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A highlight of my summer was about 17 days (but who’s counting) at my lakeside weekend home in New Jersey.

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Evening, July 10

My husband joined me on the weekends, but the rest of the time was my own, and I used it as a creative retreat.  I had two cats with me, family nearby, some wonderful neighbors, and nothing but the cycling days and nights to fill as I wished.  It was bliss.

The weekend prior I brought up a bunch of materials

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I have been cutting up jeans, khaki’s, cargo shorts and more for 10 years.  In this time, my house has been blighted with clothes moths.  Enter Container Store.

As fabric is my medium, this is my method

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Modest Machine

Two items in my materials seemed to float to the top. My younger son (known as Chuck) recently castoff a pair of cargo shorts. My painterly friend Chuck gave me a canvas remnant scored with an island of red paint. These became my starting points.

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Using a seam ripper, I completely took apart the shorts, section by section.

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Belt loops

Preparing the fabric is observational and contemplative.  Handling it I note its surface feel, weight, mobility. With each change in geometry and line I imagine new arrangements, and fabrics to enhance the bright red island. It takes most of the first day to take the shorts apart.

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Waistband, cargo pockets, zipper fly, hems, and belt loops all give way to my seam ripper, lint roll, and iron.

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These were well worn shorts. I’m not sure why they stopped returning value to my Chuck, but for me this new form is tremendously pleasing. I love its furry softness and the rippling gradations in the fade.

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The rabbit munching in the grass every day probably put me in mind of a red clover print in my stash, luckily in one of the containers I brought along. These were from a pair of jeans (pocket lining) I wore in the long long ago, before children. Turns out this is why I saved them.

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At some point in my process there’s a shift from taking apart to putting together. In this case it was when I noticed the pocket flaps had clipped corners. Modest Machine roared to life to attach pocket lining to create 90 degree angles. I’m enjoying now how they look like old fashioned photo mounts.

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I still felt one more element was needed for the composition.  Some painted denim from my inspiring friend Chuck seemed to fit, with its grey and blue hues

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Then in a pretty continuous flow Modest Machine and I joined the elements together

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Surrounding the center island atoll

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Buddy checked frequently for surface feel.

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Until it was done (about 22 hours, but who’s counting), and as close to square as I’ve ever come with a quilt.The border includes a jeans leg where Chuck painted a blue rectangle.

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That’s Chuck Squared. Backing is an old sheet. The fill, as always, 100% cotton batting, as this is a small quilt/blanket/throw.   Coming very soon a post on the project that came on the heels of this one. Let me know what you think in the comments, and here’s your bonus shot for reading to the end!

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The deck at night, July 11

 

 

 

 

Linda is a nurse who happens to be caring for her elderly mother at home.  Years ago after her father died, she started to weave a blanket from his old ties for a way to remember him.

She wove together her Dad's ties

She didn’t finish it, so she set it aside.

She’s also a neighbor, and one day she saw some quilts I made from old clothes, and asked if I could make a quilt using the blanket she’d started and her mother’s old scarves.  She planned to keep it at a vacation home her family has had for generations in Maine.  I was delighted to have a new commission!

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She brought a large bag with the tie blanket, and this assortment of scarves and a few other pieces of clothing from other family members.

After showing her a Chinese Coin pattern quilt I made for my mother,  she chose that style as the primary design.  With a plan in place, Patwig got busy:  all materials washed, ties cut up, and fusible interfacing pressed to all ties and scarves.

Once the ties were all cut open and the scarves pressed, the interface is pressed onto the backs.  LOVED this red and black scarf so much I couldn't bear to cut it

Linda said her Mom’s black and red scarf was from the 60’s; it killed me to cut this up

Dad’s ties were myriad browns, featuring the small, repeating patterns typical of ties, in a handful of muted color variations.  In contrast, Mom’s scarves packed saturated jewel tones in a variety of splashy prints.  I was having trouble at first seeing how to work the two styles in together, until  I pinned the jazziest scarves to the wall and mated the ties by color to each

I pinned a bunch of the scarves to the wall and "matched" ties to them ... this helped me see a way to mix them together in the coin stacks

Then I cut and laid out just enough to show Linda how a Chinese Coin stack from her fabrics might look

She was happy with it, so I could proceed

She wanted a finished square of 84 by 84 inches for a full size bed.  I made enough rows to fill the bed top, which ended up a 54 x 62 inch rectangle.

