May 30, 2015

My First Quilt - The Fabrics

Here are some photos of the fabrics in the first quilt I ever made.  You can find the story of making the quilt in the previous post.

Most of the fabrics are from the 1960s, and some are from the 70s.  Scraps are from clothing my mom and I made, the constant stream of aprons and kitchen curtains my mom made for the south-facing window, and scraps I inherited from a good friend's family scrap pile.

I am reminded of a quilt that a student brought to one of the first quilt classes I ever taught.  It was a simple 9-patch quilt, made in the 1870s or so by a 13-year old girl as I recall.  There was a map of the quilt with details of every fabric - Aunt So-and-So's dress, and so on.  One of the fabrics had this story:  The girl and her sister had been dressed in their brand new best dresses for an event, and then wandered off and did some strawberry picking.  The result, as you might expect, was strawberry juice stains that wouldn't wash out.  The mom made the girl put those stained patches in her quilt, as a reminder of the lesson learned!


Left block 
Outer: a party dress made by my mom for me, and a matching one for my baby doll, about 1960
Inner: dress my mom made for me, 1966 (see photo below)
(Story: My mom thought it would be nice to perk up the dress with purple buttons, picking up the color of the smallest flowers in the print. My middle school art teacher had me stand up in front of the class one day while he explained complimentary colors.  My mom was so proud, and retold this story often.)
Right block
Outer: the first clothing I ever made for myself, a sundress, in about 1965, so I gave it the place of honor in the center of this quilt.


Outer: kitchen curtains
Inner: blouse, mid or late 1960s

Left block
Outer: an Egyptian print, summer blouse made for me by my mom, mid-1960s when I discovered my interest in archeology
Inner: a mom blouse, 1960s
Right block
Both: fabrics I used as a beginning quilter, late 1970s


Outer: my wonderful curtain fabric, around 1969 
Inner: a blouse I made for myself, around 1977
To the left: two more fabrics from my beginning quilting years, late 1970s.
c. 1980:


Left block
Both: blouses my mom made for herself, mid-1960s (see photo below)
Right block
Outer: an apron.....I think


Left block
Outer: apron, 1960s
Right block
Outer: my Halloween Raggedy Ann costume, about 1962
Above on the right
a summer blouse made for me by my mom, 1964


Outer: a party dress my mom made for me, and a matching one for my doll, 1960


Left block
Outer: a dress I made for myself, 1966 (Here's a photo of me sewing this one!)
Right block
Outer, even more kitchen curtains


Top left block
Outer: paisley blouse my mom made for herself, 1960s
Top right block
Outer: kitchen curtains
Middle left block
Both: clothes my mom made for me, early and mid 1960s
Middle right block
Outer: sundress I made for myself, early 1970s
Bottom left block
Outer: beginner quiltmaking fabric, late 1970s


Top left block
Outer: blouse, late 1960s or early 1970s
Top right block
Outer: dress my mom made for me, 1966 (see photo below)
Bottom left block
Outer: early quiltmaking fabric, late 1970s
Bottom right block
Outer: beginner quiltmaking fabric, late 1970s (see photo below)
Inner: from a favorite store-bought blouse that wore out, mid-1970s 


I hope you've enjoyed this little walk down Memory Lane with me.  If any of you have quilts like this, with scrapbag fabrics that you remember, I recommend writing your own documentation. And if anyone would like to share it with The World, I'll be happy to publish a guest post for you!

May 27, 2015

My First Quilt - The Story

As a child, I learned to sew clothes from my mom.  We kept all the scraps in a cardboard box near the sewing machine on the bottom shelf, and she told me we would make a quilt someday.  She even collected some Aunt Martha quilt pattern pamphlets.

That's as far as she and I ever got, but the "someday" kept echoing in my head.  After college, while doing data entry on a primatology project, I took a little 6-week intro to quilting class.  I made a pillow. I was needing something colorful and handy to entertain myself while "waiting" for the huge "mainframe" computer to return my "output".  Ancient concepts now.  The year was 1978.

After the class, I figured I could tackle making a quilt on my own.  I really wanted to make a log cabin.  I eventually decided against that though, since I couldn't figure out how to divide all the multi-colored pieces into a pile of lights and a pile of darks.

I eventually settled on a pattern called Grandmother's Cross that I found in Ruby McKim's classic book 101 Patchwork Patterns.  I thought it would be so cool to use two coordinating fabrics in each block.  I used most of the fabrics twice, being super careful to use each one once in the inner 9-patch and once in the outer pieces, and each time paired with a different fabric.
And later on, I came up with the cool idea to sort of echo the patchwork pattern in the layout of the blocks.

I chose dark green, my favorite color, for the main color.  I went to the store and bought the best dark green I could find, a kettle cloth, a sturdy and stiff polyester blend.  I would later learn that this wasn't the best choice for hand quilting.  I ended up tying the quilt instead of quilting it.  I also didn't buy enough, so the quilt ended up with two different dye lots of kettle cloth.

Sitting at the "computing center" stitching every day, I became kind of famous.  In fact, that's kind of what attracted my husband - I guess wondering about this curious person who was sewing somedays and learning hieroglyphics on others.  Well, there's a lesson in not being afraid to look a little odd!

