The Christmas quilts are done & ready to wrap or ship. (Though I'm finishing up a doll-sized one, local delivery & thinking about a pillow cover -- but that's it!) As usual, I've got plenty of cut out parts awaiting assembly -- geese, stars, pluses, towers, etc, etc; there are 2 -- no, 3 -- tops ready to be basted & quilted; and 2 or 3 that were being quilted but got sidetracked & quickly sank to the bottom of the pile.
But also as usual, I was not in the mood to work on any of those. Instead, I began digging through the stacks & scraps that are over-taking my little sewing room. More clothing -- dresses, some from the thrift store, others are Mom's old shirtwaists (lots of fabric in those skirts) & mine from childhood. Then a dump of my scrap bucket -- more than 20 years of quilt-making there, some of the scrappy-bits are even older than that -- quite a memory trip!
When our friends had their first child, a daughter, I thought about making her a quilt, but Life intruded & it didn't happen. Six (!) years later, they have had their second child, a son. Since this seems to be my Year to Make Quilts, I thought I would make the boy a quilt. And, well, I can't give the baby a quilt & not give big sister one, also. Right? So, two quick, cute quilts!
Their Mom is from Australia, so for the boy I made friendship stars using kangaroo fabrics. For big sister, I pulled out one of those mini charm packs. How do you make a quilt with 42 2-inch squares? Add lots of white!
Dorothy is a simple 16-patch -- half Kaffe Fassett polka dots, half Connecting Threads pin dots. She measures 72 x 80 inches. Her backing is a white-on-white polka dot, batting is a bamboo & cotton blend, quilting is wiggle zigzag & her binding is striped.
She's been finished for a while, but with the shorter days & bad weather -- which always seemed to come on the weekend! -- I haven't been able to get a good photo. We got to use her during the cold snap & she works just fine! Could I love Dorothy more? I don't think so!
I suspect that many people, both quilters & non-quilters, have happened upon a well-loved, home-y -- maybe a little homely -- quilt or top at an antique shop, thrift store, garage sale & been moved by its sweet nature & good price to buy it. Someone didn't love it, but something about it speaks to us so much so that we do & want give it a Forever Home. I've had the very good fortune to have inherited quite a few quilts & tops, but still, I've brought home quite a few more.
My most recent addition I got at this year's Quilt Festival -- a mid-20th century string top. The strings are stitched to cloth foundation squares. Many of the foundations are coarse white cotton -- probably sacking of some sort. But there are also a few prints & some pink rayon squares (smart, I thought, the rayon gives a base for the string sewing without adding much bulk or stiffness). I had thought it was all machine made, but closer inspection showed there are quite a lot of hand-sewn squares, maybe more than machine-sewn ones. And the hand-stitches are nice & small, suggesting a skilled needle-person (probably a woman, but you never know).
And the fabrics! WOW! Everything is here! There are solids, florals, printed & woven plaids, stripes wide & narrow; coarse sacking, fine sheeting, seersucker, pique, twill & one that might be silk. In the prints we see flowers, fruit, birds, teddy bears, Mother Goose characters, cowboys, palm fronds, dots, buttons, fish, houses, Mickey Mouse & friends, a parade, a girl at a soda fountain & deep sea divers! There are more than one color way of at least two prints. My guess is that most of the fabrics are from the late 1940s to early 1950s. But there are some muted prints that make me wonder if they are from the 1920s & a bold pique that could be from the 1960s. I really wish it could tell me where & how its maker got so many fabrics!
Making this top into a quilt will hide its inner story, but I suppose by documenting it here, it will live on. Quilt historians say that a quilt is as old as the youngest fabric in it, so if I do finish this top, I will bring it in the early 21st century. The backing I assembled is two fabrics -- one I found in my parents' house, a butterfly stripe from the early 1960s, some stripes cut away to embellish play clothes made for me by my Mom. The other is a big hunk I got at a Big Box store. I think I want to hand quilt it, big stitch next to the string seams -- so it will be a long-term project. But no hurry! And I really want to spend some time with these fabrics.
I will be using my extra hour today catching up on housework & resting a bit -- & maybe a bit of sewing.
I spent Wednesday evening, all day Thursday & Friday at the Quilt Festival. I am foot-sore & sensory-overloaded! I enjoyed myself more than I have in recent years -- I don't really know why, can't really explain it. When my feet were run over by rolling carts, when my sides were jabbed by bulky bags, when the woman in front of me suddenly stopped to admire something cute or beautiful or whatever -- I just smiled & accepted it as part of the Whole Experience. The not-my-style quilts that I usually pass by with a nod & a yawn, this year I stopped to really look at & admire & learn. I felt more open to Quilts, Quilters, Quilt-making, than I have for a long time. It was nice.
I caught up with friends that I see once a year at Festival, hung out with other friends who I see more regularly, made a few new friends & deepened a relationship or two. I came away with a vintage string top that I am completely crazy about, 3 pairs of scissors, just a bit of fabric &, most importantly, a fresh perspective on who I am as a quilter & where I want to go with my quilting.
To date, I have 5 quilts I've kept & a few I've given away that I have quilted with this manipulated programmed stitch. The first time I used it was in combination with straight stitching around oval templates -- the result was a braid-look. After that I did parallel lines, the others have all been grids of varying widths, some parallel, some perpendicular to the quilt edge. I LOVE the look I get with it -- especially after the quilt has been washed & dried -- so cozy & crinkle-y.
But I worried I was over-using it, getting in a Wiggle-y Zigzag Rut, so to speak, so I "vowed" to leave it behind. I should have waited to make such a sweeping statement. I quilted all the + quilts with it. With 3 quilts made assembly line-style, I wanted quick, easy & utilitarian quilting -- the wiggle-stitch is perfect for this & I think it looks a little fancier than it is. It is also great for in-the-ditch quilting, hides any wobbles away from the Straight & Narrow. I also like it with very perpendicular patchwork, kind of softens & counterbalances the look. Now that the Christmas quilts are done, I'm using The Wiggle Stitch on my dotty 16-patches. As soon as I began piecing them, I saw them quilted with this stitch -- more blocky patchwork calmed with snake-y stitching.
I recently made a quilt for a friend who quilts. It was a milestone birthday for her. She is so adorable, she deserves a quilt every day of the year, but I just made her the one.
Back in the spring, I gave her a long list of questions to help me get what I would make for her in focus: solids or prints? cool colors or warm? scrappy or controlled? blocky or overall pattern? Etc, etc, etc. I finally chose a palette & pattern, but then I was nearly frozen with anxiety over whether or not my choices were right. I can't explain it, it isn't that I put less love & effort into a quilt for a non-quilter, but somehow it feels different making a quilt for a quilter. Not that a quilter will be more picky, probably less so. But something about making something for someone who knows how make the thing themselves, I just want it to be just right. Anyway, I finally bundled up my courage & dove in. Because of the interlocking design, laying out the colors was challenging, but not difficult & the piecing was quite easy. I free-motion quilted it it a pebble pattern -- again, challenging but not hard & I certainly improved from the beginning to the end. Overall, a pretty successful quilt.