January 29, 2016

Rescuing a Double 9-Patch

Here's a nice old quilt with two large, dog-chewed holes.  Needless to say, this is never a happy circumstance....

The first step was adding new cotton batting, basting down the raw edges of the holes on both front and back.  After that, I patched the back with a solid blue. 


The next step was finding fabrics to coordinate and re-piece the patchwork.  I was more than a little bit apprehensive about finding something to blend with the sashing fabric.  Once again, a great shop called Reproduction Fabrics came to the rescue.

I thought the background of the print was too bright though, so I did a tea dye to tone it down.  On my first sample swatch, I discovered that this fabric took the tea really quickly.  So I brewed a second, very weak pot of tea, and dipped the fabric for a very short period of time.

Un-dyed fabric on the left.  Too-brown fabric on the right.  Middle fabrics "just right".

Here's my dyeing set-up, with (wet) reference swatches, chopstick for stirring and lifting the fabric, hot tea, and a corner of my Boynton mug that sneaked into the photo to help set the scene.  

And here's the result.  Original fabric on the left, tea-dyed fabric in the center, quilt itself on the right.

Happily, I had fabrics for the 9-patches in my stash.

After appliquéing the patches, I re-tied the patched areas.

My sense of this quilt is that the blocks are a bit older than the sashing and tying.  I would date the fabrics in the blocks 1900-1910s.  The sashing and beard guard are more likely c.1930.

The blocks contain typical fabrics of the era - claret red, white prints on claret or blue, black shirting prints on white, mourning prints, pastel and soft tan woven plaids.



And then there's this one block which gives me pause.  That bright yellow and orangey red are pieced right in there with those claret blues.  It doesn't look like later patching.  Maybe when the top was constructed it was the one block needed to square up the quilt, made with some old scraps plus a couple of newer 1930 colors. They certainly are more like the colors of the beard guard.

Here's the entire quilt with completed repairs.  The patched block and sashing is third from the left, third down.  The patched side border is just out of frame on the bottom right.

I've just recently worked on another quilt that had older blocks finished at a later (but still vintage) date.  This lovely Sunburst quilt has blocks made c. 1860 with set and quilting in 1980.  

January 23, 2016


I found this delightful fabric on the back of a cotton crazy quilt.  The top was probably pieced in the 1950s, but I think this backing was applied a little later.  The color palette says 1970s to me.

It's really silly and happy, isn't it?

The cluster of mushrooms measures 1 1/2" tall.

The quilt was very, very damaged.  The backing and batting were mostly torn and gaping in many places, and lots of the top had barely a single piece of intact fabric.  I did manage to salvage and mend a few corner areas for keepsakes.   And I found enough fabric intact on the back to take a couple of photos for my (and I hope your) enjoyment!

January 18, 2016

1934 Sock Top Quilt

A short while ago, I repaired a late 19th century baby-sized crazy quilt.  The quilt's owner shared her family photos to add to my blog post about her little quilt.  As I keep saying, I meet the nicest people when I work on their quilts!

Well, her kindness didn't stop there.  She oh-so kindly sent me this photo of a quilt she saw on exhibit at the Mingei Museum in San Diego.  It is labeled "Sock Top Quilt", made by Ada Jones in 1934.

"What's a sock top?" you ask.  I certainly had no idea.  Well, sock tops were manufactured separately (and sold by the pound!) and then would be sewn onto the rest of the sock.  Ada's sister-in-law worked at W. B. Davis, a hosiery factory in Fort Payne, Alabama.  She collected these unused cuffs in 1934 when they were no longer being used in the sales room.

Ada hand stitched them together for the top.

Ada created the back with printed cottons that were distributed by a New Deal program to aid farm women.  The program distributed surplus fabric for use in home sewing via the Agricultural Extension Office in Auburn, Alabama.

The batting is made with cotton grown on the family farm.

Later on, in the 1960s, a family member bound the fraying edges with fabric from unused fertilizer sacks, given to her by a fertilizer company in Fyffe, Alabama.

There are two of these quilts.  This one is from the collection of the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History.  The other is at the Smithsonian and the information here comes from their documentation.

I'm particularly in love with this quilt because I've been making a series of quilts for the last several years that I call "Something From Nothing."  The theme of the series is that I cannot buy anything, but must work from the fabrics, batting ends, and doo-dads that I have scrounged or inherited for free.  This quilt combines so many "nothings" into a really fun, and probably very cozy, "something!"

January 11, 2016

A 9-Patch Quilt with Many Stories

Some quilts are repositories of stories, memories, and love.  This is one such quilt.  It was made c. 1950 by the owner's mother.  She can relate the stories of all the fabrics in it.

The quilt is still used by its owner and her husband as a lap quilt on the couch.  The original binding was tattered, there was a hole, and and some of the fabrics were starting to wear.  Her husband found my website, and sent the quilt to me for a fix-up.  A loving gift indeed!

Wherever possible, because these fabrics all are old friends, I slipped a bit of new fabric under the tears and stitched to support the weak vintage fabric.  In a few places, the fabric was so far gone that I did patch and re-quilt.  But I made sure that I never covered up all of any particular fabric!  These photos show a block where I used both approaches.

The brown print upper right and the stripe mid-right are my additions, both vintage fabrics.

This is a close-up of some of the stitching on tears in the purple in the same block.  You can see little bits of the solid purple I inserted.

The most fun for me is that this quilt furthers my new-found love of mid-century conversation prints.

I find this one especially intriguing.  It looks to me like a glass conservatory with a  (very!) over-sized bird on the roof.  Or maybe a bird sitting on its cage?  Or maybe a fancy cake with a bird centerpiece?  So whimsical!  There are flying birds, too.

And finally, here are a few examples of other period prints in the quilt.

Quilts can have many kinds of value.  This is a quilt whose value is the personal meaning and history attached to it.  And using it every winter obviously provides loads of joy and coziness for this great couple. 

January 6, 2016

Denim and Flannel

This quilt was made about 10 years ago, and has a sweet story.  It's been much loved because it was made by a father for his daughter.  I always like to give kudos to a guy who makes quilts!  I love the subtlety of all the shades of denim blue.

The father passed away a couple of years ago.  This daughter's very thoughtful mother and sister had me fix it up as her birthday gift.

In some places, I could just close open seams.  In others, I had to patch on new fabric because the open seams had frayed too much to close.  I also replaced missing ties.

Happily, my very full sewing room contains a basket of denim scraps, the best bits salvaged from worn out jeans.  I keep them to patch the knees of my jeans, but this time they had a much more important job to do!

As if family memories didn't make this quilt cozy enough, it's backed in flannel.  And for me, it's especially nice, since this has always been my favorite tartan plaid.