A Stitch in Time

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Packing It Up

A Stitch in Time is going on hiatus for the summer, as we've bought a new house and I have to pack up the QIP, my frame and everything else for the move. I'll be back in September, but in the meantime, some links to check out:

Links to 846 sites that offer free quilt patterns are listed here.

Freepatternsonline.com offers a number of simple quilt blocks, instructions and piecing ideas for download.

La Conner Quilt Museum is raffling off a gorgeous quilt this September -- details on how to get $1 tickets are here.

Quilting at About.com offers interesting articles, freebies and quilt maker advice.

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum offers tips on quilt care here.

Victoriana Quilt Designs -- pretty, well-organized site. Membership is $22.50 a year, but VQD offers some freebies to non-members, including block of the month and seven quilt label designs as well as a free quilting lessons page.

The Virginia Quilt Museum -- the front page has a neat slideshow of quilts from the museum's collection. Another place I need to visit next time I'm up north.

The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Textiles has a wonderful collection of quilt stories here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sunshine Pics

As promised, the finished quilt my kid claimed for his own collection:


I darkened up the next shot on my photo shop -- disposable cameras are not great for close-up shots -- and this is very close to the actual color of the quilt:

Sunshine, detail


Northcott Silk Inc. has free quilt patterns online for download here. I'm going to download and try out Ro Gregg's Wild Iris pattern (bottom of the page.)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I Want Candy

Now that Sunshine is finished, I'm moving on to the next project -- turning a visual firecracker of a top into a quilt:

Candy Quilt Top

I've named this one Candy, because while Quilter on Acid might have been more appropriate, I want to imbue it with a sense of fun. It is a fun quilt, vibrant and sizzling, and such an audacious combination of colors that is virtually never done in a double wedding ring pattern.

The top is not that old, probably dating back to the late sixties/early seventies. The fabrics are mainly cotton, with a couple of oddball wovens and a canvas print that might be upholstery fabric from the Age of Aquarius. I remember my mom having clothes in these patterns when I was a little kid. The maker both hand- and machine-stitched the pieces together. There were a number of popped seams among the patchwork, mild fraying here and there, and outer scalloped sashing that needed correcting as it wouldn't lay flat.

I hand-washed the top, matched it to a sturdy cotton batting, and basted it to a plain muslin backing. Usually I make repairs before I put the piece together for quilting, but I decided to hand quilt this one, so I'd make them as I went along.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Got Tip?

Quilter's Newsletter Magazine will pay $25.00 for an original quilting tip, to be published in their monthly magazine. Send your tip to toptips@qnm.com, or QNM, 741 Corporate Circle, Suite A, Golden, CO. 80401


As I update the quilt blog, I'm going to start adding links for my favorite quilt-related sites and suppliers over on the sidebar.

One new site I've discovered is Quilt Pro, which I came across after purchasing Carol Doak's 300 Paper-Pieced Quilt Blocks, which comes with a Foundation Factory CD. This CD sets up a computer program to enable you to resize, reposition and print 300 different foundation piecing templates off your printer. You get an extra 10 block patterns by registering, which led me to the Quilt Pro site.

I really like Carol's book, btw. It is very easy to follow, beautifully illustrated and full of great ideas. I'm just starting to get into paper piecing now, so I need simple. The software is terrific; I made seven blocks the first day I tried it. Definitely worth the $29.95 cover price (bought at JoAnn's) because it comes with the software CD, which will save me a ton of copying, and I can flip and mirror and resize the templates on the computer however I like.


The Grey Lady Down quilt is finished, and as soon as I have the photos processed, I'll put them up so you can see the results.

Restoring this quilt was a labor of love and misgivings. I'm not in the habit of repairing something simply because it's rare and potentially valuable, but when I put 200 hours into a project, I like to see some return on my investment. If I'm not going to sell the quilt, I need to find a home for it (I have over 200 quilts in my personal collection, and my current, no-exceptions rule is that if I keep something, something else has to go.)

