Crazy for Crazy Quilts!!!

In 1876 the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition showed Japanese ‘crazed’ pottery (cracked glaze) and asymmetrical design to the United States.  In addition, it demonstrated fine English Embroidery.  Soon the Godey’s Lady’s Book and other periodicals were encouraging their readers to make crazy quilts.  Most crazy quilts consist of irregular patches sewn onto a foundation (there is usually no batting, so, technically speaking, they are not a ‘quilt’).  The crazy quilts from the Victorian era (late 1800s) were made from silk, velvet, satin and ribbons.  They were embellished with paint, embroidery, beads and buttons.  Many included ‘cigar silks’ ribbons included as a premium with cigars and souvenir ribbons (perhaps from the fair, or cities).

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The above example has ribbons, embroidery motifs and a lacy edge.  Most crazy quilts were never intended to  be used on a bed, rather they were used as a decorative element in the living room.  The presence of a crazy quilt showed off the household’s wealth–the maker did not have to do housework so she had time to do ‘fancy’ work and she had scraps of expensive materials, e.g. silks, velvet’s, and ribbons.

s-l500-3Most crazy quilt embroidery is on the seams utilizing combinations of stitches, such as herringbone and fly stitch.  Motifs embroidered in the patches include flowers, birds, spider webs, and animals.  Many crazy quilts have fan blocks or spider web blocks.

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By the end of the 19th century, lady’s magazines were actively discouraging crazy quilts, decrying the waste of time involved in making them.

However, quilters continued making crazy quilts (albeit in smaller numbers).  Many crazy quilts made around the turn of the century were made from wool and cotton.

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Stitching became more utilitarian and the use of souvenir ribbons decreased.  Generally speaking the individual pieces were larger (although there are exceptions, such as the quilt above, ca. 1910).

Crazy quilts from the 1930’s and 1940’s show off the pastel color palette of the new aniline dyes although the embroidery continued to simplify.  s-l500

They were either constructed in blocks as above or sewn utilizing a sheet as the foundation.  It is not unusual to see a crazy quilt with fabrics from a large range of time periods because most of them were made with scraps.s-l500-6

I have even seen crazy quilts made with polyester double knit fabrics from the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as this example:il_fullxfull-1110677381_sa3o

Preserving crazy quilts from the 19th century can be difficult because many of the silks ‘shatter’ (disintegrate) over time due to the mordants (dye fixatives) used.  Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to stop the process.  Treat your crazy quilts gently, and shelter them from dust and light.

On my longarm today…5 reasons to go quilt shows

It’s fall here in the Upper Midwest, the trees are all turning magnificent colors and the weather is beginning to cool.  It is also quilt show season, before winter driving becomes an issue.  Here are my top five reasons to go to quilt shows:

  1. To see amazing quilts, such as this stunning Best of Show, AQS Des Moines 2016 (plus many additional ribbons) quilt by Bethanne Nemesh.  It is a whole cloth quilt with an Art Deco inspired peacock design as it’s central motif and beautiful feathers.  The quality of the machine quilting was excellent.  I particularly noticed that despite the heavy quilting the motifs stood out from the back fill.  In addition she used ‘advanced’ edging techniques such as covered beaded piping and tiny scalloped edging.20161005_110535
  2. To discover new gadgets, such as how my Gammill Dealer attaches a tablet to her longarm.20161005_113636
  3. To get inspiration and ideas for my own quilting projects–how to fill up negative space.  I liked how Judy Mercer Tescher used block design along with back fills to complete the stars in her quilt Stars and Sparks.  20161005_112750
  4. To take classes–I took a class with Judy Woodworth, an amazing quilter, about back fills.  I can hardly wait to try some ideas and practice in my studio.  I won the class demo with Judy’s stitching.  I love those little feather blooms.20161018_165018
  5. To meet old friends and new friends.  I always have fun going through a show with friends because they see things I don’t notice.  It’s also fun to meet new friends–sit at a table with someone or on a chair next to someone and ask about their quilts.

I hope you enjoy some quilt shows this fall!!

