Archives for the month of: March, 2010

Last post I left you with the tantalizing concept “foreclosure quilt ties” and I imagine you’ve been puzzling over that for days. Now I shall explain. I began making quilts out of used clothes about five years ago. Over the years I often saved used clothes or other materials, thinking I’d find a use for them one day. I’ve also always been artistic. After discovering the work of the Gee’s Bend quilters, as well as inspiration from my friend Audrey, I started to make quilts out of used clothing. I have accumulated quite a “stash,” as quilters-with-a-capital-Q call their fabric supply.  I also like to use salvaged materials for other parts of the quilt, such as the batting or the ties. As of this writing, I principally hand-tie my quilts, not having yet mastered the art of machine quilting.  Luckily I had a big stash of yarn left over from a short-lived crocheting binge.

Last year, some of my neighbors foreclosed on their home.  This was sad because they were basically good people, a family headed by a single mother, working very hard, and it had been the first home she owned.  This is a complicated story like so many others, but suffice it to say when push came to shove she had to get out of there, and quickly.  When she did, she left a lot of “stuff” behind in a small shed on her property.

Beyond the garden in the foreground is white shed to the right of the driveway. Through those wide open doors I found my Foreclosure Yarn.

My neighbor told me if I could use anything left in the yard to go ahead and take it.  So one day I rummaged through the shed and extracted a few items, one of which was:

This was a no-brainer to add to my stash, especially because orange is such a lively color and I’ve got so darned much blue fabric.  Indeed this yarn was a big part of the inspiration behind a mostly-blue quilt.  So 672 two-inch blue squares and 200 six-inch strips of orange yarn later we have this:

I like to leave the “tails” of yarn ties long; for me it is enlivening and playful.  Some concerned Patwig Quilt admirers have worried this is a choking hazard.  I still prefer it.  What do you think?

Winter 2010, I Got the Blues, 51" x 57"

In any event, I Got the Blues is now completely done, folded up and ready to go to my son’s school for a fundraiser.  And I can get back to MFC.

Just about done with this bad boy, but not quite.  There was nothing but rain most of this weekend here in Gotham, though I did sneak out for a run along the Hudson when the sun poked out midday Sunday.  Fortunately, rainy days are conducive to quilting; here’s what happened.

The quilt top, batting, and backing (grey sheet) are spread on the floor while I cut away the extra sheeting. But wait, I forgot something!

I was in such a hurry I forgot the border, and cut the batting and backing without allowing for it.  My plan, to the extent I had developed one, was to add a deep blue thick border, but now that’s out of the question.  I don’t want to waste or stow the grey and flannel sheet fabric I already cut.  So, my severe scavenging principles drew me to the pile of scraps on my workroom windowsill.   I joined many small pieces together to make a narrow scrap border.  Of course it just tickles me no end that these scraps are getting used.

I sew scraps until I have long rows which I line up on the quilt to gauge how much more to add.

Once I’ve got enough for all four sides, I carefully (smoothing out wrinkles, making sure the pressed seams are falling in the right direction) pin the two rows to the longer sides and sew these on, then add leftover squares to each end of the two shorter sides, and sew them on.  Easy, right?

Modest Machine, hard at work, has certainly earned its next oil and clean once this project is through.

Once the borders are done and the whole quilt pressed out, it’s time to put all three layers together, known as making the “quilt sandwich.”  First down is batting, then quilt-top, right side up, then backing fabric, right side down (theoretically).  Now here’s where I go my own way a bit.  I don’t generally “baste” at this stage, a quilting term that means attaching the layers impermanently with safety pins or loose stitches so they won’t shift during sewing.  Why don’t I?  We’ll, I guess I’ve made small enough quilts (largest so far was maybe 70 x 40″), and I just haven’t really wanted to.  The wayward nontraditionalist in me does not wish to take the extra step. Now all four sides are sewn around (for me, three times is a charm), leaving a 10-12″ opening in the middle of one side to “bag” it.  Here’s what the opening looks like

Look out! It's a quilt shark!

Then you reach inside and pull each corner out through the opening until you have what reminds me of a downed parachute or a pile of dirty laundry

Once that’s done, we go back to that quilter’s staple, the ironing board, and press it out yet again.  Now here is where I must leave you for now with this concept:  foreclosure quilt ties.

It’s been a rather busy week here in Gotham for this crafty scavenger, but at least I finished the blue quilt top.  It also has a destination, though not a particular home yet: I’m giving it to my son’s school to help raise money.  To date I’ve made three quilts for the school, one of which was bought by a dear friend so I know it is used.  Here’s another one I made for the school, which sold for $100:

This is one of my favorites.  There was enough fabric left that I made two more very much like it, which we gave to one of my husband’s colleagues when his twin daughters were born.   Anyway, back to the blues.  So I had made 42 9-patch squares that looked a little like this:

The question was what to do with them.  They could just be sewed together, or attached with joining fabric.  I decided to use up some of my vast stash of blue fabrics so I cut enough blue squares to encircle (or in this case, ensquare?) each patch.  With my trusty rotary cutter and handy cutting pad I cut out 672 blue squares.  Sixteen blue squares would then border each colorful patch, to create a predominantly blue quilt.  Next step: sew the blue squares together into rows.

