Sunday, August 31, 2008

Circle Applique For Those Who Don't Like Applique

Sally Bramald at Feather on Wire demonstrates two nifty ways to machine applique circles.

Method 1

Method 2

Ooooo! I really want to try this. I think it would be perfect for using some of those luscious fabrics that seem too beautiful to cut into.

As always, so many potential projects -- and so little time to try them all! At the age of 56, and with my eyes not as good as they used to be, I see mortality staring at me from around the corner.

Must sew faster!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The String Quilt

I'm thinking that the same person who made yesterday's quilt top might also have made this one. It's machine pieced and very carefully and competently made. That curved piecing is smooth and flat. And the borders are mitered. I know I've seen this pattern before. It think it's a Snowball block.

Unlike the previous top which was made of fabric specifically purchased for it, this one is scrappy. But the quilter is using a very controlled palette even though she does have to make some substitutions in order to follow her design. She also had to piece smaller bits together in order to cut out some of those pink triangles. And in some blocks she had to substitute a slightly different pink or even a tiny pink check.

I'd love to quilt this one. So much of the quilter's personality shines through that I'd feel like I was helping a friend if I finished it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Mystery Pattern

This is the second quilt top I bought during my wild day at the quilt store. I have never, ever seen this pattern before. If anyone knows its name, please let me know.

This top is very nicely put together. The blocks were sewn together by machine, but the raw edges of the green bits were appliqued down with a blanket stitch using embroidery floss. (I wonder how that would have held up to washing if the quilt had been completed. ) The background is the color of unbleached muslin, but possibly a bit coarser in texture. I'm thinking of perhaps trying to quilt and bind this top, but I should probably get some advice about that. I'm not sure what kind of quilting design would be appropriate.

This top is so nicely preserved; I wonder how it ended up at the thrift store. There were such a lot of quilts and tops at the store that day that I wonder if some elderly quilter, recently dead, didn't have her collection donated by her ignorant and uncaring offspring. Ah, well! Their loss is my gain.

It's funny how some of the material things we treasure are simply junk to others. When my husband and I were helping my elderly mother-in-law clean out her house, she tried to give me her huge collection of polyester double-knit because she knew that I liked to sew. I've always hated that kind of fabric; it makes my skin crawl, But she thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. She'd amassed a huge collection of the stuff even though she was no longer sewing much at the time those knits were popular. (She was a bit of a hoarder who could never pass up a bargain.)

Anyway, I declined her offer as diplomatically as I could, and asked, since I was primarily a quilter, if she had any cotton fabric in her stash. Since she'd married in 1930, I was hoping she might have some vintage fabric squirreled away in one of her closets. In fact, I'd discovered an old quilt protector among her things. It was made of unbleached muslin and trimmed with a lavender print from the '30s. I showed that print to her when I asked if she had any cottons. She replied that she used to, but that she'd gotten rid of that junk back when the knits came in. Ah, well. None of my children are quilters, so I intend to use as much of my stash as I can before I die.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curved Piecing Madness

I chose yesterday's Dresden Plate because of its excellent workmanship. I chose this quilt top because of the variety of its prints. Most of these fabrics look to be from the '50s, but I see some that may be from the '40s and even a few that look like feedsacks. This top was inexpertly pieced by hand. The stitches are large and in some spots even crooked. There's such a variation in stitch quality that I almost wonder if more than one person worked on it. At any rate, the maker didn't really know how to piece this pattern so that all of the points would meet smoothly. A lot of the intersections are lumpy and even though I haven't tried to iron it yet, I can see that it bulges here and there like a hilly landscape. The edges of the top are scalloped. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with this top. The idea of taking it apart and piecing it properly is a bit daunting.

But I love the fabrics in it, so maybe I'll just keep it to look at. I love the safety pin print in the first photo. The second photo has a print with little grey wolves which is quite charming.

Update: The name of this pattern is Tea Leaf.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Exquisite Dresden Plate

Here's the quilt whose discovery I described in yesterday's post. If you click on it, you'll get a closer view of the quilting. Such tiny stitches, and so evenly spaced!

I'm no expert, but I think the fabrics are mostly from the 1940s. The applique is very nicely done. The quilt lies smooth and flat and has no stains or tears. In fact, it shows almost no signs of use. Perhaps it was a favorite quilt, stored away except on special occasions. I tend to think it was washed at least once because of its slightly crinkled look. But perhaps not -- you can still see penciled outlines under some of the quilting.

Here's a close-up of one of the plates so you can see the sorts of prints the quilter used. And another close-up of the back showing the lovely hand quilting. (As before, click on the photo for a closer look.) This quilt is just large enough to use on my twin bed. But if I put it there, I'm going to have to keep my bedroom door closed. Otherwise Priscilla-the-cat is going to hop up and start kneading little tiny pin pricks into it. Not to mention shedding cat fur shadows on it.
Tomorrow: Curved Piecing Madness!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It Finally Happened!

My mom and her sister love to prowl thrift stores. So do I. When the three of us hit a thrift store together, we split up and keep our eyes open for things on each other's want list. For instance, last Thursday I found some of the Correlle mugs my aunt has been looking for, and my mom has has sometimes spotted pieces of my aunt's cut glass pattern and has snatched them up for her. (You have to act fast in our favorite thrift store. Some of the women who shop there are like sharks. They circle the workers who are bringing out new merchandise from the back, darting forward to snatch hot items from the carts before the employees can even put them on the shelves. Others use more devious techniques, chumming up to the workers in hopes that they'd covertly slip new items to them.)

