The Apron

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This fabric called out to me one day and told me I needed an apron.  A lined, pleated, top stitched apron.  In patch work.  No matter that I had never made one before.  It didn’t  matter that I didn’t have a pattern because I was not sure how to follow one anyway.  I had the pattern in my head.

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Do you think I cut these pockets wrong?

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Do you this think I made the pockets too small?

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Grab a plate to mark a curve in bigger pockets.  Now I inherited my Mother-in Law’s sewing tools including her French curve ruler.  But I never knew what you used it for until I saw it in a sewing video in YouTube, after I finished the apron!

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Small pockets look good on the big pockets.  Wait a minute, is this turning into a cargo apron?

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Box pleats seemed easy enough

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Magnetic jewelry clasps make a handy needle picker upper

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Bottom is done

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Sewing on the waist band and sash to the apron bib which my husband suggested I add.   I top stitched around the  bib and the skirt at the suggestion of Marie Elcin who is a fiber artist that I was taking a design class with at the Fleisher Art Memorial.

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Rip out and resew three times

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And Voila!

The Quilts They Are Finished!!!

I started making these quilts in 2011 right after I made Nathan’s baby quilt which was my first quilt. (I am not a quilter, so I decided I should start out with something small.) Ok, ok, it only took me four years to finish these, but I didn’t work on them continuously.

quilts

I started with sewing scraps of fabric together just to get a quilting mojo thing going.  Then I started buying old clothes at thrift stores and taking them apart for the fabric.  Some friends gave me fabric.  Someone across the street threw out boxes and boxes of great fabric!  I bought fabric sample books
on eBay and a box of scraps from a quilt maker on  Etsy.

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Gradually, I settled on  Log Cabin Pattern.  Since the idea of making the blocks all the same made me want to stick a needle in my eye, I decided to make them all different and had fun with each one.  The only rule was that the colors had to work.  Oh,  and I settled on a size of 12 inches square for each finished block.  I taught myself to chain piece and I became a quilt block berserker for a while.

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The quilts are 6 blocks across and eight blocks long

Headboard

 Years  ago, I painted a headboard  on my wall.  Makes it hard to rearrange the furniture!

Nightstand

My husband said he quit drinking in case he woke up one day and looked at his night stand.  This is from my painted furniture phase.

Quilt Back

I made my own binding, machine sewed it to the front of the quilts and hand sewed it to the back.  Here’s a good quilt binding tutorial.

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I used fleece blankets as the filling and flannel sheets on the back.  I machine quilted by stitching in the ditch around the  blocks.  It wasn’t that difficult with a walking foot.

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The view through the mirror on the wall.  This is the companion piece to the nightstand.

I don’t have plans to make another quilt although I do have a third quilt top left over.  It could happen!

Joyce Scott Exhibit: Maryland to Murano

I was fortunate to be in New York City at the same time an exhibit of Joyce Scott’s work was on display at the Museum of Art and Design.
Part retrospective and part new work, Maryland to Murano included Scott’s work from the 1990’s and newer work including some breathtaking glass pieces she created on the island of Murano with the help of the resident artisans.

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Scott is a story teller and and she uses beads to convey her message  the way a writer uses words or a dancer uses gestures.

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Or the way a quilt maker uses fabric!   Think about it.  Scott’s Mother, Elizabeth Talford Scott, was a quilt maker whose fabric compositions were rich with narrative and personal and historical references.  The cultural and familial influences definitely carried over from Mother to Daughter.

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So why did Joyce Scott go to Murano?  The exhibition catalog says that Scott did glass blowing at Pilchuck, Haystack Mountain School of Craft and Penland, and that her three dimensional bead work continued to increase in size.  I suppose a stint in Murano was the next step. Scott has always stuck me as an artist looking to push in new directions.  She seems fearless.

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The work she produced in Murano is was not like anything I have seen before. Take a look at Buddha.  The black and white of the face appears to be melted beads,  The outer  bead work is textural.  The rest of the piece is blown glass.    It is slightly larger than life sized and I could not take my eyes off of it.