I started out not liking the Grey Lady much, but when I put the last stitch in the new binding, I was in love with her. I couldn't even hate the yellow, because it felt as if the fabric was so determined to be there, right in my face. As if it were saying I don't care if you like me or think I'm appropriate. I'm here. I'm bright. Deal with it.

I also gained a lot of respect for Grey Lady's maker, who you remember I named Gloria. Gloria may not have been a precision quilter, but her imagination and love went into this quilt. I could feel it every time I put hands on it.

I finished repairs about the same time a work deadline descended on me, and so I hand-washed her a second time and hung her to dry on the porch. I got so caught up in work that I forgot about her for a couple of days. Then one night I went in to say good night to my son and found him wrapped up in her.

"You stealing my quilts now?" I asked him.

"I like this one, Mom," he told me, snuggling under it. It was the perfect size for his bed, which is a full, not a twin. "Can I have it?"

I eyed his favorite quilt, a Mariner's Compass pattern a friend of mine made for him when he was two. He loves the mariner quilt so much it goes on vacation with us, and yet he'd tossed it over in a heap on his computer chair. "What about your old quilt?"

"You have lots of quilts," he said, very reasonably. "Why can't I?"

I thought about it. I don't have any rules about the kids have quilt collections, and Mike only has four of his own besides the much-loved mariner's quilt. "Okay, but I need to sign it, and it needs a new name. What do we call a quilt with all this yellow in it?"

His answer: Sunshine

Friday, April 15, 2005


When I do a quilt restoration and I don't know who made the quilt, I make up a name for her. Like the Grey Lady quilt's maker: Gloria. No particular reason for the name, it just popped into my head.

Certain things give me hints about Gloria. She probably kept a scrap bag, and cut up old clothes and sheets and made them into other things (some of the gray came from a pair of men's trousers.) She had children or grandchildren -- or was a child -- during the forties (the juvenile prints date back that far.) She hated turning corners; her stitches are big and impatient in them. She had very basic sewing skills, but was savvy enough to use templates, because her rings are nearly perfect.

Gloria wanted this quilt to last. As I followed her stitches, requilting what had popped, I saw the care she took with her lines. She knew her cotton batting would migrate; she filled in the big sections with cross hatched stitches to keep it in place. She mirrored her patchwork when she could (putting the same colored patches on opposing sides of the rings.) The binding was simply the edge of the backing rolled over the raw edge of the batting and the top. Maybe she knew it would get the most stress, because she sewed it with her tightest, most compact stitches.

Her patchwork gave me a little tour of her time. Cowboys and Indians; a little boy's shirt. Rosebud prints from a baby's dress. Cartoon florals from a skirt that she or her daughter might have worn. Scraps of a striped flannel nightgown, patches of crimson with an enigmatic white design. All bright colors, fun prints.

The yellow patchwork I didn't like was printed with a big brown floral design, and was also something someone wore. I found intact garment seams that crossed the patches like small roads; a buttonhole sewn shut, the pucker of a dart pressed flat. A dress, or maybe a jumper. She must have loved it, because it was the fabric she used most for the patchwork. Or it was the most fabric she had.

I found a pattern of faint stretch marks and stitch interruptions that indicate Gloria may have used a lap hoop. Did she sit in a rocking chair or armchair while she worked on this? Was it after dinner, after the dishes were done, an hour of quiet sewing before bed? I do that almost every night. It's an oasis of calm in my otherwise hectic day. Was it the same for her? Did the hanging folds of the quilt keep her legs warm on a cold night, or did she roll and clip them?

