Thursday, June 7, 2018

TBT: Basket Quilts

This year, I'm doing a series of Throwback Thursday posts about quilts that I worked on during the 1980's and 90's when I had a tiny quilting career. You can read more about that career in posts here and here. In celebration of spring and summer, when we might gather flowers or produce in baskets, the theme of this post is basket quilts. These quilts are fairly similar to each other, but I want to make sure that all of the quilts I quilted during my tiny career are documented here. There are big variations in size. The tops were all constructed by Becky Schaefer from antique fabrics or blocks. You can read more details about her work in that second link above. I did all of the quilting by hand with off-white cotton thread. As in my last post, I'll show the fronts and backs. The backs show some of the quilting better or show fun samples of antique prints. For documentation, I'm recording the sizes, quilting dates, and amount of thread used (because that determined my pay). While I have since made some of my own quilts from Becky's patterns, I have never attempted basket quilts. I am boggled by the tiny applique and stenciling on some of them--not my crafting cup of tea, but I love how they look. So here they are, with as much information as I have available. 

Look at the tiny handles (applique!) and stenciled flowers. And the narrow inner border. This rust and navy quilt is 10 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches. I used 9 yards of thread to quilt tiny feather circles (my favorite hand-quilting design) as well as outlining in the background of each block. This one was finished in January 1987. 


The backs of these tiny quilts (mini, I guess, in today's terminology) were usually muslin, and the batting was a very light weight polyester as it was easiest to quilt through in those little blocks. 

This navy and rose quilt is 11 inches square. Isn't that navy striking as sashing and inner border? And those double pink fabrics--mmm! Quilting is minimal on this one--4 2/3 yards with partial feather circles and minimal outlining. More tiny applique on this one, with leaves in addition to the handles. This was another January 1987 finish. (Notice the mitten in the second photo.) 



Here are two more quilts similar to the ones above, but with more stenciled flowers. The one on the left is 11 1/2 inches square, finished in April 1989 with 5 yards of thread. The one on the right is 10 3/8 by 14 inches, also finished in April 1989 with 7 1/2 yards of thread. 



Here's another quilt of the same theme, but this time much larger: a whopping 40 inches square! This gave me an opportunity for more detailed quilting in the background. I loved working on the quick minis, but larger quilts were a real treat to work on even though they were fragile. The batting for these was cotton, with antique yardage for the backing, so it was a bit more challenging to get small, even stitches. I used masking tape to mark grid work in the background of this quilt, but I quilted leaves in the setting triangles to mimic the appliqued leaves before filling in the grid around them. I finished this quilt in November 1987 with 53 3/4 yards. 
The right border is a bit cut off. Before digital photography, you couldn't always see exactly what the camera was seeing. You took your chances that everything was in the photo. Sometimes it wasn't.



This brown, rust and yellow quilt is even larger: 45 by 54 inches. From what I recall, the blocks were hand sewn antique blocks instead of newly made from antique fabric. I used masking tape to mark the grid in the background of this quilt with in-the ditch quilting around groups of triangles in the baskets and wavy parallel lines in the border. I finished this one in July 1987 with 150 yards of quilting thread. 





Here is another quilt made with similar blocks (likely from the same batch). It is 43 by 43 inches. Quilting was mostly concentric squares marked with masking tape and some in-the-ditch work around triangles. I finished this one in October 1989 with 97 2/3 yards of thread. 



There are two more tiny quilts made from entirely pieced blocks. I like the quiet colors of this first quilt. It is 11 inches square. I quilted it in the summer of 1988 with the usual partial feather circles and outlining plus some horizontal detail across the widest parts of the baskets, using 6 2/3 yards of thread.The interesting detail in this one is the double inner border. I'm not sure if that tan fabric in the background and border is old. I had newer fabric with the same design, but perhaps it was a copy of an old motif. This one has a tiny checked fabric on the back instead of the usual muslin.



I have no clear information on this other one of the same design with a simpler setting, so I'm guessing that I finished it between late 1989 and 1991 when my documentation was more haphazard. I'm guessing that it was about 10 1/2 by 14-ish inches. No circles on this one. Instead I used double outlined hearts and a bit of detail in horizontal lines across the baskets. No photo of the back or record of thread used. What I like about this one is the variation in prints in the baskets even though they are all the same shade of red. 


