Thursday, June 29, 2017

Log Cabin Love

As novice quilt collectors, Teri and I (Kara) have stumbled upon some wonderful finds in our early collecting days. We do not have infinite budgets, so the quilts we have purchased have been on the low end of the cost spectrum, but usually appraise well above what we paid. I make sure my husband knows that little fact when I come home with an old (new to me) treasure. 

While vacationing in Maine in the fall of 2016, a friend and I did some antiquing in and around Wells, Maine. I wrote about some of the things we saw here, but what I didn't write about was my purchase. When I go to an antique mall and see a booth with any type of linen or fabric, I usually scour the booth from top to bottom. In this case, my intense perusal paid off, and I found this beautiful, log cabin summer quilt.

This particular log cabin is the "Sunshine and Shadows" variation.

Over the course of the last year, I have been fascinated by reproduction fabrics, so when I saw this, my first thought was, "Oh! Someone made a quilt with reproduction fabrics." Then I realized they weren't reproductions! I looked at it closely—it was in good shape, but my knowledge of dating fabrics was minimal at the time. While the price was reasonable, I wanted to think about it some more, as this would be the first time I had purchased a quilt for my collection. After seeing pictures, Teri encouraged me (as a good friend should) to hightail it back to the booth and buy it. Thankfully when I got there, the booth owner was tidying the booth, and I was able to get a little information from her. She had purchased the quilt from another dealer in Maine, who said it came from Dover, New Hampshire, and was made with Cocheco Mills fabrics. Unfortunately, that was all the information she had.

At the time, I had no knowledge of Cocheco Mills and the important part they played in the history of American fabrics. As soon as I got home, I researched the name and found this wonderful article by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. You can read her article here. Regardless of the type of fabrics, I fell in love with this quiltmaker's use of fabrics.

I love the blue centers, some of which are made from silk.

Of all the reproduction fabrics we have available to us today, I think the pinks are the easiest to find.
The above block contains a good example of a popular pink of that era.

You can still see a little glimpse of the purple in the brownish fabric.

After visiting my favorite appraiser, Phyllis Hatcher, I was able to find out that indeed, this quilt was made from fabrics from the 1870s-1890s. There is no batting, which given its location origin, indicates that it was made to be a summer quilt. The backing is pieced blocks of muslin, and it is evident that the maker was quite thrifty and used up even the smallest scrap of muslin.

Pieced muslin backing 

Closer detail of the stitching

One of the shadow blocks looks like it may have been a mistake—I wondered if the maker just ran out of dark materials. At the appraisal, Phyllis and I discovered that the fabric that looked to be part of the mistake, had indeed been a darker purple that had faded through the years.

The block on the upper left appears to be a mistake.

A close-up of the light fabric

Here you can see the
original purple.

This quilt was a good start to my antique quilt collection; little did I know that eight months later, I would find another log cabin quilt. This time my find was a bit closer to home in Emmitsburg, MD. Teri and I were meeting her parents for lunch as a good-bye before I moved to Germany. We were there a little early, and there just happened to be an antique mall off we went. I wandered into a booth near the entrance and found this gem.

Quite a bit different from the previous log cabin quilt

My quilt-dating skills had improved somewhat since my first log cabin purchase, so I guesstimated the age of the quilt as closer to the turn of the century. My guess was confirmed at the appraisal, as most of the fabrics dated in the range of 1880s-1900s. Whereas the first log cabin quilt consisted of almost exclusively cotton, this quilt had a wide range of fabrics: cotton, silk, fouillard, and faille, just to name a few.

The navy fabric pictured was a striped print which allowed the maker
to use the same fabric, but with different looks.

The piecing of this quilt wasn't the most skilled, but that certainly
added to its charm.

A classic red center, and in this block you can see the use of the navy fabric;
this time more of the print is shown.

An interesting thing I discovered when the quilt was appraised, was that it had never been washed! Based on some areas on the edges that were dirtier, we surmised that it had possibly been used on a bed, but had then been put away, since there is little fading of the colors.

