Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Have you ever collaborated with Anonymous?

Using vintage textiles in new quilts.
About 10 years ago, I purchased a stack of unfinished vintage Dresden Plate rings online. Several full rings accompanied a handful of half and quarter rings and a few random blades. The fabrics were charming and the prints were cheerful vintage feedsack prints and other 1920s and 1930s small scale patterns. These Dresden rings were hand pieced.

Serendipity stepped in one day and they happened to be lying beside a stack of blocks that I made in a Marti Michell learning-to-work-with-templates workshop.

Hmmm.... they look pretty good together.

Hmmm.... could they play together in a quilt?

Let's see if this will work.

And so became this quilt, "Dresden meets Marti at Riverbend." This is another quilt I brought to the "Back to the Future" kick-off meeting at the Choo Choo Quilters guild. Here is the quilt hanging in the Georgia Quilt Show in 2010. 
"Dresden meets Marti at Riverbend"
2009, 45" x 48"
If you're familiar with Chattanooga's annual Riverbend Music Festival, you can envision the various music stages and concession tents that line the street paralleling the winding Tennessee River that runs through the city.

Although traditionally placed on a light background, my vintage Dresden pieces felt right at home on the darker, contemporary tonal fabrics.
Vintage Dresden fans stand out on these dark backgrounds.
The curved appliquéd Dresden rings nicely complement the angles and geometric shapes in the patchwork.
Free-motion machine quilting on my Dresden time-span quilt.
I took cues from the fabric prints for the free-motion machine quilting designs.
Free-motion quilting.
This quilt top was a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle that had pieces missing. Spacer blocks were used to fill in the areas between the appliqué and pieced blocks. The asymmetrical layout, however, lends itself to the festival theme.

The interplay of color and stitch connects the two sets of quilt blocks as well as the different generations of the quiltmakers. Who says you can't mix hand and machine piecing? And these blocks were from two different centuries!
Detail of "Dresden meets Marti at Riverbend" quilt.
This was a fun time-span quilt to make. Both the Dresden rings—hand pieced by an anonymous quilter—and my workshop quilt blocks found their way into a completed quilt. And I believe a finished quilt is always a good thing. For Ms. Anonymous and me, this might not otherwise have happened if we hadn't collaborated.

Have you ever collaborated with Anonymous?

Friday, January 27, 2017

A patriotic sampler from vintage quilt blocks

Red, white and blue sampler quilt made from vintage quilt blocks
and vintage patchwork fragments.
Do you collect vintage textiles? In the early 2000s, I was a frequent peruser of the "vintage quilt blocks" and "antique quilt blocks" categories on e-bay. Purchases of vintage pieces can be prompted by an interest in the fabric prints and their historical significance, a unique or favorite block design, a color palette, their purported age (caveat emptor/buyer beware), or purely an inexpensive price tag on a random lot that you are compelled to rescue.

This is my time-span patriotic sampler quilt. It came to be from two e-bay purchases—each an assortment of vintage patchwork fragments—with a price tag that was right for me. When the contents of these two independent purchases were sitting side-by-side, the red-white-and-blue color palette became so prevalent to my eye that I decided they could work together in a single quilt.
"Patriotic Sampler" time-span quilt using vintage and new fabrics.
Completed in 2006. Hand quilted. Finished size: 54" x 46"
This sampler is another quilt I showed at the Choo Choo Quilters guild meeting to kick off the "Back to the Future" theme of working with vintage textiles. These quilt blocks were not quilted, unlike the remnants used in the pinwheel quilt I talked about in this post.

In this vintage assortment, there was a nice variety in the size and motif of the quilt blocks. The four larger blocks include a churn dash, 8-pointed LeMoyne star, spiderweb block and the 8-pointed flower block made from the red plaid fabric. These larger blocks were spread across the top and surrounded by smaller 9-patches and strips of 4-patches. The "missing" point from the LeMoyne Star was quilted into the quilt.
LeMoyne Star and Churn Dash blocks.
The hexagon flower patch was hand appliqued onto a new reproduction fabric. The 4-patches and 9-patches were made with a variety of shirtings and small prints. The red-checked flower block was hand pieced (not appliqued) by the original maker.
Close-ups of the sampler quilt blcoks.
Spiderweb quilt block.
A single orphan 4-patch was turned on point and framed to give it more prominence. A new dark blue fabric frames the block. The frame is trimmed to the required size to fill the space.
A 4-patch on point was made into a square-in-a-square. 
More small prints... and stripes... add to the variety of the vintage prints. New, reproduction-style fabrics were used for the inner and outer borders as well as the backing fabric.
Stripes and small prints. The border fabrics are reproduction prints.
And this quilt is actually hand quilted—by me! Following guideposts in the patchwork, the quilting is simple.
Hand quilting.
The Baptist fan (quilting motif) was used in the border.
Hand quilting: Baptist fan motif.
The backing was a new fabric—a patriotic reproduction with George Washington—that tied in with the theme. The quilt was completed in 2006.
A George Washington patriotic fabric on the back of the quilt
ties in with the theme.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Working with vintage textiles and fabric fragment finds

Rescued quilted pinwheel pieces.
Are you a rescuer of vintage textiles? Do you scrounge yard sales, e-bay listings and antique shops for old quilts, vintage linens and abandoned quilt blocks?

