Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What to do about Old Poly?

I came across a quilt top a couple months ago that was pieced by my maternal grandmother.  I've shown a couple of her quilts or quilt tops in the past, most recently the one I took apart and remade last year (Grandmother's Garden).

Grandmother's Garden - remade version
Grandma Lillian loved to piece scrap quilts, but her quilt-making was challenged in later years by macular degeneration, which slowly led to blindness.  At some point, when she could no longer see well enough to operate the sewing machine, she began hand-piecing quilts instead. 

It was about this same time, in the 1970s, that double-knit polyester was very popular in clothing.  Grandma loved her double-knits and made herself many dresses and pants out of the stuff, as did my mother and other family members and friends.  Double-knit scraps were thus plentiful and found their way into quilts.

If you're a baby boomer, you too may remember having come across a double-knit polyester quilt or two in your lifetime.  Whether you have good memories of those quilts or bad, these colorful quilts were nonetheless "interesting," to say the least. 

At this point in my life, I can honestly say I think double-knit quilts are truly interesting and, in their own way, beautiful.  But when I was younger, I had a different view.  Funny how one's perception of things often changes with the passing of time.  I used to not like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin much, either.  Go figure.

There are people today who collect double-knit polyester quilts.  Bill Volckening, of Wonkyworld, is one of them.  He's shown some real beauties on his blog through the years (enter "double knit" in the blog's search feature to see).  Victoria Findlay Wolfe has commented about these kinds of quilts and their influence in her life.  One of her quilts on display at the Wisconsin Quilt Museum this summer was done in double-knits as an homage to her grandmother Elda and that genre of quilting.

Retro Poly Mod by Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Grandma Lillian pieced quite a few double-knit quilt tops, and every one of her children's families received at least one.  My mom had two of them, made with pieces cut in sort of an elongated hexagon, all hand-pieced.  Unfortunately, some of the seams were already coming loose by the time she got them.  I'm sure Mom faced the dilemma of repairing or possibly remaking, and then finishing these quilts, and that may have seemed daunting.  As a result, the quilt tops were stowed away.  I do know that at least one of my aunts did use hers, as is, as a throw. 

Mom gave me one of the hexagon quilt tops when I moved into my own place.  I also just kept it stored, in a plastic bag inside an old suitcase in the basement.  I obviously didn't appreciate the quilt much at the time.  It was the early 1980s, and I was very much over polyester double-knit.  If it wasn't country blue and mauve, or peach, there didn't seem to be a place for it in my decor.  We can all have a laugh about that decorating scheme now, though it's probably only a matter of time until it's back.

The quilt top I recently found was not the hexagon quilt, but a different one I don't remember having seen before, a 16-patch.  It was among my late mother's things.  There is no doubt it was made by my grandmother, probably later than the hexagon quilts, by the looks of things. 

The seams were stitched with between 1/8 and 1/2 inches as a seam allowance, and all points between.  It's a wonder how she made the disparate sized 16-patch blocks fit together at all.  Maybe her propensity to take an extra tuck or pleat here and there, and/or the stretchy sashing helped.  The sashing itself obeys no particular rules.  Sometimes it lines up with the row next to it, more often it does not. Obviously, Grandma didn't give a hoot about the quilt police!

She utilized some non-double-knit (but still synthetic) fabrics to round out some of the blocks.  Unlike the double-knits, these pieces are woven and starting to fray, aided by the fact that they're not cut on any particular grain. 

The sashing fabric feels like Qiana, another synthetic fabric from the '60s and '70s.  Looks like it may have been a muumuu in a different life.

Remember those silky disco shirts?  Yeah, it's that stuff in all its slinky, non-breathable glory.  Brings to mind memories of how those shirts felt to the touch after my dance partner had worked up a sweat by the light of the revolving mirror ball (ew).  I can almost smell the Brut cologne.

