Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bringing Autumn Colors Inside

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!


  1. I love this quilt. You are lucky having somewhere to quilt yours, here in uk I don't know of anywhere that does it for you.
    I think I shall tie the one I am making for Tom.

    1. I need to check a farily local quilting service I've viewed online. Our longarm machine quilters in Wyoming were so creative that I'm reluctant to settle for less--but without my quilt shop income, I"m looking for alternatives. Tieing a king-size quilt is rough on the neck and shoulders!

  2. Your newest quilt is so beautiful. I love the autumnal colours and they do compliment a contrasting black and white cat!

    1. Thank You, Ann. While working at the shop I sold a quilt I had made in similar colors. It went to Germany. I made it in a fit of homesickness for New England autumn--I wonder what fall is like in Germany [?] As for Little Edward--black andwhite go with anything, don't they!

  3. I loved reading this post and of course I just ADORE this quilt! I enjoyed hearing about your quilting "career", it made me smile when I remembered drawing round cardboard shapes to cut out. I was only introduced to rotary cutters about 5 years ago :-D

    I am so looking forward to having my new sewing room next year, when I will be making my own modest version of this beautiful quilt.

    Out of interest have you labelled it and what information did you include?

    1. Kath, Your quilting is an encouragement--though I'm not sure I'll undertake to hand quilt a bed sized piece.
      I realized I hadn't made a label for the quilt--as I was making the bed. I need to do that. I usually cut a small rectangle of plain muslin and use an indelible pen to write the name of the quilt pattern, date, pieced by____ [me] and quilted by_____. If it is a gift quilt I insicribe the name of the recipient. I then hand stitch the label or a back corner. I have made labels using my computer printer--a bit of a pain as it can waste part of a 'page'--I've used muslin with freezer paper ironed to the back to stabilize. I can never remember which side up to insert my fabric/paper layer. [Sigh.]
      I look forward to your version of the quilt!

  4. What a beautiful quilt! How nice to have a sweet space where you can go to make more lovely creations.


    1. I wish that I kept my 'sweet space' in better order. I can't seem to create without being very untidy.

  5. Interesting to hear about your quilting journey and just to see Little Edward on that beautiful quilt is a treat.

    1. Lillian; I wonder if we don't have a similar quilting background. I'm sure you recall when the fabrics and tools proliferated. Little Edward is a charmer!

  6. I am doing handsprings this morning in between coffee slurps when I seen your quilt! I LOVE the colors, and LOVE kitty. Now I have to start quilting, only I just do not have fabric, wish I had what we had when we had our quilt shop here. Now I wish I started a better stash.

    1. Vicki, As you see there are many fabrics in that quilt. Some were purchased when I had the shop discount. We also had an Alco in Lander, WY that stocked remnants of good fabric--I watched for their sales. [I think I watched too often!]
      I love seeing what others create adn reading about how they do it.

    2. We did have an Alco here, but all of the sudden, they quit carrying fabric. Now all we have is Wally, which I detest more than going to the doctor. We do have a quilt shop, but her fabrics are in the $8-15 range and that is out of my range. I have been scoping out fabrics from clothing, and scraps from the thrift shops around here.

  7. How absolutely beautiful, I envy you your skill and patience. I've made a couple of lap quilts and they about did me in. I can't imagine doing king sized one.
    it sounds like your retirement has been about as restful as ours.

    1. Janet, Thus far the idea of retirement is a joke--the only thing different is our reduced income!
      Patience? Let's just say I can be very determined when a project is something I like!

  8. Absolutely gorgeous ...the colours are stunning ...maybe one day I will try to do some patchwork .... but until then I have to do with the ones I bought from QVC. I must say they have worn well ...the oldest is 10 years but they are washed more often than most because of the cats and they still look good. I so admire your talent for creating these quilts and really enjoyed the post.

    1. Angie; The owner of the quilt shop--who did the machine quilting on this one--doesn't like animals. She often scolded me for allowing [hah!] the cats to sleep on my quilts. I do frequently spread a towel along the foot of the bed, or place something over my pillow where one of the cats likes to spend much of her day.
      I've decided I can't 'save' my quilts for 'best'--I enjoy them and wash them often.

  9. Sharon, its a beautiful quilt! perfect for this time of year, the colours compliment so well! Little Edward has a lovely face, gorgeous fat kitty cheeks!!

    Leanne x

  10. What beautiful quilts! There's a quilt shop here in Aberdeen, Scotland, but I confess I have never been inside. A friend of mine hires their gammel (?) machine to machine-quilt her patchwork quilts. One of the reasons I've never gone there is I'm too afraid I would never come out again!

  11. I do love your colors, but quilting has never been part of my heritage and sewing had very little part too. Now I did do a lot of knitting and then I took up crocheting, but never got much beyond basic afghans. I like crocheting, but it doesn't do my arthritis in the neck and shoulders much good.