Thursday, December 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday Quilt Edition: Holiday Craft Show Quilts

Early in my quilting life, I made a collection of individual blocks with a border from a 1982 (I think) block-of-the-month quilt calendar. It was a primitive looking calendar with black printing on large-format colored paper sort of like construction paper, bound with a cord (yarn?). Each month had a drawing of a quilt block, and on the back of the page was a pattern for the block. I don't remember most of the quilt block names. The one that does come to mind was "Toad in the Puddle" to represent April. Each month I shopped for bits of fabric, taking care to represent the month as well as I could. For example, I remember that one of the fabrics I choose for January was a bluish gray with small whitish dots that suggested falling snow, and the block for November had a quiet cream/light brown print with tiny oak leaves. As I recall, the patterns also included suggestions and drawings for quilting designs, so I carefully constructed each block, and by the end of the year I had a collection of little quilts that became my kitchen "calendar" for the next several years, displayed with a simple paper calendar underneath. 

After I tired of the quilty calendar, those blocks lived in a box under my bed for many years. I finally donated 11 of them to a thrift store a couple of years ago. I never thought to take pictures of them, so I have nothing to show for them--except for the December block. I still use it as a table mat under a little Christmas tree in my family room. 

In 1986, my next door neighbor, who was a crafter, and I decided to try selling our wares at holiday craft shows. I made some wall hangings from blocks sort of like the ones I had made for the calendar. They were small and quick to make, so I could build up an inventory without too much work.  I'd like to say this little venture was a rousing success. I did get to know my neighbor well as we sat smiling at prospective customers and engaging them in conversation--or at least trying to make eye contact with them as they passed our table. But trying to sell our little items was excruciating, and our business did not last long. I did sell some of my hangings, but not enough to make it worth sitting at a booth for whole days. My family and friends became recipients of the rest of my inventory, and I kept a few blocks for myself. 

I'm glad I tried selling at shows, and I have great admiration for quilters and other crafters/artists who can successfully sell that way. But it just wasn't for me. I had some success selling some quilted ornaments at a consignment craft shop, but I didn't enjoy sitting in a booth all day, and I also realized something else. As I became more interested in quilting, I found that I wanted to do more extensive, detailed projects. And I didn't like the shortcuts I tended to make so that I could price items low enough to sell easily and still make some money. I had started quilting for others and making some commission quilts by then, and that was much more satisfying to me at that time of my life. I had lots of creative freedom and knew that everything I started was already sold. Perhaps, if I had had the array of modern tools and techniques that are available now, I'd have been able to do the kind of work I really wanted to do more economically. Times have changed, and I know that there are also other platforms for sales that can really be satisfying businesses. But I'm beyond that now and just happy to make whatever whenever. 

I started regularly documenting my quilts with photography in 1985, so I actually have pictures of some of these quilts. Without further ado, here is my little gallery (pardon the blurriness--most of these are scanned pre-digital photos). I'm showing the backs as well as the fronts as they might show the quilting a little better. Most of the quilts are 16 inches square. Some are an inch or two bigger.

Country colors! It was the 80's, after all

More country!

I still have this one (in a closet).

And one more set:

I still have the log cabin quilt. We put up a storm door over our front door earlier this year, and I just realized that I can now hang quilts with protection from the weather. (I know, I know, the sun will fade them eventually--but I can make more). I don't use really bright red in interior decorating anymore, but my front porch has all those red chairs. So here's how this quilt looks now hanging "outside." I like how it really shows up--even from the curb.

These memory posts get pretty lengthy, but since this is a holiday post, I have to share one more quilt. I finished this Feathered Star quilt for my sister-in-law in 1988. I drafted the pattern myself, and it was a challenge, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and I guess my sister-in-law is, too. She emailed me a couple of days ago to let me know that she has just hung it for the 28th season!! It's 33 inches square and hand quilted. 

I've quilted tops for others that have a Christmas theme, but I've only made one other for myself. I've shown it before on the blog. You can see it here. 

Thanks for sticking with me for my memories of a failed little business venture but an enduring love of quilting. I'm linking up with Jenn from Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday.

Until next time (next year!!)....Happy Holidays! Keep on quilting, and follow your business or not.


  1. Isn't it fun to look back at the quilts we've made? When I started quilting, it was a little past the country-ness of the 80s, but not too far. I keep imagining a number of these quilts done in solids... they'd be all the rage now. Thanks for linking up with Throwback Thursday @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge!

  2. Oh wow these are all such great quilts. I want to make little quilts like that - ones that can be rotated throughout the seasons. I've made several already, but want to keep making many more like you have. I love that you started making those little ones so early.

  3. Amazing how the red/green and red/white combinations are timeless. It's great you had the photos from way back. That's a testament as to the value of documenting your/my quilting journey. Enjoying Throwback Thursday!

  4. Beautiful little quilts. The calendar is a neat idea. I love taking classic blocks and making them bigger. I think it can be great practice for free motion quilting.

  5. Wow, you were 30 years ahead in the mini quilt game! cool.

  6. Reading all of your throwback posts makes it so clear why you are such a skilled quilter. You have made soooo many pieces. I love this story - reading about your attempt at craft shows, what worked and what didn't work. It is such a nice history.

    I am pretty sure our houses looked very similar in the 1980's. Filled with projects, muted country colors, maternity clothes (that weren't very attractive) babies and diapers! :-)

  7. I like the idea of hanging a quilt on your front door. Fun post to read. :)

  8. What a great idea! It looks great hanging on your door! I did a few of those craft shows with friends in the early 90's. No thanks!

  9. Yay for neighbours and trying new stuff. They look wonderful!

  10. How I love this post Janine. To think you GAVE AWAY those calendar quilts?! And (you'll laugh) but when you said 28th season, I thought wait THAT old? 1988...but oh, yes, I guess that's right, my youngest daughter was born that year! Your work is exquisite. I love the tree in the red & black quilt centre, I LOVE the quilt on the door (your porch is aweseome) but oh wow, that feathered star (that you drafted the pattern for, wow at another level) is fabulous. I've wanted to do one for a long time.

  11. Calendar quilts! What a wonderful series Janine! I love each one and it is really fun to see the fabrics from that long ago. My favorite is the feather star that you gave to your SIL.

  12. hi Janine, i really like the star quilt you drafted yourself. I found you through a comment you posted on CMQ's small things binding. You mentioned you need to work on mitered corners and i just wanted to tell you that my corners either fell right into place or i had to work on them a bit. that "bit" was because i cut my binding to short but they were a breeze. Don't let corners keep you from making small things, you will have no trouble!

  13. What a series of great little quilts! I love that you have showed the quilting on the back too. Your story about trying to sell was interesting - sitting in that booth doesn't sound like much fun and like you I'd rather make what I like to make!