All change

Not much chance, it seems, of settling in for some peace and quiet at the Overseas Office – looks like we will be returning to the Rural Office in the next fortnight. Nothing dramatic, just a routine but essential medical appointment for Himself with a short recovery period afterwards. Time to review the projects and stash here in Spain and decide how much/many can stay until our return – this is never an easy decision!

During the last few weeks I’ve been busy with Zoom stuff and putting July’s work of measuring a variety of quilts from The Cupboard to good use –

It’s been great fun to virtually share some of the contents of The Cupboard – even from such a distance! For 2022 I’m developing a series of online talks and classes with the theme “Ragged & Rescued” – more details in due course, website to sort out first.

Not much obvious progress with the longterm diamond/hexagon project but it is moving along and is the ideal travel companion –

Hope you are all safe and well – happy stitching!

Old stitches

It might be a laundry call soon for one of my favourite vintage quilts so I thought I’d share a few pics before rolling up my sleeves –

This is the “best” side, or the side you are meant to see.  Typical of 1930s for the colours of the Roman Sateen fabric, strippy style, well quilted with alternating feather and braid traditional patterns.

The reverse side is, however, another story – literally.  Instead of a pieced backing that is contemporary with the top we find a very well- worn and much-repaired quilt of earlier date.

Sleeves now rolled up and a good drying day in prospect!

Antique Rose Star – some tips

Just while I’m finishing up measuring and labelling quilts and samples I thought I would put together some thoughts on a completely different topic – Antique Rose Star.  I know several readers are about to start their own project and thought this might be helpful.

This stunning hexagonal block is one I first saw in a copy of Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine in the middle 80s (1980s that is).  Rather more recently it has been given a new global lease of life thanks to its inclusion in “Material Obsession 2”, a hugely popular book from the Australian quilt shop of the same name.  At Quilt Expo in Veldhoven I noticed that renowned Dutch quilter Petra Prins carried the template as part of her wonderful shop stock, so it was easy to acquire the wherewithal to begin.

As featured in the book, the block requires 5 fabrics plus a background.   I used 5 fabrics plus two backgrounds because I wanted a very busy, scrappy look, and chose shirting style reproduction fabrics for the backgrounds.  I also decided that I wanted to work within one style of fabrics – reproduction prints, and mostly one colour family – reds, browns and dark creams.

first Antique Rose block

After that, decisions progressed to each block being a different combination of fabrics with no two blocks being identical.  Fussycutting worked well for some of the centres and also some of the points, but was not a must.  For the most part, I just wanted to make scrappy looking blocks from fabrics I already had.  Health warning – there is a LOT of scope within this block for fussycutting if that is your delight…………  and the whole thing is hugely addictive, it is very difficult to stop!

Here’s how I tackled my Antique Rose Star project –

Each block has 72 pieces and divides down into 6s or 12s of each fabric choice.  The centres and points are 6 each, everything else is 12, and remember I used 2 backgrounds so there were 12 each of both backgrounds.  If you use one background per block you will need 24 pieces from that fabric.

I cut lots of pieces in sets of 6 and 12, marking around the template onto the WS of the fabric and cutting out on the marked lines.  This took time but was fitted into small gaps in the day rather than lengthy sessions.  Because I wanted to use up fabric and be economical, I marked around the template as tessellating shapes and cut with scissors which meant very little waste.

marking tessellating shapes

The size of the template does lend itself to use with jellyroll precut fabric and rotary cutting, in which case you could be cutting through 3 or 4 fabric layers at once –  it depends on your preferences and what suits.

All cut shapes went into one large ziplock bag – I probably began the first few blocks with shapes cut from at least a dozen fabrics and five background fabrics.  More of everything plus new fabric choices were added in as the project gathered momentum.

Every shape in the large ziplock bag then had a seam line marked on the WS on two adjacent sides (one long side, one short).

mark adjacent seam lines on 2 sides

You could easily skip this step if you prefer to mark your seam lines as required rather than in advance.  I must say I felt it was time well spent at this stage.

So, lots of shapes cut out and marked – time to start laying out blocks.  I laid out 3 blocks to begin with, sometimes using a pair of mirrors and just one triangular wedge of shapes to predict the final result.

mirror predictions

This was a project I knew I would be stitching “on the move” so it was important that it could be accommodated in the smallest of containers and that the stitching was as straightforward as possible.  I decided to gather each block up into its component sets of 3 shapes, put a few holding/tacking stitches through each set to keep them together, and then put all the 3s for each block into its own very small ziplock bag.

sets of 3 to make one block

One block = one very small bag of tacked shapes.  Add in a needle, small reel of thread, small chunk of beeswax and a thread cutter and its good to go.