I am. I do.

I think many quilters and needleworkers understand and can identify with the time, effort, patience and love that went into the creation of those embroidered dresser scarves, tatted and crocheted doilies, cross-stitched pillowcases and tablecloths and the myriad vintage patchwork fragments that somehow get abandoned and forgotten but resurface in yard sales and estate auctions. We make a connection with these items and somehow, through these vintage textiles, make a connection with their [often anonymous] original makers. With that, some of us are moved to take those finds and fragments and upcycle them into new projects, giving them a new life and new purpose.

This year, the two quilt guilds I belong to, the Choo Choo Quilters and the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild, are partnering to bring vintage textile rescuer extraordinaire, Mary Kerr, to Chattanooga for a lecture and workshops for us. And the Choo Choo Quilters are devoting 2017 to rediscovering, renewing, and working with vintage patchwork pieces to upcycle them into new works.

In kicking off the Choo Choo Quilters' 2017 "Back to the Future" theme, I brought a few quilts I made over the years from rescued vintage textiles to the guild meeting. In upcoming blog posts, I'll share them with you. Here is the first one.
"Christmas Pinwheels" from salvaged quilt blocks.
This quilt was created from an e-bay purchase of five quilted pinwheels. One was too soiled and damaged to work into the new piece. The pinwheels were obviously cut out of an existing quilt—the batting was exposed, the fabric edges were ragged and unfinished. Some blocks had the triangle sashing attached on one or more sides. Likely, the original quilt from which these blocks came had a classic red and green color scheme. The green dye of the vintage fabrics, however, was unstable and fugitive.

I took the group of odd pieces and created a new workable layout, rotating and rearranging the pieces so the sawtooth sashing looked planned. New patchwork was added to repair and complete the quilt where needed. To simulate the faded green dye, I used a hand-dyed fabric for the patched pieces. Below, you can see the "new" green fabric beside the original.
Combining old with new fabrics to repair the pieces.
New fabric patches appliqued on or joined to the vintage quilted pieces.
Sometimes you must get creative with your patches to maintain the pattern in the patchwork. The arrow in the photo below shows a single triangle that consists of both vintage and new fabrics.
New fabric abuts vintage fabric in the pieced half-square triangle sashing.
To join the previously-quilted pieces, the batting was butted together and the raw fabric edges were turned under and blind stitched down to an adjacent piece.
Back of the quilt showing where pieces were joined.
In some areas, there was minimal seam allowance to turn under. You just have to make do with what is there. The new patchwork areas were hand quilted in effort to maintain consistency with the original. The binding was new and made with the hand-dyed fabric.
Back of quilt shows join.
"Christmas Pinwheels" time-span quilt.
This is what I consider a time-span quilt—a quilt or quilt top that was started in one era or generation and completed in another. A time-span quilt is often started by one person and finished by someone else.

This project was a labor of love and an exercise in problem solving—to create a usable, finished quilted piece from the salvaged blocks of a damaged quilt.

This quilt is not square.
It does not hang straight.
The triangles are not uniform in size or shape. But the red pinwheels and green sawtooth sashing spoke to me and I like to think I rescued them and created a second life for them.

The quilt has a character and charm that makes me smile when I look at it. And it comes out every year at Christmastime and cheerfully hangs on the wall through the holiday season. I'm glad I had an opportunity to share this quilt with my guild and here with you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Using heavy weight cotton for the Cargo Duffle bag

My first finish for 2017—the Cargo Duffle, by Noodlehead. What do you think?
Cargo Duffle. Pattern by Noodlehead.
Heavy cotton oxford from Alexander Henry Fabrics. Multi-colored stripe by Diamond Textiles.
This is my first foray with a heavy weight cotton fabric. This beefy cotton oxford, used on the outside of the duffle, has a 2 x 2 basket weave structure and is ideal for a durable tote that can lug around 20+ pounds of fabric samples, which is what I need it for.
Heavy cotton oxford and quilting cotton from Alexander Henry Fabrics.
Multi-color stripe from Diamond Textiles.

This lovely bird and flower print is from Alexander Henry, called Larkspur. The accent fabric is a multi-colored stripe from the World Fabrics Collection by Diamond Textiles and the pink lining is also a heavy weight cotton from Alexander Henry.

