Quilting. What was I thinking?

IMG_20150908_180218183_HDRWhen I was a young girl, my paternal great grandmother made me this quilt. When I was at her house, I noticed her sewing in the evening while watching television. It was done completely by hand. It never occurred to me that she was sewing it for me.

At the age of fifty, I still have the quilt and I treasure it. At some point, she made me a second one, and my maternal grandmother, who was a professional seamstress made me a third. I should probably pass them down to my children, but I can’t bear to part with them.

 

I have long been an artist. I make music professionally. I write novels professionally. I’ve made all of the artwork in my home, from paintings to rugs to throw pillows. Well, I was bored and decided to take on the time-consuming project of making a quilt. What was I thinking??

quilt piecesIt started with cutting out 680 pieces. Sigh. That took a couple weeks. Then, fortunately, I had house guests, so I put it all in a box and ignored it for a couple weeks.

 

 

 

 

pinwheelsWhen I pulled it back out, I began making pinwheels for the center of the blocks. Twenty pinwheels seemed daunting, but using a sewing machine, (not sewing by hand, you silly rabbit!) the pieces came together fairly quickly, but still….there was twenty of them.

 

 

 

 

octagonsNow, I had to cut these square pinwheels and turn them into octagons. Not owning a special ruler or being able to find one at JoAnn Fabrics, I spent hours figuring out how to do this. After I had a total meltdown, my husband quietly worked on the computer constructing a template for me. In the meantime, I found a video on Youtube showing an easy way to turn a square into an octagon. When I cut one in two seconds and showed him, he was awestruck by the simplicity. “Well, if you want to do it like that,” he said sarcastically.

The original pinwheels were 7” squares, and after I turned them into octagons, I needed to sew corners on them, making them 6.5” squares. At the time, I was thinking this was some kind of cruel joke, but as the pinwheel got new corners, it began to change shape. It looked like a cross. Weird illusion.

 

 

starNext, I started working on the star points. They were time consuming, but they came together easily. The octagon/square was placed in the middle of the star points. Notice in this photo, the octagon still looks like a cross, and the completed square has two star points pointing up. Well, that’s also an illusion and won’t look like that for long.

I was supposed to cut these completed squares into large circles, but as with cutting octagons, that was just too much work. So instead, I sewed together frames, sewed them onto the completed squares, lining up the seams with each star point and creating a whole new angle on the original square. I flipped it over and trimmed off the excess corners on the square. That was so much quicker than trying to cut a perfect circle, hoping I didn’t cut it too small. From the wrong side of the quilt, it’s pretty sloppy, but from the right side, you can’t tell, and it saved me tons of time and probably a half bottle of whiskey.

 

one finished squareSince the octagon and the star points shifted with adding the frame, you can see in the finished square that the cross is gone and the star only has one point sticking up. This whole quilt is one big illusion.

1910 seams later, the quilt top is finished. I need to sandwich it and start quilting. But I think I need to take a break for a couple weeks first.

 

finished top

 

 

Won’t it be fun if my great grandchild won’t part with this quilt?

A to Z – Quilting

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m blogging about history.

Q is for Quilting

 

 

 

 

Photographs for the book "Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting" by Sonja Hakala. (Photo by Geoff Hansen)

(Photo by Geoff Hansen)

Most people think of quilting as making a bed cover, but it’s so much more. Quilting is a sandwich – a top layer of cloth, a layer of padding, and a bottom layer of cloth. It can be as thick and as intricate as one wishes.

Quilting dates back to ancient Egypt. As far back as the 12th century, quilting was used to make garments worn under armor. One of the earliest surviving quilts was made in Sicily around 1360. Pieces of it are in museums in London and Florence.

Quilting in America began in the 18th century. Women spun, weaved, and sewed clothing for their families. Quilts for beds were also made out of necessity. Until 1840, looms were not large enough to produce a piece of cloth that would cover a bed, so strips of cloth needed to be sewed together. Using the same cloth was known as ‘whole cloth’ quilts. Contrary to what many of us would think, quilts were not made of left-over scraps of cloth and old pieces of clothing. They were instead examples of the fine needlework of the quilter.

Once looms were large enough to produce large pieces of fabric and became common enough and cheap enough for the average person to afford, women didn’t have to spin and weave anymore. Readily made fabrics changed the look of quilts. They began to contain different fabrics and the ‘block’ quilt was born.

During the 1850s, Singer mass produced a sewing machine and made it affordable with payments. By 1870, most homes owned one. This was a huge time-saving tool that made clothing one’s family easier and afforded women more time to quilt.

The art of quilting was once an important part of a woman’s life, but over time, it has become mainly a hobby. The amount of time and materials that go into a quilt make it very expensive to produce, so most quilts are passed down through families.

vin du jour pinwheel quiltI love quilting, though I admit, I’m not very good at it. My grandmother was a professional seamstress, but I didn’t inherit that ‘fine needlework’ gene. Regardless, I enjoy it, and I’m currently working on the quilt pictured here. It is a Vin Du Jour pinwheel quilt, if you’d like to know. I got all the pieces cut out and you can come back in a couple million years and see the finished product. There are about 600 pieces in this darned quilt. If anyone out there has a smidgen of time to help me, that would be great!quilt pieces