Boott Cotton Mills

Boott Cotton Mills (Photo credit: kittell)

I never stopped thinking of the little spinning wheel I lost as a child. Spinning was so far out of my reach I began to wonder if I could be  part of the quilting revival during the 1970’s. I knew no one who made quilts and books available then, scarce. Think…

I lived near a ‘working’ cotton mill on the Merrimac River in Lowell, Massachusetts.  The now Museum featured a quilting and textile exhibit.  Smitten and intimidated by the skill necessary to create such works of art, the distance between me, and these creative women seemed insurmountable. As a young mother, the highly detailed, skillfully crafted quilts were out of my league.

Why? I couldn’t sew – oh, I THOUGHT I couldn’t sew! My Mother, skilled enough to sew some of our clothes and household articles when I was a kid. I’m the kind of gal who says, “If she can do it, I’m sure I can do it!”  In this instance, my confidence waned.

I admired quilts and considered a comforter, which is a tied, layered blanket, sans quilting.  Comforters were functional, frugal and prudent articles for everyday use.

Much later in my adult life, I became a children’s entertainer. I realized the cost of costumes; I had to learn to sew and sew I did. Here’s one of the costumes I made for Doodah. (alter-ego)  I chose all vintage fabrics for this early costume, which I later sold to a professional costumer.  I sewed a themed costume for every occasion, and finally, I realized that I could quilt.

Doodah in one of her first custom costumes, 1990’s

My first two quilts were made with damaged antique or old tops, which contained unsuitable or inappropriate fabrics, poor designs, mismatched or puckered seams. With all the work that went into them originally, the greatest honor I could give the quilt maker, was to bring them to life.

The first quilt I made, I traded for a miniature horse. It was a LeMoyne Star in red, black and whites and contained many ‘mourning’ fabrics.  I didn’t photograph it, unfortunately, but I still own the second, a nine patch.  Here’s the finished quilt, a large lap sized quilt, and a picture of my most favorite piece of fabric in the quilt.

antique cattail fabric. LOVE.

Second quilt, containing cattail fabric

The next quilt, I hand quilted and is a wall piece,some fabrics from old tops, and some from antique half square blocks, Many of the fabrics were nearly shattered, and I supported them in this small project with interfacing.  In keeping with the frugal nature of the early quilt makers, I allowed a red cotton eyelet in the lower left, and used a fragile piece, which shattered in the last wash.

Overall piece of mostly antique fabrics. Leymoyne Star pattern with alternating blocks.

Closer, showing the eyelet red piece, which my youngest daughter chose, from several odd pieces, to add in.

One block, showing detail of antique fabrics.

I believe that I’m honoring the woman, and can feel the spirit of her within the warp and weft of the old fabrics and threads.  I’ve reworked many quilts, salvaged tops with holes and found amazing surprises within damaged quilts.
With I have an extensive collection of antique and vintage fabrics, and my next “old” quilt project will be all triangles.

I’ve given away most of my quilts, and for them, I use new fabrics. New fabrics are a pleasure to sew on and the variety endless.  Here’s the last quilt I made for a family member – her request was pink and black –

Yolanda’s quilt.

I like to make the back of the quilts somewhat interesting, making them reversible.  I don’t measure, I just find the scraps or pieces, sew them together, iron and put the quilt sandwich all together – then cut the backing as needed.

pieced back making Yolanda’s quilt reversible.

close up of the back and quilting, with hearts

I used a black binding for her quilt, and here’s a close up of one of the corners.

corner of Yolanda’s quilt

My husband is 6’4″ tall, and I wanted to make a big quilt for our bed.  I chose a very old pattern, Flying Swallows.  The flying swallows is usually hand pieced, but I found a way, through Harriet Hargrave’s book, to machine piece the blocks.  I threw out at least twenty blocks before I got it right. The quilt ended up as a medallion type, with borders upon borders, bringing it to king size. I’d had enough of that block…

Flying Swallows block, using Asian themed fabrics

all together

To date fabrics, Ellen Trestain has one or two good reference books with photos, so you can put what you have against her pictures.  It’s well worth having if you’re studying textiles and fabrics.