It Took Two

A project finished.

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Where to turn next?

I needed a new project to work on in the evening, something portable and easy to pick up, and put down.

After the long months of working on the fusion quilt, I wanted a to work on something that would provide the sweet satisfaction of finishing sooner, rather than later.

But I loved working with the vintage linens so I chose to collaborate with an older friend, to finish a tablecloth she started.

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Why my friend didn’t finish this project, she didn’t say. It might’ve been that the cloth got stained and she got discouraged. I assured her that I could get the spots out.

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She used the green she loved—look at the flowers in each corner!–but she didn’t object when I wanted to add more colors.

 

She showed me some new stitches. Left to myself, I would’ve done the flowers with just lazy daisy stitch but her approach, to anchor the sides of the petals as well as the points, makes a prettier effect.

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I wanted to change the way we did the centers of the flowers, from French knots to a pulled thread circle, and she didn’t say no.

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She did a part that I wouldn’t have enjoyed—all that green satin stitch in the leaves and stems. And I picked up where she left off and added color in the flowers.

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I was going to do the zigzag border in the multicolors of the flowers but that looked overwrought so, in a nod to her preferences, I used a green she chose. Now, the zigzags look to me like grass the flowers flourish in.

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I also cleaned the cloth up, so we could be proud of our finished product. It took all my secret formulas to get that big stain out but now I can’t see it, even though I know where it was.

It’s such a pretty tablecloth she and I made!

I’d like to give her credit by naming her and showing you her photo.

But I can’t.

I’d love to have the pleasure of showing her the finished tablecloth and hearing her thoughts on what we’ve made together.

But I won’t.

I have no idea who she is . . . or was, since she has probably gone to that great sewing circle in the sky.

I don’t even know how her tablecloth came into my hands. I imagine I picked it up at a garage sale or it came as a part of a mixed lot I purchased from eBay.

The tablecloth has been sitting around here for what seems like forever, waiting for a new set of hands to pick it up and complete the work begun by those other hands.

We worked well together, she and I.

I’ll enjoy using our little tablecloth, made by two pairs of loving hands at home.

Have you ever finished a project begun by another? I’d love to hear about it!

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Finally, Fusion Finished!

Have you ever wanted something real bad and then, when you get it, all you can do is sit and grin at it?

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I’ve been grinning at my finished fusion quilt for a couple of weeks now and I figure it’s time to share it with you. I know some of you will be happy to celebrate with me!

A brief re-cap of the project:

I started this quilt in autumn of 2017. As you may remember, I sell vintage linens on Etsy and, in handling my treasures, I often come across pieces that are too damaged to sell.

And, yet, these damaged items still have patches of perfection. A pillowcase may have a big hole in the middle but lovely crochet along the edge. Bugs may have chewed a hole in an embroidered and starched tablecloth but left other areas pristine.

I have never been able to throw these pieces in the trash. Over the years, I’ve piled up a ton of “pretties”—the perfect sections from otherwise useless linens. I always thought I’d find a project for them.

And then I read a post by Tialys, about an approach called a “fusion quilt,” which uses squares of fabric, sewn with batting, edged with blanket stitch embroidery, and crocheted together.

A quick trip to Pinterest gave me more inspiration and I knew I’d found the perfect vehicle for my precious bits of vintage linens, my pretties.

The quilt ended up with 108 5-inch blocks. I included bits from hankies, napkins, towels, tablecloths, and pillowcases. Most of the fabrics came from my special drawer, although friends started bringing me bits they found, too. My favorite square of all is the pink kitty from a decrepit crib sheet, given to me by a dear friend in my sewing group.

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In some cases, with sturdy pieces, I was able to layer the pretty piece with backing and batting, and just sew them and turn them inside out.

With very delicate hankies and such, I ironed the pretty into lightweight fusible web, to give it substance.

When my pretty had lacy or embellished edges I wanted to show, I layered in another piece of off-white fabric as a backing, stitching as much, or little, as I thought necessary.

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I sewed blanket stitch around each square, to serve as a foundation for the crochet.

For the crochet, I used 3/2-weight mercerized cotton from my weaving stash. It is a nice weight, has a pretty sheen, and doesn’t stretch. I did only double crochet, nothing fancy, because double crochet is really the only stitch I know how to do.

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I could have obsessed endlessly about the placement or the squares in the final quilt but I find I get bored with that easily. I did come up with a minimal plan, though, and then my cat rearranged everything for me. So, I ended up placing all the all-white blocks in the middle and then making a transition to borders of brighter-colored blocks at the edges.

