November 23, 2015

Eye-Popping Pickle Dish Quilt

A customer sent me photos of this lovely, lovely Pickle Dish quilt, curious about how to deal with the differential fading of the navy fabric.

My recommendation to her is to appreciate that this is a really spectacular quilt, and love it as is.  There's not much point in patching over the faded fabrics.  New fabrics won't match any better, and will probably actually look worse, since the original fabrics were dyed with a totally different dye chemistry and have aged for well over 100 years.  Besides, patching would cover up the absolutely gorgeous original stitchery.

I have heard a fun way of saying this, which is - Don't we still love our Grannies even though they have wrinkles and age spots?  It's the same kind of thing!

This quilter knew her stuff, for sure.  Pickle Dish is not a common pattern.  It is something best tackled by a very experienced quilter.  Every piece fits perfectly.  All those tiny triangles have their sharp little tips, none cut-off by seams that didn't quite fit.

And the quilting!  Dense and oh-so tiny!

And here, in the white areas, a wonderful circles filler pattern.  It adds so much to the quilt, with its pieced interlocking circles.

Looking at the back of the quilt highlights just how spectacular the quilting is.

Looking at the quilt from this angle gives it a great optical effect.

This is a family quilt, made in Tennessee.  The maker's name was Ollie Mae.  Ollie Mae lived in Rockwood, TN between 1890 and the 1960s.  She was the owner's great-grandmother's companion.  She likely was a member of her great-grandfather's church where he was the preacher.  Congratulations, Ollie Mae, on your mistresspiece quilt!

A big thank you to the current owner for letting me share her stunning quilt and for taking more photos for this post.

November 19, 2015

Renaissance Gown

I made a Renaissance-style gown for myself.  I belong to a little group that plays for English country dancers (as seen at any ball you've seen in movies of Jane Austen novels).  When we play for the Christmas Madrigal feast at one of our member's churches, we go in costume.

When I make costumes, I always start with the internet.  I found some great illustrations for style inspiration.

Then I went resale shopping.  I decided to combine a maroon velvet jumper, a nicely patterned navy tablecloth, and a woven blue decorator fabric scrap for trim.  I much prefer having a base piece of clothing or two to start with than working totally from scratch.

I altered the neckline of the jumper.

I used a vintage, big-shoulder sleeve pattern as a starting point, altered it a bit, and added poufs at the shoulder (with gathered netting inside to help hold the shape).

I made an insert at the neckline.

And I added a gathered panel to lengthen the hem.

The effect I was going for is a navy underdress, but there wasn't enough fabric in the tablecloth to actually make a whole dress!

I also covered some large cording to make a circlet.  Someday, I may finish that by adding a fabric head covering and fall in the back, across the shoulders.

And here I am!  Finished, quite appropriately, on Halloween!

November 12, 2015

Sunburst Quilt


I love this quilt! 

The blocks are c. 1860.  And some of the fabrics were in pretty bad shape.

Then some 120 years later, in 1980, the circles were set into squares and the quilt was backed and quilted.  That event is recorded in embroidery on the back of the quilt:
“Quilted: 1980  Carversville Pa”

Here are before and after views of one of the blocks.

And a mood photo, just because:

Now, enjoy all of these wonderful sunbursts!

November 6, 2015

A Quilt from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

For the past few years, I've been creating a quilt series called Something From Nothing.  These are generally just-for-fun, design experiments.  In addition, I've been making a more major piece, like this one, each year as my entry for the Fine Art of Fiber show.  (More info on Something From Nothing: intro to the series and quilts of 2015.  Previous fiber show entries: Cleopatra's Fan 2014 and What the Birds See 2013.)

The title of the quilt is Gas Giant.  No, this is not Saturn.  This is a planet in a solar system or galaxy that we haven't seen yet.  Gas Giant is probably the largest piece so far in the series (78" x 44").  Being about outer space, it needs to be pretty vast, right?

The quilt was inspired by the little bits of broken and orphaned metal that I've collected over the years.  I started collecting these things when my daughter was younger.  She used some to decorate her Sculpy clay creations.  I realized that they would fit quite nicely into the something-from-nothing theme.  I asked her for some ideas of how to use them, and this was the clear winner for me.

The planet is made with fabrics from my decorator fabrics bin.  I selected ones that had the feel of swirling clouds.  This photo shows the cloud bands appliquéd to a muslin base, before being cut into a circle.

The back is a piece of glossy fabric of unknown fiber that I picked up at some fabric scrounging event.  Here's the quilt part way through the basting process.  I also marked the outline of the ring with basting.

I sorted the metal bits by size, so they'd give a sense of perspective of the ring going around the planet.  After I experimented with laying them all out, I realized I needed a way to keep track of what I'd done.  This time, it was my husband to the rescue.  He suggested that I partition the rings with more basting, photograph each partition, and bag all those pieces together.  It worked great!