Anyway, I wanted to find the other hexagon quilt top, after I came upon the 16-patch, so I could show pictures of both quilts.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the hexie anywhere.  The old suitcase where I last remembered seeing it?  Empty.  I've dug through the entire storage space in the basement and come up with nothing.  I'm beginning to suspect that in my purge of a couple years back, I inadvertently drove it to Goodwill along with a load of other bags full of stuff.  Makes my heart sink to think I did that, but unless it turns up elsewhere, it's starting to look like a real probability.

Back to this particular 16-patch double-knit quilt, part of me wants to take it apart and remake it, using the better bits and laying aside the rest.  It wouldn't necessarily end up being a 16-patch quilt again, maybe just a straight patchwork or something else entirely.

The blocks seem to have originally been cut between 3-1/4 and 3-3/4 inches square (again, measurements are widely variable).  I'd have to gently wash it, then take the entire thing apart and recut the pieces to a uniform size.

As it happened, the other day when I was shopping at Goodwill last weekend, I found a bag of scraps, including two pieces of tomato-red double-knit, about 1/2 yard each (60 inches wide).  So I'd have that available to possibly add to and liven things up.

Or perhaps I should just fold it back up and store it away, keeping it as a reminder of my grandmother's handiwork?  More or less preserve it as is—for better or worse—for posterity, a tactile and visual record of her latter quilting years and the fabric medium of the times?

Your thoughts?  What would you do?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Post-Christmas Post

It's been nice having the better part of a week's worth of down time, and spending some of that time with family over the holiday.

When our daughter asked what her dad and I wanted for Christmas, we told her not to worry about shopping for us, but suggested instead that she might want to simply draw or make something, since she's a very creative person.

No pressure, right?   Well, I honestly didn't mean for there to be.

I was thinking along the lines of a line drawing or sketch, but she came up with better ideas.

She made Norm a leather cuff bracelet with steampunk accents—right up his alley!

For me, she did a very cute gouache painting of a deer figurine I had admired, and this awesome skull and scissors applique.  Love!

One of my first thoughts was:  How did she do that fabulous satin stitch when I have had both of her sewing machines at my house?  

She hand-stitched it!  Hundreds and hundreds of tiny satin stitches—amazing!

Love those little beaded pins in the bow.  She repurposed some of her old scrubs for the fabric applique and background.  Very creative indeed!

To top it off, she compiled some good music in a "Merry Mix-Mas" CD for each of us.  Lots of fun stuff.  HERE is one of my favorites from the mix,#11 on the list.

The Christmas get-together with the extended family was fun, as always.  We had our usual traditionally-nontraditional meal.  This year it was lasagna, and yes, it is possible to make a tasty dairy-free, gluten-free version.  Here's Great-Auntie P. holding five-month-old Cali Jean, who is a bit young for lasagna but enjoyed just about anything else she could pull into her mouth, including my fingers.  What a sweet, happy baby!

G-Aunt P. and Cali Jean
And here's Dad with my niece and daughter, a/k/a "Grandpa's Girls."  I managed to get guitar headstocks coming out of each of their heads in this photo.  I know, it's a special skill.

Shaina, Dad, and Michelle
Ultimately, we pulled some of those stringed instruments down off the wall and, among other things, hammered out a rendition of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain.  By about the second go, Russ nailed the bass line, and all those with double-X chromosomes in the room sang along with great enthusiasm.  Who knew it was such a party song? (Grandpa's Girls, who had requested it, that's who!)

What were the high spots in your holiday?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Checking It Twice

If it seems like there was a bit of a gap between the last couple of posts, well, there was.  One might think I've been scurrying around with my Christmas list, but as far as holiday prepping goes, this has been a most laid back year.  Most shopping has been done from the comfort of my office chair.

As far as getting the house ready, we take the plastic bag cover off the four-foot pre-lit tree, bring it upstairs, and plug that sucker in.  It's pre-decorated too, if that's what you call it when you leave all the bits and bobs on the branches from one year to the next.  Pre-decorated sounds better than lazy.

I do some other decorating on a minimal basis.  Each year it seems to get minimal-er.  Maybe change out the plates on the kitchen rack to the Santa Clauses, throw down a holiday table runner, pin up a festive wall hanging, bring out the vintage blow-mold snowman, a candle or two, and call it done.

