I adore old quilt tops. Antique, vintage, ancient, or old, whatever you like to call them! They are cool! A lot of the attraction for me is the fabrics from the early 1900’s. I can spend hours just looking over ever part of an old quilt. The technique also attracts me. Simply cut with scissors, most likely patterned around a piece of cardboard, then often hand stitched piece by tiny piece to create a WHOLE quilt! I’m astounded by it all!
I stopped at an antique store, Fleas An Tiques, in Independence, KS, last week and found this treasure. It was half price! I absolutely had to have it for $12.50! I’m going to take you through the process from found treasure to a usable quilt. I always feel the maker is smiling down on me when the quilt is finished!
I knew right away from the musty smell that it would need a bath! Most of these old tops I can’t even touch or work on the machine until I have soaked them overnight. I have a terrible mold allergy! I first soaked this one in Retro Clean, which can be found on Amazon or sometimes in quilt or antique shops. It will take out age stains, yellowing, and give the fabrics a general brightening. You notice I said SOAK, not wash! Never agitate a top that hasn’t been quilted, you will have massive amount of fraying and you take the chance that the whole top will fall apart.
Retro Clean will only take out stains, not the mold and mildew. This one had a second day soak in an ammonia water bath. I mix 1 part ammonia to 5 parts water. Except for bleach (which you wouldn’t want to use), ammonia is the only thing I know of to actually remove mold spores. I do this soak for another 24 hours at least. There have been times I’ve had to do a 2 or 3 day ammonia soak because a top is so mildewed. My nose never lies!
After a multiple rinse, I gently squish out all the water I can, then take it to the grass. Yes, smack dab on top of the grass! The ozone rays of the sun and the chlorophyll in the grass will brighten and whiten a fabric. I give that about a day in the sunshine.
This top is a mix of feedsacks, shirt cottons, and just your average bits of clothing. You can almost see the worn blouses, pants, baby blankets, and family wardrobes that are mixed together in a quilt like this. That’s the fun! I swear I even see the fabric from my grandpa’s boxer shorts! Can you imagine not having the fabric resources that we have now? This reminds me that life was certainly different 100 years ago! Women were frugal and used every bit of what they already had. I’m sure my closet alone could make a dozen quilts!
You can see from the back that someone worked diligently on the piecing. Would we even begin to piece a quilt top by hand? I find hand stitching to be mesmerizing and intriguing. Hand piecing does cause a few issues in modern day machine quilting, but nothing that can’t be worked out!
I do give these tops as good a press as possible, always from the top. There really is no way to press as we do nowadays, seams pressed a certain direction. I try to get them as flat as possible, always using a good spray starch.
There are also the random holes. Since these are not collectible, heirloom quilt tops, I am usually looking for a quick fix. I use a piece of fusible interfacing and any piece of cotton to make a patch on the underside.
Once I’ve soaked, shined, fixed and pressed, it’s finally time for the quilting. Let’s go!
I load a backing on my longarm, a Handi Quilter Fusion with Pro-Stitcher computer. On these particularly wavy tops, I usually choose a 100% polyester batting, this one is Hobbs brand. The fluff of the polyester tends to fill in the excess fabric, eliminating any stitched in wrinkles.
The next important tool is my Glide foot by Handi Quilter! I couldn’t quilt so many of the things I quilt if I didn’t have this foot! It’s magic for me! On these lumpy, bumpy, uneven tops, this foot glides over everything. It’s easy on, easy off with a quick flip of my allen wrench. I can pop my regular hopping foot on at any time.
I start by basting a horizontal line across the top of the quilt using the channel locks on my machine. This locks the machine in a horizontal position. I manipulate the top with one hand while moving the machine with the other.
After I have a line across the top, then I do a vertical line down both sides. Once again, I use the option on my machine called a vertical lock. I manipulate the fabric as much as possible to the vertical line. Both of these locks will square the quilt as much as possible while it’s on the frame.
I keep a spray bottle of water at my side, using it to spray the top, keeping it pliable and easily manipulated.