 Fortunately for us, we can see Scott talk about her work her influences and watch her in the process of creating  similar pieces on this video clip from the PBS Series  Craft in America

Here are some more pictures from the exhibition

Happy Easter from Plumpton

Plumpton is expecting to find goodies this holiday. Instead, he finds the quilts I have been working on forever, all quilted and ready for their borders.

Here’s wishing you a happy restful holiday.

Quilting with Woody

This is the latest post in the saga of my explorations into quilt making. I have the tops done, one of the quilts quilted with the filling and the backing and am working on the second one. As a matter of fact, I spent most of Sunday afternoon making the second quilt “sandwich.” I’m using an old fleece blanket for the filling and a flannel sheet for the backing. Honestly, I have read that you never use a sheet for the backing and that you never use flannel so I had to try both. I have also combined many different types of fabric in my quilt. The only thing they have in common is that they survived a ride in my washing machine on the brutal cycle.

The term “brutal cycle” brings back memories. My brother swore my mother had one on her machine because she was the kind of woman who did not believe in dry cleaning and liked to play washing machine roulette with our clothes. Some of them did not survive the brutal cycle.

The backing

Another project I have been working on for quite a while is taking my old LP records and making MP3 files from them. What a trip down memory lane that has been! (When I was fourteen, one of my favorite pastimes was listing to a Joni Mitchell album and crying into a cup of tea.) My musical taste is pretty eclectic but when I was a kid I had a fascination with folk music. I got John and Alan Lomax‘s American Ballads and Folk Songs out of the library over and over. I read and reread  The American Song Bag. I learned how to play the guitar. After getting some recordings by The Carter Family out of the library, I managed to talk my parents into letting me get an autoharp.  Don’t ask me how that happened.

Attaching backing to filling

But I lived in a place where we had limited access to any kind of music or art and this was in the days before the Internet. I even had to go to another town to go to the library and that took an Act of Congress to get my parents’ permission.

Layers

So it wasn’t until I was in college in Boston that I first heard Woody Guthrie’s Library of Congress recordings. Three LPs of music and interviews. The first time I heard it it was like I had stepped through a portal and into another world.

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On Sunday I pulled out the box set, plugged the MP3 making turntable into the computer and listened to the six sides again as I worked on the quilt. It seemed fitting since quilts are supposed to be a peculiarly American item and Woody Guthrie is considered a peculiarly American folk singer.

Pinning the top

I was more familiar with the things Woody talked and sang about than I was when I first heard the recording at age 18. For one thing, I had transcribed extensive interviews of an Uncle who rode the rails during the Depression. I knew more about the way banks operate. I had a deeper understanding of my family history of that time. Of course, human nature never really changes but we get better tools which is how you are reading this blog post.

The top

Quilts have been described things that tell stories and that are full of memories. I think this is true even if you buy all of your fabric new. I don’t have many old clothes in my quilt that I wore, but there are some of my Mother’s place mats and napkins in there. As a matter of fact, even though the fabric came from a combination of thrift shop clothes, remnant bags, fabric samples and cut up bed clothes, dumpster dives and old tablecloths, when I look at the quilt top I feel like I have a relationship with every piece of fabric: I can tell you where it came from and how I got it.

Folded for quilting And I have used my Mother’s and Mother-in-Law’s sewing machines to make the quilts.
Stitching in the ditch 1 I even remember the day I bought those flannel sheets way back before I was married.
back seamSo now Woody is all transferred to MP3 files and I will give the box set to a friend who still cherishes vinyl.

Last And every time I look at the quilts now, I will think of Woody because he has become part of the quilt’s memory.

The Quilt In Progress

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I have  started the block trimming and sewing.    Lots of scraps!  But now that I have a decent place to work with a cement floor, it’s much easier to keep things swept up

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I decided to make sections of 12 blocks-2 rows of 6-and then I will join 4 of them to make each quilt top which will be 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks long. (Finished blocks are a foot square so the quilt will be 72 x 96 before binding.

