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 made many in her life and my mother owned and 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 sheet. 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 café 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?