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I've been practicing my ladder stitch. It's a sewing method used to repair seams invisibly. I have used this stitch many times on qu...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I have written in past posts about my zeal to collect old quilts, quilt tops and orphan blocks. Lately I've been acquiring sets of blocks that I think were set aside to be made into quilts at some point but never were. I'm not sure that these are actually what is meant by orphan block. But I haven't encountered any discussion of what the term "orphan block" means either.

To me, up until the last year or so, an orphan block was a singleton block that had no mates. It is found by itself and has not much to offer about who made it or the purpose for which it was intended. I heard someone recently say that many orphan blocks were made by young women who were learning to piece. So they may have only made one of a certain pattern before moving on to another pattern that would help them build skills, especially in hand piecing.

I do have sets of blocks that I consider orphan. One set of 7 blocks comprised of 100 tiny squares each and bordered in white, seem like they were to be part of a large project but somehow were abandoned to be found by me years later. The colors are bright and the white borders are clean. The blocks are made of a large variety of fabrics, most of which appear to be cotton.
I played with many ideas for making these "orphans" into something useful before I settled on a table mat. But with 7 blocks to work with, the best solution that came to mind was an octagonal shape made possible by cutting two of the blocks in half diagonally. There were two blocks that had many green pieces so I elected to cut those. After a few false starts and much anxiety, I did manage to cut the blocks and assemble the table mat. I kept as much of the white border as I could, supplementing with some extra white Kona brand cotton. This is the result after simple machine quilting and binding with more white cotton.
I like it very much and I use it on the antique round table I inherited from my grandmother. Lovely. Orphan blocks made into something at least.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In my last post, I referred to Barbara Brachman's book which is an encyclopedia of quilt patterns. It is entitled Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and was published in 1993. It has been revised but not a lot changed. It is complicated to use. The categories are organized by shapes. I had looked up my snowball quilt but made the mistake of choosing a pattern that is block-based rather than piece based. So the actual names for the quilt I pictured are Hummingbird, Bluet Quilt and Periwinkle. The reference number in Brachman's book is 445.9. It is not included in the listings for snowball quilts but in the section entitled "eight-sided shape as a piece". As time goes on I will keep browsing through the book bit by bit. Bit by bit because it's a daunting task. But it is an interesting book and the more I can learn about quilt patterns, the better for me.

In the introduction to this book, Ms. Brachman emphasizes that the name of a quilt pattern is the one you use. In other words, it really doesn't matter what someone else called it, or calls it. That sort of explains why she discovered so many different names for some of the patterns. It also makes sense that quilt makers named their creations whatever they wanted to even if a pattern they used or made was published under another name. Also, in the past twenty years, many, many quilt designers have adjusted and renamed quilt patterns to reflect our modern techniques and styles.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I saw a Facebook posting by Nancy Zieman about a book of patterns for quilts inspired by vintage quilts. It made me think about all of the patterns we have for traditional quilts. Barbara Brackman made a book of more than four thousand of them. Her extensive research uncovered up to 10 different names for the same pattern.

One pattern I am beginning to like a lot is the snowball pattern. There are variations, of course. But the more traditional pattern involved connecting the snowball shapes with kite shaped pieces. Here's a picture of one unquilted top that is in my collection.

Other names for this pattern as listed in Brackman's book are Bluet, Hummingbird and Periwinkle. It is not included in the snowball pattern options. Who knew?

More modern patterns show that adding a triangle to the each corner of a larger square visually "rounds" the corners to make the center appear round in the quilt. It's not complicated and can be very striking. Many of us are familiar with the concept of sewing a small square to the corner of a larger one, then trimming the extra fabric so that when the triangle is turned it makes the square whole again. When a number of these squares with small triangles in their corners are pieced together, the effect can be amazing. It makes the snowball quilt a bit less complex.

I may need to start one of these soon!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I spent last Saturday volunteering at The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts. It was documentation day. My role was as part of a team that measured, described and photographed the quilts that were brought in. The quilts are eventually listed in the national quilt data base.

What an interesting day! Some of the quilts were vintage. Some were just the tops and one had a newspaper foundation. Fun to read the newspaper bits for dates and names. Other quilts were newly finished. I loved seeing the pride on the faces of the quilters who brought in their work and talked about the patterns and the techniques The data base of quilts is a great way to honor quilt makers and keep track of quilts as they move around the country. Anyone can check a quilt's heritage by looking at the label sewn on the back that tells where the documentation took place and the quilt's reference number. An eleven page document is used to describe the quilt and it's provenance so the data base has a wealth of information.

I met some wonderful people and had an exhausting but very learning filled day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

D Rose Quilt Rescue and Repair: So when do we repair a quilt, when do we restore i...

D Rose Quilt Rescue and Repair: So when do we repair a quilt, when do we restore i...: So when do we repair a quilt, when do we restore it and when do we opt for conservation methods to protect it? Funny question but when you l...

D Rose Quilt Rescue and Repair: I've been thinking about the repair, restore, cons...

D Rose Quilt Rescue and Repair: I've been thinking about the repair, restore, cons...: I've been thinking about the repair, restore, conserve stuff. I collect quilts that other people want to get rid of for unknown reasons....
I've been practicing my ladder stitch. It's a sewing method used to repair seams invisibly. I have used this stitch many times on quilts in need of the repair of seams whose stiches have come undone. Many times the thread had given way because of age and wear. If the fabric is intact, new thread can be used to repair the seam and the ladder stitch is the one to use.

