Hand Quilt Along: A Fail and A Save

Have you ever taken part in a quilt/knit/crochet/whatever along? A blog extravaganza where people commit to sharing progress on a set schedule?

If so, have you felt motivated by pride or peer pressure or the desire to keep a promise and have you met that set schedule with enthusiasm, and grace, and promptness?

Not me, boy.

Three short weeks into the Hand Quilt Along and I am mortified to admit that I have made no progress whatsoever on my stated project! I teased you last time with a promise of a method of basting quilts that I claimed changed my whole, entire, attitude toward basting and told you I would share that with you in this post.

Not gonna happen. (But, as a consolation, I’m including a link to the YouTube video where I learned the technique that changed my life. It’s at the end of the post!)

I could give you a million lame excuses (travel, Thanksgiving, blah, blah, blah) for my lack of forward momentum but, instead, I’ll show you progress on one of the other projects I mentioned in my previous post. It isn’t, strictly speaking, hand quilting, and it won’t become, strictly speaking, a quilt in the traditional sense, but it’s close enough (or at least I hope you think so!)

I have done quite a lot of hand sewing on what will be, ultimately, some sort of throw.

The background: As some know, I collect and sell vintage linens. Among the lovely pieces I come across, I have found many that are damaged just enough that I can’t, in good faith, sell them.

They might have a dark stain or a hole or three. They might be orphan napkins or pillowcases that have known too many heads. And yet . . .

And yet, they often have a frill or a furbelow, a hand crocheted lace edge or a bit of hand-wrought embroidery, a pretty little something that someone bent her head over, labored over, and crafted with her own hands.

I have found over and over that I cannot throw these bits away. For years, I have sought a way to use them, to save the work of the women who made these things.

And then one day, in one of those early morning forays into the bottomless time suck of Pinterest, I saw a photo of what was being called a fusion quilt. The ones I saw were simply squares of pretty, but new, fabric that had been cut and sewed up and edged with crochet.

But I saw, clearly, in my mind’s eye, my bits and pieces of loveliness.

Like these.

Each has three stages.

fusion progress blocks-7

First, the basic padded square needs to be made, work I’ve done on a sewing machine. I cut the “fancies,” the batting, and the backing, sew them together, turn them inside out, poke out the corners, and top stitch around the edge.

Then, I do blanket stitch around the edge by hand.

Then, I crochet the edge on each one. Somewhere, down the road, I’ll crochet the individual pieces together, creating an expanse of vintage handwork, with a myriad of pretty details.

I currently have 20 squares finished to the point of needing the crochet. I am not a very good crocheter so I wanted a stack to do all at once so as to get a rhythm going—I have a stack now!

fusion progress blocks-8

It used to be, when I was going through my linens, and getting them ready to sell, I’d be majorly disappointed when I found a damaged piece. Now I’m often thrilled!

This project has “me” written all over it—I’m doing handwork to preserve the handwork of women whose names I don’t know, whom I know only by their craft. Their work, sewn together in one piece, will be more than the sum of the parts and continue to draw the eyes and admiration of makers. I am honored to work in service of them.

And, yes, I still have a quilt to baste, a quilt that honors still other women who have shown me how to live! More on that in the next installment!

If you hate quilt basting and have wondered about different approaches, I highly recommend Sharon Schamber–Hand Basting Your Quilt.

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry


87 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: A Fail and A Save

    • Finished? Hmmm . . . I do wonder about that. How will I even know when it’s finished? And what happens when I think it is but come across more damaged linens . . . ?

  1. I love your idea. The pictures are beautiful, and sewing together the work of many unknown women — the people we generally know as Anonymous — is so inspiring. You will end up in a museum.

  2. I think this is a brilliant idea! I will so enjoy watching this come together. A little secret … I’m glad you ditched the basting tutorial mostly .. these blocks are wonderful eye candy.😁

    • Thanks, Deb! The basting tutorial is already done on that video by Sharon Schamber–I wasn’t going to be able to improve on that–so I’m happy with the direction I went, too. But I still need to get that top basted . . .

  3. I love your saves. they are beautiful. I can only imagine them put together acknowledging and showing off all the handwork of those unknown women. There’s always time for hand basting. 🙂 I was thinking about you this weekend as I made and have been consuming toffee. Life is better with toffee. 🙂

    • Life *is* better with toffee! And I need to make some . . . but what about fitting into my jeans?? I’m glad you like my project–I’m finding it very satisfying so far!

