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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quilts, Quilts, Quilts

The Prayse Of The Needle

To all dispersed sorts of arts and trades
I write the needles prayse (that never fades).
So long as children shall be got or borne,
So long as garments shall be made or worne,
So long as hemp or flax, or sheep shall bear
Their linen woolen fleeces yeare by yeare,
So long as silk-wormes, with exhausted spoile,
Of their own entrails for man's gaine shall toyle,
Yea till the world be quite dissolv'd and past,
So long at least, the needles' use shall last.

John Taylor (1578-1653)

Let's take a break from serious subjects for a moment.  Since the weather wasn't cooperating this week and I couldn't do much gardening, I went down into my cellar and hauled out my quilting kit.

Baby quilt for the elder Frenchling 
I grew up with quilts.  Almost all the women in my family made them.  I took it up after I had the elder Frenchling and was hooked almost immediately.

As a craft, it has a lot to recommend it:  it's easy, uses up old clothes and scrap fabrics, and the finished product is useful 

Every quilt I've ever made has a story which can be read in the fabric:  this piece came from the old curtains in my mother-in-law's house in Brittany, this one from fabric my mother brought back from England, this one from an old dress shirt that my spouse wore for years that matched his eyes and this one from a dress the younger Frenchling wore when she was in elementary school in Paris.

I've also inherited (or was given) some very beautiful old hand-made blocks and quilt-tops that have their own origins in the families whose clothing was used and in the hands that pieced the small scraps together so carefully.    By finishing them I add my story to theirs thus making them a common project that spans generations.

My philosophy about quilting is the same as gardening.  I am seeking progress, not perfection, here.  If you look at professionally made quilts, you will see that the points always match, the colors are always perfect, and the stitches are always straight.  Well, I never was much good at coloring within the lines.  All I can say is that every quilt I've ever made is a little bit better than the last one and that's good enough for me.

Here are a few of my finished quilts and the two projects that I worked on this week.  Please forgive the quality of the photos - Michael could do so much better.  Mike, when you are coming back to Versailles?  Please....

This one was made in mid to late 1990's for the elder Frenchling and is a lovely patterns of red stars and crosses.  I used the sewing machine for piecing the top and for the quilting.  It's seen better days and I have it in my to-be-mended pile.

The blocks for this quilt came from a neighbor in Seattle.  They were made by her grandmother in the 1930's or 40's.  The white fabric for the blocks is old flour sacks.  I took the blocks down to a specialty shop that sold vintage fabrics and with the help of a salesperson who knew a lot about old quilts we found fabric for the sashing and the border that was a perfect fit for both pattern and period.  Once I had the right fabric I used the sewing machine to piece the quilt-top.  Then I kicked back and thought long and hard about what to do next:  machine or hand-quilting?  I decided it would be a travesty not to hand-quilt this one.  Took me two years to finish it.

I had originally though of using that old quilt for my bed but after spending two years on it, I just couldn't do it.  Too many nightmares of it being ripped apart or getting dirty.  So I put that one away and decided to make another one.  I used up a lot of scraps making this very simple scrap quilt.  The white squares are old muslin.  I used the sewing machine for the entire quilt (piecing and quilting) so it's very sturdy. Warm, too.

This one could not have gone more wrong.  Tried to machine quilt with batting that was too thick, not enough pins to hold the quilt sandwich together and not enough experience with my new sewing machine.  The result was something of a mess.  But the younger Frenchling looked at it and said she wanted it so I'm binding it and handing it over to her today.

This one could not have gone more right.  This is a baby quilt I started last week and will finish today for a sale at my church.

This is my next project.  This quilt-top comes from my great-great grandmother.  I like the pattern - I'm not that thrilled with the colors.  This is another hand-quilting job.  The trick will be to find the right quilting patterns for the pink (not my color) squares.

I'll sew a bit more this morning and then we are off to the Godin salesroom in St. Cyr.  We heard from our mason and he can do the chimney in the next two weeks.  Then Godin can come by and install the wood stove.

Hoping that the weather is better wherever you are.  Have a great weekend, everyone!


Anonymous said...

Oh what lovely quilts Victoria - bon voyage tomorrow.

DAvS said...

Victoria -- lovely work, and you give me courage! I have all the hand-sewn blocks (finished some years ago)for my first quilt. Having seen your productions, I'll try to get it finished off. Last year, I got a quilt top made by my grandmother (who died in 1937, before I was born) that my sister had professionals completed, and it is an absolute treasure.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@DAvS, Thank you for stopping by the Flophouse and for your note. Best of luck finishing up that quilt. If you are short on time, try machine quilting. Send a picture if you like -I would love to see it.

I bet your grandmother's quilt is just lovely. It's not just the patterns but the really old fabrics are wonderful.