Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Antique quilt

I went antique shopping last weekend in Benton, Illinois, and came home with a treasure. I found this quilt for $70. It is perfect except for two small stained spots—there are no holes, rips, or frayed fabrics. The blocks are unusual because the pieces are dimensional—slightly puffy—and all the blocks match exactly, and the fabrics are the same quality. It seems as though the fabrics were purchased at the same time with the intent of making this quilt. It is all hand quilted (although the quilting stitches are not especially fine) and the edge is finished in a double line of black perle cotton topstitching, which matches the stitches on the flower centers. The back is an off-white muslin of a coarser quality than the fabrics in the top and is folded over to the front for the binding.

I estimate the date to be 1920 to 1950, probably 1930s. I hesitate to wash it because there are still some pencil marks visible, but I also hate to bring anything into my house that is NOT washed. (Dust mites? Bed bugs? Years of dirt? Yuck ….) I am pretty confident I can hand wash it in the bathtub to get out the dust, at least. I am going to a quilt show in Springfield, Missouri, tomorrow, and I think I’ll put the quilt in the car. There is supposed to be a quilt appraiser there, and if she has a time slot available, I’ll have her appraise it and get her advice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Garden color

My daughter’s rose bush is still blooming, and her dahlias are starting to come out. Once again, Mother Nature provides color inspiration—who says neon green and maroon red don’t go together? I just love the dahlia!

Well, I’m off! I’m leaving my daughter with a clean house, a full refrigerator, and no dirty laundry. (And a child who needs a new hairdo.) First stop: Paducah to visit the National Quilt Museum, which does not allow photographs—sorry. There also will be a brief interlude at Hancock’s of Paducah—quilter’s heaven. I’m taking a Lone Star class at the AQS quilt show in Des Moines, and I’m anxious to choose my fabrics.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scissors incident

Danica was supposed to be down for a nap, but Genevieve discovered her upstairs--with my sewing scissors. She cut the side off a bedsheet, a string off of something (we haven't figured out what yet), the top off of my plastic laundry bag, and her hair. Genevieve did the same thing at about Danica's age.

4 panels finished

I managed to finish all 4 panels of my Yellow Potpourri quilt, but they aren’t sewn together yet. I need to take the panels back to my sewing studio, measure, and trim to make sure they are straight. This quilt is shown as long and narrow (3 panels) in Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts (69 x 102 inches), but I wanted it to fit on the top of a double bed, so I added a 4th panel, a mirror image of the first. Each panel is 18 inches wide, and I will add 15 inches of border, so my quilt will be 87 inches wide. Here are the panels on top of a double bed.

This quilt was very easy to make, although I struggled with keeping accurate ¼-inch seams because of the sewing machine I used. (That’s why I want to measure the width up and down each panel.) It was a lot of fun to lay out the squares and watch the yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks swirl and blend. I'm thinking of doing this one again, only in mostly orange!

Genevieve paid me a nice compliment when she saw this top. She said she likes my quilts because they “look modern.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I’ve spent two very enjoyable Saturdays at a sort of “sit-and-sew” at the Stitchery Quilt Shoppe in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Owners Linda and Danny McCulloch have graciously allowed me to join a group of quilters who come in on Saturdays to work on various projects. I’m sorry I won’t be here to take a class at the shop, but I sure have enjoyed the company and inspiration they’ve provided to me while I’ve been away from home. I love to see what other quilters are working on, discuss their projects with them, and get input on mine. I found a new product—the Sewline Fabric Pencil. It is a fine-line mechanical pencil that comes in several colors and is erasable and washable. Made in Japan, a country with some very fine quilters. And what a treat to watch the shop's huge Gammill longarm quilting machine at work. I am going to try to finish my Yellow Potpourri top before I go home so I can leave it there to be quilted.

Speaking of inspiration, here in Dyersburg the schools have a “Fair Day” holiday so everyone can go to the Dyer County Fair, which is just what I did with Danica on Friday. The carnival was so colorful—pink, yellow, and blue—and chaotic. Every school child in the county must have been there.

