Thursday, August 24, 2017

Finding Your Sweet Spot in Quilting Pt. II

Late1930's-1950's Postage Stamp Style
Pieced Bed Cover with Prairie Points

This is an 88" x 90" pieced bed cover, which might be mistaken for an unquilted quilt top. But the finished edge of alternating cheddar and white prairie points says it was complete. A spread like this was probably used to cover bed linens that might not have been as pretty. In days when laundry was time intensive, and done without automatic washers and dryers, this was a good option to keep the bed looking fresh and clean for visitors stopping by.

This scrappy print and cheddar cover was machine pieced, and the squares finished at 1.75". We have enjoyed eyeing the variety of prints used throughout it, but a few like the water skier are stand out!

If you are questioning the age of the cover, I will tell you I am not so proficient that I can give it a better guess. While some of the fabrics are most definitely from the earlier decade, they likely came from a scrap bin. The youngest fabric, thread, batting in an item would determine the dating, and many of these fabrics are hard to determine. It would take someone more experienced than myself to decide.

This was one of several items I collected this summer, and I will keep them coming since you have asked to see them.

Were you curious about the back of the log cabin top I showed in the last post? I was. The first thing I do with old quilt tops is flip then over to see how things were constructed, and hope to learn something new each time. Tiny, precise stitches hold this one together. It is spray basted, and ready to be hand quilted now.

**Taking a New Direction with My Work**

The last half of this post has been written and rewritten several times. It is very hard to take someone else through your personal path of thinking to the outcome. First I would go this way then that way--with a loop in the middle and a hard turn. The conclusion, or my plan forward, is the most important part so I will start there.

Past Work

I have made many different quilts in many styles. I liked most of them, but some I loved. Surely you can guess those were the scrappiest ones. I kept asking myself why? Yes, the fabric was always delightful, but still there was something else. What exactly was it about a quilt made from leftover pieces? 

I believe it may be much more than just a wild, eclectic mix of color and patterned fabric, though I am sure that is part of what hooked me from the start. Let's look at design, color, and method.

Design: Most scrap quilts are made in simple designs using basic geometric shapes. Rectangles, squares, triangles, hexagons, and diamonds. I had a little love affair this year with the one patch, and I learned the power of simple design. The Amish and Mennonite used the one patch often in the past because it was frugal, and created a dramatic pattern quickly. Sunshine and Shadow, Furrows, Tumbling Blocks, etc., are all examples of a one patch.

Color: Dye charts hang in my utility room. Color charts hang in my studio. My fabric is color sorted, and weighs heavily toward brighter, happy colors. You might know my favorite color is pink! 

We struggle at times to pick out just the perfect color for our quilts, and moan when we know we chose wrong. But throw dozens and dozens of colors and prints in a scrap quilt, and it is spectacular! I want to know more about color, and why people chose the ones they did.

Method: And now for the clincher! It IS, has been, and always will be all about the process. That is where I either love what I am doing, or want to put the project on a shelf. The creative process is the ultimate high. Zen, meditation, the zone--call it what you want, but it is worth seeking every day. To go deep inside yourself and pull out something magical--yes, I want that! 

My daughter would say, "Enough crazy, Mom. You're scaring us." So here is the plan.

How to Connect the Dots
to the Sweet Spot--the Plan

This plan is intended to help direct my work over the next year. I have spent most of my quilting career making whatever I wanted, and that is a little like taking a trip without a destination in mind. A long-range plan will provide direction and a goal. It also provides limits. 

Pattern/Design: The quilting world abounds with modern quilt pattern creations. If you pick each apart, you will likely find very basic and classic pattern elements mixed in. Early quilters used several patterns repeatedly because they were easy to to create with existing scraps or using worn clothing into a quilt top that was pleasing to look at.

Breaking even the early patterns down to the most basic ones simplifies the choices. Sticking to only one means I can play with lots of variations of one element.

The First Pattern I Chose:
Strips, Stripes, & Strings 

If you tear a piece of fabric, it tears straight on the grain or cross grain. A couple tears to an old shirt, and you have a strip. Mix strips from several pieces of clothing, and you have contrast. This was a good place to start for the most basic quilter years ago, and I will follow the same path.

One of a child's first marks on paper is a simple line. We see it in nature, and it is used to boldly as a stripe like a zebra. The Roman stripe, Chinese coin, zig zag, string quilts, and so on are examples of stripes or lines, and are dated back to some of the earliest quilts and art. 

The Amish are well known for many varieties of strip or stripe quilt variations in their early dark quilts, and because of my heritage I feel a need to both explore and understand them better. I grew up in Sugarcreek, Ohio (Tuscarawas Co.), and still live nearby in the same county. From the mid-1800's, generations of my family lived and worked our family-owned farm west of town in Holmes county. Open any Amish or Mennonite quilt book, and these locations will be throughout. 

Because these simple early quilts are so inspiring, I hope to reproduce several.

Color: I will work outside my comfort zone as much as possible. When reproducing an historic quilt, I will try to follow the cues of the original maker.

Method: It goes without saying that I am looking for a creative adventure. Ideally I would hope for a few months dedicated to each pattern, but it may be more or less. My goal is to create more than complete all the quilts, but I will finish at least one. 

I am well underway with many projects, and one quilt already bound. Are you ready to see it? I am anxious to start sharing so see you back here very soon!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


PaulaB quilts said...

To learn about fabric dyes, colors and styles, Barbara Brackman is the authority. She has two blogs, Material Culture, her own blogging choices. Also her Civil War Quilts blog, more,studiously oriented. I learned a fantastic amount from her 2015 series, Stars in a Time Warp. She posted it every other week all that year. Start at January in her archive and learn about each color, i.e. Indigo. I don't know if she has or is putting it in book form, but the archives are the best source. She also published a book ,years ago, Clues in the Calico, out of print but now an e-book. She lists it on her posts. A book I have from AQS IS Dating Fabrics, A Color Guide 1800-1960, small but all photos of fabrics by periods and by color in each, about $25, invaluable. If you use that book you can date,most fabrics by colors and styles. The point is, quilters chose fabrics by what was available at the time. Good luck with your goal!

Kate said...

Sounds like you have a path the works for you. Looking forward to seeing where your adventures take you.

audrey said...

As usual, I enjoyed this thoughtful post! Very inspirational!

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

I enjoyed reading this too, thought provoking! Look forward to following your adventures along this new/old path!