A picture of the quilting from the back side

These two quilts were purchased with very little information about their origins. We can make deductions about what they are made of, how old the fabrics are, and even some information about the way they were quilted, but we still don't know their full stories. I certainly wish quilts could talk and tell us all about who made them and why, but for now, we will have to let our imaginations come up with their tale.

If you would like to read more about some of the quilts we have added to our collection, you can read about them in these posts:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Some people are so organized that they save all the T-shirts their children have worn over the years on the various sports teams or activities in which they engage. I (Teri) have a friend, Amy, who called me a couple of years ago and asked me if I could make a quilt with her son's collection of baseball shirts. I had made one T-shirt quilt, left, years ago for another teacher friend for her daughter, who was a gymnast. What I remembered the most about the experience was the MATH. Finding colors to match was relatively easy on that one, as most of the shirts had some similar colors, and even worked with the gymnastics border I had found. I understand that this quilt went to college with the recipient, and was used for years, even after college. (It always makes a quilter happy to hear that!)
For many years, Amy and I taught together, on the same team. In fact, we had a fifth grade team reunion this week. Ever since her boys were just little guys, they have always been involved in sports, and Amy—being the great mom that she is—went to many, many (maybe all) of their practices and games. And she saved those shirts from all those uniforms.

Isn't it amazing how fast the time passes?! Our little boys become men . . .

Amy, being a planner—and knowing me all too well— gave me the shirts well in advance of her son's graduation, so I had no pressure. Well, I don't know about you, but in my mind, that equates to "not on my plate yet," which soon becomes "out of mind." I had looked through the bag of shirts as soon as I got them for some ideas, and I wasn't quite sure how to make red, royal, navy, brown, black, and orange go together. I knew that somehow I could, but it would be my challenge. I considered a baseball-themed fabric, but I wasn't sure if that would appeal to a young man entering college. It took me a year and a half to "think" about this and come up with a solution. Finally, and none too soon, I opted for black and white, with a reddish-orange for accent. I decided to make the high school uniforms—orange and black—the center of the quilt, surrounding that with the blues, reds, etc.


My first step was to cut out the parts of the shirts I'd use and back them with a light-weight Pellon interfacing. I tried to get all the numbers and colors he'd had over the years to include them in the quilt. I removed the patches from the sleeves from when he played in the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League, so that I could appliqué them onto the quilt. One of the shirts had a cool sleeve design, so I cut the sleeves to create an interesting block with them. It's a bit difficult to be creative with just numbers! The real question was how to arrange those sleeve pieces in the middle. I rejected the three above; I wanted them to create one block, the middle one looked like Batman, and the one on the right looked like a mustache. It would be one of the choices below.


At one point, as I played with layout designs, I sent one of the photos above to Amy to get a feel from her about the direction I was going. She didn't answer for the longest time, and I was beginning to get worried that she hated it. But no; she was at a game. When she answered, she said she must have liked it, since she started to cry when she saw all those uniforms together. All those memories!

Now, the MATH. I knew each row would be a different height, and each block would vary in width. I had to arrange the blocks so that I could cut the blocks in the same row all the same height, and then measure the widths to determine what size sashing I'd need between the blocks in each row to make all the rows the same length. I was thankful for all the years I taught fractions to fourth and fifth graders! I wouldn't suggest that you try to decipher my mess, below; but suffice it to say that my math worked, and with one exception where I had to trim an eighth of an inch from each side of a row, I had equal rows to stitch together. Phew!

I sent a photo of my math work to Amy, who showed it to her math class:
proof that when you're an adult, you still might use that math you learn in elementary school!


I trimmed all the blocks to the correct, PRECISE size and created the final layout. I took the picture, above, to refer to as I stitched to make sure I didn't mix them up. When I finished stitching the rows together, I thought that the big orange circle in the center of the quilt—created by those sleeves—needed something. I realized that his last name was all over the quilt, but not his first, so I thought perhaps I should embroider his name in the center. But then, wouldn't be even better to embroider it in his mom's handwriting? I called and asked her to write what she wanted me to stitch in the quilt center and text it to me. I enlarged it to the correct size, printed it, marked it on tear-away stabilizer, and embroidered it using a chain stitch. 