One more basket quilt--a cactus blossom design quite different from the others. Again, no notes with my photo. My receipt records show that I used 62 1/2 yards of thread, so I'm estimating that it's about 36 to 40 inches square. I'm not sure if these are antique blocks or newer ones made from antique fabric. I'm guessing antique blocks by the irregularity of the work. The photo is not real clear, but I think I quilted clam shells in the lightest areas, and parallel lines at different angles in the pink triangles and around the outermost area of the borders. I really like the design of the pieced border. I finished this one in December 1989.



So that is my collection of photos of basket quilts. I have a lot more quilts to share. I think I'll plan some more theme collections for the remainder of the summer TBT posts.

By now you know that those of us who use Blogger are having some communication difficulties. We no longer get email notifications when others comment on our posts. This makes it challenging to reply. There seems to be a work around for this, but until now I have been otherwise occupied (Grandkids here--Yay! Sewing preoccupation--Yay! Tooth restoration and crown prep--Boo!), so I'm not sure how well it works. I plan to try it, though. In the meantime, thank you so much for your comments on my last couple of posts. I appreciate all of them so much but can't see my way clear to respond to them individually. I will try to do better now. However, I have to say that I sincerely hope this is a temporary workaround. And that the Blogger folks don't think that we bloggers have fixed the problem. I am really, really hoping they will restore the email notification to the way it was before. 

I hope June is treating you well. Ours is gorgeous at the moment! I just bought a pop-up screen house so I hope to do some hand quilting outside in a mosquito-free zone very soon. Maybe you will get some time to sew outside, too. The lighting just can't be beat--especially for hand work.

I'm linking up with mmm! quilts for Throwback Thursday. Thanks to Sandra for giving us this opportunity to share our pre-blogging oldies.



Saturday, May 26, 2018

Pink!

It's been Pink Month around here. Well, actually just Pink-the-last-few-Days. It took me a long time to get around to the RSC (Rainbow Scrap Challenge) color this month. But I finally did it. And it only took a couple afternoons to get my string blocks done. So I'm still on track. Looking ahead to the rest of the colors? It's going to take some discipline to keep making these. Summer is heating up in a lot of ways, but I'm determined to keep up.

At first I thought I might not have enough pink to sew these. Well, not enough pink that I liked. If you look at my drawer, there are a lot--I mean a LOT--of 80's pinks. You know. It seems like every color of the rainbow had gray tones during those years. 

I did a lot of dithering. How far to go in each direction of the color--how corally is a pink before it tips into orange? Or how mauve before purple? Or how dark before maroon? I think this was the first block I made, and I HATED it. 
But then I made more and started feeling better about the whole scrap thing.


I put the little extra color strips in in the order of the RSC colors for the year (so far anyway).

My favorite pinks were the bright clear ones. I resisted the urge to use them all in one block.




But in the end, I had to include some of my favorites in the middle and in the triangles.

And by then, I was perfectly comfortable with even the grayed pinks. I guess that's what scrap piecing is all about. 

Here are the newest blocks with their friends from other months.
I almost forgot to take pictures, but the light yesterday evening was just right on the deck. I didn't think to stage them with my plants, so I went out and took some separate photos because, you know, PINK!



We planted our flowers a whole week earlier than planned because the weather was perfect for it--cloudy and cool. (I am not a hot weather person.) We went and bought the plants and then couldn't resist getting them in the ground and the pots. With our gardening finished for the moment, we took a ride on Wednesday out to the west side of the state with my dad, brother and sister-in-law. We visited three lakes, including Lake Michigan. Because we went from winter to summer in a week's time this year, Lake Michigan water temperature was still in the 40's, but the day was heating up to nearly 80 inland. When the warm air hit the lake, the air temperature dropped to the low 50's and we had a lovely day of sun and fog. Because of the fog, we never really saw Lake Michigan even though we were right by it, and when we went to the smaller lakes nearby, the fog moved around like smoke. Truly beautiful. And in the sun, the temperature was perfect.
It's hard to capture the beauty of fog, but I tried.

