Friday, June 6, 2014

Sewing with Granny

Granny was DH's maternal grandmother, and she passed on a couple years ago. She was a sweet, sweet lady, so mild-mannered and brought a sense of calm everywhere she went. She was a quilter, although most of her projects were small ones. I know she did do some bed-sized quilts, but her passion was placemats. I think everyone in the family has at least one set of her placemats, some have several sets. She like doing holiday placemats, so when I inherited her stash, I got a lot of holiday scraps, as well as some misc. pieces of placemats she hadn't finished, or just leftover pieces. In her stash, however, was one big scrap project. Now, normally, I do not enjoy finishing someone else's UFO's, but this one called to me.

There was a big pile of blocks, some muslin yardage, and extra pieces cut. I thought about making extra blocks since pieces were already cut, but then I realized she and I quilt quite a bit differently from each other, and my best bet is just using as much as I can of what she did.

I did find a note about the project. 205 finished, 31 to shape (which means trim maybe?) 4 to sew sides on, 17 to sew triangles = 257

Here's the thing about notes like this. I write stuff like that all the time if I'm setting a project aside. It means something if I write a note like that, and I'm sure this meant something to her. Did she need 257 blocks or was she just keeping track of how many she had so far? There is no way for me to know what her intention was with these blocks. Was she making a bed quilt for her queen sized bed? Maybe she was making smaller quilts for donation? I found some batting marked for quilt as you go that may have been marked for these blocks. Granny's project is now my project, and together we'll make something.

I found lots of evidence of sliver trimming in the bag of blocks. See how the left side piece is too long? There's a good reason for that, Granny's seams are approximately 3/8", not 1/4". My guess is she was using the edge of her regular presser foot as her guide. I wonder if she knew why her points kept getting cut off? Did she even care? It's pretty obvious she didn't chain piece, or use leaders/enders like I do. Look at all the thread tails on the back of this one block! Was she planning on trimming the thread tails later, or did she just leave them? I'm trimming them since I'm not used to having any.

I love that this project was a scrap project in every sense of it. Can you see she was using different color threads? For that matter, she was using completely different threads! So far I've found 11 different colors of thread in this project. The weights of the threads vary from fine 50 wt to probably a 28 wt., or maybe even a 12 wt.  There are cotton threads, poly threads, and likely poly cotton mixed. I mostly use cotton thread for quilting, but if I have some poly the right color, and don't have the right color cotton on hand, yeah, I'll use it too. I've also used up odd colored bobbins while quilting a quilt that's scrappy. It really tickled me about the different colors of thread, because although 95% of the time my top and bottom threads match, right now my top thread is tan, and my bottom thread is light gray. I was at the end of a 6000m cone of light gray, and I wound the remaining thread onto bobbins. I didn't have any more light gray, so I tossed a spool of tan on top, both neutrals, so I wasn't concerned. I think Granny would approve!

One of the reason I use leaders/enders is to avoid beginning like this. a lot of the blocks have that thread vomit on the back. Chain piecing, leaders/enders avoids that problem. I wonder if she knew about those concepts, or just was so set in her ways, she did it the way she always had. I know when I get comfortable with one way of doing things, I am hesitant to change my methods.

I thought about setting the blocks straight, but I decided this was a little more interesting. I'm going to make as many of these blocks as I can, then decide on a plan for a quilt. I have the extra pieces she had cut. I could do a piano key border, or a checker board border with the extra squares and rectangles. She didn't have extra triangles cut, but she did have the muslin stored with the project. I love looking at the scraps in the blocks. Some of them I have in my stash as well, or I have in a different colorway.

Some of the scraps are high quality quilt shop fabrics, some are cheap poly/cotton blends. You know what? Poly/cotton blends have made it into my scraps quilts too. When I come across a scrap from a dress I made one of my girls, or a fabric I used for a craft long ago, I use them in my scrap quilts, and I don't question the quality much. If you can read a newspaper through it, I'll trash it, but if the original item lasted a good long time, I'll toss the scraps in my scrap quilts, and I enjoy the memories. Scrap quilts are my all time favorite quilts. I don't do matchy matchy stuff well. I could go to a big box store if I wanted a quilt made with three-five fabrics, and pay far less than making a quilt from scratch. Scrap quilts tell the story of your life, and that's why I love them.

Someday someone may be looking at one of my unfinished projects, wondering what I had in mind, or why I did the quirky things I do. The quirkiest thing I do is binding though, and those quilts are all finished. I've made 200 or so quilts, and I have NEVER done the binding "correctly". I machine sew all my bindings, and someone can shake their head all they want at my bindings, at least those quilts are done.

I'm not sure when I finish Granny's quilt, right now I'm just going to make the bigger blocks as leaders/enders while I put borders on the pile of quilt centers I finished. One of my daughters asked what I was going to do with the quilt when I finished it. They thought maybe I'd give it to my MIL, or someone else in the family. I thought about it, and I'm going to keep it. Granny and I are making it together!

I got the border on this baby quilt, pieced some batting for it, and have it on a hanger with a backing. It's ready to be pin-basted!


 I pieced batting and a backing for this quilt today, as well as get the two borders on. It's on a hanger together ready to go too.

I'm trying to put a huge dent in my batting scraps. I normally keep my batting scraps in a pop up laundry hamper, but I had so many, I could easily have filled two hampers. My last several quilts have been queen or king sized, and I really don't want to piece a batting for a quilt that large. Now that I have some smaller quilts, I'm piecing up what I have. I had a large enough batting from the last time I pieced batting, that I think it will work for one of my grandson's quilts. If it's not quite big enough, I now have some more scraps of that type of batting, and I should be able to easily make it large enough. I pieced batting for the two baby quilts above today, and I also pieced a batting for a baby quilt for a grandbaby on the way. I haven't finished the top yet, so I had to guess on the batting size, but it should work.

Piecing batting is easier for me now. Now that my Bernina is in the corner, I can piece the batting without it hanging over the edge of the sewing table and getting stuck. One day I ripped a poly batting when I was trying to piece it and it got stuck on the back corner of my sewing cabinet. Now that the batting can only hang off the front of the cabinet, it's much easier to deal with :-)

I finished pin-basting DS the Elder's quilt this morning. I should have finished pin-basting it last night, but I had the backing a little crooked, and I ended up short in two corners, so I had to add more backing fabric before I could finish. The quilt is 115" square, so GINORMOUS! Sewing those extra bits on because of my mistake was not fun, but I don't think it will be noticeable once its quilted.


Mary K said...

Your story is so cool. It is awesome how quilting or any hand craft touches our lives. I also love the block and your layout.

I agree about you keeping the quilt. I think it would have the most meaning with you and sometimes we forget about ourselves and always give away things we make and never gift ourselves.

Katie M. said...

What a special thing to have, to work on - a quilt from someone you seem to really admire. No one in my family quilted or did much of any type of sewing...
I agree with Mary, too, that you keep the quilt for yourself. I think "Granny" would want it that way.

Kristie said...

Oh what a precious project that you have!!! :) I can't wait to see this finished.

Have a wonderful and Blessed day


Love your post, especially hearing about Granny. It's a very special post and inspiring.