Quilt Q&A

In the 10 months since I started this blog, there have been quite a few questions about my quilts. I usually answer these in an e-mail to the commenter, but I thought it might be interesting to put them in a post.

Where do find your vintage fabric?

I’ve bought most of it on ebay, although it is much more difficult now because there are fewer auctions of vintage quilt pieces/blocks/tops, and the ones I like are usually too expensive. Just yesterday I found some wonderful pieces on Etsy which were very reasonably priced. I have found fabric at thrift stores and occasionally friends send me vintage scraps. My favorite finds are sample swatches or cut quilt pieces — the more prints, the better.

When marking your pieces, do you also mark the seam allowance/sewing line, or do you just eyeball it as you are sewing?

I never mark seam allowances — for piecing or applique.  I am usually working with small pieces, and I have become accustomed to sewing a 3/16″ seam allowance on all of my quilts. If you are just beginning hand piecing, it might be helpful to mark the seam allowance, but I think you will find that very shortly you can eyeball the seam without a marked line. I would recommend the Jinny Beyer book, Quiltmaking by Hand — she describes all the techniques with wonderful pictures.

Do you starch your pieces? Do you use knots or back stitches when hand piecing?

I always starch before I draw around a template — it makes it easier to keep the piece flat and the pencil glides much more smoothly. I use knots to tie off, but I always back stitch when turning a corner and on both sides when crossing a seam.

How long does it take you to finish a quilt?

This is hard to say since I jump around from project to project. If I look at the number of quilts I’ve completed in the 8 years since I started quilting again, I guess it would be about 6 months for a hand pieced, bed-sized quilt (about evenly distributed between piecing and quilting) — maybe 4 months if the top is machine pieced. This varies depending upon the difficulty of the pattern.

Where can I find a pattern for the Pieced Butterfly Quilt?

I drafted my own pattern (which is available under downloads), but a pattern and instructions are available in the book New England Quilt Museum Quilts — it appears to be out of print, but you can find it on Amazon, ebay — or best of all — at your local public library.

Do you have some kind of color pattern in mind when you are putting your quilts together?

Usually I am looking for a pattern I like that will also work with whatever vintage quilt pieces or blocks I have purchased. The quilt pieces are really the driving force for the color and pattern. I don’t think of myself as being very good with color, but fortunately most of the prints from a particular decade seem to look good together.

How do you trace your designs for embroidery?

With a light box made from a wood wine box and a #2 pencil — I posted about it here.

Do you ever take a break?

Well…yes….when I’m working on my blog! My children are grown now, so I have much more free time these days. I do some sort of hand work every evening for 3 or 4 hours. On my days off (I only work 3 days a week) I will usually try to get some machine work done. I sew while I watch television (don’t like the movie theater — too dark to sew), riding in the car, waiting in doctor’s offices or anywhere else I can get away with it. My husband draws the line at walking and sewing — like at the grocery store.

Many people comment that they would never have the patience to hand piece a quilt.  I also felt this way when I was young, but now that I am old, I find the process so relaxing — almost therapeutic.  And really….what’s the big hurry?  It’s very satisfying to finish a project that took months to complete, and you feel an attachment to the quilt that is very personal.  It’s a wonderful pastime, and when you get really good, you can make something like this.


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