  4. Kerry, I am completely with you on the impact of an X-athon. I find that the moment I commit to such a thing is the moment which absolutely, 100%, guarantees that I will not make any progress whatsoever with the designated project. It is a similar story with forward commitments made in blog posts (‘I expect to be posting about X and Y book in the next few weeks’ etc etc). I am learning (slowly and the hard way) to avoid anything remotely resembling these kinds of commitments at all costs! Meanwhile, I adore your squares and the ideas behind them. It has reminded me of a question I have been meaning to ask you for ages – how do you come by your vintage linens? It must be so interesting to gather them up. 🙂

    • I’m still hoping the quilt along will be motivating–I should know that the basting step is always a roadblock for me. I find vintage linens everywhere! I’ve bought many on eBay and spent a few years in what now seems, looking back, to have been a kind of collecting obsession. But I also love garage sales and auctions and flea markets and have gotten linens at those–I scored a huge lot at an auction in the spring that I never wrote about here. Plus people give them to me. One of my blog pals just sent me a big box, just to get it out of her house! They find me, just like stray cats!

  5. Everything has it’s right time. It isn’t that for your hand quilting right now and should be avoided at all costs to purse something that fits in with what works better for this time. I have company for 3 weeks. Am I getting much done? Absolutely not. Stress? Why? What you HAVE accomplished is wonderful and ingenious! No apology necessary. I’ve “been gonna” do lots of things and none as lovely as what you have shown here. Pats on the back for getting so much done on such a lovely, thought filled creation. Love it. Now I’ll go check out your link though I will most likely never hand quilt anything. 😦

    • Such sensible words, Marlene! And you’re right–the project I wrote about has been the right one for the present time because it’s easy to pick up and put down and carry with me when I travel.

  6. This is a gorgeous idea! I’ve never done an “along” because I always have a huge queue of projects and adding a brand new one at the front of the list seemed wrong. Your project is such a lovely way to use those old pieces in a new way. Looking forward to seeing it in final form.

    • Thanks, Jennifer! I’m still hoping the quilt along gets me moving on the original project–I really do want to make progress on that quilt. But the timing is difficult, with the holidays, etc. The small squares are easier to manage right now.

  7. I was going to join your hand quilt athon because I, too, am a believer! But I know I would have fallen down immediately. Joining would have been too much pressure for me. But I truly am working on a piece…just very slowly. I LOVE your “saved” pieces and the idea of crocheting them together! What a wonderful idea. You are very creative. All those blocks are really lovely.

    • Thanks, Karen! I’m not sure how creative I am–I saw the idea on Pinterest–but I’m loving the way the squares are turning out. I hope I don’t regret the quilt along in the long run . . . I’m glad to hear you’re working on hand quilting, too–hope to see more about it on your blog!

    • If you seek, you shall find! There are lots of vintage linens around and ones with damage should be very inexpensive. I try not to cut up any that are in good condition and I haven’t had to!

  8. But these are spectacular, Kerry! The problem is, you have two HQAL projects going, so it is difficult for you to choose between them, especially with everything else going on in you life at this moment. This will be a quilt for the ages, literally!😍

  9. These are really beautiful! What a fantastic idea! I have all my husband’s mother’s, grandmother’s and greatgrandmother’s hand embroidered handkerchiefs, napkins, table cloths etc. Some of them are usable and we use them, others have spots and stains that I was unable to get out. I really couldn’t bear to throw them out – now I can repurpose them AND give them as gifts to the family!

  10. I have been playing along at home with the hand quilting. I am working on two projects there, one a quilt that I made with fused two-inch squares. That one is actually held together with some machine-stitched rows, so the hand-quilting is just to make it look right. The other is some vintage blocks that I put together, and I have been working on hand-quilting those for approximately 8 years. But your post about the group was the catalyst to make me pick those up again. Not enough progress to post, but I know I am slowly getting somewhere.
    Your fusion quilt will be gorgeous!
    Also, I loved the basting video!

    • I think maybe I should have played along at home instead of making a big deal about being in the quilt along, only to miss deadlines! But I’m not worrying too much–right now the fusion squares have my attention but I’ll get back to the other, too, i’m sure. I have sued Schamber’s basting method for my last 2-3 quilts and it works SO well! I love being able to sit at the table while I work and just have it all so manageable. Try it!

      • I got the finger cots you recommended in the other hand-quilting post, and they are making a difference! I am using large thread on vintage blocks, so, a big needle, and it was taking me two or three tries to pull the stitches through. Now it is only taking one try. It is going much more smoothly. So thank you for the tip!

  11. Scrolling down through the comments I see that everyone loves what you are doing Kerry – as do I! It is superb on every level and my heart skips a beat at the thought of what it would be like to be in the presence of such a finished quilt or throw! I think this is the thing that spread inspiration!