I have made some fabric pieces to practice on by matching two ten inch pieces of fabric and sewing outermost 2 inches of one of the long sides together. I pressed the seam open all the way along the side. This made about an 8 inch opening to practice on. I can use the ladder stitch to close the seam, evaluate my work and then take out the stitches to do it again.

Why practice? I feel I can never get accomplished enough at hand stitching. It doesn't come easy to me. I know that the more I do, the better my sewing is. Sounds logical, I know. So if I set up little practice pieces to work on while watching TV or waiting at a doctor's office I'll get more accurate and faster at using the stitches best suited to quilt repair. Accuracy and speed are important when repairing and restoring quilts for others.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

So the quilts in my collection range in vintage from the mid 1800's to the 1960's. There are some whose vintage has not been documented, some because I haven't gotten around to having them appraised and some because I don't think an appraisal will add to my sense of what they are worth, at least to me. As I've said before, I don't have a large budget for collecting so most of what I have is mine because I liked it, it was available, and it was a good price for me.

My oldest quilts are both from the 1800's. They are both displayed continuously, one in my family room and one in my living room. Neither is directly affected by window light. They both have sleeves in the top and bottom which allows rotation a couple of times a year. They get vacuumed at the same time they are rotated. Neither gets washed anymore.

I have a couple that I believe are circa the turn of the 20th century. They are stored and shared at presentations. Most of the quilts in my collection that are in really good shape are from the mid 1900's. They get washed very occasionally. They are alternately stored and displayed and even sometimes used.

And, of course, I have newer quilts that I made. Technically they're in the collection but as I have said before, I believe the quilts I make should be used and used and used, so mine are. In a way, I think most quilt makers feel the same way. A lot of love as well as blood sweat and tears go into quilt production.  What is all that effort for if not to be loved into softness? So while my more fragile quilts are protected, most are out and in use.
I was thinking about organization of quilts collections. Included in mine are intact, wholly quilted pieces that need no repair, quilts that need repair, both quilts and unquilted tops that are in the que for evaluation, quilts and tops in some stage of being repaired, pieces of quilts and orphan blocks that will never be quilted or changed in any way, pieces and orphan blocks slated to be made into something useful, and examples of quilts and blocks that I use in my presentations so will leave as is.

Whew! So, how do I organize and store all of this stuff? I'm not sure it's organized all that well even if I can find it all without much effort. When I take things to a presentation, I pack some of it in large plastic soft cubes that zip closed. These fit well into a suitcase with wheels. What doesn't fit into the cubes is put in plastic bags to protect from moisture. But that's a short term travel solution. I can't keep the quilts in plastic very long.

I am trying to ensure that my quilts and other items go back into their places so I can keep track as well as knowing that they are folded and protected. Most of the time that works but on occasion, something gets placed on a shelf that doesn't belong there. Finding the time to straighten things out can be challenging. It's a constant battle and when another piece gets added to the collection, things must be rearranged.

I started an written inventory on my laptop to help me remember which piece is in which place so I won't need to disturb whole piles trying to find what I want. I plan to develop a coding system that will enable quick recovery of what I need for the presentations I give. One is a workshop on quilt repair, restoration and conservation. I have quilt examples of the techniques used for each kind of quilt preservation. I also have a couple of quilts that I use to lead participants in evaluating worn and damaged quilts and deciding what type of repair would be best for the purpose the quilt will serve.

The other workshop is about options for working with quilt tops and orphan blocks. I have several examples of quilt tops and the repair needed to help them be suitable for quilting. I add in a couple of pieces that didn't work out so it's clear how and why not all unfinished tops can be made into something else. I have a good collection of orphan blocks and some sets of blocks whose purpose remains a mystery that I talk about and share.

My point is that I need to get and then keep all these things organized. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In my post about washing quilts, I should have mentioned Orvus Paste which is a washing agent that is highly recommended by many who clean vintage quilts. It's an extremely gentle surfectant cleaner used on horses but has been found to work very well on quilts. It's a bit pricey at about $35 a bottle but for priceless quilts, not at all expensive.

While I think that properly storing quilts to keep them clean is a good idea, we still need to clean them at some point. Even quilts stored in the ideal temperature and humidity of a climate controlled room need attention. Maybe they won't need cleaning but they do require unfolding and refolding at regular intervals.

I store my older quilts in cotton pillow cases. They are folded with acid free tissue paper logs in the folds. I take them out to workshops and they get refolded then but most experts recommend refolding your quilts regularly.

My storage space isn't adequate because I have to stack on shelves the quilts that I'm not displaying. Some folks caution that stacking too many quilts, one on the other, compresses the batting. I can't argue with that but frankly, most of my quilts have very thin batting so there is really nothing to compress. I'd love to have more and better storage but at this point I do not.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Other methods of cleaning quilts, in addition to washing, are much less intrusive. They don't compromise the fibers which are deteriorating slowly but constantly. Washing can weaken fabric and actually break it down faster than not cleaning it at all. When I had my quilt from the 1860's appraised, I was to cautioned to never wash it again, and I haven't.

