Monday, December 12, 2011

Polar Fleece?

I know polar fleece may seem too thick for quilting, but I think it works.  It is thick but it's lightweight while still being very warm and cozy.  Probably NOT a good quilt for Florida, but fine for Wisconsin or snowy New York.  

I haven't tried it often, although the quilt I made with it became one of my favorites.  I used it not only as the backing, but also in the pieced top.  This one went to my brother-in-law Tom and if I remember right, it was for his 50th birthday.  This year he said he turned 12 on his birthday so I must be wrong about the 50th!  Regression isn't a bad thing and I do believe you should get to be any age you choose.

A quilting friend just asked about using flannel as a backing and I'm sure that's why I was thinking about the polar fleece.  I loved the feel of it and the distinct detail of the quilting.  No batting was used.  I only tried flannel once (Tavern quilt); I like the results and will probably do another.  I've never used wool although I've always planned to.  Plaid woolens in a simple, classic pattern like Ohio Star would be nice.  Old flannel shirts, cut into 4" squares with a lightweight denim backing would be interesting too.  Ah...  so many quilt ideas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Older Quilts

Today I'm going to share some more of my older quilts.  After moving back to Orlando in 1998 (or was it '99?) I had more time to sew and more room too.  I had the passion to quilt, after my early Jinny Beyer success, but few of the skills and none of the knowledge.  Deciding to make something for our queen size bed, I decided to try a mariner's compass.  Here's the crazy part:  I didn't know where to look for a pattern so worked it out on graph paper myself.  At the time that seemed like a logical thing to do; now I know it was unnecessarily difficult and there were lots of places I could have turned for help!  I was so pleased with the top, but then it all went wrong...  I used a horrible spray basting adhesive that resulted in a tragically wrinkled back, my first try at machine free motion quilting was startlingly bad,  I should never have used inexpensive muslin for the beige parts, I didn't know anything about choosing batting, etc.  The list could go on and on.  Of course we used it regularly for years and I still use it once in a while.  If you did a drive-by, looked through the window and saw it, you might think it looks nice.  But once you got within 20 feet you would see how pitiful it really is.  But I know how hard I worked on it and how proud I was to work out the compass angles, so I'll never get rid of it!

Here it is: Mariners' Blues.  I called it that because we had to sell our boat when we left
Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay.

In the couple years after Mariners' Blues, I made a few more for family.
This is a simple but pretty quilt for my brother and his wife.  I called this one Biltmore Rose after a fun trip we all made to Asheville NC.

This next one is GrayC's Garden, made for my mother around 2002 I think.  Mom was a fabulous gardener and her beloved cat GrayC was out there with her most of the time although she was and is a confirmed house cat the rest of the time.  Mother chose most of the fabric and encouraged me to use a Stack-n-Whack pattern I had recently found.  We had a blast working on this; it was an important time for both of us.  After Mom passed, I just couldn't keep this one around and was thrilled when my sister in law wanted it.  She and my mother felt great affection for each other so it was the perfect home for the quilt.
I don't have a picture of the back but it's wide alternating stripes of the light gray and the deep maroon-ish purple.   

I've got lots more quilts to categorize and post, but I'll save them for another day.  Here, instead, are a few GrayC pictures then and now:

And now:  22 pounds and the queen bee of the household!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Almost my First Quilt

Many years ago - not even sure how many but probably over 25 - I made a very simple quilt with 4" squares for my friend Margaret's first child.  As I look back on it, the colors were nothing you would pick for a baby quilt but I don't recall if I was trying to be different or if I just didn't know enough to make a good choice!  I don't have a photo of that first quilt and it's probably a good thing.

In 1992 or 93 I was pretty new at exploring the internet but somehow came across Jinny Beyer's website.  I had never seen such beautiful fabrics!  Stunned, I decided I had to try my hand at quilting again and found a shop in town (Baltimore) that carried her designs.  Here's that quilt, which I really consider it to be the beginning of my quilting life.
It's a smallish wallhanging, about 2.5'x3', more heavily beaded than you can tell from the picture; I called it Executive Wing because at the time I was working in the corporate offices of a large manufacturing company.  I was involved in many projects at work that took months and even years to see completed, so quilting gave me a dose of almost instant gratification.  It was also a way to express my more creative side and that was fun too.  This quilt hung in my office at work for several years.