You may be surprised at the speed at which a block can go together – each seam is short.  I made up my 3s like this:-

set of 3

ready for first seam

next step

stitch to pivot point

from pivot to end

First stitch one short seam then a pivoting seam to add in the third shape.

Completed sets of 3 went back into the bag, and you can probably finish the sequence for yourself………… sets of 3 come back out of the bag to be stitched into diamonds of 6.  These leave the bag to be made into larger triangular wedges by adding first one background 3 and then the next.   And of course, sets of 6 large triangular wedges have their own bag in which they await their final construction all neatly tacked together……….

After all that hectic piecing just a warning that one or two almost-forgotten quilts have been re-discovered during the ongoing Cupboard project – here’s a quick peek, more detail next time.

forgotten quilt

More unplanned acquisitions

I really did think there would be no further quilts entering The Cupboard for the foreseeable future.  Wrong again!  I think that Myself and Himself probably need to curtail our occasional outings to antique fairs to a zero limit – we had a lovely day out at Antiques for All at the NEC in Birmingham last weekend where there were relatively few vintage textiles on display.  But then I turned a corner at the end of one aisle and there it was –

Tumbling Blocks quilt

and at an affordable price – what’s a quilter to do other than pay up and bring it home to be shared, enjoyed and appreciated?  Measures 88x 76inches, no provenance or information.  Possibly USA in origin the vendor thought and I think I’m inclined to agree.  The fabrics are a little more fragile than they first appear, beautifully handpieced (no papers), very thin cotton wadding, knife edge finish with one line of neat running stitch, an all over quilting treatment of clamshells (just about visible in a couple of the pics below).  I really couldn’t say if it is more usual to see the lines of tumbling blocks set across the width of a quilt but in this instance they run the length of the quilt.

Tumbling blocks quilt

quilt detail

quilt detail

quilt detail

quilt detail

quilt edge and back

A special touch though in the line of machine stitching near the edge of the quilt – this seems to fit pretty well with a guesstimated date of 1860 -1880.  Someone out there who has more specialised knowledge of early sewing machines would be able to help date this style of machine stitch – my uneducated guess is that  this chain stitch is earlier rather than later in the technical development of sewing machines … do add to this information/guess if you can.

machine stitching at edge of quilt

And, although this next acquisition doesn’t belong in The Cupboard and isn’t textile, I thought you might be interested to see it all the same.  Some of you know that I have a strong ceramics heritage within my family and also where I grew up, and our house is stuffed with quite full of various bits and pieces.  Which really explains why I felt obliged to bring this lovely early 19th century tankard home. It’s  hand painted and well-worn, with a typically sentimental verse and looks good sitting on the kitchen dresser above The Secret Drawer –


The verse reads ” Long may we live, Happy may we be, Blest with Content, & From misfortunes free”

Note the pin (lower centre)-  we quilters have a habit of leaving “clues” everywhere!

Catching up #7 – vintage wholecloth quilt

Maybe it’s lucky seven!  Here’s the last of the vintage quilts that are now resident in The Cupboard.  “Just” a small wholecloth , measuring 80 x 84 inches, good quality stitching, cotton fabric, thin cotton batting, the usual knife-edge finish (but not whipstitched like the strippy in the previous post),  North East style motifs and design layout, date I’m still considering.  Again no background information available at the point of purchase.  “Found” in exceptionally clean condition, folded at the bottom of a pile of sheets on a general textiles stall at an antiques fair (for those of you who need to know….!) and at a ridiculously low price too – :))   I really like this quilt, it’s the only example I have of the scissors motif which appears at the centre and corners -otherwise it’s nothing special or outstanding in any particular aspect, but it is rather appealing, don’t you think?  (Apologies for the unexpected and unavoidable narrow shaft of sunlight on the right of the first picture)

vintage wholecloth quilt

quilt detail - corner

quilt border - detail

quilt detail - midpoint of border

quilt border detail - tulips

DSCN2944 quilt centre

quilt centre - detail

quilt centre - detail

quilt detail - corner infill

quilt detail - knife edge finish

Catching up #4 – vintage quilt #3

Hope you’re managing to work your way around the numbering system!  Here comes the third “new” vintage quilt that is now residing in The Cupboard.  Vital statistics and information as follows – originally acquired in the US (not by me), measures 80″ x 92 ” (approx), hand pieced, machine quilted, very thin wadding,  all fabrics are in virtually mint condition and colour.  Backing fabric unwashed, “sizing” or “dressing” still visible and evident.  I must admit to a particular fondness for the Sawtooth Star block – I used it for a yet-to-be-finished hand piecing project (just 48 of them sat in the Secret Drawer waiting to find their place in life)

Sawtooth Star blocks

and a charming blue and white quilt top of possibly similar/ later date is already in The Cupboard

blue & white quilt top

so, when this particular beauty was waved under my nose in February, you can understand why I felt obliged to  justified in acquiring it.  And, besides, one of the prints is the original of one of my choices for the Antique Rose Star project that’s still under way (more on that progress in another post).

