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!
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!
Hop on over to the tab Quilting Rulers! I’ve got a new, sweet little ruler! It’s only 5″ x 1 1/2″!! Tiny and mighty! Use either on a longarm or domestic machine. I think domestic machine quilters will love it. Super for tight spaces on a longarm and small throat areas on a domestic.
You can also get the full, 4 ruler set, for $55 and FREE shipping in the US. International customers, please choose the second option on the drop down menu, $65. Quilting Rulers
I’ve created these rulers for small hands, with curved ends to help movement over seams. No corners to slow you down! I have rave reviews for these and ladies with arthritis tell me they can ruler work all day without pain. Give them a try. I know you’ll love them like I do! Have a wonderful week everyone 🙂
I was thrilled for my first entry EVER to win a 2nd place ribbon over the weekend! What a treat! Entered in the new, VINTAGE category, at UQSM, in Sandy, UT.
The front quilting really created a wholecloth on the back of the quilt. LOVE IT!
And that second green ribbon? Even more super thrilled because it was for, “Teacher of the Year”! Let’s just say I had a great weekend! Thanks to all of you who follow my journey!
This is a recent finish by my customer, Leanne. I love the colors and the mix of fabrics! Jewel tones in cotton, linen. wool and silk. The design is by Lynn Schmitt Gallagher, A Different Box of Crayons. Definitely one of those quilts that needed to be touched in every special piece. Details…..2 layers of batting, 80/20 on the bottom and 100% wool on top, Glide thread in multiple colors to match each fabric. Enjoy the pictures!
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!
Good morning! I’m often asked where I’ll be speaking. Unfortunately, I don’t have a calendar on my website (need to add!) and I’m not terribly organized in the paperwork department 😉 HEY, I just want to quilt all day!
Here are a few places I will be in the upcoming months. On October 17, I will be doing a lecture, trunk show, and demo at A1 Sewing Center, in Wichita, KS. Later that evening at 7 pm, I will be in Pratt, KS, to speak at the Pratt Area Quilt Guild, 619 N. Main. October 13, at 7 pm, I’ll be in Grand Island, NE, at the Prairie Pioneer Quilters guild, held at St. Leo’s Catholic Church. That next morning, October 14, I’ll be in a private home for a group demo (email me if you are interested).
November takes me to Tampa, FL, for a big, week long event. Here is the flyer and you can contact Melissa for more information and for sign up.
After this I have a couple months of break to work on my own big project. The big start of 2017 for me is Australia in February!! YES, that’s right, I’ll be teaching for Handi Quilter Australia! I am super excited and a bit star struck with all the fabulous quilters that will be presenting and visiting.
That’s it for now. I hope I’ll meet you somewhere on the quilt road!
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!
I LOVE these unique pieces of handwork! I found this one at D. Palma & Co. Mercantile last weekend and I just had to get it on the frame!
This style of lace is called Teneriffe. I sent a quick note to Mary Corbet, Needle ‘N Thread, who was a doll to identify this for me. I’m always concerned with correctly identifying handwork. I visited YouTube to see how this is done and WOW! Amazing!
The lace piece is about 10″ square. It’s so delicate, which intrigued me when I saw it. I did my best to press and give it a good starch. Those circle laces were rather loose, so they took a bit of moving, stretching and starching, to get them to behave!
My favorite background these days is satin! On this particular piece I used a double batting of Hobbs 80/20 on the bottom and 100% Hobbs Wool on top. You’ll see this gives some great loft to this piece. I stitched around the perimeter of the inside square first.
Next, I stitched around the outside edge, outlining around all of the lace circles. My hand gives you an idea of size.
Once I have all the outlining and edges stitched down, I start the design process.
I added a “piano key” border with my longarm ruler.
Beads and rhinestones add the finishing touch!