I do like visiting with people who go all out at Christmas. Love to ooh and aah.  If that's your thing and you like to do it up like Liberace (or the Griswolds), then your joy is my joy.  Likewise, if you prefer to keep it simple, I'm cool with that. 

One year, I found this in one of my daughter's old notebooks and decided to frame it and hang it during the holidays.  It must have been an assignment to write a letter from the perspective of her future self in 10 years.

She was probably in fourth grade when she wrote this.  Amazing that she already knew what she wanted to do at that age.  She does indeed work with animals now, not only giving injections, but monitoring their anesthesia during surgery and their treatment and care afterwards.

(Click to enlarge)
As it turned out, she never lived with her girlfriends Alex and Sam during school, but I like how she anticipated having roommates wasn't going to be all fun and games. 

"How can a girl work when she has a bunch of horse for roomies!?!"  Indeed.  You have to read that sentence in the context of the previous one.  Horse.  As in horses, the animals. 

All is well by the end of the letter, though. "Alex and I bought a book and sipped on warm coffee which soothed our winter-frosted souls."  There's some poetry right there.  Pretty sure she didn't know about Starbucks yet, but books and coffee certainly can do wonders for the winter-frosted.

Checking It Twice
What has occupied some time lately, and what we did have to check twice, as in test drive, was a car.  

Recently we've had to do some car shuffling, owing to an incident a couple weeks ago which involved the deployment of an airbag.  Everyone is completely fine, thankfully, but daughter needed a vehicle so we sold her one of ours.

Thus began the search for a replacement for ourselves, and we finally settled that on Saturday with another Toyota Avalon, like the previous two.  It's a few years old but has very low miles and still a new car feel to it.  A total "grandpa car," except it's not a Buick.  I wish I could say it was as fun to drive as the Camry, which seemed zippy and sporty, but at the end of the day, I guess we're built for comfort.

Poor Everett.  I neglected him for weeks and didn't even cut the tape on the box until the car thing was resolved.  Now that he's been busted out, I'm looking at him, realizing I haven't a clue how to thread the machine or wind the bobbin.  So between familiarizing myself with the car's bells and whistles and getting to know Everett, there will be some serious reading of manual(s) in the weeks ahead.  Looking forward to learning new things!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday!

Plaid Circles Quilt

I'm still mulling over a name for this quilt, as you may gather by the generic post title.  Meanwhile, I finished binding it yesterday and, other than a proper name and label, it's done!

It's from a pattern called Dad's Plaids by Elsie Campbell in her book String Quilts.

It started with sewing strips of thrifted plaid shirts into a strata, then cutting that into the drunkard's path block and border pieces.

I really enjoyed making this quilt, working with such a variety of plaids, assembling light and dark strips into the strata, and pretty much every step in the process.

Quilting it, though?  Well, I left that to an expert, Melissa of Sew Shabby Quilting.  She did a wonderful job of an overall interconnected squares pattern, which you can see a little better on the back.
I think it complements the plaids very nicely! 

It's hard to photograph a quilt in the house on some of the darkest days of the year.

Nevertheless, I gave it a shot (or a dozen and a half, as the case may be).  I like what the "Lomo-ish" effect does in Picasa.  You can really see the red and orange hot spots pop.  Hmm...another quilt name idea?  Hot Spots?

Norm has claimed this quilt for himself.  He says it reminds him of circuit boards.  I think we will have to share it, though.  Maybe whoever gets to the couch first calls dibs.

Cross the Drunkard’s Path Quilt Along
This was the quilt I made during the Cross the Drunkards Path Quilt Along, so I'm linking up over at Field Trips in Fiber.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fan-Tastic Finish

In looking back over my previous posts about this quilt, at some point I must have decided its name was "Fan-Tastic."  That is, of course, giving a nod to the name of the block, which is known as Grandmother's Fan. 

Fan-Tastic sounded better than Fan-O-Rama or Granny's Fanny, but I guess it depends on your mood.

