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An Old Favorite

My grandma turned 91 years old yesterday. In honor of that, today I thought I would re-run one of my all-time favorite blog posts, starring some special quilt blocks that she made. I think I had about 20 followers back when this post originally ran, so it’s new to most of you. : ) And besides, it’s taken on new relevance for me with the release of Vintage Quilt Revival in just a few months. I think this quilt was my first (conscious) effort at combining traditional and modern aesthetics. I’m not sure how successful it was on that front, especially compared to some of my more recent projects, but I think it’s worth a look back anyway, for many reasons! Enjoy!

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Eighty-eight years ago, a little girl was born on a farm in rural Michigan. She was the second-youngest of nine kids. As a child, this little girl watched her own mother, who was the daughter of German immigrants, sew and quilt—something that was done more out of necessity than enjoyment. It was the Great Depression, and those nine kids needed clothes and bedding. Buying a quilt from a store would have been an unthinkable luxury.

And so, the little girl learned to sew and quilt too, just like her mother before her. It was just one of the many chores that needed to be done around the farm. Yet another item on that list called “Women’s Work.”

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Three of my grandma’s original five blocks

The little girl grew up, moved away from the farm, and had five kids of her own. Money was still tight, but not quite like it used to be. She still sewed and quilted here and there, but the necessity of it declined steadily as the years passed. Quilting became something she did probably more out of habit than anything else. Around the time her youngest child moved out of the house, she hand-pieced five curved pinwheel quilt blocks. Then she put those blocks away and never sewed another. Why? Maybe it was her arthritis flaring up. Or maybe she suddenly realized she didn’t have to quilt anymore. What had once been a chore no longer was. Store-bought bedding was well within reach financially. And she finally had a little time to herself, to do exactly what she really wanted to do, probably for the first time in her adult life.

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Now the little girl obviously wasn’t a little girl anymore. In fact, she had three adult daughters of her own. And those grown-up girls had all learned to sew too. Sewing was, after all, still on that list of Women’s Work. Even if these girls didn’t end up needing this particular skill, they were still expected to have it. So they all dabbled in it a little.

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But the world was changing. It was becoming less expensive to buy bedding than it was to make a homemade quilt. Not only that, but that Women’s Work list? Was getting turned upside down. Women could do many things now that weren’t on that list. In fact, for a while, it became necessary for some women to put the list aside. They had to temporarily distance themselves from it, in order to prove they could do other things. One of the original little girl’s grown daughters now had a daughter of her own, and that little girl grew up thinking sewing was just about the most uncool thing imaginable. Seriously. She wouldn’t be caught dead sewing her own clothes, bags, or a quilt.

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But of course, as that third-generation girl got older, the world changed yet again. Sewing isn’t considered so dorky anymore—in fact, “handmade” is now experiencing a coolness renaissance. Maybe enough time has passed that we feel we can come back to these “women’s” crafts without sacrificing the advances we’ve made in less-traditional areas. Maybe we’re tired of made-in-China mass-produced comforters and clothing. Maybe all the other things that might keep us from quilting and sewing are now just less important than creative expression. In fact, for so many of us, it’s a wonderful way of expressing ourselves and getting a little more fulfillment in life (and we’re lucky that we have the time and money to spend on it).

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Whatever the reason, I have my mom and my grandma to thank for the fact that I am able to quilt today. I don’t do it out of necessity. I don’t do it because it’s culturally expected of me as a woman. I just do it because I love it. How lucky does that make me? (And all of us!) In a way, I can do it only because of the inroads women made in the previous two generations.

So I took those five blocks that my grandmother hand-pieced 40 years ago and made 12 more. My mom made a handful as well. And we put them all together into this quilt, which I’m calling the Three Generations Quilt. I tried to make it both a little vintage and a little modern. A little fun and a little serious. I tried to put a little piece of all three of us in there. I tried to make it representative of our stories: Three generations, and what sewing and quilting has meant to us, as women and as creative people.

