Category Archives: Quilting Stories

Stories about quilts.

Grandma’s Grandmother’s Fan Quilt – Ta Done

Adieu, Adieu, parting is such sweet sorrow…

Today marks the completion of my Grandma’s Grandmother’s Fan quilt. Without making you “wait for it”, here is a (kind of wonky) picture.

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It has been a long, arduous journey.  This journey began, well, I can’t remember exactly when I found these blocks (but now I’m thinking in 2008), in an open cardboard box, amidst the mess upstairs at Dad’s house. (p.s. that wasn’t the box I found them in)

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There were no notes, nothing that identified the original owner.  The blocks weren’t even in a plastic bag – just sitting in an open box – collecting dust.

I’m not even sure my Grandma did these.  The only assurance I have is a similar Grandmother’s Fan quilt that I know she did make in the 30’s or 40’s.  I know she did that fan quilt because when Mom died, we found it at the house in a bag with an index card saying Grandma had made it and when.

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I wish I could tell you I found matching fabrics in both of these quilts, but I can’t.  The pieces are so small, and there are so many of them, and, believe it or not, even though there are some duplicates, there aren’t many. Even though there isn’t 100% certainty, because these blocks are so similar to the quilt that I know she did in fact make, I have always felt as if I were completing a project she had started.  This would be the one and only project of my Grandma’s I can finish for her, so it’s no longer an unfinished object (UFO) or, as Mom liked to say, WIP – work in progress.

My friend asked me a couple weeks ago, after I finally had the top finished and ready to quilt, how many hours I’ve put into this quilt.  I told her that I didn’t keep track, but probably over 100 hours.  I realize I’m guesstimating the time involved because these tasks occurred at various times over 2.5 )or 6.5) years ; however, for posterity’s sake, here’s the breakdown.

2-4 hours – Washing, ironing, counting blocks (and the 420 additional already  hand sewn together 6 blade unit fan tops).

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40-60 hours – Stitching about 120 undone fan tops to blocks by hand with perle cotton and blanket stitch.

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2 hours – Basting about 20-50 fans to blocks by hand

1 hour – Making a few more quarter circles, stitching to fan top and basting to blocks

4-8 hours – Quilt design, calculations to figure out how many squares needed, find design, rework design (when I realized these blocks were 4 1/2″ finished, not 5″ finished as Grandma’s original Fan quilt)

1 hour – Cutting more squares to go between fan blocks

1 hour – Laying out blocks for design and stack for sewing

4-8 hours – Sewing blocks together (includes time to press rows)

2 hours – Cutting 9″ borders, and then reworking design after sewing on one border and realized it didn’t look right.

2-4 hours – More sewing after adding rows all around to make it 18 X 18 squares instead of the original 14 X 16.

2 hours – Obtain pink fabric, batting and backing.  Cutting pink and white borders.

2 hours – Washing and ironing pink border fabric, backing and white border, and selecting fabric scraps to make white border.

2 hours – Basting quilt top, batting and backing in sections on kitchen table with safety pins.

~15 hours – Free motion quilting fans and stitch in every ditch

1 hour – Figuring out how to stitch pink and white borders

1-2 hours – Making cardboard feather stencil after deciding not to use paper stencils.

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2-3 hours – Drawing with washable marker and stencil feathers, diamonds on pink border, piano keys with ruler on white border.

~8 hours – Free motion feathers, diamonds, piano keys

2 hours – Making paper stencil for one side of scallop border with two or three trial runs.

1 hour – Pin scallop stencil, with quilt on the floor, kneeling or moving around on quilt top, and tracing all around.

1/2 hour – Cut scallop edge.

~2 hours – Make about 500″ continuous bias binding

~3-4 hours – Sew bias binding by machine to back and front of quilt (P.S. Scallops are like 10 times harder than a regular binding.)

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~1 hour – Wash quilt by hand and run through washing machine spin cycle, and then dryer.

1 hour – Make label and sew on back of quilt, by machine and hand.

