Archive for the ‘Vintage Needlework’ Category

Bittersweet Endings

July 28, 2008

There is always a bittersweet emotion when I have finished working on a quilt. Especially a quilt that is somewhat large and time-intensive. So when I have completely finished a quilt such as the one I just did, that bittersweet emotion hits me like the loss of a good friend.

Maybe I should explain. After many many hours of planning and studying and sewing and futzing and plain-old holding it, the final hours of needlework on a quilt takes me into a finishing-phase with a mixed bag of sentiments. Bittersweet.

To me, finishing a quilt translates to letting go of the work that has held me captive for so long. Finishing a quilt means that the concerted effort and, sometimes intense, concentration has ended. Finishing a quilt is also when I feel the presence of a void that I don’t often experience. But make no mistake — it IS a void, it is the loss of a place or a friend that I used to know. That place where I would go frequently to have fun and play or take myself to create or to remember. Or where I would visit for quiet reflection or conversation with everyone, and no one, at the same time. A place that I miss when it is gone.

So finishing up a quilt like Pastel Pinwheels brings forth a variety of sentiments in me that some could compare to having an empty nest or, as I mentioned, the loss of a good friend. I doubt I’m unique or alone with these bittersweet endings. There are probably other quilters who experience the very same bittersweet endings as I do when they have finished a large quilt. Happy because I have succeeded in completing a large quilt. Happy because I actually like the finished quilt. Sad because I’ve finished it. Sad because I already miss it. Bittersweet.

Pastel Pinwheels

Pastel Pinwheels

For me, I always know if the bittersweet endings will come. I know myself well. Once I have finished hand stitching the back portion of the binding on a quilt, I am in the final stages of letting go of that quilt. Some quilts I’m just happy to finish. Others I’m not ready to leave. Those are the ones I bond with. Those are the good ones. Those are the ones that grow on you, with time. And those are the ones that, while you are creating them, they are creating something in you. (How do they do that?)

I’ve quilted for such a long time that I know my sentimental attachment can be determined by the quilt label I make. If I really love a quilt, and really bonded with that quilt, the label will be special. It will be a label that was created to somehow reflect the attachment or importance of that quilt in my life.

For me, the quilt labels are like a measurement of the quilt’s value. The nicer labels are placed on the quilts that I appreciate and value the most. For whatever reason. the longer it takes to create the label, the more solid the bond becomes with the quilt. It’s as though the quilt’s label is not just my signature but my allegiance to the quilt. Some labels on my quilts are lavish. Some are personal. Some quilts don’t even have a label. It all depends….It depends whether the quilt created something within me as it was being created.

The special quilts get special labels, and from my viewpoint, it’s because they have earned one. Such was the case with this quilt, Pastel Pinwheels.

The blocks in this quilt include fabrics from both my mother’s and my maternal grandmother’s scrap collection. A few other fabrics came from a deceased best friend, Jan. I just love the festive pastel fabrics in this quilt. But it’s the extra-special scraps that gave this quilt an extra-special quality.

And then there are those vintage buttons I added. Some of those buttons were from my grandmother’s house dresses, I am sure. And I do so remember her wearing those house dresses when we would visit. I think I’ll put this quilt on the twin bed today.

Reuse, Repurpose, & Renew

July 25, 2008
Vintage Buttons As A Final Touch

Vintage Buttons As A Final Touch

Vintage buttons are proving to add a touch of flair to my Pastel Pinwheels quilt. I have 10 more buttons to add today, then I’m finished.

It’s been such a pleasure to find just the right button for each square. While sorting them by size and color, I got to wondering about the original use for some of the buttons. No doubt those that were found in quantity were probably from a school dress of hers, or one of her cotton house dresses. But I’ll never really know — the original use of these buttons will forever elude me.

Being able to reuse some of my grandmother’s saved buttons would please her. And she would also be proud to know that I embrace frugality whenever possible.

