Monday, December 30, 2013

Copying Antique Quilts

Merry Christmas and Happy Belated Holidays!  Yes, I am slightly late on blogging, so sorry, it's been a stressful month, to say the least.  But now that all of the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away in the attic for another year, I am feeling a much needed sense of calm and peace as the holidays are officially behind us.  My goal over the last few years has been to get Christmas put away before New Year's Day and it is such a feeling of accomplishment to do just that!  I am looking forward to starting out the new year with a fresh outlook, finish several projects and begin lots of new ones.  How about you??
I thought I would share a quilt with you that I made a few years ago that I copied from an antique quilt that I own.  This is a really easy quilt to do, a square in a square block, alternating with a solid block in between.  I foundation pieced my square in a square blocks.  It made my piecing much more accurate, I didn't worry about precise cutting, and was able to focus on color and pattern, which is what I love to do best.
Above and below, here are two similar shots, the one above is the newly made quilt and the one below is the antique quilt.  I bought the antique quilt for very little money many years ago.  It is very tattered and worn and I probably thought of it as a cutter quilt at the time.  But there is something about this quilt that I just love, the softness, the faded colors, the fact it is made up of mostly pinks and blues (another one of my favorites!), and the simplicity of it. 
I used to actually have it hanging on my family room wall but I think it finally served its purpose, as worn as it is.  So I decided to make one exactly like it.  How much fun was that!  I had one rule, I could not go out and buy more fabric.  I only allowed myself to use what I already had out of my fabric closet, knowing that I surely had enough reproductions to simulate the antique quilt. 
When I was deciding on the perfect blue for the alternating blocks and borders, I pulled apart the seams very slightly on the antique quilt.  I was shocked to see how much darker the blue was in the seam allowance!  The fading on this quilt was horrible, as you can see from the pictures.  So based on that discovery, I made the decision to go with a tone on tone blue reproduction print to match the original color as close as possible.
Once I had made my decision on the blue fabric, the rest was easy!  I pinned the antique quilt up on my design wall, and beginning with the first block on the first row, I made one block at a time.  My goal was to match the fabrics as closely as possible to the originals.  But on so many of the blocks, the fabrics had completely deteriorated and the batting was all that was showing.
In these photos, the new quilt is the darker blue one, the antique quilt is the faded blue.
One interesting fact I discovered was that there are virtually no floral fabrics in the antique quilt.
In these photos I have folded the new quilt back on top of the antique one so you can compare the two, block for block.
In the blocks that had deteriorated completely, there remained small bits of frayed remnants and threads of the fabrics that had been there.  So based on that information, I did a little detective work and tried to choose fabrics that I thought would have matched those that were missing.  I also read Barbara Brackman's book on dating fabrics, Clues in the Calico, to get a full understanding on what might have been appropriate for the time period when the quilt was made.
Once I got into the quilt, I also learned that it was probably older than I originally had thought.  When I first bought it, I assumed it was made in the 20s or so.  But after studying and comparing fabrics, most of them seemed to date from around 1890 to 1910.   
My blocks are slightly smaller than the original quilt blocks.  I had to keep the size uniform in order keep everything perfectly square.  The original quilt is also a combination of hand and machine piecing.  It seems that the pieced blocks were done mostly by hand but the quilt assembly was put together by machine. 
Choosing the fabrics from what I had available out of my stash and trying to match things as closely as possible to the original was by far the most fun.  It required a little bit of detective work but also forced me to use fabrics and colors in places that I would not have normally used in a quilt.  I am sure many of the original fabrics in the pieced blocks have also faded and turned from their original colors, but I didn't worry about those, I just wanted the reproduction to have the same "feel" and look as the original.
The original quilt is hand-quilted in straight lines and in a grid in the alternating blocks, my favorite type of quilting.  I copied the quilting design but machine-quilted my quilt entirely with a walking foot.
I learned so much about antique fabrics and quilts just from making this quilt.  I also felt a strong connection to the maker of the original quilt.  It was obvious she made this from old clothing and whatever she may have had on hand at the time.  It really gave me a new appreciation for antique quilts and how they were made with whatever the maker could get her hands on.  And considering they didn't have the tools, the quilt shops, the books, or the selection of fabrics like we have, they still found an outlet for their creativity and made beautiful quilts!  It really makes me think twice about "how much more fabric do I really need??," when I have a closet already stuffed to overflowing!
Hopefully this may inspire one or several of you to take out one of your own antique quilts and really study it, look at it, imagine what the conditions and supplies at hand were like for the maker of that quilt.  And if you really get inspired, try to copy it!  It is such a rewarding experience!
Happy New Year to each and every one of you!  May you have a prosperous and healthy 2014!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Log Cabin

