Saturday, March 12, 2016

Vintage Patchwork Talks to Me

In my free-motion quilting classes, I always tell my students to listen to their quilts, whether they pre-mark their tops and plan every detail ahead, wait until their quilt sandwich is pinned, or even during the process of quilting. I truly believe my quilts talk to me and tell me what they want or need to make them shine. No, I don't think I'm crazy. I just like to go with the flow and follow my intuition, which, in turn, is the quilt speaking in this case. So far it seems to be working! 
All of my quilting is done on Sassy, my sit-down HandiQuilter Sweet 16. For six years I quilted everything from mug rugs to a queen size quilt on my domestic sewing machine. Then four years ago, after my father died, I splurged and purchased Sassy and have never looked back. I love the control I have working on details as I move the quilts under the needle. I've even found a way to use two small craft tables beside my chair to create a U-shaped "nest" where the bulk of the quilt is supported by both Sassy's 6 foot long table (yes, I have the add-on table extensions) and the tables beside me so I have no problem with drag. 
Recently my friend Wanda brought me a small top to be quilted. If my memory serves me right, her mother had made similar tops with blocks she hand appliqued petals on surrounded by left over patchwork hand pieced by Wanda's great-great-grandmother for Wanda and her sisters, and her mother hand quilted them all. A final top was assembled from the same vintage patchwork and hand appliqued blocks, but the thought of hand quilting yet another top was too much. That's how it ended up with me. Being a satisfied return customer, Wanda told me to do what I wanted with it.
I knew I would be seeing Wanda this weekend, so I pulled it to the top of the "to be quilted" stack and dove in. The little patchwork squares begged to be orange peeled to set them apart from the applique blocks. Each little square measures approximately 1 1/4" and with this setting, they were all on point giving me some measure of concern on how to keep everything square with those rows of squares all being on the bias to the length and width of the top. Plus, being hand pieced and somewhat irregular in size/shape, I didn't want to ditch the quilt. I did my best to keep things square as I started quilting, ditching each of the applique blocks along the way, and overall it turned out great! The entire top only measures 33" x 46", perfect for a vintage quilted wall hanging.
Getting all of the orange peel done in a couple of evenings, the applique blocks were next. I didn't want to quilt on the applique, so ditched around each petal to give them added dimension, and then added swirling tendrils around them filling the negative space without over-quilting those blocks. The first run didn't quite cut it, so I added an extra tendril that filled the corner spaces before I was done.
Finally, there were the corner and setting triangles. The small setting triangles got a quilted flower with tendrils similar to the applique blocks, and then I played with the corners.

In the four corner triangles, I used a combination of stacked teardrops, pebbles, small sections of feather, and a little McTavishing, each corner being unique in its combination. The corners add a little of the fun, modern side of my quilting to this vintage piece.
It goes back to its owner this evening and I'm sure she's going to love it as much as I do! And now it's on to the next project in the tote as I continue to work through both client quilts and my own UFOs.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,


  1. Wow, I love this quilt, both the applique and piecing, and your quilting is just perfect for this little quilt.

  2. Beautiful....excellent details. Thanks for sharing your thought process on how to turn this vintage top into a real treasure.

  3. Love the quilt and your quilting is beautiful!