Each quiltmaker trusts me to enhance their quilt with quilting. I feel both blessed to have that trust and a bit nervous as well. I feel the nerves especially when receiving a vintage or antique top to complete. I collaborate with my client to make several decisions about an antique/vintage top:
- Is the fabric sturdy enough to stand up to the machine needle and thread? Are the seams put together well? Are there areas on the quilt top which need to be mended?
- Would the quilt top’s value as a historical artifact decrease if quilted? If so, can I do something to stabilize it so that it’s structure will last?
- Which quilting design would both respect the time period in which the top was completed and give a nod to today? Many times economic factors prevent people having vintage/antique quilts from being custom quilted, is there a less expensive alternative which would still respect the original time period?
The quilt maker, who gave me this beautiful redwork quilt to finish, found these beautiful blocks among her grandmother’s things, including the block labeled 1932. It is such a wonderful block to include in this quilt because it documents when the blocks were made along with the family history regarding the blocks and the maker.
Redwork embroidery became popular just as the fad for crazy quilts was waning during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Women entrepreneurs contributed to the spread of its popularity, both as pattern designers and pattern markers. Mothers frequently purchased ‘penny’ squares, squares of cotton with a stamped design, to practice embroidery skills or to give to their children for practice. As the 20th century progressed, designs were distributed in collections, such as States, Presidents, State Birds and Flowers, Fairy Tales, Colonial, and, of course, Sunbonnet Sue. People collected the blocks and then placed them in quilts. You can see more red work examples here. There are also blue work quilts, embroidered with blue thread, over many of the same designs.
I chose to do a ‘Baptist’ (or ‘Lutheran’ or ‘Methodist’) fan pattern and quilted right on top of the embroidery. Fortunately, I could quilt through the embroidery because it laid flat and tight to the background. The fan pattern was frequently used was a very popular design during the 1930’s and throughout history. It is one of the easiest patterns for a hand quilter to do because it requires little, to no, marking. One simply uses the elbow as a pivot point on a compass to form the fan shape:To hand quilt a fan start in the position indicated by the light pink forearm in the image above, continue moving the forearm, with the elbow fixed in place, until the forearm is in the position of the dark pink forearm. Tie off the thread, move your elbow (stretching helps) and then place the elbow and arm to do the next line of stitching. Machine quilting a fan is a little bit trickier because it involves either multiple tie-offs or tracing previously stitched lines. On a domestic machine you can mark one of the fan lines and then use a walking foot to quilt it. For subsequent lines in the fan use the walking foot guide to keep lines spaced correctly. On my longarm the fan design requires a little extra set up and a quilt top which is square so that it begins and ends at the same points from side to side of the quilt.
Here is a last look at the darling bunny on the quilt. I wonder if he will share those carrots?
Have a quilty day!!