Most recently, my aunt discovered a handmade quilt and passed it to my mother with instructions to show it to me in case I might be interested. I was in another part of the store working my way through old sheets, curtains, and lengths of fabric. I always hope that someday I'll get lucky and discover some vintage fabric or maybe even an old quilt top. Suddenly, it was my lucky day. I found first one, then another quilt top made from fabrics that were pretty clearly from the the '30s and '40s. They were very homey pieces of work, and I was admiring them both when it occurred to me that I'd better work my way through the rest of the section as quickly as possible because There Might Be More!!!!

And there were! I sped through the racks pulling top after top into my cart. I didn't dare stop to examine them closely lest our thrift store nemesis, a woman whom we suspect of owning an antique store, nip ahead of me to snatch up a yet unseen treasure. At last, when I'd been through the whole section, I paused to catch my breath and examine my loot. My mother finally found me as I was weighing the merits of each top.

"Look what Aunt Gloria found," she said. "Do you think it's handmade?" I gasped and began to hyperventilate.

"Yes, Mom," I said, "This is definitely hand quilted. This is exquisitely hand quilted. Look at the technique! Look at these incredible prints! Where did you find this?"

"With the bedspreads. There were more, but this was the best one. Of course, this is too expensive to buy, but I thought you'd like to see it."

I put the quilt firmly into my cart and said, "Show me the rest!"

It seemed to take forever as I followed her to the other side of the store. Yes, there were more quilts. Yes, this was the best one. But I wish I could have taken them all home. Most of them were damaged in some way -- split seams or particular fabric patches that had disintegrated over the years --and were overpriced for their condition. But what wonderful fabric prints they had! Alas, for the beautiful Double Wedding Ring that had been used (and loved) to death! With judicious folding, it and its companions might still have had a second career as decorative objects in a quilt lover's home. But the thrift store doesn't accept credit cards. (In fact, I strongly suspect that they require even God to pay cash.) I hadn't brought much money with me, but my mom loaned me the contents of her wallet (selflessly returning her intended purchases to the shelves) and I withdrew the maximum allowed from the in-store ATM. I thought it would be enough.

But at the register we discovered that I'd forgotten to include sales tax in my mental estimate of the total. My aunt loaned me a fiver while my mom and I dug frantically through our purses for loose change. But I was still short. Finally, my mom volunteered to withdraw an additional $20.00 from the ATM.


Still shaking with adrenaline, I bore my new treasures to the car. Then I took my mom and aunt out to lunch at the local Thai restaurant -- using my credit card.

(Tomorrow I'll post pictures!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1130 -- Wow!

In a previous post, I wrote about my beloved Bernina 1090 which accidentally crashed to the floor when my leg became entangled in the sewing machine's cord as I jumped up to answer the telephone. Alas! The repair estimate, and the dealer's dark hints about likelihood of the machine's being irreparable, caused me to put my poor 1090 back into the closet.

Recently, my sister, who has been cleaning out her closets and garage, came across her old Bernina 1130. At first she planned to sell it on eBay. But one day -- without warning -- she brought it over to my house and just gave it to me! She said she knew I'd like to have it and that I'd actually get some use out of it. (She used the 1130 quite a bit the first year she had it, but has hardly touched it since.) Well, I was positively flabbergasted! But after thanking her profusely, I rushed the poor neglected baby to the dealership to be serviced. I can hardly wait for the call to come and pick it up.

In the meantime, I've been cleaning the snap-on gadget box and the collection of basic feet that came with it. I think they're all there except for the zipper foot. Unfortunately, my sister has misplaced the manual. She thinks it was accidentally put "in storage." So I should probably try to find a copy on my own since there's no telling when hers will turn up. And the manual for the 1130 does not seem to be one of those which Bernina has posted online.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another Lover of Books & Quilts

Here's another person on the Mystery Quilter's webring who loves both books and quilts. She's also a librarian. How cool is that? I'll be keeping an eye on The Quilting Booklady.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Interlude: String Pieced Stars

After the concentrated effort of making my daughter a dress for the Regency Ball, I felt like relaxing with Something Completely Different. I've had a hankering for string-pieced stars ever since seeing Bonnie Hunter's Out On a String! , so today I pulled out my drawer of strips, strings, and crumbs, and had a go at it.

It had occurred to me that having a diamond shaped template might speed up the process of preparing the foundation papers, so the last time I was at the quilt store I bought Set E of Marti Mitchell's Perfect Patchwork templates. I traced the large diamond onto the scraps of pattern tracing paper left over from making the dress. Using the flip and sew method, I string-pieced the diamonds and then trimmed them down, using the template and a rotary cutter.

I like the fact that her templates have tiny holes to mark where the stitching lines end, but I found that cutting around the diamond template with the rotary cutter was more difficult than I expected. . I had trouble holding it motionless, and I think that if I had done more than the eight diamonds needed for a single block, my fingers would have become cramped and sore. I think it's actually easier on my hands to cut an accurate diamond using my ordinary Omnigrid ruler. But then I wouldn't have those nice little corner holes which will probably make the actual piecing much easier.

I can't imagine how people use the rotary cutter for some of her smaller template pieces such as the tiny diamond for the 6 inch 8-Pointed Star block.

I'll finish this block tomorrow, and then get back to work on the summer dresses for my granddaughters and my Carolina Crossroads quilt. By the way, here are the bits left over after trimming the diamonds. Finally -- scraps small enough to throw away! (Or are there one or two worth saving?)