    As to the other I am trying to learn not to make those throw away promises on my blog ‘I’ll tell/show more about this next post’ Because inevitably I don’t! Life is mobile and often skittishly so – what seems like a good idea today is forgotten or unattainable tomorrow. As a retired person (giggle) I love that I have the luxury of going where the moment leads for much of my day, I don’t want to be tied down by a commitment. I am gloriously and selfishly commitment free – except to the people closest to me of course. I must just stop making those ‘next time’ comments on my posts – unless that post is already prepared 🙂

    • Thanks, Pauline–the fusion squares are so satisfying to make–easy to see progress and I like thinking about the women I’m “working with.” I am still hoping the quilt along is motivating more than irritating. I really do want to get going on that other project but I tend to hare off on side trips . . . Once I get past the basting . . .

  12. Great idea! I can see how you got distracted! 😉 I have done knit alongs and really like the wide open ones, not the rigid time frame ones. And I will never do a mystery one again no matter how much I like the designer. Too much pressure!

    • So far, I’m loving it too! I like spending a day sewing up a bunch of the squares then switching gears and doing a bunch of the blanket stitch, then focusing on the crochet. I haven’t gotten bored yet!

  13. This post made me smile. Oftentimes our ambition mismatches our time and energy level. Nevertheless, what loveliness you achieved.

    • I will be fine with that big hand quilting project, once I get past the pesky basting step. With the technique from that video, basting isn’t nearly as icky as it used to be for me but it is still kind of a big time commitment . . . and who has time?

  14. I wouldn’t consider that a fail. I’d consider it a switch in focus. My first thought would have been to use the bits in crazy quilt blocks, which I often do. Your idea, though, is fabulous and I like it very much. I don’t have as ready a supply of the damaged bits, but I can completely understand your joy at finding one amid the “good” pieces. LOL What’s kind of sad is that I don’t know that anyone in our time does the sort of work you and I are saving from the past.

    • Yes, a “switch in focus”–I like that! I’ve never felt particularly drawn to crazy quilts although I’m not sure why–but that would be another great way to use these pretty scraps. And I get a sense that some aspects of handwork and textile crafting are making a comeback–lots of young knitters and crocheters, and I feel like even weaving is coming into its own again. Young people might not be doing the very fussy, intricate lace and cutwork but they are making things with their hands!

    • Well, I *did* sign up for the quilt along of my own free will . . . but what does my free will know?! I’ll get back to that other project–I really want to do it– but I’ve been having a lot of fun with this other one, too! SO much to do, so little time!

  15. I try to avoid deadlines of any kind in retirement–even fun quilty ones. Deadlines stalked my working days and I want now to be able to do things exactly when I feel like it. It’s one of the great luxuries of getting older.
    Your fusion quilt will be a lovely orphanage for your vintage bits. What a fantastic idea. Since I’m in antique stores all the time looking for spinning and flax production goodies, you may have me now scouting the vintage linens–as if I need another project!
    Finally, thanks so much for sharing the basting video. The only part of quilting that I hate is the basting. I’m usually ready to tear my hair out or cut up the whole darn thing by the time I’m done. And it’s never done as well as it should be. I used the safety pin method on my last two quilts and was not a fan. This method looks full-proof. Hallelujah (fitting in with your hand-quilting-as religion theme)!

    • If you seek vintage linens, you shall find! I see them everywhere–I think they know I’m friendly, like stray cats do. I had to smile at you saying you avoid deadlines–I think of all the deadlines nature imposes on you! Sowing, watering weeding, harvesting . . . you have deadlines, my friend! But I agree–being retired is delightful because we choose what to work on, and when. Do try the Schamber method of basting. The set up takes some time but once you’re sitting at the table, it all goes quickly and so easily! I almost always make bed-size quilts and all that fabric gets so cumbersome but her method tames it all!

      • Ha. There are deadlines and then there are DEADLINES. You are right that nature imposes all sorts of deadlines, but they leave enough wiggle room so that they don’t feel like deadlines. As for the vintage linen, I have seen it all over the place but averted my eyes. I wanted to keep focused on spinning wheels and flax equipment or I would never make it out alive. Now that I’ve found my flax equipment, I can see those linens calling.

    • Oh, Cynthia–it’s not talent. It’s determination. I didn’t show you the several squares I totally screwed up before I got presentable ones! It’s a lot like writing–getting started and then editing! But thanks for your appreciation anyway!

