Amish Rainbow Balloon Quilt

Quilt Story 4: Amish Rainbow Balloon, 1995

After taking several quilt classes, I was ready to create quilts on my own again. My youngest son, then age 2, was a big fan of both rainbows and hot air balloons. When I saw this fabric at Fabric Depot (my main source of fabric until it closed just last year), I bought a few yards and let it take me on another quilt journey.

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Rainbow Balloon, 36″ x 42″, Margaret Klute, 1995

I found instructions for the Sunshine and Shadow quilt in a library book about Amish quilts. I decided to make the stripes as rainbows, and spent a good long time choosing my rainbow fabrics. I assembled the six-stripe strata, then cut the triangles and sewed them to the background balloon fabric.  I decided to make the border and binding also reflect a diagonal rainbow.

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The red star fabric is still a favorite – wish I had more!

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Stitch in the ditch quilting, machine stitched binding.

I believe I used a rather thick polyester bat in this quilt, though I can’t remember exactly why just now. Maybe the little one said he wanted a thick quilt? It is quilted in the ditch around the blocks and triangles. My son was happy with the result.

Quilt Lessons: Nine Patch Quilt and more

Quilt Story 3: Nine Patch and other Daisy Kingdom class quilts, mid-1990’s

While finishing my Log Cabin quilt, I discovered the world of quilting resources available through library books, TV shows, and local classes. (This was still pre-internet!) In the mid 90’s, I took a series of classes at Daisy Kingdom, a fabric and creative sewing store near me in old town Portland, Oregon. The store was a wonderland of fabric and original design home sewing creations. I learned a variety of quilting skills from local quilt teachers in their upstairs classroom.

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Nine Patch quilt, 38″ x 50″, by Margaret Klute, 1994

Nine Patch: In the Beginning Quilting class, the teacher helped us find a focus fabric and two complementary fabrics, and then make a basic nine patch quilt. I chose this musical print, as my young son was particularly fond of musical instruments. We learned about value as a key to fabric selection and placement, also strip cutting and piecing, sewing accurate seam allowances, and many tips and tricks about assembly, basting, quilting and binding.

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In the Hand Quilting class I learned about pattern transfer, and stitching techniques.

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Hand Quilted Wallhanging, 16″ x 16″, by Margaret Klute, 1996

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The project for the Appliqué class was this small heart appliqué quilt. I chose to set the hearts with scraps of the same fabrics, and then hand quilted the wall hanging.

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Heart Appliqué Wallhanging, 15″ x 15″, by Margaret Klute, 1995

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In the Foundation Piecing class I learned to make stitch and flip blocks on tearaway foundation or paper. I turned my little blocks  (two to three inches wide) into Christmas tree ornaments by blanket stitching them together with gold metallic thread.

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Foundation Paper Pieced Christmas Ornaments, by Margaret Klute, 1990’s

I learned precision piecing skills while taking the Feathered Star Table Runner class. I also learned later the cruel lesson of not prewashing fabric. The red fabric has bled into the background, despite the use of color catchers in the washing machine.

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Feathered Star Table Runner, 15.5″ x 45″, by Margaret Klute, 1995

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Photo taken before the table runner was washed.

Some of the projects took me years to finish. I don’t remember the teacher’s names, but I know that I was lucky to have such a wonderful resource available to me. I was so excited at the time to be immersing myself in quilting. Although Daisy Kingdom is long since gone as a business, its legacy lives on in many creations by former customers like me.

And just for fun: I still have these items in my stash purchased from Daisy Kingdom way back then that are waiting for inspiration and time. Mary Englebreit and Elinor Peace Bailey were two of the Daisy Kingdom fabric designers.

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Mary Englebreit panels

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Elinor Peace Bailey fabric and panel

(outro music by Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone!”)