So, how to help our fragile quilts with the dust and dirt of life in our home? Well, first, displaying a quilt correctly will help. Keeping it away from damaging conditions, like cooking or fireplaces which send lots of dirt into the air. Keeping it out of sunlight is important also. There are some who suggest that quilts should never be displayed at all, but carefully stored out of the influences of air and light. I can't agree with that. The quilts I collect are living, breathing history and may be all that survives a quiltmaker. Okay, a bit dramatic. But because I respect the efforts that produced the quilts I have, I want to see them, enjoy them, and share them.

It turns out that airing quilts out of sunlight is a good idea. I have a small screened porch but it's usually so crowded that I couldn't air any quilt for a long enough time to help it shed it's dust. Airing does help with odors also.

From what I read, and have done, vacuuming quilts is an efficient way of cleaning them. Use a screen to protect the fabric from the pull of the vacuum. You can extract a lot of dust by this method. I have several quilts that get vacuumed several times a year. It probably should be done more often but I do my best.

Friday, October 21, 2016

I've learned some hard lessons by trying to use my own methods for cleaning soiled older quilts. Thank heaven that I haven't yet ruined a newer quilt that I made. My children bring their graduation quilts to me to clean for them because they worry about damaging them.

One old quilt top I got about 40 years ago had many lives as a tree skirt, a table cloth and as a quilt mounted on stretcher bars to hang on my office wall. It had some brown spots so I dabbed bleach on the spot which pretty much took care of the problem. That is, until later when the spots became holes. I didn't know then what I know now (Jeesh, how many times have I said that in my life?). Bleach is destructive to fabric and never goes away. There are also cautions about using enzymatic cleaners that can also cause the fabric to develop holes.

I have had luck using an oxygen activated cleaner like Oxyclean. I use about a quarter cup in about 5 gallons of water. This is a very weak solution of the cleaner. I soak the top or quilt for a short time, maybe 15 minutes, and then I dump the bucket into my stationary tub (lined with old towels) and run cool water over the fabric, swishing it gently. I drain the water as I go, then leave the quilt sit on the towels as the water seeps out (maybe 30 minutes). The towels at the bottom of the tub help when lifting the quilt. I lift the towels, not the quilt, in an effort to put as little stress on the quilt fibers as possible. I then dump the quilt on a fresh set of towels and use more towels to blot up as much of the water as possible. When the quilt is finally light enough to lift unaided (without the towels), I move it to a place where I can spread it out flat to let it dry. In good weather, it's on my lawn in the shade. In cold or otherwise inclement weather, it's on my living room floor on top of layers of towels (yes, I have a huge supply) and a clean white sheet. I try to turn the quilt several times a day, flipping it gently and spreading it as flat as possible. I've had quilts dry in hours on the lawn on a warm breezy day. I've also had a quilt take a week on the floor even though I replaced the damp towels, so it's not always a time efficient process.

Because unquilted tops are lighter and easier to handle, it's tempting to think of using the washing machine. I have not done this. I guess that I've ruined enough clothes and bedding to be wary even though we have a high capacity washing machine. The extra time it takes to hand wash is very much worth it.

The results of my washing method are brighter, dirt free quilts, ready to be repaired or restored. Some times a very smelly quilt can be freshened considerably by this method. I do look over any quilt that I am considering for a wash for fabric content and any other weird things, like pins or long loose threads. Sometimes I sew a larger seam closed because I'm worried that the washing process will dislodge batting or threads that will end up tangled.

That's my washing protocol but I can't always wash. Next time I'll share other cleaning methods I've tried.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I've been thinking about the repair, restore, conserve stuff. I collect quilts that other people want to get rid of for unknown reasons. When I am really lucky, a quilt may need no more than a cleaning and a bit of repair of broken seams or binding. This is the best case scenario because when I buy from ebay, I have to rely on seller descriptions and condition reports. I also have a few favorite antique and vintage shops that I frequent. I am a real bargain hunter, with a budget to match, so what catches my eye is often in need of cleaning and some sewing to fix loose seams.

Despite my frugal ways, I have been able to collect some special pieces in good condition. As I've examined them, my mind still wanders to the maker: what was she thinking? Why did she choose this design? Where did she get the fabric? How long did it take her to piece it? Did she quilt it herself or did she have friends to help? How long did it take to quilt? Where did the batting come from?

Sometimes the answers are evident, like when there is an open seam on the back that reveals the batting. Sometimes no clues are available unless I find reason to pick apart a quilt. That only happens in my house when the quilt is in bad enough shape that I want to try to rescue some of it. I've become better at finding quilts that could never warrant a complete teardown.

The repair of a quilt is very rewarding to me. It means two things: one, is that I found it in time. It can be treated quite easily in ways that will extend it's life for more people to appreciate. Second, since repair means just sewing up compromised seams, it's often all that is needed in addition to some kind of cleaning. Cleaning is a topic for another post.

Monday, October 17, 2016

So when do we repair a quilt, when do we restore it and when do we opt for conservation methods to protect it? Funny question but when you like to collect and work with older quilts, it's an important one.

I think of repair as the simplest of the three processes. It involves using a needle and the most appropriate thread to close open seams and loose binding. Nothing is changed about the quilt except it's original integrity is restored because all the seams are intact and the batting is enclosed once again.

