Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Loving Those Doll Quilts from the Past

Doll quilts from the past stir our hearts and engage our emotions with their simple blocks and imperfect stitches. It's fun to imagine what kinds of quilts children may have made and played with long ago. For me,  making little scrappy quilts almost brings the past alive in a way.
Doll quilt from an online auction.
The doll quilt craze is not new, however. This was written in 1831:

"Little girls often find amusement in making patchwork quilts for the beds of their dolls, and some even go so far as to make cradle quilts for their infant brothers and sisters."

I am happy that doll quilts are not just for dolls or children anymore. They have a particular appeal to those of us who have fond memories of playing with dolls as young girls (maybe boys, too . . . ). Doll quilts from long ago were played with until they fell apart and that's why they're so rare today; not many survived the wear and tear. 
This little sampler quilt from my book Prairie Children & Their Quilts is a treasure and would be a lot of fun to make with your pink and blue print scraps.

 If you follow my blog and books at all, most of you know by now that doll quilts were often used as practice for young girls' sewing skills in the past.
Needlework and sewing were an important part of a girl's education in the 18th and 19th centuries. Quite often, these skills were taught before reading and writing.
Doll quilts were learning pieces. It was the practicing of the sewing skills that was important, not so much the design of the quilt. But I like to think that, like their mothers or other early quilters, even young girls making small quilts for their dolls still learned about color and the whole design process and it helped to give life to their creative expression in a small way. It's the same with many quilters today who are still learning.
I read something recently on a blog that really annoyed me - the blogger wrote something trashing beginning quilters for not making perfect quilts and criticized them for putting up photos of them on their blogs (or, heaven forbid, in books) for everyone to see. How dare they! The quilts were not perfect! What right did they have to bring down the quilting community with their imperfections . . . .
Wait, I thought - Quilts that are not perfect do not deserve to be seen? Had she ever looked at any antique quilts? Beginning quilters do not have the right to show their humble yet earnest quilts and still be considered quilters, even if they are learning? They should hide them until they're perfect?   Excuse me, but everyone has to start somewhere. When did perfection take over and exclude many of us from being a part of the larger quilting community if we cut off a corner now and then? Is it now a private club with membership determined by a few? Aren't we supposed to be having fun?
(Okay, I'm done. Sorry I ranted but I needed to get that off my chest. Everyone is entitled to her own opinion and this is mine.)

I learned to quilt myself by making doll quilts. A couple of my early learning pieces, above. Yep - sorry, not perfect, crooked borders, but still cute and near and dear to my heart. Never fear, I will not stop posting photos of my imperfect quilts . . . . 

Love this darling vintage quilt on eBay -  oops, watch out, some of those corners are cut off . . . . better hide it under a bushel.

I don't own a lot of antique doll quilts. They can get pretty pricey because they're so rare. If I see one that's affordable that I like I may buy it but I often prefer to make my own because sometimes it's fun to be a part of the whole reproducing process yourself. That seems to be what it's all about for me -  the process.
Even if they're not perfect, maybe the small quilts we love to make will be valuable to someone someday. And, if not, that's okay. Like little girls' sewing samples, mine were my own simple learning pieces from the past. It's fun to look back and see how far I've come.

(Eliza Jane's nine-patch doll quilt)
I love this quilt for its simplicity. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Celebrate Quilts and Diaries from the Past

Last week I had the opportunity to give a presentation to a group at a local history center. It happened to be the place where I came across the 1861 diary of Adelia Thomas a few years ago.

The Des Plaines History Center currently has an exhibit of several antique/vintage quilts from their collection. Adelia's diary is also on display. The exhibit runs until June of this year so stop by if you're in town.




While I was writing Remembering Adelia, I immersed myself in Adelia's diary and read and reread it many times. For some reason, the minute I opened the pages of Adelia's little leather-bound journal several years ago and learned that she was a quilter, I was completely drawn into the 19th century and wanted to learn everything I could about her life. I felt compelled to share her words and make sure that her simple but heartfelt story would be revealed to other quilters and enjoyed for the connection it gives us to our country's past. 

