Category Archives: Fabric and Fiber Arts

Christmas craft bender 2021 edition

Woodland animals sewn from a commercial pattern using upcycled and leftover fabrics.

Even though I have a great deal to be thankful for, due to recent bereavement and a frustrating injury that is still a problem I was in a pretty bad mood for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Sewing has been keeping me from feeling a lot worse. Fortunately I’ve been really excited about making craft items to hopefully be used in a retail display someday. If all the parts aren’t done for this year I’m aiming for the next. One of the things I’m learning to get better at as I work on my Master’s degree is merchandising and displays. I wrote a paper in 2020 about some ideas I want to try and this project is an attempt at realizing some of what I wrote about. The professor wanted me to write the project as if it was a company with 50 employees, so I made it pretty ambitious and one person can’t do it overnight! So while some people have asked me if I want to sell these stuffed animals I just made, for now that is not the plan. They are inspiration for a “collection” that is going to have a lot of parts. I did find a person on Etsy who is selling some of the animals from this pattern for a very reasonable price.

I’ve wanted to try the pattern shown in the image above, Simplicity 1549, for awhile so this seemed like a good time. Sometimes I like to design my own patterns but this one was so cute I could not resist! I used all upcycled or leftover fabric for my versions. I didn’t make the owl yet because I think it’s kind of out of scale and I have another owl pattern I like better that I might enlarge a bit and use later. I do have some bird patterns for adding some woodland songbirds eventually as well.

The deer and the fox are harder to sew than the raccoon and the bunny because of their small size. I did make it harder for myself with some of my fabric choices – because I was using upcycled fabric and was initially making my choices based on color and pattern and texture, I didn’t consider the fabric thickness that much and I ended up using upcycled khaki shorts and upholstery fabric for the deer which were thick enough that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn all the parts inside out! But somehow I did it. If I ever sew the deer again I’ll enlarge the pattern AND use thinner fabrics so it’s not so difficult.

I’m continuing with my interpretation of a woodland/lodge theme as I make more items. Here are a couple of stockings I made with a pattern that my Mom used circa the late ’70s or early ’80s.

I altered the stocking ornament to make it a bit bigger, and I changed where the top piece was placed to make them a little longer. I used a scrapbooking stencil that my friend Julie gave me a long time ago to trace the leaves out of felt for the fronts. There are going to be more of these, and they will have a hanging loop.

I remember Mom making the tree skirt from this pattern, the ornaments, and I think the wreath. I’m not sure if she made the large stockings or not. I don’t remember seeing them if so. I know Dad still has the tree skirt and ornaments. She also made a matching table runner which Dad still has.

The memories this pattern brings back are intense. It was more exciting than I can say to be a young crafter watching my Mom make all these items (and much more!). And it’s difficult to describe the bittersweet feeling of finding those fabric scraps you see there in the envelope when I was getting out the pattern pieces. There are tears falling and drying on my keyboard as I write this. Mom probably put those scraps in there so she’d know what fabric to get more of if she ran out. They were probably in there for at least 40 years. The awareness of what has happened to our family between then and now is pretty shocking, and I know we are not alone. It’s part of the human condition, and crafting and the arts are great gifts from our creator that are powerful aids in helping us cope.

Each holiday season involves both the past and the future. To turn my thoughts back to the future for now, here is a Pinterest board as I made as kind of a “mood board” for this project. If you find the theme I’m working with inspiring you might want to check it out!

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

I finished Experimental Art Quilts #2 and #3

I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.

I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!

