Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Second Wedding Quilt

Yes. This log cabin quilt is my second wedding quilt and yet.....I've only been married once. It's a story that I almost hate to tell; I have not gotten over it and I may be even sadder about it now than I was at the time. 

 I wish I could show you the original quilt - I wish I could see it myself.

Here's what happened. My Aunt Agnes  presented us with a log cabin quilt for our wedding gift in 1969. She particularly liked this pattern -  if the number of them she made for various nieces and nephews is any indication. The fabrics in mine included many of my sewing scraps or old family clothing.
One December day in 1973 we returned home after taking our little boy to see Santa to find our front door busted in and all electronics missing.....pulled right out of the wall unit with cords still dangling.... broken glass on the floor - a mess.
 In the bedroom, the bed was unmade and that not being such an unusual situation, I didn't realize immediately that the 'covers' were gone...including our wedding quilt!
I later learned from a neighbor, who didn't realize what she was seeing, that it must have merely been taken to cover the TV as they carried it out. She recalled seeing  a couple carrying heavy items with a quilt over them and assumed they were moving.
So how did  I come to have this quilt? My dear Aunt made us another one! I know I appreciated it at the time but as a quiltmaker myself now, I also know I did NOT realize how big a deal that was!
I still wonder what happened to that quilt? Did it get thrown in the dumpster? when it had served its purpose?  Did the thieves use it for years and years? Did they sell it or use it as a paint drop? Did someone get 'lucky' at a Goodwill thrift shop (as I have done)?  I'll never know but honestly, I still have hope.
Some years ago while documenting quilts a log cabin was brought in with a turquoise backing and my heart did a little flip flop. I quickly saw that it was NOT my quilt but it made me think....is it still 'out there'?  I realized it could show up in my life again.
I just can't believe that I have not one single photo of the original quilt. Not one shot where it is in the background, or wrapped around a kid. Not one shot of Agnes at her sewing machine or at work selecting fabrics or with my husband and I and the quilt when she gave it to us.
I do have this, though. Here's Agnes 'dressed down' for doing laundry! I think it must also have been her painting outfit! She often wore our discarded clothing and though we were teens, she seemed to make it work.

It's too late for me and my first wedding quilt but I did learn several things from this experience which I pass along in hopes that you will be spared such an experience.
  • Document your quilts; every quilt in your home, not just the ones you make or your favorites. The digital camera is your best friend. Take photographs of your quilts. If you get a quilt from someone, be sure the maker is in the photo. If you give a quilt, be sure you are in the photo. Start an album and/or digital folder which you back up from time to time. Record it's story. Write what you know - measure it, take a full view and a close up.  In just one generation all information about a quilt can be lost.
  • Label all your quilts; new or vintage. For those you make include at least your full name, city, state and date. For others, something that identifies you as the owner AND where you got the quilt or other information you have on it. I use "Property of": with my name, city, state and phone number on my vintage quilts.These simple steps can prevent your quilts from joining the ranks of the many many anonymous textiles out there.
  • Consider appraisals for at least some of them. A written appraisal by a qualified appraiser can be a big help if loss or damage occurs. For more information about appraisals or to find an appraiser near you visit either the  PAAQT or AQS websites.
I was fortunate to inherit her original 1929 copy of Ruth Finley's classic book, Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them.

I was especially thrilled and touched to find this penciled on the front inside page........
Jean's quilt - queen size
Blocks = 13" sq.(after seams)
7 blocks wide 8 long.
I also have a cardboard template she used for her log cabin strips. What would she have accomplished with rotary tools!?

Agnes died in 1981 at the age of 81. My Mom (Agnes's little sister by 20 years) often said, "Oh, Jeanie, I wish Agnes could see what you are doing now".
Her photo is on  my sewing room wall as is this lady bunny I got some years ago - -
 strings hanging off her skirt, tall and thin.
  I've named her Agnes.

So today I raise a  toast in remembrance of a wonderful, generous, talented lady, my Aunt Agnes and also, of course, in celebration of our marriage of forty-two years .... and counting!
Shiny Happy People

 June 21, 1969

Next: Patriotic Quilts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Old is New Again - Two New Quilts from One Old Top .....so far

Last year I bought this poorly constructed, faded old quilt top for $13.  The photo just gives you an idea - at this distance it was blah.

The twenty-eight embroidered  blocks were so cute and the embroidery was quite well done ..... and you know how I love to rip. (see Ripping Series in May )
Closer examination revealed that some of the blocks were from sets sold by the Rainbow Quilt Block Company; Teddy Bear and Teddyville, Kewpie and Dutch Boy. Designed by William Pinch, the blocks were sold stamped and ready for embroidery.There were a few miscellaneous nursery rhyme blocks as well.

The top must have been used for some time ‘as is’ because the outside edges were turned under carelessly  (going right over the embroidered design in some cases) and machine stitched to prevent fraying.

The pink setting blocks were very faded.

 Evidence of fading -- the seam allowances retain the original color  

At first I thought I'd take it apart and put the embroidered blocks in a different setting or just replace the faded pink setting squares.

When I showed the top to a few quilting friends someone suggested I could make more than one quilt. Great idea - especially with a natural division of blocks from different sets.

I started ripping.....

Clean and pressed and released from that 'blah' pink setting they were ready to take the plunge!