Later, I gave a similar quilt to my niece, but this one hangs in my sewing room.  I still like it and I'm still attracted to Jinny Beyer's fabrics and her great borders.  I've always wanted to take one of her classes but the closest I've gotten is visiting her shop near DC.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Minky Minky Minky

I don't know why it's more fun to say it three times, but it is.  Minky Minky Minky.  I love this stuff.  So do my cats.  Minky is an outrageously soft synthetic fabric, with a fluffy feel.  People touch it and say "ooooooh", then rub it on their face.  Men, women, babies, cats, everybody.  It's irresistible.  This isn't heirloom stuff, but it has it's place.  I like using it as a backing for quilts that will be used for comfort, whether the quilt is meant for kids or adults. I've used it as a backing on 4 quilts and I'm sure I'll use it again.
The first was a baby quilt, made in lime greens and bright blues.  
I liked it so much I decided to put it on the back of a quilt I was making for myself!  I won these lovely blocks in a quilt forum lotto in 2010; because they were made by my quilting friends it is a comfort for me.  No matter how stressed out I may be, I can relax and nap with this Minky-backed quilt around my shoulders.  It's a nice size at 6'x3.5' and the bright yellow always lifts my spirits.  
A small lap quilt, backed with blue Minky, was made for a friend who was facing several trips to a hospital with her ill daughter.  I included a large tote, big enough to hold the quilt, her Kindle, snacks, etc. - whatever she may need to carry with her while her daughter was in treatment.  Unfortunately, I can't find a picture of that one. 

On the Oct 13, 2011 posting I showed a recent quilt, made for my nephew when he started his first year at college.  I used the same deep blue Minky on this one that I used on the lap quilt.  Once I had the body of this quilt done it didn't seem long enough, so I had to get a little creative with a top and bottom border.  Similar to a 'sidelights' style, I used bright squares and rectangles to extend it.  I like the addition and will do that again!

Minky, Minky, Minky!

Turn of the Century Quilt

[This is more on the old quilt I introduced in the last post.  Although I knew some things about it, like the names of the block and the pattern, the appraiser told me a lot I did not know.  This is everything she said:]

