Tag Archives: Textile

Still Life With Donkeys

Earlier today, my favorite SIL posed the question: What are you working on?

Honestly?  I’ve been having a love affair with 9-patches.  This weekend I put a check mark on a reproduction quilt top begun ten years ago.  I had the field of blocks complete, and the cheddar sashing mostly done, when I began cutting the wholecloth borders.  Then… full stop.

Now there’s this thing about the fabric I used in the border.  It’s kind of ugly.  But I kind of love it for all of its ugliness, and it was a millennium fabric done for Quilt For The Cure, so it was kind of like guilt free spending at the time.

Sort of.

I had long suspected that it was a reproduction fabric, and I’ve since found the likely source – the backing fabric used on a pineapple quilt, supposedly dating to 1876.  The website where I found the quilt listed is called 1stdibs; a site self-described as “the world’s leading online marketplace for the most beautiful things on earth.”  And the price tag for the quilt?  $4,995.00.

(yowza)

lady liberty 1876 1stdibs

Lady Liberty 1876 1stdibs

A little artistic license was used in recreating the Quilt For A Cure fabric.  We still have the beehive, cornucopia, and wheat – all symbols of prosperity and abundance – but the corn has gone AWOL.  Lady Liberty, her shield, and anchor remain, but Anno Domini and MM were added to the anchor… and that leads us right back to where we started: millennium fabric so ugly only I could love it.

Quilt For A Cure Millennium Fabric

Rewind to ten years ago: I botched the border cuts.  Devastated, I folded everything up – toe-tagged it, bagged it, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early yesterday morning: I was flipping through an old quilt magazine (American Patchwork & Quilting – February 2005), when I stumbled across the pattern for the not-quite-forgotten quilt.  The pattern is called Civil War Soldier Patch, by Julie Bragg.  What originally caught my attention ten years ago, was that the quilt was based on the dimensions for a U.S. Sanitary Commission cot quilt.  During the Civil War, hospital quilts and blankets were made long and narrow to cover the body, but not drag on the floor, and that translates into a perfectly sized quilt for a couch potato like me.

Imagine this: any Saturday night, with something on TV that is probably too violent, too graphic, likely something by Quentin Tarantino.  The floor is littered with candy wrappers, spilled soda and popcorn.  But my nifty new quilt never has to brawl with movie night detritus, it hangs nicely above the muck.

And I remembered why I’d buried the quilt top – those pesky borders – but I gave myself a stern talking to.  “Get over it, it’s a utility quilt, get it done”, I told myself.  So back up on the design wall it went.

I thought that this morning I’d try snapping an interesting photo or six to share, but real life, in the form of my pair of donkeys, got in the way.  Some photos have just noses.  Some photos have just ears.  But most of the set-up shots have a stealth attack involving one or more donkeys.

Still Life With Donkeys

“Oh.  You wanted to take a photograph of that old thing?  Really?”  So I settled for a standard “let’s spread it out on the grass” shot , sans donkeys.  See the cotton field across the road?  A few more weeks and it’s picking time.

The soldier’s quilt finished at 54.5″ x 84″ (app. 138×213 cm).

Soldier's Quilt

Still Life With Donkey

I’ve also been playing with Miss G’s bag of orphan blocks, fifty two of which are 9-patches.  Let me tell you about those blocks – Miss G, being a housekeeper all her life couldn’t gift me with (probably) old and musty fabrics.  She laundered them all.  And yes, they frayed, but her heart was absolutely in the right place.

So after much blocking and pressing, I cut all fifty two blocks down to uneven 9-patches, and that’s when they began to take on a life of their own.  I decided that a riff on the Sister’s Choice block would be a good place to start, and I knew that I wanted to use two different blocks in the quilt.  But the second block eluded me…  time to go stash diving for inspiration.

When I surfaced, I had found four fabrics: a black gingham, plus three more fabrics that had been given to me (again, from my favorite SIL).  One was a red/white check that reminded me of growing up on the road, seeing the Purina logo on storage silos in the rural towns we passed through.  The second was a bit of gorgeousness: an entire vintage feedsack in blue with a ditzy fan and flower motif.  Lastly, a good green.  Love me some green in everything!

