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This summer was the longest break I’ve taken from quilt-making since I started.  Maybe it was the effort of producing a queen-sized piece.  Or maybe it was having my kids around for summer.  Whatever it was, at some point I thought I should make a quilt for my mother.  She said yes she would like that, and this project ensued.

She wanted yellows, greens and browns.  I gathered stuff from my stash and she gave me a bunch of old fabric from her attic, including what I recognized as curtains that had been in her kitchen long ago.  There was also fabric from seat cushions she made for the kitchen chairs.  It was fun to see this in its original color saturation — compared to the well-worn cushions which are still there.  Best of all, there was a very cheery and flowery yellow bedsheet, the sight of which caused me to bury my nose in its familiar smell.  I remember going to her room early in the morning when she was in bed reading before my brother woke up.  I’d climb in bed with her and we’d talk or read and play shadow puppets with the light from her bedside lamp.  My mother’s bed is her refuge.   And it was the secure station where she hunkered down to sleep and wait out six months of radiation and chemotherapy to vanquish a soft-tissue sarcoma.  She cares deeply about what she puts on her bed, so I have been privileged to make a quilt for it.

Her instructions on a white slip of scratch paper include her classic "Q."

The pattern inspiration for this quilt is one I’ve done several times, the so-called Chinese coin pattern.  Ignore the unmade bed and you can see the basic pattern:  stacks of narrow horizontal strips (coins) alternating with typically a solid color background.

If the bed's not made as soon as it's vacated, felines will take advantage of any remaining warm spots.

From a production standpoint, this pattern moves along readily.

I googled to discover the origins of the "Chinese coin" but didn't find anything I felt was sufficiently authoritative. It is also called "strip piecing."

Selecting fabrics and grouping them together is the fun part.  I end up using a far greater percentage from my own stash than from those my mother gave me, and  I realize these may be unconscious choices recalling her fabric history.  For instance, the deep blue/greens below are nearly the same color as a fabric she used to reupholster a living room chair —  a project she never did finish, though the chair remains with a slipcover.

The blue-green was the lining for a toddler-sized jacket. There are also old pillow-cover pieces here.

I also sew narrower but longer rows for an outer border.   This should stand out nicely against the brown dust ruffle on her bed.

My son's bedroom floor is my surface for laying, arranging and visualizing. I believe some quilters use an "idea wall" but my workroom does not offer enough space to stand back and view.

Once columns are done, a background color is needed to highlight and divide them.  This offers the perfect application of those former kitchen curtains.  It’s not a solid, but the pattern is small and neutral enough to work in.

The warm hue of the curtain material puts me in mind of acorn squash. Or maybe it's a fall breeze in the air.

I like making ready progress on a project, but the bigger it gets the harder it is to move around.   After the alternating columns of strips and solids are sewn together, the solid is added to cap the top and bottom.

Wide borders emphasize the colors. I think a very dark color, like black, would also work well here.

At some point I discover that I don’t have a big enough piece of something to use for batting (or fill), so I make a quick run up to City Quilter.  This is the first time I’ve purchased any supplies for this quilt — thus far I’ve managed with all found objects.  This satisfies the thrifty part of my soul. Now it’s time to make a backing.  Cue the cheery yellow floral that brought back so many memories:

Yellows always remind me of my mother.

Careful readers of Patwig’s Blog may remember that the next step is sewing all three layers together — quilt top, batting, and backing (right side down) — leaving a small opening to pull the whole thing inside out.  After pressing, it is “fit to be tied.”

I usually hand-tie my quilts. For this I use a needlepoint thread which perfectly matches the acorn squash color.

Nearly there.  A quick check of photo dates shows this commenced August 5 with fabric selection, and sewing starting September 10 and finishing September 22.  After a quick look over by the resident inspector, it’s done.

Don't worry about soiling: Seymour keeps his paws and pads scrupulously clean.

And here’s how it looks on a bed

Not a bad project for Modest Machine to limber up after the lay off.  And now I have officially queen and twin sized quilts under my belt.  I do take commissions, and if you’d like to know more, leave a comment and I’ll get back.  Caio for now!

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Well that took forever.  Or at least felt like it did.  My First Commission (MFC) is done.  Fin,  au revoir, ciao, adios.  Now it’s rolled up and bound, set in a corner just waiting to be delivered to the interested individual who commissioned it, despite the fact that little more than a week ago I was tearing my hair out trying to finish-the-damn-thing-already.  As fate would have it,  it won’t move to its new home until late July.

To recap, this is a blog about making quilts from old clothes (and other found materials) and the last time I had anything to show for MFC was this pile of triangles

The starting point for this quilt was that it match the curtains in its intended bedroom.  That color sits on top of the pile below

The Forest Swatch led the way for color selection.

