Monday, August 8, 2016

Hand-pieced Quilts I Have Known

As I am on vacation and may not have access to the Internet when I usually post my blog, I’ve prepared a couple of special posts for the Mondays I’ll be gone. 

The first has to do with my hand-pieced quilts. This is one I developed, combining a quilt pattern I saw on Simply Quilts in 1998 or 1999. I ordered the fabric directly from the company, because I could only find little bits of it in quilt shops. The pattern was from Susan Branch's "The Language of Flowers" line of fabrics by Springs Industries. It's basically a LeMoyne Star with half LeMoyne Star blocks. The appliqué was not part of the original pattern. I copied it from the photo of a 1930s-era quilt kit quilt I found in a book. The four bouquets of flowers were arranged on a plain background. 

As you can see, I still haven’t finished hand-quilting it. I started with the appliqué. Then I found I had difficulty getting all the points to come together when I pieced by machine (using practice fabric), so I ended up hand-piecing it.

When I first started quilting, I thought you had to sew all the pieces together by hand. I made my first quilt in 1962. I eased into quilting by learning hand-quilting from my church youth group leader when I was 17. A couple of years later, when I was in college and on my own, I decided to make an almost-identical quilt with the scraps left over from my sewing projects (dresses, etc.). The quilt we had worked on was a glorified 9-patch, hand-pieced, so I thought mine had to be hand-pieced, too. I put it together using polyester batting, whatever thread I had, and my scraps of fabric, some of which were polyester or polyester-blend. Over the years, the batting wore out the backing, the background and some of the fabrics int he blocks. I was broken-hearted, but refused to throw it away. It was my first quilt!
The quilt sat in a box for years, calling to me. Finally, in 2002, I separated the layers, removed the background fabric and began replacing the block fabrics that had worn out. When it was put back together again, I re-hand-quilted, following the same quilting pattern I had used before. 

It has a label on the back that tells this story.

While I was collecting fabrics for my Spring Flowers quilt in 2000, I decided to make a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, inspired by another episode of Simply quilts, this one starring Pati Shambaugh and featuring her “Quilt Patis,” an alternative to English Paper Piecing.

This technique uses plastic hexagons that have a hole in the middle. You cut a square slightly bigger than you want your hexagon to be, pin the plastic hexagon onto the fabric through the hole in the middle, then fold over two sides and make a stitch forming a corner. Without cutting or knotting your thread, you fold over the next side and take a stitch in that corner, and so on, ending with another stitch in the first corner. Very fast! When you have enough of these hexagons “upholstered,” you start sewing them together, using an overcast stitch. Once a hexagon is completely surrounded by its comrades, you can remove the template, using a crochet hook or knitting needle through the hole in the center.

The quilt took me six months to piece and three months to hand-quilt. I was sick of it by the time it was finished, but I love it now.

During the 1970s, I hand-pieced another quilt, this one for my sister-in-law. It was another LeMoyne Star quilt, and it was the second quilt I ever made. When she knew she was dying, she gave it back to me to keep for my kids. I need to take a photo of it.

I find hand-piecing to be very satisfying “work,” like hand-quilting.

I will try to add photos from the trip to the comments, if I have access to Internet during the trip. See you next time.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

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