 

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Since I had so many colors of fabric, I decided to use white in the overall design to give the eye a rest.  I’m glad I did, because this is going to be a busy quilt.

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Studio Birdie seems to be enjoying all the activity and bright colors.

 

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I am wearing a wrist support  because I am doing a lot of trimming and I don’t want my wrist to suffer.

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I find that it’s helpful to break up the trimming with the pressing and the sewing.  I am managing to keep all the thread under control  but I have a feeling I will be picking loose threads off these quilts for a long time.

 

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      I started out sewing 2 blocks together then joining to make strips of  6 and then joining this to another strip of 6.  But last night,  I joined a two block section to another two block section to make a four block piece and I sewed three of these together.  It seemed a little easier to line up the seams with the latter method, but I am still learning.  Any tips would be welcome!

 

The Sistine Quilt Saga or 85 Blocks Done!

 

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I now have 85 Wonky (and I do mean WONKY) Log Cabin blocks made.

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The next thing I must do is trim them all to size with my handy dandy 12 and 1/2 inch block template.

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I got a pinking blade for my rotary cutter to keep fraying edges to a minimum

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As you can see, I have not bothered to limit  the color palette

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I just tried to have fun with every block I made.

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  Boy these quilts take a long time!  Will I ever finish?  But I really am enjoying the process.And I feel honored to be using the sewing machines and tools of my Mother and Mother-in-Law   My plan is to make two twin-sized quilts, each 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks tall or  72 by 96 inches.

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips for a newbie quilter like me, leave a comment.I will keep you posted.

My Sewing Machine Will Quilt Again!

In my previous post, I told you how I murdered my sewing machine and how Jack De Sorte carried it and my other machine off into the night. Did I ever hear from him again?

I am happy to report that I did. As a matter of fact, he had the Slant-O-Matic back to me THE NEXT DAY!!!!! I was beside myself with joy and sewed like a mad woman all weekend. But what about the Kenmore? Well, that’s a little more complicated.

I got a call at work the next week. It was Jack.

“What did you do to that machine?!?!” he demanded.

“Did I do something wrong, ” I whispered meekly.

“Did you do something wrong? The gears were shot! I don’t know what you did to that machine but I had to call in favors and drive to shops in Jersey to get all the parts. What did you do to that machine?”

“I dunno,” I squeaked, “Could you fix it?”

“Could I fix it?-It’s like new,” he shot back me, ” and when I deliver it I’ll give you some instructions.”

Yikes. What was I in for?

He arrived at my house that might cradling the machine like a baby. He laid it on my dining room table and pulled a small bag out of his pocket. “Here are needles,” he told me, “and bobbins and a new zipper foot. I want you to use them.” He put the bag on the table.

“Do not use cheap needles!” he admonished me. If you hit something while you’re sewing, STOP AND STEP AWAY FROM THE MACHINE! Do not try to sew with a bent needle! Do not pull the thread! Do not sew with a dirty machine! Clean and oil it regularly! ”

“Yes Jack,” I whispered.

And now, I am afraid-I am afraid that if I screw up one more time, that Jack will find out, come to my house, take my machine and place it in a foster home.

I will be careful.

Seriously, if you live in the Philadelphia area and need sewing machine repair, call Jack. I cannot recommend him enough.

De Sorte’s Vacuum Cleaner Service

6153 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 474-3045

Here are some pictures of what I sewed after Jack fixed my sewing machines

Stripey
Stripey
Stack-O-Blocks
Stack-O-Blocks
Two old dresses and a napkin
Two old dresses and a napkin
Chain Pieced Blocks before separation
Chain Pieced Blocks before separation
Home made thread cone stand
Home made thread cone stand
Just-Started Blocks
Just-Started Blocks
More Blocks
More Blocks
Wonky!
Wonky!

I Murdered My Sewing Machine!!

