Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Pause for this Brief Announcement

I am excited to report that I just  recieved The Versatile Blogger Award from another quilt lover! Thanks Dawn.
(Take a look at her blog, Collector with a Needle)

I don't feel very versatile since my blog is All About Quilts - but I guess one can be versatile within a given field and I simply can't think of anything to do with quilts that is NOT of interest to me!
But.... I named my blog Quilts ETC - so please be patient. I do have lots of  ETC to share along the way. (A few possibilities: vintage tablecloths, pillowcases, potholders, weaving, knitting, aprons, feedsacks and maybe even a recipe or two)

One of the requests of recipients of this award is to share 7 things about yourself that others may not know so here goes:
  1. I'm an avid reader.
  2. I love guacamole!
  3. La Boheme is my favorite opera.
  4. I am an AQS Certified Quilt Appraiser.
  5. I support Public Radio and my local library.
  6. Both of my  knees have been replaced - I'm so grateful we can get new parts.
  7. I just received a Medicare card What!? - OMG.....It must be a mistake -  I am NOT old!
We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Mariner's Compass Medallion - Part I

I’ve been fussing with this project on and off (mostly off) since I bought the lovely kit of fabrics (Judy Rothermel’s Regency Collection) at the New England Quilt Museum during the 2007 AQSG seminar. I’ve had it even longer than I realized!
 The neat stacks were so appealing… nicely folded in color groups with pretty ribbons around them….it seemed a shame to mess them up! So I let them sit for some time just as they were!
Eventually I took off the ribbons and unfolded them for pre-washing and pressing. I do pre-wash fabrics to be used in my quilts. I’d like to know ahead of time if a fabric is going to bleed and ruin the quilt the first time it’s washed. …. and I do love pressing them. It gives me a chance to really ‘see’ and appreciate each piece

I decided to come up with my own design rather than follow the simple pattern included in the kit. I quickly realized this was not going to be a ‘Quilt in a Day’.

I decided on the medallion style. I love the British framed quilts and since the fabric line represents the early 1800’s I chose the Mariner’s Compass for the center. This block has been around a long long time. In fact, the first known Mariner’s Compass quilt was made in England in 1726. Judy Mathieson
, a recognized expert on this design, notes that the Mariner's Compass is seen in “a large proportion of existing quilts from the Atlantic coast area”. The connection to the sea was very important to them.

The process slowed down as I researched variations and sizes of the Mariner’s Compass patterns and played around with fabrics and placement. I ended up making templates and hand piecing the block.

Somehow, even with all that effort, it turned out smaller than expected - just 13"


I surrounded it with Flying Geese and set it on point with the blue print to enlarge the central focus.

I studied examples of this style from my own library as well as the internet. I was focusing on the types of frames or borders seen most often. I sketched my favorites and made notes in my Project Book.

 I added a checkboard border

 . . . then a plain border composed of a few different brown prints.
At this point it measures 41" square

I've laid down some Hourglass blocks as my proposed next frame. I think I like it.....

I'll need to make a few more.

Doing my own thing is so satisfying on one level and yet can be so frustrating! So many decisions to be made along the way slows things down. Besides, I like to have many quilting projects going at once. I like variety. Sometimes I am in the mood to sit at my machine, other times I want to hand quilt or embroider. There are so many pleasures to be had with this wonderful ‘art'….or 'craft'. (that’s a can of worms I won’t open today) It’s not my style to see one project through without being distracted by another….unless there is a deadline! I say this to prepare you for a bit of a wait for Part II. The goal is double bed size, wool batt and hand quilted.

Maybe you will nudge me occasionally with, “How’s that Medallion Project coming?

Coming Next: Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy - Picnic Quilts

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Goodwill Quilt

I hear stories of people who find amazing quilts at thrift stores like Savers and Goodwill, and happy as I am for THEM, I can't help but think, "Why doesn't that ever happen to ME?" All I ever see are knitted or crocheted afghans or baby blankets. That is . . . until one day a little over a year ago when I saw a sign while driving down University Avenue with a big arrow saying, "Goodwill Outlet".  I had no idea there WAS such a thing...stuff that isn't good enough for Goodwill?
It was quite an experience but we are here to talk quilts…so here is my
 Delightful Dahlia    c. 1955

I don’t know how it ended up in the outlet store. It’s in great condition. I like how the stems go in different directions. I like the green. I like looking at all the different fabrics in the oversized flowers. I like that she chose pink thread to hand quilt it!  

