Sunday, August 26, 2018

For Practice.....37 Years Later

Lately I have been thinking of the word "practice."  A person recently asked me how I became so good at quilting....and, well.....believing that the more you do something, the better you get....I think I can say practicing makes you a better quilter.  There are other factors that enter into it....but, yes, I think practicing is a big deal.  I remember when I made this quilt.  "Made" may not be the right word you can see, I didn't piece this quilt.  It is one length of fabric, printed in this Double Wedding Ring pattern.  And, as you will see further was quilted in 1981.

 That's the year we moved here to Arkansas.  I remember seeing this fabric in the store and immediately thought it would be a good piece to quilt FOR PRACTICE.  At that time, I had only been quilting for three years and wanted to improve my skills.  Especially, the actual quilting stitches.

As you can see....I only quilted in the blank areas, not on the actual 'pieces' of the pattern.  It made sense to me at the time.  I began quilting each "ring" a quarter inch or so from each of the pieced parts....and worked my way to the middle of that ring.  It was fun.

Here you can see the whole back of the quilt.  Actually, looking at the back of any quilt will give you a pretty good idea of the skill of the quiltmaker.....sometimes the pattern shows up so much better on the back.  At least, I've always thought so.  When I quilted this piece....well, I had no real goal except to practice those stitches.  Stitching one stitch at a time had already become my method of choice, and this quilt does have lots of stitches, making it a really good thing for me to do.  Yes, I could have just made another quilt...that qualifies for practice.  For each one you make, you should see improvement in whatever techniques you are using, but especially the quilting.  But for me, then, being able to practice without making a whole new quilt, was a really good idea. 

In this photo, you can see a darker strip of fabric there on the left side.  That is a hanging sleeve.  I don't even remember why I used this darker the time, it never occurred to me that this quilt would be one I actually would keep so long...or even hang, for that matter.    So, here we are thirty-seven years later....and I still have it.  Actually, I'll be seventy-four next month, so this quilt has been with me now for approximately HALF of my life.  Crazy!

So, now, as I look at it, I realize that at the time it was quilted, I ONLY wanted to practice.  I really didn't grasp just how important this little quilt would become to me.  It's one of those "good things" you do, but you don't realize just how good for a very long, say - 37 years?

I also remember that several quilt friends of mine couldn't believe I was actually going to hand quilt a pre-printed quilt...something they never would have done.  Well, who knew, right?

And, so here we are....half a lifetime later.  I'm glad I took the time to do it.  For one thing, I certainly do think it helped me do better work.  I have never been able to shake the "one stitch at a time" way of quilting.  And, really, who cares?  I still love to quilt and even though my hands aren't always stitch here and there and a quilt gets finished.  Eventually.  And, like life, never understood until you can look "backward."

 And, here is some good advice from long ago:

"Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern;
it will come out a rose by and by.
Life is like that - one stitch at a time taken patiently
and the pattern will come out all right
like the embroidery." 

Oliver Wendell Holmes


until next time
Bird Nest Cottage

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rescue the Perishing, Part 2

Some months past, I showed you a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt which I had mended, trying to bring it back to life.  Last fall, I believe.  In that post, I mentioned three other Flower Garden quilts I intended to mend rescue.  One of them was the quilt shown here.  And, as with just about every quilt ever made, there is a story.

My sister-in-law, Nancy, told me about a quilt top made by her aunt, probably in the 1930's.  She was a school teacher living away from home and to pass the nights......she began to piece this top.  I don't know why she didn't quilt it....but who hasn't pieced a quilt top that was destined to be kept in the closet, or wherever, and then was forgotten.  Well, Nancy wanted to see if it could be quilted for her mother's 90th birthday.  It was her Mom's sister who pieced the top long ago and Nancy thought it would mean a lot to her mother to actually have the quilt finished.  So, she told me this story, and as she told mind went directly to my vow to RESCUE THE PERISHING quilts.  So, of course, I said I'd give it my best shot.  The deadline was this July, just past.

Once I saw the quilt, I wondered if I had it in me to actually quilt this quilt.  It had issues.  Several large holes....many torn places, and it was quite thin.  Well, what are you going to do?  So, I told Nancy that I would just have to jump in and see what I could do.  Here, you see the quilt AFTER I had quilted it.....but had not repaired the holes.  I had decided that the mending could be done easier if I quilted it first, then unquilted where the holes were, patched, then re-quilted those areas.  The quilt had no real body to it, so I had decided to quilt, then patch.  Actually, that really helped, even though it meant more work.  Well, I like a challenge, right? 

Another issue was the lack of fabric to use in the mending and the binding.  So, I removed some fabric from all sides of the quilt, giving me many background hexagons and some extra hexagons to use in the mending.  I did have to use a couple of scraps I had of old prints.  At the time, it didn't matter what era they were the quilt had to be finished, so I just used what I had in some places.  There were plenty of pieces to use in the background mending.   

Another important issue was the binding.  I had no fabric to use for that, so I purchased some red fabric.  Naturally, it turned out to be way too bright, so I dyed it with Rit tan dye to tone it down a bit.  I think it turned out ok....but as you know, desperate people do desperate things, so there wasn't much else I saw to do. are some photos of the whole experience.  You will be able to see the holes, probably even see where patching was done.  But, I can tell you, you won't see it all.  Amazingly, I did a pretty good one could be more surprised than I am!  Just take a good look.......

