Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Purely 1960s

This is a fun one: purely 1960s. This quilter made the most of the fabrics available at that time. It's pieced with classics that we all started quilting with but some very fun clothing fabrics as well. Seersuckers, a little polyester, big prints, small prints: it's all there.

This quilt measures 56" x 85". It contains 24 - 12 1/2" blocks. The center log cabin squares are all different fabrics. The blocks are surrounded by a border pieced of varied of fabrics. An open seam reveals a heavy woven blanket is inside. The backing is white. One portion of it is a satiny fabric, the rest is an upholstery fabric, turned to the front to bind it. All that adds up to make this another heavy quilt. It's tied with orange yarn.

Here's a detail:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Big Plaid Blocks

This quilt is the polar opposite of our scraps too small to save experiment.

It's big blocks stitched together in rows. Very basic, kinda fun. With a big honking piece of yardage taking up one total end. It's sturdy. You can imagine someone thinking this could take rough use.

It measures 58" x 77". The fabrics are cottons, old clothing scraps OR used clothing. Note the detail shot, that is a pocket (stitched closed). The quilt is machine quilted in simple horizontal rows about 5-6" apart. The fabric is all turned to the back and it is bound there. I found it at the wonderful antique store at Scranton, Kansas (next door is a restaurant that serves fried chicken dinners).

This quilt has a surprise waiting for us. I was sewing a sleeve on the back the other day so I could hang it to photograph. I was at stitch group listening to a story and as I gazed at the quilt, I noticed rows of diagonal hand quilting on the back.

WAIT A MINUTE. Those don't show up on the front so you know what that means. There is an old quilt inside. I will take this quilt down today and start opening seams so we can find out what is inside. There is always hope that some life-altering kind of moment awaits, when we find the holy grail of quilts inside. Most likely it is a worn out old quilt.

We will see.....

Friday, January 22, 2010

More Scraps Too Small to Save

I'm always on the lookout for odd stitched items in antique shops.

Imagine my delight when I found this a few years ago in Scranton, Kansas.

Some thrifty soul stitched scraps together and made this little potholder. The back is feedsack fabric.
It measures ~5" x 7".

One Christmas I made these for gifts.
It's another excuse to save scraps others say are too small to save......

Thursday, January 21, 2010

(Could there be?) Scraps Too Small to Save

I am of the opinion that there are few scraps too small to save. As evidence, I present Exhibit A (right). Please note the dime - it is there to prove the little pieces you see really do measure ~1/4" square. I will either save this piece and combine it with others to make a larger small quilt OR turn it into a coaster (they make great gifts).

I keep a basket of scraps by my sewing machine. Whenever I come to the end of a row of stitching, I stitch together scraps.

There are several reasons to do this:
1. It doesn't waste thread.
2. It is thrifty.
3. It provides endless entertainment as you play with ways to put the scraps together.

SO it is rare that I throw away scraps. And I note other quilters have this same tendency. Some of these improvisational quilts I collect are at their most interesting when someone slips in an extremely small scrap.

So I pose that question to you - what do you do with your smallest scraps?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Corduroy Improv

I found this quilt when I was wandering through our local antique mall about 2 years ago. The top is pieced with what we used to call wide-wale corduroy.  There are just a few colors used: 3 shades of blue, 3 shades of rose, and 2 shades of lilac.

The quiltmaker planned this quilt. The middle pieced medallion is surrounded by rows of squares in squares. Scrappy piecing makes an outer border.

The backing is turned to the top on both sides to bind the quilt. One end has a wide whisker guard of that fabric, stitched in place with a lovely decorative stitch (on both the front and back). The bottom is turned pillowcase style, not bound.

This quilt is tied with the same gold thread used to decoratively stitch along the top.

Once again, a few open seams allow me to peek at what is inside. It's a woven blanket.

This quilt measures 61" x 78". It is so heavy I hesitated to hang it up. Would the bar hold on my quilt rack? It did.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Imogene's quilt stories

This time last year I interviewed the grandmother of my daughter’s friend. She mentioned a family quilt several times over the holidays so we decided to document that quilt.

What I gained was much more than the story of that quilt (which we'll save for another day). Imogene was the classic comforting grandma, with a sweet smile and twinkling eyes. She fed us cinnamon rolls. We got out the quilt and then the stories rolled out.

Imogene remembered the dust storms in the 30s, when they put sheets on the windows to keep the dust out. She said it was awful. She wondered if there was dust in the quilt from then.

And she told me fun things about herself. “I like things,” Imogene said. (I do too.)

Imogene remembered their house had a full basement and her mother had a frame set up there for quilting. She remembers always liking crafts (“I like to be busy”). And she remembered her mother saying, “That’s enough for today” when they were quilting together. Imogene wonders if that was a polite way of stopping when her mother noticed poor stitching on her part.

She recalled her mother making crazy quilts for daily use. One was made in corduroy. She said her mother Birdie would piece scraps into blocks, “She saved every little scrap.”

Birdie made lots of quilts, pieced by hand. For the “ever-day ones”, she used flannels. They made dresses with matching aprons from feedsacks, also underpants and dishtowels. “My mother made everything out of them.”

