Friday, May 6, 2016

Fabricating a quilt story

I am constantly amazed at the variety of quilts that are being made, or have been made. In September of last year I was asked to quilt an antique red and white quilt that had been found tucked away in the hall closet of the childhood home of my client's husband. Fascinated by the stories surrounding a quilt I was curious to know more about this one. The spiraling shapes were unlike any quilt block I had seen, The quilt seemed to have been constructed during one period of time and then forgotten about and then borders added to it. The curvaceous piecing was done by hand with a thick white thread, the starts and stops finished with large knots. The borders of the quilt were machine pieced, and added to the center of the quilt by machine in such a way that the whole quilt top appeared to roll like the Appalachian Mountains.

 The quilt was constructed of solid red and white fabrics with a stripe of patterned red. In the picture above I tried to show how much fullness was in the quilt top. I knew that I would not be able to quilt this top without there being small tucks and puckers. The most troubling area was in one corner where the border was added in such a way that there was considerable bubble of fabric. I would have to do a bit of reconstruction in this area to make it more manageable.

I failed to take a picture before I picked the seams of this corner, but you can still see how there is a considerable curve between the white border and the inner red fabric.

Here, I've added almost two inches to the white border, using unbleached muslin that matches the original fabric, and a red fabric to fill in the space near the white border and add to the outer white border. I machine stitched where the quilt had been machine stitched, and I hand stitched where the quilt was originally hand stitched. 

Can you see the large white hand stitches that piece the curves in the upper right part of the picture? I wanted to show the front and the back here, so that we could see the old and new bits together. 

Then I began quilting with a feather motif that I thought would play well with the shapes of the quilt.

 I made large feathers in the curves, connected with a chain of circles. I knew I would go back to finish each of the more square areas with additional circle chains on the un-stitched sides, and add a design in the center.

 From the backside the texture was taking shape, and a spectacular second design was being created as I switched threads to match the colors in the top of the quilt.

 Under poor lighting I took a final picture of the quilt before I delivered it to the appreciative couple. I was able to hear a bit more about where the quilt was found. It turns out that this childhood home was also the home of a former governor of Alabama. The home only had two owners, Governor Henderson and the family of my client. They were not sure where the quilt had come from, if it was something that belonged in the family, or was a remnant from the previous owner. I suggested that this was a perfect opportunity to fabricate a story about how the wife of Governor Henderson had worked on this quilt and tucked it away It was later discovered by the next home's owners who added the borders to the quilt and stashed it in the very same closet where it would be found decades later. I know this quilt has a story, and while we may not know it's beginnings, I am certainly glad that I could be a part of its tale.

Here is a picture of the client's childhood home.

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