Sawtooth Star quilt

quilt detail

quilt detail

Sawtooth Star block

Sawtooth Star block

corner block

chrome yellow at the centre

pieced fabric makes the block

fabric detail

So, three quilts down, at least three more to go before the catch up is complete!

That cupboard again

General agitation throughout the house – our daughter’s wedding is on Saturday, so you can imagine the scurrying around and low level anxiety for yourselves.   Everyone has been through the new clothes and new shoes scenario (lots more anxiety) and even the long-suffering dog has had to endure a visit to the grooming parlour (I forgot to ask them not to use perfumed shampoo and she has spent the last 24 hours tucked away where she can’t be seen or sniffed.)  Tomorrow we are summoned to help with tables and decor, a task which will quite probably include the strategic placing of the lengths of bunting speedily constructed a couple of weeks ago here at Sewing HQ. 

Lots of movement (and anxiety) on the cupboard front too – first I needed to get everything, really everything, out so that the walls and ceiling could be painted, then everything, really everything, had to go back in when the paint had dried so that the room can be used over the weekend.  On Monday I need to get everything, really everything back out again and into a different room so that new carpet can go down on Wednesday.  Thursday’s plan is obviously to move everything, really everything, back into the cupboard yet again.   I took a before and after shot of the first emptying – it’s not a pretty sight –

Just to satisfy Shirley’s curiousity I shall take a picture of the newly-painted empty cupboard in all it’s Tardis-like  glory next week.   In a perfectly-ordered world I would have had time to take pictures of everything as it emerged from the cupboard – ha!  I did manage a few shots, one of which is of a corner of a lovely black & white Goose in the Pond quilt

samples of my quilting designs circa 1999 –

– a tattered old Album block, here’s a detail of the back, showing the patching and size of stitches

– a printed Baltimore panel, produced by Rose & Hubble and based on an original design by my good friend Patricia Cox (who will be visiting shortly which is one of the reasons for all this smartening up of cupboards, paintwork etc)

This lovely block also surfaced – I know Kathie will like this one, I’ll perhaps post about it in more detail in the future because I think the applique and quilting are from two quite different periods –

Signing off for a few days – happy stitching!

Another washed quilt

While the freshly-washed quilts are easily to hand (ie they’re not back in the cupboard yet) it seemed like a good idea to show another one – hope it’s not getting too repetitive and boring!   I have no provenance for this quilt (like so many of the others in the cupboard) and paid very little for it at an antique fair at least 10years ago.  And just in case you are wondering what constitutes “very little” in my quilt buying terms  –  £50 or less.  The condition of this particular quilt could not be described as good, there are lots of broken stitches and signs of general wear and tear but the overall design is still clear and appealing.  It measures a standard 72inches x 90inches, white cotton sateen front and back, cotton batting that has seriously shifted in places, knife edge finish, single line of machine stitching at the very edge.  I especially like the “unturned” corners where the running feather goes straight to the edge then begins again in the new direction, rather than curving elegantly around the corner. 

Time to put this quilt away and get some stitching done!

All washed up

Whew!  before the summer weather is interrupted with some much-needed rain I have managed to wash 8 quilts (and watch some great tennis during a quick visit to Wimbledon).   There are at least another 4 quilts which are suitable cases for washing but there won’t be time now until after the weekend. 

Amongst the first batch of laundry was a quilt that I rescued (ok, paid money for) from the floor of an antiques dealer’s van probably 15 years ago.  He had started off using it as protective wrapping for some fairly hideous lamps and, when I spotted it, it was just a floor covering.  As you can imagine, it was none too clean at that point.  He really didn’t want to sell it but sometimes cash talks really loudly – although I have to say, there wasn’t a lot of cash involved.  It’s a small single size (67inches x 77inches)  and matte cotton sateen front and back, knife edge finish with a line of machine stitching.  The design is simple and features the Hawick heart motif (without the thistle) referred to in Quilt Treasures on P128, swags topped with trefoils and 12petal roses.  The background or filler quilting is 1inch diamonds.  White quilts are not the easiest thing to photograph and have the texture show clearly but I think you will get a good enough impression from the following photos –

So, Shirley and Kathie – want to volunteer for this one??!

Here’s someone who’s not volunteering but is a serious appreciator of quilts in other ways – seeing quilts hung out to dry made her very happy!

Still seriously behind with blogreading, comments and replies – apologies, it’s been a silly week, will try to catch up over the weekend.