I took notes of our visit and gave a copy to Imogene. I know they made her happy, seeing her memories saved on paper for the future. And I gained so much too, getting to hear her quilt stories firsthand.

If you know someone who has a story to tell you, take the time to write it down. Imogene passed away last week (she was 89) and I am so glad we saved some of her stories that afternoon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Double-sided Wonder Back

The back of this quilt is much more humble than the front. I think the person who put this together was winging it.

It seems that the quiltmaker found scraps big enough to back the log cabin blocks on the front. Sashing and cornerstones like the front side were added last -they are all topstitched.

The fabrics on the back are clearly clothing remnants or scraps from clothes-making, some stained a bit, some well worn. I see pants and shirts, a flannel shirt and perhaps a nightie, along with some of the brightly flowered bark cloth from the front. Heavier thread was used on the back and the tension didn't work in some sports. There is a little more wear on this side, reflecting how worn the fabrics were.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Double-sided Wonder

I must admit, I cannot recall exactly when I acquired this one. Which is quite odd because it's so stupendous. It must have been on a very good shopping day when I acquired several things.

This side features wonky log cabins, each beginning with a green daisy center. The strips are of varying widths all over - and what cheery fabrics this quilter had in her scrapbag. I'm thinking this is a 50s quilt, based on some of the novelty prints and the big whopping cabbage roses.

This quilter did her best to corral the chaos. Note that the blocks are sashed, and there is a little green daisy cornerstone at each intersection. It's machine pieced and machine quilted in diagonal lines. It measures 68" x 75". Check out the checkered bias binding, it is very neatly applied. The fabrics vary. Some are dress weight but others are heavier barkcloth.

 One nice thing about acquiring a quilt with a little wear is you can find clues to what the batting inside is like. Look at this detail, note the little pink strip left of the center square. It reveals the lightweight woven blanket inside.

Look for the other side of this quilt in my next blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wildest memory quilt ever

I'm speaking to a quilt guild in Topeka tonight about Memory Quilts, the topic of my latest book.
How I'd love to have this quilt along to show! I've seen a photo of it before, it's on the Library of Congress web site. Here's how they describe the quilt:

Washington, D.C., August, 1937. Joseph's coat of many colors had nothing on this unique quilt which is now being completed by Mrs. Ethel Sampson of Evanston, Ill., after six years of collecting. Parts of wearing apparel from President Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, members of the Cabinet, diplomats and notables from all over. From Hollywood Bing Crosby sent a tie while Mae West and Shirley Temple contributed parts of dresses. Former Emperor Haile Selassie's neckties and a linen of Winsor, are also included on the quilt. Diapers from the Dionne Quintuplets are also prominently displayed.

The folks at this web site have a very large version of the photo posted, check it out. You can even buy a print.

Where is this quilt today? I would love to know. And thanks to BB and MK for finding it and sharing it with me. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

A favorite

I started to call this quilt my favorite. However, that is like saying one of your children is the favorite, it's just not possible. But it is certainly A favorite of mine.

I found it in an antique shop in Ottawa, Kansas about 2 years ago. As usual, I knew I had plenty of quilts but this one was so unique.

It measures 60" x 86". BBrackman was eyeing it the other day and surprised me by saying she thought it was old, like 1910s. She thought many of the fabric dyes had faded with time. It is hand pieced.

Someone had it machine quilted with a silly tulip pattern much more recently. The binding and backing fabrics are very different than the top.

It's pieced in blocks. I never get tired of looking at it. There are some very tiny pieces and a great variety of shapes.

It inspires me to piece randomly.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"My Life is Hard Enough"

Cabin fever persists here in the nation's mid-section.
It started snowing Christmas Eve and we had more this week. Now it is bitterly cold.

People are talking about GETTING OUT, as in getting out of the house, with great longing. There is considerable whining.
People are not getting out of their pajamas unless they have to go out and shovel. Poor me, I walked into the kitchen one morning dressed like this. My normally long-suffering husband declared, "My life is hard enough
without looking at that" and suggested I rebutton......We are a bit like Felix and Oscar.

Look at these lacy ribbons of ice that are near my front door. Normally something like this is fleeting here but they've decorated the house for weeks now.......

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A palindrome for quilt #1

I'm going to document my improvised quilts now. These are my favorites.

But first, be apprised that today's date is a palindrome - a number that can be read the same way in either direction. Today is 01-02-2010. Our trusty newspaper reports there will be 12 palindromic days this century. Today is the second: the first was 10-02-2001.

We were introduced to palindromes by a friend who notes when they occur with basketball scores. We watch eagerly for the score to be 48-84! 21-12!! What dimension this adds to watching basketball games.

Now for the quilt. It's small, measuring 25" x 36". Hand pieced and hand quilted, it includes many feedsack fabrics along with what look like clothing scraps. It is a strip pieced version of the simple hourglass block. I enjoy how randomly the fabrics come together, definitely scraps from some quilter's scrapbasket.

My friend Barbara Brackman will teach about this style of quilts in her classes at Prairie Point Quilt Shop in Lenexa this year. Each year she chooses a theme to explore and I'm eager to see what she comes up with for this theme I love so much.