Thursday, 22 March 2007

Vintage tops, knitting and comments

On various trips to America I have acquired an odd assortment of sad orphans (one was labelled as a 'cutter' quilt - shock, horror!) which I have patched up. The top in the picture is a vintage Spiderweb (30s or 40s?) which I bought from a dealer in Paducah in 2005, mainly because I found that completed quilts (even the sad ones) had risen out of my price range.

The Spiderweb was fairly well made, all hand sewn, and remarkably the maker doesn't seem to have used any foundation or templates. The 3/4" wide finished strings are all sewn with tiny 1/8" seams (note to self: do not let dh sit on this one) and the whole thing lies pretty flat although slightly hourglass shaped. I don't know why it is unfinished, perhaps because not all the green background fabric is the same shade, or because the fabric scraps used do not all 'gel' very well (notice how the red block right of centre stands out). Last night and today I added on the two borders. The first border of red polka dots is a close copy of a fabric in the quilt already (a feedsack print that I found on the internet), and I cut it to be 3/4" finished so it matches the strings in the quilt. The second border of plain navy acts as a frame - I have left it at about 3 inches wide for now but will likely trim it down after the top is quilted.

I am currently (well, it is near the hoop anyway) hand-quilting a Crossed Canoes top which I bought at the MAQS fundraising auction which has its own unique 3-D ruffly thing going on - I am not so much handquilting as gathering the fullness in from around each block, lol. I am driven by a need both to rescue this malformed top into something usable, and a guilty feeling that I need to justify the money I spent on it by finishing it. At the same time I sort of wonder why I am doing it - it is impossible to quilt with small stitches because of all the thickness of the foundation behind the stringed canoes so my quilting looks awful. This is not a quilt that I will want anyone to see, ever, except possibly in a photograph from a distance. Yet I am still doing it (well, I haven't given up on it anyhow and I am sure I will get back to it eventually).

I was pleased recently to get my hands on a book called "Worth Doing Twice: Creating Quilts from Old Tops" thinking "I might learn something", but it turns out that what these two authors do is to actually dismember the old top completely, right down to its component patches. They then discard any that aren't up to scratch (replacing with vintage fabric), recut for accuracy, and completely reassemble. So what you get is the old top but made completely new and perfect. Well, I'm sorry, but I love my sad little orphans and I think all the flaws are what makes them so charming. Someone, somewhere, 'designed' that top with all its flaws, and maybe it was because they couldn't sew very well, or they were really old or young, or they couldn't afford good fabric, or they were just making do. I handquilted another joyful top of alternating 30s triangles where the joining stitches were so big you could put your finger through between them - I'm guessing maybe a child sewed it. But my handquilting is holding it together and I treat it carefully, so it's fine. And the Spiderweb quilt will be too once it gets quilted (but still not letting dh on it, lol).

I've been feeling really inspired about knitting lately because I've just finished reading a really cool book called "It's my party and I'll knit if I want to" by Sharon Aris. It is basically about the young knitting scene in Australia and has chapters like "knitting as the new feminism", sort of like chick lit for crafters. Abandoning my sewing machine, I went out to the shed where I keep a lot of my knitting stash and had a lovely rummage around in boxes, emerging eventually with some Phildar Aviso (cotton yarn). I think I've got enough for a tank top so then I spent another enjoyable hour surfing free knitting patterns on the web. About 2:30 pm I realised that I was running out of time for any sewing, so that was when I whipped upstairs to add the last borders to the Spiderweb.

And finally, I was rather startled to find that my new blog has attracted some comments. It feels kind of strange, like someone reading your diary, but in a good way because they are all appreciative (and many of them are from Swooze, who obviously has waaaayyyy too much time on her hands, lol). Thank you, kind visitors, and I wish you all the best in your own crafty endeavours.


swooze said...

Hey I am just showing the love! I love your spiderweb top. The borders you added really fit in perfectly. Keep up the great job! And don't even start me on my knitting UFOs.

Carole said...

Nice orphan! I would like to own orphans but have not found any in my neck of the woods. As for e-bay, I'm weary of their definition of "antique". have found thimbles at fleamarkets. I do love an old thimble. I will say that they are rare. I pretty much like old sewing tools. I have an antique sock darner that I think is so cool. So many needle nicks! Thanks for sharing your quilt. Happy quilting!

Happy Valley Quilter said...

The spiderweb quilt is wonderful. I love those vintage colors!

Jennie said...

I admire you for loving these old beauties (yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder)and spending the time to finish them. The spider web is my favorite string pieced pattern. Good luck on your knitting.....

Greenmare said...

Oh I am so with you! some of the ladies in guild take old quilts apart and recut them and resew them, and I can't help thinking... WHY??? If you are going to do that, why not just make a NEW ONE YOURSELF???
I love yours, and I love that you are finishing these tops for the women who started them.

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