Now we are up to the holiday weekend here in the states (Memorial Day), and summer has definitely arrived. Temperatures will get to the 90's. We plan to do some early morning bike riding and then hunker down in the air conditioning. I'm glad we got those flowers planted early. I think I'll enjoy the indoor weather and start my next project. Here are the snippets I cut from the corners of my fabrics before throwing them in the washer and dryer to prep. I have some big deal quilts to make!!
I'm linking up with Angela at SoScrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday and with Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh Scrap! on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend, whether you have a holiday or not!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sir Bear Quilt

A few months ago I won some sweet fabric through Bernie's giveaway of Art Gallery Fabric on her Needle and Foot website. The line is Capsules Nest, a smooth poplin print in mostly black on white. The bundle included three panels about 35 by 43 inches as well as several fat quarters. I set it aside, knowing that eventually an opportunity would present itself to make a quilt for a wee youngster. 

That opportunity came in the annual Hands2Help Challenge hosted by Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict. One of the donation options this year is Little Lambs Foundation, an organization that provides quilts to children transitioning in a variety of situations to foster care, shelters or hospitals. 

I knew that the designs on this fabric would be perfect for a huggie quilt to give comfort in a stressful time. I chose the Sir Bear panel to start with. I should have taken photos before cutting, but I was so eager to get started that I completely forgot. Here's the link to the fabric as it was showcased on Bernie's website along with other fabrics that were provided by Art Gallery Fabrics. (An awesome array!) My first thought was to take the panel with Sir Bear in the center of it and quilt it in colorful thread. But almost the entire panel was white with just the bear and two strips of print along the edges. While this would be really sweet in a nursery, it did not seem practical for a quilt that might be traveling around. So I went to my Kona stash and found several teal scraps to fill in the white space. 

Here's what I made:

I cut Sir Bear out and surrounded him with cuts from one of the coordinating fat quarters, then added teal strips to each side (each about 5 inches wide, cut) and then to the top and bottom. I cut the printed strips from the sides of the panel and attached them to the top and bottom. I also cut the side strips from a similar panel with some cute sheep in the center. (Sorry, sheep. You'll find your way into another quilt, sometime, I'm sure.) I put those strips along the sides. There is still a fair amount of white in the quilt, but the print on it will hide signs of wear love better than solid white, I think. 

Since I had used up most of my teal scraps, I made a trip to the store for the quilt back. I was hoping to find a little print, but nothing seemed quite right, so I bought more teal. After I got home, I decided to add in just a bit of black and white to pep up the back. I had just enough of the fat quarter from the front to make a narrow strip to insert between the two shades of fabric I bought. 

This quilt went together so fast!! We had a rainy weekend, which was perfect for sewing. I didn't overthink the plan--just laid out my fabrics and cut the strips to sizes that fit the easiest. Making the back was really easy because the quilt top fit easily on a width of fabric. (Apparently the operative word here is EASY.)

For quilting, I knew I wanted to do wavy walking foot lines. I was going to stipple around Sir Bear, but decided at the last minute to outline him and then quilt around parts of his clothing. I was too lazy to change to my FMQ foot, so, I just worked freestyle with my walking foot. Then I filled in the background with wavy lines extending across the quilt. 

For the binding, I used the leftovers of the two solids from the back, reversing the colors, so that the lighter binding was against the darker part of the back and vice versa. I'm sure no kiddie will care how it was done, but it was a way to amuse myself while finishing the quilt. I was going to machine sew the whole thing, but my walking foot got tired and didn't want to sew the binding down, so yesterday evening, I competed with sunset and whipped that binding down by hand in time to get some photos outside before it got too dark. I think it will be sturdy enough to stand up to washings, I used short lengths of double thread so it should be pretty secure.

How about some tree shots?


