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Showing posts with label hand quilting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hand quilting. Show all posts

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Remembering Granny and her quilts

When I married my husband more than forty years ago, I married into a very talented family of stitchers. His mother crocheted and did a little quilting. But the star of the family was his grandmother, Mary. Everybody just called her Granny. I don’t think I will ever forget her.


Granny and Jenny
Granny with her Great-Granddaughter, Jenny
Granny was a quilter. Well into her 80’s, she would spend her time in the family’s dark, damp basement, lit by only a lone light bulb hanging from the rafters where her quilt frame was set up. It was just outside the fruit cellar and coal bin in the house her husband built. My husband tells me she would be down there for hours at a time. She did all her piecing by hand and turned out some beautiful quilts. As she aged and things became more difficult for her, she purchased quilt kits from places like Lee Wards Creative Crafts, which began in 1947. In the 70’s, it morphed into the modern and well-known Michaels.

Years ago though, I remember going to the Lee Wards in Elgin, IL. It was huge. To me it was like a kid’s first trip into Toys R Us. But this was not just a store; it was an immense warehouse, with aisle after aisle filled with every kind of art and craft imaginable. I wasn’t a quilter back then, but I did knit and crochet. Even today, I love yarn almost as much as I love fabric. Get me into a place like that now, I’d have to bring a sleeping bag.

Granny's quilt
Granny died in the early 80’s, but she lives on in our memory and of one of the quilts she gave us. Each of his siblings also has one. Ours was from a kit she liked to make. Once she cross-stitched the quilt top, she completed the quilt, hand stitching simple quilting designs.

I never actually saw her quilt; I only saw the result of her work. She eventually gave up quilting because she could no longer go down the steep stairs to the basement. She also complained about her failing eyesight.

Despite that, she never gave up working on her crewel embroidery. My mother-in-law, who was her caregiver, often bought kits for her. Often times she didn’t care what the finished piece was; she just enjoyed doing the work. The pieces often doubled as Christmas presents.

I had never seen anyone do such beautiful hand work. It is hard to believe that her eyesight was failing, given the beautiful stitches she could make. There was never any evidence of it in her work. It was flawless.

I recall how she used to sit on the edge of her bed, with her back straight as an arrow and her feet flat on the floor, as the sunlight streamed through her window and onto whatever project she had in her lap. She began sewing after the breakfast dishes were done and worked up until lunch. After the kitchen was clean, she took a nap, and sometimes sewed in the afternoon until the sun went down.

I can’t help but think that in the back of my mind, knowing her, planted the seeds of quilting into my own heart, only to sprout a little later in my life.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Spray basting, plan B

I admit it; I was pretty bummed about my first attempting at spray basting a quilt, detailed in an earlier post

But that is behind me. What I didn’t reveal, because I only realized it later, is how important it is to read directions. I had no idea I was supposed to finish the bonding process by pressing the piece. Needless to say, my failing to perform that all-important step, resulted in the layers not sticking together. Once I realized my mistake, I was a little bummed. Beyond my own foolishness was the knowledge that I had to spray baste the whole quilt all over again. I knew it would be even be more challenging this time, since I had already quilted an entire motif, right in the center of the quilt that I would have to work around.

I decided that working on the floor was just not an option this time around, so I cleared off the dining room table, put the leaf in it, and set out to flatten out my quilt, upside down. Of course the table wasn’t big enough to accommodate the entire quilt, but I moved it around, folded back some at a time to spray every little nook and cranny, keeping the back as wrinkle-free as possible. Then I pressed it, as it sat on the table. I’m sure that wasn’t good for the table, but a woman has to do what a woman has to do. I made sure I kept the iron moving and it didn’t appear to get too hot three layers down. Once the back was all sprayed and pressed, I worked to secure the quilt top to the bottom fabric and batting which was now one layer since it was stuck together. I walked around that table a gazillion times, folding, smoothing, spraying, smoothing again, and finally pressing. Finally, it was all done. When all else fails, read the directions. So for now, I’m a fan of spray basting. It is so much easier than all those darned safety pins or sewing.

My next challenge is to quilt with or without a hoop. I tried using a large oval hoop, but that was just too cumbersome. Then I dragged out a smaller round one, which was a definite improvement. But, it is actually so much easier to quilt without a hoop at all. Hand quilting got a little easier, once I got the feel of it again. I recently watched Alex Anderson of Simply Quilts and The Quilt Show fame as she spoke about learning to hand quilt. She said to give yourself about 20 hours to get comfortable with hand quilting. I’d say that is about right.

It will be more fun to quilt when it gets cold outside. There is nothing more relaxing than quilting and snuggling all at the same time.