Now it is ready for borders.

I chose this black and white wavy design, because it reminded me of baseballs.
(I've been told that I have a vivid imagination.)
Here, I was auditioning binding colors: black or orange. 

I pieced the back, because I'm a little crazy and like to make my work harder.
But it looks cool.

I got ready to start quilting it, which is my LEAST favorite part of any project, and just stopped and allowed my common sense to prevail. I went to our local quilt shop, Patches Quilting and Sewing, and asked them to quilt it on their longarm machine. I told them that I was planning to just outline the blocks, but maybe some baseballs sprinkled here and there might be nice. I think they did an awesome job! He really loved the quilted designs.

Quilted by Jackie Bingham, at Patches Quilting and Sewing, in Mount Airy, MD

Binding finished; ready for a label


I thought it would be fun to create a home plate for a label, with his name in a baseball, and his school motto included, which I obtained from the high school website. I first made the one on the left—can you tell I'm not much of a baseball fan? I knew it was a pentagon, but never thought any more about it, until my husband asked me if that was supposed to be home plate. I said of course, to which he replied that it was the wrong shape, and he drew it for me. I recognized my error as soon as I saw it, but I probably wouldn't have. Was I ever thankful he noticed that before I stitched it on the back of the quilt—using fly stitches in red, of course!

Label stitched with red fly stitches, ready for Amy to sign

Finally finished!
Amy comes to pick it up, with tissues in hand, in case the tears flow.

Signing the label:
"May these memories always keep you warm. Love, Mom and Dad"

Senior night

The best part is that his high school team won the state championships!!
So the baseball quilt has even more meaning and memories for him.
Here is the proud and happy family after the big game.

I got a text from Amy with this photo on his graduation day when they gave it to him:
He just kept saying, 'That's awesome,' over and over.

It took me about a year and a half to get excited about making this T-shirt quilt, but once I got started, I found myself picturing this cute little boy growing into manhood, playing baseball every year. I remembered the days each spring when his mom would come to school and talk of being at his games the night before. The stories of all his hard work, and his parents' support and encouragement for those many years, are stitched into this quilt, to remind him of all that he learned—about life and about himself—on the baseball field.

Congratulations, Jacob!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Winner and Some Eye Candy

What a week this has been! Kara and her husband, along with their German shepherd and husky, left for Germany. I (Teri) am happy to report that they arrived safely. Here is a photo of the dogs resting up after the long trip to their temporary home. Kara already has her new driver's license. Watch out, Autobahn!!

I've had a busy week, which helped me to block the fact that Kara is now living on a different continent. (Thank goodness for technology—and an excuse to visit Germany!) I thought you might enjoy a few shots of some of the eye candy I encountered in the past week.

One day last week, while having lunch with my friend, Vicki,  I was admiring the ceiling. I have a penchant for snapping a photo of an elegant ceiling. (I was once reprimanded by an usher in a theater because I was taking photographs—even though it wasn't of the set, just the ceiling!) But can't you see all kinds of stitching inspiration in these patterns?

After lunch, we walked out of the restaurant to a rain shower, so we figured we would just duck into the nearby antique mall to wait out the rain. I was so glad it rained! I'll be keeping my eyes on this unique quilt, and may have to succumb to making the acquisition.

Made from silk—probably neckties.
Sometimes the stars resemble pinwheels, depending on how the fabrics were fussy-cut.
The secondary design with the squares is striking, as well.

Exquisite placement of the stripes! 

Evidence of the use of neck ties: note the seam in the lower left corner.

I love the crazy quilt style of embroidery used to outline the stars.
The stitcher uses color to accentuate the star design, giving an interesting effect to the squares.

A cute embroidered farm-themed crib quilt.

How sweet is the scarecrow's face; I love her hair!

