This past summer, I found a quilt top at an estate sale. It was simple hand-pieced patchwork, made from vintage fabrics and feed sacks that appear to date from the 1930’s and 40’s. Based on the randomness of the design, the frugal maker most likely had decided to just use up the scraps in her sewing basket. Several squares of fabric had shredded and disintegrated with time. The quilt top was an impulse buy, and I’ve had it hung up on my design wall for weeks, wondering what I would do with it. And then a flash of inspiration! I decided to use it as the back for this machine embroidered Redwork quilt, since the Redwork consists of vintage floral designs. After I cut out the part of the quilt top that was damaged, I was able to use some leftover feed sack squares for the cornerstones in the sashing for the front. For the binding, I just pulled the back over to the front of the quilt, which really helped to tie in the patchwork back to the floral embroidered blocks on the front. And an embroidered quilt label on the back was the finishing touch!
Vintage Florals and Feedsacks Quilt by Katie Longsmith, 2020 / Size: 60″ x 60″ / 100% cotton fabrics, new and vintage / vintage florals machine embroidery designs by Kreative Kiwi / Spring Vine quilting design
I’m busy these days, incorporating machine embroidery into my quilts. I’ve found quite a few lovely designs in Redwork, and each one inspires yet another creation! Here’s my latest. I’m calling it Acorn Squash, for the dark greens and oranges in the quilt. And for my mom.
While grocery shopping last weekend, I spied a bin of acorn squash in the produce department, and found myself mesmerized by the luscious rich dark greens with tinges of orange. I was flooded with memories of my mom, and her fondness for acorn squash in the fall. She would take the small, dark green orb and cut it in half to reveal golden orange inside, then place both halves cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven.
Mom’s been gone for a few years now, but I just love how she keeps showing up in my life and in my heart and in my quilts – and did you know that pumpkins are squash, too?
Acorn Squash Quilt by Katie Longsmith / Size: 38″ x 44″ / 100% cotton fabrics / pumpkins machine embroidery designs by Kreative Kiwi / Pumpkins quilting design
This summer, I invested in a used (but new-to-me) embroidery sewing machine. I’ve been staring at it for a couple of months now – totally intimidated to the point of paralysis. It is a bit humbling to be a beginner at something again, after gaining so much confidence over the years in quilting. But just last week, I bit the bullet and sat down in front of this sewing machine (with the manual in hand) and began. I am still working on the technical issues of fabric stabilizers, “hooping” the fabric correctly, and thread tension – all of which play major roles in good embroidery – but for my first attempt, this quilted tablecloth is passable, don’t you think? A is for Autumn!
Several months back, I was chatting with a quilting customer who told me about a miniature cedar “hope” chest she had received upon her high school graduation (I’m guessing in the 1970’s or 80’s). Next thing you know, she had gifted me with one that she had come across in a garage or estate sale! I was inspired to make a miniature postage stamp quilt from scraps of reproduction 1930’s fabrics for my miniature hope chest, as that is an item that a normal size hope chest usually contained…
I was curious about the history of this little cedar gem, and so I did a quick google search at the Lane Furniture Company website and came up with this very interesting history:
In the late 1920’s, the company began the Girl Graduate Plan. The Plan was a national campaign enthusiastically embraced by the dealers distributing Lane cedar chests throughout the entire country. The Plan offered a gift to young ladies upon graduation from high school and invited the girl (and her parents) into the furniture dealer to receive the gift. The gift was a miniature cedar chest and usually also included a special discount offer on the purchase of a full-size cedar chest. Lane knew this was a great opportunity to encourage the parents to buy a chest for a graduation gift. They also knew that in those early days, one-half of girls were likely to be married within eighteen months. The promotion introduced the dealer to a young lady who would likely need furniture for her new home within the next couple of years. In 1962 it was reported by E.H. Lane that between ½ and ⅔ of all girls graduating from high school in the United States were presented with a Lane miniature cedar chest. By 1962, approximately seven million girls had received a box for graduation. It has since been estimated by Lane executives that over 27 million miniature Lane chests were made and and either sold by Lane or distributed through the Girl Graduate Plan. The miniature department of the factory was closed around 1998.
My little cedar chest now sits comfortably amongst other “flotsam and jetsam” that I have acquired over the years and that mean something to me. Thank you, Alana!