  16. You aren’t alone….I don’t think most of us got much done. It’s a tough time of year. I finished the turkey and am enjoying a Christmas cross stitch, but I AM going to work on the quilt tonight during football. Now that I have figured out my threads and what I was doing, things should go smoothly… ;-D

    • It is a tough time of year–so many other things demanding attention. But once I get that pesky quilt basted, it’ll be so easy to make progress. I just need to set the time aside. . . .

    • That’s so nice to hear, Jean! I love thinking about those hands and wondering about them–were they happy to doing the work or was it a chore? Did they plan to keep what they made, add it to a hope chest? Or sell it to buy some food? Where have the items been since they were finished, before they ended up with me? My thoughts go all different directions!

  17. Any kind of deadline changes a pleasurable hobby into work and would make me anxious so I can quite understand your not getting on with your hand quilting! What you have achieved though, is absolutely wonderful! Not just because it looks so good but because of your dedication to all those hard-working women through the ages who managed to produce something attractive and unique despite maybe not having money to buy good-quality materials or much time to spare. Well done, Kerry!

    • Thanks, Clare–I really was looking for just the right project to feature these little bits of fancy work and the women who made them, and the fusion squares seem the perfect for me. I fully intend to get back to the other project, too, though–I really want to have that big quilt to work on during the winter months. I just need to get over the hump of basting it!

  18. This is such a pretty and unique project that I can see why it has your attention. It must have been an exciting moment when you saw the idea and thought this is the perfect project to show off your linen pieces. I love this!! – I’d like to made a version of a fusion quilt myself.
    I’m not much for the deadlines either. The -alongs are a nice concept, but I’m out of sync with others’ timetables.

    • I think that’s why I’m so into this project right now–it’s unlike any I’ve done before and it’s kind of thrilling in that each little square is different.

  19. As with your many friends, I am totally in love with your fusion squares Kerry. How delighted you must feel to have found a way to incorporate these beautiful linens that have damaged spots here and there. I’m tempted to go find my box of old linens right now. And start that quilt after watching the shared basting video – I am a new believer. But I must not, I have 3 fiber deadlines I’ve committed to that are due for the next 1 to 6 weeks – yikees. I’ll be writing about these 3 projects on my blog. Hugs and happy handwork – no matter what is in your hand, may it bring you joy!

    • You and I are a lot alike, I think! SO many ideas and directions we want to go . . . constrained by time and the “real world.” I’ll very much look forward to seeing what you’re working on!

      • Yes, I think we are alike in our many ideas and directions and delights of textiles. I always look forward to your posts, they are often the highlight of my morning reading. I hope to post more photos soon for your visual delight.

  20. wonderful little squares, love the picture of the stack. A beautiful way to remember and honor all those making hands. Once you start putting them together you can decide whether it will be a lap quilt or queen size.

    • Thanks, Jean. I should start putting them together, so as not to leave all that crocheting until the end, but I have a hard time arranging them without knowing what I’ll be adding. Oh, well–it’s just for me and I can do what I want!

  21. I have enough deadlines and schedules in my Vocation (therapist), that I choose to not have them in my Avocations (blogging among the lot).

    As to the left-over-pieces quilt idea… My mother did cross-stitch samplers from the age of 6 until her 60’s. At that point, she had dozens of them framed around the house. With down-sizing, she removed them all from the frames and asked, “What shall I do with these”. She took a group of them, assessmbled them into a quilt and pillows. She hired someone sew them onto a larger clothe frame then machine quilt them. She even included a place on the underside of the quilt for the names of the current guardians (us) and future guardians of the quilt. Guess, I will not be around to see who values this after us. -Oscar

  22. Kerry, I smiled all the way through this post. I love the idea of selvaging small pieces to make a greater whole. It’s much the way some of the earlier quilts were put together, with fragments of worn garments and the like. Your’s is uniquely creative and all you. I can’t wait to see it all together. The scraps of linen are gorgeous, and the padding somehow elevates them, a bit like a picture once framed.

    And in a separate note, Mike wore his scarf twice this week for our early morning walk. It’s down into the thirties at last. It’s gorgeous.

    • Thanks, Alys. That business of “seeing it all together” is daunting–it’s going to be a loooooong-term project, methinks! SO happy to know Mike is wearing and liking his scarf!

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  25. I love this!! I too have so many orphaned bits of linen, or damaged pieces, but I can’t bear to toss them. Sometimes they find their way into doll clothes or bedding for dollhouse beds, but I have SO MANY saved. Thank you so much for this idea!!

    • My pleasure–I was thrilled when I came across the technique for the fusion quilt–it solved the problem I’d been struggling with of how to use those pretty bits. If you use Pinterest, do a search on “fusion quilt” to find tutorials for the basic technique!

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