Archives for posts with tag: quilting

Generally this is a blog about making quilts from old clothes, but I promised a follow up to Plant Rescue, and here it is.

Recap:  plants in my city neighbors’ yard were headed for the dumpster per a complete house & yard renovation.  I asked to rescue them.  Permission granted, plant rescue began.

Several agreeably sunny days found me hauling plant after plant out of the yard as well as digging out some of my own underperforming shrubs.  It began to look like a garden center out there:

Spirea, viburnum, Rose of Sharon, rose, Skimmia, Andromeda, and more.

The problem was I did not have room for all.  Then I remembered my NJ neighbors (not the foreclosure neighbors) recently asked for gardening advice.  Actually, they asked me last year and at the time I offered to divide some of my overgrown perennials, but never did.  This opportunity seems to be a perfect match for them.

My very enthusiastic neighbor, I’ll call him Fred, drove to my house bright and early one Saturday. We loaded up his truck and headed for the NJ hills

The big stuff went in Fred's truck. The small stuff went in my sedan's trunk.

with the swag.  While Fred began digging I scooted off to a nearby garden center for enriched potting soil to juice up the dirt.  Fred’s yard had a handful of scattered bulbs, flowers and perennials  from the previous owner.   He and his wife, Dana, were immaculate caretakers of their house and yard, but had done little gardening or landscaping.

The front entry seemed a natural place to start:

What you can't see are the two maniacally barking dogs on the other side of the window.

How I wish my yard got the full sun this spot does all day.  Here the rescued Rose of Sharon and peony, along with hosta and hyacinth from elsewhere in this yard, found a home.  In the intervening week, Fred added a little decor, and now it looks like this:

The peony (in front) will bush out and bloom in a month or so, and the now-spindly Rose of Sharon (at rear) should leaf out and provide August flowers.

Next up viburnum, which can grow to 8 feet.  This corner offers ample room:

Click to see the hosta buds in shadow next to the hyacinth. The hosta was big, and needed to move for the shrub to have room to grow.

Division produced several pieces of hosta

Fred didn't have a saw, so dividing was accomplished by jumping up and down on a flat shovel.

and the viburnum took its place.  Fred, who is loving this BTW, dressed it up with mulch:

By now we were tired and anxious to finish by the time Dana got home.  The remaining big shrubs had to go in; the rest could wait a week. Along another street-facing wall went a spirea, skimmia, and a sand cherry that had been failing to thrive in my NYC backyard for more than 10 years.

Fred plans to replace the grass with mulch around these, and the bed can be filled in with annuals or perennials whenever they are ready.

I have high hopes for the spirea.  These wonderful plants develop a gorgeously sprawling habit when they’re happy.  I have one in my NJ yard that looks like this years after its transfer from NYC:

Is this becoming a long story by now?  Let me finish.  The following weekend, these before-and-afters happened:

Unadorned deck, formerly the housing for a hot tub.

From left, Manhattan euonymous , skimmia, and rose. The euonymous and rose will climb.

This part of the yard is fenced in for the dogs, but I'm hoping the combination of full sun, new enriched dirt, and the offsetting railroad ties will minimize the dog effect.

Spirea, skimmia and iris are in from the Plant Rescue, the rest, black-eyed Susan, lamb's ears and creeping geranium, were divided out from my NJ yard.

That was then.

This past week was focused on the tedious and visually uninteresting task of cutting enough triangles for that queen-sized quilt I claim to be making:

I could do the math but don't really want to know how many triangles are here.

This is a blog about making quilts from recycled clothes, as some of you who have already read it will attest.  Perhaps a few curious souls have checked and seen no activity lately.  Sorry!  I’ve felt more than a little guilt about this as I truly like blogging.  I also have a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has told me in person, by email or via Facebook that you enjoy the blog.

So why the pause and what is so completely different?  Well, depending on where you live, you may have noticed much nicer weather lately.  Though not conducive to quilting, it has been just right for a Plant Rescue.

A neighbor moved away, selling the house next door.  The new owner is completely renovating the property, including the rear yard.  After 14 years of admiring my neighbor’s garden (particularly a lovely dwarf red maple), I was horrified to hear it would be gutted.  So began Plant Rescue.

The new owners gave me permission, via their construction foreman, to rescue the plants.  Here’s what the yard looked like, from my house, in mid March

Plants are dormant but you can see some evergreens on the left. Click photo for a better view. The red maple is to the right of the grill.

One fine warm weekend, I got permission to enter, and dug up the first round of plants.  Then I had a stack of stuff in my yard

I dug until I ran out of containers and burlap to temporarily house and swaddle them.  Careful readers of Patwig’s Blog will recall my determined preference to reuse materials, so I used all the empty plastic containers I could find.  I do confess to buying two rolls of burlap at a local hardware store because I had none.

Funny how from my window the plants appeared smaller than they turned out to be.  Here you see what looks like three shrubs

But once I dug in I yielded five plants, the lighter-leaved plant on the left, which I resettled in my yard

Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is ill from a lace bug infestation, which apparently hit NYC hard last year (who knew?) but I'm taking a chance because it is perfect for this spot.

The smaller plant in the middle was actually two Skimmia.  Once they were out I saw the delightful buds of another specimen I have long admired, a blue “Big Daddy” hosta, and lastly the rhododendron on the right.  All of these I had to dig out another day due to lack of burlap.

A gardening friend (GF) dropped some extra burlap over my fence one day, enabling the quest.  Out came two Rose of Sharon, a verbena, two climbing roses, a Montauk daisy (which my GF tells me can be wildly propagated), too many astilbe to count, bunches of iris, a Cotoneaster (one of my all-time-favorite plants) and, of course, the Big Guy himself, the red maple.

Can anyone explain that trunk? Click for a closer look at it.

I  pruned the Maple.  I dug around the dripline of the Maple.  But there was no way I was going to move the Maple.  Enter the very lovely construction foreman and my nicest asking and voila,  Friday before Easter, an opening was made in the fence

A hole was dug by Patwig

I knew there was a reason I wrote "ditch digger" under my high school yearbook photo.

And three workers, with a rope and a two-by-four, carried the Maple to its new home.

Words cannot begin to express how grateful I was to these men, but luckily, there’s cash.

I’m glad you’ve made it this far, but I think it’s time to stop.  Some readers may have unanswered questions, such as what was in the place where I dug the deep hole?   What about that long list of other plants?  Do I have room in my yard for them?  Unfortunately, I do not.  This is just Part One of Plant Rescue.  Part Two will appear after the plants are installed in their new home.  In the meantime, the long-awaited My First Commission (MFC) will return.

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.

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.

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.

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