Since most of us are in the Christmas spirit (or at least trying to be!), I'd thought I'd share one of my favorite antique quilts in my collection that I pull out every year to display for the holidays.
 Years ago a friend of mine's mother was an avid estate sale shopper and eventually helped run estate sales.  She was a fabulous source for antique quilts. . .that is, until she started keeping them for herself!  But I did manage to acquire a few very nice ones from her for very little money, this being one of them.
 An acquaintance of my husband's was married to a quilt appraiser.  So for the fun of it I showed this quilt to her just to get her input on when it was made.  She was so excited when I showed it to her because it contains such a wide variety of scraps from over several decades and it is in such perfect condition as well.
 One of the things that she pointed out was several of the fabrics looked more "modern" than the majority of the others and that led her to believe this quilt was made in the 1920s with a very old scrap collection that dated back to the late 1800s or earlier.  I thought this was so appropriate of a typical quilter, even from today!  We tend to hoard every piece of scrap fabric, no matter how old, "just in case" we need it for that perfect spot in a quilt!  I know I have a very difficult time throwing any size away, no matter how small.
Since I don't have a lot of red in my house, this quilt doesn't stay out year round.  But I always thought it would be so beautiful to hang in a room that was decorated in reds.  It has such a wide appeal with its scrappiness and graphic impact not to mention it is such a classic pattern.  Log Cabin quilts have always been such a favorite with everyone for that reason, I think.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Irish Chain

Happy Tuesday and Happy December!  Hard to believe, isn't it, that Thanksgiving is now officially behind us and Christmas is fast approaching?  My goal was to have all my Christmas decorations up by December 1st this year, which meant starting the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I never seem to be ready for the holidays, November always comes up on me so rapidly and I am usually overwhelmed with all the decorating preparations and other day to day things I need to do. 
Generally this is also when I do that dreaded floor to ceiling deep cleaning throughout the house.  I don't know why I put myself through all of the work and stress, I can't say that I really enjoy it while I am doing it.  And the older I get, the more I seem to resent the amount of time that it requires when I would much rather be sewing.  But it has become an annual ritual and a sort of cleansing process and I do take pride in it after the fact when it is all said and done (although I am still the only one that notices!).  But this last week I've been coping with layers of pet fur hiding in places you wouldn't think pet fur would find in the first place!  It never ceases to amaze me that it tends to lay on every horizontal (and vertical!) surface in the house no matter how low or how high!
So while I am still in cleaning mode (and probably will be for the rest of December!), I thought I would share a Christmas quilt that I pulled out the other day.  I made this one a few years ago.  I have several quilts I pull out for the holidays and this one is probably one of my favorites, "Christmas Cheer," an Irish Chain inspired by vintage colors.
I quilt all of my quilts myself on my home sewing machine, a Bernina 440E.  I still have not made the leap over to a longarm machine yet, although it is definitely getting more and more tempting!  But for now, I continue to quilt my own quilts and the majority of my quilting is done with a walking foot.  I have done some free-motion feathers and the like on several quilts but I generally do the bulk of my quilting designs in some form of straight or gently curving lines.  To me it is a classic design element and I tend to like clean, classic design.  If you study antique quilts, and Amish quilts especially, so much of their quilting designs are very clean, lots of straight parallel lines, crosshatching, diagonal lines, channel quilting, cables, and of course beautiful feathers.   The other reason I love straight lines is it compliments scrap quilts well.  Most of my quilts tend to be very busy and I feel the straight quilting lines are a nice compliment without competing with the scrappiness and to me they are more pleasing to the eye.

However, on this Irish chain quilt, I experimented with one of the built in quilting designs that came with the embroidery program to my Bernina.  You can see the design I chose in the white area of the quilt.  I thought it was a great opportunity to play with my machine and actually use one of the embroidery features for a change, which is one of the reasons I bought it in the first place!
On this particular quilt I marked and sewed all of the straight lines first.  Once the straight lines were all sewn and all of the basting pins removed, I was able to hoop the quilt and embroider, or quilt, the design in each white area.  It was a bit tedious hooping and unhooping each area, one at a time, but once I got a system down, it went pretty smoothly.  The hardest part is supporting the bulk of the quilt.  In order to assist in that part, I put my ironing board in front of my sewing machine and lowered it down to the same level as the bed of the sewing machine.  Then I stood in front of the ironing board and machine and held up any excess of the quilt that hung down so the weight didn't pull or drag and hinder the embroidery unit.  I have to say, I was very pleased with the way it turned out.
I quilted the cables with the walking foot as well.  (I always mark all of my lines with a fine blue water soluble pen before I ever baste or layer my quilt together.)  Then I start at one corner and follow each line from top to bottom, one line at a time.  The gentle curve is not an issue if you sew slowly.  I also find that wearing Machingers quilting gloves gives me the traction I need to gently guide the quilt under the needle.