Happy birthday, Grandma! Love you!

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Quilt Story

Psst … I’m being featured on Quilt Story today. How cool is that? Check it out!

Thank you to Heather and Megan from Quilt Story for the lovely compliments and such a flattering write-up!

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Three Generations

Eighty-eight years ago, a little girl was born on a farm in rural Michigan. She was the second-youngest of nine kids. As a child, this little girl watched her own mother, who was the daughter of German immigrants, sew and quilt—something she did far more out of necessity than enjoyment. It was the Great Depression, and those nine kids needed clothes and bedding. Buying a quilt from a store would have been an unthinkable luxury.

And so, the little girl learned to sew and quilt too, just like her mother before her. It was just one of the many chores that needed to be done around the farm. Yet another item on that list called “Women’s Work.”

Three of my grandma’s original five blocks

The little girl grew up, moved away from the farm, and had five kids of her own. Money was still tight, but not quite like it used to be. She still sewed and quilted here and there, but the necessity of it declined steadily as the years passed. Quilting became something she did more out of habit than anything else. Around the time her youngest child moved out of the house, she hand-pieced five curved pinwheel quilt blocks. Then she put those blocks away and never sewed another. Why? Maybe it was her arthritis flaring up. Or maybe she realized she didn’t have to quilt anymore. What had once been a chore no longer was. Store-bought bedding was well within reach financially. And she finally had a little time to herself, to do exactly what she really wanted to do, probably for the first time in her adult life.

Now the little girl obviously wasn’t a little girl anymore. In fact, she had three adult daughters of her own. And those grown-up girls had all learned to sew too. Sewing was, after all, still on that list of Women’s Work. Even if these girls didn’t end up needing this particular skill, they were still expected to have it. So they all dabbled in it a little.

But the world was changing. It was becoming less expensive to buy bedding than it was to make a homemade quilt. Not only that, but that Women’s Work list? Was getting turned upside down. Women could do many things now that weren’t on that list. In fact, for a while, it became necessary for some women to put the list aside. They had to temporarily distance themselves from it, in order to prove they could do other things. One of the original little girl’s grown daughters now had a daughter of her own, and that little girl grew up thinking sewing was just about the most uncool thing imaginable. Seriously. She wouldn’t be caught dead sewing her own clothes, bags, or a quilt.

But of course, as that third-generation girl got older, the world changed yet again. Sewing is no longer a life-sentence to dorkiness. In fact, “handmade” is experiencing a coolness renaissance. Maybe this third generation has decided that we’ve done enough to prove ourselves as women (or at least we’re done trying). Maybe we’re tired of made-in-China mass-produced comforters and clothing. Maybe all the other things that might keep us from quilting and sewing are now taking a back seat to creative expression. In fact, for so many of us, it’s a wonderful way of expressing ourselves and getting a little more fulfillment in life (and we’re lucky that we have the time and money to spend on it).

Whatever the reason, I have my mom and my grandma to thank for the fact that I am able to quilt today. I don’t do it out of necessity. I don’t do it because it’s expected of me as “women’s work.” I do it because I love it. How lucky does that make me? (And all of us!) In a way, I can do it only because of the inroads women made in the previous two generations.

So, a few months ago, I took those five blocks that my grandmother hand-pieced 40 years ago and made 12 more. My mom made a handful as well. And we put them all together into this quilt: The Three Generations Quilt. I tried to make it both a little vintage and a little modern. A little fun and a little serious. I tried to put a little piece of all three of us in there. I tried to make it representative of our stories: Three generations, and what sewing and quilting has meant to us, as women and as creative people.