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There you have it!  If my calculations are correct, and they probably aren’t because I’ve been working hard on it these past few days, I’ve spent from 103.5 to 138.5 hours on all phases of this quilt.

Plus, if my time isn’t enough, consider that my Grandma:

– Cut out all those teeny tiny fan blades (by hand, with scissors – after tracing with a template) [~3720 of them] which finish at 1/2″ at the bottom, 1″ wide at the top, and 2″ long from bottom of blade to the tip

– Cut the quarter circles – probably hand traced from a template.

– Hand sewed over 200 six blade units (`1200 fan blades) to each other and then to the quarter circles. (Actually, hand stitched over 620 six blade units – still have ~420 of those left).

– Cut over 200 5″ white squares with scissors and using part of an old cereal box as a template for tracing (yeah, I found that in the box).

– Basted the fan units to the 200 blocks, again by hand.

– Blanket stitched 115 blocks fully and 60 partly.

I’m not sure exactly how long all that hand work would have taken, but I think it’s safe to say this quilt probably has over 200 hours, maybe even 250, in it.

Let’s imagine someone got paid by Illinois standard minimum wage, and this doesn’t include the cost of the materials – the quilt would be worth about $1650-$2100!

This process has been more of a labor of love for me, rather than expecting to win a quilt show (I wouldn’t – tons of mistakes in this quilt [more on that later], but I still live by the perfection of the quilt is in the finished product), having someone in mind for a gift, or even wanting to have this for myself – well, none of those apply.

For me, this has really been about finishing a project of my Grandma’s – as I have done with some of my Mom’s pieces – not because I needed to or had to, but because I wanted to.  I wanted to because, I knew, in the process, I would feel connected to my Grandma in a way I never have before.

So, you see, even though it really has been a labor of love, that took around 2.5  years (or is that 6.5?), there is a sort of sadness that goes along with completing this.  For all the boxes and bins of fabric, notions, templates and books, unfinished blocks, partially and totally completed blocks my Mom had (that I now own [inherited in a way])- this was the only makings for a quilt I had from my Grandma.  Other than a shoebox full of her fabric scraps (and yes, I know this because it had the Eiffel tower print in it), of all the sewing and quilting she did, this is all I have left to finish for her.

So, now, it’s done, and with a sense of accomplishment, and a certain amount of regret, I can say, I finished the last project she had started and never completed. I somewhat detest maudlin, but in this case, how can anyone feel anything but?

Made by Clara

 

 

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Hot Mess Quilting

Last night my daughter, with no particular good prompt to do so, said, “Mom, you’re a hot mess.”

Today, a friend and I went to a local quilt shop, lunch and came back to my place to start on a Christmas tree skirt for her daughter.

When we got back here, we talked first, then I was the one who said, well, let’s see what materials/fabric you have, and do we want to use this pattern design from the Missouri Start Quilt Company’s video on a Christmas tree skirt from charm packs (though we were using yardage and cutting squares ourselves).

So, we watched part of the video, went downstairs to start cutting.  First, I/we placed the cat fabric down to see how a 5, 5 1/2 or 6 inch square would look. Then, I scrambled for a piece of paper and pencil so we could figure how many squares we would have to cut of each for the finished size we wanted if using 6″ squares to start.  Then, she did fussy cutting on a Christmas print with cats on it, and I cut strips and then squares of the two of her other fabrics she had purchased (last year) that we decided to use instead of the original five total prints.

Then, she was still fussy cutting with my 6″ square grid ruler and smaller rotary cutter, while I said, what about the border – I can cut strips for that, so we played around with  that design for a while, as I searched here and there for different items.

We never did figure out the borders on this quilted Christmas tree skirt, though I think we decided we needed another print because yardage for bias binding for the center circle was going to be a problem.

She decided to press the blocks, so I heated up my iron, and while she was pressing, tried out some quilting threads I had to see if any matched up well.

