilts for $20.00/ quilt.  She looked surprised but I just shrugged and explained that I was a quilter and even though the quilts were worn they still held some interest to me and I thought that I would be able to restore them.  I said what I was offering her was kind of a “flee market” price based on their condition.  She kind a laughed and said she did not even know who’s they were or where they came from but she would ask around the office.

She came back to say that they would sell the quilts to me at that price.  I did get the feeling she thought I was a little nuts (as did my son) but so much for what others think when you are on a rescue mission?!

Once I got the quilts home I took pictures and measurements and checked for overall condition and construction.  The bonus on the wedding ring quilt was when I unfolded it I discovered the inscription and date embroidered in the center .The wedding ring quilt is a ‘summer’ quilt  (no batting) and the top and backing of plan muslin were machine quilted with a zig zag stitch along all the curve pieced seams.  This seemed like pretty sturdy construction so I went ahead and treated the stains with Folex (a non caustic stain remover) and put it in my front-loading washing machine on delicate.   I ended up washing it 3 times in this fashion to get all the dirt out but it ended up cleaning up pretty well.

The tree blocks quilt had quite a bit of wear around the mid seams so I basted some muslin strips over those areas to stabilize them, pre-treated with Folex and then washed the quilt in the tub.  The water was so dirty there was silt in the bottom of the tub.

I washed and rinsed the quilt several times and finally put it in the front loader on delicate for one quick cycle to get as much water as possible out of the quilt.  Then I spread a sheet on the floor put the quilt down and spread another sheet over the top to protect it from direct light.  The quilt came pretty clean but needs some restoring.  It probably survived as well as it did because the batting is a flannel sheet (you can see the plaid pattern though the worn muslin) and it was fairly heavily quilted in an all over Baptist Fan pattern.

shows fan quilting before cleaning

These quilts might have seen better days but at least they aren’t going to end their days on a garage floor somewhere.  Happy Thanksgiving! Claire W.

 

My first sewing memory:                                                        Sept. 20011

I was about 5 years old.  My sister and I were sewing doll clothes for our dolls.  I had just sewn a skirt for my doll by wrapping a swath of fabric around her, sewing a side seam from the hem to about ¾ up the side seam and then sewing on a button at the waste line and sniping a hole in the opposite side for a buttonhole.  I handed the doll / with skirt to my older sister for inspection at which she said something rather scathing about my handy work!  Thus began my career in the world of sewing!

Ironically, years later in high school it was I who could read patterns and sew garments much better than my sister and so I ended up sewing garments for her!  But in some ways her criticism was prophetic because I have never been one to follow directions, always visualizing a project more as I go along versus trusting in the prescribed directions to guide me to the end product. This is a mixed blessing.  Sometimes in my naiveté I stumble upon great things for myself and sometimes I just paint myself into a corner.  If I presume to give any creative advice it is:  whatever your creative process is; pay attention to it!  If you don’t try things on your own you will never know what you might discover on your own.  For me those “aha” moments are some of the most satisfying moments in life.  I don’t think it’s an ego thing.  It’s not about me being “right”.  It’s about me discovering for myself what feels right for me.  Sometimes the incubation of those ideas takes time and even a little benign neglect:

One of my favorite discovery stories about benign neglect is that of John Fleming the scientist who discovered penicillin.  Basically Dr. Fleming did not clean up after himself in the laboratory very well.  One day he noticed some culture dishes that he had set aside to be cleaned.  They had been “waiting” to be cleaned up for quite awhile.  What he noticed was that there was some mold contamination in one of the plates where he had been growing certain strains of bacteria; but where the mold grew there was no bacteria growing!  He reasoned that the mold must be producing “some” chemical that was effectively killing the bacteria. So he made an extract of the mold and treated a fresh batch of bacteria cultures with the extract and sure enough the bacteria did not grow!  Thus “antibiotics” were born.  Of course it was not quite that simple but basically because Dr. Fleming was a bit of a slob but more importantly a keen observer, penicillin was born! And for better or worse the 20th century had one of its first medical revolutions!

So what does that story have to do with you and I as quilters?! Be a keen observer. Be open to the possibilities around you. Try things. You may not discover the next antibiotic but you are sure to have some fun.  Cheers, cw