Saturday, October 29, 2011

Terrifying Stuff I'm Doing

Hey guys!

Today, I cut up some super antique family heirloom linens.  I was freaking out about it the whole time, but now that I'me done and i've had some wine, I am feeling much better about the whole process.

Let me tell you what actually happened.
big ol' pile of family treasures

These are some linens my husband's grandmother gave me.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure why she is giving her things away, but I suspect it has something to do with paring down a bit and wanting to see people taking and using and knowing where stuff came from that she has.  I kinda get that, but it makes me sad, mostly because Jeff's grandmother is the most grandmotherly person on earth.  She is basically perfect.

But in any case, when we were visiting in the late spring, she unpacked a chest of linens and asked everyone to please take whatever we wanted.  I gotta tell you, I find it really difficult to, like, take things from people.  Even when they ask me to.  Jeff told me that she probably wants people to use them, which I understood.

Another shot

So I tried to look for things that were pretty colors and most importantly, things that were already damaged.  The pretty lady at the bottom of this pic was apparently part of a tablecloth that grandma's mother and her sisters embroidered and some things I think gramma herself worked on.  Eventually, it got used enough that someone cut them into handkerchiefs.  (The bottom left one you can barely see was also a tablecloth->hankie transformation.)

The magenta flowers at the top were a table runner.  You can see in the bottom right corner, someone had already cut or torn the runner.  So basically, I took some things that were

  1. beautiful
  2. had interesting family history
  3. were already damaged so I could not really mess them up

For reference, I also asked Gramma if I could take them to cut them up and turn them into a quilt or something else.  She was totally on board.  I pointed out that I took the ones that were kinda marred, but I honestly don't think she would have cared if I took more nice things and cut them up.  (Thank God for awesome Gramma-in-laws.)

Isn't she pretty?  
So then I found some fabric I liked that went with the embroidered bits, but felt kinda modern and cheerful.  This yellow and fuchsia quilting stuff was from joanns, as was the teal-ey blue you'll see later.  The first thing I did is put all of it, old and new, in the washer and dryer together.  If it's gonna be in the same quilt, it prolly needs to be washable together.  I was TOTALLY FREAKING OUT.  Especially because I went with the fuchsia.  But it came out perfect, so I folded it up and put it on my desk to look at it and work up the courage for stage II.

Here's the thing: Nothing was a regular size.  So I measured everything to figure out what my size options were.  Eventually, I figured out that with some strips and scraps, I could turn all 5 bits of embroidery into 12.5" squares.

Starting to add some borders

Some could just be cut to 12X12, some needed lining, yeah.

I decided that I wanted a 5X5 foot grid would work well and i measured my fabric to make sure I could actually do that.  To be honest, I am not much into tiny fussy patchwork.  I think it's beautiful, really, but I do not have the patience or the time to do that, and I kinda like my crazy quilting.

I made a kinda map for myself to use as I was putting things together.
my scribblings that turned into a quilt top.  with colored pencils to make sure I don't mess something up.

The end result is a little different because I made some changes as I went, but it was super helpful along the way to keep me from making super crazy mistakes.  I am a really lazy quilter, people.  So doing a quick head check helps me make sure I am not totally messing up my stuff.

Here's what I ended up with.  These colors look a little brighter than in real life, but not much.  I wanted happy, quirky, and featuring the slightly damaged embroidered bits.  (Soon my new camera will arrive and I will be able to learn to take better pics!(

Some things I learned:

  • Don't try to use something else as a seam ripper.  Also, just don't try to seam rip the hem on a hankie that is embroidered and is also probably 75 years old.  It's just not gonna work.
  • The old fabric?  It's a little brittle.  There are also some places where it's starting to wear, but I did not want to cut it out.  I am probably going to do something that I assume is like darning over top of the one big spot.  I have some stitches on my sewing machine that look like they would be darnalicious.  I haven't actually quilted it yet, so I can still do that.  
  • Stop trying to make everything perfect.  This is not the christening gown that 3 generations of boys have worn and that I think was made from someone's wedding gown.  This are pieces that were probably going to be thrown into a drawer.  Plus I got explicit permission because I am paranoid.
  • Cutting anything this old is basically going to completely freak you out.  Measure twice, cut once, walk away for five minutes.  Take deep breaths.  It's OK.
me with quilt top

So I think I'm done babbling about this.  I waver between still a little freaked out that I cut it, and totally happy with how crazy and bright and happy it came out.  Sure, I did not keep the integrity of the original work.  But it had already suffered the indignity of being turned into a hankie.  I did get a good chunk of work done on something that we can cuddle on the couch with our son and tell him about how his great great gramma and great gramma made parts of it, and so did mommy.  *snif*

Tomorrow, I am considering taking it to a quilt store (if I can find one open) and see if I can get some help with the thimbles I'll need to hand quilt it.  (I wanna hand quilt it.)  I am a little nervous that the quilting ladies will look askance at my totally not matching up, not well measured, and totally sewed crazy quilt top, so that will take some courage on my part.  I may bail and go to Joann's and order the thimbles online.

I'm pretty happy with it.  And I did it all today (except for the washing)!  Very exciting!  

Now to work up some courage for tomorrow and the store. Wish me luck, ya'll!  


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