Sunday, 25 March 2007
Having blogged about my Crossed Canoes vintage top rescue operation, I started thinking about it (hadn't looked at it since putting the frame away for Christmas) and wondering if it was as bad as I recalled. So I pinned it up to my dandy new quilt hanging system to take a pic.
I won this top at auction at the Paducah MAQS auction, an impulse buy that I hadn't previewed or anything, I was attracted by the blue (my favourite colour) and the scrappiness. On closer inspection, it was discovered to be one of those tops that are UFOs for a reason. I think the blue flowery fabric dates from the 1950s (because I saw something very similar in a dated 1950s quilt) and the scraps are likely from the past few decades. The scraps are string pieced onto a very coarse thick foundation (sacking?) and not particularly well stitched, with a very coarse thread (which I wouldn't be surprised if it was feedsack string or something similar). The flowering blue fabric is fine, but the solid blue is of thin poor quality, and several pieces have a flaw of missing threads running through them.
But the really bizarre design feature is that the blue background pieces were not cut to shape to fit around the stars. They are virtually rectangles that have been stitched along the sides of the star and of course this results in a significant amount of fullness along the edge. Undaunted by this, the unknown maker carefully matched the seams and stitched all the fullness to each other to create a top which just naturally wants to look like a 3-D topographical map. Having discovered the true nature of my purchase, it sat in my quilt closet for years until I started my UFO-buster last year. What do you do with a quilt where every block wants to be a curved-bowl shape? Well, in the end, I pinned it down to the carpet, pulling the vertical and cross seams straight, and using a square to square it up. I just let the gathers fall where they may, and measured in several places to get a notional width and height. I then pieced a border out of repro 30s orange fabrics (and it was difficult to choose a border colour - the blue is a faded and slightly yellow blue, and did not look good with any colour from my stash, but there is a lot of orange in the string stars so I decided to go with orange). I pinned the border pieces on and eased in the fullness, actually stitching in pleats in severe areas, to give the quilt a frame that would keep it square. I then sandwiched it up under tension and pinned in all the fullness, trying to keep the blocks square. The thickness of the foundation makes this a hard one to handquilt - I started by going diagonally criss-cross through all the stars, and am currently stitching a 1/4 frame around each blue piece. But I am literally gathering in the fullness as I stitch, particularly on some of the worst blocks, to tame this top down to something flat. I am also hoping that when it is finally done and I can wash it (and it isn't particularly clean) that the fabric will shrink up a bit and disguise the gathers. Just hope the foundation sacking doesn't fall apart. I don't know if I will do any further quilting once I finish the blue pieces - normally I don't like puffy areas on a quilt but to do anything further in the blue areas would entail stitching over actual gathers which wouldn't be nice.
I still like this piece but it will be no beauty when it is done. The size is just enough to be a topper on my queen-size bed so I do plan to use it (assuming it doesn't fall apart in the wash) and I look forward to crossing it off my UFO list!
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