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Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I am currently in Louisiana, visiting my father, who has just been widowed after 45+ years of marriage.

My stepmother was from down here (the deeeeeep south!) and she had four children of her own when she married my daddy, so I have two step-sisters and two step-brothers.

Well, around 35years ago Mother made me a quilt. I was in my twenties (and that's all I'm saying about that!). She and Daddy had come up to Canada for a visit, and they brought with them one of Mother' neices, a lady called Fay. Mother had the quilt all sandwiched when they got in the car and set out to drive to Montreal, a three-day trip. (Note: it might take a normal person five days, but Daddy was a bit of a maniac behind the wheel in his heyday!)

We'll, Mother sat in the co-pilot's seat, and Fay sat behind her, and each of them took a needle and started working furiously on that thing for the duration of the drive to Montreal.

And they did it! By the time they pulled up in our driveway, they had hand-quilted a queen-size quilt!
Sure, some of the stitches were a tad large, and not every seam was was a pattern if hexagons made into diamond shapes. Some of the little hexagonal inside seams didn't get done, but it has held together for all these years, despite some rude treatment by yours truly...

See I knew absolutely nothing about quilts at the time I received this wonderful gift. It went through the washer, and yes, I am sorry to report, it went through the dryer as well. Till about a decade ago, when I began quilting and I suddenly realized the value of what I had. Then I started treating it with a tad more respect!

Well, about three years ago my step-sister asked me to come down south and visit my daddy and my stepmother while they both still knew who I was. See, they both had either Alzheimer's or dementia, and their faculties were slipping away visibly. While I was down on that visit I told my step-sister the story of the quilt, and she couldn't hold back her tears, because apparently, though my stepmother sewed her heart out on her machine every day of her life till she got sick, she never made a quilt for her children.

We'll, I started looking at that quilt differently after that. See, being a child of divorced parents, I know how the parent you don't live with becomes kind of super human in a child's eyes, having no discernable faults in the eyes of the child. And the same process happens to parents. So, because I was the child that was far away, I kind if became set on a bit of a pedestal. I'm very much afraid that my father and stepmother probably talked a lot about me to their children. It was more than likely a case of "Debbie-this" and "Debbie-that" for all the long years they lived in Louisiana. And that is why I received the gift of a quilt when none of them did.

We'll, my stepmother passed away last Sunday morning, and the family flew me down so I could be here with them and with my daddy, who is quite far gone in Alzheimer's now. And I brought the quilt down with me and gave it to the sister who has been caring for them in her home, who had wept that her Momma had never got around to making any of them a quilt.

Of course she cried again when I gave it to her, but this story doesn't stop there.

At Momma's funeral I met up again with Fay, and we clung on to each other for dear life and wept our hearts out. I don't know anything about Fay' life before or since that one summer I met her, but being a woman over 50 I could see she had endured some hardship in her life. We clung to each other, two women connected by the life of one woman, and by the quilt Fay had helped her make for me.

And seeing her, and helping care for my dad, and just being around my step-family, has been just like tying a knot and burying the threads of a quilt. It is the end of a story, the finishing-up of one pattern, the securing in place of bonds.

If I can, I'll post a picture if the quilt before my day on the blogathon, but I'm doing this from my cellphone and it's pretty hard! I hope you all enjoy the blogs that link us as quilters together, and more importantly, enjoy making those quilts for the people you love, and who love you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Batman Oven-Mitt Covers

As you can see, the Batman oven-mitt covers got a great reaction! So here's the palm side...
and here's the back of the hand side...
Notice the grey drop-shadow on the text! So, all this is machine appliqué, done in satin stitching. Yes, I used fray-stop on everything, but a little word of warning about Fray-stop...

It can change the color of your fabric slightly. Even if your fabric has been previously washed. Now, since these are to be used on oven mitts, they're likely to get washed frequently and vigorously, so believe me, I laid the Fray-stop on pretty thick! I poured some Fray-stop into a small container and used a Q-tip to apply it to the edges of the fabric.

If you're going to use Fray-stop, I'd recommend laying your piece down on a scrap fabric, lighter than your piece, or else using a teflon pressing sheet as the background while you apply it.

You can hasten the drying time with a dry iron - I'm REALLY impatient!

My only regret is that I did "Pow!" on both mitts. Half way through the second one I thought, gee, I should have done "Bam!"

Oh well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

And here's the Venn Diagram...

First, I wish to remind all readers that I did not design this. The Owner is a fellow by the name of Crispian Jago and the image is from his blog,

So the pieces started out as squares or rectangles with the shape the words had to fit into drawn in disappearing marker. Then I used the text function on my sewing machine to sew the words onto each piece, and finally trimmed to within 1/8 of an inch of the outline. I used temporary spray adhesive to stick the pieces down to the background and outlined each piece in a plain stitch, after which I went over them with two rows of satin stitching.

On the front, in the bottom right-hand corner, you can make out Crispian Jago's name and blog site. I didn't do it in a bright color, but it's visible.

I have only to make a label for the back and a sleeve, and then it's ready to be given to the lady at work who said she wished she had a copy of it.

Perhaps a bit over the top - I could have just printed it out for her! But I bought that particular sewing machine because it could do letters, and it's been ages since I've done any raw-edge appliqué.

My daughter was quick to ask me why some of the words showed on the back and some didn't. Of course, that's because I didn't have my wits about me after I'd appliquéd the diagram onto the dark blue background. I was in such a hurry to sandwich it and do the satin stitching I forgot to do the words on the blue background until after I had sandwiched it!

It'll never win any awards, but I hope it helps my friend remember me as she starts a new phase of her life.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

So many quilts, so little time!