And a close up of Sir Bear, himself--
Even closer--
And the signature--
 Now, some stats:
Pattern: Improv piecing. 
Fabrics: Capsules Nest from Art Gallery Fabrics: Sir Bear Panel, Finger Paint fat quarter and part of One Two Sheep Panel. Kona Solids in Jade, Capri and Azure for front and Jade and Pool for back and binding.
Batting: Leftover piece of Warm and White 
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut in Mint Julep in the top (yes, I'm STILL using that cone and there is still a little left) and Aurifil 40 wt Mako in Light Jade in the bobbin; Mint Julep for hand sewing on binding. 
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half;. 
Size: Quilt: 34 5/8 by 41 1/4 inches pieced and quilted. I haven't washed it yet, but it will likely be a little smaller.  
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for walking foot quilting.  

I hope a little child--maybe a baby or toddler will find comfort with the cute little bear and cheerful colors. I think it's just the right size for a huggie quilt that will fit in a backpack. I still have other parts of the fabric bundle left, so I think a similar kind of quilt with what's left of the sheep panel is somewhere in the future. Thanks to Bernie and AFG for helping me pay this forward. 

Here are three quick things I learned with this quilt:
--You can almost free motion quilt with a walking foot.
--Rainy weekends are great for making little quilts--especially ones that fit on width-of-fabric backs.
--I can hand sew a binding really quickly when I'm in a race with the sun.
--I really will make a panel quilt someday. I think. 

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and with crazymomquilts for Finish It Up Friday. Later this month I'll also link up with the big finale linky party at Confessions of a Fabric Addict where we can all share our Hands2Help quilts.

Have a beautiful week, quilting, hugging, or whatever else you enjoy.

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products or services, I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Friday, May 11, 2018

L's Sewing Lesson

We spent last week at my daughter and son-in-law's home doing daycare for the Grands (mostly our grandson--our granddaughter was in school most of the day) while their usual provider was on vacation. So much fun!! Also, sew much fun!! I had recently made a quilt for my daughter and son-in-law to top their bed quilt (you can see it here), and there was a lot of fabric left over. So I decided that the week was a perfect opportunity to do some sewing with my granddaughter. I wanted a project that was low stress (after all, we'd be sewing after a busy school day) but still useful. I bought a small pillow form (12 by 16 inches) and packed up the Featherweight, a few sewing notions, and small pieces of batting and foundation fabric for our week. During our grandson's naptime on the first daycare day, I cut some strips and squares from some of the leftover quilt fabric.

Here's what we she made: 

I didn't take pictures of the steps--too busy with the project itself, but I'll tell you what we did.  When it was time to start sewing, I layered a piece of batting and a piece of white fabric a little larger than the pillow form and put the gray sloth print on top, smoothing them out (no pins). Then L chose strips one at a time to sew on stitch-and-flip and quilt-as-you-go style. Other than a quick tip about color contrasts and alternating prints with solid looking fabrics, the order of fabrics was up to L. While I pressed the power pedal (to control the speed of the machine), L guided the fabrics under the needle. We used a walking foot to help her feed the fabric smoothly and to put a little more machine between the needle and her fingers. 

We divided up that part of the pillow into two evening sessions. Seams were not always straight, but we agreed that doing our best and having fun was better than perfect. 

QAYG was fun for L, but I also wanted her to have an introduction to sewing patches together. So for the back, she made two nine-patches. During the third session, she laid squares out in the arrangement she wanted for the nine-patches. She had had gymnastics class that evening, so we opted to limit sewing that day. I told her that some of the side patches would end up smaller in the back, so she chose her favorite fabrics for the middle columns that would show the most. During the fourth session, we continued to use the walking foot to sew the blocks together, and L was really impressed by how quickly she was able to sew the seams with chaining. We did use pins to hold fabric in place while sewing double hems in the nine-patches for the envelope closure. L got a kick out of taking them out as she sewed. During the last session I layered the parts of the pillow case and sewed with a long stitch length to join them. After checking that the case was the right size (we didn't worry about perfection with the corners), L went over my stitching with a shorter stitch. 

Here she is with her completed pillow and a smiley face to protect her privacy. She was so proud of herself!