The gingham became points for the Sister’s Choice blocks.  The red check, blue feedsack, and that good green became Hens & Chicks.  The blocks finished at 14″, and the entire quilt top is 70″ (177.8 cm) square.

Twelve of Miss G’s orphan 9-patches down.  Forty to go.

Sister's Choice/Hens & Chicks

Sister's Choice & Hens & Chicks

Hey – I Found My Stuff!

Miss G, who incidentally happens to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 92 to 96 years young – depending on who’s asking –  has long enjoyed going to estate sales and auctions.  When it comes to hauling her loot home, Miss G gets it there by way of her Fire Engine Red Dodge Ram pickup truck.  She drives it well enough while peeping over the top of the steering wheel (Miss G is five foot nothing, after all), and she does drive it straight as an arrow, if really, really, really slowly.

Coming from a generation that shies away from throwing things out, she sorts through her purchases, then tries to find suitable homes for the items she doesn’t need or can’t use.

Over the last several months, Miss G has decided that I was the candidate mostly likely to use some of the goodies that she’s been saving up from sales: all things quilt related plus sundry items she thought might interest me.

Cereal box templates that were shared between quilters and sent via the US Postal Service.  When could a person mail a letter for three pennies?  The answer is anytime between 1851 and 1958 – but judging by what was stamped on the envelope above, 1940 would be today’s correct answer.

There’s even a wee treasure, a 2½”x4¼” envelope in beautiful condition that’s chock full of Peter Pan fabric samples – colors that go by the names of Copen, Orchid, Canary, Cameo and Coral Bell.

There also seem to be enough pre-cut fabrics ready to be rocked into a Dresden Plate quilt.

Scads of patterns cut from newspapers and magazines, yards of vintage 1920s fabrics (about 90 years old!), with all of the motifs for an Oriental Poppy quilt cut out and many already basted.  You can see in the photo below that even the original pattern has been preserved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then there are the orphan blocks.  Lots and lots of orphan blocks.  I’ve got a stack of Nine-Patch, a veritable tower of Improved Nine-Patch, blocks that I don’t recognize and haven’t identified yet, and so many hours went into making these blocks – they were all hand pieced, the stitches small and even.  So how can I ignore them?  Can I leave them to languish in bins and boxes?  Or should I simply pass them along to another quilter?  The answer to all of the above is, I can’t.

Stacks of orphan blocks

Whaddaya Mean You Didn’t Use Templates?

To kick off my latest personal challenge, I’ve made a quilt out of a few of the orphan blocks.  The maker of these particular blocks knew how to stitch, but was maybe new-ish to quilting.  She or he didn’t bother to use a template, and as a result, few of the circles were actually… um, how will I phrase this nicely?  Circular.  When assembled, there was only one block that was within miles of being circular.

Not a problem – a few down and dirty stitches embroidered onto the top to give the impression of circularity, and “hey presto!”, a primitive style little quilt.  A phrase springs to mind, one I heard while watching White Men Can’t Jump when I was binding the quilt, and when I heard it I barked with shocked delight.  “You can throw a cat in the oven, but that don’t make it a biscuit.”  So here’s a photo of my Biscuit Quilt – it’s not symmetrical, it’s not traditional, but it’s a quilt.

The finished size of the Biscuit Quilt is 45″x54″ (114x137cms).

Biscuit Quilt made from orphan blocks by JoT in 2014

I’m Really Not Changing Horses In Mid-Gallop

Miss G didn’t limit herself to traditional quilting fabrics when she was piling up treasure for me – she also included vintage fabrics from the Key West Hand Print Fabric Shop that began operation about 1960 (think Early Jet Set Chic).  For today’s bonus round of fabric trivia, you should know that the Queen of Prep, Lily Pulitzer Rousseau, had many of her fabrics designed and printed at Key West Hand Print Fabrics.

Just for grins – a short history of the shop can be found here, a pictorial history of the shop is here, and an overview of Lily Pulitzer Rousseau’s link to KWHPF is here.

I am completely open to suggestions when it comes to these fabrics – I think that they will be my biggest challenge to date… smiling pink monkeys kind of creep me out.

Thanks Miss G.  You are a pip!