Log Cabin Quilt

Quilt Story 2: Log Cabin Quilt, 1976-1993

After finishing my first quilt, the Sunflower Sue quilt, I wanted to make another quilt. I was home for a couple of weeks during my first year of college, and saw a Log Cabin quilt in one of my mother’s magazines – McCalls, maybe. This was 1976, the bicentennial, and a period of revival of quilting in the national zeitgeist. The magazine quilt had a log cabin center, a piano key border, and was very scrappy. I made construction paper copies of the templates printed in the back of the magazine, and raided my Mom’s and neighbor Sally’s scrap fabric boxes again. Over the next year or so I cut out with scissors up to three log sets of different sizes from each fabric. I may have sewn one or two blocks together at this time, but mostly I left them stashed for the next few years as college activities took over my time.

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I still have the original templates with my pattern files.

One summer (1982?) I was staying in San Francisco with Danny (future husband) while he was in medical school. I pulled out my log cabin strips and sewed them into blocks, one block a day. When I tried to put the blocks together, I realized that they weren’t exactly square – there was up to a half inch difference in some of the blocks, due to both inaccurate cutting out with scissors and templates, and variably estimated quarter inch seam allowances. So that was a problem waiting to be solved. The blocks got tucked away again for a few years while I finished grad school, got married, moved to the Portland, Oregon area, and had our first child. My poor baby was rather colicky, so poor us, it was nearly impossible to imagine leaving him with a babysitter. At this point, we realized we might never leave the house again so we bought a television and VCR to watch movies in the evening. We hadn’t had a TV for years. One day, while home with the baby I noticed a quilting program on the Public Television channel. I watched in fascination while Eleanor Burns of Quilt in A Day started slicing up fabric with what looked like pizza cutter. Squaring up blocks! Based on my son’s age, this would have been 1990 or 1991. I was amazed, enchanted, and immediately called the number on my screen to order a rotary cutter, a mat, and acrylic rulers!

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I still have these original Quilt in a Day tools.

I squared up my blocks! I played with the layout, finally deciding on a color wash/barn raising setting, with the light and dark value halves of blocks creating concentric squares.

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Log Cabin, 1993, 66″ x 86″, by Margaret Klute

Around this time we moved to our current home in Portland, and I remember laying the blocks out, piecing them, then going to the nearby Fabricland store to buy border and backing fabric and batting. I basted with safety pins, as modeled by Eleanor Burns, and then I minimally quilted the quilt by machine stitching in the ditch along the block seams.

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Upper left

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Upper right

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Lower left

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Lower right

I made the binding by pulling the backing fabric to the front.

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The backing was turned to the front and machine stitched down to create the binding.

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Close up of hand stitched signature.

I was very happy with the final quilt. I had used a thin cotton batting this time, so the quilting was easier. I learned by my experience, and by watching Eleanor Burns, the importance of consistent seam allowances. I still loved the idea of scrappy quilts, but I was beginning to get the concept of controlling the color palette. My next quilts would be made from a more limited fabric selection, with guidance from taking a few classes and using pattern books.

The Log Cabin quilt kept us warm for many years, and I was able to retire the now worn Sunbonnet Sue quilt. These two quilts share many fabrics in common, so I was able to continue to enjoy the scraps from my past as I used this quilt.

 

Sunbonnet Sue Quilt

I started this blog two years ago with the goal of writing about my quilting. Instead, the blog has become more of a hiking and travel journal, with a side of crafting. Here, at last, is my first quilt story! It is a common lament in the quilt world that many quilts are unlabeled and their stories are lost to history. My first quilt story, which includes a bit of my history, is about my oldest, my first quilt.

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Sunbonnet Sue   68″ x 82″   by Margaret Klute 1975

Quilt Story 1: Sunbonnet Sue, 1975

My childhood best friend, Susan, moved from Minnesota to our neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of southern California in the early 1960s. Her Mom, Sally, often gave us projects to keep us busy – everything from polishing their family’s antique whaling lamps and silver, to baking bread and cookies, to making candles, macrame and clothing.  Sally showed us how to make Sunbonnet Sue blocks when we were about 14 or 15 years old – this would have been about 1970 or 1971.