Restoration is more extensive. Fabric patches may be replaced. Holes may be filled with batting, patched, and requilted. Fabric type and color should be matched as closely as possible, which sometimes is a job in itself.  Patches are replaced as invisibly as possible. If there is a hole all the way through the quilt, the backing is patched first, then the batting is replaced before the fabric patch is sewn into place. Quilting is redone to make the patching virtually invisible.  Restoration could include redoing worn binding by sewing a new binding over the old.

Conservation is all about stabilizing the existing fabric with techniques that will maintain the quilt as it is while protecting it's historical significance. Fabric is added only when needed for structural support.

So, hypothetically, what should happen to the quilt great grandma made? It has worn binding, a couple of holes, and shredded fabric in several places. The answer is complicated and requires careful consideration. If the quilt is special enough to be museum quality, then conservation is the best route. If it's main value is sentimental, restoration will help it last for more generations to enjoy.

I collect older quilts that often need some work. My decisions on what to do with them never involve the sentimental and I know that few if any of them are unique enough to hold historical interest. So I opt for restoration if repair is not enough. I do have one that I keep to practice conservation techniques and use in demonstrations.

I wish that there were historically important quilts handed down in my family. There aren't. But I can appreciate the work of women from other families and do my best to do what is necessary to help their quilts last many more years.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ever wonder how long it took a woman in the 1860's to make a quilt? I'm looking at the circa 1860 quilt I mentioned in the previous post as it hangs on my family room wall. It is composed of Ohio Star blocks separated by sashing with a pieced border.

The blocks are meticulously pieced with sharp points and even blocks. So, how did the maker do that? Did she make templates from paper? Where did she get the variety of fabric? There are at least 20 different fabric patterns in the quilt, not including the sashing, borders and backing. The backing is all one pattern, made of several pieces sewn together. Since the home sewing machine wasn't around until the 1860's, it's not surprising that the quilt is hand pieced.

I'm sure that the life she had was very different from mine. No TV, no phones, no computers but also no miracle cleaning supplies, no clean heating system, no modern plumbing and no cars. Wow - how did she find time to sew? Or was that a way to both keep her hands busy and make useful things for her household, especially during the long winter months.

How do I find time to sew? Good question. Sometimes it's easy: I just start sewing instead of doing something else. Sometimes I have to strike a bargain with family members so I can work without too many interruptions. Other times days go by without a stitch. I have taken years to finish some quilts, days to finish others.

How long did it take her? Did she have a sense of accomplishment when she finished it or was it just immediately put to use to keep someone warm and the effort forgotten? There are no answers, just a beautiful, old, fragile quilt to admire.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Another fascinating aspect of older quilts is the batting. I think contemporary quilters are very accustomed to going to the nearest quilt store (or Joann's with coupons) to buy batting by the piece in a package or by the yard off a bolt. There is a choice between 100% cotton as well as blends of polyester and cotton, all polyester or wool. Bamboo batting is becoming more available also.

Before 1960, cotton batting was used almost exclusively. Earlier quilts were padded with all sorts of things, old quilts included. I bought a "cutter quilt" a couple of months ago, thinking I could save some of the string stars to use in other projects. That didn't work because the fabric was too brittle but what was interesting was the filler. Inside the top and bottom layers were random pieces of cloth, some flannel, some possibly wool. They were all of different colors and some quite small. The quilt maker not only economized by sewing together small strips of fabric to make the stars, she also cobbled together various pieces of whatever fabric was available to make a sheet of batting.

I have one quilt in my collection that has been dated circa 1860. The batting is raw cotton fibers with the seeds still attached. The quilt itself is getting more and more fragile with the years. The backing is shattered in a few paces so the batting is visible. The cotton fibers are feathery and soft. The batting is very thin so the quilt is also. I can only imagine the labor required to collect the cotton and spread it on the backing, then make the sandwich, baste it and quilt it. I am very glad to have found this quilt in the early 70's in a box at a farm auction, even though I had to withstand a lot of teasing and questions about why I wanted "that old thing". It has hung in every house I have lived in. It's now too fragile to wash so it gets vacuumed a couple of times a year.

When repairing an older quilt or actually, any age quilt that has damage extending to holes, batting must be replaced. It's important to understand the kind and thickness of the quilt's original batting so you can match it as closely as possible. Remembering that repairs should be as inconspicuous as possible, using the right batting will help the repair blend in. I am working hard to do that when I repair a quilt.

Monday, October 3, 2016

I've been reading Ann Wasserman's book entitled Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve. She is a quilt conservator and expresses great respect for quilts and the historical value they have. While she works with bonafide antique textiles, much of what she says should be considered when repairing any quilt.

Ms.Wasserman outlines the concepts behind three underlying rules of quilt care: "1) Do as little as possible, 2) Don't do anything that can't be undone, and 3) Preventative maintenance is the best medicine".  While I understand what she means by these three things and can pretty much do many of the work she teaches about in this book, I don't believe that the quilts I work with are best served by doing the minimum or just displaying many of them to avoid what it would take to make them more useful. The quilters I've known all my life share the philosophy that the work to make a quilt is worth it only if the quilt is used and used and used. The third rule makes a lot of sense but doesn't mean that the quilt should be stored and never used to preserve it. The other two make sense also but sometimes repairs that really aren't meant to be undone are necessary.

