Hand Quilt Along: And Sew It Goes

Oh, look! It’s been three weeks!

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Oh, look! It’s time for a progress report on the Hand Quilt Along!

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Oh, look. It’s that same old red and white quilt . . .

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Old photo–that snow is GONE!!

Oh. Look. That unfinished block from last time is finally done.

And, look, one more block is finished . . . .

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That makes 8 done . . . 12 to go.

Sigh.


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, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

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Hand Quilt Along: Pride Goeth . . .

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath. Envy. Pride.

Ah, the seven deadly sins. Which is your favorite? Or maybe I should say, Which is your downfall?

I have indulged in a few of these in my time, but the one what defines me, I’m embarrassed to say, is the one deemed the worst of all . . .

Pride.

Hubris.

Self-overestimation.

I resemble those remarks . . .

I could give you a hundred examples of my overweening pride but the relevant one is the state of affairs I face with my hand quilting project.

One week into this session, I was so far ahead of my self-imposed stint that I bragged a little to others. I talked about finishing my two bocks, PLUS getting extra blocks done so I’d have them finished as a buffer, in case I got too busy in the upcoming weeks . . .

I gloated to myself.

I took a few days off from quilting. I had plenty of time; after all, I was so far ahead of the game.

And, yes, pride goeth before a fall. And I fell.

Suddenly it was yesterday and I wasn’t done, or anywhere close.

So, I’m confessing my sin and seeking forgiveness—here is my progress for this session.

I do love the quote block I did this time and think it’s perfect for International Women’s Day.

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The pieced star block, the one I didn’t finish, is pretty straightforward. As I’ve said I’m doing a lot of “stitching in the ditch,” which means stitching right into the seam line so the quilting itself isn’t really visible but it gives a texture to the quilt and, of course, holds the layers together.

IMG_0960To be complete, I need to stitch many diagonal lines like the one running from top right to bottom left.

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And here’s an interesting tool that solves a huge problem of quilting—how does one quilt the straight edges and right-angle corners when using a round hoop?

I don’t have any idea where I got this tool but I would be lost without it!

So, back to my sins . . . I hereby repent my evil ways—I’m renouncing hubris; no more prideful boastings for me.

I think I’ll give gluttony a whirl . . .


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, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

Hand Quilt Along: Nasty Women Quilt 

Think “quilter.”

What image comes to mind?

For me, the image is of a plump, gray-haired lady (not woman, but lady), wearing an apron over a housedress. She’s sneaking a few moments away from baking bread and cleaning up after the grandkids to ply her needle. Her quilt is made of worn pieces of old clothing and she hums as she gently places her perfect stitches.

I’m a quilter. I’m not so plump, not so gray. I have no grandkids under foot and I seldom bake anything. And I’m no lady.

Let it be known that quilters come in all kinds of packages, with all kinds of political/religious/social backgrounds. We are young and old, women and men, and we use our quilts as a way of expressing our views of the world.

Quilting is not necessarily gentle and not necessarily lady-like. Many quilters have created quilts that are subversive and, in some basic way, the act of making something useful and practical and lasting, is subversive in itself.

When much of “women’s work” is work that is prosaic and almost immediately undone—the food is eaten and must be made anew, the clean house is dirtied, the neat beds are slept in—the quilts lasted. Quilts were a durable way a woman could say, “I am.”

I think that’s why I am enjoying my quilt for the Hand Quilt Along so much.

From the moment I decided to include the women’s rights quotations, I’ve gotten the biggest kick out of finding words from women I admire that most closely reflect the way I see the world.

Both blocks I quilted in the past three weeks have meaning for me in this way, one very obvious and one much more subtle.

The quote block I worked on most recently is a set of words from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts. She made the remark after Donald Trump famously called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during one of the debates before the 2016 presidential election.

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From that moment on, my highest aspiration has been to be a nasty woman, too. Nasty like Hillary and nasty like Elizabeth.

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The pieced block I worked on this time is one of a number of traditional blocks that represent stylized trees and are often called by the name “Tree of Life.” Because I did most of my stitching “in the ditch,” or right in the seam lines, and because the stitches don’t show up against the pattern in the fabric, the block isn’t much to look at.

