Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I am a sucker for an old quilt top

Hey there! I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to share a little something with you. I like old quilt tops. Not really old quilts but old unfinished quilt tops. At first I thought I liked the tops because I had big plans to quilt them up. And indeed my collection of old quilt tops began after I bought my long arm. I actually practiced quilting on old unfinished tops before I started taking customer quilts, but in the year or so since I have owned my Gammill, the old tops seem to find me. I get a clenching deep in my gut when I drive by an antique store and I know that there is on old quilt top within calling to me. Sometimes I think I am the only crazy quilter around, but I have heard from long arm quilter friends that the same thing happens to them. My kids have been trained to look for Quilt tops and Singer Featherweights upon entering an antique shop. Now sometimes the tops are ugly. For real. It would be a waste of batting and backing fabric to finish them (the old quilter lady who made them probably thought the same thing and that is why they are languishing in a dusty antique store) So I happily gather up my ducklings and waltz out of the shop...but sometimes I just can't leave them. And they come home with me.

Above are two that have recently come home with me.

This one is an "Ocean Wave" pattern. All those wee little hand pieced half square triangles called to me. I know I would never in a zillion years attempt to make this quilt top and I felt it deserved to be finished...or at least hang out in a quilting studio so it could be admired and loved. There are friends for this quilt in my house.

It is a super windy fall day today. I just wanted to show the wind with this other real reason.

See, not only do I like quilt tops, but I also really like quilt blocks. I bought this lot of 42 on Ebay. They were a pretty good deal so I couldn't leave them right? Well, I think every other quilter in the world probably recognized that the browning of the blocks meant that the blocks REEKED of cigarette smoke. I could smell the box as I walked up to it. Wow. Pungent to say the least. I though it would be a great ideal to hang them out on the line for a couple days.

Fresh air right? I even went so far as to hang a couple out on the clothes line. Then I noticed that I was having to hold the blocks down with my foot while I hung their friends up on the line. Imagine me clutching about 5 blocks in one hand, clipping clothes hangers with the other hand and placing my foot on the remaining 30 or so blocks while a Dorothy and the wizard of oz worthy wind whipped around my body. Finally I envisioned the sweet little stinky blocks fluttering away into the forrest.  What was I doing? 

I stacked them back up and lined a brown paper bag with coffee beans, placed another piece of brown paper on top of the beans and dumped the quilt blocks into the bag. Apparenly the coffee beans are supposed to leach the ciggerette smoke stink out of the blocks? We will see.

In case you were wondering, this block is named "Sailor's Joy" Isn't that one of the most beautiful names for a quilt block? I don't think any two blocks are the same. What a delight? Anyway hopefully when I drag them out next they will smell like coffee instead of smoke.

The weather has been awesome around here. The kids and Stanley have been loving the leaves.

I have been working away down in my lair.

And I have been cooking for my tribe. This is a new cookbook for me. Look how happy those folks look. I love it. 

I am making this soup for dinner since the flu I have been fighting has passed to my little Sam, and Ethan had a tooth pulled this afternoon. 

Happy quilting my friends! 

***I am thinking about a give post will involve a choice for you.


  1. My grandma was a smoker. I remember her hunkered over a quilt, had-quilting away with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Growing up with smokers, I never noticed the smell, but now every time my dad visits I have to spend a week disinfecting everything to get rid of the smell.

    1. I grew up in Germany and EVERYONE smoked. Especially when we went out to dinner. It is just a smell I remember from my childhood...but I really just don't smell it anymore. I can envision the lady who made those blocks with a cigarette clamped between her lips as she stitched away.

  2. I love that sailors block. Hope you can eliminate the smoke smell! And then create something with them to encourage me to use my countless vintage blocks in the closet!

    1. I have so many blocks in the closet too! I would really like to put these in a quilt though. Wouldn't they look lovely set on point...With maybe some red? Drag your blocks out and see what you can do with them!

  3. I read an article about using charcoal in a quilt magazine back in the 80's. I haven't tried it myself.

  4. the lavender quilt is calling me! I also rescue quilt tops from antique stores and flea markets - wish I lived close to you so you could teach me on the long arm!

  5. I'm curious to see if the coffee beans do the trick. I was in a discussion about these things recently, and another suggestion was to lay them on the grass in the sunshine for an extended period of time. Maybe the chlorophyll does something? Also I collect old tops and blocks, like a little mission to save unloved handwork. I love trying to imagine who the person was who made them, her life, her time to quilt, and sadly, how her work ended up in thrift shops.


Thanks for commenting! I read each one. I will either respond via email or here in the comments. xo - Tia