27 February, 2014

The Making of Homespun Star

The American Quilt Study Group ("AQSG") is a great organization for anyone interested in the study of antique quilts. In 2002 a biennial quilt study project was developed.  Participants are required to find an antique quilt that fits within the theme of the study, research and/or study some aspect of the quilt, and then make a quilt that is a replica of all or part of the original or a quilt inspired by the original quilt.  There have been several themes over the years.  I have not participated in all of them, but I did participate in the 2010 Study of 19th Century Star Quilts.  The title of my quilt is 'Homespun Star'.

Homespun Star, 2010, 36" x 36"
I shared information about the quilt study in an earlier post...which you can read here. Today I am sharing a little more about how the quilt was made.

My inspiration came from a quilt in the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art.  Very little is known about the origins of the Center Star quilt which prompted me to think about what aspect of the quilt I could study.  

Many early pieced quilts, including this one, were made of wool.  Having seen the coarseness of some early wholecloth quilts I decided to explore the making of wool fabrics; specifically genuine 'home spun' wool fabrics.  At that point I had no intention to actually make the fabrics for my quilt, I just wanted to explore the spinning process and get reacquainted with weaving.  Nothing more.

Center Star Quilt, 1815-1825, 100.5” x  98”. Original courtesy of the 
Museum of American Folk Art, New York, NY.

My research started by learning more about raising and sheering sheep.  Despite my pleas, Mr. Splinters insisted owning sheep of our own was not an option.  He was absolutely correct but that doesn't mean I still don't still give him a hard time about it.  He usually lets me have anything I want. The reality of living in farm country means there are actually plenty of sheep for me to observe without us actually having to house and feed them.  So, I have settled for this guy...
Star Sheep
As time for my quilt study project was limited, I also settled for purchasing wool roving already processed.  The wool I used came from Jacob sheep raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  If you are looking for really nice wool fibers or fabrics, contact Betty at Little Pine Traditional Crafts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  She is one of the most knowledgeable and generous shop owners I have ever had the pleasure of doing business with.
Jacob Sheep
My biggest challenge was learning to spin the wool into something that could be woven into fabric.  Knowing little about the difficulty of this process I purchased a spinning wheel at my local antique shop.  The price was reasonable and the wheel was in good condition given all I had read at the time about what to look for when purchasing an antique spinning wheel.
Canadian Production Wheel believed to have been made in Pennsylvania
What I didn't know was that the wheel I purchased has a wheel to flyer ratio of 16 or 18 to 1.  For a beginner that is really fast, but since I didn't know any different I persevered until all of the sudden one afternoon I got it.  After several hours of trial and error the wool roving was flowing through my fingers and twisting into the most beautiful wool yarn I had ever seen.  Since that day spinning has been almost as relaxing for me as quilting.

I used this new yarn I was able to create to make a scarf for Mr. Splinters.  I wear it more than he does though. I also tried plying the yarn into a two-ply yarn that I gave as a gift to a friend.  In return she knitted my wool yarn into a scarf which she gave as a gift to me.  I will treasure it forever.

Because I was enjoying the process so much, I decided to try to spin enough wool to make the front of my study quilt.  It was already July of 2009 and the quilt had to be finished to be included in an exhibit at AQSG's annual seminar in mid-October 2010.  Time was running out fast!

Once I thought I had enough single-ply wool yarn to create enough fabric to make the star in my quilt, it was time to tackle the dye process.  This step wasn't totally unfamiliar to me as I had played with various dye processes before.  For my quilt I needed two colors - a very dark (almost black) blue and a golden nutmeg color.  It was exciting to watch the fibers I had so patiently spun change into the colors I wanted them to be!

I kept spinning and dying until I had what I though would be enough single ply yarn to weave into fabric. Whether or not it could be used for my quilt I was not yet sure.  I had purchased wool fabric on hand just in case.

I started weaving the first wool in January 2010.

