Over the year end holidays, I took an inventory of all of the UFO projects I had and realized, much to my surprise that I was in possession of more than 50 quilt tops that needed quilting. While this may surprise many, I have enjoyed surfing the web and found many beautiful vintage and antique quilt tops for sale over the years. I love to peruse ebay and see what may be close to auction end at a reasonable price. It is somewhat thrilling to place a bid and find out you are the winner! Many of the tops I have purchased are in beautiful condition when they arrive from all parts of the continent. Others are really ugly and in need of repair of seams or patches to replace fabrics that have either not held up over time or have stretched beyond repair. There is some what of a story behind each of these quilt tops treasures, and I try to find out any details I can about them from the seller whenever possible.
But I digress. So over the last 16 years or so, I have managed to collect a large assortment of quilt tops. Some are tops that I have made myself and just never gotten around to quilting. Others are quilt tops that I have purchased at auction, yard sales, in thrift shops or quilt shows. I decided that 2014 was going to be my year of finishes. I set myself a rather lofty goal to try and finish one of those UFO quilt tops each week. That would be 52 quilts in a year....
I had wanted to do this for years. I had even stocked up on good batting varieties and backing fabrics when they were on sale at shops around the mid-atlantic area. I loved finding a great partial bolt of fabric to be able to use it as backing for one of these treasures. I had even in some cases, gone ahead and pieced the backings and ironed them to ready for quilting when I had the time.
So let's step back in time by about 6 weeks. First week of January, 2014, the new year. I put the first of the 52 Weeks of Quilt on the machine, loaded the backing, batting (wool in this case) and the top. I chose a variegated cotton thread to use as well as an all over pantograph pattern that would be fast and easy, and look appropriate for this solid, geometric quilt top. It took me two afternoons to finish the quilting, remove it from the machine and trim it up ready for binding. I decided that a machine applied and finished binding was in order and I created a label. Day 3 and Week #1 quilt was done.
I then proceeded to quilt a customer quilt for her because she needed it to take to FLA for her home in the south. That quilt took a very long time to finish, as it was large and there was a lot of play in it which needed to be worked into the quilt. It turned out beautiful and the customer and her friends seemed pleased with the final result. I especially liked the custom borders I did on that quilt with large seashells in the corners and a custom designed wave pattern framing the borders nicely. I managed to not get a photo of the quilt before it was returned to the customer.
I then decided that I needed to load weekly challenge quilt #2 on the machine. It is a vintage, 1930's cotton feed sack spinning stars quilt. The fabrics are both prints and solids, joined together with unbleached muslin. The top was filthy, stained and yellowed. It needed a few minor repairs and fixes before I could quilt it. I did those in about an hour and decided 100% cotton batting and an unbleached muslin backing would be the appropriate finish with a cream colored cotton thread. I looked through my box of pantograph patterns and found one that I felt would enhance the quilt without overwhelming it. I set her up and started quilting. I finished quilting this beauty in a few hours. I pulled her off the machine, trimmed the borders and loaded #3.
Quilt #3 was a sister quilt to #2, purchased from the same place and probably made by the same quilter in the 1930s as well. There are two fabrics that are shared in these tops. The hand piecing was clearly done by the same hand. I decided to finish #3 in the same fashion as #2, cotton batting and thread, unbleached muslin backing, and a simple all over pantograph pattern. I had a fun pantograph that was a watery background with a jumping salmon fish that I thought would look fun with the sailboat quilt top. I loaded and locked it down, stitched it up a couple of hours and then set to adding the binding.
I decided the binding should be a simple bias binding made from the same muslin as the backgrounds. I created enough for both quilts and applied them the front of each quilt by machine. I spent the next two evenings stitching the binding down to the back and adding labels which document these two vintage beauties.
Once they were completed, I decided they were both badly in need of a thorough cleaning to remove dirt, age spots, mildew stains, etc.
I filled the washing machine full of very warm water, mixed in Orvis paste soap, Restoration powder, a half cup of washing soda and 3/4 cup of Clorox two. I ensured these were well dissolved, added in the quilts and agitated them for 5 minutes. Then I turned off the machine and allowed them to soak in the soapy solution for the next 6 hours. I did add a dye catcher sheet, just in case any of the fabrics decided to run. Periodically throughout the day, I turned the machine on and allowed them to agitate some more. Three rinses later, the quilts were ready to dry. I used three rinses to ensure the quilts were free of chemicals and soap and clean.
35 minutes in a medium dryer and I was pleased to see my new, vintage quilts. They were so clean and they had a beautiful softness to them that only vintage linens can provide. The cotton fabrics, batting and thread made them delicious to the touch. Mike and I have been enjoying them on the couch every evening. In fact, I am composing this blog under my own sailboat quilt.
Quilt #4 was a simple rectangular quilt top made from decorator samples. I needed to restitch the horizontal rows before I quilted it, but it was small and that went quickly. I chose a modern pattern to quilt it, as the fabrics are very busy in this little gem. My dogs have adopted it as their napping quilt on the couch and who can blame them? Its been a really cold, snowy January.
Stay tuned for more 52 week challenge quilts in upcoming posts.