I tied off the quilt around 1980 or so.  The back fabric, pattern nicknamed pawprint, is testament to that date.  It was available then in pretty much any color under the sun.  We use the quilt all the time, and I've had to make some repairs, but not too many.

The binding is very special to me, so I'm sad that it's giving out.  My mom decorated my bedroom when I was young of course.  And, (sorry Mommy!) I never liked her color choices at all.  At All.  When I was in high school, I was given the chance to redecorate.  The binding is made from my curtain fabric.  Notice that it is, of course, green.  It dates to about 1969.

The following post has photos of individual blocks and the dates of the fabrics as I can best remember them.

May 19, 2015

American History Quilt, 1937

I came across this wonderful quilt in my surfing today.

It was made and signed in 1937 by Camille Nixdorf Phelan.  There is a map of the US as it was in 1937: 48 states.  Landmarks and personalities are embroidered in the states.  The map is surrounded by a further 150 portraits of famous people - including Presidents, First Ladies, and herself as quiltmaker, 50 further landmarks, maps of 4 US territories.

Camille was born in 1882 in Missouri, and moved to Oklahoma after her marriage in 1900.  She became famous for her Oklahoma Historical Quilt that was displayed at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  Here's a bit about that quilt in her own words (from the Oklahoma Historical Society site, link just previous):

"Twenty 100-yard spools of thread were used.  Every stitch of the embroidering is my own work and I spent all my spare time for four years in actual construction. Two years were spent in research work before I began the quilt."

Shortly after her success with Oklahoma history, she embarked on creating the America quilt.  It was documented, but lost, and finally resurfaced in the 1980s.

A description is at Rare Book Hub.  A further description, bio of the quiltmaker, and detail photos are in a Bidsquare listing, where the quilt was recently sold by Cowan Auctions for $19,200.
Oklahoma Historical Society photo

May 14, 2015

Great Design, Great Stitching, Weird Fading

A friend was unexpectedly given this quilt along with some other Freecycle things she was picking up.  And guess who she thought might like to adopt it!

I love the design of this quilt!  The combo of center star, inner borders, log cabin surround, scalloped edge, feathered heart quilting - masterful.  On top of that, the quilt is extremely well-crafted.

The story that came with the quilt is that it's Amish-made.  The craftsmanship certainly bears that out.

It's a keeper, but it's also a lesson in careful quilt care.  There is lots of fading overall, plus one corner of the border is quite mysterious.

All I can guess is that maybe the quilt was left with a fold at that corner for a long time.  So now there is a dark, unfaded triangle.  The opposite bottom corner has a similar unfaded triangle, but much fainter.  The rest of the borders and fabrics are faded with a gradual gradation, so the color change is not as noticeable.

When the quilt is folded so the two sides are closer together, the difference between the two sides gets pretty obvious!  It's kind of like one of those color matching illusions.

It's also interesting to notice that the two blue prints and the red centers all faded a bunch, but the large floral and the blue on white print hardly faded at all.

So I'm thinking:  The quilt was in a guest bedroom that had no guests for quite a while.  There was a window facing the lower left corner of the bed.  And there were those precisely draped corners.

Lesson to learn:  Pay attention to storage and display set-ups before damage happens.

Otherwise, the quilt is in perfect condition.  Not surprising, if my hypothesis of not being used for a long time is correct.

Even with the fading, the quilt is still a stunner!

May 11, 2015

Repairing Broken Lace

This is a lovely Edwardian dress with loads of lovely lace.  The lace was broken in a few places.  Here's how I repaired it.

Break #1
Petals had broken away from the borders, leaving the flower crumpled and fraying.


I decided not to cut any of the dangling thread ends, so as avoid risking more unraveling.  I whipstitched the broken thread ends to the remaining lace.

To re-attach the flower to the borders, I worked with a double thread.  I made three bars between the flower and the border.  The stitches into the lace itself were perpendicular to the bars, to give them more "grab" into the lace, and be less likely to pull through and create more damage.

In progress, 1

Then I wrapped the bars, just passing the needle around and around while adjusting the wraps evenly with my other hand.  This photo shows the first completed bar and the second one in progress.
In progress, 2

Break #2
Here's another place where the lace had broken.  After whipstitching in the broken thread ends, I made 3 new bars, on the right of the net circle.

Break #2, mended, marked with pin

Break #3
The damage on this spot was a bit more complicated.  I whipstitched the two fraying petals.  I recreated the border using the same technique as making the new bars.  And finally, I attached the two petals to the border pieces.


Break #1 on the left, Break #3 on the right, mended, marked with pins

Quite honestly, I was pretty surprised that all this worked as well as it did.  And it didn't take gobs of time either.

I'm not a lace maker though, so if anyone out there has some input into better ways to do this, please comment with what you've done to mend your old laces.

I love this dress!  Bee-yoo-ti-ful!!

Here's a look at the dress while worn Basya Berkman's lovely model.  You can read more about the dress or even purchase it here.

I'm pretty sure the hem is uneven like this because the dress is meant to be worn with a corset and bustle!