Weaving the very dark blue on a rigid heddle loom
Our house is small which does not leave much room for things like floor looms.  Instead I purchased a rigid heddle loom.  If I were doing it this way again I might double the density of the weft, but for my quilt study project this worked fine.  Yes, my loom was new, however, rigid heddle looms have been around for centuries so it is possible a home spinner in the early 19th century could have used one.
Spinning the chestnut on the rigid heddle loom
With barely enough fabric for the top competed, I was faced with the choice of what fabric to use on the back.  Somehow it didn't seem right to use the linen fabric I had already purchased.  
Instead, I spun more wool and tried my hand at spinning linen to create a blend of fibers that would have been available in the early 19th century.  I used a linen warp and a wool weft in their natural tones to create a genuine linsey-woolsey.
Of all of the fabrics I have created to date this one remains my favorite.
Weaving the linen/wool backing fabric

Once the fabrics were removed from the loom they were washed and felted which allowed the fibers to shrink up densely enough to create my quilt.  

In true make-do fashion, I pieced the top making the most of the wool fabrics I had created.  There was not enough of this precious commodity to concern myself with which way the warp was running in each piece, hence the directional variations in the background.  
I was please with how the quilt was turning out but I was running out of time.  The photo below was taken on September 13, 2010!

The basket in the photo with my spinning wheel contains wool I had planned to comb and lay out as batting.  I experimented with the process but in the interest of making the quilt study deadline I ended up layering the top and backing with purchased wool batting and basted them to prepare for machine quilting.  Yes, after all that hand work I machine quilted the quilt.  

Perhaps I should explain as I did when the quilt was on exhibit.  I love to quilt by hand or machine but at no time did I plan to finish this quilt with hand quilting.  The density of quilting I could get by machine, especially given the time I had to create the project, made it necessary to do the quilting by machine.  Not to mention the stability dense machine quilting added to my woven fibers.  The intended purpose of this quilt was to be exhibited which meant it would be hanging from a rod pocket attached to the back.
Furthermore, I think if quilt makers in the early 19th century had machines available to them they would have used them!
Remember, the quilt study encourages us to explore some aspect of the original quilt - it does not require we adhere to how the original quilt was made.

With the quilting complete I washed the quilt, blocked it and left  it to dry.  The label and sleeve were added and my project was finally complete.

I had so much fun making this quilt I have used more homespun and ready-made wool fabrics to make other quilts, including one I am working on now. 

Since 2011, when I have some time, I have been spinning more wool that I plan to use to make a bed-size wholecloth quilt. To better accommodate the making of my linsey-woolsy bed quilt, have plans to create a 'treadle room' in the upstairs of our barn.  It will be a cozy place for me to use, display and store my collection of 19th century treadles including my spinning wheel, several treadle sewing machines and a floor loom for weaving more wonderful fabrics.  And maybe even an overshot coverlet or two!

Creating my 2010 study quilt inspired me to think outside the box a bit more when I plan various quilt projects.  Most any fabric is fair game to make a quilt if it fits the project.  Even if I have to make it myself!

And, now that Mr. Splinters has returned to work - he just worked his first full week last week - I hope to have more time to work on various projects to share here.

Thanks to all who have expressed your well wishes for his recovery.  He is doing well and realizing that recovering from major surgery takes time.

Until next time, happy quilting!


20 February, 2014

Mistress Mary Quite Contrary...

Thinking about spring 
reminded me of this vintage crib spread
that I purchased last summer at an estate sale.

It is a printed and embroidered on linen
The spread measures 36" x 54".
It is one of four pieces that make up a complete set.

The other three pieces are a table square (36"), 

a dresser scarf (18" x 45"), 

and a pillow case (22" x 28").

 The embroidery is complete on all of the pieces.
 The pillowcase is the only piece that is not finished.

The edge of each piece is stamped
with design information.

The text reads:
"Columbia Design 2913 Complete Set" 
then lists the various pieces with their measurements
in a different order on each piece.

The lettering is hidden by hemming the raw edges.

The entire set was discovered in a trunk at an estate sale.
It was stored with other textiles.

 I believe the designs were pre-printed and
may have been sold as a kit
to be embellished with embroidery.

