The Vintage Years

30 11 2012

In the continuing effort to document my quilting history, and allowing for my total disregard for any chronological order to this documentation, I want to spend a bit more time in “The Vintage Years”, a time when I was enthralled with collecting vintage fabrics and was beginning to use them in my own work.

After collecting for a number of years, I decided it was time to take the plunge and actually start cutting up these fabrics.  The first time I did this was in a class at The Cotton Patch in Lafayette.  Barbara Dallas was teaching a series of classes based upon classic quilting patterns, and the first one I took was the Dresden Plate class.

Dresden Plate


Dresden Plate, 1992            57″ x 73″           Photography by Sibila Savage

I remember making the template for the pattern and sitting there, very  consciously making the first cut.  Seemed significant at the time, though I really don’t know why.  Probably just another aspect of the quilting-as-therapy model.  Anyway, the result is this simple version of a 1930’s quilt.   Were I to redesign this now, I would place the light muslin in the corners, since I now see that the chosen fabrics kinda make the corners disappear, which I did not see at the time.  Oh, well . . .

Also note that I was still a hand-quilter at this time.  Wow, those were the days.  Still don’t quite know how I did this.  (Is this similar to how some women forget the pain of childbirth???)


I found a quilting pattern for the centers of these plates in Quilter’s Newsletter, and thought it just right.

Puzzle of the Day:  There is ringer in this plate, a fabric that is not actually vintage.  Can you find it??

Love those triangles

23 11 2012

I am tempted to state that I never met a triangle I didn’t love, but, in all fairness, there may be a random shape I’ve not yet worked with that I find offensive (the obtuse, perhaps), so I will not make such a definitive statement.

That said, however, I’m still loving the equilateral and the right variations.

Since I had had so much fun playing with the zigzag sashing on many,  many quilts (see previous blogpost ), I decided to play with just the triangles.   I wanted to make rows and rows of them, using lots and lots of coordinated colors and patterns, with varying numbers of triangles grouped together.

After many attempts on the design wall, I found I could not get the fabrics to cooperate with each other, perhaps because of the boldness of the fabrics I had chosen.  The only way I could get them to play nicely was to put them in groups of three–then they all fell into place–problem solved.

Study in Blue and Orange

Study in Blue and Orange, 2009
Photography by Sibila Savage

I love the finished result, and finally found a resting place for this fabulous fabric I had been oogling forever, now the border of this quilt, a gift for Claire Vaccaro in celebration of her UC Davis graduation.

It wasn’t until the quilt was completed that I thought to run the triplets horizontally—-duhhhhh.  To save you the trouble of turning your head or your screen, here’s what it would have looked like. See what you think.  Looks very different, much more structural, but still interesting.

I think I need to make this quilt now, in a totally different set of colors, just to see if I still like it.

The Food Quilt: In My Grandmother’s Kitchen

16 11 2012

All through the 80’s and 90’s I collected vintage fabrics from a variety of sources.  The only fabrics I collected had to have two characteristics:   I had to like the prints and the fabrics had to be inexpensive.  I collected a lot of feed sacks and feed sack pieces, as well as cotton broadcloth, and soon I noticed I had quite a pile of fabrics with food themes, “conversation” prints, in the quilter’s jargon.  After making a couple of other quilts from vintage scraps, I started on the Food Quilt in 1995, finally cutting into some of the larger chunks of these “precious” fabrics.

Food Quilt: In My Grandmother’s Kitchen, 1997
73″ x 84″
Photography by Sibila Savage

[Don’t forget to click on the pics for viewing details of these quirky fabrics.]

The block pattern I used was this simple Square in a Square, after rejecting many, many other blocks that had a central square for showcasing these great prints.  Getting all the blocks together in a pleasing array was a challenge.

Even more challenging was the zigzag border.  When originally applied, the border made a mush of the design of the quilt block.  Adding the red check inner border did the trick, separating the two elements.  Removing the border, redesigning the corner and adding the new inner border was relatively easy because I had used foundation piecing for the original border.

Just beginning to try more machine quilting, I was fortunate to find a commercial quilting template that fit into the sashing of this quilt perfectly.  It seemed to take forever to quilt, but I love the finished product.

Food Quilt, detail

This is one of the first quilts when I was becoming aware of just how much fabric activity I could get into one quilt, lots and lots of shapes, colors, prints.  Still LOVE it.