For a young woman of 19, living in such uncertain times, life could not have been easy and she often spelled out her frustrations and worries in the pages of her diary. I'm sure Adelia did not intend that her words would be read by so many strangers so many years later and I hope she wouldn't have minded. She wrote every day and yet you only get a smattering of her writing in the published version - there wasn't room in a quilting book to include all of her writing and everything else I would have liked to include. But the DesPlaines History Center has recently made Adelia's diary available online if anyone would like to read it in its entirety.  Click here to get to the diary pages.

Some of you have asked me about the diary pages that weren't included in the book, so here are just a few "missing" entries I thought you might enjoy reading that I hope will take you a little further into Adelia's ordinary, nineteenth-century world. These entries were written a few months before the war began. The diary lays no claim to being an important Civil War document but you do get a very interesting slice of what life must have been like for a woman living in a rural community over 150 years ago, with the war as a backdrop.

January 19, 1861

Emma has a very sore throat and a cold. Did a very large washing today with James' help. Got through about three o'clock. Mrs. Bennett called. She was sewing at Alcott's. Got tired of so much noise among the young ones that she came here to get away from it.

Mr. Howard came back from Woodstock. Staid all night and Mother and Father went to hear him preach in the evening. Some little children came in the evening and we made molasses candy.

January 20

Emma sick yet I did not get up early enough to get the work done in time to go to church so Mother, Father, Myron and Elias went without me. After meeting was out Elias and I stole the horse and cutter and went up to Melvira's. Had a grand good visit and made a call at Mr. Armstrong's with Melvira and Dave.

January 21

This morning got up with a very sore throat myself. Emma seems better. Had a high fever and headache all day. Laid about most of the time. Miss Howard came here and stayed all night. Mother, Myon and Miss Howard went to Lyceum in the evening. Father went to the station and brought home Auntie's new bed stead and teapot. Brought a letter from Laura Jefferson.

January 22

We are very busy putting up Auntie's new bedstead in her room. Put the old one in the children's room.

January 23

Mr. Bennett here. Played us some excellent songs. His violin was broken so he borrowed Mr. Lewis Bennett's. It was a poor thing but we managed to play some pretty good pieces together. Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Town spent the day here. Morris West called. Mr B. sang for him then we played some pieces together. He sang "A Snake in the Grass." Went to singing school in the evening.

January 24

A very cold blustery day. Mr. Bennett went home in the snow. Myron took Maria and Marg up to Huffman's schoolhouse to spelling school [by sleigh]. It was so cold they did not have any school so they spent the evening at Mr. Towns. Tipped over into the snow coming home. Froze both ears and his fingers.

January 25

Emma and Clara went to Melvira's to spend the day. John Shaver went after her to come to Towns to the dance. Frank came after Jim and I.

January 26

Went to Spelling School then went to take a sleigh ride after. Maria and I did not want to go. The rest acted like fools.

January 29

Emma went to Woodstock with Frank Patterson and Mrs. Town. So very cold that they could not come home. But Emma, Carrie Griffith, Frank and Sellers could go to McHenry and be gone till two o'clock at night.

The wind blew very cold all day. In the evening went to singing school. Came home freezing my ears.

January 30

Carried Charley's stove home and put the dairy stove in the salting room. Frank brought James home, left Emma there. Very cold today. Expected to go to Mrs. Vosburgh's this afternoon to sing with Mr. Bennett. Got ready to go and Mother said if anybody went she should go. When I gave it up then she would not. She said I might go when I got the supper dishes washed. When I got them most done she came in the kitchen with her bonnet and shawl on. Said she was going to Mrs. V—I was provoked then staid at home until Singing School, then went with James.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day Fabric Winners

I am happy to announce the 4 winners from the Valentine's Day fabric giveaway:
    •   Debbie Rogowski
    •   Betty Clark
    •   Donna Brooks
    •   Robin McGuire

Thanks to everyone who entered.  If you did not win this time, don't worry -  I am planning another super fabric giveaway next month so the rest of you will get another chance to win something special.

