Posts Written On May 2010

Sunshine and Shadow Doll Quilt

This is the only Amish style quilt I’ve ever made — a Christmas present for my mother-in-law, Gail, in 2002. It was a departure from the 1930s style quilts I was making at the time, but I was interested in trying the contrasting stitching in the quilting. I do think it turned out rather well, although I am not sure a real Amish quilter would have used two different colors of thread. It’s the smallest doll quilt I’ve ever made, at 15″ square, and it was made with vintage percales and plain muslin for the back.

Sunshine & Shadow Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2002
machine pieced, hand quilted
15″ x 15″


Santa’s Follow-the-Colors Embroidered Quilt — Rows 3 & 4

You might have thought, justifiably, that I had given up on this project, but I have been plugging away at it. I have a few more blocks completed (including a little stocking for Emily), but not quite enough for another row. At the rate I’m going, I might actually finish it by Christmas.

I was going to take a photo of another quilt top today, but it has been pouring rain for two days and I can’t get a break to take an outside photo. It’s a little unusual for us since mostly we just have drizzly rain — it’s been a good day to stay inside and sew.


A Circus Bedquilt — Maxfield Parrish

In 1904 The Ladies Home Journal, as part of their promotion of “Quilts as an Art Form,” commissioned 5 famous artists and illustrators to design quilts for their magazine. The Better Homes and Gardens publication, Century of Quilts, contains an interesting article about these designs with black and white photos of three of the quilts by Maxfield Parrish, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Jessie Wilcox Smith. All of the submitted designs were for applique and, as you might expect from artists who were not quilters, were extremely complex. Ladies Home Journal had planned to provide patterns for the quilts, but never did, stating that “practical obstacles” made it impossible.

Here are the three black and white designs in the BH&G book.

Amazingly, BH&G found an actual quilt made by Ada Luise Smith Hildner for her first child. Ada drafted the pattern from the black and white photo in the 1905 LHJ magazine and used Parrish’s suggested colors — he was very descriptive about the colors. Ada is my hero.

For several months I was obsessed with The Circus Bedquilt, and with finding a photo of the original painting which I discovered was housed in a Denver museum. I did find a print for sale, but the colors didn’t look anything like Ada’s quilt or Parrish’s description as you can see in this photo.

I contacted the Denver museum and they kindly e-mailed a photo of the original painting. I was thrilled because I could finally see the actual colors (which are very similar to Ada’s quilt). I cropped, straightened and enlarged the photo, but since it was not a very large image to begin with, my enlarged pattern was very pixelated. it didn’t look great, but I thought it was the best I could do.

Then, last weekend I found an auction site where the original painting sold just this month for $17,200.01. If you registered at the site, you could access a larger photo. So I did, and look what I got — a humongous, fabulous image of the actual painting (way too big to upload the original size here, but you get the idea)….

….which I enlarged and tile printed into this 48″ pattern where you can still see all of the details.

I promised myself I would ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY not start this quilt until I finish hand quilting one of my unfinished tops — maybe the Ocean Waves (thank you everyone for your nice comments!). I can still plan it in my head, though — it will be appliqued, of course, and probably with the facial details embroidered. I am thinking those zebra stripes might be painted, rather than appliqued (like Ada’s) or embroidered (that’s a lot of satin stitch), but I’m still mulling it over.


Ocean Waves Quilt Top

Although I made this top years ago, I still haven’t decided on a quilting pattern. The idea for this quilt started with a group of vintage triangle swatches purchased on ebay. I was thinking about patterns that had lots of triangles and finally settled on Ocean Waves. Of course, I didn’t bother counting all my triangles and, of course, I didn’t have nearly enough. I ended up using just about every scrap I could find so it’s a real mix of prints ranging in age from 1940 to 2000.

Because most of my triangles were medium tones, I couldn’t work out a classic Ocean Waves block with contrasting colors — I couldn’t even do blocks with just two different prints since all of my triangles were different. I finally decided to incorporate the yellow from the setting squares into the pieced blocks, which certainly gives the Ocean Waves pattern a different, somewhat lighter, look.

The pale yellow fabric is a Kona cotton and, although I like the color, I don’t like the fact that it is heavier than the vintage percales I normally use — it just doesn’t feel right to me. Honestly, I wonder if I’m ever going to get around to quilting this cute top.



Blogger’s Quilt Festival

This is my entry for Amy’s wonderful Blogger’s Quilt Festival. It’s the first quilt I posted about when I started my blog. Nobody actually read my blog back then, so I thought I would bring this little quilt back into the spotlight because I loved making it.

A Quilt for Julie
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2008
crayoned, hand embroidered, hand quilted
18″ x 24″

This was part of my auction donation for our school — along with an American Girl doll (Julie), a trunk and lots of 70s style outfits that were fun to sew. I selected the block designs from a full-sized applique quilt pattern published in a 1970s book, but my quilt is crayoned and outline embroidered instead of appliqued, and I changed the colors a bit. The hand quilting is done in colored thread in a simple outline around each motif and block. All the colors on the blocks are crayoned, including the background — it was fine for this size, but probably not something you’d want to do on a big quilt.

