ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux

Those pretty scraps do accumulate . . .

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As recent posts suggest, I’ve been knee-deep in vintage linens. Summer is the perfect time to slog through my bins of old linens, clean them up, iron and photograph them, and get them ready to list for sale.

But as I do this, I’m still finding damaged pieces, the scraps of pretty that led to the making of the first fusion quilt.

I have many, many scraps of loveliness. And more every day, since friends have begun to bring me theirs.

I have the first quilt on a twin bed and it’s perfect, but I have two twin beds . . .  and one of them looks quite naked now.

I learned a lot from making the first quilt and like the idea of applying the lessons learned.

So, here we go again!

My scrappy happiness for the coming months will be another fusion quilt.

The basic process is really quite basic.

All one needs to do is cut fabric and batting into squares of the desired size. My squares are all 5 inches, although I cut the batting ¼ inch smaller, to reduce bulk at the edges.

Next, I make stacks composed of a pretty piece, a piece of batting, and a backing—you could use all bright shiny new ingredients but I’m using scraps of batting, scraps of random off-white fabric, and my scraps of pretty old embroidery, fancywork, lace, and damask.

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Once the pieces are stacked in the correct order (pretty piece and backing piece need to be right sides together. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do), I just stitch around the outside, back stitching at the start and end, and leaving a biggish opening to allow me to turn it all right side out.

The process can get more complicated, since I’m using vintage scraps. Sturdy pieces can be done as described but if the pieces are fragile, like a fine old hankie, I reinforce it with fusible web. If a piece has pretty edges or cutwork, it needs a backing piece, so the batting isn’t exposed. This backing might need to be sewn to the pretty piece first. Some need both fusible web and a backing piece.

The layers all get sewn and then turned. This is where I almost lost the will to continue the first time around.

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Can this mess be saved?

Poking the corners out helps. I use a wooden skewer but only the blunt end. If you use the pointy end, it can poke through and make a hole in your piece. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.

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Top stitching and the blanket stitch and crochet I do around the edges will help, too, but I’ll tell you more about the process in months to come.  And it will be months—I need 108 squares . . .

(Hover over the photos in the mosaic, if you want a bit more info about the scraps)

My progress to date is:

Many scraps of fabric and batting and vintage linens, cut and ready in stacks of 5-inch squares.

11 squares finished to the point of having been sewed and crocheted. I still need to sew the crochet ends in and block the crochet.

12 squares sewn and turned and ready to be top stitched.


ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me), Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

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Pity the Fabric

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Pity the poor length of fabric.

So full of potential, so mistreated and so neglected.

This cloth would’ve come from a bolt of yard goods, a long piece of off-white damask linen, with bright gold stripes along the edges. The woven pattern is of pansies.

Someone came to the dry goods store, probably 50-60 years ago, and said, “Cut me 3 yards. I’ll make an elegant tablecloth for special occasions.”

But that never happened.

The fabric was left folded, folded just the way it came from the store. It got packed away, in a deep dark trunk, and the trunk got put away in a deep dark cellar, where it was damp and there were bugs.

And it sat. It gathered stains of all sizes and shapes, water stains, dirty trunk stains, stains of unmentionable acts of insects.

It sat until the lady who had purchased it died at the age of 95.

It sat as the lady’s children went through the house and opened the closets and planned the estate sale.

It sat while hundreds of people came through the sale, buying the bits and pieces of the lady’s life. But no one opened the trunk in that corner of the basement.

I went to the sale. I bought armloads of pretty linens  . . . but I never went into the basement. I asked the lady’s son if there were more linens I should be looking at and he said he didn’t think so.

I left, and still the fabric sat.

Later that day, I went back. I just knewthat a woman with a fine house like that, decorated the way it was, had more vintage table linens than I had seen.

I walked in. The sale was winding down.

The son said, “Oh, good! You came back! There’s something I want to show you.”

The basement. The trunk still unopened after two days.

The fabric. And other linens, including huge damask “lapkins” with the lady’s monogram.

I brought the fabric home. It was filthy but unhemmed so I couldn’t wash it yet.

I put it on the clothesline to get the smell out and then I hemmed it.

I soaked it, in steaming hot water, with one of my go-to solutions, for hours.

The wash water turned the color of strong tea but many of the stains were stubborn.

So I soaked it again, with my other magic solution and steaming hot water. Many more hours.

I used a spot stain remover. I put the tablecloth outside in the bright sun and sprayed it with water to keep it damp, to let the sun work its magic.

The stains faded but never fully went away.

I have grown cocky over the years about my ability to remove stains from old fabrics. I boast about my prowess. I wrote about it here.

But this tablecloth has made a fool of me—those last stains refuse to budge!

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And still, it’s a lovely cloth and the small spots that remain really do little to take away from its charm.

Finally, after something like 60 years, this fabric is released from its dark prison of inactivity, and ready to do the job for which it was intended.

Pity it no more.

 

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!

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?!

Hand Quilt Along: Women’s Rights

On November 8, 2016, I watched our US election returns, fully expecting that we would be welcoming our first woman president.

As I watched, I embroidered on this block, with the words of the woman I was sure would be that president.

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I was stunned, horrified, and so, so disappointed when things worked out so differently, so cataclysmically wrong.

Disheartened, I stopped working on the quilt for a while but eventually knew that I needed, perhaps more than ever, to finish it.

And through the intervening two years, it’s given me some comfort to work on this. New women leaders have emerged while established standard bearers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, continue to work toward keeping America America.

I admire Hillary Clinton. Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren.

I admire Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the other newly-elected women in government, every one of them, and Stacey Abrams and so many others.

I admire the women of Planned Parenthood and the ones who march for women’s rights, and women doctors and scientists and authors and artists, and every woman who has found her own way to say, “I am. I want my human rights.”

And, of course, I also admire the women who have found ways to express themselves when their expressive options were limited. And that brings us to my other quilt-in-progress.

I’ve started crocheting together the fusion squares.

I spent some time laying the squares out in patterns on my bed, trying to decide what worked. But I have almost no patience for that kind of work.

So I settled for a layout that put the all-white squares in the center, with more colorful ones bordering them. I stacked the squares up in order and had a plan, minimal though it was, and tucked all of the squares into a safe cabinet so I could take them out in order, to crochet.

The next day, I found that one of the cats (I’m looking at you, Gigi!) had finagled her way into the cabinet and wreaked havoc with my plan, minimal though it was. The squares were tossed every which way.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see how this turns out!


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

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