The Lily Pad: The Journal of White Lotus Quilting

Vintage… sort of

Posted in Atomic quilting,Quilts,vintage by whitelotusquilting on March 6, 2009
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Here’s another quilt story.  This one is about a vintage quilt top that my cousin Kris and I found in an antique store in Silverdale, Washington.  She admired this pretty little red and white top, which was in very good shape, and for a good price, too.  We didn’t buy it that day, but after she went home to the East Coast, I went back to the store and picked it up, intending it to be a birthday present in November 2008 — as a finished quilt for her newly redecorated home. Well it turned into a late Christmas present for 2008.  Not exactly on time but that hardly matters.  Any finished quilt is a good quilt!  (I feel that way about stories and writing too).

My cousin loves vintage textiles of all kinds but also favors the bright bold contemporary prints that I love as well.  So I turned her vintage beauty into two quilts.  One side has the vintage top; the other, 10 inch squares of everything red, white and black I could find in my studio.  Well, there were a few new fabrics in there as well. 🙂  If she gets tired of one side, she can flip it over and use the second side.

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Then it got a low-loft cotton batting, and bowing to tradition, an all-over feather pattern with a sort of modern meander.  The thread is a pale pink; something that wouldn’t show up as too much contrast on the red, and not pop out on the white, either.  And of course, I had to add a black and white polka dot binding.  Just because. Kris has it on her purple velvet couch and promises to send a picture.  I can’t wait to see it in its home environment!

Kris red and white vintage quilt

Kris' red and white vintage quilt

If you look at the top closely you’ll see that some of the nine-patches have 5 red squares, and some have 4, though there doesn’t appear to be any particular pattern to it.  One theory is that the quiltmaker ran out of red fabric before she finished.  That makes me even happier to think that the quilt wound up being finished, and being used and cherished in a loving home.  A dream come true for any quiltmaker.

close-up of feather quilting

close-up of feather quilting

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

So there’s lots of ways to make a quilt, or even to finish one.  You can stay within certain fabric categories (Civil War repros, 1930’s repros, Asian, batiks, contemporary, blenders, kids’ prints, etc.) or whirl them all together if that pleases you.  Personally I like the term ‘riotously scrappy’ from Bonnie Hunter; why use 3 fabrics when you can use 30?  Or 300?

That said, there is a certain appeal to this sort of vintage top, worked in only two colors.  Simple and plain as they come.  An austere beauty in its simplicity.  I might never make this kind of quilt top, but I can certainly appreciate it.  If nothing else for its ability to be a backdrop for bolder fabrics!

Pineapple Blossom

Posted in Quilts,White Lotus Quilting studio by whitelotusquilting on January 23, 2009
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In one of our last guild meetings (Kitsap Quilters Guild), the speaker said that every quilt has a story, a reason for its existence.  I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes it is the story that is the most compelling part of the quilt .  Maybe that’s why I love vintage tops so much.  I always wonder about who made the quilt and why, who they had in mind to give it to, and whether I can quilt it the way they pictured it finished.

So this is the story behind one of my recent quilts.  I quilt a lot for clients so it doesn’t give me much opportunity to finish my own quilts, and then it’s even rarer for one of my quilts to stay in the studio long enough for me to take pictures and post it to the flickr gallery.

But this one I did take pictures of.  It’s a birthday quilt I did for my dad, who has always held a special place in my heart.  When he visited a few years ago, he got to see my studio and all the sewing machines (he even fixed the lights on my longarm, which no one else had been able to do!).  He also saw my fabric collection, which is at its best eclectic.  I favor wild contemporary prints, the larger scale the better, the bolder, deeper colors the better.  But I also love black and whites, polka dots, stripes, great geometrics, and love love love those gorgeous Kona Bay Asian prints.  And of course batiks.  There aren’t a lot of solids in my stash (but there is a bucket labeled ‘solidish’).  Not a lot of fabrics to rest your eyes on and compose yourself before wildly dashing off to the next jolt of color.

My dad has more conservative tastes.  When I asked him about a quilt for his room, he said he would just like it to be blue.  Blue as it turns out is one of my very favorites (okay it’s the colors between green and blue that really float my boat, gotta love those turquoises!) so I have three buckets of blue, so we were good to go on that front.  But I thought blue by itself might be boring so it needed some yellow.  Yellow and blue is a classic quilt color choice, yes?  It could look kind of traditional if I tried.  Hard enough.

I went off to collect some yellow (not having even a quarter bucket full) and picked a pattern by Bonnie Hunter at  Her Pineapple Blossom is lovely and she has some fantastic stitching shortcuts that make the sewing fun and breezy (plus you get bonus triangles!!!).  It’s a sort of half-pineapple, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s a lopped off log cabin with triangles on the corners (in this case, on opposing corners only, not all four corners).  Those triangles get you a secondary diagonal pattern which just plain old rocks!  I left off the sashing to let the diagonals meet.

Instead of just using any old blues, I used lights and darks, alternating on either side of the block.  So then there are pronounced diamonds of light and dark blues set off by the yellow diagonals.  It came out a bit brighter than I intended, but it felt like the quilt was infused with liquid sunshine, and it made me smile.

Dads birthday quilt 2008

Quiltville's Pineapple Blossom pattern done in blue and yellow

For the back I picked 10 inch squares of alternating lights and darks in blues.  I didn’t have enough of the one fabric I wanted to use for the back so piecing it out of the three buckets of blue worked a lot better.  One of my favorite fabric designers is Martha Negley and her cone flower print (in yellow flowers on a blue background) I just loved, but only had a yard and half, so I matched the colors of that for the other fabrics.  Cone flowers are known for their healing abilities and since my dad had been struggling with his health, I thought this might be a nice thing to add to his quilt.  Plus I figured if the front was too bold and graphic for his tastes, he could turn the quilt over on the back and use that side instead :).  My stepmother I knew would love both sides so she’d be happy with whatever I made.

10 inch squares on back of pineapple blossom quilt

10 inch squares on back of pineapple blossom quilt

The bonus triangles you get from this pattern are a blast and I used them in the border, and still have a stash for my next Frankenquilt (quilts made of cast off spare parts from other quilts).  I found a New York print with the Statue of Liberty and bound the quilt with that (and use it for a narrow border as well).  I quilted it with a celestial moon and sun pantograph pattern on my longarm (pattern is Celestial Stitches by Kim Darwin, available here from Longarm University) and then showed it off at the guild meeting.  Even though it was past my dad’s birthday, I felt an urgency to finish and send it to him that I hadn’t expected.

Celestial stitches pantograph (from Longarm University)

quilting close up of pineapple blossom front

Before I could even get it in the mail, I got the call.  My dad’s brother had died quite suddenly, by suicide.  He had a construction company and the economy had killed off his business, and he couldn’t face the consequences.  My dad was devastated and from across the country there was very little I could do to comfort him.  So I sent him his quilt.

When he received it, he just loved it, wild fabrics and all.  He loves the colors and pattern, and especially loves the fact that I made it for him.  He said that it makes him feel much closer to me, to have the quilt in his house, and that he really appreciate the time and care, especially when things were so difficult for him at that time.

So one quilt.  One story.  Many families.  It’s why we do what we do.