Here I am at my home-made quilting frame from my previous post.It worked, for basting purposes. For quilting though, it was a bit low - I prefer the quilt close to me. I found, even for basting, that I was bending down a lot. That increases my "hump" and my tendency to migraines. So if I were to do this, I'd need to raise the height somehow. In it's current higglety-pigglety configuration, that would be a tad unstable - balancing tv dinner tables on large books, etc. So for now it's back to the hand frame. Any day now, I hope to start the actual quilting...but read on...

I've been trying out a very modern project for an acquaintance who is leaving my workplace soon. She had seen a printout I had stuck on my wall called " The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense." She looked it over and said "I wish I had that!"

So I started to make it. My machine has alphanumeric stitches, and I usually use it to make quilt labels. This calls for a lot of words on fabric, but I've been longing to start doing the types of quilting I did when I first started - thread painting, words on fabric, raw-edge quilting... I saw this as a "back to my roots" project after so many years in my guild learning the (necessary, but boring!) basics.

See the link above to get to the site.
Well, it's a LOT of words! And the machine does do two sizes of letters, but it's an extra button to push to get the smaller ones, so I'm doing my best to make it all fit in the normal text size. I'm 3/4 of the way through my first attempt. I have one month before she leaves the university, so I'm hopeful of getting it done it time.

Then there's a belated birthday present for my one-day-to-be-son-in-law. I've got as far as buying the fabric, washing and ironing it, and printing the pattern. But he's going to be around longer than my friend from work, so I kinda bounced his gift a little lower in the line. No picture for this one - it's a secret! Shh!

And yesterday I received the news that a very, very dear friend of mine will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation this month. I had been working on a design for a quilt for him, and I fear I may need to really put on a burst of speed to get it done in time for him to have the use of it.

So who knows when I'll be able to do my dear Cousin's quilt? There seem to be an awful lot of projects, with shorter and shorter deadlines!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Uniquely Modern Problem

There is no part of the quilting process that could be described as "fast." I keep wondering why I'm doing it, at each separate stage. Picking a pattern, getting fabrics, washing and pressing said fabrics, cutting, sewing the blocks, squaring the blocks, sewing the rows...finally one day you have a quilt top ready for sandwiching.

Sandwiching is my least favourite part of the process. Get a big room, move several tables together, lay down the backing and tape it down with masking tape. Then lay the batting down and tape it. Then lay the top down and tape it. Then either crawl onto the table or lean waaaaaaay over to the center and start basting. If you're alone and its a queen-size, around six to eight hours later your quilt will be basted. And you will have a near-broken back, near-crushed neck vertebrae, aching arms and legs, and a very sore finger that's been "stabbed" about a thousand times unless you've been using a spoon to lift the pointy end of the needle all day.

And then you get to pull off all the masking tape and move the tables back to their original position, and limp home as best you can, one sandwiched quilt under your arms that, quite frankly, by this time, you'd be overjoyed to never see again.

Every time I finish a top and have to get ready to sandwich it I keep saying "there HAS to be a better way!"

When we did the "quilting bee," I rolled the quilt onto 2 2x4s so we could start our quilting from the center and work the length of the quilt and then move gradually along the rows.

So I asked a friend of mine if she thought I might do the same thing in order to sandwich the quilt. She is a longarm quilter, and she said she often bastes quilts for hand quilters. And of course, for a longarm machine you start at one end of the quilt and work your way down to the other end. This is what she does when basting, just putting parallel lines the length of the quilt.

It's a far cry from the basting from the center out to the edges, up & down, across, and diagonally, but I needed a way I could do this at home. And, not having 12 feet in both directions to work with, or several tables to put together, I decided to give it a try. If it worked, it means I can take all week to baste it, giving my back and neck a rest, instead of trying to get it all done in one day.

So I began in the guest room, laying the backing, batting, and quilt top out to make sure the back and batting extended beyond the edge of the quilt. Tricky, since all three layers are much larger than my guest room bed...but I managed.

So here's the 2x4 with the backing attached, the batting going on, and the quilt top on top of all.

A quick trip round the other end of the bed to check that everything is dropping and that the backing extends beyond the quilt top.

I brought it all out into the living room and supported the 2x4 on some small tables. This is the first line of basting - I was trying out letting the end of the quilt just drop to the floor.
That didn't work though - because there needs to be some kind of tension gently pulling the backing taut.

So in the end, I rolled the loose end of the backing onto another 2x4 and rolled it up till it was taut. I took a third 2x4 and rolled up the batting/quilt top together.

There's a third table under there, supporting both 2x4s. Now I can adjust the tension on the backing separately from the batting/quilt top. It's working really well. Oh, and I hold the 2x4s where I'm basting apart by attaching clamps to the tables that keep the wood separated.

And of course, my cat Bijou is sleeping on it now. So, aside from cat hairs, and the occasional splinter, I think I might have found a solution.

I kept wondering, through all this process, how they did it in the "olden days." It took me a while, but I finally realized they didn't have this problem in the olden days. In the olden days, they didn't have our big beds! Real Kings and Real Queens slept in beds we would call "double" now, or even "standard." Our Queen-sized and King-sized beds are huge by comparison! So this is actually a uniquely modern difficulty. You didn't used to need 12x12 feet of floor space or table space to sandwich a quilt. Your average dining room table was big enough.

I do wonder how the Amish quilters handle it now though, if they've worked something out. Though, there seems to be an ample supply of helping hands there, unlike here, where my occasional pleas for sandwiching assistance are met with stony silence...

But in the absence of a large extended family, or cavernous rooms, I'm hoping this is a viable way for an old lady to get her quilt sandwiched without breaking her neck and back in the process!