The bowtie quilt I described in my last post has very raggedy worn binding. I believe that if the binding is renewed, the quilt will have many years of life by which to delight. I had considered removing the worn binding. Now I that I have read what Ms. Wasserman has to offer, I think that sewing a new binding over the old may be best. That way, I won't  do any more damage trying to remove stitches, the old binding will provide a base for the new, and if anyone is interested in the future, the new binding could be removed so the old could be studied.

This is a good book. Consider reading it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I've been bidding on vintage quilt tops and lots of orphan blocks on eBay. There are always quite a few to decide between and I have to go with what my budget will allow but I'm game to increase my collection. I have an eclectic assortment of quilts that all need some kind of repair.

My favorites are quilts made in a truly scrappy fashion. I love looking at different pieces and imagining what clothing item they came from and maybe even how many clothing items were made from a fabric before any surviving scraps were tossed in a scrap bag to end up in a quilt. I have read accounts of how a woman's dress which was worn in some places would be cut down for a dress for a younger woman, a boy's shirt or a girl's dress. After that item was worn out, any surviving fabric may be made into a toddler or infant dress. Any part that made it through may be used as a rag or towel. Smaller pieces that were still strong and not too faded made it to the scrap basket or bag. Fabric scraps were not only used for quilt piecing but also for patching clothing and quilts. Thread was also saved from garments. And almost anything resembling long strands of fiber were used for sewing. Sometimes fabric was unraveled for thread. I even  have a quilt that looks like it was pieced with white string! Women who were that resourceful are my heroes.

One quilt I was able to get for very little money s a lovely, soft bowtie design. The only problem it has is worn and frayed binding. I plan to replace the binding with new fabric. This quilt is not a museum piece so my purpose is to repair it for my use.

Binding is a very important element in the life of a quilt. Because the binding on this one is so worn, I am assuming that it was well used. What stories a quilt like this could tell!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Between helping out with the twin newborns and their 2 year old brother, I am trying to finish quilts for the twin beds in one of the rooms of our cottage. Over the years we've had many different bed coverings but my goal is to cover each bed with one of my quilts. After these 2 there is just one more to do.

My next project will be to decide what to do with the quilt squares I just bought. I'm intrigued by orphaned sets of blocks.  I go back as usual into thoughts of who the original maker was and why she chose the fabrics and pattern, how long it took her to make the blocks and why she didn't finish the project.

There are 13 larger blocks composed of 4 pieced blocks each. There are 11 small pieced blocks in addition. The sewing is by hand but very uneven. It looks as if some of the pieced blocks were evened and pressed carefully. The others show poor matching. They may have to be picked out and resewn if they are to fit into a design with the rest. I'm considering separating the four patch blocks and assemble a larger piece with the pieced blocks individually used and intermixed. It seems like a good idea to spread out the yellow. Sashing may help unify the quilt. The color of that sashing is a dilemma though. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In my post of September 10th, I described the Wisconsin Quilt Expo and how much I like all that it offers. Here is a picture of me giving my lecture on orphan blocks and tops. I'm holding the table mat I showed in a different post in August.
It's a wide view, taken by my friend Susan. The pile on the table reflects a bit of the spontaneity of my talk. I knew where each example was when it was time to show it but I wasn't too neat about putting things back on the table. I showed quite a few examples of unfinished tops, ranging from some that needed no repair at all to several that were only good enough for taking apart to salvage fabric that may be used in the repair of other quilts. I also showed examples of orphan blocks and various decorative options for these little jewels.
The green and white quilt on the table was a rare find. It was mixed up on a table of clothing at a very jammed and messy antique store. Because the store owners were out of town, the person they asked to run the store needed to price the quilt which was unmarked. He said, "well it's kind of dirty. How about $7.00?" Needless to say, it went home with me. It needed no repair and is well pieced and quilted. A light soak and air dry was all it needed. Sometimes a person can find a gem!

Monday, September 12, 2016

This is a picture of the reassembled quilt I mentioned in my previous post. With the blocks evened out and a new arrangement, it looks like a different quilt. The fabric is in good shape and won't need any further reinforcing. Now the seam allowances are even and the sewing is consistent. I plan to use 80-20 batting. It's thin and cotton like and easy to quilt. The backing and binding will be navy Kona cotton.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A quilt top I acquired from Ebay was just begging to be finished and used. The original sewer pieced the blocks fairly well but they were joined unevenly and the sewing detracted from the overall attractiveness of the quilt. The quilt was also very grimy.
I began by soaking the top in a weak solution of Oxyclean and water. I used about half a measuring cup (the one that came in the box of Oxyclean) in about 5 gallons of water. Not surprisingly, a lot of dirt was released from the top. Then I let it air dry.
This picture shows the top in its original form. I understand the stair step design that accounts for where the navy was placed but I thought the navy should be spread around the whole quilt. I did disassemble the quilt down to the 5 inch squares. Then I squared up the blocks and matched 2 plain with 2 pieced blocks to get back the 4 patch look. When pressed and squared the blocks fit together beautifully. The four patches were laid out in rows and the navy distributed around the quilt. I also tried to distribute the pinky/peach blocks. My preference is always symmetry!