Another tip, when choosing a design for these busy tops, choose an all over design. Custom quilting on anything like this is really not even possible and would be lost. I look for a dense and flowing design, something that will secure a lot of seams and give the quilt strength. On these beauties, I’m looking for some great texture. I chose a digital design by Susan Mallett, called “Paisley”.
While I’m working each row, I often run into excess fabric that can actually be flattened with a good can of spray starch and a steam iron. You can see a quick video here on how I do that, but simply, spray your starch over the fabric, then run a steam iron (mine is a cordless Panasonic) over the area. You will see almost an immediate tightening of the fabrics. FYI, this only works on cottons.
The last row definitely tells the true shape of the quilt. Sometimes, you can try as hard as you might, but you can’t make a wonky quilt, square. I get very close though 😉
I did one more soak in ammonia water after the quilting. I realized when I started to put on the binding that I had used an estate sale fabric for the backing, which meant mold and mildew. I couldn’t work with it again until I soaked that fabric! Dang!!
Finally, I stitched on the binding. I usually don’t tell anyone this, but binding may be my favorite part of the quilt. Honestly, I love to hand stitch.
I hope you were inspired by this post to finish an old quilt. If everyone reading this did just one, think how many quilts we would have!!! Have a wonderful day!
I LOVE parts and pieces of vintage linens! Most of us have doilies, embroideries, old quilt parts and various linens from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and maybe just found treasures from long ago. I’ll take you on a “how to” journey so that you might be able to bring those pieces out of their drawers and make them into something usable and memorable. Let’s go!
This particular piece began with an unfinished block of applique. I was given a bag of treasures from a friend, who felt that I would be the best ‘keeper’ of her grandmothers’ linens. I would guess these fabrics to be from the 1930’s or 40’s. Baskets with flowers have long been a popular pattern for quilters. When I find a one block wonder, it makes me think the maker made one and then said, “boy I’ll never do that again!” LOL!!
This block is about 20″ square. It was relatively clean so there was no need to give it a bath. If a piece has stains, I like to give it a soak in Retro Clean. You can see from my work table that I am NOT a tidy girl. I usually have multiple projects going at the same time! Plus, I like to pull out everything that might work with a piece.
The first thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted to use a bag of reproduction fabrics I had picked up at a garage sale. Yes, 5o cents for all this!!
I always like to share the back of a piece because you see the real work of the original maker.
I started by cutting 4 strips that are 1 1/2″ wide. I wanted a simple border using colors from the appliqued flowers. These are not the same fabrics, but they blend nicely.
I also wanted to bring in some of the hundreds of doilies I own. Who has doilies?? I’m guessing LOTS of you! Seems our ancestors loved to crochet, tat, and do all sorts of lace work. I will be the first to admit that I will never use them all in my lifetime, but I do admire them and the hours of work that someone put into making them!
I put them around the perimeter of the block and cut them, yes, I cut them. Trust me, it’s OK! Lightening will not strike you 😉
I sprayed each doily with some 505 temporary baste spray. This way they would stay where I placed them until I could get them sewn onto the block.
With right sides together, I stitched the border to the block, catching in the doilies.
Working around the piece, I stitched each strip to make a frame around the block and envelope the doilies.
I put a total of three small borders to frame this piece. I ditch stitched them on my domestic machine and then put the piece on my longarm to do the quilting. Any of this work can be done on a domestic or longarm machine, but I wanted to try out my new, notched rulers, so I worked on the longarm to finish this piece. These rulers are ONLY for use on the longarm because the hopping foot nestles in the notch of the ruler and gives complete control around the applique shapes.
Before I start to free motion quilt anything, I stabilize the entire piece by outlining each and every applique and embroidered line. This gives definition to the block. Now I’m ready for the fun, quilting!
This photo shows the definition created when the outlining is finished. While I outlined, I also went into a few of the flower centers and leaves. I always to try to work in an area while I’m there, that way there are less starts and stops and I am able to do a continuous stitch line.
Here are a few technical details of this piece. I quilt on a Handi Quilter Fusion, longarm machine. I used a layer of Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 batting and my thread is Glide, 60 wt, color Cream, by Fil-Tec.