The blocks are BIG -  13.5"  and  each 5" petal is appliqu├ęd by simple machine top-stitching. She hand quilted 1/4" inside of that line on each petal.

 The stems may have been a commercial bias tape such as seen below since they don’t quite match the green used for sashing. I see this on lots of old quilts - I wonder why that is not a more popular option today.  It would certainly be easier than cutting binding but now that I think of it, not many people are using basic solids in their quilts anymore and if we were we would probablly fuss about it being a perfect match!

This is guaranteed boilproof and sunproof!

A few more close-ups of the fabrics: 


On this one you can see a bit of 'sparkle'.
Eileen Trestain, in her book Dating Fabrics 2 - 1950-2000 states that during the late 50's fabric manufacturers "began making gold overlay prints, providing a highlight of metallic sparkle....". This book and its companion, Dating Fabrics 1 -1800-1960, is a helpful reference tool for dating quilts. Fabric examples along with an informative overview of the  history of each period, discussion of textile colors and fabric/ quilt styles for each period are given.
Oh. I almost forgot the rest of the story - I got so carried away! Clothing, bedding and such are priced by the pound at the outlet. It came to………tada ……$4.64!! 
I hustled out of that store with my new quilt hugged to my chest. I thought about the woman (most likely) who made it; imagining how she enjoyed selecting the prints for the petals and carefully stitching them in place.  I wondered if she made it for someone special. I wondered where she got the many interesting fabrics.  I llike to think she got great pleasure out of the work.
We can’t know the true stories of these orphan quilts and not one of us knows where the precious handiwork of our lives will end up. You may dread the thought that someday your quilts might just be ‘donated to Goodwill’. But, hey, this quilt went to Goodwill and ended up going home with me.....a quilt lover who just may enjoy and cherish it more than anyone else ever did..
 Next: Something "New" - My Mariner's Compass Lifetime Project

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ripping Part III - Why and what now?

In the first' Ripping' post earlier this month I shared  a top that I purchased and am now ripping apart. It has turned into a series which I will wrap up today. WHY I would I buy a quilt top and then rip it apart?  Here is at least a partial list............
  • To acquire vintage fabric for repairing other quilts ( the main reason in this particular case)
  • To preserve vintage fabric for study
  • To rescue a textile that may be thrown away or destroyed
  • To challenge myself creatively - to make 'something out of nothing'
  • To honor an unknown quiltmaker by finding value in her work
Sometimes it's hard to explain the joys of working with textiles of all sorts. For those of you who share this feeling, did I miss any of your reasons?

I talked about this log cabin quilt in a March.post. It is quite worn but I am going  to use the vintage fabric rescued from the old top to do some basic repair. It appears that most of the wear is on one side - probably the top where it got tugged and handled the most.

My goal is to stabilize it to help it last longer and look better. 

Here's one block which needs some help. I'll start with this one (knowing from past experience that I will find many more areas to repair than I had planned on.) Is it worth it? Sometimes the answer is 'no' but you don't always know until you get into it. How much time do you want to spend on a given project? I like to have a variety of things going on in my quilt life so choices have to be made. In this case, I'm plowing ahead.


An added bonus of quilts with 'issues' is the ability to see things like the batting or fill which in this case is a striped blanket.


This will be a simple applique job -- basic mending.  It will not be judged by the Baltimore Applique Society. 

I leave the original in place; trimming only the dangly blobs of fabric or thread that would leave a lump.

I measure the damaged 'log' and cut my chosen fabric about 3/4" larger all around. My applique will go just slightly over the seam allowance where it is stronger.

I had to remove three ties....and found I had a good match to replace them once the applique is done.

I pin baste the replacement piece and applique around it.

I use a double thread to re-tie since that is what the the maker did.  VOILA!
Here is the completed repair. If you can't see it, that's good.