The design of the individual blocks is called LOG CABIN
This is one of the most common quilt blocks and usually associated with American quilts, especially among agrarian communities.  Typically, worn-out work clothing was either cut or torn into narrow strips.  The block is built by sewing strips of fabric around a center square.  The square is often done in a warm color to represent the hearth of the home.  For this quilt, the quilter chose small bits of velvet fabric (I had never seen that before and thought it was charming.)  This block has been popular throughout American history
and is still commonly used. But the design is also seen in ancient Egyptian and Celtic carvings and cloths so it was not invented here. 
According to the appraiser, this quilt's Log Cabin design is enhanced by the use of 6" squares instead of the more common 10" (early American) or 12" (modern), as well as by the narrow strips of fabric used.  It's quite precise and beautifully done.  She loved the little velvet hearth squares in the center of each block, too. 
The blocks are set in a pattern called STRAIGHT FURROWS
Log Cabin blocks can be put together in a wide variety of ways, creating different patterns.  This one makes distinctive diagonal stripes across the quilt, referring to the furrows dug while planting crops. 
The quilter used blocks of slightly different shades around the outside of the quilt, creating a subtle border.  It wasn't just thrown together; she planned the design. 
The method of construction is called FOUNDATION PIECING
In this method of quilting, the design pieces are not sewn together, they are sewn onto a square of fabric that becomes the back of the quilt. In some cases another layer was added with batting between them but for a 'summer weight' quilt it was left with just the foundation as the backing. It's difficult to tell if this quilt originally had batting and backing - if it did, there is no indication of it but it could have..
All of the foundation piecing was done by hand, but while many of the squares are sewn together by hand, some are machine sewn.  This combination of machine and hand sewing is also consistent with the estimated age of the quilt.  Quilters were only beginning to use their new treadle sewing machines at this time. 
The FABRIC used in the quilt is significant to it's story. 
Based on the pattern selection and the fabric colors, the appraiser guessed the quilt was made in "The North", because Eastern quilts were fussier and more detailed and Southern quilts were more colorful and used more floral fabrics. 
Many of the squares of the foundation are a fabric called Cadet Blue that was made from 1860 to 1880.  She said it's valued among quilters who try to recreate Civil War quilts. 
The fabrics on the front of the quilt were heavier than those typically used in a Southern quilt, also defining it as Northern, Mid Western or Plains.  
It was the fabric on the back of the quilt - the foundation pieces -  that set the age of it.  This quilt was made between 1890 and 1905.   That puts it about 40 years older than I was guessing!  Those more familiar with the family history might be able to guess if the quilter was Grandmother P's mother or aunt or possibly another relative.  The quilter would have probably been in her 40's or older when the quilt was made.  The appraiser said the sewing shows skill and the quilter was comfortable with the task, but not as precise as a young, learning quilter would have been. 
Why it's in TWO PIECES
This part was as interesting to me as finding out about the age!  I just brought 1/2 of the quilt to the appraiser because I didn't want to carry the whole thing around all day.  She was almost done looking at it when she said "It's too bad you don't have both pieces".  I said I did and she seemed shocked!  She said that splitting old quilts in two was such a common practice that they have a name for it; they call them Solomon's Choice quilts.  It happened for two different reasons.  In some cases, more than one family member wanted a treasured quilt so it was split down the middle and both daughters (usually) took their half.  These quilt halves almost never get together again because they are either used to shreds or are handed down two different sides of the family.  In other cases, an old quilt was split in two and given to farm hands who typically slept on cots or benches in a building attached to the barn.  These quilts were almost always used to shreds or were eventually cut up into even smaller pieces and used for horse blankets.  The fact that these two pieces are still in the family is unusual and exciting. 
The appraiser didn't think there was any way to repair the quilt and said there's no monetary value in it.  There are too many holes and worn spots.  Most of the holes are damage from moths, which is harder to repair than a straight line cut or tears.
Suggestions from the appraiser:
1. The quilt could be put back together and displayed as one piece.
2. We could leave it in two pieces and let two people in the family display the quilt.  If that's the plan, she urged us to label both pieces so that the history isn't lost.  
3. The third choice was her favorite and I think it's pretty interesting too.  She said she would break the quilt down further, into pieces suitable for framing.  Maybe 18" or 24" wide by 36" or 42" long, depending on what family wanted.  That way, several people in the family could enjoy it's history.  If we could determine who created this quilt, framing a piece along with a picture of the quilter, or of the farmhouse, could make a beautiful piece.  If that's what the family wants me to do, I can use my trusty seam ripper to divide it into as many pieces as necessary and of any size. 
(At this time, there’s been no decision about what to do with it.  I think it’s a project for 2012.) 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New and Old

Today I set up a QR code and put it here on the blog.  A QR code is that black/white square, similar to a bar code, that can be read by smart phone if the have a tag reader.  I hadn't thought to use one on my quilt labels but a member of the GardenWeb Quilt Forum posted about it recently.  What a great idea!  I'll add the code to all future quilt labels.  Any one who scans the code will come directly to the blog where they can connect with me and maybe even find a picture and story about the quilt they've found.  I haven't actually misplaced any quilts, but I do give a lot away.  You never know where they might end up.  I'm not sure the QR would be allowed on donations quilts, like Quilts of Valor, Quilts for Kids, or Linus Project Quilts but maybe it is.  I'm intrigued by the idea of using relatively new technology on a craft as old as quilting.  I'm a bit of a techno-twinkie, loving every new electronic thingie on the market, so this is just one more fun way to combine the old with the new.

And to balance out this new thing, here's something delightfully old.  This quilt was discovered not long ago by one of my husband's cousins.  They could trace it back to a grandmother, but didn't have much more information than that.  No one remembered her as a quilter, so they weren't sure when it might have been made.  The quilt was sent to me, with the hopes that I could repair it and join the two halves.  Yes, it had been cut in two pieces, apparently a long time ago.  Can you imagine?

Sadly, as soon as I looked at it I knew it probably couldn't be repaired.  Lots of little holes and badly worn fabric.  But it's a charming piece and someone (Gramma P?) obviously worked hard to use what she had to make it attractive and warm.  I wanted to know more so I took it to a quilt show to talk it over with an appraiser.