Like the Drunkard's Path block, there are so many interesting ways you can set a Grandmother's Fan block quilt.  You can get some idea by doing a Google image search for Grandmother's Fan quilt, like HERE.

It's basically a quarter Dresden plate, which I cut using the EZ Dresden ruler and then drew the pieces for the outer setting and inner quarter circle, as described in this post.  Then I roughly sketched out a setting (emphasis on rough).  I had the top put together a year ago last November.

After it had been appropriately aged (i.e., neglected) for a year, it was time to send it off on holiday to my local longarm quilter, Sandy.

I left the quilting design to her discretion, and she chose a cheery overall floral-ish and swirly kind of thingamajig.  Technically speaking, that is.  I like it!

This quilt started as a challenge to use a piece of dress fabric yardage my sister gifted me (the darkest navy blue with white flowers).  Do you know, when I showed her the finished quilt, she didn't even recognize the fabric?  Not that it blended in well or anything, she just didn't remember ever buying that fabric.  Ha!

It's bound in a bright lime green check, from the clearance bin of a big box store, as was the backing.  Because, as we say here in the rural Upper Midwest:  "I ain't that way."  We're proud of our humility around here.  Our grammar, not so much.

Well, it's Friday and Sarah is again giving us a chance to show what we're doing the happy dance about, so I'm linking to Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?

Speaking of dancing, Bruno Mars is always fun to watch.  "Too hot!"  Yep.  Also, "smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Scrappy Sixteen Finished

Binding this bright 16-patch quilt has been the perfect antidote for a cold, wet, gray winter day.  
Well, that, and pretty much any music this artist, Michael of Cologne, Germany, uploads to SoundCloud under his user name, relaxdaily.  I know, I usually listen to a ton of rock, soul, and funky stuff, but this guy's music is great for work or home when you just want to roll from one calming instrumental to the next. I've been sort of on that kind of jag for a couple days now.

Anyway, quilt:  I finished it in a neutral diagonal stripe from the April Showers collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.  Michelle had gifted me a half yard of this, and it was perfect!
These dreary days do not lend themselves to quilt photography, but I think I managed to get an adequate representation.
It may have looked better sprawled on the lawn in August than on my bed in December, but we work with what we have.
Here's a glimpse of the backing, seen on the left in the photo above.

This is one of two quilts I recently got back from my local longarm quilter, Sandy.  I really like the curvy all-over design she chose for this.
More bright binding to come.  I'm about to start on the second quilt this afternoon.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh Brother

Welp, I did it.  I caved to a "Lightning Deal" on Amazon yesterday and am now awaiting the arrival of Everett.

As in Ulysses Everett McGill, my new Brother sewing machine.

Don't be confused by the photo of Mr. Project Runway there on the front.  

Imagine instead, if you will, Everett.

I truly hope Everett is all he is cracked up to be, but honestly if he can do two things, that's all I'm asking.

(1)  Automatic buttonholes.

(2)  Blanket stitch for applique.

I have neither capability on my vintage machines or the Juki, all of which have names as well, viz:
  • Tammy, the Singer 603E Golden Touch 'N Sew.
  • Viv, the Singer 301.
  • Jane, the Juki TL98Q.
Also currently visiting are two machines of my daughter's, which I bought for her over the past few years:
  • Kenny, the Kenmore.
  • Silver,  a Singer 600 Touch 'N Sew.
For those unfamiliar with the film,"O Brother, Where Art Thou," Ulysses Everett McGill is the main character, played by George Clooney.  

"O Brother" is one of my favorite Coen Brothers flicks, in part due to the clever dialog between the characters, beginning with the first lines uttered by Everett in the movie, as he attempts to hop a box car full of hobos while still in irons from the chain gang from which he escaped (clip).

Ulysses Everett McGill:  Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

It may seem silly to have a name before I even have the machine, but I'm okay with that.  I'm looking forward to getting to know Everett in the months ahead, and putting him to work alongside the rest of the gang, no chains attached—but those buttonholes and basket stitches better be awesome.

"I've spoken my piece and counted to three."