And the back:

Here's how the pillow looks with the bed quilt and Mom and Dad's new throw quilt:




And with the other decorative pillows on the bed. 
This project worked out so well. It was fun to be able to spend some special time with my granddaughter after doing daycare with her brother during the day. Here's what I learned:

--Doing the project in little bits (probably no more than twenty minutes at a time) was just right for a little girl who had been in kindergarten all day and had bits of homework or other activities in the evening. 
--I'm glad I cut the strips and squares before we started the project. L is deliberative, and making too many decisions about fabrics before sewing would have really bogged her down. She did have fun picking out each strip as we sewed and arranging the nine-patches. 
--Using a walking foot worked really well to hold fabric together and keep patches aligned and feeding smoothly without having to use pins.
--Doing more than one kind of sewing technique (QAYG and chain piecing) held L's interest without overwhelming her.
--L learned a beginning lesson about sewing/quilting to give. She was fine with putting the pillow on her parent's bed (although I think she really hopes they will let her borrow it sometime).

I do have to say, L was unimpressed with pillows as decor. She couldn't understand why Mom didn't sleep on the new pillow. Mom said that Dad definitely agrees with her that pillows for decor are pointless. Ha! I'm sure many of us have heard that opinion. 

It remains to be seen whether L will become a sewist or quilter. Doesn't matter. Just doing this project together was enough. And sew much fun. I left the leftover scraps with her. We'll see if they do their magic. I know she will at least use them in her art work. A maker she is!

What kinds of sewing have you done with Grands or other special kids? Do you have any tips to share or other project ideas?


Have a great weekend, no matter who you are sewing with!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

TBT: Quilts from my Tiny Career

Yeah, I know it's not Thursday anymore, but I've been away doing the best kind of daycare ever!! I wrote this post during naptimes, intending to publish on Thursday, but I had forgotten my log book with details about this month's quilts and couldn't finish it until now. Sandra has kindly extended her timeline for Throwback Thursday on mmm! quilts so I could get it completed. A thousand thank yous to her. I love writing TBT quilt posts and reading about quilts others have in their pre-blogging archives.

A couple of months ago, I shared an audition quilt I made for an interview for a little quilting job I had in the 1980's and early 90's. This week, I'll share some the quilts I worked on during 1985. These quilts were made by Becky Schaefer, who was known in the quilting world at that time for her work on miniature quilts. In fact, when she interviewed me to quilt for her, she was working on a book called Working in Miniature: A Machine Piecing Approach to Minature Quilts. It was published in 1987. I think it might still be available online as a digital book. I have lost contact with her since I stopped quilting for her in 1992, but I think she has since worked in other fiber arts, most recently knitting from recycled/redyed yarns. At the time I quilted for her, she made quilts from antique blocks or reworked blocks as well as bits of antique fabric, all sewn on a Singer Featherweight. Every few months, she would send me a batch of her latest creations (first from California and later from Kentucky), basted and ready to hand quilt. Sometimes she would include quilt pattern stencils or instructions for how she wanted items quilted. Other times she left the design up to me, which was unnerving at first. She also sent me a chalk marking tool that, after all these years, still makes a wonderful line. Amazing!! Some of the quilts were throw size or (much) smaller and many were miniatures like the ones featured in her book. We worked out a payment system that went by the yard of quilting thread used, with bonus pay for marking or making minor repairs. (Sometimes seams popped or little tears appeared in fragile fabrics, and Becky taught me how to repair the tears with super thin fusible material inserted in the damaged area.) 

The quilts from 1985 are a good sampling of the kind of quilts I worked on. I hope you enjoy seeing these little creations. The larger quilts usually had cotton batting and pieces of antique fabric for the backs. The miniatures had light weight polyester batting and usually muslin backs. I used off-white hand quilting thread. I don't know a whole lot about historic fabrics, but a lot of these are from the 1800's, and I think it's fascinating to look at the prints (lots of shirtings) colors (browns, double pinks. turkey reds) and block designs. And just wait until you see the tiny blocks in the miniatures! These are all from scanned pre-digital photos. They came out better than I thought they might. I'll include fronts and backs for documentation purposes, and in some cases, to better show the quilting.