My first project was this doll quilt. I chose five identical bears, trimmed them to size and set them with a pieced nine-patch variation for the chain effect.

Hand Quilted     21" square

 Next I decided to use the twelve teddy bear blocks. Each is different - the bears are shown driving a car, riding a scooter, raiding the fish barrel and climbing a tree.

I used a check from my stash for the alternate block.  

Hand quilted - 42" square

There are eleven blocks left;  seven are Kewpies. Should I put them all together or keep the Kewpie's by themselves?  What to do???  hmmmm.....A girl has to give this some thought........

I really enjoy the process of ‘re-purposing’ an uncomplete or damaged project from the past. I like to think that perhaps MY unfinished or unsuccessful projects may, in turn, find new life and give creative pleasure to someone in years to come.

Next: My Second Wedding Quilt

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Time for a Picnic - It's June!

I know it's June but I can't get Julie Andrew's voice out of my mind from last month, "It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May" (Camelot). Try substituting 'June' and 'lovely' and don't forget the British accent.
But unfortunately, May was anything but lovely across much of the country. Let's hope for a calmer June. Today in Minnesota it IS lovely so it's time for a picnic!
Rail Fence - The Inspiration
My Aunt Agnes made us this quilt around 1970.  We've always called it our Picnic Quilt.
One could certainly sleep under it but the fact that it's made of heavy fabrics both front and back and quilted in-the-ditch with large stitches distinguishes it from the typical bed quilts she made. (You’ll be hearing more about Agnes later this month) Many of the fabrics in this quilt are what we called tarpoon at the time – cotton plaids and some solids in what fashion fabrics at the time called 'bottom weight'. I made many skirts, shorts and pants with it.

My sister and I both sewed most of our own clothes and saved the ‘cuttings'. We brought Agnes these extra fabrics as well as the clothing we no longer wore. Others did this, too, knowing she would put it to good use. She had a large room overflowing with colorful scraps in piles on a large table with more in boxes on the floor.

Over the years we've kept this quilt in the trunk of the car.
It has covered damp ground at the 4th of July fireworks, dirty picnic tables at rest stops and even works as a tablecloth for the hood of a car - talk about 'make do'!
My Mom and Dad about  1980 - can you see the quilt under all that food?

It's been washed countless times and ..... now I see it has a burn hole. I am not embarrassed to tell you this. It's living the life it was meant to live and over 40 years later it just keeps ticking!

When my kids grew up I wanted each of them to have their own picnic quilts. With two boys we had lots of old jeans and I got more at rummage sales and in 'Free' boxes. I love finding different colors.
Rail Fence
I made this one for my oldest son. Does it look familiar?

I cut the largest pieces possible from the legs of old jeans, sewed them together and then trimmed the block to size. I even included a side seam here and there.

The fill is an old cotton sheet blanket. I pick them up at church rummage sales for about $1. They add a nice insulating layer for something that may be used on the ground.
I purchased the backing; a 54" wide  lighter weight denim stripe. I simply brought it around to the front at about 3/4" and machine top-stitched it down. That's whats fun about making this type of quilt - it's meant for function and hard use. Nothing fancy about it. As a matter of fact, many vintage quilts used this edge treatment. It was thrifty in that no extra fabric was needed and also saved time -  the method is simpler than cutting and applying a separate binding.

I machine quilted it with both straight and zig zag stitching.  I sewed a different jeans pocket on each corner and inserted kerchief napkins in different colors. (I wonder where those went?)
This quilt has also been put to good use...I know it covered an old couch for awhile and I recently learned he kept it at work to spread out on the University mall at lunch time.

Medallion Mish Mash
I made this one for my youngest son. He went to high school when the colored brushed denim jeans were popular - and W I D E! Yipee. I'm telling you....never  throw anything away! I was getting interested in the medallion style at the time and wanted to do something different; making use of those wide leg pieces at the center. I thought I would surround the center with the blocks that have a square in the center but that seemed dull and too predictable. I began using  leftover pieces from the first quilt and having lots of fun.Then I added various jeans labels, pockets and his initials.

I  used a variety of big-stitch and tacking or tying techniques with cotton crochet thread to hold the layers together.

The red stitching is called Crow's Foot
He has used it to wrap a fragile art project for transport and on camping trips.

There isn't much left of a pair of jeans when I get done! 

If you are inspired to make a denim picnic quilt,  I recommend using large pieces and a 1/2" seam pressed open to reduce bulk.  See About.com for more tips on working with denim

String Quilt for a Red Pick-up Truck
Last but not least, this one was made for my husband; the first quilt I've made just for him!

I used scraps and strips of  regular weight cotton prints sewn in the stitch-and-flip method on a foundation of old fabric cut into squares.  The scraps of many colors and designs are somewhat contained by by using a common red solid on the diagonal in each block.  I tied it at the intersections and the center of each block with crochet thread. I eliminated the fill  thinking the foundation of the piecework would be enough but when used on the ground it's not as protective.  On Golden Sands beach in Florida, however, it didn't really seem to matter. We use our quilts!

 I embroidered his name right on the front.

Making a picnic quilt is a perfect summer project. It gets your creative juices flowing and  before long you will have a quilt in your trunk for any occasion. Now I'm excited again..... I think I need to make a few more for gifts. I still have plenty of denim!

Coming Soon:  New and Improved 
(two new quilts from an old top)