Monday, December 14, 2015

Launching into Quilting Vintage

Recently I joined a new group on Facebook called Quilting Vintage which quickly grew to over 2500 members from around the world. This group, organized by Kelly Cline, a longarm quilter from Lawrence, Kansas, takes vintage linens of all kinds--hankies, dresser scarves, table napkins, table cloths, and more--and gives them new life by custom quilting them. Some are matted and framed, some are bound and turned into wall hangings or table toppers, some are turned into pillow shams or pillow covers. Each item is unique and so far I haven't seen anything that didn't turn out spectacular! Many of those in the group are using their longarms to quilt these vintage items. Others, like me, use our sewing machines or sit-down quilters (I have a HandiQuilter Sweet 16). Whatever technique used, the results are amazing.

I looked through my mother's cedar chest that resides in my closet and found I had saved quite a few of her linen table napkins, a couple of dresser scarves, a whole box of my mom's and grandmother's hankies, a couple of bridge-size table cloths, and a few other items. I've wanted to do one of these projects since I first saw them a few months ago, but it took me longer to get started than I expected. There were many other projects in line before I could play.

I decided to use one of these lovely linen napkins for my first vintage quilting project. I have several of these, so figured if I didn't like the outcome I could try again. The applique and cutwork are so delicate and there's even a crocheted edging around the corner that adds a beautiful touch.

For my process, because I'm a sit-down quilter, I have to pin-baste my layers together before I can quilt. I had in my stash several yards of a gorgeous mauve Shantung poly silk that I had bought to make a dress that never got made. It was the perfect color for the background. I expected the little bit of cutwork in the napkin would let the silk show through after quilting. I've worked with Shantung on quilting projects before and knew I would need to stabilize it with Best Press before I could pin it.

Once that was done, I used my mesh grid and pounce to mark the grid around the on-point square I marked off for the napkin placement so I could stitch the grid and quilt orange peel as the background.

The typical way to begin a project like this is to quilt the center first, working out towards the edges. I wanted to applique the napkin over the orange peel background, so did the background first. The quilted grid and orange peel shrunk up the piece significantly, more than I had expected. I was a little worried at first, but, again, figured if it turned out badly I could start over with another napkin. When I placed the napkin on the silk after the entire background had been quilted, it overlapped the orange peel by several inches, which meant some of the puff I wanted in the linen quilting would not be there since the piece was already quilted behind it. Such is life.

I centered the linen napkin over the central square, distributing the amount of orange peel behind it as evenly as I could and started quilting. I outlined it by quilting just inside the scalloped edge first to secure the piece and then started the journey of what to quilt and where. I knew I wanted to do pebbling around the applique and cutwork, so I started in that corner first.

Something I've learned about myself as I've continued to do custom quilting is that I can visualize what I want, but I cannot draw it with pencil and paper. Once I'm at the quilting machine, I can quilt what I visualized and often later laugh at the lines I tried to sketch out with a water soluble pen before starting. I didn't even take a picture of my sketched idea, but instead did some quilting based on what I had imagined, and spritzed the napkin last night before I went to bed so it would be dry to work on today.

This morning's class was cancelled, so I came back home and started to work expanding the quilting and got almost half done before returning to the shop for an afternoon class. When I got home, I went back to it once again and before supper had finished quilting the entire piece. Once I started, I didn't want to quit! There's not only a lot of orange peel, there are a lot of pebbles, too!

The bow I envisioned is a little bulkier than I might have wanted, especially the center knot, but overall I'm delighted with my first try at quilting vintage! I threw in a few swirls, and added feathers up both sides into the corners. It was fun making the feathers bump into the scallops up both sides of the napkin.

Since I do my feathers free motion, they are entirely organic and don't mirror each other. If I want "perfect" feathers, I use a stencil, but not this time. I found that there were places I could tell where the napkin overlapped the background orange peel quilting. The feathers were flat in those spots, but overall, I'm very happy with my first attempt. It's a learning process, experimenting with the designs, testing the sequence to see what works to attain the look I want. There are a few things I will do differently next time.
With this piece complete and ready for binding and a hanging sleeve, I'm already looking at what piece I want to try next. I'm definitely hooked and look forward to playing and creating more interesting vintage quilted pieces!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,