After I had crocheted everything together (which didn’t take nearly as long as I feared), I did a row of single crochet around the whole outside edge and then went around again with good-old, reliable double crochet. (Truth be told, I used up hours of my life that I’ll never get back again, figuring out how to do a shell border that would fit tidily within the length of each square, then hated the way it looked.) I used a different cone of off-white cotton for that last border and it turned out to be slightly darker than what I had used for the rest of the quilt and I kind of like the look!

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If ever there were a project that would benefit from being done over again, right now, with the lessons learned fresh in mind, it is this one. I could point out a zillion little mistakes, from bad planning, from inexperience, from winging it.

But I won’t!

All those years, when I taught public speaking to college kids, I told them that Rule One was never to draw attention to any problems or negatives in their speeches. They were NOT to tell us their hands were shaking or that they had forgotten their note cards. Why? Because if the speaker didn’t draw attention to the negatives, the chances were excellent no one else would ever notice. But, if the speaker drew attention to the problem, no one would ever be able to look away . . .

And so, I will follow my own advice and not draw attention to the flaws in my quilt.

I will admit, instead, that I am very pleased with it and have even peeked into that drawer that holds the pretty pieces and thought that maybe, someday, I would start another fusion quilt.

Heaven knows, I have the pretties. And the quilt fits perfectly on a twin-size bed . . . and I have two of those.

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Doing Sew Sew

Such a busy time of year!

Nothing profound, nothing deep, or exciting. Lots of time outside, planting and weeding, sanding and painting. Lots of time inside, organizing and cleaning, ironing and crafting.

And in my pile of vintage linens, I came across this piece and thought you’d get a kick out of it.

Isn’t she lovely?!

Home Ick

I was ironing from my stash of vintage linens recently and came across an apron that set off a wave of memories for me.

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The fabric is vintage 1960s, sort of cool and retro. The sewing is novice—the waist band is applied awkwardly, so the uneven stitching creates puckers and wrinkles. The colors—the turquoise ties that match nothing in the main fabric—would appeal to a young girl.

I’d bet a lot of simolians that the apron was a project from a long ago Home Ec class.  

I was a young girl, a novice at sewing in the 1960s, too . . . I took classes in this thing Americans called Home Economics. 

It must’ve been the late 1960s and I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. The boys took “Shop” and used woodworking tools and learned about car engines, while the girls took Home Ec and learned about cooking and sewing. 

For a person who now loves sewing and even quite likes baking, I hated Home Ec. Even then, as a 12- or 13-year-old, I thought of it as Home Ick.

I have these clear memories of the teacher showing us how to butter bread. She stressed that we needed to spread the butter or mayonnaise or peanut butter right up to the edges of the bread, very carefully right up to the edges, so that the bread would stay moist . . . for our husbands and children.

She told us to take two slices of bread out of the package and open the slices like pages of a book so, when we put them back together, with filling, they would fit and match perfectly . . . for our husbands and children.

She taught us that it was of utmost importance, when measuring liquids, to squat down and look at liquid in the measuring cup at eye level, so we would get the precise amount and our cookies would turn out perfect . . . for our husbands and children.

Ai yi yi.

The sewing lessons were just as lame, to my 12-year-old sensibilities. We sewed one seam up a length of cloth to make a tube, stuffed it full of batting, and tied the two ends closed with cord and called it a bolster pillow. Really?

We also did class presentations on makeup and I remember a classmate intoning that we shouldn’t use eyeliner because it was passé. I was impressed that she could the word “passé” in a sentence but that whole thing about eyeliner . . . ?

I like to think I was ahead of my time, a mini-feminist in the making. Maybe the attitudes of the late 1960s and 1970s were influencing me, even in the backwoods of upstate New York, but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as ridiculous. 

Maybe it was because my mother and father both worked and I had long made my own sandwiches . . . but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as really, really ridiculous.

Maybe it was because what we were being taught was SO basic, not to mention sexist, and I knew the boys were learning skills of value—changing the oil on a car, making book ends with power tools—and no one was ever suggesting that they do it just so, for their wives and children.

Home Ec died a few years later at my school. I believe it has since been reincarnated, in different forms, in some schools. Boys can learn to cook and girls can take Shop, or not, as electives. Maybe they’re also teaching budgeting and organizational skills, and useful life skills, beyond how to butter bread and disdain eyeliner.

