Monday, April 29, 2013

Every now and then a quilt top travels a very long way to my studio.  

This one came from Kansas through many decades, fashioned by a loving mother of eleven children.  She bought many blue floral feed sacks - originally full of flour or sugar - and when empty and washed, and her appliquéd tulip blocks were completed, she could piece them into this precious quilt top.

For reasons unknown (why do we store quilt tops?!), her creation waited for a certain granddaughter to treasure many, many years later.  This granddaughter wasn't a quilter, but desired to have an heirloom; a tangible reminder of the visits to a grandmother long past.

I get a few goosebumps whenever I load a quilt with history, such as this one!  As I've said in earlier posts, when I work with vintage quilt tops I machine quilt them in the style of the era in which they were made, as closely to what a hand-quilter would have done had she finished the quilt.

So, for this quilt, I echoed around the appliqué in the tulip blocks and quilted a feather wreath in the feed sack blocks.  I selected to echo around each wreath, not only to maintain a balance in quilting style, but density as well.

My customer added three borders to the center of the quilt top so it would cover her (much larger) bed so she could use it and display it.  

Here, you can see her borders when the quilt was loaded on the machine.  Her brilliant choice of reproduction '30s fabrics was a perfect bridge between past and present, enabling me to continue the feather theme I quilted in the feed sack blocks.  Piano keys with radiating lines in the corners were quilted in the outer border.

The neatest part about this quilt is that it is loved as a finished piece, not just hanging, waiting, and unappreciated.  Granted, it would have been much more special had it been hand-quilted in Kansas decades ago.  I gratefully own quilts from both my paternal and maternal grandmothers who painstakingly hand-pieced and hand-quilted them.  One was a busy farm wife, the other the wife of a rural postal carrier - but more about their lives and quilts in an upcoming post.  For now, my feelings are that you simply cannot have these cherished heirlooms without appreciating the woman that fashioned them, and the life they lived.  

And so I am thrilled when a quilt such as this, with rich history just oozing from the fibers, stops at my door to visit for a while...

                                          is another reason why I quilt.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Return with Honor

When our son-in-law left for a tour in Afghanistan a year ago, I asked him if he would like a quilt to celebrate his return.  He grinned at me, knowing it wouldn't be the first he'd received, but possibly one that had the most feeling behind it.  

He was right. 

Part of that feeling was my desire to make it using materials he would like.  Being in the army and being male, I chose flannels for the top that would suit his gender and in colors that would closely match an infantryman in the desert - except for the green, I suppose.  

How much green can you find in a desert? Truth be told, the green flannel was chosen to match the backing:  a vintage WWII Army Issue wool blanket. Right:  the top is ready for the quilting process, placed on top of the army blanket with very little leeway.  

Here the U.S. insignia on the army blanket can be seen on the quilt backing.  I made sure it was placed in the center!

The pattern I chose for this very manly quilt was "Kasuri Gesiki", a Japanese log cabin design (do they have log cabins in Japan?!), which made its debut with Robert Kaufman fabrics, looking very (what else?) Japanese.  My choice of fabrics didn't translate to that culture, I hope!!  Using the pattern, the block size came out to 5" x 5", but with the bulkiness of flannel, I adapted all measurements to produce 10" x 10" blocks.  
To quilt it, I stitched-in-the-ditch and stitched one circle in each block.  
My Gammill did great working with a heavy Army blanket as backing - a first!  I did use wool batting - not needed since it's certainly heavy enough - but I wanted extra warmth.

When Conor returned December, 2012 I was thrilled to gift him this special quilt - all wrapped up in feelings of joy, pride, relief and excitement - packed with emotions like  no other quilt I've given to anyone before!  And the best part?  Well, I hope he remembers that love when he wraps up in it, each and every time.

And that's why I quilt.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Go Be Dazzled!

I can't think of a better moniker for this quilt than this dazzling one I quilted up for a customer recently.  The photography just doesn't catch it.  (Sorry, I'm a quilter, not a photographer - I'll improve)!  The picture, above, was taken outdoors at 8:00 a.m., creating a washed-out effect.  But the two pics below were taken indoors with good light, allowing the warmth of the true colors to come through.

And what colors!!!!  They definitely are dazzling.  It's incredible how much black fabric there is nowadays, probably because of how it can contrast with any other color.

The appliqué work, embroidered using her Bernina, begged feathers because some of the appliqué are feathers (notice the black border on all shots, plus the close up, below).

 A fun part for me is taking the finished quilt off the machine to look at the back. I love how the solid color of this backing allows a black-and-white-negative effect.

I hope your true colors come through on your next quilt!  It doesn't have to be a Go Be Dazzled! pattern.  But aim to choose colors that maybe aren't the ones pictured in the pattern - ones that you like.  And it doesn't have to be custom-quilted, like this one was.  Make sure you look at my 'Pantographs' tab on my blog to find just the right one to dazzle at least I hope this link gets you there.  If not, certainly enter my blog address, then click on the tab...
...which reminds me, customers have taken advantage of my Second Quarter Special already. It's a doozie!!!  Don't miss out.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Scrappy Quilts (or Reduce your Stash with No Cash)!

Summers are typical of a bit of down time in the professional longarmer world.  So it was last summer for me when I decided to piece a few quilts with my worm accumulation.  Worms are strips of fabric, usually 21/4"-21/2" wide, that you have collected over a series of projects just for the purpose of assembling them into a scrap quilt.  This post features three quilt tops I pieced last summer that hung patiently in the closet until I had time earlier this year to quilt them up.  

This quilt, using a pattern called Buzz Saw, was pieced entirely of collected worms except a purchase of green border fabric.  However, the actual piecing process did not require a border, just the sly placement of blocks with the green 'border' material to make it appear framed.   When using scraps, a quilt typically needs control fabric such as the green used here to unify the quilt top.

For the second quilt of three, I gathered all my pastel worms and created a precious pinwheel quilt.  Although it looks '30's, none of the fabrics were reproduction '30's. I quilted it in freehand feathers and curls to complete the vintage, cottage-y feel.

Fun tip:  if you have a straight-back rocking chair without cushions, consider weaving a quilt through it and - tah dah! - you have instant comfort such as this one now has.  You can seasonally change the quilts; a wool one in winter, this pinwheel quilt in the spring, etc.   How inviting!

The third and last quilt, called Cobblestones, was made from worms and was the most expensive one to make.  The cobblestones were made entirely of worms, but some rust yardage was purchased for the control fabric.
Below is a closeup of the freehand feathers quilted along each strip of fabric as well as the borders.

All of the patterns used for the quilts in this post were from Debbie Caffrey's books using fat quarters or worms.  The backdrop of my book display is another lap quilt I've made using Shape Up Your Fat Quarters.  I highly recommend any of her books.  The patterns are very easy to follow, the quilts are very easy to piece, and the best part is reducing your stash so you can purchase new fabric!!!