Experimental Art Quilt #2
Originally this was going to be a sample for a JoAnn class for beginners I was interested in teaching. It was supposed to be four 6 inch squares with embroidery on them. Then I got inspired and started adding and adding and adding parts…
I wanted to get the embroidered parts right so I plotted some of them out on the computer first by using Adobe Illustrator to draw lines over a picture of the quilt to see how it might look. The final step was to outline it with blanket edging that I bought at JoAnn. I also bought the rick-rack, tulle, and yellow sheer ribbon there. I bought the batting online from my wholesaler and all the other fabrics were upcycled or leftovers. There are a few scraps in there that I printed with rubber stamps, a few scraps from my Mom’s stash, a few pieces from a dress I wore in 1985 and a piece of curtains that my Mom made for my room in the early 1980s!
Finished Experimental Art Quilt #3
I assembled strips from scraps and used the reverse applique technique to insert then between strips taken from upcycled bed sheets and pillow cases. The large scale black and white Aztec-looking print was taken from my favorite shirt in the 80s. These are remnants of the sleeves and collar that I cut off when I made a vest out of it a couple of years ago. The color scheme is a result of having some fun with one colorful strip among all neutrals to make a focal point.
I added a border made of tubes of leftover fabric, then decided the piece needed a bit more color and to draw attention to the focal point a little more. I added a strip of leftover brighter colored fabric and started on the embroidery. I used tracings inspired by a shirt I’m still working on that was inspired by my old shirt from the 80s. Then I embroidered through the tracing paper and tore away the paper after I stitched it.

Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.

My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.

Experimental Art Quilt #1

Experimental Art Quilt #2

Experimental Art Quilt #3

The upside to forced inactivity – more time to sew!

In the fall, I’d rather be spending my weekends camping, hiking, or working in the garden. But because of the recent sprain/break of my foot (x-rays inconclusive), I have to keep my foot elevated most of the day and limit walking. One thing that has helped me keep calm during this frustrating time is sewing! Check out these recently completed projects.

For the triangle pillow, I combined recycled t-shirt fabric (used on the back), upcycled corduroy, a recycled jeans pocket and new flannel fabric to make a pocket pillow that my husband Tom and I gave to our great-nephew. For the pattern, I used a commercial beginner pattern and added a strip across the front to make a bigger pocket to accommodate the stuffed gnome/elf that my husband bought. The finished pillow has two functional pockets.

In the middle is a throw pillow that I made for our cat Leo. I’ve been thinking about making something like this for him since our other cat, Griffin, died in February. They were together for over 20 years and Leo seems lonely sometimes. I don’t know if it really helps him or not, but it turned out cute enough to use as a throw pillow as well. I used upcycled upholstery fabric from a chair that matched our sofa that we are replacing due to wear and other things (Leo was pretty destructive to the chair – perhaps because of frustration or loneliness or both).

I made the cat with a commercial pattern that my Mom used in the early 1980s. The pattern includes six animals and I hope to make more soon. I drew a new face for the embroidery on the cat to give it more attitude than the face design in the original pattern.

I started the felt stocking a few years ago as a sample for one of the classes I was teaching at JoAnn fabrics and crafts. If I ever teach there again, it might be a long time. So I decided to take the extra parts I made and sew this stocking up to finish it. When making my samples for teaching, I typically cut out enough parts to make several so that I could demonstrate the steps for the students during the class. If the classes were popular, I would often teach multiple sessions. When making the samples there was no way to know how many times I’d end up teaching it. The original project had more gluing and less sewing since it was for kids. I used all sewing and no glue this time since it’s unlikely I’ll teach this class again and I no longer have to stick to the project directions exactly. This sure was fun to stitch!

The stocking is now listed for sale on Etsy. Here is the link:

Felt Christmas Stocking With Hand Sewn Applique – Blue and Green

Make Reversible Masks

The top mask still needs the pleats, the bottom one is finished.

I made this mask pattern about a year and a half ago so that I could make my own masks with fabrics that I liked. I meant to publish it eventually, but so many people had put mask patterns out there online I figured there was no need for another one. But now the pandemic has gone on long enough that I’m getting tired of the fabrics on my original batch of masks so I decided to make some new ones. I figured if I was sick of my masks, others might be tired of theirs too and might want to try out a new pattern. So here it is!

Pieces of fabric cut to size for mask making.

Supplies you will need

Fabric

Narrow elastic

Sewing thread

Scrap cardboard or chipboard

Tools you will need

Template

Awl or large needle

Paper cutter

Sewing scissors

Sewing needle

Washable fabric marker

Pins

Instructions

Prepare the templates:
1. Download the Mask Template PDF file I made and print it out.