I had decided to just quilt it the easiest way possible, since there wasn't a huge amount of time to get the quilt it was it took three months.   So, I just quilted lines on the diagonal of the quilt...then because sometimes that's not a good thing, warping and all, I decided to quilt a straight line down through all the 'flowers.'  It did seem to stabilize the quilt. 


 And, the patching....well, I'm basically a pretty good applique person....but piecing, while I do love it, it isn't my favorite.  So, to do the mending, I appliqued all the hexagons in place.  Just so you know.....if you ever do this...well, I'm sure you will do in the method you prefer to work in.  And, actually, I wasn't too sure about this whole process, so I just played it by ear, so to speak, and went my merry way. 


 And, yes, I did use the hated blue pen.  I've never hated them, having used them on every quilt I've ever made since they first came out.  You do have to launder the quilts though...and I've always done that.  No problem whatsoever with the pen. 

You will have to look the quilt over to see where mending was done.   I'm sure not going to tell you.
But, I will say, there is a lot of it.  And, I'm so proud of it....

Just keep looking.....

I did remember to take a few photos along the way.  Not near enough, but just to remind myself what was done.  


The background pieces were actually two different shades of a muslin type of fabric, but the years had not been kind to the quilt, so much discoloring took place.  You may notice in the finished quilt that a 'lightening' has taken place.  That's due to soaking in the washer overnight and rinsing twice.  I always wash my quilts in the washer....DO NOT AGITATE.  Just soak, then spin the water out, rinse, and air dry.  (I put a sheet on the floor, spread the quilt to block it, and if you don't have a ceiling fan, which I do, you can sit a fan near it to help it dry.)


Not only did the washing lighten up the quilt, but these few photos were taken outside under shade trees, so the quilt appears even lighter.   I had worried about washing this quilt, mostly because of it's age, but it didn't seem to make a difference.  I lucked out on that!

 So, what do you think?  I really thought this experience might not turn out so well, but am pleased that it did.  I would do it again...and intend to rescue the pieces that find their way to me and that interest me.  Do you remember a couple of years ago I rescued a 1924 beaded bag?  It's very gratifying.  But, in order to do it again, whatever the item is that might need rescuing is going to have to "speak to me."  They sometimes do, you know.

 So, here it is.  All done.  It's old.  It was showing it's age...and now I think it looks pretty good and is rejuvenated.   I'm pleased.  And, look at that binding.  It's kind of a miracle.  I like to think Nancy's aunt knows I finished her quilt.  Maybe she helped me along the way.  I like to think that WE rescued HER quilt!

 This is my sister, Debbie.  She just happened to show up the day I took the quilt out of the washer.  Imagine that timing!!!  And, I didn't know she was coming either.  So, here she is, out in Two Pines
Park behind my house.

 And, oh my!  I just had to take a photo of her and the quilt right between the two pines!!!!!  They are huge trees....

Thought a photo of the quilt on my bed would be a good idea.  Arranged in the spur of the moment as Deb helped me get a few extra photos.

A word about the quilting....I quilt one stitch at a time.  Always by hand.  I no longer have any idea how many people still do that, but I know I'll be doing it til the eyes go and the hands give out.
I always say every stitch is a prayer.  And, I'm always hoping I can last til I finish.   So far, so good!

These are some of the side pieces I  removed from the quilt in order to mend.  And, many hexagons too.  You can tell they have age on them....I think they will probably last long enough for me to use them in some way on a future project.  If I do....I'll show it to you.

 All tied up and ready to go.  You never know.

I did manage to take a few photos of the quilting in progress.  The quilting, to me, is very therapeutic. It's like meditation.  Time flies.  I have to work in shorter spans of time these days, as the hands suffer from arthritis, but you get up from the chair, piddle around the house doing those 'house things' and then come back to it ready to go again, sometimes not for a day or two, but always with the finishing in mind. 

 I do also think that quilting is one of those things you do for love.

 Don't you?
And, I'm here....hoping to rescue more lovely things as time goes by.

And, here is Phyllis, Nancy's mother.  We have never met.  She just turned 90 and she now has her sister's quilt.  I am so happy to have been able to do this for her....and for Nancy, and all the rest of the family.  

Here is Phyllis, along with her daughter, my sister-in-law, Nancy, my brother, Robert, and their kids, Tessa and Nick.
My brother's family lives in Garland, Texas, and Phyllis lives in West Virginia, the family home.


 And, the rest of the family lives in Morehead and Lexington, Kentucky, Charleston, South Carolina, Seattle, Washington, and New York, New York.  Isn't it great that all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren made it to the party! 


And, Phyllis,
 please enjoy the quilt in good health, and with love and laughter. 

Here is something I found the other day...I loved it immediately:
"No textile too tattered,
No spirit too shattered,
No hope lost beyond
the reach of gentle mending."

 Krista Barmer

until next time
Bird Nest Cottage

A Bit of Heaven

A Bit of Heaven
An original designed wall quilt with my vision of heaven on earth.