At this point, I changed to the Glide foot. This may be my most used tool! It glides over crochet, applique, anything that is not flat on the surface. A few other machine brands have their version of this foot. Check with your dealer to see if your machine has one! Even on my Bernina, I have a disc type foot that I think they call an echo foot. This can be used with great ease over doilies and embroideries.
I used my favorite pebble, spiral mix and when the entire piece was finished, I added a few pearls and glass beads to pull down the trim edges. I rarely stitch down an edge as I like to save that for embellishing.
When I make the back of a pillow, I also use batting to give the finished pillow a sturdy structure.
I put together a few pieces of fabric, sandwiched with batting and a piece of muslin for the backing, then quilted on my domestic machine with a random wave. I think it makes a great texture and is super simple!
I’ve made an envelope pillow with this one. If you’ve not seen that done, check YouTube for a tutorial. They are super easy and go together almost quicker than a regular pillow. Put the right sides together and then stitch around the perimeter.
Turn inside out and there you have it! A usable, beautiful, heirloom pillow, with possibly a lot of sentimental value if you’ve used your family treasures!
I used a Hobbs pillow form for a very quick fill!
I hope this inspires you to pull some things out of your drawers and closets and create something to use from your parts and pieces of vintage linens. There is a challenge and a thrill that come from these creations. More than anything else, HAVE FUN!
Just what you’ve asked for and so many have waited for! Finally, a video that shows you how I approach quilting vintage linens on the longarm. Thanks to Handi Quilter, who recently filmed a 45 minute segment on this process. I hope you enjoy the episode and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you are interested in my rulers or lectures/workshops, find those tabs for more information. Thanks for visiting!
I’m often asked if I have videos to show how I’m doing a technique. I keep saying I’ll get a GoPro, but for now, my phone is quick and easy. Thanks to Leanne, whose quilt I am using to share some ruler work. Here are a couple of new clips on using my rulers.
YES, I’ve added a new ruler to my collection this week! I never know I need a new one, until I try to do a design and start thinking about how it could be easier. This time, I wanted to create a curve that was equally convex AND concave, so I don’t have to contort my body to do a design like the orange peel. You can watch my quick YouTube video to see how I use this ruler on my domestic machine. I’ll get one up shortly for a demonstration on the longarm.
Here is the order page for the Kelly Bean and my other rulers. I will try to get some tutorials made on how I use these very soon! Have a great quilting day!
Another quilted hankie! Can you tell I love this combination of a satin backing with a hankie on top? I made this one for a class sample for Melissa, aka, MK Quilts. It all starts with the satin backing as the “frame”, with the hankie quilted right on top. I used a double batting of 80/20 Hobbs on the bottom and 100% wool on top.
If I am using a hankie with LOTS of white space, I use Cindy Needham’s Ultimate Stencils. Her square and circle grids make it a breeze to design almost anything. They come with an enormous e-book of possible designs that will help you through the process. I think I’ll be ordering her ultimate background stencils soon, especially helpful if you are a domestic machine quilter.
So, pair the Ultimate Stencils with my favorite rulers, and you’ve got a great combination!
I’ve found the rounded end of the rulers make for a great scallop! I always look to repeat a shape or design, so I wanted to repeat the scalloped edge of the hankie on the background. The slim ruler is 1 1/2″ wide, so it made the smaller scallop. Then, I used my Palm ruler for the larger scallop echo. The width on the Palm ruler is 2 1/2″, so it was a perfect echo!
As if there weren’t enough scallops, I also made them inside the scallop! I was going for an open and lacy look.
I like to sign my name when I can work it into a piece.
And viola! I just love these pieces. Fun and fasts to design and stitch. I usually design as it’s on the frame. Each section tells me what to do with the next. They always speak to me!
I spent an evening with beads and the TV. I like a bit of sparkle where it can be added.
This little beauty flew off to Florida the next day, ready to share for show and tell at a few guilds. I will be speaking and teaching in the Tampa, Florida, area in November. My sit down, domestic machine workshops will be following this piece and I’ll guide you in the process. It can be accomplished on the longarm or on your domestic machine. Hope to meet you somewhere in my travels!