But working on it called to mind a beautiful song that is connected with this notion of quilting being a way for the maker to assert herself. Written by Eric Peltoniemi, and sung by Ann Mayo Muir, the song is called Tree of Life and the last verse says,

We’re only known as someone’s mother,
Someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife,
But with our hands and with our vision,
We make the patterns on The Tree of Life.

So, there we have the stereotype again—“someone’s mother, daughter, wife”— and the push back against it, the reminder that women, yes, even nasty women, are essential to the tree of life.

Heavy stuff for a Sunday morning. If you prefer a lighter look at the not-so-gentle craft of quilting, look at these needles I’ve ruined in the last two weeks! This is tangible evidence that quilting is not for the faint of heart or hand.

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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, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessicaSherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

Hand Quilt Along: One Plus Two Equals Three

I’ve been quilting along on the quilt along.

In the three weeks since we last reported in, I’ve done two blocks. I think this will be a reasonable goal as I progress. It’s a pretty relaxed pace but there are other things I like to do, too, and I want to fit it all in.

One of the blocks I worked on is a patchwork block.

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I needed to decide on a quilting approach—where would I put the stitches?

And why quilt at all?

One purpose of quilting is to hold the three layers of a quilt together. Another, less obvious, reason was to keep the middle layer, the batting, from shifting. Older battings, sometimes no more than a layer of raw cotton, could clump and separate and shift. I’ve seen old quilts that have big lumpy sections and completely flat, empty sections because the quilting was insufficient and the batting all went where it could.

So, women made their quilting lines close together to limit where the batting could go. I’ve heard it said that the quilting lines should be no more than a hand’s width apart and I’ve also read that, in those “olden days,” lines should be no more that an inch apart.

Today’s battings are made very differently and quilting lines can be spaced much more freely. But the third reason for quilting is that it makes an attractive pattern on the quilt surface, so that determines where the lines go, too.

Many quilters mark their entire quilts before they start quilting, using stencils. I’ve said I don’t enjoy the process of tracing a stencil design on fabric, in order to do fancy quilting patterns. I’m a pretty lazy quilter, as it happens.

That makes masking tape my favorite quilting tool, both the quarter-inch tape made for quilters and the stuff I buy at the big box hardware stores. I can put the tape down to create nice straight lines, along which I stitch.

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I tend to make up my mind as I go along, about where to place the tape, and I change my mind, too, as I go along. Sometimes it works well, sometimes I’m a little disappointed.

I thought this block was done but, now that I’ve seen these photos, I think I will want to go back and add some more lines, not because they are necessary to keep the batting from shifting, but to improve the look.*

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The other block I worked on was the one with the quotation from Malala Yousafzai.

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Malala, as you know, is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, for her work as an activist for human rights, particularly for the education of girls and women.

These words from her come from her book, I am Malala, published in 2013. I’m not sure who she had in mind, when she spoke of “one man,” but her comment seems especially relevant in 2018. I know she couldn’t’ve been talking about the the “one man” I think of who could, and may be, destroying the world, but still . . .

As I quilted her block, I thought about the fact that she Malala didn’t ask why one girl couldn’t fix the world; she simply hopes to change it.

Her comment makes me think about the ease with which one powerful person can bring about negative change and the difficult, united work it will take to put things back together again—as Malala suggests. One girl may bring change but it will take many—girls, women, boys, men—to work together to fix our world.

One of the things I love most about hand quilting is the mental space it gives me to think while I work . . .

Three blocks done, 17 to go.

* Don’t worry about the hard little wrinkles you see—they came from that section being squinched in the quilting hoop as I worked on the next block. They’ll go away.


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, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessica,  SherryNanette, Sassy, Edith, Sharon and Bella.

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Hand Quilt Along: And Sew, It Begins

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It was as if I’d never touched a needle before.

In the two months since I finished my most recent hand quilting project, it seems I’d forgotten everything.

I couldn’t find my thimble.

I had no idea what quilting design to use.

The calluses on my fingers were gone so every stitch hurt.

My quilting hoop seemed like a stranger to me.

Does this happen to you? Do you find that no matter how many times you’ve been successful at a craft, you can still struggle when you begin a new project?

It happens to me, every single time. It doesn’t matter what the project is, the first few hours, or sometimes days, are discouraging.