Size: 86″ x 93″ (queen size – the picture above is on a king-size bed)
Design: Based on Red Pepper Quilt’s Pinwheel Baby Quilt
Fabric: The pinwheels are mostly vintage fabric (my grandma gave a lot of her unused fabric to me). I supplemented that with some of my own, mostly Katie Jump Rope by Denyse Schmidt. The centers are Moda Bella Solids Baby Yellow. The white pinwheel background is Kona White (although I think my grandma’s blocks used repurposed sheets). The borders around the blocks are from Darlene Zimmerman’s Paper Dolls line, and the sashing is Kona Tan.
Back: Paper Dolls again, plus I pieced blocks of scraps down one side.
Quilting: Stippling in white thread, done by the long-arm quilter at my local quilt shop.

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Whirlwind Weekend Wrap-Up … and Giveaway Winners

I had a crazy-fun and crazy-busy weekend–my 4-year-old and I took a quick trip to Washington, D.C., where we met my mom, sister, and grandma, who were all in from different cities around the country. My grandma has been wanting to see the World War II Memorial, so we decided to get together there. We had beautiful weather, an amazing suite at the Mayflower Hotel, delicious meals, and even better conversation among four generations of chatty ladies—so much fun! Then just a few hours after my plane landed on Sunday, it was my turn to host my book club. By the time I collapsed on the couch at about 10 p.m. Sunday night, I was wiped out.

So obviously I didn’t do any sewing this weekend. But I did finish my Three Generations quilt and present it to the other two generations involved. And yes, I knocked out that binding just in the nick of time! In fact, I had to finish sewing about three-quarters of a side on Friday night in D.C., while we sat around chatting in the hotel suite. Only problem is: With all the craziness of traveling with a 4-year-old, I forgot to take pictures of the completed quilt before it was shipped off to its permanent home! Can you believe it? Oops. But I think I can get my mom to take a picture of it, so hopefully I’ll have a “real” wrap-up on that quilt later in the week.

But enough about me: I’ve got giveaway winners to announce!

Winner #1, who gets the custom-designed blog header (or button, quilt label, whatever she wants) is … #17, Elizabeth D. of Don’t Call Me Betsy!! I love her blog, so I’m happy to be designing something for it! Yay, Elizabeth! : )

Winner #2, the winner of the Mod Charm fat quarters, is #72, Jane P.!

Congrats, ladies! I’ll send you both an email. And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who entered. Hosting a giveaway is so much fun, I hope I can do it again very soon. And I’ve added many great new blogs to my Reader, so I’m looking forward to hearing more from all of you!

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Locked and Loaded

Binding strips prepared: Check.DVR stocked with episodes of House Hunters, Top Chef Just Desserts, that Austin and Santino show, and other brainless television: Check.Bottle of pinot chilling in the fridge: Check.I am ready to hand-stitch some binding onto Three Generations. Just waiting on the call from the long-arm quilter that it’s ready to be picked up.P.S. Thanks to everybody who has already entered my giveaway! If you haven’t yet, don’t forget: There’s a custom blog header and some fab fat quarters on the line!

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Three Generations Top

My Three Generations quilt top is finally done and off to the long-arm quilter. What a relief!

My goal with this quilt was to create something that was both vintage and modern at the same time. I wanted it to look as though it owed something to every time period during which it was worked on. Basically, I wanted to span the last 50 years of quilting in this one single piece, and maybe use that to tell a story about the three women who worked on it. Lofty goals, and I’m not sure if I accomplished my mission, but you know? I love it just the same. Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It’s not exactly my usual style, but it’s not exactly not my usual style either, if that makes any sense. Plus, it’s colorful and fun and pretty and sentimental and will be a genuine family heirloom someday.

And it’s clear that all of my stops and starts and pauses to regroup and redesign were entirely worth it. So I guess working on this quilt has been a lesson in trusting my gut. When my gut says I need to change something, usually my brain screams, “No way! Keep going! Just finish the freaking thing!” (Sometimes I think my gut is a better quilter than my brain. My brain always just wants to hurry up and finish, so I can move on to the next project that it’s cooking up.) But this quilt shows that I’ll be happier in the long run if I put in the extra hours, effort, and thought to make it right. Brain and gut need to work together for optimal results. : )

The quilt store is estimating that the long-arm quilter will be finished with it around Oct. 19. I need it no later than Oct. 21 to be able to give it to my grandma when I see her in person. So there is a glimmer of hope that it will be completely done, when I wanted it to be! I’m prepared for disappointment, but encouraged nonetheless. I’ll post full details on this quilt (fabric, etc.) when I get it back from the quilter.