I have TUBS of linens and embroideries! One of my good friends, Shelley, mailed me this linen she found in an antique store recently. This did not get to the tub! I was compelled to stitch it the day I got it, but oogled over it for a few weeks before loading on the longarm. Originally, this was a 100ish year old pillow cover.
Having found a few of these, they date somewhere between 1900-1920. They were pre-printed/tinted pillow covers and were dyed in the areas where you would stitch. Some ladies chose to embroider the whole area, while others did smaller areas, leaving some of the printed colors showing. A few companies that produced these were Richardson’s, Royal Society and Vogart. I love when the selvage has the name of the maker as it can also give me clues to the date of the embroidery. This one did not have that information.
This treasure had quite a few stains when I received it, but I’m never bothered by smell or stains as I’ve experimented plenty with great results. My favorite cleaner is called Retro Clean. It is a powder that is dissolved in warm water for best results. You can find it in antique shops and quilt stores, also on the internet. I soaked this piece for 24 hours and it sparkled when it dried! The heavy stains were gone and it brightened the linen considerably.
I always begin by basting around the edge of the entire piece. I work like that is my frame. Then I stitch around all of the embroidery, as you would stitch in the ditch around applique. I use my very favorite palm size ruler to use as resistance against the hopping foot to guide the machine.
Once I have all of the outlining done, the fun begins! I did a very small fill in the center and the outside felt like it needed some flowing feathers to move with the stalks of what I think may be milo. I’m pretty sure I created the movement I wanted.
I always begin with what the linen is “telling” me. They don’t all speak the same way, but I definitely get a feeling from each one. The density of the french knots made me start with the pebbles and spirals in the center. YES, those are all french knots! The trapunto effect was caused naturally by using two layers of batting, 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom on the bottom and 100% Hobbs wool on top. This double batting will cause some drag on the machine when starting, but the effects are dramatic!
I made sure to work the feathers into the same direction as the stalks of milo. Beginning with a spine to follow that line, I worked the feathers right up to the original embroidery.
What was I thinking when I made a 1/2″ grid! It was a bit tedious, but the end result is fantastic! This ruler is so great for small areas. For design purposes, I often balance straight lines and circular forms. You don’t want too much of anything!
I can’t decide which is my favorite, the checkerboard or the feathers!
AAAAAAND the almost finish! I can’t ever wait to share these things, so no binding yet. For traveling purposes, I’ll put a tiny binding on so it lays flat in my suitcase! Have a fabulous weekend folks!
Many times, my readers ask questions or give me inspiration for ideas. This morning was a question that might be a learning tool for everyone. I know when I first started quilting on the longarm, I had NO clue how to work around applique! So, how do I use rulers to work around applique?
I made a very quick video about my method that you can find here on YouTube. Nothing at all professional, just my trusty little Iphone!
I use my favorite quilting ruler as resistance against the hopping foot. I travel very slowly! Also, make sure you are using a ruler base that is made for your longarm machine. I work on a Handi Quilter Fusion which has a specific base made especially for my machine.
Sometimes I get into tight places, but the size of the ruler allows me to work this way. Remember, light touch and move slowly. Don’t push or pull on the ruler or the base. Let the machine be somewhat guided by your ruler. I hope this helps! Have a fabulous day!
YES, it can be done! I learned this method from a wonderful class with Sharon Schamber. You can use starch and heat to reduce wobbles and waves from any quilt top, border, or block! I did this last week with a beautiful, vintage top. The quilt was machine pieced and hand appliqued in the blocks.
This is what the block looked like before I created the magic! There was at least 2 inches of extra fabric in the center. After I sprayed the block and ironed, it was almost flat. I was able to start stitching at this point with NO WRINKLES OR CREASES!
The final block looks like it was perfectly flat to begin with!
As usual, I used my favorite quilting rulers for lots of ditch stitching on this quilt.
Now, if you’re still wondering how this whole starch and shrink thing works, watch this quick video. I learn by watching, so I hope the visual helps you too!