She agreed that it wasn't repairable and in it's worn condition didn't have much value, but she told me much more!  Most significant to the family is that the quilt was most likely made between 1890 and 1905.  That puts it 40-50 years older than they were guessing!  We were hoping someone remembered if grandmother's mother quilted.  Or maybe a great aunt or other, even further back, relative.  Intriguing, right?  We still don't know who made it, but we do know it's a precious remnant of an earlier age.  The quilter wasn't my relative, but she lived a similar agrarian life in the same Upper Midwestern part of the country, so I feel a connection to all of the Prairie Women who came before me when I touch this old beauty.

More details about the quilt in the next post!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 - Busy summer!

Welcome to my quilt blog.  It will be more of a image album than a blog, I guess.  I'm not starting this to talk about quilts - I do enough of that on GardenWeb's Quilt Forum - so there won't be frequent updates, daily words of wisdom or brilliant ideas about quilt design that no one ever thought of before.  Its more of a place where I can record the quilts I've made and share them with fellow fabric addicts and friends who are interested.  Maybe a couple other creative things too, but mostly quilts. 

2011 has been a great year for quilting.  I had about 6 weeks of non-work time because of knee surgery this spring, so I had time to really get involved with my stash.  For you non-quilters reading this, "stash" to a quilter means all the stacks, bits, scraps, bins, bags and drawers of fabric we have accumulated over time.  I'm not saying it can't be mind-altering, but it's definitely not illegal!

I've been able to complete some projects started earlier in the year but mostly these were new projects, started and completed since May.  

The one that really got me through my recovery time is this king size made with 1930's reproduction fabrics.  Not normally my style but I'm in love with it.  The inner blocks are buckeye beauty and the outer blocks are london square.  They are an accumulation of birthday blocks made for me by quilting friends over the past two years.  It was quilted by the amazing Mary Beth Krapil in Orlando.  It's our summer quilt and reminds me of the farmhouse quilts I was so attracted to when I was a child.

The next project turned out to be the Early American tavern sign quilt.  I had this fabric for a loooong time, never sure what to do with it or how to cut it.  Then I decided that NOT cutting it was the way to go.  I surrounded it with paper pieced stars and backed it with flannel in a fabric that matches one of the non-flannels on the front.  The center of the red wonky star on the back is lots of little bits and pieces of the salvage sign fabric.  This was a gift for Jim, meant to accompany us on some camping trips.  It's just the right size for an RV bed.

We have a niece and nephew starting college this year; a momentous occasion no matter how ready a young adult may be for it.  It was Jim's idea but as soon as he suggested dorm quilts for them I was excited to do it.  I'm certain they weren't sitting in their respective dorms, wishing some old auntie whom they rarely see would make quilts for them, but I hope they bring them some comfort during the next few stressful years.  It's always nice to be reminded that your family loves you and supports you.

This one is made with Moda fabrics in the Arcadia patterns designed by Sanae.  I found them during a quilt shop hop with my wonderful buddy Marilyn and I was smitten with them.  I kept the design very simple to let the fabrics speak for themselves.  To make the backing wide enough I added a chain of all the left over bits from the front.  I think it turned out very fresh and hopefully contemporary enough to please my niece. I always enjoy the planning and sewing but this was an exceptionally fun quilt to make!

This quilt for my nephew is all about comfort.  It's soft, with a dark blue Minky backing and a thin flannel batting.  I always make pillowcases to go with gift quilts but this is the first Minky pillowcase I've ever made.  It just makes you want to sink into a long nap.  If he stops studying I may have to take some of the blame for that!  The top is a Nine Patch Pizzazz, made with some cool Japanese influenced panel pieces.  

The backing makes it a little hard to quilt but it's worth it when it comes out this nice.

 So that's 4 quilts in one summer!  But wait!  There's more!

I also made a couple batik animal pillows:  the owl was first because I have become kind of "owl involved" this past year (that's Jack Bauer admiring my work), then the turtle for my friend Evelyn who has a thing for turtles.  They must know it because a beautiful box turtle just moved into her garden!

After the animal pillows, I started working with laminated fabrics and put this large tote together.  I have more of this stuff and want to make a couple waterproof  backpacks, but haven't been brave enough to start on them yet.  The cherry bag has polka dot sides and is fully lines with more black cherry fabric.