TIP:  To achieve the saturated look with the coloring — after tracing or transferring the design, apply freezer paper to the back of your fabric square.  This keeps the fabric smooth and allows you to apply a heavier layer of crayon.  Use firm, consistent pressure on the crayon, and try to go in the same direction whenever possible.  Although adding another layer of crayon after the first pressing will result in a more saturated look, I have found that the piece becomes rather stiff and has a unpleasant feel to it, so I just use one application.

I think the quilt was perfect for Julie, and hopefully for the little girl who won it as well.


First Steps in Art

Isn’t this just the best cover ever — a huge garden filled with gorgeous hollyhocks, foxgloves and other flowers I can’t identify. It’s rare to see a soft cover book with a wrap-around cover illustration like this, and I am pretty happy with my work on the image repairing the gap where the covers had separated. Although there is no date on the book, I would guess (from other similar books in my collection) that it is from the early 1930s — there is no illustrator credit. The inside pages consist of two pages of drawing instruction alternating with two pages of outline drawings to color (with a completed sample above each drawing).

I am a huge fan of these Art Deco style illustrations. When I look at them, my first thought is always  “How can I possibly interpret this fabulous image with fabric and thread?”  Click on the cover to see these flowers really big.



Halloween Table Topper – Finished

I’m pleased with the way this turned out, and it actually was not that difficult. The only pieces that required sewing were the jack-o-lantern and the black and white bias borders. Every other piece was applied with fusible web, requiring only a good pair of short, sharp scissors. The final size is 38″ in diameter, and I ended up using the following materials:

1 1/2 yards bottom-weight green fabric
1 yard black fabric
2/3 yard orange fabric
1/3 yard yellow fabric
small scrap of green fabric (quilt weight)
2 packages each of black & white double-wide bias tape
6 sheets Steam-a-Seam2
black Prismacolor colored pencil
black fabric marker
white acrylic paint
piece of interfacing for the jack-o-lantern

Although the Steam-a-Seam2 package claims it is washable, I was dubious. Fortunately I had a sample of one character I made as a test. When I put him through the washing machine on gentle, he came out perfect without any raveling at all — even the pencil lines looked the same. I’m very happy about this because it seemed pretty stupid to have a tablecloth that wasn’t washable.

For comparison, here is a photo of the original 5″ coaster or doily.


Sears Century of Progress in Quilt Making – 1933

This is one of two booklets I own which were published after the Sears National Quilt Contest associated with the 1933 World’s Fair held in Chicago. It is mentioned in the wonderful out-of-print book, Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World’s Fair by Merikay Waldvogel and Barbara Brackman — a great story about the contest with fabulous photos of the entries.

When I acquired these booklets, I was researching the Autumn Leaves quilt pattern. Anyone familiar with this pattern will notice that it has been radically simplified in this publication — as have some of the other quilt entries to a lesser degree. I’ve been excited to clean it up and share it with you, though, because it’s still a wonderful, historical document.

Both of these booklets are quite rare, and owners of the originals often sell copies for up to $20. Since I wanted my readers to be able to enjoy these patterns, but also wanted to discourage anyone else from selling my images, I have added a watermark to each of the pages.  You might also be interested in the other booklet, The Quilt Fair Comes to You.


Halloween Table Topper – Continued

Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes, and also for the nice comments about this project.

Yesterday I managed to finish two more sections of the topper, and I attempted to make the lines in the skeleton a little darker. I am having a lot of fun with this project — here are my next two sets of characters.


Halloween Table Topper – WIP

This project originated with a Flickr image of a 5″ vintage Halloween paper doily.  I loved this image so much and thought it had potential as a table topper.  I blew up the image and tile printed it to create the main pattern which is about 36″ in diameter.  It took a little thinking and testing to come up with a technique for applying the figures.  Originally, I thought that I would applique and embroider the cloth, but the details were just too tiny and the curves too sharp.  Then I thought about felt, but it was too fuzzy.  Finally, I just used a tightly woven cotton for all the colors.  The jack-o-lantern is reinforced with pellon and then zig-zag stitched to the background.  All of the other character pieces are attached with Steam-a-Seam2, and the details drawn with a Prismacolor black pencil.  Originally I was worried that the topper would not be machine washable, but I can live with that.  It’s not something that will be used very often.

The process of all the cutting and iron-gluing has been kind of fun and different for me — something I haven’t done in years.  It’s now about half done, and I’m really liking it.

Here’s the original coaster.

Here is my topper so far. I can see now from these photos that I need to darken the lines on the skeleton, so I think I’ll go over them again with a black fabric marker.


UPDATE:  The completed Halloween Topper can be seen here.


My Own ABC Book – Endpapers

I suppose these are not technically endpapers (and really just the inside covers), since this book is a soft cover wrap. The artist is Elizabeth Colborne. Wouldn’t these pictures be wonderful done in redwork — or bluework? Of course, I see them in a quilt, with the bookplate changed to read:

This Quilt Belongs To ___________

From Grandma Gray