Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sometimes It Takes a Lifetime (or Two)

For quilters, it's both fun and horrifying to read about quilts that took years, decades, and sometimes even centuries to finish. My worst fear is that my kids and grandkids will have to finish my UFOs.* (OK, not my WORST fear, but it does give me pause). Local newspapers, on the other hand, love these stories. For example, an Indiana paper recently announced that it took one family 138 years to finish a spectacular red-white-and-black quilt  (scroll to the middle of that page to see it, not the top photo.)

I have finished other women's quilts, but we didn't have quilters in my family, so they were almost always strangers'. For example, this blue-and-white quilt is from flea-market find: a large bag of fan-shaped pieces, with a postcard template marked 1936.
I blogged about it  here.

Below is another quilt I made from a stranger's pieces.

It started when I bought an old metal biscuit-tin full of flower petals, at a flea market. The vendor told me that he purchased them from a senior citizen named Mrs. Blackhorne, (no "t"), who lived in southwest Los Angeles - and that it was her grandmother, an African-American woman from the American South, who made them. I tried to track down a Los Angeles Blackhorne family, to no avail. (If you know them, tell me!)

Most of the petal edges were carefully turned under and basted in place with even, white stitches. You can see the stitching around the lower edges of the calico brown and green petals:

There was only one sample block in the tin  For that block, the quilter used identical colors for the inner and outer petals, and placed it on a white muslin background.

I made a few changes - I put the pieces on a red background, and mixed up the petal colors on each flower. This became my  travel handwork project. For a couple of years, I brought these blocks everywhere. There weren't enough petals or leaves for all the flowers, so I used modern fabric for some.

Once stitched to a backing, I initially began removing the basting stitches from the petals. Then I started to think about how beautiful those basting stitches were. So after that, I left them in.

I am always hypnotized by plaids, especially when they're cut off-kilter. So I made an impulse decision to use a vintage plaid for sashing. 

And then - because whenever I see red fabric, I automatically think of mother-of-pearl white buttons (channeling my inner Northwest Coast Indian) - I added buttons and hand-quilted around each pansy. 

I hope the Mrs. Blackhorne - or whoever carefully cut and based these pieces, wherever she may be now - likes what I did with her beautiful petals! 

* UFO = Unfinished Objects

18 comments:

  1. I love how you finished these with a contemporary flair. It works so well. I would be pleased if I were either of these piecers! I never thought about someone finishing my UFOs….I assume they will be dumpster fodder.

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    1. Thanks, Becky. Dumpster, ohhh noooo! I'd better finish them myself!!!

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  2. You did a stellar job with both of these quilts. I'm sure the original quilters would have been very pleased.

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  3. WONDERFUL! I am accumulating a larger pile of 'tops' every week. Once the top is made, I have solved the problems of design. I am now hanging these 'top' and other UFO's on skirt hangers in my soon to be finished studio. Hopefully because they will be in site, I will finally finish them. I have my first quilt in a closet waiting for binding. . . . on and on it goes . . .

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    1. Skirt hangers! I like that idea!
      I would also like to find a fast way to baste that doesn't involve spray adhesive.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Ann, good luck with getting through your quilts!

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  4. I really enjoyed seeing how you finished a quilt that was started by someone who could or would not finish it herself. I, too, have finished quilts that would probably have languished in some attic or been dumped in the trash. Congratulations! Gladys

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    1. Thanks so much, Gladys! It's good to think that I've rescued something from the dumpster! (Though it does make me want to start dumpster diving!?)

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  5. Wow. That seems like it would be really hard. It would be like finishing someone's story. I don't think I could do it.

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    1. I found it easier than finishing my own. I took risks with it that I might not have taken with my own. It's like a group project! Except my partners are probably dead. Which means they might well be watching me! Which is entertaining to think about as you work on it....

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  6. These 2 quilts came out very nicely. AND, I'm so glad to see you getting back into quilting. Maybe soon, you'll do some more Judaic designs??
    Joan in GA

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan. I did do a couple of Chanukah things recently (the crocheted turkey menorah, and the multi-strip Judaic fabric tablecloth/wallhanging thingie - if you look back in time you'll find them from November and December). Now I'm starting to think about Pesach. So much matzoh fabric, so little time!

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  7. Love the pansies on red and the buttons! Kudos

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  8. both of these are so contemporary. They both have your mark on them, and they are all the more special for the connection between you and the quilter who had a dream for them, but left ufo's like we will for the next generation.
    I would sure be happy to have either of them. I'm even thinking that fan quilt done with two color blocks is worth doing for myself. I would probably not have thought of the two color block idea.
    LeeAnna Paylor
    lapaylor.blogspot.com

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  9. LeAnna, thank you so much for your lovely comment!
    I don't know if I would have thought of the two color thing if I had had more of that blue fabric. I had just enough to make half the blocks!
    Much appreciated, and send pix if you ever do the alternating block thing!

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  10. So lovely! :)
    Greetings from Finland!
    Hugs, Ulla

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    1. Ulla, thanks so much, I'm excited to hear from you in Finland!

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