  I don't want the new piece to stick out and call attention to itself. This fits in with the rest of the quilt. The ties are a bit stiff  but as someone once said, "If it looks okay at 30 feet on a galloping horse all is well."

My next project using more of the rectangles will be a doll-sized quilt top. I don't know for sure what I'll do but I have decided to maintain the rectangle concept of the original top. For now, though, it will have to get on the 'list'.

Next :  Thrift Store Find (The Goodwill Quilt)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ripping - Part II

Time to get busy--- but first, some thoughts on the ripping process. I like this Clover ripper. It has a flat handle. The other one with the rounded handle was cute but it was always rolling onto the floor.
I had a friend who would use the ‘pick’ on each stitch and pull the entire length of thread through without breaking it! I didn’t dare ask if she was planning to use it again. Some use the pick to go under about every 3rd stitch, break it and then pull the bobbin thread off in one swoop.

I’ve used various methods but for me, using that sharp inner curve is much more efficient for this type of work than using the ‘pick’ part.

The key is in the angle of the tool and the tension you provide.

 Either way, you know what they say. The proper tools make any job easier. Old, dull rippers make good stilettos but how many of those do you need? Treat yourself to a new sharp one every so often.  (I just had a flash-back of my mom using a single edge razor blade to take off seam tape from a hem- maybe it's because my hands look like hers!)


Brief  (but timely) Detour -- ...I took a break from working on this post and I was sort of cleaning the ledge (blowing at the dust) on which I have lots of sewing doo-dads displayed. It was feeling too cluttered so I started moving things around - and two items caught my eye; two early versions of seam rippers.
The one on the right instructs you to use it in place of the needle on your sewing machine. You "insert Rip-a-Seam in first knot of stitch and lower foot. Then, operating machine at moderate speed, follow stitching closely" . Have you ever? I can't image that . It does warn that on sheer or closely woven material it may fracture thread in the weave. I think I will have to give it a try.

The other is Mi Ladies Seam Ripper - ooh-la-la....how very French!  Or something. But it's just a glorified single edge blade like Mom used! A bit safer, though.

Okay, that was fun..... but back to work

So now I have a growing pile of emancipated rectangles

Time for a bath.

I use Orvus. It’s actually a horse shampoo and I buy this 120 oz.size at a pet supply store. Smaller portions are often sold in quilt shops ($$$). It’s not a detergent but a soap and leaves no residue. It’s concentrated, biodegradable, and contains no phosphorous or brightening agents. I use it to prewash all my quilt fabrics before I put them on the shelf and to wash vintage or completed quilts. It can be used for delicate needlework, fine linens and silks. The main thing is not to use regular laundry products if they contain brighteners or bleach of any kind. Check the label.

I like my big white bowl from the 99 cent store. I use it a lot because I can easily see the dirt (or dye) as I work.
The top I'm working with contained shirtings that are somewhat discolored but I am not using any restoration products because I want to retain any authentic qualities of ‘oldness’ including the discoloration.
I separate by color and let it all soak, agitating with an old wooden spoon occasionally and following with numerous clear rinses as seen below in the beautiful blue batch.

Finally, I either spin them out in the washer or just press out excess water and lay them flat on a towel.

By the time my iron heats up and I check my email :) I can start pressing them while still damp.

Ahhh. so satisfying. At least for me.......

If you’ve stayed with me to this point, I KNOW some of you are saying “This chick is crazy!” but I also think there might be a few of you saying, “Wow! I can relate to Jean the Ripper. I am not alone!” A comment from a non-quilting friend in an early post asked simply, “Why do you do this?” It forced me to think about the reasons which I'll share in the next post: 

Ripping- Part III: Why & Now What?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Rippin' Good Time - Part I "The Find"

Here’s what I’m currently doing instead of the things I should be doing. Ripping. I got this top recently and it just made me smile for a number of reasons.  One, and this is important, it is loaded with fabrics from my current favorite time period; the turn of the 20th century  c.1890-1915. There are tons of indigo and cadet blue prints, shirtings, stripes, plaids and chambrays with a few blacks and clarets (burgundy) thrown in. Two, the price was right (also important). And three, being just a top I could easily examine the construction at which point the smile graduated to a quiet giggle.