This came together quickly

Lots of border was needed all the way around to bring this out to 84 x 84.  Ideally I might have bordered this in all black or navy to corral the rowdy colors.  But I had to work with the fabric I had.  After consulting one of the quilting reference books I’ve  picked up over the years, I thought I’d give the “basic braid” border a try.  Luckily Linda liked that idea

Light colors inside the border

I ended up grouping the lights on the inside and darks at the outside to highlight the center.

The corner, or capstone

For a braided border you can start with a triangle.  Strips are lined up at a right angle one at a time at each side.

Once I had a critical mass, I sent a picture to Linda just to be sure I was still barking up the right tree.  Fortunately her answer was “it’s awesome,” so I continued full steam ahead.

Luckily the measurement was in the desired 84" ballpark

It helps to be happy with how a project is turning out, but this work moved at a slow pace, one step at a time.  That’s the nature of craft, I suppose.  It always takes longer than I think it will.

Braided borders can also be made just all mixed up, but I think the inner light works best on this quilt given the center coin section

With repetition, it gets into a rhythm and begins to move faster

I'm thinking there may be another braided mash up in my near quilting future

The mostly white appearance at the back of the braids is due to the fusible interfacing. The couple that look grey/blue were nice thick denim, which didn’t require supplemental backing

Linda dropped the fabrics to me on New Year’s Eve.  At this stage it’s mid-February.  If I had worked all day every day I would have finished well before the end of January.

After the third side was done it was kind of depressing to see how many more strips I would need

I had light and dark strips ready from the earlier prep, from which I could pick and choose as I went along

As a project gets bigger, the pace slows because it’s harder physically to move the whole thing around.  I have a son in college so I use his room and floor down the hall from my workroom to lay it out … thanks Pete!

Ironing out the last side strip before attaching to the body of the quilt.  Makes a nice contrast to the floor covering in my office.  Color anyone?

Once all borders are sewn around the center, it is a finished quiltop.

I'm trying a new type of batting for this project -- for this one I used NAME HERE and it has a nice, fluffy loft.

Do any Patwig readers remember what you do with a finished quilt top? Yep, place it, top up, on a piece of cotton fill or batting …

… and then it needs a back.  I combined the handful of cotton clothing items Linda provided with old sheet sections from my stash to piece a back together.

For the backing I pieced together old sheets from my stash with cottons from clothes from Linda

Pressing, sewing and seaming the back took an afternoon

I stopped counting when my estimated hours on this project neared 90.  This is an info nugget for those who always ask me how long it takes to make a quilt.  Answer: it depends, but usually a long time!

The layers are sewn together, turned inside out, then press it out with an iron a final time

At the end of the day, the piece itself is the reward, because I really liked how it turned out

I used 16 yarn ties to secure the layers together (thanks Ellen Banner for your yarn donation!)

I can't get a full picture of it but this is one side ...

I'm happy with the liveliness of this piece

I hope you enjoyed reading about how this came together. Thanks for making it to the end!

I think it’s on its way to Maine.  Next project will be an experiment using recent fabric donations.

Last month my lucky stars (more accurately, a reader in a donating mood — thanks Lana) brought me a treasure trove of upholstery samples that were doing nothing in her closet:

All this filled two contractor bags

Many were 12 inch squares, some bigger.  Some I liked because of their color, some because of the patterns (many hydrangeas) and I quickly became excited as I saw how this one would go well with denim or that one with corduroy.  So cheering was this sudden abundance that I ignored the fact that my fabric stash had just increased exponentially.

I removed all the tags first to eliminate the staples -- I didn't want Modest Machine to break a tooth. Assuming the dates on the tags indicate date of manufacture, some of these were 14 years old.

As I sorted and bagged the bounty, I recalled a trio of denim throws made recently for a school craft fair.  The one that sold I liked the best, and this is the only picture I can find of it:

A 16-square center surrounded by a neutral and finished with a scrap denim border.

All this new upholstery suggested a remake.  I looked for pieces that would work with denim:

The rust color at left is very similar to the stain finish on a media cabinet in my home, a warm, rich hue

A patterned cotton offered a floral match:

This is an example of one of my favorite quilting terms -- "fussy cutting," in which a specific pattern or motif is cut without regard to maximizing fabric usage. Such practice is generally anathema to Patwig, but an exception is made here.

A bag of denim scraps from the last project offered a head start on the strip border:

But I don't have big enough pieces for the center squares, so it's back to cutting up jeans. Time to thank Wendy, who gave me an outgrown pair of her son's, and my husband, who parted with a faded pair of Levi's.