I used this top as an example in my "Treasures from Castoffs" lecture at the Wisconsin Quilt Expo this past week. Now I'll get to layer and quilt it. I think I'll use navy to back and bind it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Wisconsin Quilt Expo that is ending today is a really fabulous opportunity to take classes, attend lectures and visit vendors. It always occurs during the end of the week after Labor Day. I have attended other quilt shows, including IQA Chicago, but I think that the format and the variety of offerings at Quilt Expo are better - at least for what I need as a quilter. The program always seems to be balanced with just enough attention to new techniques without forgetting the mainstays of quilting that many are interested in. I enjoyed a session on setting up a home sewing machine for free motion quilting. Some of the information confirmed what I already know and do. But some of the information was new and thought provoking.
The second lecture I attended was about turning a photo graph into a quilt. I learned a lot just in time to start a quilt version of a picture of my son sitting in the entrance to an ice cave in northern Wisconsin.
The lecture I gave twice on using old quilt tops and orphan blocks was fun. The audience members were attentive and participated. I felt very comfortable talking and sharing my ideas and what I've learned from working with older fabric pieces.
My friend Susan, who helped out at my lectures, attended a three hour workshop on applying zentangle designs to fabric. She appreciated the opportunity to have a bit more time to work on the technique. That's also why I like the Quilt Expo: there are half day "sit and sew" and "hands on" opportunities as well as one hour lectures so anyone attending can sample many techniques and learn from experts while still able to visit vendors and sit in on free stage presentations. The Expo has something for everyone!
Next year the dates of the Wisconsin Quilt Expo will be September 7, 8 and 9.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My twin granddaughters were born today. Amalia Lynn and Madeline Rose were both almost 6 pounds. They arrived early this afternoon. Their mom is doing well. So is their dad.

My husband and I are amazed to be so blessed. Hallelujah!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

In an earlier post I mentioned four crazy quilt blocks. They're roughly 14 inches square and made from a variety of fabrics foundation pieced onto either hardanger cloth or felt. There is quite a bit of embroidery on all of them. I added more and embroidered the seams when I sewed them together.
I backed the strip of four blocks and added tabs at the top. The tabs will allow me to hang the piece on our fireplace mantle. It looked like this.
Since I took this picture, I have added more embroidery and some lace. I felt that the aqua pieces were too bright so I toned down that color a bit. The revised and finished mantle quilt looks like this now.

Friday, September 2, 2016

There is a pack of 20, 36 piece blocks that I got somewhere. I need to do better with documentation!
I kept playing with the blocks, trying to make a bigger piece from them. When nothing seemed to make sense, I finally decided to make a small quilt from just 4 of the blocks. Originally, I thought it would be a nice doll quilt, with the pink plaid pieces repeated in each block, so I backed it in pink. There wasn't enough pink for binding so I opted for white. The quilting is simple, diagonal lines crossing the pieces. You can see it in the close up picture. The finished quilt is 15.5 by 15.5 inches. I may use it on a table instead but with granddaughters coming soon, it may get moved to the doll crib anyway.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The top picture shows the result of combining 7 postage stamp blocks. 2 were cut on the diagonal to make the triangle sides. It made an interesting 8 sided table mat. I can see myself using this on the antique round oak table I have that belonged to my grandparents and also that my father was baptized on. The mat is backed with yellow print fabric and bound in white.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The dresden plate square is finished and made into a 16 inch pillow. I added a round crocheted piece to the center, then attached buttons at the  points of the lace and one in the center. The buttons are attached with the same colors of embroidery floss that I used to embellish the blades of the plate. I really like the way it turned out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Well, I have rethought the plan to make the snowball and stars quilt into a square. I called it four pointed star in an earlier post before I realized my mistake. It's much more conducive to a small twin bed quilt. I do need to decide how to finish the edges. It feels to me like it does not need a border.
Here's a picture:

80 by 52 inches
The muslin is very light and very clean. The hand piecing is fairly even so I won't be picking out any seams. The row at the top is unfinished so I will remove it. 5 rows from the top, half of the seam is unfinished. Since the rest of the quilt is hand pieced, I will hand sew the seam as best I can. The next step will be to find suitable backing, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

While I'm still on baby watch for our daughter's twins, I am also preparing to lecture at the Wisconsin Quilt Expo.

My lecture (entitled "Treasures from Cast-offs") is all about rescuing unfinished pieced blocks and quilt tops and turning them into usable items. I just found several more items to add to my collection. One is a quilt top found at an antique store in Minocqua, Wisconsin. It is hand pieced in a four pointed star pattern with muslin background and a lovely collection of prints that surely came from someone's scrap bag. It's an odd shape, much longer than wide but I think I can reshape it into a square for a table cover.
The second find is four crazy quilt squares that are about 12 inches square, made with a collection of fabrics sewn to muslin backing and embellished with embroidery. They will make a lovely table runner. At least that's my first idea.
I really enjoy thinking about the makers of these items as I look them over and decide what to do with them. I imagine the women who made them with bits and pieces, no rotary cutters and few patterns except those handed around the community or published in magazines. I admire their creativity as they endeavored to bring beauty into the lives of their families. I thank them for their legacy and hope that my efforts to extend the lives of their creations will honor them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The baby quilts I mentioned in an earlier post are getting closer to completion. One is finished. The other is pieced but waiting for batting and backing. Here is the one that is finished.

Piecing chevron quilts is easy until you add the vertical sashing. It's trickier that I thought it would be to align the chevrons horizontally. This one isn't perfect but close enough. I'd never get them done at all if I kept ripping and resewing.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I 'm back from Montana and the beautiful mountain wedding of a friend's daughter. It was all beautiful and a great deal of fun.

