Archives for the month of: February, 2010

While the snow falls and falls here on Charles Street, I am contemplating my first commission.  My mother-in-law, for whom I have made three quilt-top pillows, has asked for a new bedspread, and wants to pay me to make it.  Her primary request was that it pick up the color of her new curtains, a green called “forest.”  I’m excited, but also a little intimidated.  If she’s going to pay me (“commission” sounds so much nicer), it needs to look nice, stand up to repeated washings, and appeal to her.  I sketched a couple of my basic quilt pattern variations that I feel comfortable with (log cabin, flying geese) and gave them to her, suggesting she mull over which she might like, and she said she would defer to me on pattern choice.  Yikes.  What to do?

Here are the pillows I’ve made for her that seem to have inspired her confidence:

I asked her for some fabric, and I would have loved to make it out of her or her late husbands old clothes, but she’s already donated such unwanted items to the Salvation Army.  So she gave me a forest swatch leftover from her curtains and I took it along to the Salvation Army on 8th Avenue and used it to select fabrics for her bedspread quilt-top.  Today was Yellow Tag day at the Salvation Army.  That means all items marked with a yellow tag were 50% off.  Though I meant to focus on green items, thinking I’d use my voluminous store of fabrics for the colored bits, I quickly went off the rails, and came home with all this for about $28:

Four men's button-downs, two women's skirts, one women's pant and one bed dust-ruffle. Yardage? Who counts yardage?

I’m proudest of the dust ruffle.  For $2.99 this may give me the unifying background fabric that will border whatever design prevails for the quilt, as well as a plain fabric for the backing.  Quilting books (I have a small library that guides my efforts) often caution not to use sheeting fabric for quilts because of the tightness of the weave, but my disregard for this standard demonstrates why I am a “non-traditional” quilter.

So what I’m going to do here is chronicle my quilting process.   The pile of clothes in the picture above went right into the washing machine

Luckily, the washer/dryer is just down the hall from my workspace.

and once washed and dried I will begin cutting it all up.  Does that sound tedious?  It can be, but sometimes I do it while doing other things that don’t demand my full engagement (playing Scrabble, monitoring my boy’s homework, waiting for the laundry).   Usually in the process of preparing the fabrics (washing, cutting up, ironing) I get a sense of how they will work together.    Here’s an example of the “Chinese Coin” pattern, which can be readily assembled when you have a lot of small strips and larger, longer pieces for border:

Chinese Coin, December 2009. Nearly all recycled clothes, with "batting" repurposed from old cotton curtains.

I am a learn-by-doing person and sometimes this approach requires a lot of time.  This is going to be a blog about making quilts.  I’m just starting to blog, but I’ve been making quilts out of old clothes for about 5 years.  Here’s a photo of a stack of quilts I showed at a holiday arts and crafts fair at my son’s school:

I sold one quilt at this show, for $80 USD, which was such a thrill.  Until then I’d given them away or donated them for fund-raising at the schools.

My mother sewed, as did her mother and grandmother, and my paternal grandmother was a needlepointer (is that a word?) so I guess it’s in the blood.  I’ve long held onto outgrown/outdated clothes when I particularly liked the fabric, thinking there would come a use for them.  When the Whitney Museum showed the Gee’s Bend quilters some years ago (link to come when I figure out how to add it), I found my inspiration.

My first quilt project was a hand-sewn slipcover for a small pillow my husband used to place between his knees at night when he slept.  It was a simple log-cabin block using fabric from old clothes.  Here’s a photo of the pieces:

The center square is primarily red, as is traditional (the “hearth”) for log-cabin.  This is a piece of corduroy from a hand-me-down shirt a neighbor once gave us for our boys.  The “logs” include yellow from a little-worn dress (the one and only purchase I ever made from Speigel’s catalog), blue from a shirt I bought from a sidewalk vendor in Florence, Italy on my honeymoon, gray from an Esprit skirt I got in Georgetown during college, and stripes from a worn button-down of my husband’s.  My husband, btw, is a terrific source of quilting materials.  A big thank-you here too for my good friend Audrey (and former babysitter to my boys), who is also a quilter and gave me a photocopied sheet on the log cabin pattern from her quilting class.  Audrey also inspired me to start, always saying “if I can do it, you can,” in typical self-deprecating fashion.   I still needed the kick start to do it, though, and will write next time about that.

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