My current weaving project is a hot mess. The quilting was a full-blown struggle. Even when I go out to exercise, I find the first 15 minutes an uphill battle.

The thing that keeps me going is that I know, for a fact, through long experience, that it will get better.

The rough edges will all smooth out, the hiccups will stop, and, soon, I’ll hit my stride, find that rhythm, and enjoy the process again.

That happens, too, every single time.

And so it has been with the hand quilting. In the course of working on this first block, I’ve been high and low, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. And now I know I’ll be fine.

I started with this particular block because Susan B. Anthony was a key figure in women’s suffrage and women’s rights.

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If you recall, this quilt was made as part of a “block of the month” project held by my quilting guild. Each month, we got directions for a pieced block and the story of an American woman who was important  in advocating for women’s right to vote.

I wanted to take the project further, beyond suffrage to women’s rights, in general, and I decided to add the embroidered quotations from women (and one man). I chose quotations that appealed to me, with an eye toward variety and diversity.

Susan B. Anthony was at the center of the push for women’s rights in the United States and, so, she is at the center of the quilt and the obvious starting place for the hand quilting.

For these blocks, I want the focus to be on the words so I chose simple quilting. For the background I am using cross hatching and then just stitching in the ditch around the half-square triangles that form the borders.

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I don’t usually mark a quilt with a pencil—I really hate that process and would normally just use masking tape to guide my stitches. The time, though, I was worried that using masking tape would pull out some of the embroidery stitches when I removed the tape, so I did mark the square lightly with a mechanical pencil.

I settled in, warm under the weight of the quilt. I re-introduced myself to the thimble, the needle, the hoop, the process.

One block down, 19 to go.

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I intend to quilt my way through the Winter Olympics!

 


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, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  SusanJessica, SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith.

Quilting Along, Keeping the Faith

So.

We’re having a hand quilt-along. What in the world does that mean?!

Several of the members of my “faith,” led by Kathy Reeves, of Sewing Etc, are making a commitment to work on slow stitching of a quilt-making variety and to write about our progress every three weeks.

For those of you who have not yet been converted to quilt making and doing it by hand, perhaps reading about our projects will give you insight into our small, often misunderstood, sect.

If you are already an adherent of the faith, perhaps you’d like to join us in this mission? Just contact Kathy and let her know!

My Project

This is the quilt top that I made and that I will be quilting on for this project. You can read about it here.

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I’m also working on two other quilting projects that combine a little machine sewing with a lot of hand stitching and I may occasionally report about them, too.

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Fusion quilt–combining bits of vintage linens and crochet

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Cathedral windows quilt, with scraps from vintage dish towels

I have a quilt top. What else will I need to make it a quilt?

Not much, as it turns out. One of the nicest things about hand quilting is that it is minimalist.

This is the batting that will add the warmth to the quilt top that I made.

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There are zillions of options for quilt batting—it’s the fluffy stuff in the middle of a quilt. It provides warmth and gives the finished quilt a textured, three-dimensional look. I think this one is called “Warm and Natural”—it’s warm, lovely to “needle” for hand quilting, and I have it on hand.

This is the backing that will finish the “sandwich” and contain the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Quilts are generally made of three layers—the top, the batting, and a fabric backing, all stitched together. It’s very trendy right now to do fancy pieced backings on quilts, in addition to the fancy pieced tops. But that just makes trouble for hand quilters.

Everywhere there’s a seam, on the top or the backing of a quilt, it’s an extra layer to stitch through. Quality hand quilting relies on rhythmic, regular stitching and it’s almost impossible to achieve that rhythm when stitching through lots of seams. I use plain fabric for my backing.

This is the thread that will join the batting and the backing to the quilt top that I made.

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I use thread made specifically for hand quilting. It’s a little heavier and stronger than regular thread. It’s also 100% cotton because I read somewhere that, because polyester is stronger than cotton, polyester thread and can actually cut into the cotton fabric of a quilt over time.

This is the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

Hand quilting needles are called “betweens.” They are very fine and quite small, compared to other needles. The theory is that the smaller the needle, the smaller the stitches that can be made and one way to judge the quality of hand quilting is to count the number of stitches per inch. Size 12 needles are the finest; I usually use a 9 or 10.