A row of three blue squares are sewn to the top and bottom, then rows of five are sewn to each side.

I used several different hues of blue.  Now the question was how to arrange the 42 blocks into a reasonably pleasing pattern.

At this point the materials have outgrown my ironing board and table top surfaces, so I carry them into my son’s room and lay them on the floor, trying different variations to see what works

and spend a lot of time kvetching about it before setting it aside for the day.  The cutting, sewing and pressing that comes before this stage is very workman-like; I just keep reeling them off.  But this stage isn’t so clear-cut.  Many quilt designs are essentially different arrangements of one basic block pattern (remember log cabin and flying geese?).  The nine-patch is one such basic block.  It can take awhile for a pleasing pattern to emerge.  My camera often helps a lot at this stage;  the small camera screen reduces it to a simple geometric visual of light and dark color.  A decision comes, and next day I sew together seven rows of six blocks each.

You still there?  Good, I like perseverance.  As rows are sewn, seams are pressed with an iron and edges trimmed to line up.  All rows are sewn together until it is one finished quilt top.

As each row is sewed, the seam on the underside is pressed to the one side. This improves the appearance of the quilt top and makes it easier to sew when adjoining the top to filling and backing.

The word quilt refers to two things: the item itself, which is essentially a blanket with a design, and the process itself of sewing three layers (top, fill and backing) together.  I have tried to “quilt” the layers together with straight and more decorative stitches, but this is a skill that eludes me.  I mostly affix my layers with yarn, a technique known as hand-tying.

For the fill, or middle layer, I’m using what was my son’s fitted twin sheet.  I cut off the elastic and seams.  I am happy to finally use this — it has waited patiently in the closet after many rejections due to its weight and dark stripes.  I think it will make a nice weight to what I see most likely as a boy’s bed quilt, and the stripes won’t show through the darker colors.  For the backing I will use one of my Salvation Army specials:

King size Calvin Klein Home flat sheet bought at Salvation Army for less than five bucks.

And here’s where I stop because one of my sons got home from school and it was time to clear out of his room.  I am not wandering too far from my modest machine this weekend, so I’m hoping to knock this off so I can return to My First Commission (MFC).

So last weekend while holiday visiting my mother-in-law, I brought along the Forest Swatch and samples of the fabrics I’d matched with it.  I laid these out in her bedroom so she could respond to them and we could talk a little more about what she wanted. She particularly liked the gold/chartreuse fabric in this picture.

She repeated her desire that the quilt “pick up the green” from the curtains, so I am adding more greens.  The green pieces in the pic above are woven napkins she gave me from her brother’s house after he died.  Pressed and still tied in yarn/thread, I don’t think these had ever been used (since she passed them to me years ago, they’ve just been sitting in a cabinet).  I washed and dried them and pressed them out again.  They match the Forest Swatch nicely.  She had also given me leftover upholstery fabric from her dining room curtains, which seem to blend nicely, too.  Click on the pic for a close-up of my guide: the Forest Swatch.

From top of pile: the Forest Swatch, dining room curtains swatch, never-used woven napkins, new hand-dyed fabric gifted to me.

I think some reds are needed to compliment the greens and the gold, so I proceeded to cut up or “strip the carcass” of the clothing I got last week at the Salvation Army.   I cut along the seams, plackets, collars, zippers and cuffs until they drop away from the solid fabric.  Most of this I discard, but I keep the collars, plackets, cuffs, and buttons.  I have a project in mind for the plackets, collars and cuffs (which may be a future feature here) and an old milk bottle on hand to collect buttons.

For now though, I’m going to put this project aside.  You see, I was in the middle of a project when “My First Commission” came along.  In my  fabric “stash” (a quilter term for non-quilting readers) I have accumulated a lot of blues.  Perhaps they are overrepresented because I scavenge fabrics and favor men’s dress shirts, among which blue is a common color.  Or maybe I just like blue.  Anyway, I wanted to use up some blues and play with squares, so I have been making this:

I am close to halfway through this.  I have 42 “nine patch” squares, which I am in the process of surrounding with blue squares.  The blues create a border to highlight the nine-patch colors while creating a pattern with the light and dark of the blues.  Fun, huh?  I do like this and want to finish it before turning my attention to My First Commission (MFC).  So next post you’ll see the process of finishing a quilt top, then, assuming I can knock it out in a week, what you do with the quilt top once it’s finished.

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