Then, we were going to start sewing the blocks together, but instead I took two extra 6″ blocks and gave her a mini lesson on free-motion quilting (FMQ) (which she had never done, she was [is?] a hand quilter).   She immediately asked about my quilting gloves (Machinger’s) and the quilting foot I have.  Now, I forgot to tell her that I have a Juki foot for my machine, being high shank, and that it cost about $42, but it came with my used machine and I love it, and I wouldn’t trade it or give it away for anything.

Instead, I pulled out my machine notions box and found her a quilting/darning foot I had two extra, that I used when I first started on my Kenmore machine, low shank – but somehow couldn’t find the one I had modified via Leah Day at the Free Motion Quilting Blogspot (originally with a ponytail holder to hike up the spring a bit so the foot didn’t ride so close to the fabric, and bent back the part that rests on the needle bar, but I found waxed dental floss worked better to hike up, ,and I cut between the red line to get ride of that plastic in the way of visibility [WTF did my low shank darning foot go? I wonder]).

Anyway, I gave her one of my extra feet because she swears her machine is low shank and I don’t use my Kenmore for FMQ anymore, and proceeded to show her on the 6″ block how I sometimes basted with spray basting, and then used a paper stencil template with a riding horse to start showing how to FMQ, but also how to get a cool design FMQ that was precise and more like heirloom, hand-quilting.  Then, around the horse, I showed her a stippling/meandering pattern, telling her this is really one of the more simpler ways to learn how to FMQ.

Anyway, she then got a call from her husband and something was amiss, so she had to run – but sometime during this session of where is this thing, and let’s move that, and I just put this over here. . .

I remembered what my daughter said about me being a “hot mess” and realized – I’m kind of a HOT MESS quilter.  I know where things are, and even when I remember “oh, where is that ‘thing’ I {wanted/used/knew I had/remember seeing and not knowing what it was for but now I do and want it} – even though my quilting stuff is spread out between old family room  in lower level (we live in a tri-level),   living room cedar chest  on main level, garage bins of fabric from mom, and dresser draw of fabric from mom in upper level – I can usually locate said “thing” within 5-15 minutes of searching.

OMG, I’m not as bad as my mom, but granted, she was a packrat, and had things skewed all over, but she could usually locate something  random and obscure withing 15 minutes.

Now, I’ll grant that I didn’t know all the sewing and quilting projects she had in progress, so if I had asked her, where is “this thing you showed me 5 years ago and I don’t remember you showing me the finished product” – I’m not sure she would have been able to do that – but still!!!

She was a TOTAL HOT MESS quilter.

I try to organize and simplify, and put things where they belong, or at least where they would be handy/easy to find/organized/categorized/put your organizational term here – but, no matter how hard I try – I find that if I am creating something new, which is like almost all the time – I don’t want to “waste” time “organizing”.  I just want to create, and piece, sew, quilt, bind, press, watch tutorials and then do them, etc.

I’m a frigging HOT MESS QUILTER!

But, I will confess that even my sister said, I’m a “get her done” quilter.  Yes, once I have decided to finish said whatever project, it’s usually done within six months, and that’s on the outside.  It’s more like usually two weeks or months (depending on who supplies the pieces to be finished).

However, I am cool and confident in my choices.  I totally feel free and comfortable that whatever I create will  be fairly awesome.

I embrace my reality and Zen. . . . . .

 

Another Fanfare Update

It’s been a while since I reported on the Grandmother’s Fan quilt.  I just mentioned it in the previous post, and thought I would give an update to these two posts.

A Brief Interlude or Fanfare

A Fanfare Update

After running into problems with the border and deciding to add more rows, I’ve been working on stitching up the fan tops by hand with a blanket stitch on about 40 more blocks.

It’s not my favorite part of the process, so it took me a while to complete.

After getting these blocks done, I couldn’t quite remember how I intended to add them.  So, a couple more hours fretting over the layout, I finally decided to just make it 18 rows by 18 rows – adding a pink border of 2.25 inches, and another white border for the scalloped edge varying from 5-8 inches.  This quilt is now ~97 inches long and wide.