On the Longarm today….Creating a Square and Flat Quilt Top

Builders use levels and plumb lines to keep houses ‘square’.  A house that is level and plumb is less likely to fall down.  Likewise a quilt which is flat and whose angles are intentional is more likely to survive washing, hanging on a wall or in a quilt show.  In every step of the quilt making process we introduce a chance of error.  I have learned through the years (by painful experience mostly) to reduce some of the errors.  My worst quilt ever was a lap quilt made from a brocade fabric, I pieced each block and then had to ease them to fit each other, then because I ‘knew’ that I pieced 12″ blocks, I calculated the ‘theoretical’ length of the borders and quilted it.  It had more waves than a surfer’s convention.

I took out the quilting, ripped off the borders, measured the quilt, reattached the borders, and quilted it.  It still was wavy–I took out the quilting, blocked the top, quilted it, blocked it and attached the binding.  It was as good as it was going to get.  My friends labeled it the ‘quilt from h***”.  I never wanted to see it again.

I have another quilt, a pleated log cabin with a heavily embellished border, hand appliqued with dimensional flowers.  It also does not lie flat, it hangs ‘pregnant’ (with the center bulging out).  I took out the quilting twice, measured and reattached the borders 3 times–it still does not hang straight.  I gave up, it is finished and resides in a very comfortable place in the closet.  Both of these quilts were finished several years ago and they inspired me to improve my technical skills so that I would not ever have to take out quilting stitches again.

Here are some techniques I learned to improve my accuracy:

  • Fabric matters:  The ‘gold’ standard for quilts is 100% Cotton fabric made for quilting.  Yes, you can quilt with fleece, silk, wool, fur, pleather, leather, satin, jersey, polyester, brocade….But if you choose another fabric choice you will have to change some of the techniques and perhaps add some steps in order to achieve accuracy.  For example, the brocade in the quilt above should have had a stabilizer, such as French Fuse or Shape Flex 101, fused onto it.  Then the fabric would not have stretched to create waves.  I also should have stay stitched with a walking foot around the quilt top before quilting it.  100% Quilting Cotton has  minimal stretch, creates a defined crease when pressed, and can be washed.
  • Double starch:  Before cutting cotton fabric I starch it, press it dry, starch it again, and press it dry again.  I use regular grocery store Niagara spray starch, if my grocery store gives me a choice, I purchase the heavy duty, professional, super-duper spray starch.  I don’t mind the smell, of the ordinary starch but I avoid any floral scented starches.  Most of my quilts are made to be used, washed and loved and the starch will be gone after the quilt gets it’s first ‘bath.’
  • Cut accurately:  Know where to place the lines of your ruler, use sharp blades in your rotary cutter, use accurate templates.  Make sure that the fabric is folded parallel to the selvages and only layer your fabric thick enough so that your rotary cutter will cut through it easily.
  • Use an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance:  Even if you have been using a machine ‘forever’ and you ‘know’ it has an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance, test it before starting a new project.  I sewed all day without realizing that somehow my needle position had been changed.  aargh!
  • Measure frequently:  Before putting on sashing or piecing blocks together, measure your blocks.  Fabric moves and small errors can add up quickly.  I measure and fix things as I go along.  It may slow me down, but I don’t have to ‘frog’ (rip it, rip it) as often.
    • Before putting on borders measure your quilt top 6 times in 6 different places.capture
      • Add the horizontal measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the horizontal measurement of the quilt (note:  If the measurements differ more than an inch, I would double check the measurements, then I would double check the construction of the top).
      • Add the vertical measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the vertical measurement of the quilt.  (see note above)
      • Use these measurements to determine the length of your border cuts of fabric.
  • Be a Quilt Engineer:  None of the above techniques would have helped my heavily embellished and appliqued pleated log cabin.  The combined weight of the pleated log cabin blocks sewn to a muslin foundation and the weight of the applique was too much for the borders.  I should have stabilized the borders with a heavy stabilizer.  I think that sometime in the future I might add a heavy stabilizer to the back of the quilt or frame it.

