Thursday, March 29, 2018

TBT Quilt Edition: Ottoman quilt

Today I was planning to start sharing quilts that I worked on long ago during a little stint as a "professional" hand quilter, but I did not get around to sorting and scanning my old photos. While I was bummed out about that last night mulling over what to do for my TBT post, my eyes fell on a quilt that was literally right in front of me on our family room ottoman. Aha! An undocumented quilt. How about that? 

In the fall of 2012 (There are photos to verify this--I don't remember dates well at all), we took a little trip up north to Indian River, a tiny town with Mom and Pop motels and restaurants, two awesome lakes, a river, and a long bike trail passing through. We stayed at an adorable Mom and Pop motel, complete with a huge hosta garden, hiking trails in the woods behind and free-range chickens. And a few hundred feet down and across the road was a quilt shop!! How perfect can a vacation get? 

I decided right away that my souvenir from the vacation would be some fabric from that little shop. I had a vague idea of making a tiny quilt to cover an ottoman that we always propped our feet on along with computers, books and magazines. The quilt would keep it clean and add a pop of color. Beyond that, I did not have a plan. Unusual for me, as I tend to have a sketch and fairly rigorous measurements and yardage requirements when I buy fabric. (Boring, I know, but that's the way it is.) So, of course, I was overwhelmed when I entered The Quilt House--literally a house made into a quilt shop. The owners greeted me warmly and showed me around. I seem to remember that one of them had originally lived in my part of the state, but I'm not entirely sure about that now. I had no idea what to buy or how much. Panic! The owners made a few suggestions and gave me space to wander and ponder. Then I spied a whole collection of fabric blenders that had all the colors of my family room. (I just researched online and found it--isn't the internet wonderful? Robert Kaufman Fusions tone-on-tone leaf prints. I'm sure you will recognize it.) I grabbed a bunch of colors and had small bits (quarters? fat quarters? I don't know) cut of each. I was a little worried that using the same fabric pattern throughout a whole quilt would be dull, but they read as pretty much solid with texture, and I've never regretted that decision.

I had been intrigued by photos of a quilt I had seen somewhere. I don't know who designed it, so if you know, please tell me so I can give proper credit. What I liked about it was the simplicity and the little inserted strip of color in each piece. I cut little rectangles and inserted a 1-inch strip (to finish at 1/2 inch) of a contrasting color. I'm not sure how big the rectangles were. After multiple washings, they measure about 3 1/2 inches by a little over 2 3/4 inches finished. What I like about using 1-inch inserts, is that they don't alter the original measurements of the block.  

I arranged the blocks in a 12 by 8 layout without too much planning of color placement, and I think I waited to press seams until I had it all laid out so that I could nest the areas where the inserts were for ease of alignment and sewing.

To make the back, I improv pieced using leftovers from the front as well as a butterscotch print that shows up in other quilts in my living and family rooms. (I also used that print for the very wide binding.) It was probably the trimmings from a back of one of those quilts.

This quilt was made before I had the means to machine quilt, so it is hand quilted. And by hand quilted, I mean HAND QUILTED. First, I stitched in the ditch around every piece of fabric. I think that might have been my original quilting plan, and it was more than enough, but it wasn't enough for me, so I quilted a little leaf in the larger parts of the rectangles. That gives a nice texture even though it only shows up well on the darker fabrics. This really didn't take very long to do. The whole quilt is only 34 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches (after multiple washings, of course.)

During the cooler months, the quilt is front side up on the ottoman, but in the summer, I flip it over so the lighter back shows. 

I love this little quilt because it always reminds me of that little vacation. It's the perfect souvenir. We had a fantastic time. We were only there a few days, but we did a lot! We roamed around town, hiked some trails behind our motel, picked up fish dinners at the local fish joint and ate them by one of the lakes, visited lighthouses and the Mackinac Bridge a little farther up the highway, visited an International Dark Sky preserve, and spent some time exploring a state park. But our main reason for going was to ride the North Central trail from Indian River to Cheboygan, about 17 1/2 miles to the north. That part of the trail runs through tiny towns and about 10 miles along Mullet Lake. 

Isn't this cute?? Rail station turned town library--on the trail right by the lake.

Our ride was more adventurous than we bargained for. The trip north was lovely, but while we were having lunch in Cheboygan, a sudden wind storm blew up with winds of 50 miles an hour. We had to fight against the wind on our way back. The trees along the trail helped block it a bit, but it was really hard riding. We didn't realize how bad it was until we were stopped several times by downed trees across the path. 

Photo credits for this and other photos to my husband

We were able to climb and lift our bikes through them but worried about what we would do if we came across one that was too big. 

For much of the north end of the trail, there was just wilderness--no roads to hike around the trail. We made it back okay, but that was the hardest 17 1/2 miles of bicycling I've ever done and for a time I seriously thought I wouldn't make it. I guess the trip was memorable just for that ride alone. I really don't need a quilt to remind me of it, but it is still nice to have a quilt made with fabric bought on that vacation. 

