Thursday, November 12, 2015

Susan's Quilt

When our niece Susan was here at the beginning of October to help with preparations for the family reunion, she brought with her a quilt top.
Susan is an expert hand quilter, but had decided she would ask our Amish neighbors to do this one for her.
She invited the ladies to choose their own pattern for the stitching.
The Miller girls, Lizzie and Mary, appeared this morning with the quilt, having walked from their home a mile down the dead-end road.
They walk bare-footed, in spite of the fact that our lane is topped with crushed rock.
The girls expressed their pleasure in working on Susan's quilt, enjoying her choice of vivid colors and her precise and tidy piecing.
The Miller sisters and their mother, Mrs. Mary, regularly quilt for a woman who markets finished quilts having paid cottage workers to piece the tops and others to do the hand quilting.
The ones I have seen were Log cabin variations.
I have several times visited their home when a quilt in progress is stretched on the large quilting frame set up in the main room of the farmhouse.
The quilting thread is measured out in yard lengths and secured to the edges of the quilt in neatly counted bundles. Pricing is based on the number of yards of threads used multiplied by 5 cents.
In this case the charge for the hand quilting was $69, as 138 yds of thread was needed.
The batting, which they supplied, was $8.
Susan will be sending a check for $100--we both feel they didn't charge enough for their neat work.
I will be interested to see how Susan binds the sawtooth edges of her quilt.
I spread it on the bed in the downstairs guest room for photos.
The bed was made in Wyoming by our son.

The ladies chose a stitch pattern which avoided working through the multiple seam allowances within each block.

Susan pointed out to me that each block in the quilt has an opposite: the same fabrics used but in reverse order.

The door to the guest room is usually closed.
Bobby Mac was quick to go in with me and 'help' to spread out the quilt.

Bobby Mac was prepared to stay awhile and enjoy the spill of sunshine while posing against the glowing colors.

Mrs. Mary explained when I asked how she taught her girls to quilt, that she set them early on to practice neat stitching by working around the very edges of quilts--the area that would be fully covered by the binding.
When she felt they were proficient they were allowed to stitch on a customer's quilt.
On the day that Susan and I visited to leave her quilt it was raining and dark.
Mrs. Mary and the girls had improvised a light table using their tall gas lamps set beneath a whole cloth top. They have a number of large patterns for such bedspreads which are outlined on heavy clear vinyl sheets.
Somehow they manage to trace the pattern onto the fabric without setting the whole business alight!
Before they left to walk home, having refused a ride back, I showed the Miller girls the very small quilt I hand finished this winter.
They were polite--but I suspect Mrs. Mary would set me to practicing around the edges!


  1. Your last comment made me LOL Sharon! I love quilting small projects but would be daunted by a full sized quilt I think. Gosh, those girls are only charging for the thread and not the hours spent working, in all truth. I don't blame Susan for rounding up the cheque.

    I think the squares of quilting look just right with this top and it is bright and colourful for those dull days of winter. I was absolutely fascinated to hear about how they worked on it (by lamplight too - I have to have a good sharp light these days when I am crafting). I could just imagine it all in my mind's eye.

    I am still quite stunned about them being barefoot (in November!) They must have very tough feet. I have read about barefoot hikers in the UK - apparently it is good to be in touch with Mother Earth. Since we have a 250 strong dairy herd passing our front gate twice a day, it's something I know I shan't be trying!

    1. Jennie; In the quilt shop where I worked in Wyoming the machine quilters measured the tops to determine the square inches of the piece. This number was multiplied by a different amount according to the intricacy of the quilting design chosen.
      The women of the house have been barefoot whenever I have visited. This was true of our Amish neighbor in Gradyville as well. When the women wear shoes they are sturdy black lace-ups.

  2. Just re-read this to note that the gas lights were BENEATH the quilt. Oh my!!!

    1. I wasn't clear about this--the gas lamps were being used that day underneath the edges of a whole-cloth top anchored between two tables--just to mark the top. The girls have been quilting with only the natural light from the living room windows. Not sure how they manage in winter with diminished light. The Amish houses have ceiling hooks to suspend a lamp--we removed the ones in our house.

  3. What a wonderful quilt! I love it.

    I loved hearing about Mrs. Mary and her girls too. Very interesting and inspiring.

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; I think any crafter would be inspired to see the Amish ladies at work. Their own quilts--as true with their garments--are allowed only in solid colors--mostly shades of blue or green. No doubt Susan's quilt is the most vivid they have seen.

  4. What a gorgeous quilt. I do pitiful work and I'm sure I wouldn't even be allowed to sew around the edge.

    1. Janet; When I mentioned my lack of quilting skill to Mrs. Mary she replied that perhaps I was meant to be 'a good piecer' and should be content with that.

  5. I love the quilt. I consider myself a fair piecer but I've never come close to being fair at quilting.

    1. Lillian; I think you and i are meant to be 'piecers!'

  6. That quilt is so lovely,it reminds me of the crocheted "granny squares" blankets my Gran used to make.
    I was fainting at how little Mrs Mary charged, compared with here in England. The batting alone would be about £40.
    They have a very good job, well done everyone!

    1. Kath; I didn't think of Granny Squares but I now see the likeness.
      One of the married Miller daughters lives nearby and orders quilt batts in bulk. They are low-loft poly--probably the least expensive.
      I used a pounds to dollars calculator which gave me a figure of nearly $60 for a batting? Can that be correct?

  7. What an amazing story! You have such lovely and talented neighbours and their work is beautiful.x

    1. Yarrow; I gather the Amish girls are expected to learn quilting at an early age. I wonder what would happen if one of them decided she didn't want to quilt or didn't discover am aptitude for neat stitchery.
      I'm pleased to have opportunity to get acquainted with these ladies.
      Our niece Susan's work is always an inspiration.