Weblog and Idea Spot for Quilters

07 December 2009

It's December, so mostly I don't get to breathe this month unless I've carefully scheduled it. Between custom woodwork and custom quilting, I'm always swamped pre-holiday. It's a good kind of busy of course. I love it all. But it does keep me from posting here regularly and the older I get the shorter the days seem to get.

Very recently I had an opportunity to work on several really interesting projects for various customers. You might find them interesting as well.

First up - a quilt that was many years in the making. This bad boy (and this time bad means bad!) was a long time in the piecing. Ask my customer about it. You'll be able to feel the stress and tension in the air as she talks about running out of one kind of fabric, not understanding about bias cutting (this was her very first quilt, the poor thing!) and the fight she had with the border (I think the border won). When she brought this quilt over to me she wasn't sure it could even be quilted. And I must admit, it was pretty wavy. When I tossed it down on my living room floor to check for warping, it looked like a spanish dancer's skirt. L. wanted the top quilted though. She'd persevered and gotten the darned thing turned into a top for her son and she really wanted to give it this year for christmas. I smiled and said, "I don't think it will be a problem at all!"

It was on the machine for a week before I steamed, tucked, and pinned it into something approximating flatness, all the while hearing my own words mocking me, "I don't think it will be a problem at all!"


Why don't they ever say that to beginners? The whole time I was trying to flatten this thing out on Terpsichore I was picturing poor L crying her eyes out as she made it.

Here's how it ended up:

Now, to those of you who are accustomed to building and using show quality quilts, you might not be impressed. But to anyone out there who has ever made a top that you were sure wouldn't be useable, look closely. This is a very pretty quilt! Completely useable, nice texture, nothing to laugh and point at at all! I love working on quilts like these. It's a little like hiring the handicapped; awkward at first and gloriously worth it in the long run! Thanks L, for letting me tell your quilt's story. I'm looking forward to working on more of your tops in the future.

Another quilt that I came across recently was this tiny little baby blanket. I've never seen a baby quilt that shouted "delicate baby things" so loudly. The quilt isn't any more delicate than any other of course, it's very well pieced. But the fabric choices and the delightful little pinwheels along two edges of the quilt really emphasize it's size and the character of the quilt. This one is so small that it took me longer to mount it on the machine and take it back off afterwards than it did to quilt it!

By the same piecer as the delicate baby things quilt, this flannel quilt had me worried from the day I accepted the commission. She wanted me to use fake fur for the back. Ok now, I've sewed with furs plenty in the past. From stuffed toys to overcoats to accessories, I've probably done a little of everything. So I know how much work it is to keep the fur out of the works while you work. I was only thinking of Terpsichore's health, I swear! I didn't want to be digging long green bits of nylon out of her innards for months afterwards or even worse, busting something during my busy season. The quilt eventually made it to the front of the line. I thought about laying out butcher paper over the fuzzies, but decided to just get brave and try it as though it was a regular back. There was a little stretching on the fabric, but it wasn't bad, and Terpsichore bit through all those layers like they were chiffon. The only time I had to clean up fur was when I trimmed edges to roll the backing over to the front for binding (the customer's idea and I LIKE it!). Now have a look at how cute this is! I guarantee you that the child for whom it was built will be dragging it around with them for years. It feels more like a plush toy than a blanket. The furry binding is a real zippy accent on an already cute top. I used wooly nylon in the bobbin on this quilt - I like the way it blends with the fur on the back.

And finally this little repair gem. S brought me this quilt after being pointed my way in a series of emails from one quilter to another. Her granny made this quilt a long time ago (don't quote me, but it has to have been somewhere between 1942 and 1950). Sadly, S's dog got hold of it and bit a big hole right through it.

Like most people who don't sew, S didn't realize that one of the beautiful things about quilts is they are entirely MODULAR. That is, if a section is ruined, it can be excised and replaced; lock, stock, and barrel. I spent a few days scouring my stash for just the right fabrics. I tea-dyed the backing to get the right aged look, and very lightly abraded the prints to keep them from being too glossy compared to the rest of the quilt. For several small tears on the back, all I did was apply a patch as though it were an appl
ique. For small seam rips in the front I simply removed existing stitching, fabric fluffies, wee bits of who knows what, pressed, and re-sewed. For those areas on the front that were too bitten to be repaired, I snipped all seams, removed the old patch (or what was left of it) and added a new one.

All the new work has been done by hand, but the original top was machine pieced. It was all hand quilted with baptist fans. Once the repair work was finished (including replacing a bit of batting that has probably made it to the dog's favorite spot in the back yard by now) the repaired areas were requilted by hand in a stitch as closely mimic-ing the original style as possible. For me this has always been the hardest part of any repair. Hand quilting is like handwriting. No two quilters do it exactly the same way. Lucky for me, this one was quilted in a way that is very similar to my own natural style, so I had little trouble with it.

Voila! Granny's quilt. Good as ... well, not new. But all in one piece again and ready for many more years of love.