I love to add a label on the back of my quilts, and the label for this quilt will be created from a vintage-era linen that is both soiled and worn.

Vintage Linen To Become Quilt Label

Vintage Linen To Become Quilt Label

I will cross-stitch my quilt’s information on this linen, using waste canvas as my base to count the stitches. No doubt the embroiderer never thought her lovely linen would live on with a reclaimed purpose as a quilt label. This linen is large enough that once I have cut away the embroidered portion, I will restitch the remaining section of linen and use it as a hand towel. So one vintage-era linen will become two separate linens.

Yesterday, while running my errands, I popped over to the next town to buy some wide muslin for the next longarm project. This quilt top is an antique that I’ve owned for at least a decade. It measures 63″ x 73″ and I plan to quilt this with feathers.

Antique Quilt Top

Antique Quilt Top

Antique Purple Cotton Print

Antique Purple Cotton Print

I have had some mixed feelings about machine quilting an antique quilt top that was entirely hand-pieced. This is not a particularly valuable quilt top, but the patchwork is a wonderful collection of unfaded antique cottons, and the range of colors and prints are splendid.

I rationalized that the original maker would have used a sewing machine if she had one, so I plan to resurrect this top and renew it by making it a finished quilt.

Vintage Yo Yo Flower Buttons

August 8, 2007

Beaded center of embroidered flower 

The Little Bouquet quilt is almost finished. I have added a sprinkling of beads in several embroidered squares — all added for a touch of sparkle.

Several flowers have beaded centers, and some remind me of ripened blackberries.

Vintage crochet embellishments 

To add to the vintage look of the Little Bouquet quilt, I decided to make six vintage yo yo flower buttons for this quilt.  These embellishments were stitched into the sashing.

The yo yo flower buttons were made from vintage finds in my collection: cotton fabric, mother-of-pearl buttons, and fine hand crochet trim. This photo on the right shows where the circular crochet trims were still attached to the old tissue paper. Shown in the 12 o’clock position is a completed yo yo flower button, ready to be attached to the quilt. 

Each yo yo flower button was created and then added to the quilt once I had finished the binding. Since the buttons are heavy, they still need to be securely sewn onto the quilt top and batting. Hand-tacking these yo yo flower buttons is not strong enough to support the weight.

The Little Bouquet quilt measures 30″ x 38″, and was made from 12 hand embroidered squares purchased at auction this spring. The embroidery stitches were worked by one person, but I have no clue who the stitcher was. The embroidery includes the outline stitch, satin stitch, and french knots and the stitching was worked on vintage plain sack cotton. The piece was hand quilted and the border was quilted with a clamshell motif.

Little Bouquet quiltAs I added the final vintage embellishments onto the Little Bouquet quilt, I realized that this small quilt contains quite a few vintage circles.

These circles include the clamshell quilting motif, the vintage buttons, the yoyo 3D flowers, the crocheted lacy rounds, and the beads.

It was fun to take a step back in time to create this simple small quilt using vintage items. I especially enjoyed using some of my collected buttons & trim. 

Today, I’ll secure the buttons firmly and add my quilt label. Then I’ll be ready, as always, for the next fiber adventure!

Fruits Of Labor

July 24, 2007

Peaches and Jams

So far, the gardening year has been a bountiful one.  Our summer garden is providing plenty of vegetables for our table, for sharing, and for preserving. We are enjoying the fresh produce that we grow and appreciate the quick ‘shopping trip’ into our backyard. 

This year we are growing cucumbers, patty pan squash, a variety of herbs, acorn squash, green beans, a variety of tomatoes, and several types of green peppers.

In our vegetable garden, our large eating tomatoes are now starting to ripen.  We look forward to having several fresh tomatoes each day. Our Roma tomatoes are starting to color now, too. Soon there will be enough Romas for fresh tomato sauces, salsas, and canning our fruits of labor.