2. Trim around the outside edge of the template so that the paper edge ends at the 9 x 8 inch border.
3. Use an awl or large needle to poke holes through the four x’s that indicate where to attach the elastic, and where the two vertical lines intersect the border toward the bottom of the template. The two bottom holes indicate where to leave an opening for turning the mask inside out.
4.Out of scrap chipboard, cut out a 9 x 8 inch piece and an 8 x 7 inch piece. The larger piece is an aid for drawing a line to cut out your fabric, and the smaller piece is for drawing the seam.


Cut out and mark the fabric:
1. Place the 9×8 inch piece of cardstock on the reverse side of the piece of fabric you want for the front of your mask. Draw around with washable fabric marker and cut out a 9 x 8 piece of fabric. Repeat for the piece of fabric you want for the back of your mask. This pattern makes a reversible mask, so you can choose two interesting pieces of fabric, or a plainer fabric for the back if you choose.
2. On the back side of either your front or back fabric, whichever would show the marker better, lay the 7 x 8 inch piece of chipboard in the middle of the cutout fabric and trace around it with your washable fabric marker to indicate the seam line to follow.


3. Center the printed template over the fabric and make dots with the marker where you previously poked the holes. Lift the template and draw on the x’s and two vertical lines with marker.


Assemble the mask:
1.Cut out two pieces of elastic long enough to fit around your ears and hold the mask on your head. The length of elastic needed will vary by the size of your head. You can pin elastic in place to test what length you will need.

2. Lay one of the fabric pieces good side up on your work surface and place the elastic pieces so that they overlap the fabric and the ends line up with the x’s you drew on your fabric.

3. Lay the other piece of fabric good side down over the first piece and pin together.

4. Start at one of the vertical lines at the bottom indicating the opening, and start sewing along the seam line away from the opening, leaving that section open for the time being. Trim extra fabric away from the corners as shown.

5. Turn the mask inside out and pin the opening closed. Whip stitch it shut from the outside.

6. Fold the mask to make pleats as shown, pin, then sew the ends of the pleats in place. You’re done!

Sitting by water and sewing – one of my favorite ways to relax

Sewing and relaxing by the water
Sewing and relaxing by the water. Far left – working on Experimental Art Quilt #1 in our backyard last summer within view of our pond, enjoying the waterfall sounds. Middle and right, Cole’s Creek campground at Carlyle Lake in Illinois. I’m at the far right under the camper canopy working on a salmon-colored shirt that I am patching and stitching on.

When I’m fortunate to get some time to relax, I like to take a portable art project like hand-sewing outdoors to work on. If I can set myself up by water, that’s even better! Better still to add human companionship by going on a group campout. It’s always nice to take a little break from kayaking and other active pursuits and sit down around a campfire. If I should happen to get stuck with a lot of rainy weather and have to stay under a shelter for awhile, I’ll never be bored waiting it out if I have sewing with me to do. I have more camping trips planned for this season so I’ve prepared some next steps in three different current sewing projects to work on while I’m out there. These are easy to transport rolled up and carried in a bin with a selection of sewing threads and tools.

Experimental Art Quilt #2 in progress
Experimental Art Quilt #2, begun in 2019, in progress.

I’ve readied the right side of Experimental Art Quilt #2 in preparation of adding some accents in blue scrap fabrics and blue thread. The image above shows how I used computer graphics to plan out the red triangle area that I sewed during the last campout. I knew the finishing touches on this were going to either make or break it, so I tested out the red area in Adobe Illustrator first before stitching it. I think after adding the blue area, I’ll go back to the pale yellow areas for a bit of subtle texture, then I think it will be ready for the border to complete it.

Scraps plus reverse applique
Scraps plus reverse applique

Here are some of the scrap strips I made earlier combined with some fabric that is going to frame it in a reverse applique technique. I make a lot of strips of both paper and cloth scraps to incorporate into other projects later. I’m turned on by the idea of one stripe being colorful and rest being all neutrals.