 It appears to have been pieced by hand originally, at least in part, with what I would describe as string.  
This close-up shows regular sewing thread on the left.
Then someone with a sewing machine ---Hallejulah!- (albeit one with a tension problem) must have thought securing it would be wise so……….. whirrrrrrrr. Off she zipped – in the vicinity, at least, of the existing hand-pieced seamlines.

 A closer look at the accuracy of cutting the rectangles reveals a casual approach – a refreshing lack of concern for perfection. Seam allowances? She did NOT have a quarter inch foot – and what's more....she didn’t care! They range from non-existent to ¾”. Perfection is just boring, anyway.  

This is the only hole but numerous additional problems can be seen which may explain the top never becoming a bona fide quilt!  

When the pieces you are trying to sew togegther are not the same size, the clever seamstress just takes a tuck and honestly, there really is less bulk when the seams don't come together at the same in the same intersection.

At any rate, this is a quilt top I can love. I get very excited about ripping. This one presents a real challenge, however, with at least two rows of stitching; one of thread the thickness of wrapping string and the other by machine at 20 stitches per inch! But I'm ready to have some fun with this top. I have taken a three row section off of one end which will make it easier to work with. 

Let the ripping begin!

Coming soon: Part II  " The Process"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shoe Store Quilt

Just a quick show n' tell since I mentioned finding quilts in unusual places in my last post. This graphic old quilt is hanging on a wall at an SAS shoe store in Arizona. 

The employees couldn't give me any information about it but I was glad to see that someone felt it was worthy of display. Too many quilts are spending their golden years tucked away in dark closets or worse. 

What do you think about the date? My close-up shots are not very helpful, I'm afraid.

I'm doing something interesting with an old top right now - more details soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

State Birds and Flowers: A Special Embroidered Quilt

Quilts have a habit of popping up in the most unexpected places.
This beauty was proudly displayed in a rest stop along Interstate 76 near Julesburg, Colorado. (I’ll show you one I found on a wall in a shoe store later!)
Over 40 volunteers embroidered the blocks. Esther Hinde designed the pony express rider and Rosemary Lechman hand quilted the entire quilt. When my friend Rosie Werner did a presentation for our quilt study group in Minnesota a few years ago, I learned that there have been many variations of embroidered state bird and flower quilts over the last eighty years or so. In fact patterns are still being published. You can a get a pattern for this quilt from Aunt Martha.
( By the way, Rosie has become recognized as an expert on 'kit' quilts of all types. Her website is designed to share her research and is updated as new knowledge is found. She will be presenting a Study Center on this very topic at the next AQSG seminar in New Jersey this fall.) 

Most quilts of this type are done on squares or rectangles. This particular example is a bit unusual in that the blocks are hexagons and both the bird and flower are shown as well as the year that state joined the union and the order of admission to the union.

 The ladies chose to feature the Pony Express as the central focus of their quilt because Julesburg was on the Pony Express route from Missouri to California in 1860-1861.
The original pattern shows the United States map in the middle of the quilt and was even referred to as the State Educational  Quilt in advertisements for two different pattern designs. If anyone out there has a quilt or photo of one that has the US in the center I'd love to see it.
I found that I happen to have two versions of the United States map transfer. This Vogart pattern is for state birds. The blue transfer pattern may go with this. 

 This red example would have been published later as it  includes Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska became the 49th state in January of 1959 with Hawaii following close behind, also in 1959. Clues like this help us date patterns which are seldom dated on the package. 
I find the directions included on vintage patterns interesting. The back of this pattern suggests a running stitch 1/4" apart or backstitching for quilting and advises not to knot the thread.

  Digging around in my 'stuff', I also found this complete set of 48  state bird and flower blocks- stamped in green and ready to embroider. I can't remember how I acquired them.
A few more blocks; these are already embroidered. 
Courtesy of Rosie Werner.
A few more quilt examples

 Of course, once a pattern has been published it can be used from then on so dating a specific quilt  requires more study unless the maker has been diligent and dated her handiwork.
I've often thought that any one topic could become a lifetime study – or at least a focus for one year – but my interests are many ......so I gallop along, kicking up the dust far and wide, unwilling to be reined in.