I had a few blocks leftover, so I made a pillow top to match the quilt.  Actually, what I wanted to do was test out quilting design so I would know how to quilt the big quilt. After figuring that part out, I was ready to start quilting.

Fan pillow

First, I decided not to go with my natural colored cotton batting, JoAnn’s did not have any warm and white cotton batting in the store when I went to get the wide backing fabric.  I decided to do polyester batting – which is always white, staying away from Mountain Mist which tends to have skimpy areas.

I looked at the Soft and Crafty, and for a few moments thought about going with a medium loft of 1/2″ instead of the usual 1/4″ low loft.

Thankfully, I didn’t because I realized how heavy this quilt was already going to be.  However, as I was basting the backing, batting, and top together, this batting was very lofty indeed! It seems like it has a half inch loft.  I’m hoping it will tame down a bit after quilting.

Unfortunately, this makes quilting very interesting.  I started out with these super awesome gold needles, but the thread kept breaking.   I changed the bobbin, and that didn’t work.  Then, I checked all the tensions, no problem there.  As a final resort, I changed from my fancy needle to a regular Organ 100/16.

Problem solved.  Now, I’ve quilted the center part of the quilt, but after one evening, my arms were already tired!  I’m out of quilting shape!

It’s been the longest process ever!  I can’t remember how many hours I have spent on this quilt – but probably close to $100.  Some amusing math – imagine getting minimum wage for this labor! It’s already a $600-$800 quilt!  And, I’m not done yet, and it will probably be a long quilting job – 20 hours or more!

I’m hoping to be able to post a picture sometime before Thanksgiving.

And now, back to my sewing machine!

Finished – Mom’s quilt blocks throw

Throw is done!

Going to keep this simple, but I may have to play with font color as I just figured out how to do that.  I swear this choice wasn’t available yesterday!

I have about 5 ideas of things to write about floating around in my head, and it’s hard to stay on track with this post.  This post is supposed to be devoted to this throw and it’s story, but I may go off on tangents.  I was informed, however, this past weekend, that it’s actually family trait!

Here’s a pic of the whole throw.  Mom did the blocks herself, mostly in 1991. She most always, I found in going through her quilting stuff, would mark in pencil or pen on one of the back seams the date she finished the piece. 

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I picked out sashing, border and pieced the blocks together and quilted it.

This is for mom’s cousin, Karen, according to my teenage daughter, she would be my 1st cousin once removed. I know that’s not important, but I was impressed my daughter was quite sure of this even when I wasn’t, because she wanted to know what one of my cousin’s daughter was to her, so she looked it up on the internet!

So, I gave these blocks to Karen two years ago, as she liked them and I know her and Mom had a special connection over the years, especially the last few before Mom and Grandma died, because both her Mom and Grandma were in the same nursing home.  As a matter of fact, at one time, my Grandma and her two remaining brothers were in the same nursing home along with Karen’s mom.  So,  Karen would come to town once a month, and each time she did, her and Mom would meet up at the nursing home and then go out to eat quite often.

At the time I gave them to her, I wasn’t a savvy quilter, so she said she would find someone to complete them for her.  I didn’t have any of the other material to give her, as it seemed to have gotten separated from these blocks, so we had to go with the 12 we had.

After about 6 months or a year, I told her I felt more confident in my abilities to do justice to these blocks.  And, finally, about a month ago, she brought them back down for me to work on.

Anyway, the following three pics show some of the detail on the sashing.  I almost used pink for the sashing, but figured there was already enough in the blocks.   I was stumped as to what to quilt there until I remembered that Karen likes the saying “Live well, laugh often, love much.”

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Live Well

 

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Laugh Often

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Love Much

Every sashing piece has one of those saying in it, and each block has all three around it and one extra.

She seemed to be very pleased with it.  I’m glad she likes it.