Making scraps into stripes
Far left: a journal cover made with strips of paper scraps. I revisit this way of working with paper and over and over and still not tired of it. Middle: an apron with strip piecing and applique on the front. I was going to add embroidery in the middle but decided it was enough without it. Seeing this image again of what I planned makes me want to make another one to see what the original idea would have turned out like. On the right is my mother-in-law with the reverse applique Easter apron I made for her.
Pattern from my favorite shirt in the 80s
My favorite shirt in the 80s and lifting the pattern from it.

My favorite shirt from the 80s is on the left. It used to be white and black with short sleeves and a collar. Over the years, it got so stained and faded that I stopped wearing it, but I could not bear to get rid of it because I loved the pattern so much. In 2018 I dyed it my favorite color lime green when I had a batch going for my wedding, and last summer I cut the collar and sleeves off and made it into a vest. Now I wear and enjoy it once more!

On the right is that salmon-colored shirt I’ve been stitching on. When I bought this shirt it was white with black. Yes I still love black and white shirts with Aztec-looking designs on them! The first time I wore it, it got stains on it from riding a chartered party van to and from a Rush concert (May 2015 during their farewell tour – EPIC day and night by the way – my brother and his friends started partying at brunch, I joined in a group pre-show BBQ about 3 pm after getting my day’s work done). I don’t know what got on the shirt, but I could never get it out. I put it aside for future dye experiments to try to fix it. I made two different mistakes when dyeing because I was in a hurry and ended up with even more stains and splotches to try to cover up. So I decided to put embroidered patches on all the bad spots until they were all covered up.

Shirt patches #2
Transferring design traced from older shirt to patches for newer shirt. I scrambled the old design a bit to make it just a little different. That’s not the first time I’ve reproduced part of this shirt design for a project – my very first experiment with linoleum block printing in 1985 used part of it! I wanted to print it on EVERYTHING.

Patches on the front are done, though as it gets closer to completion I might add some decorative trim from top to bottom around the center panel to tidy it up. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but I think it needs to be a little neater. Now I’m starting work on the back. Sleeves will be last. Although the look is different, the concept of patching clothing with decorative stitching was done very well by the Japanese with the art of Boro, which I would love to try out in the more traditional Japanese manner sometime.

This was a lightweight, airy shirt when I first bought it – now it’s going to be a bit heavier because of the layers, maybe for fall wear. Probably when it gets close to completion I’ll add some white or metallic or both to the yoke area to bring the focus back to the neckline area. In the meantime, I’m having a lot of fun doing the stitching in different weights and colors of thread, like salmon, peach, rust, and coral to see what happens!

Give a piece of print fabric the look of a “blanket”

Recently I was working on a sleeping bag for a doll, and I was looking around the house for a doll or stuffed animal that I could use to test out the size. I didn’t use it because it was too big, but I did look at a doll of sorts that I made a long time ago in sculpture class when I was working on a B.F.A. degree at SIUE. At the time I had taken the class, I had just been on a trip to Utah and had brought back with me some books on Native American petroglyphs and stone fetishes. I made a throw pillow sized soft wolf fetish with blanket and soft arrowhead for my late friend June for Christmas that year. We both shared an intense interest in Southwest travel and art. For class I made a humanoid stuffed figure with amulet bag, loincloth, and blanket.

While making the soft sculpture, although inspired by ancient Native American art forms, I did not want to refer to any particular culture exactly, rather I wanted to evoke an ancient sense of humanity that many cultures share. Throughout human history there were many ways to wear and use blankets as a part of clothing and outerwear before things like buttons and zippers were invented, and of course people still use and wear blankets in many ways today. For my soft sculpture’s blanket I chose a fabric in a garish early 1990s fabric pattern to suggest a striped blanket but not imitate any particular culture.

While working on my doll sleeping bag, I decided it was a good time to update the look of my soft sculpture. Since teaching at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts from 2016-early 2020 I’ve been working a lot more with fabric. I decided to start with the blanket. I have a large collection of scrap fabric that I like to sew into strips to use in projects such as art quilts, purse straps, water bottle carrier straps, table runners, headbands, and more. I thought the blanket I made for the soft sculpture would look more attractive with some added strips of scrap fabric so I started piecing and sewing strips in place.