When I first discovered the crib spread at the sale
I thought it would be a fun piece to turn into a quilt.
As soon as I spotted the printed edge 
I searched through a pile of textiles 
looking for the other pieces.
It was such a surprise to find them all.
In reasonably good condition too!
They have some stains from age
that I believe will come out with a good soaking.
All of the pieces would also
benefit from a good pressing.
Otherwise they are in excellent condition.

The entire set will be going up for sale soon!

The sun is shining today
 and the temperatures are wonderfully warm
considering how cold it has been for so long.
We are being teased with the 
promise of spring.

Best wishes,

18 February, 2014

15 Years Later...

As promised!
I present the finished heart quilt 
I shared a couple of days ago.  

As I was outline quilting the little block I desperately wanted to pop a few tiny designs into the arms of the star.  I talked myself out of the idea but I just couldn't shake the feeling that that little block in the center needed something else in the quilt to be small.

The most obvious solution was to fill the heart with small vines of feathers instead of the feathered heart.  With about two-thirds of one side done, I sat back to take a look.  At that point wasn't sure I was on the right track.

I walked away for the evening.  

By the time I woke up this morning I had made up my mind to sit down with a cup of tea, the quilt and a seam ripper to remove the small feathered vines and go back to my original plan. That was until I took a look at the little quilt sitting by the machine. 

All of the sudden I saw the answer!

I finished the heart with the feathered heart and left the small vines so that the design is asymmetrical. 

I decided to turn this little quilt into a pillow and use the border fabric as a front-to-back binding.

The old house we lived in when I first started this project was decorated with a very patriotic theme.  The old house we live in now has (OK, 'will have' when it's done) a more muted color scheme.  It was a toss up whether or not to 'tea dye' the quilt or not but I went for it.

  I think it will be great to bring out for
 Valentine's Day or any patriotic holiday!

After 15 years this PIP has finally been 
checked of my 'to do' list.  Yippee!

Time to go through the PIP box 
to see what else I can get done quickly. 

Happy quilting,


16 February, 2014

Snow-filled Wonderland

This afternoon we headed out for groceries.  On the way out I picked up the camera so Mr. Splinters and I could take a few photographs of some of the beautiful scenery along the way.

Old Mill Building
Barn Quilt

Octoraro Creek (main branch) from the Pine Grove Covered Bridge

Amish teens on the way to a singing

White Rock Forge Covered Bridge

House along the Octoraro Creek (west branch)

Contributory to Octoraro Creek (west branch)

There are multiple routes we can choose from to get most anywhere we need to go and come home again.  These photos offer a small sampling of the beautiful snow-filled wonderland we currently live in.  How lucky are we?!

Best wishes,

15 February, 2014

The Quilting Plan...

In years past as a quilt teacher, I have shared the following method I often use to to design the quilting plan for my quilts.  I use this technique when I want to visualize the designs on the actual top - without drawing them on the fabric.  It occurred to me when someone asked me about it recently, that a few quilters in Blogland might be interested also.

My design ideas usually originate in the process of creating the quilt top.  To visually confirm what I have pictured in my mind, I start with clear plastic material that is typically used to cover table cloths, furniture, etc.  I believe most fabric and/or upholstery stores carry some form of the stuff.  I purchase mine locally at a country store that sells a little of everything including fabric goods.
Plastic sheeting comes in a variety of thicknesses.
The plastic sheeting comes on a roll and is usually available in multiple weights.  I choose one that is stiff enough not to drape when hanging on my design wall.

My sample is a small quilt top I made about 15+ years ago as the result of a guild challenge. This little quilt has been one of my PIPs (Projects in Progress) ever since.  Because it's February, I thought it would be fun to finally finish it.

Cover the quilt with the plastic. 
When designing the quilt plan for a small quilt 
cut the piece slightly larger than the top. 

My plan is to turn this little top into a pillow cover.
Secure the plastic to the top with safety pins.
The bent basting safety pins work best.
For a small project like this one, pinning at the corners is usually enough.
For a larger project I might also pin along the
inner border or at strategic points throughout the quilt.
When working on a large quilt it, 
sometimes it is easier to design the quilting in sections.
With the quilt hung on a design wall or laid out flat
each section can be covered with plastic to focus on independently.