This was a good project on which to try free-motion quilting on a heavier weight fabric. The front and back pieces of my bag measured 21" x 16", which were enlarged for my use from the original pattern. 
Free-motion quilting. Front panel of duffle.
A print like this—with large motifs and open background areas—is great for practicing hand-eye-coordination of free-motion. Just outline quilt the large motifs that are printed on the fabric. It also eliminates the need to come up with a clever quilting design on your own! You can see how the birds are highlighted with the outline quilting surrounded by a sampling of free-motion fillers.
Free-motion quilting. Back panel of duffle.

This Cargo Duffle pattern has a very interesting and streamlined way to make the bag's two-toned handles. A nice detail!
Handles using two fabrics.
The handles were straight-line quilted with the walking foot. For extra support, I did sandwich a strip of batting inside each handle. It was fun using a new 12 wt. variegated thread [Fruitti by WonderFil Threads] to topstitch rows across the striped fabric. The color scheme of this thread was a perfect coordinate for the stripe. 
Topstitch quilting the handles with 12 wt. variegated thread.
Inserting the zipper flat is easy and manageable (and pattern instructions are very good).
Zipper inserted in the top gusset.
Liking a tab to counterbalance the opening and closing of the zipper, I added a tab at each end of the zipper using the fabric's selvedge.
Using the fabric selvedge to create a zipper tab.
Tab at the zipper stop.

The accent fabric used on the handles (the stripe) is also used on the bottom of the duffle. In the original pattern, this accent fabric covers the raw edges and secures an outside pocket. For extra security, I lengthened the handles and sewed them down the front/back of the bag as I knew my bag would carry a lot of weight. By omitting the pocket, I used the accent fabric piece to secure and cover the raw edges of the extended handles. (The construction details of this duffle pattern are functional as well as decorative.)
Accent fabric is decorative and functional.

The pattern says to bind the raw edges if you choose. If you have a serger, I say to "fire it up" and finish the seam allowances lickety-split. Some raw edges were serged before duffle construction (the front and back pieces, for example), and some after.
Serged seam allowances to finish.

This bird is ready to fly!
My free-motion quilted Cargo Duffle is complete.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's purging, repurposing and recycling

Happy 2017! Here's to a new year of good health, inspiration, productivity and meeting whatever goals or resolutions you set for yourself. Below are two 2016 year-end-review photo montages that I posted to Instagram. After scrolling through my photo library, I was surprised I accomplished as much as I did. Yay!
2016 accomplishments and finished projects: EPP Glorious Hexagon program,
kitty quilts, novelty zipper pouches, a fun sewing workshop with Diane Hall,
"Making Faces" workshop with Melissa Averinos.
I made lots of garments this year. Hmmm.... must be inspired by the wonderful new fabric companies I'm working with.
2016 accomplishments and finished projects: electronics on quilts,
Bedroom Dressings featured in "Dressed" exhibit, free-motion quilting
and rulerwork, ikat jacket and long vest with Diamond Textiles,
denim vest and cotton knit Tees with Art Gallery Fabrics.
Purging fabric swatches from discontinued
fabric sample cards.
I'm not much on New Year's "resolutions," but I do like to end an old year or begin a new one with a [somewhat] organized work space. In doing so, I sort through my fabric/yarn/UFO stash that I've amassed in my studio space and find new homes and other pairs of creative hands that will make good use of them.

This year I went through a couple boxes of old fabric sample cards and pulled off the usable bits. After taking a class with Lynn Carson Harris at the Chattanooga AQS QuiltWeek this summer, my eyes were opened to aaaaaallll kinds of possibilities for using up fabric scraps. No scrap is too small as you can see in this quilt that's in her book, "Every Last Piece." I also use these fabric bits for improv kitty quilts and for practicing free-motion quilting.

But alas, I will never... NEVER... have time to use up all these scraps on my own. So, as a quilter, maker and fabric aficionado, I need to find other creative hands to help.

After purging the old swatch cards, I had quite a pile of fabric swatches—all sizes, colors, prints and themes. These will be going to one of my quilt guilds for its community service project—making cuddle quilts for the Chambliss Center for Children, a child care center in Chattanooga.

I separated the novelty and kids prints from the others. The novelites would be great for I-Spy quilts. If anyone knows of a good pattern for 6" x 8" pieces, let me know in the Comments.
Novelty prints for my guild's Cuddle Quilt project.
The other bits filled a grocery bag... well over 9 inches by the time I was through.
A grocery bag full of colorful prints for making cuddle quilts.
And this big pile of paper cards is going to the recycling facility.
For paper recycling.
Thanks for following my blog over the years and I hope you have a creative, prosperous and productive 2017! Let me know what you do to ring in a new year of quilting possibilities. I'm glad to find new purposes for these good fabric bits but also to make room for the new creative adventures that await me in my own studio space. Onward and upward...
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