Things I did on this throw – I put in small black permanent marker on the front of each block Mom’s initials and the date she finished it – if she had written on on the back.  I also quilted butterfly on one block, because Mom’s was very much into butterflies.  The style of free motion quilting is very much custom.  You would find it hard to reproduce this stitching on a long-arm.  Each block is quilted with stitch in every stinkin ditch, and then many have additional quilting.  On the signature block, the gold/white/gold block – I quilted on the white “Blocks pieced by (Mom’s name), Assembled and quilted by (me) Oct 2014.”  It’s a sort of trick that is hidden in the quilt that no one may ever notice – but it’s one way I “sign” some of my quilts, even if I put a tag on back, that I am confident will stick with the quilt as long as it endures.

Once I actually decided I was going to get this thing done, it took me less than a week.  And, I had to go to Joann’s for the green fabric because I didn’t have anything on hand that would match.  I’m not sure if the green is the best color, but since these are vintage fabrics, and the various colors in the blocks, I wasn’t sure what to use.  White didn’t seem right, and pink would have been too much.  I thought about dark blue, but I discounted it for some unsure reason.

So there you have this quilt story.  I don’t know why Mom did the blocks the way she did or where she picked up the fabric choices.  I’m sure she showed me her progress on this at some point, as she liked to carry some of her finished work around to show off.

Sometimes, I feel bad about that – I don’t remember her showing me things or what I commented or what she told me about the pieces.  As usual, I think I was rather uninterested.  You know how it is – family get together, lots going on, lots to do for dinner prep and such, all the latest stories – Mom’s trying to show something off and before you can say more than “Oh, that’s nice, I like that” a child has a crisis, the  cake is ready to come out of the oven, or the football team makes the big touchdown.

I don’t know if anyone else in my family feels this regret, but I know I do. Regrets, “I wish I had…”, we all have them, we all do it eventually.  One of mine is – “paid more attention and asked more questions when Mom was showing me some of her quilting work.”

I never realized it at the time I went through her things four years after her death and decided to finalize some of her works-in-progress (WIPs) – but, even though I don’t know the entire story or thought process behind her creations, at least now I have enough know-how to do a decent job of finishing her projects.  Somehow, even though I know it doesn’t make up for my “I wish I had”, at least now I can say, “I don’t know if I would have ever made anything like this ever myself.” and “I’m glad I can at least finish her project for another to enjoy so her work can still be appreciated and useful.”

Diaper Changing Pads

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So, yesterday, or was it Friday night, after viewing my daughter’s photo stream clearly showing that the baby, my first granddaughter, had dropped, I decided it was time to make some diaper changing pads.  I did a FaceTime with her yesterday, and saw my very verbal grandson also.  She told me she had gotten the changing pads I made 2 years ago out of storage, in expectation of the new arrival, sometime in the next two weeks.

Mr. Man has completely outgrown the changing table attached to the crib. So, this time, I decided to make some whole cloth diaper changing pads with more of a pink, girly theme, although I am becoming more and more uni-sex thinking.  I went through my “stash” and found an old pink and white striped sheet, a couple pieces of floral material, a pink gingham floral, and a couple pieces I had bought for random reasons.  I cut them to sizes approximately 15 1/2″ x 24, some more like 18″ x 26, some less or more.

Yesterday, I matched up backs and fronts.  I had to cut from my new batting roll that I bought for a friend, but she wasn’t  using, my second now.  After matching up backs and fronts and placing batting accordingly, I started free-motion quilting different designs.  First a straight stipple, then one with stars, one with hearts, one with spirals, a Super-Daisy, and one with a grid pattern with the walking foot.

All the binding is from previous projects, totally scrappy, some just meshed well with each pattern or design.

I told my daughter I was sending them all and she could pick and choose which she wanted to keep and use.  Then, maybe, I’ll have some to add to my “stash” of things “laying around“.


Q-Tip #?  You can make extra things to have “laying around” or “sitting around” in case someone wants to pay you money to buy these things.

Quilts sitting around

Maybe people think ALL I do is quilt in my spare time.  Yes, I do quilt quite a bit, but it isn’t all I do.