Experimental projects using fabric scraps.
Experimental projects using fabric scraps. From left to right: what will become part of Experimental Art Quilt #2 (still in progress), a table runner that I have used in many art and craft shows, and a purse with strap that I made for a niece as a graduation gift. The purse folds out so that it can be used as either a little clutch purse or a water bottle carrier. The strap is removeable and can be used in different ways.
Old blanket piece with new scrap strips held up against it to see if the colors and patterns look good together.
Left: old blanket piece with new scrap strips held up against it to see if the colors and patterns look good together. Right: an endcap I put together for Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves, MO to showcase some supplies for fun summer craft and home decor projects. I used my refreshed blanket a backdrop for some blank wood succulent shapes ready for painting and decorating. On the other half, I draped a piece of nautical themed fabric. Over both backdrops are hung nautical themed flags that I sewed last summer.
Here is how to start a scrap strip.

Here is how to start a scrap strip. Decide on a color scheme and lay out pieces of fabric to use. Here I decided on a neutral scheme for a future project.

Place fabric pieces good side together, and pin along one edge. Keep going until you have pinned enough pieces to make a strip as long as you need for your project. The first two photos show the same strip from the front first, and then the back, after pinning.

Using a washable fabric marking pen and a ruler, draw a line along one edge, leaving a small seam allowance. Drawing the lines will help you keep your seams straight.

Sew all the pieces together and you’ll have a strip that you can use for many projects.

Temporarily pinned stripes in place on print fabric to see how the colors and patterns look together.
Temporarily pinned stripes in place on print fabric to see how the colors and patterns look together. A fabric pattern that has some kind of stripes or regularly spaced shapes that you can use to line up your stripes will save you a little time measuring and drawing lines on your fabric, but of course any fabric that looks good as a background would work.

I finished the quilted sleeping bag for dolls

In a past blog post, A little weekend quilting, I showed a narrow quilt top remnant that I was given and described how I was quilting it for practice.

A long narrow quilt top remnant that I decided to turn into a doll sleeping bag.

I used new cotton batting for the middle layer and a piece of a ripped gray bed sheet as the backing. I took parts of the waistband from an old pair of jeans and sewed them to each end, then used gray quilting seam binding to finish the edges. I used a piece of the seam binding to make a loop for hooking on a carabiner to hold the doll’s adventure camping gear.

The poor beat up Raggedy Ann doll was mine when I was young. I am pretty sure my Grandma Hasenfratz made it for me. She was an expert at sewing and crochet. She made me a lot of great things, many which I still have! I don’t know what happened to this poor doll’s clothes, but I’m thinking of making some new ones for her for the heck of it!

I sewed a lot of doll clothes when I was young – they were not well done. A lot of them were just draped fabric scraps that I sewed on and then ripped off when I got tired of them! In my mind my Barbie doll was an explorer and archaeologist by day but she must have had a very active night life as well – I sure did make her a lot of evening gowns! I had a kit to help me make good Barbie clothes but I don’t think I ever mastered it. I’d like to get some practice at making some that look reasonable, if there is time someday.

For the finishing touches on the sleeping bag, I made a two-sided pillow. I sewed one side of the bag together only about halfway up to that it’s easy to get a doll in and out, and put in snaps for a snug fit on cold nights!

I didn’t write down my process while making this, but I did take a lot of pictures so I can remember what I did if I ever want to make another.

I finally finished “Experimental Art Quilt #1!”

A little over two years ago, I was sick for quite awhile with an awful sinus problem. I didn’t have much energy, so to prevent too much boredom I looked for some simple tasks to do. First I sorted all my small fabric scraps by color and organized them into containers. While doing that, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to see how small a fabric scrap could get before I couldn’t make something out of it. I wanted to upgrade my hand-sewing skills and learn the rudiments of piecing for quilt making.