Once the rings were completed, I moved on to the stars.

The stars are mostly beads left over from other projects.  Some are also bits of ball chain that I cut into two- or three-ball lengths.

Gas Giant is not quilted.  I backed it with a heavy decorator fabric, hoping to give it enough heft to not sag with the weight of the metal bits.  The stitches holding the planet on go through both layers, as do the stitches that attach the rings, stars, and moons.  The plan worked, and the quilt hangs pretty well.

Here we go - to a galaxy far, far away........

November 4, 2015

Mending a Large Rip in a 19th Century Tulip Quilt

Sometimes, a quilt with a very sad story comes to me to be repaired.  The sad story here is that this gorgeous c. 1860 tulip quilt was torn during a move.

It had been mounted on the wall with a velcro strip.  It looks like the movers just pulled straight down, and the quilt gave way just under the velcro.  Also, the area marked with a safety pin in the photo suffered many small tears.

My first step was to remove the velcro.  For one reason, it was in the way of patching the tear.  Also, the owner agreed that while I was at it, it would be a good idea to remove and re-mount the whole piece of velcro.  It had been machine sewn, and I wanted to re-attach it by hand with a muslin strip between the velcro and the quilt, as I usually do it. 

I sewed a large-ish herringbone stitches on both front and back to hold the edges of the tear in place while I did the actual repairs.

The first step was to patch the back.  The patch is longer than the main tear, because there were lots of tiny tears and weak spots on both sides of the quilt. 

The next step was to patch the white area on the front with all the little tears.  This proved problematical for a several reasons.  Firstly, matching old whites is always tricky.  (See a previous post on this topic.)  I auditioned several, and as is usual with whites, the best choice ended up being the least worst.

Next problem was that this is a fairly sheer cotton, so the little rips showed through as little grey shadows.  Putting on a double-layer patch would have made the patch way too white.  So I basted tiny bits of fabric into the rips.  

Next problem, as is usual with patching into a background, is that there are no built-in edges at which to camouflage the edges of the patch.  Sometimes, I like to insert a fabric into the hole and reverse applique, but these holes were too small and the quilting too dense (normally such a wonderful thing).  Next best is to end the patch along quilting lines.  I could do that mostly, but decided on one straight edge rather than extending the patch pretty far along the quilting.  

Here's the final look.

The next job was mending the yellow border on the front.  This was also problematical, the yellow having faded, not to a pure pale butter yellow, but to a pale greenish yellow.  I found a wonderful, but way too bright, greenish yellow.  I hung a piece of it in the living room window for a couple of weeks, but it only faded a tiny bit, so I left it there and kept thinking.  

I decided to try bleach the patch fabric to a softer color, which really is always a last resort for me.  It's so unpredictable, and requires absolutely thorough washing after bleaching, and I still don't feel comfortable.  Sadly, even a super quick dip in bleach-water solution took the greenish tint right out, leaving the yellow I was trying to avoid.  A longer bleach produced a brownish yellow, but at least not too bright.

I then tried a modern version of acid green.  Even though it started out closer in color to the green border, the bleach took it kind of closer to the yellow color.

But none of my swatches looked alright in both daylight and artificial light.  Usually, I try to find a happy medium, but these colors were obstinate.  What was passable-maybe in one lighting was horrendous in the other.  The next photos show, from left to right, the yellow fabric and two levels of bleaching, and then the green fabric and two levels of bleaching.  The top photo is in artificial light.  The bottom ones are daylight on different days.  I really wanted to make this poor, wounded quilt look as good as possible.  Frustrating!

So I fretted.

And then one day, woke up with a lightbulb over my head.  All it took was a tiny step outside the box.

This quilt is square, and the design has no "up".  I realized that I could hang it from one of the other edges, taking away the need for such a sturdy patch.  With the torn edge on the bottom, I could "just" insert a base, stitch across the tears, and have a nice, not-so-obvious mend!  

It was definitely a "Well, Duh" moment.

I removed a tiny bit of the quilting (and secured the loose thread ends) so I could insert a bit of stronger, new fabric inside the tear.  I re-quilted and sewed couching stitches across the area.  Simple, sweet, and done!

Then I sewed the velcro onto the opposite edge.  I machine stitch velcro down the center of a muslin strip, then hand stitch through the muslin with a large zig-zag though all layers.  On the front there are horizontal 1/4" stitches.

With matching threads, the stitches on the front barely show.  It's a much stronger mounting that stitching just into the back fabric.  

Needless to say, this quilt is a real treasure, combining age (mid-19th century), family history, lovely design, and superior needlework.

Several of the pieces give evidence of the two-step green dyeing process of the era. Possibly from uneven dyeing, some places are just blue, and one is just yellow.

The binding has faint remnants of a print, especially on the reverse, which got a bit less light exposure and fading.

What an absolute treat it's been to have this beauty in my studio for a while!