Little Edward admires my newest quilt.
I began making quilts in the early 1980's. By that time I'd had a fair amount of experience making and altering garments, but there were few guidelines for tackling the old art of 'piecing' quilt blocks.
America's Bi-Centenial observances in 1976 revived a national interest in vintage crafts and
once common skills.
The first quilts I pieced were a struggle for accuracy--cardboard templates placed on fabric, outlined with a pencil, cut out with scissors. Traditional cotton calico prints for the quilts were hard to find.
By 1982 or so, a trickle of books were published featuring some stream-lined and more accurate ideas for cutting and stitching patchwork. Lines of coordinating calicos in several colorways began to appear in local variety stores. My friend Edie and I were off and running!
We shared our fabric stashes, worked often together, stitching blocks into quilt tops, layering the tops with backing and fat 'batts' stretched onto an immense plywood work surface that Edie's husband laid out for us. We tied the quilts with heavy crochet cotton, then folded over the edges of the backing, mitering the corners to finish the quilts--more like puffy comforters.
When we had stitched and tied until our eyes were crossing and our shoulders aching, we stopped to down huge mugs of tea and fortify ourselves with home made baked goodies.
By 1990 shops dedicated to quilt makers featured pattern 'how-to' books, colorful fabric lines and all manner of gadgets to aid the quilter in accuracy and speed.
When J. and I moved to Wyoming in 1998 I was surprised to find how many small towns there--miles apart on the high plains--had well-stocked quilt shops. Perhaps the long cold winters inspired legions of quilters--surely a heap of warm bed covers was needed.
I branched out in my quilt making in part because gardening in Wyoming wasn't an option and I needed to be creative.
During my last five years in Wyoming I worked part time at Wyoming Quilts in Lander.
One of my responsibilities was to produce two of the quilt designs the shop kept in stock, as well as dozens of pieced place mats, table runners and pillowcases.
Often customers wanted a variation on the stock quilts, so I took my turn at creating these.
Sometimes clients came in bringing partially finished quilt blocks brought to light when an older relative passed on.
These could be a challenge to finish if the late seamstress had not possessed good sewing skills.
I did my share of wailing and cursing over such projects!
At other times, something truly lovely was discovered, and it was a pleasure to have a part in preserving a vintage piece for another generation to cherish.
A special 'treat' was the opportunity to make quilts which show-cased new fabrics as they came in.
I also had a shop discount which encouraged me to collect enough fabric for two life-times of quilt making.
The 'girls' that I worked with there were meticulous quilt-makers.
We worked well together, sharing our skills, commiserating when a project was difficult, quick to praise when a task was finished or one of us had been particularly inventive.
It was an inspiration to work with such creative women.
The Log Cabin Star blocks used in this quilt combine two of my favorite piecing techiniques--the center is called "Sawtooth Star" and the stars are framed with rounds of 'logs' applied in the variation known as 'Courthouse Steps.'
I spent several contented evenings in November, 2009, choosing and cutting [with rotary cutter] the fabrics for this quilt.
I was settling in for the long winter months when an eager buyer appeared for our home!
Much of our first [retirement!?] year in Kentucky was spent renovating the interior of the 30 year old cottage which we purchased. Hours also went into gardening, planting flowers, harvesting and canning produce.
By early 2011 J. had turned half of our basement into a cheerful and clean space where I could unpack my stash of fabric, set up a sewing machine and turn again to quilt-making.
Still, it was late winter of 2012 before I at last completed this quilt top--king-sized--and packed it off to Wyoming where it was machine quilted by the owner of the shop where I had so happily worked.
On hearing that J. was in Wyoming for a week, Linda--bless her--made my quilt a priority, finishing it so that J. could bring it home on his return journey.
The mellow, rich colors of the fabrics I chose for this quilt speak to me. I am reminded of autumn in New England, the place where I spent much of my life.
The warm deep reds, golds and browns mirror the maples, beech and oak, flaring into vibrant color before the grey of November dulls the landscape.
If you look closely, you'll see the deep greens of spruce and pine, the pale cream of grasses and cat tails which have been bleached by the frosts and winds of October.
In the last photo above you'll note that I spread a small blanket in a favorite cat napping spot at the head of the bed. Little Edward doesn't know that's where he's meant to be.
I think he does realize that the colors of my autumn quilt set off his black and white coat to perfection!