Sunday, August 16, 2015

Butterflies- Signs of Hope

18" x 22"
I needed another project like a hole in the head when I spied this sweet little thing in Lori Smith's booth at the Minnesota Quilt Show a year ago.
It's hand appliqued, embroidered and quilted.
Both vintage and 1930's reproduction fabrics are used. The lavender sashing is also vintage.

That's the good news.

I started doing some larger butterfly blocks years ago. (Are you noticing anything here? I have many projects that span many years!)
At the time, I wanted to learn how to do needle-turn applique. I found two butterfly designs I liked and did some of each in vintage fabric; some feedsack - some not. Here are a few lying side by side on the floor,

The typical way of finishing these popular quilts in the 30's and 40's was with a black buttonhole stitch embroidered around them, That's when I  realized that  my invisible applique would not show at all!

I did improve my 'needle-turn" skills, though.

As a quilt appraiser for over ten years, I saw a few different methods used to embellish applique motifs with embroidery. Sometimes a simple running stitch by hand or machine was used to secure the motif before embroidery. I didn't find that it detracted from the piece. You had to look very closely to even see it. Was it a time saver? I'm not so sure. Maybe getting that little edge turned under to nail it down by machine would take a bit of time.
Some were finished 'raw edge'. Quick and easy but embroidery thread is not terribly strong. Over time, with wear and washing, it would start to come loose leaving the applique 'unattached' and the quilt unattractive and fragile. Done for, in other words, unless someone wanted to do a lot of repair work.

For the raw edge method to work well, one would have to place those buttonhole stitches very close together as was done in the Broderie Perse examples on early cut-out chintz motifs. Even then, as you can see in this vintage example of closely spaced embroidery, there is the risk of the motif coming loose over time. This maker used a 'chain' stitch around each motif.

So I am glad I appliqued mine by hand. I did get more skilled in that method and one hundred years from now those butterflies should still be secure!

Butterflies appeared on many quilts during the Depression years. They signify hope -  much needed during that time. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the bleak circumstances of the time women made a tremendous effort to provide a cheerful home. Many quilts of the era are pastel, cheerful looking things to lift the spirits.

Here's an exceptional example from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum dated c. 1920-1940.


I was amazed upon searching Pinterest and other sources to find a tremendous variety of styles from simple to complex; pieced, appliqued and even this one - made with a vintage handkerchief.

 Simple Applique

Simple  Pieced

Complex Pieced

 Paper- Pieced

 All Hexagons!

I have a total of 20 blocks done at this time. My records show that I started them, OMG, the summer of '97. ( I have no shame. I hope my sharing makes you feel better about some of your UFO's!)
Sometimes delays result in a chance to revise the original plan. I suppose I was aiming for a bed quilt but now I think I will work up setting that requires exactly 20 blocks and call it a day.

 It's time, don't you think?

Have you made a butterfly quilt? Do you own a vintage example?

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