Friday, May 14, 2010

Devoted to Doll Quilts

Many of you have already discovered the "pull" of small quilts. What is it about doll quilts that touches our hearts? I started quilting 10 years ago by making small quilts or doll quilts for my daughter's dolls. I wasn't very good at it at first, but I kept at it because it made me (and my daughter) feel so good to actually make something so small and still be able to call it a quilt.

Not my first quilt . . . but an early one. I wasn't into "scrappy" yet. Too matchy for me now.

At the time, I was a  devoted mom of 2, doing a little freelance work as a textbook editor to help pay the bills in my spare time. Ha! Who has any spare time with kids? My husband would come home, we'd eat dinner and tired as I was after my full-time mommy job I'd go upstairs to my "office" (a small desk in my bedroom, LOL) for a few hours to try to get some copy editing work done. I really had no time for hobbies. I used to cross stitch quite a bit before the children came along and remembered the relaxing feeling it gave me but all the constant interruptions made it hard to keep my place and I kept losing needles all over the house so I gave it up.

It was the summer my kids wanted to just stay home and play with friends instead of going to camp or keeping busy with activities that I "found" quilting. They were finally old enough that they didn't need my constant attention anymore. Work was slow and I had no projects lined up so I actually needed something to do myself while they played. I couldn't go anywhere--I needed to be there at home but also didn't need to hover over them. So I picked up a Little Quilts book and taught myself to quilt.

My first attempt was awful. I had no idea how to use a rotary cutter or ruler, had no scraps and little sense of design, but I was determined to make something and kept at it. The day I bought that book may have been a defining moment because it was really the beginning of my passion for small quilts. I felt the "pull."

The quilts I loved were the simple ones that reminded me of little antique doll quilts and when I started making them for Caitlin's American Girl dolls, I became interested in the history surrounding quilts. I poured over books on antique quilts but rarely saw any on doll quilts and eventually only found one or two on their history, with a few pictures, mostly black and white, and no patterns. You can sometimes still find this one on eBay. I lucked out--my library was getting rid of it for 50 cents.

Small was so easy for me and I discovered that this was exactly the way children learned to sew centuries ago. Mothers encouraged girls to sew doll quilts to add a fun element to a necessary skill. Sewing was an important chore for families in the 18th and 19th centuries (particularly before sewing machines were available, can you imagine?). Even young children were expected to help out with family sewing and mending. Making quilts for their dolls was an easy way for little girls to practice skills and it still works for us today.
Again, please, this is NOT a picture of me as a little girl . . . . I was born in the fifties. The 1950s.

I started out designing quilts intended for beginners or children (American Doll Quilts in 2004 was my first book), hoping to spark something in others that I felt when I first began. I've made some larger quilts over the years but I don't get the same feeling of satisfaction as I do when I finish a little quilt. Haven't figured that one out, maybe it's got something to do with the rapid completion of a project that leads to the addiction. I just shrug and keep on making the type of quilt that makes me feel good. And, hopefully, you too.

I'm getting impatient waiting for the new book to come out. I've done about all I can on my end and now I just have to wait and let my publisher work its magic. In the meantime, I've resorted to making more little quilts to share with you. I've had this project in the back of my mind for a long time and decided to take the leap and make it come to life.

( Little Prairie Points Quilt from Remembering Adelia)

I really felt like joining a club to make simple little quilts on a monthly basis like the Remembering Adelia Club or the Prairie Children Club I offer to shops based upon the quilts from my books--the members seem to have so much fun! But I've already MADE those quilts you see. I decided to design some different quilts that I've always wanted to make and also make my own rules. 

So here it is, my newest project for you beginning this summer: The American Schoolgirl Club, Doll Quilt Pattens from the Past, a club just for quilters like myself. Something to definitely keep us busy while we're waiting for the book . . . .

If you sign up to become a member, every month, for six months, you'll get a pattern "booklet" for a simple little doll quilt I designed (new ones). The quilts will have a 19th century feel and, in addition to vintage photos of children, the booklets will include tips to help you make your little quilts. It's kind of like a Block of the Month program that quilt shops offer. Instead of a block, you get a pattern for a simple little doll quilt. Six patterns in all. (Not available as individual patterns, club option only.)

From American Doll Quilts

The patterns will include a Baskets quilt, a Signature quilt, a little Crazy quilt and maybe even a few sewing accessories too. In the tradition of American Doll Quilts. That's all I'm saying. A nice little surprise every month from June through November. What could be more fun?

Crazy quilt from American Doll Quilts

This is really so cool and I'm very excited--I've wanted to do this for a long time and never had the time. Now I'm even more devoted to doll quilts than I ever was before. I hope some of you will be too!

      Check it out here.

Oops, I almost forgot. I'll be signing books and showing my quilts from Remembering Adelia at Kindred Spirits Quilt Shop in Denmark,Wisconsin, tomorrow, Saturday, May 15, at 11:30 - 12:30. Be there! The shop has a Remembering Adelia Club so I hope all the members bring their finished quilts too.


Quiet Quilter said...

When my youngest GD was born (she is 1 yr old now) I made a crib quilt for her, and for her older sister (now 5, I think...)I made a small doll quilt so she could have her own "baby quilt". I was informed that when the quilts arrived, oldest GD curled up in a tiny ball and laid on the doll quilt for a number of days!...then she proceeded to borrow, temporarily, the crib quilt.

Connie204 said...

I really don't think anything you've done is awful. Good luck with your book signing. Connie204

Karen said...

I love small quilts too. The club sounds like such a fun thing to do. Thanks for sharing pictures of some of your quilts. They're so cute.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Kris said...

Kathleen, Thanks for coming to Denmark to visit and show us your quilts. It is a great way to meet you and hear about your work and how you got into writing. I feel we have a lot in common and I enjoyed meeting you. I am the lady with the son at the University of Illinois.

Best wishes. Kris S

Kathleen Tracy said...

Kris--it was so good to meet everyone and I wish I could have stayed longer and talked more. I did have a nice little visit with my son afterwards and took him and a few friends out to lunch. Maybe I'll arrange to stop in again next year when I visit him!

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

I just found your blog; this is a slice of heaven on earth! I can't wait to read everything you've written.

Heather said...

Kathleen! So great to find you here! I stumbled upon your blog by accident and can't believe my fortune! I've kept your 3 books by my bedside to "review" before sleep to keep me inspired for my next day/next project. I'm currently trying to finish an Orange Peel and have already gifted a Turkey Tracks. What seems to be MORE amazing is the first post I read is about how you got into mini quilts and you started making them for your daughter's "American Girl"... I just learned about these gorgeous dolls last week and am ordering one TODAY for my daughter too! So pleased to (cyber-)meet you and I am looking forward to reading more about your mini quilt journey!

Kathleen Tracy said...

You guys are so sweet!

marian said...

Kathleen, i am so THRILLED to have stumbled onto your blog! i absolutely adore doll quilts and collecting vintage quilts & quilt blocks is my passion. i already own two of your books which are real little gems and i am thinking i might even join your quilting club. i know one thing for sure i will be following your blog with great interest :) cheers, Marian x said...

tout simplement magnifique !!!


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