Every quilt has it’s own unique challenges, I problem solve through out each step of the process in order to get the results I want.  At the same time I leave myself open to creative opportunities.  Some times there are happy accidents along the way which require me to change my plan.  Lovelli Signature

 

On the Longarm today….Fall is coming

Today I finished this beautiful fall quilt sampler with a wonderful oak leaf pattern by Kim Diamond.  Th!e autumn colors make me want to snuggle into this quilt with a warm cup of tea (at least for a minute or two–it’s in the 90s and humid).  I know that soon the trees will be losing their leaves and temperatures will drop.  This quilt is big!  120″x 122″!!  The quiltmaker did a beautiful job keeping the points in the quilt pointy and the seams matching where they were supposed to match.  IMG_2002

I chose an edge to edge design which reflected the season of the color palette, which would allow the piecing to be the ‘star’ of the show and which would give the quilt a soft and cuddly texture.

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You can see the oak leaves and meander on the back of the quilt.  On the front of the quilt the quilting only shows in the borders where it adds texture and movement to the piece.

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Are you ready for fall?  I’m sending my youngest son off to college in the next couple of weeks–I’m not sure I’m old enough for that to happen yet! (lol.)  Enjoy your quilting adventure!!

Lovelli Signature

On the longarm today…Swoon

I feel like I should be putting one hand on my forehead and one on my heart as I sink gracefully onto a fainting couch.  But, no, it isn’t that kind of a swoon, the quilt on my longarm today is made using the pattern, Swoon, by Camille Roskelley.  It is a wonderful pattern which is well written and easy to make.  There are many ways to quilt a Swoon quilt top and for, me, that is one of the challenges–because I want to try them all!!  For this quilt, I chose a block pattern from One Song Needle Arts which would lay nicely in the block, emphasizing the different segments of the block, and yet be a cohesive design.  I always try to add ways which cause a viewer to look at a quilt and find interest from across the room, from closer, and then from closer still.  One way to do that is to lay a quilting design on top of the quilt so that it doesn’t follow the piecing exactly, but it emphasizes it.

As I design a quilt layout, I look for designs which repeat motifs found in the fabric, in the piecing and/or in the applique.  For the Swoon quilt I noticed that several fabrics had circles, and that several had flowers.  I chose to combine several different flowers by Anita Shackelford for the sashing.

I was very pleased with the way that the quilting turned out.

Now is a great time to get started on Christmas gift piecing.  I can guarantee that any quilt sent to me for quilting in August will be quilted before Christmas (custom or edge to edge).

Have a great quilting adventure!!

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On the longarm today…A quilt finish…Allietare!

For the last many years Bonnie Hunter does a mystery quilt starting right after Thanksgiving and ending at Christmas. I’ve wanted to play along for several years, but this year I did it!  I kept up, mostly, until the last week when we welcomed out of town guests (my parents); my washing machine died; I discovered that my 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t correct; and I needed fabric for the borders and backing.   Once the holidays were over, I took out the seams which were incorrect and found a black fabric with a hint of sparkle for the border.   Allietare!  means to rejoice and I’m thrilled to add this quilt to my collection.  Bonnie’s directions were very clear, even down to which direction to press seams, and I didn’t have any bulky seam intersections, which can be difficult for the longarm to go through.

Bonnie’s inspiration photos for the quilt and its color scheme which I mostly followed, were from her trip to Italy.  I also took a trip to Italy (as a student), so I chose my memories of the marble in churches and cathedrals as my inspiration for the fabric in the quilt. Many of the fabrics have a bit of metallic shine or luster like the beautiful mosaics I saw.  I was so impressed and surprised by the spectacular cathedral in Sienna, Italy, that I still remember it today, many years later.  The unique multicolored stonework, inside and out, was a great inspiration for this quilt–it kept me sewing through frustration (at myself) and it inspired me to be accurate and thoughtful in my design choices..  The fabric in the quilt is almost entirely from my stash, and with the exception of the black border.  (Un)fortunately, my stash still is too large–I will just have to make more quilts!!

Although I love to custom quilt my own quilts (and clients’ quilts too!).  I decided that I wanted to try to do an edge to edge design, but arrange the designs so that it would look like a whole-cloth design.  I really liked the Twisted Plumage design by Naomi Hynes.  The quilting lets the piecing take a starring role when viewing the quilt top, but the quilting certainly becomes the main event on the back of the quilt.

I finished the outside edge of the quilt with a wavy edge and bound it with a bias binding.

Enjoy your quilting adventures!!

Lovelli Signature

On the longarm today….An Antique Quilt top.

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.

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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:Fan drawingTo 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?

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Have a quilty day!!

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