I often see quilts that are designed from the inspiration of nature. This country is so magnificent from coast to coast, border to border. It's no wonder that American quilters find design influence from their surroundings. Someone should host a show of quilts with that in mind.

Monday, July 25, 2016

My work on older quilts/blocks has halted so I can make two baby quilts. Our daughter Emily and her husband will present twin sisters to their two year old son in August. I absolutely love making quilts for babies. What a joy!
The quilts are chevron style. The chevrons are coral, yellow, and teal prints with lots of white. Emily chose the colors to go with white cribs and white curtains. I'm working hard to get them pieced before we leave for Montana for the wedding of a friend's daughter. Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time, time, time. Throughout my entire life, I have been unable to get a grip on the time factor. I've already written about retirement and the evaporation of time that occurs during the exact period everyone assumes will be open and available for completing projects, making choices about how to spend our days, and doing all of the things we'd said we'd do after work didn't get in our way.
Each night as I'm falling asleep, I review the day to rest my mind about what I accomplished, how my interactions with others matched my intentions, and the things I want or need to do the next day. Lately, I haven't had much to think about in terms of creative accomplishments. Days seem to fly by and I know they're full of yardwork, grandchild care, household tasks, and appointments of one sort or another. But I want to find more time to sew. Rescuing and repairing old quilts is a favorite pastime. However it always gets moved down the list of things that need accomplishing in a timely way. When I take on a repair job for someone else, it gets done right away. Does that mean I still make time for what I feel is real work? And not so much for creative time?

I know I'm not the only one who notices time leaking away. I also know from reading the blogs of others that scheduling work on creative projects is sometimes the best way to make sure the time is dedicated. That's not something I've been able to do. I need deadlines and abbreviated time frames to push my work.

Does that happen to you? How do you make time for the creative work and still get everything else done?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quilt Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, is a great event. This year I'll be involved as a lecturer on the topic of making treasures from cast-offs. By cast-offs I mean unfinished quilt tops and orphan blocks.
I've been a collector on the cheap of old quilts, pieces and blocks and unquilted tops in almost any condition for 45 years.
I have assembled a trunk show of the treasures I've made. Some are framed blocks, embellished or not. Some are rebuilt quilt tops. Some are quilt pieces and tops made into useful pieces for the home. My lecture includes a handout of tips and techniques for working with older fabric pieces, old thread, color runs and how to strengthen blocks so they can be used in decorative and useful quilted pieces.
I'd love to see you there. If you haven't been to the Quilt Expo, you'll be amazed at the high quality of the experience and the amazing opportunities available during it's run. http://quiltexpo.com/  for tickets and information.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Today I read several posts about Quilter's Newsletter Magazine closing its doors. I have some thoughts about quilting magazines that I'll share. First, I did really enjoy many of the magazines I subscribed to for the last 20 years or so. I looked forward to getting them and carried them around for perusing during stolen moments in a busy life. I'd use tiny post-its to mark designs I liked or techniques or tips that seemed smart and helpful. There was a time when I received 5 or 6 different publications, some by subscription, some picked up at bookstores. I fervently wished during those days that I could magically multiply my sewing time so I could make the beautiful projects I saw or try out new techniques.

As time progressed, I began to see fewer and fewer new ideas and patterns. Most projects were reinventions of old designs, albeit combined differently, made with new fabrics or made with time-saving techniques for accurate cutting and piecing. While I learned a lot about more modern patchworking and tools, it seemed like I was paying for the same designs over and over. Since I began to draft my own designs about 15 years ago with the fabrics I had in mind, I could use the old pattern ideas myself. I realize that not everyone does that and for many, specific directions for any pattern are really helpful, no matter your experience level. But for me, it became more an issue of more magazines that I had to store or dispose of rather than one of new knowledge gained.

Second, in the past couple of years, some quilting publications have switched over to a more art quilt focus and there is at least one dedicated to it. I liked that also since part of my sewing includes wall pieces that have a more artistic focus. What doesn't fit my own style is lots of surface design with paint and stencils and hand dyeing. When I get a magazine that heralds these techniques on the cover, I know I won't be very interested when I open it. That's my personal preference. However, it has caused me to let several subscriptions lapse. I check as often as I can and then decide from the contents whether or not I'll purchase an individual issue.

It's the lapsed subscriptions that spell disaster for these publications. I understand that. But the reality is that I can't afford to continue to purchase periodicals that don't have enough new material for me to incorporate into my quilting life. It's kind of the same reason I stopped buying quilting books. I just can't store all that material that repeats information I have elsewhere.

There is no real answer as I see it. But perhaps magazine editors could do a bit more exploration of the needs of their target audiences. Unless I reach a condition in my life where money is no longer a concern, I anticipate that my mailbox will bring fewer and fewer quilting magazines each month.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Friday, July 8th, I posted pictures and a description of a red and blue quilt that I am rebuilding. As I noted in that post, I am hand sewing the replacement pieces. The work is a bit tedious but I still think it's the best way to do it. The squares are fairly even, but each one needs to be fit into place. Here's a before picture of one section. The two red squares are discolored. The red square at the top left is a replacement square pinned in place.