Grey Lady would take two weeks and more than twenty-five hours to repair. As each day passed, I became more engrossed in it. I didn't see the yellow anymore, or maybe I got used to it. I hate making my own binding (sheer laziness) but I shopped in three fabric stores before I found the right fabric for Gloria's quilt. I was anxious about what to do with it. Even with my repair work, it would never be a display beauty, but damn if I was going to sell it to someone who would cut it up to make angels and teddy bears. I couldn't do that to Gloria.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


The quilt in progress is a restoration job, which we've named Grey Lady Down:

Grey Lady Down

Like so many of my repair jobs, this is a double wedding ring quilt. Circa 1950, with a colored background. Double wedding ring quilts are almost always multi-color patchwork against white backgrounds; to find a color background is rare. Of these, pastel blue, green, yellow and pink are the most common backgrounds. I've personally never seen one with a gray background before this one; not even in quilt history books.

Grey Lady Down came to me as a real mess. Three fist-sized holes through the quilt, patchwork shredded and/or hanging loose, amateur repair work, quilting stitched popped all over the piece. And the smell. Someone shoved this in a garage or an airless attic, where it soaked up that always-delightful Eau de Neglect.

The first step was to get rid of the stink, so I carefully hand washed the piece and let it soak in a little Woolite and vinegar. Vinegar, btw, will neutralize the worst smells you can imagine. I dried it on a line out of direct sunlight and then spread it out on the porch table to assess the work.

Lots of restitching and repatching to do. Some of the flimsier blue calico patches had disintegrated. I'd need to replace four large sections of background to repair holes where the fabric, batting and foundation had been torn out. Whoever tried to repair the quilt whip-stitched long sections of raw ends together with red and yellow sewing thread, and as a result they were fraying all to hell. The binding, also rotted and torn, had to be completely replaced.

Even with the repairs, Grey Lady Down would never be a museum piece. The original maker had used two different gray fabrics for her background pieces, and they had faded differently. The stitching was primitive; 4 to 5 spi (stitched per inch) in some places, 2 to 3 spi in others. Her uneven stitching was too long on the bottom and too shallow on the top -- the main reason her quilting had popped all over the piece; inadequate anchoring -- and was erratic.

Then there were her color choices. I am not a fan of yellow, and this quilt was covered with yellow patchwork (still intact). She used the yellow around all her ring intersections, too. The color was blinding and completely inappropriate for a gray background. I think she was trying to liven it up, but ugh. And there was too much yellow in the quilt for me to replace it all. Out of respect for the maker, I like to leave as much original work intact as I can.

If I fixed it, she'd have to be a keeper.

On the plus side, the quilt was marvelously soft. The backing; a solid light gray cotton, had weathered the neglect and aged wonderfully. There is a feel to old quilts that you can't duplicate with today's fabrics. I felt a certain reluctant admiration for the maker, too. Here was a woman who had few quilting skills and yet took on hand-piecing and quilting an advanced pattern. She was such a renegade she used a mourning color for the background and then threw sunshine yellow all over it. That and someone who had even less skills than the maker had tried to repair it.

Rare color aside, this quilt had meant something to at least two women. That was what really made it worth saving. So up she went on the repair rack, and I got to work.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


There's no other way to put it: I am a quilt junkie. New quilts, old quits, hidden quilts, wall quilts, objects made of quilts -- I see them, I turn into a pile of Jell-O.

My obsession with quilts started with a double wedding ring quilt, made by my great-grandmother, which I slept under for most of my childhood. The quilt had a pastel blue background and patchwork rings, the latter probably made from scraps of g-grandma's dressmaking. In her day, nearly every woman made her own clothes.

I could sit and stare at the patches on that old quilt for hours, wondering where they'd come from and why she chose those colors. Looking back with the knowledge I have now, I know it wasn't a particularly well-made quilt, and the sewing and quilting strayed more to the primitive side, but I loved it, and kid love is blind.

After I grew up and left home, I asked my mother to send me that old quilt. That was when she informed me that it had grown so ragged over the years that she had thrown it away. I've lost lovers who didn't cause me as much anguish as knowing the quilt of my childhood was gone forever.

That was when I decided to become a quiltmaker, and remake the quilt of my childhood.