Then my mother-in-law, commissioner behind My First Commission, gave me a page from the LL Bean catalog

My eye was drawn to the quilt with the triangular pattern.

Inspired by the abundant white background, I messed around with the triangles until I arrived at a simple flying geese pattern

Traditional quilts are built from blocks. The basic block here is five-by-five triangles. This configuration and its variants is commonly called "flying geese."

The 5 x 5 blocks above contain 50 triangles and are approximately 18 inches square.  I needed 20 blocks (or 1000 triangles) for a queen-sized quilt.  Much cutting ensued.  This endeavor brought to mind a friend whose last name is Cutting.  I wondered about the origin of his name.  Did it come from a task turned into an occupation, like Miller or Smith?  Is it ironic that he also works with fabric and textiles?  This is where the mind wanders when the body is rooted to a rote assignment.

Cutting fabric into pieces in order to sew them back together is the paradox of quilting.

What happened next might be dubbed individual mass production:

One after the other, triangles sewn together make individual squares.

The seams are iron-pressed to flatten the squares

I LOVE this pink, another Salvation Army special. If I could name the color I'd call it Raspberry Geranium.

The squares are sewn together to make rows

Modest Machine capably handles this job.

And rows are sewn together to make the 5 x 5 square

What you see here is seven piles of five rows, all to be sewn together.

The basic block, this one in a mad yellow:

Edges are trimmed with a rotary cutter to square it off, resulting in a 17 inch square.

Time out here to tell you about one of the recurring fabrics in this quilt. It is a floral on a beige background, and it counterbalances the color-rich Forest Swatch and  Raspberry Geranium.  But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.  This fabric is remnants from dining room curtains my mother-in-law made 43 years ago.  I’m so delighted to have found a use for something that’s been sitting in a drawer for a lifetime.  This is the essence of a Patwig quilt.

I've even got a little bit left, which I think will pair nicely with denim for a heavyweight composition. Car quilt or picnic blanket anyone?

At this stage the project’s size requires me to move out of my workroom.  As I finish blocks I lay them down on the floor, and begin to think about how to border it.

Luckily my cats are otherwise occupied.

Then the blocks are sewn into rows, and the rows sewn together until it is one large rectangle.  This is where it gets a bit unwieldy.

After each row is sewn seams are pressed to one side. This is necessary to flatten the top. It also means a lot of moving the quilt from machine to floor to ironing board while trying not to trip over the fabric.

For a border I hope to use some of the green triangles that now seem to be everywhere, but I feel it needs a gradual transition — it’s too abrupt to place the darkest color alongside the lighter blocks. And the overall block pattern is too large to finish with a mere four-inch border.  Cue the curtain floral:

Fortunately I didn't cut all of it into triangles, so I simply sew long pieces to all four sides -- blissfully expeditious.

Unfortunately, for the green border I have nothing but triangles, so production slows while those are sewn into squares, then rows …

What moves me through this tedium is knowing the resulting border will be enhanced by the triangles, like a wood frame surrounding a linen matte.

This is the biggest quilt I’ve ever made.  Me and Modest Machine are officially riding in uncharted territory as I prepare to sew seams along the carefully pinned and folded beast

Looks a bit like a table runner.

Imagining women creating quilts of similar size with only needle and thread and no electricity  puts me in awe.  Here’s a book I enjoyed that describes women doing just that during Westward Expansion in the U.S.  After pressing the seams, the quilt top is done.  But there will be no rest for the weary.  Backing and fill remain!

Engulfing my ironing board in this way, My First Commission almost looks elegant.

I made a backing from the remainder of the bedskirt and “Sear’s Best” white twin sheets that my mother-in-law purchased for her oldest son when he was at college.  He never used them, and she still had the unopened package.   The fill is all-cotton batting purchased new from the City Quilter.

The final step is to attach the layers, which I do by hand-tying with yarn.    The floor is the only surface large enough for it to lay flat, a requirement while the layers are not secured together, and I scoot around, sometimes blanching in discomfort, while pulling yarn with a needle through three thick layers of fabric many times over.

I am pleased this yarn picks up the Raspberry Geranium so nicely.

Once enough ties were in to give the quilt stability, I hung it over the banister and finished off the remaining ties while more comfortably seated on a chair.  As the pins and needles drained out of my legs I began to like MFC again.

If you have a hankering to gather together some of your old clothing or other fabrics and fashion them into something useful (and perhaps meaningful, depending on the clothing), I will be interested in taking quilt commissions beginning in early August.  Thanks for making it to the end.

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