Key West Hand Print Fabric Leaflet

Key West Hand Print Fabric Cutting Room Floor

Key West Hand Print Fabrics

 

Still Living It Up With Color

Quilting in serial form.  Ever tried it?  Most folks call it a quilt-along, but it is after all, October, and I’m feeling like a serial quilter – ooh, scary.  On offer today is the next installment in the exciting saga of The Stitching Witches Quilt Along.

First up is the Montgomery segment.  This is to be our ‘signature’ block, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to put in the blank space at the center of the block.  Wait.  Let me clarify that last statement: I have all kinds of ideas of what I’d like to put there, but I’ll have to do a little winnowing before I can fit what I’d like to see in that small space.  Then there’s the application method: Pigma Pen? – that’s the easy route – Or hand embroidery?  Decisions, decisions.

Spoiler Alert: the pen will end up the winner… guaranteed.

Montgomery Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsNext is Yankee Pride.  I don’t usually have large prints suitable for a fussy cut center hanging around in my stash, but I turned up a floral that worked just fine.  I may have erred when selecting fabrics for this block, in particular, the small leaf print that I used to border the red star.  In hindsight, I probably should’ve used a fabric with higher contrast.  But do I think that the low contrast is enough to cry do over?  Nope.  I adore that wee print, so it’ll stay.

Yankee Pride Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsTune in next week for another installment… same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Batman Quilt Along Stitching Witches October 1966

Warning: Sunglasses May Be Required

The year long quilting party celebrating the Fight For Women’s Rights is over.  Now what?  For starters, I have no projects in mind that include yellow.  I’ve also joined another QAL, but this time I’m making a scrap quilt.  Am I having fun with it?  Boy Howdy!

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Quilt The Stitching Witches Quilt AlongIt’s such a relief to wallow in color again.  I’ve been diving into my fabric bins and pulling out bits and pieces and yardage in reds and greens and browns.  The only other restriction that I have is that the fabrics must have fun together.  So far so good.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt AlongPulling fabrics for a scrap quilt can be likened to a surprise visit from an old friend.  In the photo above I see several fabrics from two different quilts that were made for my nieces.  Loved the fabrics then, still lovin’ them when they pop in again.

You might want to link over to Flickr and browse the group pool at The Stitching Witches Quilt Along, which is hosted by the one, the only, the original, Stitchin’ Witch.  What?  You were expecting someone else?

While you’re there, you might want to consider joining our group – don’t be shy, there aren’t any divas to be found among us, and it’s not too late to catch up.  All the details can be found at the Flickr Group, but in a nutshell: it’s a Mystery Quilt Along, and once a month on or about the 13th, Stitchin’ Witch will email you the pattern and instructions for the next segment.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt Along

oops… Did I Miss A Block?

Grandmother's Choice SchoolhouseBlock Eleven: Little Red Schoolhouse

To illustrate on what level my mind often operates, let me tell you what I was thinking when I was making this block —

I see a schoolhouse… I see a schoolhouse in the woods, in a valley, in the winter, at twilight; and inside, the lamps are lit and the schoolroom has yellow wallpaper.  (A little childish?  In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “Eh, could be.”)

Perhaps you’ve noticed that a couple of new fabrics have tiptoed into the fabric pull for this quilt.  Probably not – gray is gray, right?

Grandmother's Choice BreechesBlock Twelve: Little Boy’s Breeches

In today’s post, Barbara Brackman brought up the subject of a failed attempt at women’s dress reform in the mid-19th century.

The idea was simple: Out with restrictive clothing such as crinolines, corsets, hoops and long skirts.  In with Turkish Trousers covered modestly with a much shorter skirt.

Does it not seem odd to you that women got the right to vote well before society accepted such a little thing as women wearing slacks?

Have You Ever Been Beguiled By A Color?

Recently, I was at La Ruche des Quilteuses reading a post regarding the flax plant.  The original post is in French – thank you Google Translate – and it was there that I saw the photograph.  To say that my jaw dropped would be a very poor description.  Smitten?  Certainly, but it was more, I was amazed, thunderstruck, gobsmacked, and yes, beguiled, by the watery greens in a field of flax in bloom.

I found myself drawn back to that photo repeatedly.  I decided that I wanted to celebrate the color the best way I knew how, with textiles, in a quilt.  I confess that I am a green lover, and you won’t find a shortage of greens in my fabric stash, but I was looking for a very particular color of green.