I started sewing fabric pieces into strips to combine into a scrap quilt later, after seeing some beautiful examples on Pinterest. As I accumulated strips, I combined them with other leftover fabrics such as a jean pocket, a waistband from some corduroy pants, a seam from blue jeans, old clothing tags, ribbon, binding strips, selvage pieces and some rather primitive embroidered panels I made a long time ago for use on a tote bag which has since been retired.

Over the last couple of years, every once in awhile I’d add a little bit more on. Then I finished it with blanket seam binding from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts where I taught classes in hand sewing, general crafts and jewelry making before the pandemic.

Following are some close-ups of sections of the quilt.

At the top is part of a waistband from some Lime Green corduroy pants.
Here is the top seen a little closer.
Here is a close-up of some stitching. I had some fun adding on some pieces with raw edges and treating some of my stitches like I was drawing on abstract collages in one of my art journals.
On some sections I used the pattern on the fabric as inspiration for how to do the quilting stitching. There are fabrics in this section from one of my old sheets and even a couple of pieces that I printed on with rubber stamps of my own design.
Here is the pocket. The jeans they came from were not mine – I’ve had them in my fabric stash for so long I’m not sure where they came from. The light colored denim pieces tie-dyed with black are from a pair of jeans I dyed and wore in college.
Here is the bottom end. There are fabrics in this section from sewn items my late Mom made in the early 1980s, some more fabric I printed and fabric from the ties and table runners from my wedding! My quilting friend Kate also gave me a lot of beautiful scraps I used in this section.

“Experimental Art Quilt #1” is for sale on Etsy. Here is a link to the listing:

Experimental Art Quilt #1 – Green, Aqua, Blue

A little weekend quilting

Practicing on remnants of a baby quilt project.
Practicing on remnants of a baby quilt project.

I met my friend Kate in 2016 while we were both teaching craft and sewing classes at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in the Deer Creek Shopping Center in Maplewood. I was not a quilter when I started teaching there, nor was I an expert seamstress. I had quite a bit of experience with simple hand sewing so I was skilled enough to teach kids’ and adults’ beginner level classes in hand sewing and embroidery. I also taught jewelry, paper crafts, some flower arranging, and general crafts. The JoAnn classroom is on hiatus right now. If they ever start having classes again it might be awhile before I can do it again because of other projects – some of which I can write about on this blog and some that I can’t!

I was given some scraps and pieces of things left over from teaching to practice my skills on. The baby quilt section shown above was a remnant that some other teacher pieced as a demo. This section was cut off and discarded so I took it to practice on. I have three other quilts in progress right now – two experimental art quilts and a repair job on a vintage quilt. When I need to move up a skill level, Kate helps me out by showing me some tips and techniques. I’m working a bit on each quilt to improve my techniques as needed to finish the next steps on each. The baby quilt remnant I was given is long and narrow so I’ve decided that when I’m done quilting it, I’m going to turn it into a sleeping bag for dolls and stuffed toys.

The last steps of quilting my sleeping bag on the left, and one of Kate's finished quilts is on the right.
The last steps of quilting my sleeping bag on the left, and one of Kate’s beautiful finished quilts is on the right.

I thought I was finished quilting last week, and I hand washed my quilt to clean any dirt off from my hands and get the blue washable marking pen lines off. Unfortunately, I tend to save up a bucket full of hand washable items to wash all at one time to conserve water, and I carelessly washed the quilt with some old fabric items (more about that later) that were so old I didn’t think they would bleed. Apparently they had never been washed before and they bled a little dye on four panes of this quilt. Fortunately I found some fabric in my stash to applique and re-quilt over those squares, that not only goes well with the colors, but features a terrific motif for a toy sleeping bag because of the camping theme. That gives me some more ideas for how to accessorize the sleeping bag to make it “adventure ready”! Now I’m going to like this project even better – that’s one of the life skills art and crafts are good training for – turning problems into wins!

The Comfort of Old Fabrics

Arkansas snowflake quilt being repaired
My friend Kate, who is a quilt expert, found the name of this quilt pattern in an old quilt book of hers, and gave me some repair tips too.