This second picture shows the two red replacement squares sewn in place. The red squares were salvaged from rows that were removed.                                                                                         
Two things I've noticed while working on this top. The first is that the thread originally used to hand piece it is thick and in some places has fused itself to the fabric. Picking it out took extra time and lots of care. I couldn't just clip an end and pull. I had to clip almost every stitch. Second, I do know that I am not a great hand sewer. Working on this top is teaching me to slow down, pin a lot and match seams very carefully. It's also increased my respect for the woman who sewed this top by hand all those years ago. I'll keep working on this top and posting pictures as I go.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The embellishment of the Dresden plate block continues. I'm having fun both making up and remembering stiches I've seen. Actually, I believe that most of what I think I'm making up is just a variation of patterns I've seen somewhere else. As I age, I become more and more convinced that nothing is really new anymore; it's all just a version of something else. I like looking at embroidered designs in magazines about quilting or any kind of handwork. Usually, I can't find the pictures or directions when I have the opportunity to work, so I kind of wing it. Maybe I just need to get things organized into a system that allows retrieval conveniently! I'm also deciding about the centers since the original plates didn't have anything appliqued in the center. Should I add something? Or leave them open? Here are a couple more blades that have been finished.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yesterday our family celebrated my father-in-law's 92nd birthday. He served in the Navy during World War II, worked two jobs for much of his early married years, raised three children with my mother-in-law (who is also 92) and maintained a marriage for 69 years. He is proud, loving and generous. God bless him.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hello Friday already! It seems like time has sped up since I retired. Folks always said that when a person retires she won't know where her days have gone. I now understand.
I have been working, during stolen moments, on rebuilding a quilt top that I bought on ebay. I paid about $15 for it. I knew it had some damaged blocks but I love that kind of challenge The pattern is great and many of the 2.5 inch squares retained their vibrant color after washing. I decided to remove some rows from each end and use any salvageable blocks to replace the worst pieces. That worked out pretty well. I found out that most of the faded red blocks were only faded on the right side so I flipped them and added them into places where the blocks were too damaged, or faded, to use. Originally, the interior blocks were hand pieced, while the exterior rows were machine pieced with a very tiny stitch which may mean that it was done with a treadle machine. I'm hand sewing the replacement blocks into place. It's time consuming but seems like the best alternative in order to fit the pieces properly. Here's a picture of the original top which was 58 by 72  inches. The "new" top is 58  by 64 before borders, which are still under consideration. The second picture shows some rows that I removed.

I'll post a picture when I get a bit further with the reconstruction and make a decision about adding borders.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Happy Wednesday! Technically the project pictured is not a quilt rescue or repair. It's the first piece in a ten year collaboration with my dear friend, Susan. We had know each other for about 30 years before we talked at a party and decided to work on things together. Susan would draw, I would translate into a quilt. We also purchased a kit for a challenge that involved the theme of strawberries. This is the result! It is unique and was very fun to do. Figuring out how to stuff the strawberries back then was interesting but I like the way it turned out. The recipe is written in Susan's beautiful hand that I embroidered. I also added embroidery to the leaves and vines. It was a fun project and set us up for 10 more years of collaboration.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The grand celebration of our nation's birthday is over. But maybe not the fireworks craze in our neighborhood. We've been kept awake until midnight the past couple of nights, even with the windows closed!
As promised, here are two pictures of the Dresden plate project. The first is the whole block. You may be able to make out the light yellow button hole stitches around the center and stem stiches between the blades. In the second picture, you can see two embroidered blades, one with blue crosshatching and the other with daisies. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sorry for my absence since the end of April. Since I last posted, I have spent two weeks in Italy, taken care of my grandson while his parents moved and seen my husband through surgery, Despite all of that, I still find bits of time to work on my rescue projects. Lately I have been using an old Dresden plate block as the base for embroidery. I have a set of plates from an old quilt that were appliqued to pink fabric originally. I removed all of the plates and discarded the pink fabric which was stained and fragile. The plates are made from many fabrics, some cottons but lots look as if they are from garments. Some silk pieces are evident as well as some that look like suiting material. I appliqued one plate on to black Kona cotton, then button hole stitched around the center. The center was uneven so I traced a circle in white chalk pencil on the black background, then matched the plate to it as I secured it down. I hem stitched around the blades to secure the outside of the plate. Finally I stem stitched between the blades. I am now in the process of embroidering some of the blades. I'm focusing my work on the blades that are stained a bit or otherwise discolored or fragile. I'll post a picture soon.

Friday, April 29, 2016

About 15 years ago I found four beautifully pieced 16 inch blocks scrunched into a plastic bag at an antique store in Ironwood, Michigan. Every so often, I would take them out to admire the colors and the work"woman"ship. Because I was doing a couple of open studio sessions at IQF in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was compelled to make something from these blocks that would show them off, make them useful and, in some way, honor the unknown maker. So I sorted the blocks, rather arbitrarily by color of the corner pieces. Three blocks all had red and white stripes or checks in the outer corners. These three I made into a table runner, choosing blue for backing and border. The fourth block, with red and black checked pieces in the outer corners, became a pillow with blue piping and a zipper in back. I did simple machine quilting on both projects, adding diagonal lines by using the squares in the design as a guide. I love both the pillow and the runner. If you find nicely made and/or vibrantly colored orphan blocks, consider using them!

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I have finally begun to share the work of quilt repair and rescue! I'm working on some great projects and will photograph and share pictures of quilt tops I am renewing, repairs I make and ideas for using orphan blocks in decorative ways. Stay tuned!