P.S. Check out my blog’s snazzy new look! I figured it was time to settle in and hang some pictures on the wall in this bloggy home of mine.

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On Deadline

Happy Monday! I had some pesky social obligations this weekend, not to mention a smallish volunteer project for my daughter’s preschool, so I didn’t get as much sewing done as I had hoped. Amongst all that, I did manage to make a little progress on my Three Generations quilt. Not much, but a little.

I’ll be seeing my grandma in less than three weeks. She lives very far away, so I probably won’t see her in person again until next summer. It would nice to have this quilt done in time to give it to her when I see her. And I’m not talking about “done,” as in “I have no idea how, when or even if it will be quilted, but isn’t this top pretty?” No, I’m talking done, as in really done—quilted, bound, the whole shebang. So tonight after the girlies are in bed, I might just barricade myself into my sewing room until I have a completed top and a back. If it’s 7 a.m. Tuesday and nobody’s heard from me, please tell my husband that the kids probably want oatmeal for breakfast.

And I have many more things in the works that I can’t wait to post about, as soon as I get a chance! I might even have a tutorial or two up my sleeve. So stay tuned.

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Circles

Today’s happiness: Perfect little yellow circles, ready to be appliqued onto my Three Generations quilt.

Twenty of ’em, ready to go! Aren’t they cute?

I used this tutorial to make my circles. (For what it’s worth, I don’t have the mylar circles mentioned in the tutorial. I made my own circle template out of sturdy cardboard and found that worked just fine.)

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A Brand New Plan

So I have completely scrapped my original plan for the Three Generations quilt.

I made some of the alternating blocks (as shown in my digital “sketch” in this post). Somehow those blocks were both too plain, and took away too much of the focus away from the vintage pinwheel blocks. I’m not sure how it was possible to do both at once, but leave it to me to come up with something that doesn’t work in any respect. : )

(In retrospect, I think my mistake was that I got lazy and only scanned in one of my grandma’s original blocks for my digital design plan. As a result, my “sketch” didn’t accurately reflect the colorfulness of the real quilt.)

This is a special project, so I want it to be right. And the star of the show has to be the curved pinwheel blocks, especially the original five that my grandma hand-pieced all those years ago. So once I decided to scrap my original plan, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to better showcase those blocks. I also did some looking around online, and eventually came across this quilt from Red Pepper Quilts:

Pinwheel Baby Quilt by Red Pepper Quilts

Now, those whirlygigs really pop. So, with this quilt as my inspiration, I decided to frame out all my pinwheels in the same blue retro print I bought for the back of this quilt, and then sash it all in some sort of neutral, probably beige. (I love the putty color used on the Red Pepper quilt, but my mom and grandma aren’t big fans of anything even close to gray.) Then I’m going to fill it out with a pieced border or two to make the whole thing queen-size, so that my grandma can use it on her bed if she wants.

Of course, the new design plan calls for more pinwheel blocks, so I spent my weekend making eight more colorful curved pinwheels. Now the big push is on to finish this top—I’ve set myself a deadline on this one, and I’m determined to meet it!

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A Little Retro

I picked out these prints as supplemental fabric for the Three Generations quilt. I especially like the daisy print. One of my grandma’s vintage blocks includes black—a color I probably wouldn’t have chosen to put into this quilt if it had been up to me. But when I found this red, white, and black daisy print, I realized that the black was going to be a great addition.

I also wanted to find fabric that would feel at home both in a vintage quilt or in a more modern one. I think both of these prints really could go in either direction.

Can’t wait to get going on this quilt! Even though my actual design plan still isn’t quite firmed up.