We returned to Indian River a few years ago to ride the south end of the trail. The motel had changed hands but was still a charming little place. 

The quilt store was still there, but I don't think I bought anything. It seems to me that it was closed for a quilt retreat in the next town over on the day I stopped by. Both places are still there, though and just loading these photos makes me itch to go back. I'm sure we'll go back again for more adventures--but preferably not a windstorm.

Thanks for taking a look at my little ottoman quilt and for coming along on my reminiscence of a little riding adventure. What souvenirs have you quilted up? 

Ha ha, I just realized that I'm a week early with this post. Oh, well, that's okay. It was about time I did a post again. I'll link this up on Sandra's Throwback Thursday post on mmm! quilts next week, April 5. (How did I get off by a whole week?  As I said above, I don't remember dates well at all. At least I know it's Thursday today.) I need to put these dates in my calendar. In the meantime, I need to get back to my long term quilting project, which is getting very near completion, so hopefully that will be my next post. 

Have a good weekend, and if you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! Oh, one more thing, please take a few minutes to take a look at Preeti's blog Sew Preeti Quilts here, here and here and read about how she turned grief into service (and joy). There is a way you can help (and a giveaway, although that is not why I'm sharing this). 

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I've been all wrapped up (sometimes quite literally) in another project the last couple of weeks, so I haven't been blogging. I'll try to share some of that next week, but I can share these little RSC18 gems this week.
Hey, they're green! (Like those little daffodil shoots coming up in my garden)

So, Happy Saint Patrick's Day! 

I don't make much of this holiday, and sadly, don't even have anything green to wear today even though it's one of my favorite colors. That's odd. You'd think my wardrobe would be full of green. Nope, this seems to be the year of black (always!) and mostly gray, teal and burgundy. Hmm. 

These are so fun to sew in the evenings while I watch TV. 
Now that I look at the photos, some of those corners are a bit bigger than I'd like. I could easily fix that by sewing one more little strip. We'll see. 
It's a blast to see how they all look together and then to rearrange them with the squares from the other months. 
But wow, does this ever make the year go fast. Not sure how I feel about that. Well, that's it for today. 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). 

Okay, back to the treadle for another quilting session. (That's my version of March Madness, as I'm not all that into the basketball tourneys on TV.) Have a fun weekend, whether you celebrate the wearin' o' the green and basketball or not.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

My Audition Quilt

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I periodically write Throwback Thursday posts to share quilts that I made during my pre-blogging days. It is my goal to eventually have some documentation of every quilt I have made. I've shared most of the pre-blogging quilts that I made for friends and family. I still have a lot of other quilts to document, but I think before I continue, it might be fun to share the story of my short, happy career as a "professional" quilter. 

A long time ago, I was a stay-at-home mom who loved to quilt. Sometimes I made a little money doing daycare to help out friends or neighbors, and sometimes I half-heartedly checked out the Help Wanted ads in the newspaper to see if there was something there that appealed to me. I didn't really know what I was looking for. But when I quilted, I always thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could do this as a job?" Well, one day this ad appeared in our paper nestled among other ads for secretaries, social workers, shop foremen and small engine mechanics:

I think it was my husband who found it. He encouraged me to call the number (I've blurred it out in the photo in case someone still has it.) I remember that I was reluctant to make the call. I wasn't at all sure I was skilled, and I couldn't believe that someone would actually pay me to quilt. But I did make the call and arranged for an interview. As stated above, a sample was required. That sent me into a tizzy. I don't remember exactly what I was working on at that time, but whatever it was, I deemed it Not Good Enough for a job interview. So I decided to make something small that would show my ability with the least amount of work. And I made sure there would be no seams to cross and make my stitches uneven. Here's what I made:

Area inside the red basting stitches is 8 1/2 inches square.

My inspiration for the pattern was the decal design on my Singer Featherweight machine. I sandwiched some thin polyester batting between two pieces of cotton and quilted it with the tiniest stitches possible. I am absolutely sure that I have never quilted such tiny stitches again. 

The West Coast quilt maker came to the Midwest to interview me at her sister's house, and after a short conversation, she offered me the opportunity to quilt for her. For the next 7 years, I  hand quilted crib-sized and miniature quilt tops made by the quilt maker from reconstructed antique blocks and fabric. As time went on, I took a greater role in designing the quilting. I also learned to repair little tears in the fragile fabric using super thin fusible interfacing. And as a bonus, I learned how to make my own miniature quilts. 

That job was my dream job. It also led to quilting for other clients--some by referral from the quilt maker who hired me and others through gains in my own confidence to seek them out. In 1992, by mutual agreement, the job ended. The quilt maker changed directions in her fiber artistry, and I returned to my former career in the schools.

Over the next few months, a little at a time, I'll share the quilts I quilted or made during my tiny quilting career. I'm linking up today with Sandra at mmm! quilts for Throwback Thursday.

Have a wonderful weekend. Keep quilting, and stay open to unexpected quilting opportunities. You never know when and where they'll turn up!