Ladies, if you e-mail me your addresses your little packs of pink and red fabric will be on their way in a day or two.

Congratulations! Make something sweet . . . .


Friday, February 14, 2014

Sweet Valentine's Day Giveaway

Some of you may remember that last year I had a giveaway of some sweet  little prints designed by Renee Nanneman for Andover Fabrics  - Little Sweethearts. I  designed a cute little table runner (above) with some of the prints and added my own shirtings. The pattern is still available for sale on my website. I bought quite a bit of this fabric last year to make up kits to go along with the pattern but then had to keep reordering more fabric, got tired of all the cutting and decided that, at that time in my life, kits were just too time intensive and I wanted to move on to other things so I stopped taking time to make them and put the fabric away in a drawer.

       I love hearts.
I still have some of this fabric left over from the kits I was making and wanted to give it away in scrap packs. There's plenty in there to make some cute blocks but not enough fabric for borders or setting pieces, so not really enough to make any kits. You can add your own shirtings and make a small quilt. I have enough to give away 4 packs, all mixed with these sweet pink, white and red Little Sweethearts prints.

All you have to do is leave me a comment and tell me what was the sweetest thing that anyone ever did for you on Valentine's Day. Comments will close on Sunday and I will announce the 4 winners on Monday. Please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you. If you sign your post "Anonymous" or don't leave an e-mail or a blog link I will pass over your name and go on to the next pick. Good luck!

                                       Happy Valentine's Day!

"Be careful what you set your heart on, for it will surely be yours." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few years ago, my sweet friend Shirley cut and prepped these little basket blocks for me. Sorry, Shirley, I know, I feel bad that I still haven't put them into a quilt yet  : (  But it sure is probably one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.
"Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart." ~Unknown 
Photo: Happy Valentine's Day! Get this free cross-stitch pattern here -
Obviously, not all of you will be winners and that makes me sad, so as consolation in advance, here's a link to this free primitive Valentine's Day cross stitch pattern I found  here.
Have a Sweet Day!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Day at the Beach

Seems like everyone always goes to a nice beach for the winter . . .

I spend my winter in Chicago.
Yes, it's still cold here.  But,  so what. I can still go to the beach. (My daughter lives about a block away from here.)

See that dark speck? It's a hawk, out on the ice. I started to take a photo for the blog and my husband said "Are you sure you want to show that? It's eating its prey." His eyes are better than mine, LOL.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Quick Coaster Tutorial

After my last post I got a few e-mails asking me how I made that little log cabin coaster in one of the photos.  I realized that some of you are new quilters or perhaps you just have not tried to make a coaster before. So here's a quick tutorial for making one. I used a different block to show you how to construct it because -  duh -  this one is already made.
This sweet Heart & Spool block below is the block we're using for the Quilt of this Month in my Yahoo group. Jane M. designed it and I will only take credit for using pink instead of red. (You can get the instructions by joining the group from somewhere on the sidebar of this blog.)

Make your block -  Choose a leftover 4.5" x  4.5"   or   5"  x  5" block from your collection if you have one or find a block you would like to use. Or, choose a plain square of a pretty fabric. Then, cut a square for the back and a square of cotton batting the same size as your block.
Layer your pieces -  block and backing right sides together, batting on the bottom.

Pin your squares together on the side where the opening will go (for turning) and don't sew between the pins. You may wish to pin all the way around if you like. Then, stitch the layers together using a 1/4 inch seam all the way around (again, don't sew between the pins, leave that part open).


I know it's hard to see the stitching in the photo but I sewed 1/4 inch away from the edge. Trim your corners for less bulk.

Turn right side out through the opening. Use a blunt end tool (nothing sharp) to push the corners out and then smooth them out.

Press the edges of the opening under 1/4 " and pin. Then stitch 1/8 inch around the entire edge of the coaster, making sure you catch the pressed seam.

Isn't it cute? I hand quilted a little heart inside the heart and was thinking about also embroidering my initial in the center.

Well, that's done. I had a horrendous morning dealing with computer and e-mail issues. Definitely time for a cuppa!