Twice in the past month or so, people have asked me if I have any finished quilts “sitting around” that they could buy.

Well, I’ve only been quilting for a little over two years now, so I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I am just making quilts to be making them with no specific use in mind.   I usually have a purpose for each quilt I have done.  Whether is was my quilt, my daughter’s, my dad’s quilt, a baby quilt for my grandson or soon to be here granddaughter, wedding gifts, quilts for my sons,  quilting for my aunt on a quilt that my mom did, quilting for my sister on a quilt that mom or grandma did, finishing some of my mom’s quilts, finishing my grandma’s fan quilt, Quilts for Kids – well, as you can see, I have been pretty busy.

A couple weeks ago, I finally tackled some scrap fabric in a bag that I had gotten from Freecycle.  It was kid prints, and I thought I would use it to make a couple Quilts for Kids.  I cut it up into 3 1/2″ squares and started putting them together, print and white blocks.  I found out I had enough for 2 quilts.

Thursday or Friday, I got one of them done, and I swear, I hadn’t even trimmed off threads and washed it, and my sister sends me a text asking if I have a baby quilt for a boy “laying around”.  Well, I sent her pictures of the one I had just finished.  She said she would think about it and I told her if she wants a baby quilt for next friday and I have to go buy stuff to make it, I needed to know asap. Ya think?

She thought about it and decided she wanted it.

But, it made me wonder – should I just start piling up quilts and hope people start asking if I just have one “laying around”, and sell them?  I could sure use the money.

Well, if I’m going to do that, I better get all those things done my mom and grandma started, and get busy.

What do you think?  Do you have quilts “laying around”?

Oh, yeah, here it is, btw.

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and a close-up

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and another

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and the back

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What do you think?  Do you have quilts “laying around”?

My real first quilt

I know, I know, three 1500 word posts were not enough, right?  Didn’t I cover this topic already?  Sheepishly, I must admit, after writing the saga of my first quilt, I was sewing one night, and remembered – “Oh, my gosh, I made a two baby quilts when I was pregnant with my firstborn!”

Okay, I didn’t think firstborn, but you get the picture.  So, here’s the story.

I was young, not even 20, newly married, pregnant, and we recently moved to Texas, 1000 miles away from everyone I knew!  We were relatively poor and I was lonely and bored, so as part of my nesting, I decided to sew up some baby clothes for my newborn.  Several outfits later, and numerous occasions of swollen feet, I had a few outfits. They were darling little one piece numbers and gowns, super cute, wish I still had them, but I unwittingly loaned them to a friend who never returned them.  They stood up really well over several children, though.

After I got the clothes done, and the bumper pad covers in a bright orange print, I had some leftover fabrics, and decided to make a baby blanket/quilt.  I had some iron-on embroidery patterns, so I picked a a couple designs, embroidered those, and put on a border.  Now, I didn’t know much about quilting back then, and I was in Texas, so I don’t think I used batting.  But, I wanted to hold two layers together, to cover the embroidery stitching, so I sewed multi-colored rows of stitching, basically machine quilting.

When I was done with that, I had an old flannel sheet that I cut and put two pieces together, and did about the same thing, except I had a patch I put in the middle.

Oh, and how does this tie in to Writing 101, Day Sixteen, something about “Lost and Found”? Well, I was pretty sure I had given these to my son when he moved to Georgia a couple years ago.  I sent him a text, and he replied that he was sure I did not.  I rummaged through my cedar chest, the only place I knew I would have them, but, they were not there.

I let him know I did not find them, and sent up a silent prayer that they were not lost.  A couple days later, he sent me pictures from his phone. And, here there are, the real first two “quilts” I ever made, when I was 20, for my baby. (not the best pictures)

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Hey found them! It’s the goofiest looking rabbit ever?  I think so, but, hey, it was the early 80’s.

Having moved so much, I didn’t keep a lot of my kids toys or baby stuff, but I kept these, because I made them.  Now, my son can use them for his children, someday.