There are personal, regional and world-wide reasons why the last few weeks of life have been especially difficult. I’m not the only one who seeks solace in art and craft activities, especially ones that bring back warm memories of cozy winter afternoons spent with my family making things. There is nothing better on a cold wintry day.

It’s been nice snuggling under the old family quilt my mother in law gave us recently. It was made in the 1930s by my husband’s grandmother and friends. I was given it in the hope I’d make something from it, since it has a few areas of damage and I’m well known for making new things out of old things – a lifelong pursuit. I decided to repair some of the spots before it gets worse, because most of it still looks good and for now I’d prefer to use it than upcycle it if possible.

Patching damaged star points with applique.
Patching damaged star points with applique.

I could have purchased fabric for repairing this quilt that matches more closely to the old fabric to disguise the repairs more, but I decided to approach this repair as adding a little of my own history to this quilt instead of trying to do a museum quality restoration. I looked in my extensive fabric stash to see how close I could approximate the colors and patterns with what I have, and decided it still looked good and I would enjoy the little differences and the memories from my fabric scraps. My Mom made me a tablecloth out of that multicolor floral print on the right in the early 1980s, and Kate gave me the blue floral scraps, for example. Every time I see the fabric I will remember them and others, that is one of the best things about quilts and quilting. This repair is very satisfying to work on because I’m adding memories and functionality as I go.

Old quilt my Dad gave me, being washed on the left and after washing on the right.
Old quilt my Dad gave me, being washed in the bathtub on the left and after washing on the right.

My Dad recently went through some things in his basement, and he had an extra quilt that someone gave him so he passed it on to me to clean and repair. It doesn’t have any holes that go all the way through and very few torn patches so we’re using this one until the other repair is finished, then I’ll swap them out and repair the second one. I really get a kick out of these colors and patterns. They look to me like they are from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

I’ve been putting my toe in the water of learning quilting over the last two or three years. I have two art quilts in progress and one baby quilt. Kate is giving me tips as I need them. Repairing quilts is a great way to increase my skills along the way.

old_softies

In the above photo are some stuffed animals and little pillows I made in the 1970s when I was around the ages of 8-12. The rooster on the right was made from a commercial pattern that my Mom had in her stash and I think I still have it. The others were made by me from my own patterns – I’m not sure about the frog though. That one seems a lot more advanced than the others. It even has wire in it to make it poseable. Well, it probably is mine – it’s not symmetrical and I cut a hole in the back of the head to insert the wire and sewed it back up again, so that was probably an afterthought. The items on the right were recently extricated from my Dad’s basement and I had completely forgotten about most of them. I pretty much liked a lot of the same animals then as I like now – sea life, fish, invertebrates, birds, frogs! I loved little pillows with pockets, then and now! I felt very satisfied when I made these, and I love looking at them now for the memories of where those fabrics came from and how much fun I had. Maybe I’ll make some of these into patterns for kids – that’s one way to make sure a kid can do it! I know there are people who will make kid’s drawings into things, including softies. That’s a fantastic idea I think! I think I’d enjoy teaching kids how to make patterns from their drawings. I’ve loved making patterns since I was young too, though I enjoy following someone else’s from time to time – it rests the brain a little bit!

monster_bunny_and_chicks

In 2019 I made the above softies for a niece and nephews. They were both modified from other designs I saw online. The chickens have a little pocket for hiding things under the wing, that’s one of the things I added because I love pockets so much. The monster bunny has a stomach pocket too though I ran out of time to embroider a stomach and intestines¬† on it. My original vision of the monster rabbit also had some other ideas that got put aside as I was running out of time to get it done, but if I make another one I could give them another try. I made a deliberate choice to use crazy mixes of scrap fabric in order to pass on some of my fabric memories to them – even though they don’t know what most of them are, it feels satisfying somehow! I can still enjoy the memories looking at these pictures!

Fabric snake
Found another one! Fabric snake I made when I was somewhere in the age range of 8-12.