Later that afternoon, I visited the elementary school where I taught for nearly thirty years. We were celebrating the retirement of the school counselor. It is always a bit like going "home" when I visit that school, even though there are fewer familiar faces as the years pass. As I walked down the hall,  I was stopped by this map on the wall.

This incredible embroidered map was stitched by the second graders in the school, with the help of a visiting artist.

My friend, Barbara, who still teaches at the school explained: "This wonderful soul, Pamela Negrin through Young Audiences, worked with our whole second grade—four classes of 24 students. They worked for about three weeks. She taught the students how thread a needle with yarn. She taught them the chain stitch and the back stitch, and maybe more. This was accomplished during their art class. There were two to four parent volunteers at each class. She set up square "tables" to do the embroidery. This project tied in with our socials studies unit on suburbs, rural, and urban communities—and maps. The students also got to create their own design on a 8x8-inch piece of fabric. They embroidered it and finished in time to take it home for Christmas. The students were super involved and super excited, and so were the parents. It was a terrific experience for all!"

You can see in the wonderful detail shots below that seven-year-olds can do some pretty good stitching. I was thrilled to see that the school was implementing such a fabulous program, exposing the children to the art of needlework, learning geography at the same time. 


A black-crowned night heron
Another day, and another lunch date. Kristy and I set out to visit the local wool shop, and ran into this guy eyeing the fish in the creek. He hardly moved, but he must have been planning lunch—he kept licking his beak, but he took no interest in the bread that a passer-by had left for him. And he took little interest in me, as I inched closer and closer to shoot his picture. We enjoyed his long, gray ponytail!

After our wool and thread fix, we stopped in an antique shop on our way to the restaurant. We were greeted by this fabulous album-style "quilt," below. Upon closer scrutiny, however, we found that it was actually hooked, not quilted! It would be far too pretty and magnificent a piece of work to lay on a floor for a rug; the wall was the perfect spot for rug-hooked beauty. Interesting irony, seeing this just after leaving the wool shop!

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to see the progress made on our new home. The flooring was just installed in my new studio. I can't wait to unpack my fabric!

My 12-foot closet, with a triple-window pouring natural light into the room,
(making the walls appear much yellower in this photo than they are.)

On our way home, we passed yet another antique mall, so of course, we wandered through the booths. I'm definitely getting to the age where I stumble upon "antiques" that I have had in my home. They CAN'T be antiques, can they?! 

Another crib quilt: Jane Cook English was a lucky little girl to receive this circus quilt. I love the backwards fours!

Detail: What a creative use of rick rack! 

This quilting in this mariner's compass quilt is as stellar as the compass blocks.


This pretty cabinet, above, was enticing, but when I opened it and saw it filled with all those colorful threads, I had to try not to drool. The shop owner must have seen my eager eyes, and he offered me a deal, which I so wish I could have accepted. But even a $500 "deal" is unaffordable when building a new house and planning an upcoming Yellowstone vacation.

The winner is...

All the while, I was enjoying the stories that were being shared about why someone might have cut the lovely embroidered quilt in half that I wrote about last week in Vintage Flower Baskets and What's the Story? Some shared historical anecdotes, some personal experiences, and some fictional stories. We loved them all and had a great time reading them.

Using our favorite "Random Name Picker" website, the winner of the Sampler Threads by The Gentle Art is:

Mona Kindel

Mona's story was touching and sweet. Here it is:

"I believe this was made by a young woman, maybe right before the civil war, and she made it for her wedding night. But, right before she was married her sweet heart went to fight in the war. She cut the quilt in half, like it cut her heart in half to see him go. But she knew that some day when he returned home, she would be able to sew it back together again, like her heart would be whole again. But he didn't make it, his buddies returned the quilt half to her after the war, and because her heart never mended, she never mended the quilt together again either."

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share your stories with us on the blog. We always love to hear from you! And congratulations to Mona! Please email us (click here) with your mailing information, Mona, so that we can send you your threads.

Until next week, happy stitching!