 The PIP and the quilter will be able to determine the best method.

This heart needs feathers!
Use a marker that can be easily wiped off the plastic
during the design process and  start drawing. 
Just watch your sleeves!

I draw most of my designs freehand, but a template can be used
to trace a design onto the plastic over the quilt.

At this stage I am simply playing with what I think will fit the quilt.

Sometimes my hand does not draw what my mind tells it to!
If I draw something I don't like . . . I can wipe it off. 

A dry cloth will remove most markers at this stage.
  I keep doodling and drawing until I am happy with the general plan.
At this stage I don't draw every line or feather.
This is simply a visual plan. 

However, if desired, the designs can be drawn in complete detail
and then cut to serve as a template to mark the designs
directly onto the quilt top.

Please be sure to remove the quilt top before cutting the plastic!
(I had a student learn that lesson the hard way.)

 For this project the feathered heart on the pieced heart was a given.
I like the way the gracefulness of the feathers
contrasts with the simple piecing.

I wanted the background to compliment the simplicity of the little top.
I chose diagonal lines that surround the heart 
instead of a grid or stippling which were my other ideas.
I like the way the lines surround the heart
to keep it the focal point.

The outer border needed more feathers to bring consistency to the quilt.
I first thought I might do a simple feather border 
that traveled in one direction around the top.
Instead, I decided to have the feathers meet at the top and the bottom
like they do in the heart;
they will 'fly' in the opposite direction.

My design will is still under construction!
 With the quilt hung on my design wall I am able 
to step back to make sure I'm happy with the quilting plan.

The design plan is used as a reference.

After I remove the plastic from the quilt I often hang it on my 
design wall or the window that I quilt in front of
as a guide while I quilt.

My favorite seat in the house!

Please come back in a day or two to see the finished project fully quilted.

Gelukkig quilten!


14 February, 2014

St. Valentine's Day

Don't you just love old postcards?

 The messages and the graphics on the front are such an irresistible treat.

This post card was not originally sent for Valentine's Day, 
but Frank's note to Edna seems so appropriate ...
I couldn't resist sharing it today.

BTW, I checked the map, 
Dover Plains, NY and Wingdale, NY
are only 7 miles apart!

I wonder if they ever married!?!?!

Gelukkige Valentijnsdag!

13 February, 2014

Another Snow Day

It snowed at our house AGAIN today!

Brinkley and Abbie explored the new fallen white stuff
while we shoveled a path out of the house.

After shoveling snow
I finally got to spend a little time
in my studio.
After all, aren't snow days supposed to be
good days to spend sewing and/or quilting?

Only 33 days left until spring!

Happy quilting,


07 February, 2014

Daddy's Girls

My dear hubby (aka, Mr. Splinters) is a very lucky guy.  
He doesn't have 1 little girl.  
He doesn't have 2 little girls.  
He has 3 little girls
Well they really aren't little anymore . . . 
all 3 are in their 30's.

When Mr. Splinters was unexpectedly scheduled
for lung surgery in early November,
we desperately wanted all of our girls to be there.
We did not want to ask them to come, 
they have responsibilities and families that need them.
We wanted to remain optimistic that all would be well
and that we would be able to see all of them
somewhere other than the hospital.

But they came anyway.

Brie (aka 'My Quilt Study Buddy') lives with us.
She faces multiple challenges every day
as the result of a pre-natal stroke.
She has outdone every prognosis ever made by experts.

Brie loves and adores her sisters!

Brie collects t-shirts -
She wanted one like the nurses were wearing.
Stephanie, one very special nurse,
brought Brie a t-shirt of her very own.
Brie refused to wear anything else for two weeks.
Thankfully she let me wash it every night
while she was sleeping.
She still wears it regularly.

Kylie and Meagen live with each of their families 
a little over 300 miles away.
They did not tell us they were coming.
 They followed a nurse into Mr. Splinters hospital room
minutes before our scheduled conference call
the night before surgery.

I can't even explain how happy we were to see them.

Let me tell you . . . 
it made such a difference 
to all of us
to have them here.
.We are so proud of the women they have become.

Daddy's girls.