February 3, 2014

Homestead Crafts: Quilting Class

Twenty-plus years ago we lived in a small town in Maine. Several of my friends talked me into joining them at a multi-week quilting class, so I scraped up the class fee, talked my hubby and older girls into watching the littles, and had a "night out" once a week for six weeks or so.

I've always loved quilts. My great-grandma had made many in her life and my mother proudly used several of them. I remember two: one called "grandmother's flower garden", which I still have although it's in deplorable condition, and a crazy-quilt with wonderful bits of velvet and satin that my grandmother had brought home from her job as a seamstress with one of the major Hollywood studios. My favorite patch on this delightful quilt was a tiny trapezoid of teal velvet. The crazy quilt bits were outlined with elaborate embroidery: feather-stitching, lazy daisies, french knots and blanket-stitching. I almost enjoyed being sick as a child, cuddled up in that quilt on the couch in the den, where I watched the fish in the aquarium swim round and round.

Crib quilt for my grandson

Our elderly quilting teacher was very entertaining, and she passed on a great deal of wisdom. We were told to take care of our hands while we are young to avoid arthritis. When it's cold and you are outside hanging clothes on the line, or even when driving with a cold steering wheel, you should wear gloves, she said.

She was also very particular about designs and colors, and we were not allowed to use yellow or red fabrics in the projects for her class. These colors dominate a design, she said, they did not blend harmoniously into the quilt pattern. All of our sewing was done by hand too, by the way.

One thing I hadn't counted on when I signed up for the class was that I'd need to buy fabric for the projects. We were on a limited budget, and I do mean a Limited Budget. I rummaged through my scrap box and only bought a fat quarter of fabric when absolutely necessary to coordinate with what I already had. I was a Very Careful Shopper. That's why the two projects pictured in this post are just flat pieces, not made into pillows that would require stuffing or a pillow form to be purchased, and both are made from the same fabrics.


But that's what patchwork was all about in "the old days": using what you had on hand. Pioneer women didn't have fabric stores or the money to buy all new fabric for a new project. The still-good portions of their worn-out or out-grown clothing were cut and sewn to other pieces to make a new item. It was up-cycling at its best.

My class projects

The solid blue in these two class projects started life as a cotton bedsheet. The floral print was a fat quarter that I bought (and I used smaller pieces of that floral in other class projects too). The squares are backed with muslin from my stash, the edges are bound with seam binding I had on hand, and I sewed cafe curtain rings to the back at the top so that I could hang them from tiny nails in the wall. These hung in our bedroom for many years.

The square on the left is the drunkard's path pattern; the one on the right is a nine-patch variation. The nine-patch is hand-quilted 1/4-inch from the seams; the drunkard's path is quilted "in the ditch" (along the actual seam line so that the stitches aren't visible).

Homestead crafts are fun, artistic ways for women to express their creativity, but the end result is a practical item that will enhance the family's life in one way or another: a warm quilt, candles to provide light, a sweater to keep a loved one warm in winter. These old-fashioned skills might come in handy in the future.

What homestead crafts do you enjoy?



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25 comments:

  1. Cindy McElroy8:18 AM

    I really love to knit. Used to do needlepoint, then switched to crochet, now knitting. After the last kiddo is grown, I want to start quilting. I really like to keep my hands busy with something productive. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  2. My mother in law is a very talented quilter, and is slowly teaching me the basics. Thank goodness for her patience...I am not a natural! Haha but it is fun!

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  3. Cindy, I'm the same way: I like to have something to do with my hands. I love the sense of satisfaction of making something from "nothing".

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  4. Bekah, if nothing else, quilting teaches patience! There is nothing "fast" about it, but the results are so worth it!

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  5. I have made several full size quilts by hand over the years. Making a quilt by hand is a lot of work, but it is very satisfying. I only use scrap material leftover from making my dresses. I call them memory quilts because I can look at them and remember what else I made out of the same fabric.

    Thanks, Kathi!

    Fern

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  6. Making a full-size quilt by hand is quite a feat! I've made several crib quilts but they are the largest I've done. Do you have a quilt frame? I think I could do a larger size if I did. Hand-quilting in my lap is awkward.

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  7. I have a large oval frame I use to quilt in my lap. I could never get myself to sit at a large quilt frame long enough to get one made.

    You have given me the motivation to get one out I haven't worked on in quite a while and work on it. Maybe even do a post about it.

    Thanks again.

    Fern

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  8. There is something about a quilt that touches the heart and remains in our memories. That's a large part of the reason I quilt. Thanks for sharing your story:)

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  9. That's very well-said, Jamie.

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  10. I quilt! :) I learned a wee bit in my twenties / early thirties and then had a sewing-hiatus for a long time but started back up about a year and a half ago and actually prefer the hand work ( piecing or applique or hand quilting ) to machine.

    Fun post ...I'd never heard that about not using certain colors! : )

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  11. Deb, good for you for taking it up again! I still hand-quilt, but I usually use a machine for piecing nowadays.

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  12. I am learning to enjoy sewing...it wasn't something I learned how to do until my mid 20's. My daughter is teaching me how to knit as well as she really enjoys it. Amazing quilts ! thanks for sharing on Simple Saturday!

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  13. Thank you for stopping by, Heather.

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  14. I envy quilters :) So much talent!!

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  15. You're right, Sandra, they do have talent! (I'm not putting myself in that category!)

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  16. I quilt. I do it all by machine but like you I believe that it should be from scraps, or economical fabric if you have to buy it. Quilting has become an "industry" with expensive matchy matchy fabric and the latest designers that you just "have" to buy... not a way of life.

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  17. I cringe when I find that fat quarters and other scraps of fabric cost so much these days. I think it was great you were mostly able to use what you had on hand. To me quilt piecing comes from using my leftovers from sewing or from old clothing I don't use anymore. enJOYed your post.

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  18. I enjoy handmilled soaps but haven't made in any in a few years. Quilting has always been something I wanted to learn but fear I may not be patient enough for that lovely craft. It's all I can do to sit long enough to crochet my dishcloths :)

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  19. Joy, I love quilts that are made from scraps from other projects and from clothing no longer worn!

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  20. Anne, both crocheting and hand milling soaps are great homestead crafts!

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  21. beautiful photos of quilt for grandson, and other photos for quilting ~ I knit sometimes but not like I used to ~ Your quilts are always beautiful! ~ thanks,
    carol

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  22. Thank you, Carol. What sort of things do you knit?

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  23. What a wonderful skill to embrace♪ I don't have the patience....just about everything I've sewn has to be ripped out and done over♪ And wearing gloves is a must. I deliver mail and good leather gloves has made a big difference in my joints over the years! http://lauriekazmierczak.com/screened-print/

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  24. It's good to know that her advice of wearing gloves is good advice!

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