I managed to murder a sewing machine.   I was busy sewing wonky log cabin blocks on my late Mother-in-Law’s Kenmore when I heard, GADUMP!  I stopped and saw I had a bent needle.  I replaced it and stared to sew but the machine  continued to clunk!clunk! clunk! And clunk!  And basically not sew anything.     I needed sewing machine triage.
Chain Piecing
Chain Piecing on the Kenmore
There is no sewing repair place near my house and I don’t own a car.  I was determined not to ask a friend to schlep me and my crippled machine to a repair place so I started to look for someone who would come to my house.   I found a guy on Yelp who had one five star rating.  That was his only rating.  I called him.
“How old is your machine?” he asked
“I don’t want to buy a new one,” I retorted.  (I am always suspicious.)
“I don’t want you to buy a new one,” he answered,  “the new ones aren’t any good; but I need to know how old yours is before I know  whether I can work on it.”
“Seventeen years old, ” I replied.
“I can fix that no problem.”  He made arrangements to come to my house the next day.
My husband let him in and took his card, Jack DeSorte’s Vacuum Repair.  Jack parked himself at my dining room table and inspected the machine.  “I’ll have this fixed in about an hour, ” he announced.
My heart soared.  For the next hour,  Jack labored on the machine and treated my husband and me to the short version of his life story, his philosophy of sewing machines, sewing machine repair and sewing machine restoration.  It dawned on me that I had a first class, genuine, A-Number One sewing machine nerd repairman seated in my dining room.  Which is a good thing in case you were wondering.
After an hour,  Jack rose from the table wiping his forehead and informed me that he would have to take the machine into his shop.  “I don’t know what you did to this machine, ” he declared, ” but I’m gonna have to take the whole thing apart and it’s gonna be messy.  I  might need parts.  I can’t fix it here.”
“Will you bring it back when it’s fixed?” I inquired.
“Of course,” he replied as if wondering why I had to ask about something so obvious.
“Wait a minute,”  I called, running down the basement steps, “I have something else.”  I returned with  my Mother’s 1961 Singer Slant-O-Matic 500A. “This was my mother’s machine, “I told him, ” and I used to sew on it when I was a little girl.  It works but it needs a tune up.  She got that machine when Kennedy was president, ” I added.  (This means that I felt comfortable enough with Jack to date myself.  Which means something but I’m not sure what.)
Slant O Matic
Slant-O-Matic
He was beaming.  “Will you look at that, ” he exclaimed lifting  up the lid that covers the double  thread spindles. “It’s so clean!  Normally when I see one if these it’s got all kinds of crap on it.”
“My Mother was so clean that once she broke our television to clean it, “I bragged.  “My Father wouldn’t get it fixed, so we had to turn it on and off by using the plug.  And my brother claimed that we were the only family he knew who had a brutal cycle on their washing machine.”Maybe you are starting to understand why I took to Jack like I did.
Jack wrote up the proper receipts and disappeared with my sewing machines into the night.
To be continued. . .

Still Quilting, Still Dreaming

I started these quilts (I am making two) a year and a half ago. I put them away during our house renovation.  I have moved from the dining room to my new workshop in the basement where I have lots of room and a floor that is easy to sweep.  I moved my mother’s Singer Slant-O-Matic down there and plan to have it tuned up.  In the meantime,  I’m using my late mother-in- law’s Kenmore which I also love and which I  used to make my couch covers.

I’m making a modified Log Cabin pattern, semi wonky because I could never color inside the lines and still can’t. I plan each block to be 13 inches square raw and 12 inches square sewn and I have 70 made so far. I want to make 14 more.  I am using mostly cut up clothes, old sheets and tablecloths, scraps and found fabric.

I bought a big box of scraps on Etsy.  If you do a search for “fabric destash” you can get some incredible deals and the shipping is reasonable too.

You use a lot of thread when you sew patches together so I am using a cone rather than a spool of thread and I made a stand for the thread cone that is working out quite well! Here are some instructions.

I also learned about the chain piecing technique that helps you to sew faster. There’s a nice video on it at the bottom of the post.

 

And now for the gallery