Wednesday, August 22, 2012
It's been a week for quilt fragments and reflection.
When I was clearing out my grandmother's house some years back, I found some mattress pads in the bottom of a large cedar chest. One caught my attention--with fine quilting stitches all over it, it clearly had not begun its life as a mattress pad. It was a smallish quilt that had been folded right sides in, and roughly machine stitched into a cot-sized pad. I picked out the machine stitching and this is what I found.
It's the ghost of a quilt.
The backing, sashing, and quilting are perfectly intact,
but nearly everything else on this quilt is....gone. Out of 25 blocks, only three are intact, and one of those has pieces whose colors have faded out to almost nothing.
This week, I finally got around to asking an area quilt appraiser to take a look, and she tells me that the volatile fabric dyes of the 19th century are to blame. That and hard use, heavy laundering, and time, the enemy of just about everything.
The appraiser dates the quilt at 1860, which means it was made in the Thousand Islands area of New York State by my great-great-grandmother, Fannie Grapotte Senecal. Fannie gave birth to 14 children and raised eight of them. One little son named Moses drowned in a rain barrel.
It might have been nice to discover a Baltimore Album or other better preserved quilt in that cedar chest, but I'll take what I have here.
It's nothing, it's everything. Hands to heart, from the mid 19th century and a long-ago grandma to me.
I come from a line of quiltmakers who didn't have the luxury of making showpiece quilts or of keeping their quilts pristine. They made utility quilts that were used and loved, and in many cases, used up. It's hardly even a quilt any more, but I plan to label it with what I know about its history, and keep it safe. Despite its sad looks, I see something more in this quilt every time I look at it.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Socks are done. I showed these in-process here a month or two ago, the latest in a line of odd-moment socks.
These have been to Florida, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, not to mention keeping me company on a number of shorter road trips, and at the allergist's office. (I get monthly allergy shots, then have to sit there for half an hour to make sure I'm not going to die. The nurses there say, "Are you still working on THAT pair of socks??")
I'm going to say here that I'm done, at least for a while, with making this sock. I'm planning to crack open that Cookie A sock book that's been here for at least two years. And a recent addition to the knitting library is this book. That's right. It's OK to use sock yarn for other things, right??
These have already been given as a birthday gift. Hoping they look nice and cheery on dark winter days.
Friday, August 03, 2012
A couple years ago, a non-sewing friend gave me a generous pile of homespuns and plaids. Seems they had been used for something at her church, that event was over, and she figured I'd give them a good home. She was right about that.
Those homespuns have been weighing on my mind, maybe because they were never out of sight in my sewing room--they have spent all their time in my possession piled on a corner of my cutting table.
A free quilt for the making... Well, not quite free, but closer to free than if I'd had to buy all those fabrics.
So I've been casting around for the perfect project for plaids. I've played in Electric Quilt, looked through lots of books and websites. Once again, I found what I was looking for in Quiltville's most generous stash of free patterns, ideas, and quilt recipes. Scrappy Mountain Majesties is devilishly clever--the look of half square triangles without actually having to make, and true up, half square triangles. Brilliant! Just having finished making a fairly detailed quilt, I figured I was up for a bit of quilt-related smoke and mirrors.
There is a good deal of sewing, sub-cutting, and re-sewing involved in this block, so the sum total of work may be a wash. Even so, this idea looks good to me.
I made a couple test blocks and decided to make the block smaller, finishing at 4 X 5.5 inches.
This, of course, is insane. My Electric Quilt mockup of a bed-sized version uses nearly 450 blocks. Yikes.
How big a quilt? Don't know. I'm going to make a bunch of blocks, throw them up on the design wall and see what percolates.
In the back of my mind is the fear that, to some extent, a quilt with this much of an old-timey country look may be a train that has left the station. But still--all that free fabric. And there may be some twists and turns along the way up this particular scrappy mountain.
Off I go...