Danica and I arrived just after the fair opened and stayed for three hours--until it poured rain on us. I had raincoats at the ready. Danica sure loved the rides, and she was a very well-behaved child--even said "gracias" to one of the carnival workers. We had soft hamburgers, cold french fries, and decent lemonade for lunch; rode all the rides she was big enough to get on by herself; went to the petting zoo; and bought $4.00 cotton candy. As carnivals go, it was a nice one. I drove home in a pouring rainstorm, gave Danica a bath, and put her down for a nap. A great time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


At my daughter’s house, away from my sewing studio—and my Bernina—all week. I brought along a sack of yellow fabric I’ve been collecting for three months, and I cut 3-, 6-, and 9-inch squares for the Yellow Potpourri quilt from Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts. I was anxious to start on this one because the fabrics are SO pretty! I’ve never made a yellow quilt before, and I actually have a yellow bedroom to put it in. (Actually, the walls kind of look like aged tan parchment paper.) I figured that since the square is the simplest of shapes, I could put this together even without my own equipment.

Well, it hasn’t been easy. I suppose it’s good to be reminded how lucky I am to have a nice Bernina (even if it is old), and a sewing studio with a design wall. Here, I’ve been using a double bed with a fuzzy brown blanket, below, for my design surface.

And I’ve been sewing on my daughter’s FREE sewing machine. Yes, she got it for free from someone who inherited it and never used it. It was purchased at a major discount retailer—no, THE major discount retailer—and was new in the box. I was pleasantly surprised at the decent stitch quality, but it sure is difficult to use. How sorry I am that I didn’t bring a machine with me! I have a Singer Featherweight—surely I could have fit that in. Now I know why so many people get frustrated when they sew. It’s because they have to do it on cheap machines. It’s just not fun when it is physically impossible to sew an accurate seam on the machine you’re using. But I am plowing ahead .... As I feed the fabric under the needle, I’ve been holding it down with a pin and pushing it in toward the presser foot on the left. The feed dogs just work poorly and pull to the left. The picture below shows the edge of one block, and I can assure you this is not how I usually sew!

So after sewing on this thing for a few days, I offer to you the following list: “Top Ten most annoying things about cheap sewing machines.” Please make comments and offer your own additions.

1. Small work surface.
2. Poor lighting.
3. No specialized presser feet.
4. Cannot choose the needle stop position (up or down).
5. Presser foot lift lever in an awkward position.
6. Reverse in an awkward position.
7. Feed dogs feed fabric poorly. This machine actually pulls to one side.
8. Motor grinds and stalls.
9. Speed difficult to regulate.
10. I have to live with the knowledge that the back of my quilt top is definitely not as nice as the front!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Here we go again ...

This week my cancer-survivor, transplanted-liver daughter had to go into “the big house,” as she calls it (the hospital) for IV fluids. Genevieve got some sort of virus and quickly got dehydrated. So I have moved in with her in Tennessee, again, so I can take care of her, get my granddaughter to preschool every day, fix dinner, do the laundry, clean house, etc., etc. I filled my Prius with 7 BIG boxes of glass vases to take to my sister in Southern Illinois—to be used for table decorations for my niece’s wedding. (If I’m on the road, better make it a good trip, right?) I also stuffed in the new walking/jogging stroller I bought to take my granddaughter for a walk, plus a big stack of fabric. I had to shut the back door fast to keep my suitcase from falling out, and I actually could see out the back window over the boxes. BUT I HAD TO LEAVE MY SEWING MACHINE AT HOME!! Horrors.

Well, Genevieve does have a machine. Nothing fancy, but it can sew pieces together. I will try to get her motivated to help make a quilt top for her dear friend who has MS—and possibly feels even worse than Genevieve does. And I have a couple of pieces of fabric that would be darling as a dress for my granddaughter. We'll see what I can do.