This first one is a variation on Capital T which I referred to as Inverted T in my notes. I think Becky reworked the T blocks (flipping the large half-square triangles, for a more pleasing design. Lots of shirtings. I quilted it with concentric squares, diagonal lines, and straight lines in the borders. I completed it in June 1985. It's 30 by 38 inches. (And for anyone who cares, it took 153 1/2 yards of thread to quilt. I needed to keep track of this detail, as that is how payment for quilting was determined.)



This Pine Tree quilt is a good example of Becky's miniatures. It's only about 11 by 15 inches, with 2 1/2 inch Pine Tree blocks. I loved doing those tiny feathered circles. Miniature quilts usually did not have quilting in the borders. (The quilt was rectangular--just laid out a little wonky here.) I quilted it in June 1985. (5 1/2 yards of thread.)


This cute little Variable Star is 20 inches square. I love these browns and double pink prints from the 1800's. The quilting outlines the star, and there is a ropy cable design in the border. Look at the detail in those tiny cornerstones. One has a slightly different design than the others. I love that creative use out of necessity. I quilted this one in August 1985. (37 1/2 yards.)


The quilting doesn't show much on this back, but what a sweet print.
I love the vibrancy of this one. It's 40 inches square. I did concentric stars in the middle, ditch work on the diamond shapes and grid work in the backgrounds. That is a striped fabric in the border with a vine design in the quilting. My notes indicate that the beautiful applique work was completed by a group of Hmong women in my community. Tiny, tiny stitches. These larger quilts were a real treat because they were unique among the dozens of miniatures I quilted. I'll share other widely varying larger quilts in future posts. I completed the quilting on this one in September 1985. (132 1/2 yards.)



This sampler blew me away. The blocks are 3 inches square. Becky's book has lots of tips and techniques for making these kinds of blocks.  Aren't they incredible? The whole quilt is 14 inches square. I did in-the-ditch quilting to stabilize each block and then tiny grid work in the background. I completed this project in November 1985 but have documentation of quilting three others like it in July 1987. I used approximately 14 yards of thread for each quilt.




Isn't this Rose of Sharon with the sawtooth border sweet? The applique work is exquisite. More grid work on this one. It's 10 by 11 inches. I quilted it in November 1985. (7 1/2 yards of thread.)



Another Variable Star. This one is 10 by 12 inches. I love how some of these very old fabrics look modern (except maybe for the color.) Becky talks about scale of print when working with miniature blocks. It's important to use small prints for such tiny pieces. But even tiny motifs are eye catching when isolated and highlighted in a block. This is another example of outlining the block in the background. Hand quilting through seamlines on these bitty blocks would be difficult, and hard on the seams, which have only 1/8 inch seam allowance (the width of a Singer Featherweight foot). I quilted this one in November 1985. (5 2/3 yards of thread--every snippet of thread counts when you are paid by the yard.)


I also quilted at least 11 of these samplers over the years. They varied slightly in border colors and overall size. Again, outline quilting because of all the seams. I never tire of studying the variety of prints and the fussy cutting. This whole quilt is 11 by 12 inches. (Some were 10 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches.) I finished this one in November 1985. (7 to 8 yards of thread for each of these.)




School houses. Isn't that fussy cut sashing neat? I quilted a number of these in various colors over the years. (I'll show a whole school house collection in a future post.) I did parallel diagonal lines in the backgrounds of the blocks. The quilts were about 8 1/2 by 11 inches. I completed the quilting on these two in November 1985. (3 2/3 yards of thread for each.)



I have lots more quilts that I'll share over the next few months. Quilting for Becky led to other quilting commissions for people she knew. Eventually, I started making and selling my own creations close to home  and did commission work with vintage fabric (much of it from the 1930's) for a woman I met at a craft fair at a local mall. So there are definitely more TBT posts in my future. 

Thanks again to Sandra for keeping the TBT link open on mmm! quilts extra long so I could squeeze this post in before it closed. I've been sewing a lot this past week--with my granddaughter!!! We both had a blast. I'll share what we made in the next post. 

If you have some pre-blogging archives, please share next month. (First Thursdays on Sandra's blog.) Okay, going to link up now. Better late than never. 

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products or services, I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)