My favorite thread for machine quilting for the top side of the quilt is made by Wonderfil, called Invisafil.  It is very, very fine, a 100 weight thread, and 100% polyester, so it is also strong.  It comes in a wide array of colors but I find that the whites and off-whites blend extremely well with many fabrics and virtually disappear even when sewing over other colors.  It is also wonderful for stitching in the ditch and I have had excellent results with it on all of my quilts.  In the bobbin I usually use DMC machine embroidery thread in the 50 weight or Mettler embroidery thread in the 60 weight.  Both are 100% cotton and also come in a wide array of colors.  I always match the bobbin thread to my backing fabric.

If you have never tried machine quilting with a walking foot, I suggest you give it a try!  It's relatively easy to do, a lot less stressful than free-motion quilting, great for beginners, and with a little bit of prep work, it's a great way to actually get some of those quilt tops quilted that have been piling up. 

I hope you enjoyed my Christmas show and tell!  Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions.  I try to respond to all of the comments.  And now. . .it's back to cleaning!  Ugh. . . .

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Houston Quilt Pics 4

These are the last few photos from the Houston Quilt Festival.  I apologize for the delay in getting these posted, as they say, it's that time of year! 

The first group of photos are from the competition.

From the Art:  People, Portraits and Figures category:
 "All Together" by Hiroko Miyama and Masanobe Miyama of Japan.

From the Art:  Pictorial category:
 "Panic in the Pond" by Anna Faustino of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.
 "Moon Drunk" by Susan Fletcher King of Houston, Texas.
 "Cock of the Walk" by David Taylor of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
 "Chihuly's Gondola" by Melissa Sobotka of Richardson, Texas.
This was the $10,000 award winner for Best of Show.

And for one last exhibit, these quilts are from the exhibit titled "In the American Tradition":
 "Dandelions" by Kathleen McLaughlin of Groton, Connecticut.  Quilted by Debbie Loeser.

  "The Compass Quilt" by Kathleen McLaughlin of Groton, Connecticut.  Quilted by Debbie Loeser.
 "Feathers and Stars Abound" by Zvia Strahilevitz-Klein of Israel.
And finally, my quilts. . .sorry about me being in the photos, it seems we didn't take any without me in them!
 "Last Summer's Leftovers" by Rahna Summerlin
"Fish Scraps" by Rahna Summerlin

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Color My World

The quilt I had in the Houston Quilt Festival finally arrived home this week.  Thought I would take some pics to show it off before it goes out to the next show.  It was inspired by an antique Trip Around the World quilt from the 1930s I had seen on Ebay and I loved it so much, I had to make one for myself.  It took over 330 hours over three months to create from start to finish.  There are 5,657 one-inch squares.  No pattern available at this time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Houston Quilt Pics 3

More quilts from Houston. . .and just a note, this is a very small sampling of the quilts that are in the contest, there are so many beautiful quilts, it would take a year to show them all!

Art Miniature Category:
"Present" by Megumi Mizuno of Japan
 "Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic" by Sarah Ann Smith of Hope, Maine
"Wind" by Masanobu Miyama of Japan
Winner of $5,000 Award for Thread Artistry

Traditional Miniature Category: 
 "Home at Last" by Kaye Koler of Amherst, Ohio
Innovative Applique Category:

"Illinois Album" by Jane Sassaman of Harvard, Illinois
Winner of $5,000 Award for Innovative Artistry

Mixed Technique Category:
 "Twirly Balls and Pinwheels" by Sue Garman of Friendswood, Texas
Painted Surface Category:
 "A Bright Sun-shiny Day" by Terri Stegmiller of Mandan, North Dakota
 "Ricky and Lucy" by Nancy Sterett Martin and Karen Sistek of Owensboro, Kentucky
Traditional Applique Category:
 "Gorsuch Family Quilt Circa 1840 Revisited" by Margo Hardie of Australia
Winner of $7,500 Founders Award
"Forever in My Heart" by Lahala Phelps of Bonney Lake, Washington
Winner of $5,000 for Traditional Artistry

"Celebration of Feathered Star and Wildflowers" by Helen Rode, Jan Graetzel, Joanie Wyatt, Colleen Zabreznik and 18 friends of Vereins Quilt Guild of Fredericksburg, Texas
Traditional Pieced Category:

"Mass Maples" by Timna Tarr of Shadley, Massachusetts
"A Truly Feathered Star" by Karen Sievert of Bailey, North Carolina
"Sparkle" by Sharon Hansen of McKeesport, PA
"Forest of Life" by Kyoko Akaike of Japan
 "Recycled Silk Ties:  No Necks Needed" by Virginia Anderson of Shoreline, Washington
"Sun and Sand" by Linda McGibbon of Beaverton, Michigan
 And finally, my quilt, "Color My World."

I will show a few more from the show including the Best of Show winner in my next post, stay tuned!