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.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sun Bonnet Sue

I have foggy memories of a Sun Bonnet Sue quilt that used to reside in the bedroom of my aunt Lori. If I remember correctly it was made by my aunt Kathy, Lori's sister. The blocks were laid out simply in rows and may or may not have had sashing. In an effort to clear the fog, I called my aunt to hear her quilt story. Of course she remembered the quilt made by her sister, who lovingly appliqued each of the squares. It had become worn with use and age. The colors were once bright, now faded. The quilt itself had become just a memory. 

In early November, I had the good fortune of doing some client quilting and Sun Bonnet Sue made a return visit. This was the first time I had ever quilted a piece with applique, and I was nervous. My client, Ms. A, had carefully planned how she wanted to quilt to look, and included lace details that had belonged to her mother. The quilt was a gift for her first great-grandchild, and would have the sentiment of five generations. 

 There were nine little Sunny's in this quilt and I gave them each a place to play; a field to pick flowers, a well worn path to walk on, hills of fresh grass to shuffle their feet through and fluffy clouds to help shade them.
 There were flowers and hearts adding points of variety that were quilted with swirls.

 Ms. A, was very pleased with the results, She created a beautiful quilt that will be loved and cherished.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since last November. I'm not sure what has held me back from sharing. My aunt, like her beloved quilt, is now a memory, and my quilty conversation with her one of the last times we spoke. She passed away early last week. The youngest of my father's siblings she has left us too early. I will remember her for being a beloved babysitter to my brother and I. I will remember her for crafting with me as a child, she taught how to stitch plastic canvas and we made all sorts of magnets and tissue box covers, but I also developed skills in craftsmanship, and color selections. I will remember Lori as a recipe collector who loved to make foods of all sorts. She was never afraid to try making something new, even if it meant searching for exotic ingredients, and taught me that you should not fear making alterations to a recipe. The same sun that shined down on us as we experimented with yet another wacky barbecue grill technique will hold the fog at bay from my memories of Aunt Lori.