These July days are now occupied with gardening and with my canning chores. I enjoy preserving homegrown foods both for the quality and for the sheer enjoyment of cooking. I also appreciate having a full pantry of homegrown vegetables — these foods serve as a reminder that we should think more frugally and not be wasteful. And, admittedly, these canned goods literally equate to being the fruits of our labor. In today’s world, with the current imported food problems now facing America, I am even more appreciative of the homegrown foods that we provide for ourselves.

Plums and Jelly art

Sadly, the art of canning foods has become a forgotten skill in America. Having the ability to preserve homegrown or local fruits and vegetables, though, can be a bounty for those who enjoy cooking. Relishes, jellies, jams, pickles, sauces, and plain vegetables & fruits can be made with relative ease — at least for those who understand the processes involved. Some recipes are indisputably better than anything found in stores, too, and these are the fruits of labor that become a gourmet delight.

This year’s plum trees were overloaded and I was able to make enough plum preserves for our winter enjoyment. Now that the plums have finished, the peaches are in season. Our one productive standard peach tree was cut down several years ago, so we now get peaches from a local orchard.

Sunday, we drove over to Moore’s Orchard, near Flint Hill, and bought a bushel of juicy peaches so that I could make peach preserves, peach syrup, and peach pie. Today I will slice peaches to freeze so that we can enjoy them later in the year. There is nothing quite as intoxicating as the perfumery of fresh peaches, and that sweet, fruity aroma will surround me again today, making the task all the more pleasant.

There is true meaning behind the phrase fruits of labor, and no matter how difficult the task becomes, the end result can be very satisfying.

Little Bouquets quilt

Little Bouquets Quilt

In between the gardening chores and canning, I am still busy quilting the Little Bouquets quilt. There are two more squares to hand-quilt, then I will be ready to quilt small clamshells around the border. I’m still enjoying this small quilt and appreciate how easy the feedsack fabric is to needle.

I am looking forward to adding a few buttons and beads when the quilting is finished. A few of these flowers need a bit of sparkle from beads. And Sunbonnet Sue needs some chicken feed for those baby chicks!

Finding Vintage

July 17, 2007


This morning, I spent some quality time with the contents of my button jar. I overturned the 14-inch jar so that I could sort through my buttons, looking for a few that hailed from the vintage era.

I spotted a few large buttons that were detached from a nightrobe worn by my mother back in the 60s, and smiled at the tiny rhinestones embedded in each button, wondering if she would wear that robe today.

I also plucked several large Bakelite buttons to inspect, not knowing what those buttons were ever used for. My button jar is a varied collection of buttons saved by women in my family who sewed and who practiced frugality. No intention of ever collecting buttons has entered our minds, we merely save buttons when the opportunity arises. Extra buttons are saved and buttons are removed from worn-out clothing. If my fortune were measured by buttons, I would be wealthy….

Little Bouquets With some found buttonsPicking through a pile of buttons, I found some buttons that might work nicely on the Little Bouquets quilt. Most of these buttons are wonderfully plastic, but a few are Mother of Pearl buttons, delicate looking but quite strong. As I continue hand-quilting the Little Bouquets quilt, I’ll try to envision where I might put a few of these buttons, keeping in mind that many quilts from the vintage era did not showcase added embellishments like beads or buttons.

Quilters in 1939Overall Sam quilting bee 

This group of women from a Helping Hands group in Oregon are shown in this photo as they quilt an Overall Sam quilt top. Note the simple, straight-line quilting which was characteristic for many quilts from the vintage era. (Note: The black & white photo was taken in 1939 under the Farm Security Administration project.)


Vintage belt buckles 

Who remembers this style of belt buckle? While sorting through some of my buttons, I picked through some of belt buckles and bows from the vintage era. I thought I would share a photo here. Some of these buckles are quite fancy! I don’t believe that I would ever wear any, but wouldn’t they make great embellishments for a few quilts?




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