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The dress on this Sue was a scrap from a blouse I wore in high school.

We began by cutting templates out of construction paper. Then we raided our family’s overflowing scrap boxes for fabric.  Both of our moms sewed, and my sisters and I also made some of our own clothing.  We had fun choosing fabrics for the dress, bonnet, arm and shoe patches.  We sewed the pieces onto white background fabric, possibly from an old sheet, using an overcast hand appliqué stitch. We each created a stack of blocks but then lost momentum. My blocks sat in a drawer for a few years.

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In 1975 I wanted a warm quilt to take with me to college in northern California.  I made additional Sunbonnet Sues using scraps from recently made clothes, but did not have enough blocks for a bed-sized quilt.  I raided both families’ fabric stashes again and cut out 5 inch squares from a wide mix of scraps.  I sewed the squares together with half inch seam allowances, and determined a layout that would float the Sunbonnet Sue blocks between rows of patchwork.  I found a backing fabric at the discount fabric shop, and I also bought a roll of 2″ thick polyester batting.  I finagled a quilt sandwich with straight pins, and somehow managed to force the quilt under the foot of my Mom’s sturdy Kenmore sewing machine, stitching in the ditch around all the squares.  I found fabric for the binding, again from the scrap box, and attached it by hand.

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Backing fabric, which I always thought of as batik saw blades.

I brought the quilt with me to college and continued to use it for a good 20 years. I patched it and restitched much of the appliqué, and eventually the batting flattened down to about a quarter inch thick.

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Front binding close up. These fabrics include cotton, polyester, and wool; both prints and wovens; and light to heavy in weight. The edge of the middle faded pink spotted patch shows the bright original color along the seam allowance.

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The binding on the back was much wider, and hand stitched. I only added the signature recently!

Construction commentary: This quilt represents to me a big chunk of my youth – and also, I love the audacity of youth that this quilt reveals.  I finished Sunbonnet Sue in a way that made sense to me at the time. I remember thinking I didn’t need the full 5/8 inch seam allowance used for garment sewing – 1/2 inch should be plenty.  I also had  the idea that a patchwork quilt should not be made of new fabric, and should have as many different scrap fabrics as possible – though I did have the option to not use fabric that I didn’t like. There were no blogs or online tutorials – we had one Dover quilt book. I consulted my Mom, but she had never made a quilt, though she had made curtains, bed spreads and cushion covers as well as clothing. (She could also knit, crochet, tat, and change the oil and spark plugs and adjust the carburetor in an automobile engine while single handedly feeding and clothing nine children – but that’s a story for another day.) The wide seam allowances, thick batting and wide binding are not what I do today, but they worked to complete my quilt.

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The orange dress print is leftover from our Shasta travel trailer curtains. The streaky red, white and blue fabric reminds me that both tie-dye and pre-bicentennial patriotism were part of the pop culture of the time. The pink striped floral fabric is a pillow ticking weight fabric.

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The uppermost flowered patch, now needing a patch, was another favorite blouse fabric. The middle patch is an example of the psychedelic graphics of the time.

I love the personal history of the fabric in this quilt – I see mine and my sisters’ and my friends’ childhood wardrobes, with many fond memories of people, place and time. I also love that this quilt reflects what I considered at the time to be the true spirit of patchwork quilting – making something from the scraps of both material and memories. This was during the early seventies anti-establishment/anti-war/back to the land movement, which defined the paths that I and a few of my siblings would choose as young adults.  We went to war protests, dug up our lawn to plant a garden, joined a food coop, and eventually moved out of the city to northern California or Oregon. Susan never finished her quilt, but during a visit a few years ago we enjoyed looking at all the fabrics and remembering when and where we wore them when we were young. I wish I had photos of us in some of the clothes, but alas, I do not. Just the patches in this well worn quilt.

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