Assembling the inner section is rapid.  A simple linen/hopsack from the upholstery trove adds a needed neutral.

Four rows of four 7-inch squares

The denim border will take more time.  I like how these strips playfully suggest the fabric’s prior life:

I left the Levi's tag on at first, but it started to crumble when sewn through, and didn't take to ironing at all.

Once the quiltop is done, I enlist a piece of flannel from a massive old comforter cover:

A little of this color goes a very long way

These fabrics are so heavy I don’t need a lot of batting.  An old jersey sheet, previously repurposed into a turban for a school project, is just right:

I do love the angle of the sun this time of year

Once all layers are sewn together it’s ready for hand tying.  Since this has been a such a speedy project, I decide to drop time into some extreme repurposing … pulling apart the woven strands from some pillowcases my friend Matthew gave me:

When I machine washed these pillowcases the weave basically fell apart (it really is best to follow care instructions). The wreckage revealed that each cord was three twisted strands of thread, or now, quilt ties.

The finished product is a 38 by 38 heavyweight nearly 100% cotton throw.  It’s for sale, and if anyone’s interested, comment here or send me an email.   And stay tuned for more upholstery projects!

Now I’ve just got to use up the rest of that upholstery

A big thank you for all the lovely comments, via email and on the blog, after the last post, and a special shout out to readers Nicole and Lana, who were moved to give me fabric contributions (mens ties and upholstery samples).  Thanks for repurposing/reusing/recycling with me!

When I left you I had begun to cut the Hermes ties so trustingly given me by Ellen, who commissioned this quilt.  After a second meeting, in which we established her preferences, I basically got down to the nitty gritty.

First step: press fusible interfacing to all the strips. Somewhere around 150 strips at 15-20 seconds per press, well, you get it. I was grateful for my iPod speaker.

Once that was done I began sewing together pieces from the rows Ellen and I had laid out together.  The rows shrank as strips were sewn.  This vanishing fabric is called “seam allowance” which good quilters plan for and quilters like me freelance around.  Constant rearranging was necessary.  Since more strips were needed I added more of the yellow chinese silk, including strips turned to use the vertically striped backside, seen in the rows below

What I'd previously thought was a 65" tall column was now a lot less. The beautiful silks offered more strips.

The next step was to add the sashing between the columns.  Ellen chose the Thai silk for this

A cabinet door in my workroom offers a place to hang work in progress, so I can see how the "coin stack" looks with its sashing

The Thai silk was running low, down to one 39 x 39 square, a 35 by 8 segment and a few scraps.

Will there be enough for a 6 inch border? I'm notoriously bad at simple math. How I became the family bookkeeper I'll never know.

At over 65″ square, things get rather unwieldy.  My son’s bedroom floor, next door to my workroom, offers a surface to lay it out.  Unfortunately, with the winter we’ve been having, he seems to be home every other day due to snow.  Thus, he occupies his room, quilt production slows, and shoveling increases.

The upside?  Might as well stay inside and work on the quilt

After checking and rechecking my math, I cut the remaining fragments for a 6″ border (with the seam allowance it’ll end up more like 5 to 5 1/2).

I pin the border strips (the filmy white stuff is the fusible interface) and carefully fold the piece up between sewing and pressing

Border complete, I’m ready for batting and backing.  Ellen provided a new sheet, a lovely hue called China Blue (current product at The Company Store) for backing, and with batting from my local resource City Quilter, I consult my personal quilting bible to remind myself what order and on which side the quilt layers go together

Batting goes down first

Quiltop is placed, right side up, on batting

Backing is placed, right side down, on quiltop

Excess batting and backing are trimmed, and the three layers are pinned around the edges, leaving a 10 -12" opening

Modest Machine capably sews the perimeter three times

I turn it inside out through the 10-12" opening; it reminds me of a nautilus

But is it finished?  No, it’s fit to be tied!  Ellen drops off bunches of yarn she had but was not using

and I use a needle to pull about 80 5″ lengths of yarn through the layers and tie each in a simple double knot.  This took an afternoon on the floor.  Luckily, school was in session.

In spite of the laborious crawling-around-on-my-knees aspect, I still prefer hand tied quilts

Finished, it’s about 69 inches square.  The ties retain their tie-like aspect given that the pieces are not all cut on right angles.  Three pieces spread over the rows have penguins on them.  I hope it is a fitting tribute to the man it was made to remember.

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