I spent hours burrowing through every bin, box and bag of fabric that I own, and then I found it.  A length of vintage fabric that I’d picked up for a song a few years ago.  It was one of those fabrics purchased without even the foggiest idea of what it was going to be used in.

Seen up close, the fabric is a particularly virulent poison green overlaid with a grass green on white, but when you stand back it all blends into a gentle watery green.

Once I had my treasure at home, I kept trying to use it in a variety of scrappy style quilts, without success.  It looked wretched with everything.  The last time that I had it out attempting to make it play nice with all the other fabrics, I folded it up and with a sigh I put it away.

I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be seeing that fabric surface again for a while.

But here it was on the cutting table – unfolded and seemingly compliant – what if I just kept it simple (stupid) and paired it with white?  For a pattern, I could use a two-block combination, Snowball and Nine-Patch.  The pairing is a little old fashioned, but when used together it makes a dandy flower pattern, plus, I’d have all of that lovely negative space to work with when the time came to quilt it.

And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.   — Groucho Marx: A Night At The Opera (1935)

We don’t have a season that most folks would call Autumn here in SW Oklahoma.  No glorious show of color to bring down the curtain on a growing season.  We do have Fall, if by that definition you mean that all the leaves turn brown and fall on the ground (it usually happens overnight accompanied by a crash).  And of course the wind was up when I wanted a morning shot to play up the soft color in the quilt top.  No surprises here, the wind always blows in SW Oklahoma.  The only place outside that I could find where the top would hang and not flap, was the lee side of the donkey’s loafing shed.

While it’s not a perfect replica of flax green, ‘I done my best’ with what I had, and I was able to use up every last scrap of that lovely poison green.  No more frustrating moments trying to force this fabric to be a member of the chorus when all it truly ever wanted was to be a diva.

English: Sibyl Sanderson, American opera sopra...

Sibyl Sanderson 1864 – 1903 American opera soprano

Pretensions: A Quilter’s Haiku

In my world, quilting is a humble art. Originally, it was an article made for the home, something to cover a bed, warm the body, filler for a blanket chest or linen closet. Today quilting has blossomed into an art form. Fiber artists have taken the basic utility item and turned it into a fabulous creation of the imagination. But whether you make traditional quilts or art quilts, it’s a pastime that can overtake every moment in life, awake and asleep. Here’s the admission – I quilt.

Fabrics fragmented then sewn together
united with thread in a pattern imagined
warm the body and soul.

Quilting: A Cog In The Economic Machine

Once upon a time, home sewing was an economical way to put clothes on your back or decorate your home. Have you checked out the prices of fabrics lately? Granted, the so-called quilt quality fabrics are very nice, but hasn’t anyone besides me noticed that the price per yard has gone through the roof? I’ve seen some really beautiful fabric this year… at $11 a yard.

So you want to make a quilt big enough to sleep under.  8-10 yards to make the top, the back and the binding for a quilt, (oh come on, you can do the math here).  Crazy!

I am a ruler addict. I’ve got big ones, little ones, square rulers, rectangular rulers. Rulers to cut diamonds. Rulers to cut hexagons. Rulers rule.

Earlier this year I read an interesting book on quilting, Making History: Quilts & Fabric From 1890-1970 by Barbara Brackman. I highly recommend the book, an informative and entertaining read, a nice little overview of fabrics used in American quilts.

Have you seen How To Make An American Quilt? It has a stellar cast, Ann Bancroft, Alfre Woodard, Jean Simmons, Maya Angelou and Ellen Burnstyn for starters. Add Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney to the mix and what’s not to love? Beautiful cinematography. Warning: watching this movie while you piece will guarantee you a soggy block, so keep a box of tissues handy – a definite weeper.

Speaking of movies and quilts, have you ever noticed how many quilts are staged in movie sets? For me, quilts convey a sense of home, of comfort, and describe a basic sense of levelheadedness in a character. Look for them and you can spot quilts everywhere, in movies about urban dwellers (You’ve Got Mail), westerns (The Angel and the Badman), and period fantasy pieces (Nanny McPhee).

angelbadman

I wonder if Kevin Bacon has ever co-starred with a quilt and where exactly, would that lead me today?