Bragging rights:  This quilt was juried into the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah in 1998.  Mary Mashuta wrote about The Food Quilt and my musings about it in her book Cotton Candy Quilts,  and the border and its construction are featured in Foundation Borders by Jane Hall and Dixie Haywood.

Kitchen Parade-A small quilt was made from the leftovers.

Kitchen Parade, circa 1998
19″ x 19.5″
Photography by Sibila Savage

It is fun-sized because the backing for this little piece was a single kitchen dish towel that had “Kitchen Parade” printed on all four sides, so the quilt was designed to be exactly the right size for the backing to be turned around onto the front to make a border.

I wish I could say that I had used up all the leftovers I had collected for this quilt, but there is still plenty of  vintage “food fabric” in fabric stash.  Surprising how little was used up for both of these works.  Plenty still for you–any takers???  Make me an offer.

Freddy project update and another mistake

9 11 2012

Firstly, the work-in-progress quilt top, started in the Freddy Moran class and featured in the last post, has been finished.  I must confess that I reverted to some of my old habits as I put the last bits of this piece together.  I measured and squared up;  I guess I am not yet totally Freddified, but I am able to work just a little bit outside my comfort zone.  This muscle must be exercised a bit more.

Here’s the finished product:

I remain inspired by this class and am already planning my next quilt in this style.  Freddy had many pieces that were horizontally structured, and many in the class tried this method (Hi, Carolyn).  I think I will see how I like this layout next time.

AND, because I guilt-tripped myself for starting a new project when I had so many others waiting to be completed, I have spent this week moving three different projects closer to completion, and that this feels really good.  So there will be more new pieces posted here soon.

A mistake (?) turned out okay

I have written before about projects that I thought were good ideas at the time but, in the execution, turned out not to be so successful.  This is one of those projects.  I wanted to make another quilt using the 2″ squares on the diagonal, but I wanted to do something different.  In the sewing, I took a square section of patches out of the quilt, rotated the unit 45 degrees, and resewed it into the space.  I thought this was incredibly daring, and I was mistaken.  I thought the change would be dramatic, and it is so undramatic that it is even difficult to distinguish what was moved.  See what you think.

Red, White, Black Squares, 2012
36.5″ x 42.5″
Photography by Paul Hennessey

Even though the effect was not so dramatic, I love this quilt.  I think the graphic Sassaman print, made up of black sunbursts and spirals on white, saves this quilt.

Need to encourage myself to make more mistakes??????

Another work-in-progress: Freddy Moran class

2 11 2012

Even though I have many, many works-in-progress which are waiting for quilting, piecing, finding just the right border fabric, figuring out what comes next in a puzzling design I have created, or some other lame excuse that I have concocted, it’s always fun to start something new!!!

I had the opportunity to do this over the past weekend, by taking a class  taught by the wonderful Freddy Moran at ThimbleCreek Quilt Shop.  I was inspired to take this class after having recently taken a course from the retired Roberta Horton.  This made me realize that these fabulous teachers may not be teaching forever, and I should learn from them before they retire.  I think I get this attitude of being open to new ideas, techniques, etc. because I am a member of East Bay Heritage Quilters, a local guild for quilters.   I recognize the value of the “heritage” part of this group;  I have learned so much from other quilters that I know I owe much of my current work to the many great teachers with whom I have studied.  I will try to acknowledge more of these folks in these postings when appropriate.

For this class, I made piles and piles of “parts”, using Freddy’s book Collaborative Quilting as our guideline.  It was difficult for me to make these parts ahead of time, since I did not know what I was going to make or how I would be putting these pieces together.  Here’s some of what I made, strata or piano keys.

I also made 16 wacky Churn Dash blocks, a billion sawtooth borders in two different sizes, and some simple appliqued circles, in addition to taking along a huge pile of  completed 4-patches that I had originally intended for another project and four boxes of bright colored and black and white fabrics.

The end result, in the Freddy style, still remains true Susan’s style as well.  It’s up on the design wall, so I’m finishing it by working on attaching all these borders, and that will be the end.  It grew into a large piece, and got pretty wild, in comparison to the quite controlled pieces I have been doing recently.  Sooooo fun just to play with fabric, and not be too fussy about the end result.  If I had fun doing it, then my mission has been accomplished.

The whole class worked incredibly hard during this 2-day class, and made seriously creative pieces.  The calm and jovial Freddy presided masterfully over all of us.

Here’s Freddy, posing in front of only one of the pile of her quilts that she brought to the class to share with us.

Take classes, people!!  It changes you, in a good way.