This is the finger cot that will pull the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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I use the rocker or rocking method of hand quilting and that means I load as many as 5 stitches on my needle before I pull it through the fabric. The needle can be slippery and hard to pull so a latex finger cot, worn on my index finger, gives a little extra help. I buy them in the first-aid section of the drug store. Yes, I know what they look like . . .

This is the thimble that will protect the finger that pushes the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Again, I use the rocking method of hand quilting which means the bare fingers of my dominant hand don’t touch the needle—I use the thimble on my middle finger to provide the pressure to rock the stitch. Some thimbles are made especially for this kind of quilting—instead of the traditional domed top of most thimbles, these have a ridge around the top that prevents the needle from slipping off and maiming the quilter.

It would simply not be possible to do this type of quilting without a thimble. My thimble fits tightly and I am so used to wearing it that I never sew anything without it. I lost my thimble for a few days last year and nearly had a breakdown.

These are the scissors that will that will cut the thread from the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Any small scissors will do but I think these stork scissors are super cute. I wear them around my neck on a (hand woven!) ribbon and some days I put them on in the early morning and don’t take them off all day.

This is the hoop that will hold the thread and the batting and the backing and the quilt top that I made.

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photo from terapeak.com

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It also makes a nice hidey hole for my assistant

Quilters can choose among lots of ways to hold a quilt for stitching—huge wooden frames that are engineering marvels, modern contraptions made of PVC pipe, and so on. But I love my hoop. I like my quilt to be taut as I quilt and this style frame lets me tighten the hoop a lot. It’s easiest to do the quilting stitch when sewing towards oneself and the hoop allows that because it pivots and tilts in all directions. It’s free standing, leaving both hands free, takes up little floor space, and looks quite pretty as it sits, holding a quilt in progress. The best part? I got it at an estate sale for $20! The worst part? I can’t find one like it for sale anywhere now—I’ll need to treat mine well!

I have all the items I need for hand quilting assembled and, yet, I am not ready to start quilting yet.

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Why not? I need to baste the three layers of my quilt-to-be—the top, batting, and backing—together to keep the pieces from shifting around.

I used to LOATHE basting but I learned a method a couple of quilts ago that changed all that. I’ll tell you about it in my next update!

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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.
BellaLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDeb and Kathy

My Old-Time Religion

I grew up in a family committed to missionary work. One aunt was a Christian missionary in Mexico, another aunt and uncle were Wycliffe Bible translators in Vietnam.

I spent last weekend witnessing as well, proselytizing and evangelizing, but not for Christianity.

Those who follow along here may have a vague memory of me announcing that I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m not religious in my beliefs.

It’s just that my religion doesn’t have a god . . . but its heaven is most inviting, or at least it’s the place for me.

It’s a small sect, with few faithful adherents. Some are the equivalent of C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians—they practice the faith but casually and only on their own terms.

My religion isn’t well-represented in this region; we few members seek each other out and rejoice when we find another believer.

It’s a fundamentally old-fashioned belief system, slow-paced and beholden to the olden days.

My religion, it seems, is hand quilting.

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Last weekend, I spent two days at the biennial show of the Champlain Valley Quilters’ Guild, sitting at a quilting frame–demonstrating, teaching, talking about quilting by hand–and looking for converts.

Like all missionaries, I got a variety of reactions. Some people walked by and laughed, and walked on. A couple of hand quilting atheists shook their heads and called me crazy.

But my slow work, with the serene smile on my face and the peace in my movements, drew others. They sat, they watched, they picked up a needle and joined me.

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Some people were curious—they seemed to come looking for a new kind of meaning, a place of belonging.

Others were already true believers. We spoke in almost spiritual tones and words of how we felt about the hand quilting. It has a soul; it carries the spirit of our ancestors; it allows us to transcend the mundane, to find a peace unavailable through a machine.

I asked them to look at the three or four quilts, in a show of 400, that were quilted by hand, by members of the faith. We could all see and sense the difference, even though we admitted that the quilts done by machine were often awe-inspiring in their own ways.

We agreed that, while we’d never go to war or start an Inquisition to defend our faith, we’d never foist our beliefs on others, we still agreed that our ways suit us best.

Everyone needs to believe in something, I guess. And I believe in taking it slow . . .

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One of only three or four hand-quilted quilts in our guild show. Maybe next time, there will be more!?