Friday, January 29, 2016

Vintage T-Towel Remake

My mother is a domestic in every sense of the word.  She personifies the dainty figures in t-towels who are washing, mending, ironing, etc. on certain days of the week, and when the week is over, the same happy routine starts all over again.  Mundane? Not for my mom.  And like my mom, I've learned to love taking care of my home, as well.
As a homemaker, she has embroidered t-towels for her family for decades. She has gotten to the age (88 yrs.) that I hoard them if I receive them as a gift from her instead of using them as they were intended.  She found out once and said, "Bah!  You need to use them".  A few years ago I asked her to make me two identical sets and shelved them until I had gathered enough vintage 30's fabrics. The following Mother's Day, I picked her up for a day of antiquing - our favorite pastime - followed by a nice lunch.  While waiting for lunch and enjoying the beautiful summer day, I pulled out two nicely-wrapped small boxes from a bag I'd been carrying, one for me and one for her.  She snickered at the idea I wrapped a gift for myself.  But when she opened hers and I opened mine, she knew why and started to cry. We had matching t-towel quilts. She showed everyone in the restaurant :). That's another reason why I quilt: to permanently save a bit of someone you love right into the very fibers.

What follows in this post is the process I used to make the t-towel quilts, and not the very ones I quilted for my mom and myself.  Here, I used seven t-towels with appliquéd and embroidered figures busily engaged in household chores every day of the week - except Sunday, of course :).  Now, my mother never appliquéd t-towels, yet her embroidered ones were just as darling as these.

I've cut each towel into 8 1/2" blocks - the maximum size considering the motifs are placed at the bottom edge of the towel.  At the upper left of this photo sits the discarded t-towel fabric...
...wait.  Discarded fabric?  No such thing.  I've decided to use most of it for the borders (see below where I'm cutting the t-towel fabric into border strips).  The white fabric in the pinwheel is 'discarded' t-towel fabric, as well.  You know the saying: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without".  The thrift of the 30s seeps right into what I'm quilting.
I designed the pattern to accommodate an odd number of blocks - seven - and here is the center of this quilt, ready for the borders.  (I've pinned it to a 30s quilt hanging on the wall - a bit bright and confusing at first until you find the blue sashing around each block).
 I finally finish the quilt top, load it, and start quilting!  You can see the borders around my nine blocks, with four pinwheels in each corner.  I've completed most of the t-towel blocks with appliqué stitching and scallops, and continuous curve in the pinwheel blocks to emulate 1/4" stitching, like the women did in this era.  In the borders I've marked my spines for feathers with a water-soluble pen.
 Continuous curve shown close up.
The photo below shows the feathering progression from spine to feather fill.
The blue markings will disappear after I dunk the borders only in cold water.  I don't want to get the center of this quilt wet because I'm not sure if the red fabrics and embroidery thread used in the appliquéd areas will bleed.
 When carefully placed, the scalloping can almost seem to float behind the blocks like clouds in a straight line.  This is intended because it gives a balanced look to the quilt.
The finished product, complete with binding, hanging sleeve and a vintage doily as a quilt label.  The blue feather spine markings have disappeared.
I'm entering this little quilt in a local show next month, with the theme "Circle of Life".  Certainly, the chores we women do all our lives have one continuous round - day after day and week after week.  Mundane?  I suppose so.  But for me, I know I'll think of my mother fondly each time the dust flies or the cobwebs disappear.  

And I won't mind.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Feel the Love in my "February 14 Special"!

Feel the love by making your “February 14 Special” appointment during the month of February and receive 14% off quilting charges for one edge-to-edge project...maybe the one that is STILL hanging in your closet!!!  In addition to this discount, you can receive 10% off quilting charges on additional projects by referring friends who also become customers during this time period.

Are YOU feelin' the love yet?!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stretching a Quilt Block over Canvas

Think of it.  Quilting is art.  
Why can't a block be displayed on canvas, without having been painted with oils? Here I've taken a block quilted the Hawaiian way; needleturn appliqué and echoing.  I've assembled all the materials needed to stretch the block to a 12" x 12" x 1 1/2" canvas frame, found at craft or art supply stores. Also at the ready is a fully-loaded staple gun, found in most garages :).

But before we staple it permanently, let's take a peek at the stitching on the back!
The first task is to center the quilt block over the canvas.  Some of you may be really good at using the eyeball approach here.  I admit I'm compulsive at using a ruler.
Oh, a disclaimer should go here.  My husband was nice enough to take these pictures while my hands were quickly assembling this project.  If the photographs come out fuzzy, it's a bit my and his fault :). 
Moving on, once your block is reasonably centered, start stapling in the center of each edge working out towards the corner and alternating sides, folding the fabric over a bit as you go to prevent fraying.  Above, you can see the centers stapled on each side before working to staple a complete side.  
A good moderate, consistent tug on the fabric before stapling will suffice and assure the fabric won't be too stressed over the canvas frame.  Once the centers on all four sides have been stapled, work on stapling toward the corners, leaving them open.
Folding the fabric is kind of like wrapping a present, with three layers of 'paper'.  So, it's helpful to corral the batting by shaping it and stapling it over each corner of canvas first, before folding the fabric (below).  Doing this also ensures a soft corner, just like your edges.
After the batting is secured, the tedious part of this project begins.  Patience pays off as you keep the first fold taught to the corner while you fold the other side...

When you get the fold in the direction you want (folding two adjoining corners the same direction ensures a smoother application)...
...staple the corner first, then secure the remaining edge until it's all down.
Your goal is to have as smooth a corner as possible.  Notice the seam along the edge, shown below.  My block wasn't big enough for universal canvas sizes, so I had to sew more fabric along each edge!  I thought I was going to make another pillow out of this project, changed my mind to canvas it, and ended up having the cart before the donkey.  For YOUR canvas project, make sure your block is cut large enough to allow the extra yardage to be folded over to the back of the frame.
Staple all corners, and flip over for the reveal!  Yes, I used the screwdriver to remove staples I lodged in the wrong places!  Not through my fingers though, thank goodness...

Every quilt needs a label, and this one is no exception. Using my Pentel Gel Roller Pen for fabric, I create a quilt label. I highly recommend this gel pen. It's totally permanent, fabric-safe, and won't fade through time or washing, though this one won't ever be washed, of course.

For those of you interested in the Hawaiian needleturn-method, I highly recommend Hawaiian Appliqué, mostly for her patterns.  The basic process is shown below, left to right, from pinning, basting, needleturning and our finished project from today's post.

The Hawaiians on Maui like these stout needles for their appliqué work, and so do I.

Do you have a single block you've been wondering what to do with?  Whether it be your grandmother's single block, or an orphan of your own, think of stretching it over canvas!  
I hope I've inspired you to think of a different way to display your treasures!