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 this quilt by Victoria Findlay Wolfe! It is currently being exhibited at the Festival of Quilts in the U.K. The exhibit is called, “Victoria Findlay Wolfe:Traditions Made Modern”. I’m so excited for Victoria and the adventures she is having. How cool to have an entire exhibit with your name on it!!! You go girl!!
I quilted this quilt for her last summer and had forgotten about it until it showed up in my Facebook feed this morning! What a surprise! It’s hanging in Birmingham, UK, August 10-13. I hope some of you will be visiting what looks to be a fabulous show!
Victoria and I met a few years ago when she visited my quilt guild in Lawrence, KS, and also did a workshop. I typically sew the way she does, improvisational and never follow a pattern! I loved her workshop and always try to get in ’15 minutes of play’ when I’m home and near my machine.
She had asked me to quilt this quilt in the spirit of artist, Matisse. I had SO much fun with each area, using bits and pieces from his artwork.
It’s such an interesting quilt and you’ll need to see it close up to really understand the Matisse influence.
There was an incredible amount of ruler work on this one, but then again, I LOVE ruler work, so WIN WIN!!
I hope you will get to see this in person one day. It’s just fun! Have a lovely weekend folks, especially those of you attending the Festival of Quilts.
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!
While teaching and traveling in Australia this last February, I was given quite a few lovely pieces of handwork and Aussie fabrics. I have them all hanging in my studio and a few weeks ago I was inspired to create something special with two of the pieces.
On my longarm I have a backing, then Hobbs 80/20 batting, then the super cute, Koala background fabric. At this point, I ran an edge to edge design over the background fabric, THEN, laid the two doilies on top of the fabric.
Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll take you through the process. Under each linen I added a single layer of Hobbs 80/20 batting to give an extra loft. It also hides the print that is under the doily. I cut the batting larger than the doily and trim it away after I have quilted the linen.
I stabilize the piece by “ditch” stitching around the inside edge of the crocheted trim. I leave that scant 1/8″ so that I can trim away the batting later. You’ll see what happens when I finish quilting. I quilt on a Handi Quilter Fusion and here I am using the “Glide” foot. It is almost a necessity when stitching lace and embroideries. You can see it glides right over all the thickness.
At this point I will stitch around ALL the embroidery. I never stitch over the handwork, but around everything! It gives the piece great definition and pops it right out of the linen. Deciding on the design usually comes as I am outlining all of the embroidery. You can see the spine I have created for the eventual feathers. I like to use a blue, water soluble pen for marking. (TIP: to remove blue marks completely and seemingly forever, mix 1 t baking soda to 1 cup of water, place in a spray bottle. This mix must be fresh each day it is used.)
I trimmed the batting to the inside edge of the trim crochet, using a curved pair tiny, sharp scissors. My favorites are a simple pair of cuticle scissors!
After the batting is trimmed, I lay down the crochet and stitch the outside edge to cover any of the batting that might have not been precisely trimmed. It always covers that raw edge of batting.
You can see here how much stitching I put into the embroidery.
The full piece was taken off the frame and split in half, therefore, creating both sides for the tote bag. I made both sides a bit different. I also TEA stained the pieces once I had the quilting done to make the fabric match the age of the linen. This really made the whole thing come together!
Next, I sewed the halves together and also made a lining WITH a pocket for the inside.
Handles were added, also tea stained.
And there you have it! A new tote bag made by repurposing an antique linen. It’s also a fabulous reminder of the great friends I made in Australia! (Special thanks to Lynne for the handwork and Caroline for the fabric!)
I hope this post helped to see the process for some of the bits of handwork we all have hiding in our drawers. Try it, you’ll become a lover of vintage repurposing!
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!
“Champagne and Caviar”, is the title I’ve given to this spectacular quilt! It began as a 100 year old, silk embroidered tablecloth, purchased from an estate sale. Unfortunately, I have no information about the maker, who is the major artist on this work!
This tablecloth was incredible when I found it! Exquisite handwork comprised of drawn thread work and a padded satin stitch using silk thread. Seriously incredible because the maker essentially DOUBLE embroidered this piece. First, with a white cotton floss to create a trapunto effect, then she stitched over the first embroidery with silk floss. Of course, pictures don’t do it justice. I will hope you might see it in person someday!
To begin this quilt, which is 75″ square, I stitched around every bit of embroidery and thread work. I backed the entire piece with white satin to give it a subtle sheen. I used the new Glide Cream color, 60 weight thread for the outlining. It’s a great super fine, polyester thread. There is a double batting in this quilt, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 on the bottom and Hobbs 100% wool on the top. This gives the quilt fabulous loft and a trapunto effect.
I started in the middle, knowing this focal point would be an important part of the quilt. I used Handi Quilters’ Preview Paper, which is a sturdy, clear plastic to audition and play with designs. You can see what I decided on in the next photo. LOVE preview paper!!!
I worked different areas of this quilt depending on each days’ mood! I stayed on this for over a month, maybe 250 hours, which is really impressive if you know me! I get tired of working on the same thing and often hop from project to project. This was actually fun and I could hardly wait to get up every morning and work on something different.
At one point I realized I would need to start doing some embellishing as I quilted, so that I would make a show deadline. Yikes! Thank goodness I use Red Snappers, which made the loading process take just a few minutes each morning. I spent my evenings beading and my days, quilting!
Maybe the most difficult decision I had, was to eliminate some of the makers’ embroidery. It was the only part of this pristine piece that had some wear. I either had to repair the work that was missing or take it out completely. I spent many evenings taking out her work, which made me feel terrible. Once the quilt was finished, I loved that I made that decision!
A few more pictures of my process. This quilt is off to the Utah Quilting and Sewing Marketplace show in Sandy, Utah. It can be seen live and in person from May 4-6 at the South Towne Expo Center. Later this summer, it will hang at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival, held June 15-17, in Overland Park, KS. Finally, it will hang in an exhibit titled, “Gilding the Lily-Embroidery In Quilts Past and Present”, at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. This is the exhibit it was created for. I’m so excited to show her off and particularly the historical value associated with this one of a kind piece. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!
This quilt is something I consider to be my masterpiece, as I wonder if I will ever have the patience to work on something so intricate again. I am beyond thrilled with the final product! I hope you enjoy this quilt in pictures and especially if you are able to view it in person. Yes, it is hard to believe that someone actually did all of this by hand, especially in our modern day world of machines. It was created in a simpler time, where TV and computers did not exist, when women used their spare time to perfect the handwork that they had learned from generations before. I also respect the imperfections and the fact that this piece is not square. I couldn’t bring myself to trim any part of this tablecloth and kept the shape as I found it. Maybe the maker is looking down on me and deciding that my quilting brought her work to another level, I hope so!
Thanks for visiting!
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!