Thinking about my own Home Ec experience has me wondering—was it just that my experience was a lame one? Did other teachers, in other schools, provide a better, fuller range of skills? The person who stitched the vintage apron certainly learned to sew more than a bolster pillow! 

Was Home Ec just a thing in the United States? Did/do schools in other countries use valuable school hours teaching such things?

Do tell—what experience did you have with Home Ick?

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Hand Quilt Along: On the Road

Sand and suntan lotion and a trip far from home do not lend themselves to hand quilting on a big unwieldy project.

And that is why hand quilters always need a portable project to tote along!

While my women’s rights quilt languishes at home, cold and alone, my fusion squares are enjoying a vacay.

And they are proliferating. At last report, I had finished 54 of these 5-inch squares. I have now finished 97, plus I have 12 more on this trip with me.

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I have woven in all the crocheted ends and blocked the crochet trim on all the squares.

I am feeling like this project might be reaching its logical next step—the crocheting together of  all ochocino-neuve-jillions of squares into one big square, to be known as THE Fusion Quilt. 

I have so many gorgeous bits–some are subtle, some are sophisticated, some are splashy, some are very “loving hands at home.” I love them all.

Does this mean I have used up all the scraps of vintage prettiness that spawned the project?

Not, it does not.

I have dozens more 5-inch squares that may, one day, be incorporated into another quilt. 

But, for now, I’m going to wash the suntan lotion off my hands, stick my feet in the white sand, and sew in the sun. And get ready to finish this project!


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.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Of Making Hay and Glamour Shots

As the daughter of a dairy farmer, one phrase has always had great meaning to me: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

We needed hay to feed the cows during winter. But wet hay, that which had been rained upon, would moulder in the haymow or, worse, could spontaneously combust, burst into flames–the last thing one wants in a barn.

So, we watched the weather and did as the proverb told us—grabbed the sunny days, put other chores aside, and brought in the hay.

Now I am equally aware of sunny days but I grab them for a different purpose.

Now my motto is, “Take pix when the sun shines.”

I’ve been selling vintage linens on Etsy for over 8 years and probably the single most important aspect of that is good photos. And good photos of vintage linens, or anything, really, depends on natural light.

When I initially get the linens I sell, they are often in pretty unappealing shape. I’ve written elsewhere about my whiz-bang techniques for getting out stains and brightening up the linens.

But the rest of the process is equally important. 

When I get a sunny day, I approach my linen photos as glamour shots. 

Do you remember glamour shots from the 1980s and 1990s? Was that only an American thing? Women would get a makeover, with big hair, lots of dramatic makeup, some glittering jewels or maybe a feather boa, and a professional photographer would employ soft lighting and maybe a bit of blur or air brushing to create the glamour. 

I never had my glamour shot taken, but my linens get them regularly!

First, I iron; that’s the makeover part. I’m always surprised, when I go looking at the other listings on Etsy for vintage linens (or even more so on eBay) how many sellers don’t bother to iron! The ironing might be my favorite part and certainly it transforms the linens from bedraggled to beautiful.

Then I find a sunny window, where there’s good light that doesn’t shine directly on the table I’m using.

The combination of a sunny day and the light shining just right in a window is a tough one here, in the winter.

I usually take 15-20 photos of each set of napkins or tablecloth or hankie. I can use up to 10 of those photos in an Etsy listing. 

After all these years of doing it, I have a sort of routine. First, the boring photo of the full item.

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This one will be the last of the 10 photos customers see. If the item has any flaws—a tiny hole or a noticeable spot, I take photos of those, too. 

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I take extreme close-ups if the item has amazing detail, like hand embroidery or fancy lace. 

I take photos of different angles, trying to catch the beauty of the fabric and colors.

Damask linen, which has a tone-on-tone design woven into the fabric, can be the most difficult to photograph well—it can just look like plain old white cloth.

Early on, I read on the internet that, to capture the beauty of damask linen, one needed “strong, raking light,” or light from a deep angle, which can reveal texture. 

So, I stalk around the table, bending low, moving the item slowly around, until the pattern emerges, until the lush sheen of the linen and the flamboyant damask design of mums or roses or fleurs de lis show to advantage. 

I love this process and can get WAY too caught up in it, spending 20 minutes trying to get the perfect photo of something I’ll be selling for eight bucks. 

Like my farming forbears, I watch the forecast and look for sunny days. I set aside other obligations and plans for those days and use them for taking Etsy photos. In mid-January, we had two sunny days in a row and I took over 425 photos.

I see now that Monday will be sunny and you know what I’ll be doing . . . making hay taking glamour shots of napkins!