I had the high honor to quilt a Red Work quilt top, embroidered in 1892! The quilt top is also a friendship (or signature) quilt, with each block “signed” by the family member or friend who embroidered it. Since the date, January 19, 1892, is embroidered in the central block as well as some of the smaller surrounding ones, I feel certain that this quilt top celebrates an event, most likely a wedding. Women from the Pieper family and the Howard family are prevalent throughout. Three of the blocks include a location – two from Amboy, Ohio, and one from Erie, Pennsylvania. My client and I agreed that a simple cross hatch quilting design and a red binding would be in keeping with the time period. It was such a pleasure to work on this project. As I quilted each block, I thought about the women who wielded their needles, 128 years ago. And wondered, also, why it was never quilted/finished.
My client found the quilt top, inside a stained and beat up brown paper grocery bag, at a garage sale. She paid $5.00 for it.
It’s a wrap! I finished the barn quilt, and Mark helped me mount it to the studio porch. Looks like a nice spot to sit and sew – or at least have a cup of coffee…
Still making face masks, and planning a “tent sale” at the end of our driveway, to make them available to my neighbors. But – I’ve also begun another project – and it has meant that I’ve commandeered a large portion of my husband’s work shop space. Kind of a manifest destiny thing…
I’m making a barn quilt to hang outside, next to my studio’s french doors. And what is a barn quilt, you may ask? A barn quilt is a large piece of painted wood that looks like a single quilt block and decorates the side of a barn (or in my case, the side of Longsmith Cottage). My quilt block is called Grandmother’s Flower Garden, and I chose it in honor of my great-grandmother and this quilt she made for my mom, in 1949. Mark put some reclaimed wood planks together to make the board. I made a mock-up out of construction paper to plan size and colors. And now I’m in the middle of painting – soon to be completed, though, so I can give Mark his work shop back!
There are barn quilt trails in many counties/states across America – I’ve been thinking that a road trip along a barn quilt trail would be a fun way to get out of the house and still observe our new norm of social distancing. Check here for a barn quilt trail near you!
I’ve spent this past week sewing in the studio, but not on quilts. After watching a whole lot of YouTube tutorials on making face masks, I went to work on creating these nonmedical fabric masks – for our family, of course, but I will also provide my community with as many as I can make as well, since it appears that we will all be using face masks for some time to come. I guess it is our “new normal” to see our masks hanging on the coat tree just beside the front door, at the ready to don when we head out.
My design is pleated and shaped to fit the face/jaw area, with a long nose wire that can be molded not only across the nose but also the cheeks to keep it in place. No elastic around the ears, which tends to hurt if worn for too long – instead, simple fabric binding that shapes over the ears and connects to the single tie at the back. This method allows for flexibility in fit. Two sizes – adult and child. Machine wash and dry. And a bunch of fun fabrics from my stash to please just about anyone! Husband Mark picked out dragons, grandson Damien chose Captain America, and I went with indian elephants.
A few weeks ago, I ran across a vintage quilt pattern that took my fancy. It reminds me of the tiny verbena that I planted in a dish garden just outside of the front door. The quilt block is a flower that measures 4 1/2″ square, which means that the pieces that make up the block are even smaller – 3/4″ squares for the flower centers! I don’t usually enjoy working so small, because there is just no forgiveness if my cuts are not accurate or my 1/4″ seam allowance is off, even a “skosh”. But I still have tons of fabric scraps that I’ve challenged myself to use, and this pattern does a good job in using them. So I’m working on slowing down and sewing “in the moment” – being present as I’m cutting and stitching, to get it right. And you know what? I’m loving every minute.
Lesson for the day: Most of the good stuff in life is in the details.
Yesterday was Easter. Covid-19 had us attending a “virtual” Easter Mass in the morning, and provided us with tons of leftovers from our traditional ham and sweet potatoes family dinner in the afternoon, since no other family were gathered around our table. The Easter bunny (aka our lovely neighbors Kaylee and Chad) DID leave some chocolate eggs for us – outside our front door on the porch. In between Mass and dinner, I sewed. And finished the 3rd quilt in my Easter series.
It’s called Spirit-Filled, and represents the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends in wind and flame to fill Christ’s believers with the seven gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
I knew I wanted to use the quilt block called Dove in the Window, to portray the Holy Spirit, even though this block actually refers to the dove that appeared to Noah in the ark, after the flood. This antique quilt has used borders and sashing in between each of the dove blocks.
But as I was laying out the blocks for my version, I didn’t have any additional red fabric and I wasn’t real keen on using so much white – so I tried a layout without the sashing in between the blocks. All of a sudden, I saw doves all over the place! (ok, ok, they are red and shaped like the quilt block called flying geese, but somehow these shapes seemed more like the Holy Spirit than the traditional white doves of peace) Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Spirit-Filled Quilt by Katie Longsmith / Size: 70″ x 70″ / 100% cotton fabrics / Dove in the Window quilt block / Flames quilting design